My Stand-up & gigs
The Coding Craftsman
An Open Letter To HSBC
Pay What Now?
Hearing the music
When to quit
I am not as other men
Tonight I was funny
Attack of the Drones
Notes on your set
Why Pissing off a Fellow Comedian was Fun
Just had a fantastic evening. I went to Edinburgh to perform in a gig (I may comment on it as a performer in my other blog at some point). While there I had a wander round a couple of the fringe venues - it's preview week - and I actually saw my first Edinburgh Fringe 2003 show (that was more of an accident). I'll not count the show I saw in my 2003 fringe diary, if there is one, since I saw it for free in preview week and was really there as a performer evaluating the venue I'll be doing my own show in.
The thing is this. I had a great evening because I enjoyed the journey - the traffic was bad, but the in-car music was brilliant. I had a great evening because I enjoyed the wandering round one of my favourite cities in the lead-in to one of my favourite events there. I had a great evening because I met some great people. And I had a great evening because, and I'm frightened to say this, I think the gig actually went quite well.
So, let's assume that the next gig will be shocking! D'oh! Effing yin and yang!
I have just completed Playing The Moldovans At Tennis
. Like the first member-reviewer on Amazon's website I found the book impossible to put down. I'd have to take issue with that reviewer's simile though - impossible to put down "like my cat". I can recommend a vet who will put her cat down if she requires it.
I'd have to say that, having read all of Tony Hawks's books, I've found each one to be uplifting, laugh out loud funny and influential. Not necessarily influential in terms of my wanting to drag a fridge round Ireland
or challenge some Moldovan Tennis players or even have a one hit wonder
, but influential nonetheless. Mr Hawks's philosophy seems to be everything I would want from my own outlook. He's an optimist - he dares to dream the dream, go out there and try the apparently-impossible and he does it with humility and enthusiasm... and he makes crap jokes along the way.
I hope someone challenges him to do something else in time for a new book release - I'll need a good read around March!
I have just seen one of the most enthralling theatre performances I've ever seen. I'm not sure whether it was my mood or the execution of the show (West Side Story) but I was lifted clear off my seat at certain points (metaphorically as it were). Over the last year, I've been involved in four amateur theatre productions - perhaps being behind the scenes gives you more insight into the show and, consequently, a greater ability to find its flaws. Perhaps being behind the scenes also gives you enough distance from the action not to become immersed and, thus, remain objective. However, all I know is that sitting in the second row of the stalls when the overture of West Side Story started was a singularly amazing experience for me, whatever the reason behind it.
I could tell you the faults I noticed in the Gala Stage School production, but I won't. It is not necessary. I enjoyed the show thoroughly - a show which felt extremely up to date, despite coming up to its fiftieth birthday in the next few years. I enjoyed many of the individual performances, but the set-pieces were phenomenal. The dancing scenes (best dancers at the front) were more captivating than many I've seen on the professional stage. For me, the urge to pay to see the evening show, after coming out the matinee, was strong enough to justify my feeling that I'd witnessed something amazing. Indeed, the feeling of excitement I got, seeing the scene change from Maria's dress to the Dance at the Gym was something that I wish I could repeat. Plus I quite enjoyed the look of amusement on the faces of the band (it's nice being able to watch a 26 piece orchestra closely) as they had to shout "Mambo" during their playing of the dance music in the overture.
Live theatre is, for me, fuelled by an excitement of it being literally happening in the same room as you. An show with the status of West Side Story could easily be done badly, because it's so well known, people's expectations are for a replay of the film or sountrack that they've seen or heard a thousand times. But the magic occurs when the delivery of the show exceeds the expectations, where the audience member (or indeed cast member) has to remind themselves that, for that one fleeting moment, it's really happening in front of them.
I think that's why I like performing. I don't care too much about audience applause or backslapping, but living the dream - being involved in creating the sparkling moment that can evoke a reaction in the spectator - that's pretty amazing. As a performer, feeling for one moment that you've stepped into the world of the show and you're really not on a stage in a theatre, but in the location of the fantasy you're creating, well, that's a remarkable feeling. Can someone remind me why I haven't been doing this all my life, please?!
