Monday, 27 February 2017

'University Challenged: Volume Twenty-six (27.02.17)

What else can be said about tonight’s University Challenge other than “MONKMAN WAS BACK”?

This manic perplexed-eyed man is the gift that keeps giving; even he appears to not quite believe he’s a person himself. I found myself laughing nearly every time he spoke which I’m aware isn’t pleasant, but his timing is extraordinary; if I were a TV producer, I’d sign him up for a twenty-six part series without even considering the content; just hearing him read from the dictionary would be enough.

See below for my Twtter coverage of tonight; every time I say Monkman, feel free to pour yourself with a drink.
Edinburgh Vs. Wolfson - Cambridge (27.02.17

8:02pm: Boyle should be in team Wolfson, as he looks like the son of a Wolf.

8:03pm: I liked Boyle's dramatic turn to the camera before he said his name.

8:03pm: MONKMAN!

8:04pm: Monkman gets a rat to knaw at his fringe in lieu of a haircut.

8:06pm: Monkman should use his inside voice.

8:07pm: Cosgrove's sinister stare.

8:10pm: Monkman last washed his hair in the late Nineties.

8:11pm: Is that Boyle's hand on his chest or someone else's?

8:12pm: Monkman looks like he confuses himself.

8:12pm: If Boyle doesn't own a copy of Dark Side of the Moon, I'll eat my own hat.

8:15pm: Boyle and Monkman somehow embody every possible #UniversityChallenge contestant eccentricity between them.

8:16pm: Monkman was raised in a cellar.

8:17pm: Boyle smells of musty hair and old vinyl.

8:18pm: If Wolfson don't catch up soon, WE'LL LOSE MONKMAN.

8:20pm: I shouldn't laugh every time Monkman speaks. This has to stop.

8:21pm: Boyle's hair grows while-u-wait.

8:21pm: Boyle owns a Wal five-string bass.

8:22pm: Edinburgh Smith looks like what would happen if Billy Idol swallowed one of the Proclaimers.

8:24pm: Chaudhri is powered my smug.

8:27pm: Yang looks like Mac from Mac and Me.

8:28pm: Smith's glorious 'got-an-answer-right-so-I'll-celebrate-with-a-sip-of-my-water' face.

8:30pm: TONIGHT'S #UniversityChallenge was beautiful.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

"I Have to Admit it's Getting Better..."

It wasn’t until I posted a Facebook status yesterday rounding off my last performance of Mostly David Ephgrave (not to be confused with my blog of the same name) that I realised how many places I’d performed it.

This matches closely with my constant assumption that whatever I've done is not enough. For some reason, I easily forget things that offer credence to my work and push examples of what I haven’t achieved to the forefront. I’ve been lucky when it comes to acting and actor / muso work over the years and pretty active with my comedy stuff - both with Glyn and on my own - yet I regularly enter shows thinking I’m not the ‘real deal’ (whatever that is). I’ve written this many times here before, so I won’t over-egg it now, but I often feel like a blagger, and take what others might see (to some degree) as versatility as an example of not being good at just one thing.

Whatever the case, seeing the list of places I performed my second solo stand-up show (and my solo Edinburgh début) helped me feel a bit more real as a comic, and reminded me that however slow things may seem to progress when I’m over-analysing, I’ve made some big leaps: I pushed myself harder in the last year than I gave myself credit, though it’s indicative of how hard I am on myself that even saying this makes my teeth itch; there’s being self-deprecating and then there’s putting yourself down.

"Bye Bye, Mostly David Ephgrave, Mostly David Ephgrave, Bye Bye."

Tonight, I ‘Mostly David Ephgraved’ for the final time at the Leicester Comedy Festival, at the lovely Lightbox venue at Grays@LCB Depot. 

Me, being aggressive at tonight's show.
This was my third visit to the festival, but my first time on my own. Every year I came with Glyn (and tonight as well) I had a great time; something about the way the festival works - with most comics only doing one show - means the competition is evenly spread, so nearly everyone gets the luxury of an audience. When I arrived at the venue tonight, the guy who ran it apologised for the lack of punters (saying how much busier it had been for the rest of the festival), but when it came to it, he needn’t have worried; a few minutes before 8pm, lo and behold, a load of people arrived, which was great as comedy works best with an audience.

The gig was fun one. I was conscious of the heat and the fact people began to look a little tired towards the end, but it zipped by at a lick, with enough off-the-cuff bits to keep things interesting. It was a good way to give the show a final send-off. It helped that the space was comfortable for both the audience and me. It had good sound and a good tech set-up, including a rigged projector that threw a huge image (is this the correct terminology?); it’s great when the pictures are big as it makes the finickity details a lot funnier.

