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Friday, June 29
Overheard in NY
I've said it before and I'll say it again. "Overheard In New York" is an excellent site. Try this one to get you started. Then put their RSS link into your Google Reader and spend all your life reading all of them.
Don't Watch That Watch This...
Here is a YouTube of some of the Madness performance at Glastonbury. I'm in the crowd somewhere. The sound isn't very good, and you can't feel the excitement coarsing through the veins of the crowd... still... a nice memory:
Thursday, June 28
Last Night I was Funny
At some gigs I make the audience laugh a lot. At some gigs I make them laugh a little. That is one axis in the universe of being a comedian. Another axis is the state of being funny. When you're being funny, you can make the audience laugh with unplanned stuff that comes not from the technique, but the sheer feeling of who you are on stage.
Looking at the gig I did in Southampton as MC. It was largely technique, and not very good technique at that. I wasn't feeling it. I wasn't being funny. It's no surprise. I felt like my soul was ebbing away. No wonder I was so introverted, down, and unfunny. If you're not feeling it, you need to rely entirely on technique. It can still be made to work.
I'm the sort of person who uses pre-planned technique things in my set, which is a shame, because I'm really only at my best when I'm being funny.
Last night, the audience reaction was variable and it was a tough enough room for any room sized laugh to be considered a massive triumph. However, I was feeling confident AND funny. The net result of this was that I absorbed silences, or joked through them, and I had an answer. I had an answer to whatever happened. That's part of being funny for me. I could also get laughs by reacting to the crowd without even using words. That's another part.
Note: as always, I'm commenting on my performance in relation to my own scale of success, not anyone else's. I'm not claiming to be anything more than I truly am, only claiming which version of me I felt I was being last night. It's nobody's business but my own what I claim on my own blog, but I thought I'd qualify what I mean by this rambling anyway. It is nice to acknowledge these things.
The moment I got the room was just after a banker had failed either prompting, or caused by a heckle on the punchline. I don't know. I knew, however, to handle the heckler. It bought me the room. Here's what happened. Heckler in plain type, me in bold, my thoughts in italics:
Hadee deedee doh - I've no idea what that means - just repeat it back
Hadee deedee doh?
Hadeeedee do do - fine use "old faithful"
I'm sorry, mate. I don't speak "pissed" - it's an oldie but a goodie and, oh look, the audience have laughed heartily there
I'm not drunk. I'm a northerner. - Ok. There's something to get my teeth into. Let's see if I can get him on side or take the piss.
A northerner? Where in the north are you from. I'm a northerner too. From Leeds - Make him see I'm not some southerner taking the piss
I'm from Manchester. Well that's not funny
The RIGHT side of the Pennines. I'll just check the map of the country in my head, because I think... yes... this is great...
I think you'll find that's on the left of the Pennines - Oh look, the room's erupted. That's nice. I'm very proud that I thought of saying that. Shall I tell them how proud I am... might look a bit smug. Ah, even the heckler's laughing at that one. Jolly good - let's press on, shall we...
Yes, my internal monologue during a gig does sound quite a lot like that. A good moment. I know I shouldn't rely so heavily on the old fashioned heckler responses, but sometimes they're an opening for the real me to come through.
What Day Is It?
What with the time-stretching nature of attending a festival over the long weekend, and the bank holiday style stylings of my day off work on Monday, and the running around I've done on the other nights this week, I'm totally disoriented. I think it may be Thursday, but to be honest, it feels like it's been the weekend all week. On the up side, I really like weekends.
They Used To Fill Me With Rage
Parking tickets used to fill me with the fire of 100 suns. Now I just see them as a woeful inevitability of the world we live in. Maybe it was the particularly unjust way I used to get ticketed while parking in a car park I was entitled to park in with a permit letting me park there that used to bother me.
Anyway, yesterday morning I was ticketed because I'd parked, overnight, in a bay which has a 2 hour max wait period between 8am and 8pm, and which I hadn't realised had a "no parking at all" the rest of the time (except for permit holders). Given that my drive had been blocked from entry by a Volvo driver, I was desperate to park somewhere and didn't realise. So I was ticketed. I wasn't happy, but I accepted that, excepting the fact that I have a drive I can park in, which I hadn't intentionally blocked myself, it was ultimately my mistake that had resulted in the ticketing.
The process of paying the ticket was annoying. I rang an automated line which took my details and then told me to ring back to find out if it had been paid. I rang back a few hours later (it suggested 5 minutes) to be told that the ticket wasn't even on their system. Given that the tickets are half price if you pay quickly, you'd think they'd have a system for fasttracking. Personally, I'd have loved to have demanded that I should be exempt from paying it for some reason, but I couldn't think of that reason.
So, I rang back today and found out that it was on their system, it was paid and I can get on with my life. I should feel relief. I don't. I should feel anger at Volvo person, whose windscreen I put a cardboard note on explaining that they'd blocked my drive and telling them not to park there again. I don't even feel the anger. I found my note waiting for me on my doorstep, marked with the driver's response:
Awwww. I can't stay mad at you, with your kooky pigeon English. Seriously. I'm not being sarcastic, it made the driver sound like a poor simple minded and genuinely apologetic person who simply hadn't grasped the inconvenience they'd caused. Bless. Aaahh. That's worth £30 of my money any day.
So, who else wants to park in my drive?
Wednesday, June 27
I'm proud to be involved with MySketch. They are a collective of like-minded sketch groups, who have done a gig each month of this year so far at the Etcetera theatre in Camden. I first got involved in the days following the break-up of my relationship with my now-ex-girlfriend. I won't mention her by name and she's now in the category of good friend, but the fact that we were together for nearly 2 years makes her harder to describe in a phrase.