It seems not a little ironic that Julie Andrews's most loved and well known performance, that of Maria in the Sound of Music, is probably her worst from the point of view of her singing, at least. Compare Eliza Doolittle and Queen Guenevere with Maria... Maria ain't up to as much.
By the way Mr Hammerstein (not that you're reading) when you wrote the line "So we put in words, one word for every note, like this. When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything." did you realise that you have three notes for the word "anything"? Perhaps you meant one syllable for every note?
It can be exciting reading a good book. I'm sure many people have laughed out loud or giggled with glee at plot twists in the story on the pages in front of them. Indeed, I'm sure that the readers of the latest Harry Potter novel will have reacted grandly to the printed words - perhaps I should give that book a read myself at some point.
However, I have to be honest, I feel a bit silly at the joy I felt last night when I was reading. I'm reading an autobiography - Tim Rice. It gave me no end of pleasure to read his admiration of Alan J. Lerner and to see My Fair Lady cited as the first musical score that had any influence over him. This is really a product of my own need for hero-worship, rather than it being an exciting thing in itself. Late last year, I had proclaimed Mr Rice the ultimate lyricist and decided that it would be a good thing to aspire to achieve Rice-esque greatness. Then, I went to see My Fair Lady in January and listened to the lyrics... intently! I immediately declared Alan Lerner the true divine-being and made the assumption that Tim Rice had been influenced by him.
In truth, both Lerner and Rice have produced flawed works. In addition, it's unlikely that Tim Rice's mind works in constant emulation of anyone. Some people just have a knack with words and can hear what makes a good lyric. Perhaps one day I'll become one of them. I'm currently listening to Sondheim - there is a wordsmith and a half. Having said that, I can see flaws in his writing too. But why look for flaws. It's so much better to pass over the flaws and jump up in glee at a good rhyme, or a good line in a book.
In time I will come to forgive Jim Steinman for some of the shocking lyrics in Whistle Down The Wind... in fact, when I go to see that again, I will take notes of the dodgy lines and see if we can't fix them.
Put some Edinburgh dates online over at my AshleyFrieze
Over at the Ashley Frieze
site, we have a link to a clip of me in action... how exciting.
These just get sillier. A Prince and Doctor who wants me (yes, me) to pretend to be a next of kin in order to receive some cash. What sort of imbecile falls for a scam like this.
Director of Operations,
Energy and Mineral Resources Dept
I would like to begin by way of introduction,my name
PRINCE(Dr)JOEL DILO.I am a senior employee of Nigerian
Department of Energy and Mineral Resources.You were
introduced to us in confidence through the Chambers of
Commerce and Foreign trade division.
I am writing this letter to solicit your co-operation
in order to redeem an investment currently held under
trust with the department of Energy and Mineral
Resources of Nigeria.The said investment now valued at
USD $35.5Million(Thirty five million five hundred
Thousand United States dollars)only was originally
purchased by one Mr. ZHANG CHIN LEE and leased to the
Transvaal Orange Mining Corporation in 1977.Since the
maturity of this contract in September 1997,several
attempts have been made without success to contact
Mr.ZHANG CHIN LEE or any of his close relatives in
whose favour the investment cash value can be paid.
My partner who is the Account Director in the same
ministry with me have initiated the process of filing
claims for this money with the hope of having the
transferred to you.In order to do this,we will require
you to stand as the NEXT-OF-KIN to Mr.ZHANG CHIN LEE
the owner of the money.After which we will file a
claim for this money from the Department of Energy and
Mineral Resources,indicating that you were appointed
by Mr.CHIN LEE to be the beneficiary of these funds.
When the claim is approved you as the beneficiary will
paid the sum of USD$35.5Million.The money will be paid
directly to any bank of your choice. You will have the
responsibility to ensure that my partner and I receive
70% of the money while you keep 30% for your
assistance.I want to assure you that my partner and I
are in a position to make the payment of this claim
possible provided that you can give us very strong
guarantee that our share will be secured,and that you
will not take advantage of our position.