After the show, my wife and I went for a ridiculously lovely meal at a Wagamama, which was a good way to round the evening off; a night that happens to be our twelfth anniversary; what better way is there to spend such an occasion than driving to Leicester to spend the night in a Travelodge? Being with me is like living the dream. 

Friday, 24 February 2017

Quick, Before I Fall Asleep.

This morning, Glyn, Glyn’s son Max and I went to the Broadway Cinema and Theatre in Letchworth, to have a look at the auditorium ahead of next Thursday’s Mostly Comedy and to check a couple of technical things for it.

It’s fair to say they’ve done a good job transforming what was once just a cinema screen to a functioning theatre, with a stage, wing space and dressing rooms, by extending the back of the building to create more depth. It will be a good night, what with an excellent line-up (Arthur Smith and Norman Lovett) and more material than usual from us. It should look very smart; the main techie point we wanted to check today was whether the in-house projection would be suitable to run our slide show on. It turns out it is; with the right lighting, it should make for a slicker, more high-end version of the usual club night, with more of a sense of a show to it. It’s just a shame that the local papers either haven’t given the event any coverage at all (in the case of The Comet), or ran the article a few days too late, meaning it won’t make the physical copy until the day before the event, which is not much of a turnaround for people to book.

I’m disappointed that The Comet didn’t run anything; I thought the fact an eight year-running Hitchin comedy club that’s gradually grown over time - playing host to some of the biggest acts on the scene - was doing a special gala version of the club in a new theatre in Letchworth might constitute news. Sadly, no-one there is joining up the dots to take on board the bigger picture. Despite the level of comics we bring to the area and how long we’ve worked in Hitchin and its environs putting on everything from actor / muso songs to comedy plays, nobody in the local press seems willing or aware of what we’ve done and how to frame it. It’s a shame, as the amount of sold out Mostly Comedys we have in recent months mean people regularly miss out through not knowing about it; I find it a little irritating that people will arrive at the Sun -or in this case The Broadway - unaware of what’s going on in the Ballroom or who’s appearing; this has never happened, which is ridiulcous, as just a little forethought would have meant I’d capitause

This afternoon, I ran my show for Leicester tomorrow and packed my props cases so their ready to go. I think I’ve got everything i need in the Suitcase etc. I just have to remember it all tomorrow. I think I can do that; if you're in the area, come and see me then.

Preporatory. Prep.

Much of today was split between meetings to discuss next Thursday’s Letchworth Mostly and doing some preparatory work for my show in Leicester on Saturday.

The meetings were useful, as they allowed Glyn and I to discuss what we’ll be doing performance-wise during the show, and to solve a couple of technical issues that we hadn’t had time to properly discuss yet. We then met a second time in the evening with our techie assistant Paul to let him know what his role will be next week, when he’ll essentially Company Manager the show.

The only sticking point were the are a couple of technical issues we won’t be able to check until we see the space, which we’d hoped to have done before we’d passed information on to Paul. We’re now going there tomorrow morning, when hopefully we’ll be able to quickly check the reliability of the connection to their projector, which if there are any problems with it - as has been suggested by email - we can’t do the show. We’ll save that drama for another day.

This afternoon, I ran my show, factoring in a slight lack of time as I had to pick up my dad from the hospital in the midst of it. It went pretty well, which is heartening for Saturday; now I just need to get my head around the logistics for the day; I should have time to go over all of this tomorrow, after our meeting at the Broadway.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Unsocial Animal.

Tonight, I met with a friend for what ended up being a very comical evening.

It’s nice when you can know someone for such a long time and still find topics to discuss and things to be amused by. There aren’t many with whom this sort of relationship can continue, seemingly indefinitely, with scope for endless material. We regularly prefigure points of conversation with “I may have told you this before”, yet impressively, we still find things we haven’t brought up; having known each other for over twenty years, I can’t help but wonder when the well will run dry and we’ll have to resort to sitting in silence.

It seems as you get older your friendship group diminishes, or perhaps this is just the case with me. I have a lot of acquaintances, but there are only a tight handful who are truly close friends; some I see more than others, yet when we do meet up, very little has changed.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with keeping your community small. We weren’t designed to function in big societies like the internet and social media force many of us to exist in today. It can feel like a competition, with many having an inbuilt desire to have the most Facebook friends or Twitter followers, despite barely recognising them if they pass them on the street. I can’t stand this - in the same way I hate it when people I know don't follow me back on Twitter or to acknowledge a tweet or a picture they’re tagged in, because they’re apparently too busy or too important to give me the time of day; I’m not here to massage somebody's ego if they’re not prepared to give me basic grace.