Anyway, I suppose it's odd that nearly 5 months have passed since I was made single (it's a bit like being made redundant, only with more crying). It's also been quite a journey for me. The involvement with the sketch group has been one of many delightful decorations in the carriage I've been travelling in. As I said, I'm proud to be involved with them. The last couple of shows have gone really well and I've come to feel like my skills are being put to good use, while, at the same time, it's an involvement which is not about me. I just help out. Okay, so I get to do some voiceovers which interact with the sketch or the audience, and I get to make it all flow (or fail to)... but I'm not in the limelight and I like it.
A friend came along to the show on Monday and, though the audience were small and felt unable to laugh out loud except at the most hilarious bits, we both agreed it was a corker of a show. I watched the audience through the window (when I had time between working knobs and levers) and they were doing loud smiling - some were grinning like twats. That's good enough for me.
Part of Monday's challenge was to compile the technical script and sound effects CD for the show in a very short timeframe. I had about an hour and a half at home, and some time on the train in which to do it. It was the first time that I didn't need to reburn the CD between arriving in London and starting the show. We're getting better at it, that's what I'm saying.
I went on to do the sketch show directly from getting my glasses sorted. I left the car in a public car park near the big shopping centre in Reading. When I got back the parking charge was £7 - very reasonable for half a day's parking. Unlike the £30 I got charged overnight for being parked as near to my house as I could get last night.
Next time I'm blocked out my drive, I should just drive into town and park there.
Sorry - got off topic there. MySketch - very good. See it. Old Red Lion pub in Angel on 16th July. Or in Edinbugger.
Idiotic buffoon that I am, I managed to kneel on my glasses on the last morning at Glastonbury. I should probably have put them on before struggling around my side of the tent trying to pack my stuff up. As a result of my mistake, I was without glasses until we got to my car where I grabbed by sunglasses, also known as "the spare pair". They're prescription - albeit not my current prescription, but close enough.
So I wandered around Glasto for a day wearing sunnies. Not too bad, even when it was raining.
After the struggle back to the car with the tent, and then the struggle back to the site, and then the struggle back to the car after the show, it was time to drive. Aching body and woozy head, darkness over the land, 3am driving... and I'm in my sunnies. Still, it was getting light, so the world just seemed strangely dimmed, rather than impossibly blackened. It's one advantage of the summer solstice weekend (not as big a disadvantage as the torrential mud-creating rain).
The following day, I went into Reading to get my glasses repaired or replaced. Having recently gotten a new prescription (with some effort) and, thus, with a set of £100 lenses sitting in the smashed frame, I was hoping to simply transplant the new lenses into new frames and end up with new glasses (effectively).
The problem is that the nearest frames weren't quite the same shape. The lenses may have fit, but the centre of vision may not have been where it should have been. In the end, I just had to buy a whole new pair. They couldn't solder the old pair, so the frames and new lenses went in the bin in the end.
How About We Just Don't
I've done this before. I've been presented with a project to do and I've questioned and questioned the reasons behind it, and I've discovered flaws in it, and holes in its fundamental assumptions. And people have told me that I'm being a doubter, or that I'm being negative, or that I'm nit-picking. I've been the voice of dissenting reason - a strange voice.
Then, as happened with a project at my last employer, I've asked enough to get the project cancelled. In that case, the boss thanked me thoroughly for saving the company the money it would have wasted on making that particular software (that wouldn't work). Admittedly, in their case, they suddenly had the idea again, a year later, and made it again, and it was a turkey, but I wasn't on that team that time.
Anyway, I've gone and done it again. It's a pyrrhic victory, I think.
I'm Looking At...
I listened and screamed with laughter at Giles Wemmbley Hogg last night. The fact that I saw its creator, Marcus Brigstocke, at Glastonbury helped me understand the authenticity of the piece, but it was actually a straightforward sit-com, set around events that even non Glastonbury goers should have been able to relate to, and was very well written.
The line which got me was "I'm looking at, what can only be described as, Dame Shirley Bassey". "Shirley Bassey" is just a lovely lovely sounding set of syllables.
Having sat (and stood) and watched the lady perform, I can truly say she's a legend. She, and her massive orchestra, filled the gaping chasm of the Pyramid Stage and field with glorious music. Not only that, but she had the "balls" to repeat a song. And the audience loved her for it. Her arms raise like a bird in flight, as she sustains notes which climax as she turns her hands upwards, as though she is supporting the heavens, like a massive tanned Welsh pensioner Atlas.
Dame Shirley I salute thee.
Some Random Facts
As my life is struggling to get back to normal after Glastonbury, here are some random factoids.
Last night I drove some 180 miles to Crew to have my photo taken wearing a tinfoil helmet and looking like a mental. It was only when I started jabbering like a mental and gesticulating wildly that we hit the real payload of nutso. Method acting, darling. It kind of got to me a bit, though.
Oh, the photos were for the poster for the Edinburgh show.
Returning home I found that my driveway had been obscured by cars. This was annoying. There was a gap between them but only just the width of my car and there was no room to get into it, given the cars parked opposite. I ended up parking in a space which has a 2 hour waiting period between 8am and 8pm.
Turns out that you can't park there at all between 8pm and 8am. Parking ticket. Bunch of bastards. I now wish that I'd left a brick on the windscreen of the Volvo, rather than a polite note. Next time I'll give him a bill for £30. Twat!
I went to a podiatry appointment this morning. Apparently I still have feet and they're still able to feel a tuning fork. Key of D I believe.