Be assured that there is absolutely nothing to worry
about in view of this claim.It is perfectly safe
with no risks involved,and it is not subject to any
inquiry,since my partner and I will be handling the
claim directly in Nigeria on your behalf.If my
proposal is acceptable to you,please acknowedge the
receipt of this mail by supplying the following
information to me urgently to commence the
documentation in your favour:
a)Your complete names
b)Your company name
c)Your Residential address
d)Your private telephone number
e)Your private fax number
f)Your private email
Upon receiving your response,I provide you with more
clarifications about the claim and how we intend to
make this deal beneficial to both parties
involved.Please reach me at the above E-mail
or contact me via telephone number:234-803-302-5573 or
Hope to hear from you soon.
I have had a great week working up in the flies in the Whitley Bay Playhouse. I was helping with the Tynemouth Amateur Operatic Society
's production of Sweet Charity. All in all, I think the show was performed well to appreciative, if not diminutive, audiences.
Working backstage is as much a pleasure as working on stage. I was asked which I prefer and I had to answer that I'd rather not give either up. Backstage work requires two minimum abilities:
- You have to be able to wear all black (or at least dark) clothing and look like you mean it (I look great in black - it's a very slimming colour).
- You have to be comfortable standing around with your arms folded, doing nothing for long periods of time.
I explained my theory of backstage work to both the work-experience kids that turned up to the theatre. The first one, a 14 year old lass, seemed quite impressed with this idea and, though a little shy, was generally cheered up by my uplifting banter before the show started. The second fellow, a 15 year lad, who shall remain nameless, clearly had issues.
I said hello to this fellow and he said something like "Hi, I'm on work experience, not that you're probably interested in that." Being a person who does like to take an interest, I reassured him that I cared at least a little bit and asked him his name. He remained on the defensive, telling me his name but then expecting me to taunt him about his similarity to "a fictional character in popular children's books". Now to be perfectly honest, despite his round glasses, I had not got him down as a Harry Potter lookalike. I realised, from his oblique description of the character he's been branded with, that it was indeed a Potter thing, and I attempted to reassure him that he looked nothing like Harry - except for the glasses. Most importantly, I pointed out, he didn't seem to have a scar on his forehead.
When you're teenage, and your hormones are raging out of control, and you start to question life itself, and the world seems against you... well, it's tough to be made the victim of an entire class full of taunters. This lad identified himself as the bullied and even pointed out that he'd wondered what suicide would be like. A few moments later he was bragging about his glittering performing career - he'd been in an advert on National TV... and on radio... and in a Catherine Cookson TV special. On the one hand we had a victim of bullying, on the other a rather cocky kid who was more impressed by what he had been involved with than what he may one day be able to achieve if he tried. I don't like to take anything away from the star of stage and screen, but as a kid, the demands on you to perform on TV are simpler - go on and look cute!
Realising that the bullying was a big deal to him, I attempted to offer him my empathy. I should point out that this lad had been spiky in the extreme during the conversation, frequently treating my comments as though they were barbed, when, in fact, I don't generally go round bullying lads who are half my age and experience. Indeed, I told him that specifically. I also told him how he probably felt when the class singled him out - I could tell from his reaction that I was right. "Were you bullied?" he asked - "Oh yes" said I, as though it were a mere trifle (mmm trifle). I went on to say that it's obvious to be advised not to react, but it's a lot harder to achieve no reaction when everyone is working at you to get one. It takes two to bully, I postulated. One to bully and one to be bullied. "No," said my young student, "it takes, three - you need one to look on and be impressed by the bullying." Good thinking, Robin, but no cigar. "Perhaps," said I, "it depends on the bullying in question - some bullies are doing it to show themselves they can exert control and so don't need an audience."
This lad was a tough nut to crack and I was tiring of his defensive accusatory tones in conversation. I finally said to him something like "Look, we're all on the same team here, working backstage. And anyway, I'm far too old, wise and bald to start picking on someone half my age." I thought this would help him. I'll never forget his reply - "You forgot to mention fat." This lad decided the best course of action was to bully me! He changed in my head from the unfortunate victim of bullying at school into an annoying young upstart who probably need a few copies of "Harry Potter and the teenager's attitude" shoved up his smug arse! Of course I said nothing and climbed up into my gantry.
It takes at least two for bullying. One to bully and one to be bullied - I am too old and wise to play either role.
The eagle-eyed reader will realise that the "tag-line" for this page changes every time you read it. That's the italicised quote in the top right of the page. Hit refresh... go on... you know you want to... it will say something different.