 (Time to steer things back to the positive and step down from my soapbox.) 

There were points this evening when our conversation was funny enough to bring me to tears; you can't fake that.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Arsenal Adventures.

Tonight, I caught the train to Finsbury Park to talk to a pubful of people about Noel Edmonds and gloryholes - which are one and the same thing - before catching the train home again, to sit on a sofa with a cat on my lap and write this.

The gig was fun; one of the most enjoyable I’ve had so far this year. There was a sense of finally getting back on the horse after what’s been a slow and uncertain start to 2017 as regards confidence and direction; finally, I’m beginning to find faith again, and am enjoying talking to an audience about something new; the fact the content is starting to be well-received gives me the push to work on more.

Before I forge too far ahead, I've still got my last performance of Mostly David Ephgrave to go, at the Leicester Comedy Festival on Saturday. I’m looking forward to this too; it will be nice to give it a final airing and then draw a line under it for a while; I’m going to treat it like the last day of term and have fun with it.

I'll do my best not to overcook it before then. I did a run on Sunday and a run today, then I’ll do a couple on Thursday and then leave it until the day. It’s a fine line between reminding yourself of how it goes and going through the motions. I don’t want to be searching to remember the content, nor do I want to be saying the words without connecting to them. Either way, it’s nice when - like today - it’s pretty much all in my head and feels slick. That’s the benefit of having done it so many times in Edinburgh; you can’t beat having that many gigs in quick succession for making you feel match fit. I’m looking forward to when I feel the same about the next show...though this is likely to be some way off.

Monday, 20 February 2017

'University Challenged: Volume Twenty-five (20.02.17)

Tonight’s University Challenge had a nail-biting, close-to-the-wire finish, with Bristol being pipped to the post by a last-minute right answer from Warwick, which turned the final scores on their head.

As ever, I covered tonight's events on social media. See below for tonight’s Twitter critique: 

Warwick Vs. Bristol (20.02.17)

8:03pm: I'd rather watch the #UniversityChallenge quarter finals than the first leg of the fifth round of the FA Cup.

8:04pm: To give you an idea of the UC filming schedule, Hobbs arm hasn't had time to heal yet.

8:04pm: Alice Clarke feels disdain, disdain, disdain, disdain, DISDAIN.

8:06pm: Van's surname is also his preferred method of kidnap.

8:07pm: Van's comfy jumper (name for a prog band).

8:10pm: Everything withers in the spotlight of Bristol Clarke's disdainful glare.

8:12pm: Rolleston's name is also his preferred deodorant applicant.

8:14pm: Idea for a musical adaptation of Monster's Inc. with Van in the role of Sully.

8:18pm: Clarke's preferred study soundtrack is Radiohead's Exit Music (For a Film). 

8:18pm: It's bloody Roxy Music, for Chrissakes.

8:20pm: It's fucking Elvis Costello, for fuck's sake.

8:22pm: We've all fought an inconclusive duel in Putney.

8:23pm: How can they do a round on duels and not mention Prince George and the Duke of Wellington's in Blackadder III?

8:26pm: Tonight's #UniversityChallenge music round was a brief play into my court before reinstating me to my usual level of ignorance.

8:27pm: "The clan McAdder".

8:29pm: Roger Tilling bloody loves his job.

Sunday, 19 February 2017


Today I met a woman in a pub car park to discuss going on toad patrol in the coming months.

Yes, you read that sentence right: anyone driving through the country lanes near where I live this Spring may just see me standing around in a high-vis jacket, looking for toads in distress. I was coerced into this by my wife, who’d responded to an advert looking for volunteers to help assist the toads’ journey across a busy road to a pond on the other side, and felt it was a good cause to be involved with; it’s also an excuse to get out and do something, which is always good if you’re naturally reticent like me; the fact it’s for a excellent cause makes it all better, though forgive me if I burst into We All Stand Together while I’m doing it.

The woman took us on a little wander to where the toads usually cross and explained the whys and wherefores of a usual patrol. The organization started in 2001 with a fair few volunteers, which - like the toad numbers - have dwindled with time. Such is the nature of nature. All we need to do, should we decide to join in, is to rescue the frogs as they start to cross in an awkward place and escort them to the other side, making a note of their sex as we do it. I daren’t ask during the meeting how you sex a toad, because it sounded too appropriate, but I’m presuming it’s fairly easy. I guess I’ll find out shortly. Either way, I’m not going to make a big deal out of it; It’s nice to help if I can.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

"Feed Me, Seymour."