The podiatrist applied a dressing to my poorly leg - nice lady. I'm cured.
I stopped by my old place of residence on the way out of Reading in order to drop off some laundry, which had been stinking my car out a bit. Glastonbury is not a nice smell. I apologise for transferring the stench somewhere else.
According to the bathroom scales I've lost a further 2 pounds since I was last weighed. This means I've definitely lost 9 pounds since the peak of my weight this time around. However, I'm about 5 pounds heavier than where I was in January. I wish to continue losing weight.
The Debate Continues
Following a rather unfavourable review on someone's blog, someone had a go at the blogger. This culminated in a over-dramatic series of flounces by all concerned. Then they patched it up and decided, based on having seen me perform once, and based on "some shit they've read on the internet", oh, and probably based on hearing some of my recordings, that I'm an "erratic" performer. Is that like when you do "pale dancing"? It's amusing, I suppose, that they've formed a consensus like that - based largely on conjecture. It's also not important.
My advice - review what you've experienced, but don't review someone based on some highly partisan bitching/backslapping about them that you can find on the internet.
Erratic! - "Having no fixed or regular course; wandering." - that's a bit much. Sometimes I have the occasional stinker of a gig - all comedians do. Generally I'm consistently average with occasional flashes of jolly good. I've had a run of really good ones quite recently. By now, I know what I'm doing and I know why I'm doing it. Sometimes, though, the chemistry doesn't work and I'm not quite able to fake it. Sometimes. Not erratically. You don't get booked if you're erratic. Erratic suggests someone who careers off course more often than not. Someone who is, essentially unhinged. It's not that bad... yet.
The thing is, this particular blogging game of tennis runs the risk of turning into a cross-blog dialogue, which I'm not that keen on. I've decided not to post any further comments on the particular blog that first had a pop at me. Everyone's entitled to have their opinion and publish it as they see fit - so long as they're not trying to muster some sort of bigoted response (I would shut down the BNP's website without a second thought). As for having a debate. Nah. It's not worth it. I didn't get into comedy to defend myself against people who don't like what I do. I did it to entertain people and enjoy doing it.
That's the good thing about comedy. When it works... when you're in the zone and the material feels real, but actually is just an underscore to the real amusement of making funny with an audience... when that happens - it's bloody marvellous. And anyone who sneers from the sidelines can jolly well do so without me.
Start With A Lie?
I'm curious. How do people ever meet? Let's imagine the scenario. You see a pretty girl across a crowded room (a bit of South Pacific in that last phrase there) and you think "Wow! She's beautiful". Then, I don't know, maybe you find out that she's into really cool stuff, like musicals or something - hell, maybe she can sing along with the entirety of Les Miserables (a definite high score on the scale of "wow"). So, now there's this amazing girl and you want to meet her properly. But how do you do it?
I guess if you have mutual friends then, at some point, your paths will cross... but relationships that only spark within extended circles of friends are a bit in-group-ey, and what if you don't really have that sort of a network of friends? What if, like, me, you're more of a friend to individuals, rather than groups.
I know it happens. I know that complete strangers somehow manage to hook up. I've been a complete stranger to my previous long-term relationship partners, so I know it's possible. It's just how to make it possible if, for some reason, it hasn't just worked itself into existence by fluke. Can it be possible to contrive the chance to get to know the person in question? Is that how life works? I think, in some cases, it can. Here are a few possible approaches:
I'll happily talk to strangers. I'll talk naturally with anyone... unless I really fancy them, in which case up come the defences, since the last thing I want to experience is rejection. Ironically...
I think I put it down to an awkwardness which set in in my early teenage years and lasted about 20 years (so far).
This means that I'm unlikely to be able to talk to a woman I find incredibly attractive and this is intensified by finding out more things that make her attractive. It's worsened by my desire to do so and worsened still by the irregularity of encountering this person, which creates a secondary desire to contrive a chance to meet them and fail to speak to them another time (the failure isn't part of the desire). If I find out that they're truly lovely in every respect on top of it, it further elevates them to a saintly status that can only be adored from afar in hushed voice...
...which is a shame, since I can, actually, enjoy conversations with total strangers and, sometimes, even discover that those encounters lead to genuine friendships. So I should snap out of this bizarre introspection and either do something or do nothing. I'll say this - the white-lie deception method isn't me. The idea that you start a relationship with a woman with lies, seems like a bad precedent. In the end, I suppose that the brownian motion of life will bring you into contact with whom you're supposed to be in contact with. I hate contrivance and I'm not really a stalker... though if I could just find a way to...
"I can't even dance the merengue"
Oh - and please feel free to email advice or your phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org - that'll save time. Entries will be judged and the bonus question is "What is Jean Valjean's prisoner number?".
Tuesday, June 26
Ahhhh, Watching The People Get Lairy
I'm back from Glastonbury. I've been back since about 6am, Monday. There's a fair bit I could say on the subject, but for now, I'll just say that I managed to have many highs (legal, not chemically induced) and a few awful lows (largely down to physical problems like mud). I think I want to do it again, but I need at least 11 months to recover.
Wednesday, June 20
Another work of pure fiction. An early contribution for Friday 29th June. I'll admit it. It's not really a Friday thing if I'm doing them early.
It started innocently enough. He’d been bored at work and went looking through one of those online services that lets you hook up with people you lost touch with. These services pride themselves on how easy they make it to communicate with someone you used to know but, in their efforts to promote their own services, they don’t question whether there was a reason you lost touch in the first place. No online service is going to provide you counselling for the aftermath of getting in touch with, say, an ex-girlfriend.