I quite like these random selections - indeed, the Haikulator
and Nth Commandment
are nothing more than enhanced tag-line selectors. What's interesting for me, though, is that I don't actually remember writing most of the tag-lines. So even when I look at this page, whose content is almost entirely my own work (I ought to credit Mal
for his original scripts for taglines and other things I've nicked from him and subsequently tailored for my own purposes), I still spot something that seems new to me.
I was awestruck in the Post Office this lunchtime. The queue was not too long, which is unusual at that place. Three people in the queue, who clearly had never met before, got into a conversation about current affairs. One of them then turned out to be a comedy geezer - jeans, shirt, long beige coat - southern accent... he had a good shoulder twitchy thing to show how dodgy he was. Very entertaining viewing.
More shocking, though, was the fact that I was seen promptly, was suprisingly able to deposit a cheque into my bank account (saving me a second leg of my trip) and was even given a spare envelope for that purpose by the nice man who dealt with me.
Perhaps I was in a bizarre mood when I went to Starbucks for my icy coffee drink. A man was standing in the middle of the room - I said to him "Are you queuing?" - he looked at me blankly. I repeated. Then he said "I don't understand - I'm French." Immediately, I scoured my brain for the correct words to use to a French speaker. I said, proudly - "Are you waiting?"... and then pointed... that seemed to work (actually, I couldn't remember a word of French that seemed relevant) - still he obediently walked to the end of the queue and joined it. Shortly afterwards he then looked around as though he'd forgotten something and slipped out of the queue and out of the shop. Perhaps he hadn't been wanting to queue, but my forceful English manner had compelled him to stand where I pointed - against his will. Whoopsie.
I held my tongue as the lady in front of me bought a bottle of still mineral water and accepted the offer of a glass of ice to go with it. Think about it. The ice is not made of mineral water - it's going to taint the water you've just paid over the odds at Starbucks for... with normal tap water! You may as well have just asked for a glass of ice and waited for the warmth in the shop - from the combination of the sticky atmosphere and the steam from the coffee - to do its job and give you a similar, but significantly cheaper drink. I repeat. I held my tongue. After what I'd done to the French chap, it seemed best to keep out of it.
This one speaks for itself:
Quite a rocking picture
of me in mid flight at a gig...
Commiting "Comedy Suicide" at the Thirsty Scholar last night was fun. I've no idea what it says about me that I resorted to my party trick, rather than do the first half of my material. It was a risk, but I enjoyed it.
A Busy Comic Week
Three gigs this week. I'm still reeling from my busiest week in comedy. Though I've done 3 gig weeks before, this particular week has required me to drive some 850 miles. I've had a variety of different responses, I've tried new material and I've also refined it.
Last night at the Thirsty Scholar was both the best and worst gig of the week. I think that my straight material was on its best form, but the audience were reacting most to some of the things I threw in as a joke... er... what I mean is that my specific attempts to commit "comedy suicide" were what they wanted. Give me a nice normal warm audience and I'm sure my usual routine would seem better.
I've had fun this week. I shall now work on the material for the next gig, which is in Edinburgh on the 30th.
Floating The Balloon
The gig on Wednesday at The Comedy Balloon
was fun. There's definitely truth in the idea that you can't hear the laughs when you're up there. I have just reviewed the tape of the gig - while there were moments of quiet during areas of the routine I'd describe as "post-punchline", the audience were actually with me throughout. I think I worry too much.
Having said that, there's always room for improvement, which is probably why I have to continue the process of travelling around this country doing small gigs. I'll keep doing it until I get it right!
Three more gigs this coming week - I suspect it's going to be a lot of work. I've done three gigs in one week before, but one of those three was only 20 miles away. With Manchester and Edinburgh exclusively on the itinerary, it's going to be hard work and costly. Still, it's my damned ambition, so I should probably stop moaning about it.
I'm trying out new material at the moment and I hope I'll have experimented enough in this part of the month in order to give me something nice and solid to do in my longer spots later in the month. If you're near any of my gigs
feel free to come along.
You can buy anything online these days. How about sperm? Well... apparently you can buy that too. Check out ManNotIncluded.com
, which claims to be a service for providing a means of conception to Lesbian couples. There's a potential source of amusement and comedy in the idea that conception could be traded as a commodity. I'm sure we could sit giggling like schoolboys at the practicalities of organising a sperm donation online. However, perhaps there's are some more weighty questions at stake here.