Two foods I have no cut-off point with are biscuits and grapes.

The former option is obviously far less healthy than the later. If somebody started selling grape-flavoured biscuits, I'd never leave the house (providing whoever baked them delivered; if not, I’d have to pick them up in person or make them myself, which sounds like too much effort).

Today’s a case in point: my breakfast consisted of ASDA’s crunchy nut cornflake-(conflake?)-substitute, a mug of coffee, an episode of Frasier, followed by biscuit after biscuit after biscuit after biscuit. My alibi for the lack of exercise and the multi-biscuit intake was I was trapped under a sleeping cat. I had to eat what was in arm’s reach to survive; thank God I wasn’t sat next to a Bounty or I would have starved; those bars are the Devil’s fruit.

Speaking of Bountys, Wikipedia describes them as consisting of a coconut filling “enrobed in chocolate”, which sounds too grand for my liking. It also says they were introduced in 1951, which blows my mind; sixty-six years as a loss-leader and they’re still being churned out: “A taste of paradise” my arse; a taste of potpourri, more like.

…but back today’s diet. After getting ready, I popped to my local shop where I bought a punnet of grapes that I went on to eat a single sitting. If I’m not careful, my evening will be spent on the loo; I bet you’re pleased you read this, aren’t you?

Friday, 17 February 2017

Bishops Love Sci-Fi.

Last night saw another of those surreal Mostly Comedys I've grown accustomed to expect.

February 2017's Hitchin Mostly line-up: Jenny Collier, Glyn Doggett, David Ephgrave & Ardal O'Hanlon (left to right).

It’s reached the stage where we’re fortunate enough to have big names at the club as a matter of course, with the odd leap occurring at regular intervals. Only four months ago we had Rory Bremner on the bill, which was both ridiculous and ridiculously good; the dust had barely settled from this to be kicked up again by yesterday’s headliner: Ardal O’Hanlon.

Ardal O'Hanlon at Hitchin Mostly Comedy (16.02.17)

It’s no exaggeration to say we’ve been after him for years. While I’d hoped our diaries would eventually sync, there was always the stumbling block that he lived in Ireland, which made it less likely we’d find a time when he happened to be in England and free.

David Ephgrave at Hitchin Mostly Comedy (16.02.17)
Thankfully, the stars aligned yesterday with wonderful results. Yet again, the kid inside me pinched himself as he tried to get to grips with the fact the man behind one of his favourite sitcom characters was onstage at an event he’d organised. It’s one of those things that shouldn’t happen, but it did. There’s always a risk when you meet an act you’re a fan of - or watch them perform - that you’ll wind up feeling disappointed; they have a lot to live up to and long way to fall. Yesterday was yet another example of time this didn’t happen in the slightest: he was lovely and generous in his praise of everyone on the line-up (and the gig itself) and was also on brilliant form. Bizarrely, he’d barely aged since his Father Ted heyday; perhaps he’s secretly been supping from the Holy Grail.

Jenny Collier at last night's Hitchin Mostly Comedy (16.02.17)
The show was in fact good all round. The other comic on the bill, Jenny Collier, was brilliant - and just as excited to be sharing the bill with O’Hanlon- and our stuff went well too. I also had a tinker with the new material I tried at last week’s Big Nose Comedy, which seems to have legs. You’ve got to love jokes with limbs, haven’t you?

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Forget About it.

One way to try to make your life more pleasant is to let things go.

While I try not to let the same negative points play on my mind time and again, it’s easy to forget this. It’s the bad stuff that’s always the worst, as it can hit you with the same force every time you think of it; however much you feel you’ve resolved something in your mind and moved on, if you’re at a low ebb, it can come right back to the surface, creating the same irritations and upset it created the first time around.

I talked yesterday about my general dislike for Facebook. My biggest problem with it is how it can be an instant reminder of things I don’t like, or I thought I’d forgotten. Only tonight, I logged into it to see a writing season that Glyn and I used to run being promoted in our absence and it needled me. “Why did they never appreciate the work we did?” I thought, which led to “Why does no-one take any interest or help me with the work I’m doing now?”

All it took to bring this up was a single promotional post. Then, just as I was getting annoyed - mostly unreasonably - I caught sight of myself and realised what I was doing. It was petty and none of it mattered, so why go over that same ground again; just keep looking ahead.

While it might be a dirty word to some, I use mindfulness a lot. It helps you connect more with the real world. It even works in these random emotive situations like the one above. I’ve always been a thinker, so it’s nice for a while to forget about that and just concentrate on what's happening in my mind and body right now; it can do wonders for anxiety.