“Hey there. You’re looking good. Hope you’re feeling good. It’s been a long time. x” That was all it took to re-establish contact with the first girl who broke his heart. It turned out that she wasn’t feeling so good, having just divorced the man who broke her heart, and the occasional rib. It didn’t surprise him. A spirit like hers would only be satisfied in a relationship where she either dominated some poor fool, or was so overruled and brow-beaten in everything that she could brew her dissatisfaction to a potent concentration – essence of pure hatred. In fact, he couldn’t remember why he ever went out with her.
We all want to receive gifts. They’re too tempting to pass up, whatever they are. So, when she promised him a little present, he willingly gave her his address. He later mused on how naïve he’d been to be surprised when she turned up at his door a week later, mascara running down her face (with suspiciously dry eyes), a sob story three hours long and a suitcase in tow.
I really enjoyed the first two books of Dean Koontz's Frankenstein trilogy. I've been looking out for the third book ever since. I just found out that it's not due for publication until May 2008! 2008!!!
I got book two second hand in June of last year. This is ridiculous. Write faster you great big novelist bastard!
Well, I'm just commenting on how much fun it would be to deconstruct the random text after a spam mail, and guess what drops into my mailbox. Yup. Well, here's hoping I can weave it into some sort of sense. Bold is the spam, italics is me:
Well, wed proven what'll it hate confused be? Paddy Leonard asked.
Yes. I'm very confused, Paddy. You've proved that very easily
Funny trousers (the lesser known sequel to "Funny Girl" with Barbra Streisand) sight day two earth of them together
Ashes to ashes, funny trousers to funny strousers, earth to Major Tom
petite their bellies ou cautious visit Whither vivaciously toe away?
The way I see it is this. If you've got a petite belly, then you can probably fit in a smaller car, which offers greater parking opportunities, so you probably won't get towed away
Exploitable ground.object Is work coming! Is across snore coming!! Is coming!!!
Oh poor exploitable ground object. Your work is coming. It is going exploit you. It is going to make you tired and you will snore. IT'S COMING!!! Aaaaaaaaagh!
representative river sun wind O, excuse me!
The belching poet there. "Representative river. Sun. [BURP] - Sorry, wind. Oh, excuse me!"
From the Fathers Before fresh the parcel
Before fresh. Like it's so fresh it's not even fresh YET. That's what Dad's can do. They can put stuff in a parcel before it's even ready. Perhaps this is a metaphor for life itself. The father plants the pre-fresh seed in the mother - it becomes a parcel and, when it's ready, it's born. Fresh.
huge high door of theory the Irish shiver house
The shiver house is a Jewish tradition, and Ireland is more known as a Catholic country. However, it's not a huge high door of theory that some Irish people are Jews. I've met some.
of pa interfere I'll canvas bleach take surprise a stone ginger
Now. I was at that gig. The PA system wasn't working. The compere - a ginger - was surprised when I fixed it... and the "canvas bleach" is just poetry speak for "no microphone stand, so put the mic in your top pocket of your shirt, which was linen, not canvas, but it's close enough
So, in sumary. The man was confused about the Barbra Streisand film in which they had a funeral for an exploited man, who used to be a belching poet, and had some children before dying. He was Jewish (hence Barbra Streisand's involvement) and Irish and went to a gig once where the microphone didn't work.
It's a common tale.
Chuckling at Spam
I was having a look at some old posts and spotted this one - a deconstruction of a spam message I received. It made me chuckle. I don't get enough interesting spam to play with like this these days.
Last night was totally crazy. I may even have ruined some trousers and a shirt in the process of doing what I did. There. That's a hook into a "please read me". I'll qualify it with the fact that I've met people in various stages of crazy, and actually very little of what I did last night qualifies as even nearly as crazy as them. I was certainly closer to crazy than Katie Melua, though, so that's good.
I scooted homewards from work, spent a few seconds in the house, unloading the car and girding my loins for the evening ahead. I measured the ceiling joists a bit to get a good estimate for the insulation I needed to buy. Then I headed out, car prepared for the transportation of this material.
To Tesco for some essentials, including food. I had comedy to accompany the trip. Very nice - Jo Caulfield, Radio 4. I ate my food in Tesco car park (as I often do with Tesco food) and then headed to B&Q. Around this point the heavens had opened and the storm raged. There was thunder AND lightning. I could even see lines of lightning coursing through the sky. That was fun.
Arriving at B&Q during what felt like a mini monsoon, I went in. I decided that the bare wire that pokes out of my house for my exterior light probably needs a light on the end of it, especially if there's going to be loads of rain. I contemplated how much fun it would be to fit such a light in the downpour we were experiencing. I then ignored that and set about choosing one. I bought an energy saving lightbulb to go with it and then went for the insulation material.
The insulation material I was buying is stuff I've used before with a friend in Leeds. He buys it in 2foot by 4foot sheets. Despite going to two B&Qs in this part of the world, I've only found it in 4foot by 8foot sheets. This is a problem, since my car is not big enough for this sort of thing. So I had to cut it before taking it out the shop. The convenient place to do this might have been near where you get the sheets. I tried to ask someone if I was allowed to do that - rather than just crack open the stanley knife I was buying and start wrecking their stock in anticipation of paying for it all. The guy I asked was too busy to give me a yes or no answer. What a plonker. He could have just said one way or the other... but left me waiting. I got bored and then asked someone else. We concluded that the sensible solution was to just buy it whole and cut it up the other side of the till. Fine!