Questions like the right to procreate. Is it a right? If so, shouldn't the traditional medical world provide for the needs that have caused the above site to be established? If it is not a right, then who should be deciding what constitutes entitlement to have children?
Another question would be whether anyone is comfortable with the use of the internet as a means to facilitating such a fundamentally natural thing as having children. There's something odd about having to escape to the free-and-easy world of the 'net to be able to gain access to things that nature has been providing in quantity forever.
Just another Manic Monday
The gig last night was hard work. Monday night audiences are not necessarily the rowdiest - I've only had one really kicking Monday night, and that was in Edinburgh. This lot were feeling tough and they were sitting away from the stage. In addition, the show at the Frog and bucket
in Manchester has gone gong-show-style with their Beat The Frog
competition. Basically, you have five minutes max and the audience can vote you off early if they don't like you. As a result of the nerves and the desire not to have driven 150 miles for 5 seconds on the stage, I gave the most energetic performance I could and managed to beat the frog. I didn't however, win the audience's hearts enough to win the audience vote between the frog beaters - the prize being to go back to that pit of apathy the following week and do 8 minutes before they've warmed up properly... by the way, I really enjoyed the gig, so I will probably go along again sometime. Really, however, it's a lot of travelling to do not to be appreciated.
I have a gig today (well, it feels like tomorrow, since I'm about to have a night's sleep, but it's technically today). I'm playing the comedy balloon in Manchester (another trip along the M62 for me, then!). I'm looking forward to it, but I'm also scared. Over 50% of what I'll be doing tomorrow I've not done before... about 90 seconds of it (15%) I thought of today... so I hope it works and that I remember it. The balloon should be a good place to try these things out.
The gig on Monday in Edinburgh has been extended to 10 minutes, which is nice. So hopefully, I'll have the chance to try something out there as well. The mother of all gigs on Wednesday of next week is my first 20, so I'm hoping to have the most material to choose from to fill that. It's better to choose a good 20 from 40 minutes of material performed, rather than do everything I've ever done and pray it's long enough ;)
Of course it couldn't last... with only four shows left to document, the diary went back on ice. In fairness to myself, yesterday was the mother of all days and I really didn't have any time available to work on finishing the fringe diary. I am hopeful of finding a few spare moments in the near future.
Let's review yesterday's main attributes:
- I had a half day at work
- I bought my road tax, costing me precious time and money - the lunchtime post-office queue was bad enough - the disinterested clerk perhaps one of the multitude of reasons why the queue wasn't moving. I understand it's probably boring working in a post office. However, it's probably more boring queuing in one - if you work as a clerk, at least you've something to do during the lunchtime crush... just an observation!
- I got weighed... I haven't been weighing myself much recently. I think I was also reluctant to report my +3 increase in weight on 18th June, taking me to a slightly clumsy -53. However, yesterday I discovered a -6, taking me to my best so far of -59. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep this off. The absence of hopping around a stage may have an effect on my waistline, so don't hold your breath... I may have to in order to keep my belt in its current hole.
- I then drove to Manchester for (among other reasons) my evening gig. The shocking rain and terrible traffic did nothing for my blood pressure. Luckily I was accompanied by Whistle Down The Wind - a show with some great music and some easy to criticise cheesy lyrics - Jim Steinman should be ashamed of some of them. Some of the lyrics are very good, so he breaks even... just!
- Finally, just as I thought the journey was going to be a total dead loss, I saw the 25 (car number plate) that it took to get me back in the game of CNPS finally! I've got myself up to 27 now. I'm lagging badly behind Steve, though!
- The gig went ok. I'm yet to review the tape - I had a hard task to work that audience, but I launched into it with a vengeance!
- After too much diet coke and too many miles on the road, I got to my bed very late and I've got a worryingly short number of hours until the next gig. I plan to try out some new material - I plan to write and rehearse it first... this should be interesting.
And so that was yesterday. Quite a day all in all. Sadly, I'm missing My Fair Lady terribly. I have an action packed week ahead, but even then there seems to be something (someone?) missing. I hope the grieving process doesn't last too long.
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