Zucker-ice-berged Again.

Since returning to Facebook largely for work reasons, I can truly see why I decided to come off.

Maybe it’s my perception of it, or maybe it’s down to a few people within my network, but browsing the social media Goliath usually only serves to make me feel bad about my life. From behind the rose-tinted filter of Facebook everyone’s having a better time than you. They’re happier, better looking, more successful and more financially solvent and their friends a lot more interested in what they’re up to. You’re the sweaty Gollum-like outcast peering through a steamed-up window at the party you weren’t invited to; with a bit of luck you mind find a bit of cake in the bin around the back that hasn’t been tainted by other rubbish.

I’ve written about my distaste for Facebook more than once here, so you’d think I'd have learnt my lesson. Sadly not; it drags you in like the misery porn of a road traffic accident, leaving you lonely and maladjusted to the world you’re reluctantly a part of. The most bizarre part is that none of it’s real. We weren’t designed to see so much of each other’s lives at any moment we want (or don’t want) it; it’s a sensory overload of other people’s kids, dinners, jobs, houses, cars, families, parties, weddings, funerals and ice bucket challenges (clearly the most contemporary popular culture reference I can come up with is circa 2014).

I might go off-grid. Come join me; I’ll set up a Facebook event for it.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

University Challenged: Volume Twenty-Four (13.02.17).

Tonight’s episode of University Challenge was the first I’d seen as it went out in weeks.

In the interim, every time I’ve missed the show, I’ve covered it here after the event, in a ‘see what I would have tweeted’ stylie. While this suits my OCD to a point, it’s never quite the same feeling of spontaneity I get when tweeting along with the show , as there’s something less - dare I say it - exciting about it. There’s no sense of opening a dialogue when you’re just writing it on Word to please yourself; it’s nice to have the Internet to bounce off of.

See below for tonight’s Tweets; brace yourself for the inevitable thrill.

Emmanuel - Cambridge Vs. Corpus Christi - Oxford (13.02.17).
8:01pm: Paxman looks weary. Oh so weary.

8:03pm: Tom Hill's borrowed Joe Brown's hair for the evening.

8:03pm: Homer's Odyssey: D'oh.

8:05pm: Venkatesh's smile is reminiscent of an unrepentant Bates.

8:07pm: Plug in Cambridge Hill and his hair does this.

8:08pm: Is Johnson double-deniming? PLACE YOUR BETS.

8:11pm: At the end, I'd like Seagull & Wright to switch rugby tops (presuming they're rugby tops; I'm out of my depth).

8:12pm: Do you think Fleet services?

8:13pm: Cambridge are displaying a mascot overload.

8:15pm: After tonight, Joe Brown will initiate paternity proceedings over Hill.

8:17pm: Jeremy Paxman's tie: because grey and floral are synonymous.

8:20pm: Idea for a remake of The Ipcress File with Fleet as Harry Palmer.

8:22pm: Barton-Singer could trade places with a young George Harrison.

8:25pm: It might be the angle, but Cambs seem to have a glass of water between them (turns to @Bobby_Seagull for verification).

8:26pm: Big ole beak on Oxford's mascot.

8:27pm: "Fee, Fi, Filo, Fum..."

Monday, 13 February 2017

Sunday Fun(ny)day.

I did a short spot at a gig in Finsbury Park tonight; my second in that part of town in so many weeks, though they were at different venues.

I used tonight as a chance to try out a bit of new material I started the day before yesterday, and to solidify some of the stuff I tried at a gig last week. Inevitably for the sort of show it was, the room was tough; it was in a lovely pub restaurant with a lot of character and a warm feel, but the stand-up took place in a room adjoining the bar with no door to separate it from the main area; consequently, the gig had a underscore of whatever music happened to be playing in bar - and, while this could have been a lot more distracting than it was, attention was still difficult to keep hold of, particularly if the audience started to talk.

I went on at the beginning of the second half when concentration was starting to wane. I don’t enjoy five-minute spots as a rule, as there’s not time to settle into a rhythm and get your style across, particularly if you're prone to try and fit a lot in. Tonight went pretty well, though I ended up doing some of the material in an arse-about-face order, which meant it didn’t hit home as much as I’d have liked, but I always expect too much in these situations; if nothing else, it was nice to get the new bits out in the open, and even in its slightly scrappy state, there were some definite laughs to build on, particularly with the newest stuff. It will be nice to do it again at Thursday’s Mostly Comedy in a more focused environment. Either way, tonight was still pleasant despite the distractions, and it was good to find another potential space to try stuff out.