So, I ended up with 4 sheets of the stuff to cut into 4 pieces each. That's 12 cuts I had to make. I did this on the floor of B&Q watched over by a matronly indian lady, who couldn't quite suppress her amusement (well, our shared amusement) at how much effort I had to put into it. I was sweating profusely and covered in dust and bits of insulation material when I was done.
Then home. The rain had stopped, so my car didn't get soaked as I loaded up the 16 pieces of now 2 by 4 insulation. The lack of rain also boded well for my fitting of the outdoor light. I had a small mishap with getting the right holes for the wallplugs provided in the kit, so I had to go searching for some of my own. The power in my house was off, since even I am not stupid enough to do exterior electrics after a rain storm with live cables (even though they were terminated at the switch). So, I pondered whether I might have been shaving a yak, when I was in my boot looking for a stanley knife to open the batteries to fit to my new torch in order to find the wall plugs to plug the holes to fit the exterior light that I'd bought on a whim, when I originally set out to insulate my ceiling.
Anyway. I did a reasonable job of fitting the light... but the bulb proved to be a nightmare. Here's an interesting fact about energy saving lightbulbs. They don't sodding well fit! They're too big. So, they're dim, take a while to warm up, and don't fit the fixtures. Total bollocks! I'm all for saving energy, but get a life you hippies - if Edison could invent a lightbulb of a standard size (I guess he had it easier, given that his size was the standard when he invented it) then surely we can make it all work now. Surely, these larger bulbs need more glass!? Tossers.
I ended up with an exterior light that was all fitted, but didn't go on. Great!
Then I spent about 90 minutes putting insulation into the ceiling. I paired this up with burning my head on hanging lightbulbs and falling off my ladder - a bit. I did a few sheets. It's slow and fiddly work... at least it is when I do it.
Then I set out to nip to Tesco (again) before picking up a friend from work. She was due to finish at 10. I reckoned on being able to get to Tesco and back just in time to be ready for her call. I managed to be at a reasonably logical meeting point at about 10.30 or so. She ran very late. It was about an hour later she surfaced. Not her fault. In fairness, I had agreed to wait for her call, but put myself in a position where going home was foolish, as was sitting around doing nothing. A no win for me, I'm afraid.
Dropping her at home, I returned home. It was late. I had a few things still to do on my computer, including a bunch of printing stuff out and bill paying, which took me into the small hours. I had a shower, I answered some emails and then hit the bed.
Quite a busy night.
I hope the trousers wash ok.
One of the girls in the office has decided to wear her hair in bunches like a schoolgirl today. She's put dots on her nose to look like freckles (they actually look like some sort of pox - or perhaps an infestation). I did the "Erm... you've got a bit of something on your nose" gag to her in the coffee shop, and she acted as if it were me that was being stupid and missing the point.
So, you have to wonder what it is that inspires an adult to behave in this way. And why do grown women choose to become caricature schoolgirls? Are they trying to attract reformed pedophiles?
Tuesday, June 19
Safari So Goody?
I thought I would mention the Apple Safari web browser, which you can install from here. There's no doubt about it. It makes your PC look like it's got a Mac browser running on it. There are a few key differences that makes this potentially a better browser:
Screen shots of Incredible.org.uk from the two.
So if you want to be a Mac bigot, then you can sit with Safari and Quicktime on your PC and waste all of our lives. I always preferred David Mitchell anyway. So I won't be rubbing myself into an aesthetic stupour over this new contribution from Apple into the whole shallow world of pointless prettiness.
A Great Compliment
Well, it appears that this site is getting some interest. I guess someone is keen to read all about my insecurities, bletherings, and other traits. I'd be flattered if it wasn't also disturbing.
Blogging's a strange art form. In my opinion you should write, accountably, whatever is on your mind. You shouldn't censor yourself. I think you should consider what you're saying, but I frequently write without considering the long-term implications of revealing what I choose to reveal.
So, it's all here for people to see.
A friend of mine once deleted his blog - thousands upon thousands of words reduced to nothing in a single click. I couldn't do that. I equally couldn't spare the time to go through it all and edit it...
... so here I am, warts and all. Not that I have actual warts, they're just metaphoric, and anyone who says otherwise is probably not medically qualified enough to justify their opinion.
Just as I feel like it would be unfair to judge me on a single comedic, performance, so perhaps it would be unfair to judge me on a single contribution to this blog. I think I've probably demonstrated about 75% of my character traits across all the blog entries. So if someone wants to know who I am, they should probably read a couple of months' worth. Maybe months that are, themselves, a few months apart... sometimes I go through phases and act like an arse for a bit.
It's still me. Somewhere within all this crap, my little self is crying to be heard. And sometimes it's singing for all to enjoy if they care. It varies.
More fiction. In this case an early contribution for Friday 22nd June.
Finally, someone was clapping. It had felt like the room was staring at him icily for the last hour. It’s hard to get your point across when everyone’s just looking at you without any affection. He wasn’t certain that he’d bored them to the point that their eyes had glazed over and they’d stopped caring. In fact, he was fairly certain that this crowd did care, just not about him. At a few points he’d even lost his nerve a little, as he felt like every word wasn’t so much falling on deaf ears as fizzling out on the fire of their hatred.
You have to keep going. You have to bolster your confidence and try to win the hearts and minds. That’s the job and that’s the challenge. Sure, some audiences can be slow to crack. That’s where the satisfaction comes from. Some audiences, on the other hand, are won over from the start. Preaching to the converted is easy. With these audiences, you don’t work for it; you simply reach out and let them do the work. Then all you have to do is ride the waves of appreciation until your time is up. The easy crowds give you the confidence to tackle the harder ones.
After sweating hard for his allotted time, and trying every trick in his insidious little book, he’d finally heard the first clap. The building tension in the room had been palpable and now there was a change in the atmosphere. Perhaps this was the point where the audience would rise to their feet in spontaneous appreciation of everything he’d been trying to say. Perhaps this single clap would spark a wave of sudden understanding. Perhaps they would turn to his viewpoint in this instant.
The clap was followed by a pause. Then another clap. Then a pause. Then another clap again. This wasn’t an ovation. This was the slow-clap. He’d never had the slow-clap before. As the rest of the audience solemnly joined in, he pondered which was the quickest route off the stage and out of the building.
Last night's gig is called "The Reckless Moment". It's in Leamington Spa. Everything about that gig was brilliant, with the exception of the bits of my material which failed to get a laugh, which were just fun, rather than brilliant. I'll qualify why it was such a good night.
Firstly, I didn't need to rush away from the office. I got to leave at a normal, even slightly later time than usual.
Then I got to drive along listening to I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue which was, quite simply, face-achingly funny. I hooted and nearly cried with laughter. As they were announcing the teams I prayed for Rob Brydon, and my prayers were answer. Thank Dawkins.
A quick chat with a friend on the handsfree, and I was nearer the gig.
Oh, what's this on my mp3 player? More I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue? Oh, ok. I'll listen to that, then. Ross Noble? Ah, you talked me into liking it.
My car had a tankful of BP's Ultimate Unleaded - the slightly more expensive one - and the placebo-effect of this alone was making it seem like it was going faster. It might even have been truly burning road. I don't know.
After a late start for the journey, I still managed to arrive at the gig early, and I got to chill out with the other acts, many of whom I know. In fact, there was one guy I'd not seen in ages and whom I rate very highly among the comedians in the country. I also managed to hook up, face to face, with the two people who conducted such an effective wind-up-phone-call on me a few weeks ago. I bought the drinks I promised them. There will be further drinks bought, I'm sure.
Then the gig started. It was somewhat chaotic and random. One of the parts of the show involved someone eating some meat. That was all. It was fun.
The acts (myself excluded from this "review") were very good and I laughed a lot.
My own stuff was met with either bemusement or amusement. That's fine. That's what I need to know. If the answer is "huh?" then you go - "ah.. not so good". If the answer is "hahaha" then you go "that's a keeper". It's quite simple. In this gig, the audience knew they were getting newer stuff and tryout material. So they knew not to get all picky if something didn't amuse them. I didn't get laughs in all the places I'd hoped to, but there were moments where I just let go of the restraints of the script and made funny out of the moment, and that's what comedians need to do. Without the guitar I feel naked, but I also feel free and able to do more. So, it's not a negative experience, even though it does make me feel like I've just stepped about 3 years back in time to when I was a much less accomplished comedian.
That's new material.
The night ended on a high with an Edinburgh preview of sorts and I was highly amused.
The headliner even put in a Bernard Manning gag. That's a gag about Bernard Manning. It's a sort of a tribute... but not necessarily the way Bernard might have wanted it.
The long drive home was accompanied by the radio and me musing about how good the music is on late night radio 2. I also got a collection of low fat foods from a garage and took them into my body by the oral route on the homeward route. I got a bit carried away at the garage and also bought a camping chair and a blanket. Glastonbury beckons.
That's my last gig before Glasto now. So, any "mental muscle memory" (the three m's) I may have developed will become spongey before my next gig on 29th/30th. I might be able to sneak on a bill in about a week's time, but it's unlikely. Shame. Perhaps Glastonbury will inspire me to write some new material. Or maybe I'll find an open-mic comedy spot in Glasto... that would be freaky.
So, I drove like a mental, did material that made me look like a mental, but made and had some good laughs. That's not a bad way to conduct an evening.
Monday, June 18
Post Match Report
I have gotten myself into trouble lately with my picking over the remains of a gig after the fact. The thing is I have a habit of recording most of my gigs, so I have the ability to go back over it and work out what really happened. I'd like to believe that the recording device has a dynamic range which makes it a little more pessimistic in respect of the laughter response. On a couple of occasions I've come to believe this when I've heard an alternative recording, which makes the room sound funnier. However, perhaps it's just a way of explaining away the awkward silences or minute bubbles of amusement that I hear on some of these recordings.
Note: I rarely re-listen to a gig. It's rarely about re-enjoying a previously good experience. I say rarely in that there have been some moments I've wanted to remember. Perhaps I want to bask in my success, or perhaps I want to internalise it so that I can somehow embody that sort of amusingness at a following performance. I don't know. Believe me, I'm aware that I naturally want to rest on my laurels. Believe me again when I say that I also don't believe in myself so much that I feel able to do that. I am a hard task master and I will not allow myself to gloat too much about past successes.
I constantly repeat my mantra:
You are only as good as your next gig
This means you can't really do much with your opinion of the last gig except learn from it. It won't count for anything next time.
It's amusing that both of the reviews of my performances, which I read on Thursday last, have resulted in some sort of pseudo-dialogue. In the case of my friend saying how good he thought I was, my non-agreement with his opinion, has caused him to post further. I'll stop that dialogue now by saying "thanks - it means a lot" and I even mean that. In the case of the reviewer whose review of the ill-fated gig on Wednesday was, quite frankly, rather painful to read and not entirely factually correct, even though I think the pedantic correction of the facts would have had no effect on his ultimate opinion, there has been much shilly-shallying on his website regarding what he wrote. It's amusing to watch, since I think it reminds us all that what we write and choose to publish comes with the risk of someone else having an opinion on it and letting us know.
Thing is, it takes a certain amount of guts to go on stage and say "here's my stuff, hope you like it". Worse than that are the people who go on stage and say "here's my stuff, please like me" which was, essentially, one of the reasons I failed on Wednesday - I got into the uncertainty of this latter case, rather than the cheery jollity of the former. When I've had a good gig, it's always because I've demonstrated something amusingly, rather than asked "is this funny?". Either way, though, you stick your neck out. I'm not so scared of it. I consider there to be a difference between who I am inside, and what I do on stage. It's not really me out there; it's a stylised version of me. However, nobody wants to do a shit job. To think that someone hated what you did is a bad feeling. The idea of doing something to cause entertainment is to get people to be entertained, not irritated and unimpressed.
When someone reviews something, the instinct is to qualify what the reviewer knows about the subject. This is why there's one reviewer that I really don't want to be reviewed by - the one whose reviews I 99% of the time totally agree with and the remainder of the time, still understand. He was at a gig I did recently and I fell to pieces - thankfully, no review. Of the other people who write reviews, and I've been reviewed enough to know what it feels like, you can write off their comments, good or bad, on the back of saying "well, what do they really know about the world of comedy?". You CAN do that. Perhaps you shouldn't. A single person loving or hating you is worth a single person loving or hating you. If you can cause that sort of reaction in someone then you're either very good or very bad (at least at the time of being seen). That's worth something. But... you're only as good as the next performance, and you probably don't just read your reviews to an audience.
I would have to say that it takes guts to write a review as well. If you don't think it does, then you're not taking the review process very seriously. To publish your opinions for someone (maybe the reviewee) to see is also about sticking your neck out. So, it's important to say what you feel and know what you're talking about. If you are only saying what you feel, then you don't need to know much. If you are writing about what constitutes "hack material" or "challenging comedy", then perhaps you need to know more. I'll say this about the process of review, though. If the reviewer tries to score points off the back of the review; if they try to make themselves look good by what they've written, at the expense of the reviewee, then they don't deserve respect. The common artifacts of this are when the reviewer makes a joke about the appearance of the act, or sneers at what they've seen in a manner that seems to compare the subject of the review with the wit of the reviewer themselves. Anyone who writes a review like that wants to ask why they wrote it. If you review to make yourself feel good, then you're not reviewing, you're just slagging stuff off.
The Edinburgh Festival starts in a few days (quite a lot actually, but it's soon enough). The city will be full of reviewers. Some will be arrogant self-serving types. Others will be enthusiasts trying to write down their reaction to what they've seen. Some of the "scores" will be very arbitrary. That's the nature of opinion. Some reviewers will deserve stringing up for the hatchet jobs of ignorant arrogance they bestow on the insecure performers who are just trying to ply their trade and improve their craft. Some of the reviewers will provide constructive feedback that can even be used to help plug the show. I know which sort of reviewer I'd like to be.
Sadly, when you've thought something is shit, or you haven't enjoyed it, it's hard to be constructive. In fact, I've seen some shows that have angered me so much, I've wanted to wreak revenge on them. So perhaps a lot of what I've just written is a lesson for me to learn too.
Anyway, the point is that a post-match analysis is all very well and it's very good to have opinions, but the future gigs are still all to play for. I feel optimistic about tonight's gig (not necessarily with any particular justification) where I'm trying out some new material. I feel like last night's gig went okay, under the circumstances (I lost a string in song one, which knackered some of my playing, and the room was a bit awkward to do comedy in), though I suspect most people's memory of it is more positive than the recording actually proved to me when I listened to it back.
What really matters in performance is making the most of the moments as and when they arise. This means going into it with a present-tense sort of an attitude and walking away from all reviews - bad AND good.
So, if you've ever felt like reviewing me well, then thank you. If you've ever slagged me off, shame on you. If you have read reviews and paid attention to them (and I address this last bit to myself too) then double shame on you. What matters most is the comedy I'm yet to create, either spontaneously (there were a couple of amusing moments last night which just kinda happened) or in a hideously pre-planned way.
Let the future commence.
I Must Stop Buying DVDs
Seriously. This is ridiculous. I went online to see if there happened to be a cheap price for a DVD that's just been released. I knew that I shouldn't buy it. I didn't buy it, because it wasn't under my "I may as well buy it" threshold. However, I accidentally bought a double DVD of something completely different. Thing is: I want to watch all these DVDs I've been buying, but I never have time. They just stack up threateningly and I feel like I'm wasting money.
Ah well... why change the habit of a lifetime?!
Something Smelled Bad
I'm not sure if I was very unlucky yesterday to be in various predicaments where I was nasally assaulted. It seemed like there was that definite tang of sweaty feet and armpits hitting my nose. You don't want a nose full of feet and armpits. That's for sure. At some point I started to wonder whether, in fact, it was me that stank the place out, and that everyone else was the victim.
I still don't know.
I don't think I'd done too much to bring the smells out. I did walk to the station, but apart from getting a little damp around the back, I don't think it brought out the smell devils.
Entering the family carriage on the train came with an odour - which may have been parents, kids, stress and pasties. It also taught me something. I was starting to get the impression that little girls are sweet creatures. Experience with my niece and the child of friends this weekend had solidified my feeling that young female children are all angels. Then... well, the only way I can describe the whinging beast I was sharing a table with in that carriage was that she was a "little bitch". This is probably a product of her stuck-up bitch of a mother.
At some point during the gig I was at last night, I was convinced that that odour was hitting my nose again. I couldn't put my finger on it. And even if I could, who wants a finger on an odour? That would be, at the very least, quite gooey.
Then on the train back from the gig, I was, again aware of something tangy in my nose. Perhaps the girl I was sitting next to, who had been at some sort of festival, and was a little of a "crusty" was to blame.
I think it might have been me.
I showered thoroughly.
Fat people sweat and smell. This is true. I am losing weight (3 pounds this week), so surely I should be sweating and smelling less. Having said that, Glastonbury will threaten all of these things.
I'd better get some ear plugs for my nose.
Commanding The Empire
I notice that Michael Eavis was awarded a CBE in the Queen's birthday honours. This is, apparently, for his sterling work in organising Glastonbury. What an amazing work of altruism that is! Let's look at it. A massive fence is constructed on his property so that he can host about 150,000 people, each of whom have paid £150 (or more via the touts) for coming. How much? Well, that's about £23million in ticket money. Let's not forget the massive array of businesses that they charge for setting up shop for the long weekend. Let's also not forget that they charge a tenner for parking - so if there are 10,000 cars, that's another £100k of profit. What an altruist. How can he possibly be a mere mortal? Surely it is holiness personified that has brought us Glastonbury.
Now, I'm sure that you might argue that it costs a lot to set up the festival, publicise it, run the event, pay the bands etc etc etc. You may well be right... but still... it's a business. That's the point. So to be honoured for his contribution to arts would be a bit like honouring the guy who set up Lidl for his contribution to retail.
Never mind. I reserve the right to change my opinion after 5 days of not showering, being surrounded by hippies, drugs and music, and pooing in the ski-jump position.
At least I managed to get a parking pass for the festival - it was looking hairy for a few moments this morning.
Later. I found out that the whole of Glastonbury is run (for the organisers at least) as a non-profit thing with the surplus going to charity. Do I feel stupid? Well, yes. Fair enough Mr Eavis. I now endorse your CBE and would buy you a pint if I met you at your festival, though I suspect we won't be able to find each other, or any pints, or any of my cash, within the massive pool of mud we'll be swimming in in a few short days.
Friday, June 15
Nutty Notty Ham
I left the office last night at 5pm, expecting a little traffic as part of my quest to reach Nottingham for an 8pm arrival. I pretty much know the traffic that can obstruct me on the way up north. There's the M3 (a 3 mile stretch), a bit just before Reading, a bit on the M4 on the way to the A404, a bit just before the M40 (though that may have been fixed by the new bit of road they've finished putting in) and then maybe a few random bits beyond. The thing is, the traffic should all be gone by about 7pm, which is when the Radio 4 comedy thing finishes.
That's the theory.
I was stuck in traffic for quite some time last night. (Note: the story I just wrote was entirely fictional) This was due to the flooding of Coventry, as far as I can tell. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for flooding Coventry. Make it into a water-slide-based-theme-park for me. However, don't screw up the roads. I left the M40 in the hope that some alternative route might sort me out. I think that, had I not left the M40, I would still have been there at 11pm.
The 8pm arrival time was not going to happen. I kept the promoter informed and he was very nice about it. He told me that maybe I'd be on in the section that started at 9.30 (the gig ended up running late in the end anyway). So I was under less pressure.
However, my alternative route, which took me around Warwick, I think, was also clogged with a ton of traffic. I think this traffic was largely caused by excessive volume, rather than anything actually stopping anyone passing. So, it was moving, but slowly. It was moving too regularly for me to really get into a book (I tried), but too slowly for me to feel like I was really getting anywhere. A poor combination.
The promoter, after I kept him posted of my increasing arrival time, said he'd let me go on last if necessary. So, I just had to arrive at some point before 10.30. Somehow, at about 9.20, the traffic started moving again. I had to take a quick wee before allowing myself to do the final straight, but I'd made it as far as the M1 and knew I'd get to the gig in time.
I had to do this gig. I had to sweep the previous day's gig away with a good performance. I had to be funny, nice, not needy, and just... well... have a good time.
So, I arrived at the gig at 9.55 - there was another act on stage when I got there. I tuned my guitar. The promoter asked me if I was sure I could just go on, after 5 hours trapped in a car, I said that I could. I can just turn it on. I walked into the room as the MC started to link between the previous act and me. He was talking to someone in the audience about the fact that she had been a recent X Factor finalist. I vaguely recognised the look of her, though I didn't watch the program she had been in. The MC/promoter slightly over bigged me up telling the audience that I was going to "ROCK" and that maybe I could form a singing duo with the star of the room - Emma. Mmm...
Thing is... I went out there with gay abandon and did my thing. I mentioned Emma a couple of times. It got a big laugh. I mentioned that mentioning Emma was like a free big laugh. That got a big laugh. I did my usual stuff. I snarled a few words because my brain and mouth weren't quite in sync and I had just been trapped in a car for 5 hours. I made some jokes about being trapped in a car for 5 hours, and that was sort of funny too. I even suggested that I'd done a wee in a coke bottle... which I hadn't... though I'd thought about it more than once.
I stayed for the headline act, because I'd agreed to run him back to London afterwards. Had I not stayed, and, instead, just turned around and gone home, that would have been a record. My current record was to drive two hours to Edinburgh, stay in the city for about 90 minutes, 30 of which I was performing. To have driven 5 hours to Nottingham to be in the place 25 minutes, 15 of which I was performing, would have been much more extreme and amusing to me.
As it was I stayed, drove the headline to London, turned right and got home. I even had some winding-down time once I had returned home. It's a crazy life I seem to lead.
I enjoyed my shower. That's the one in the house and not the life-threatening flood-style descending water that dogged the 8 or so hours I spent in the car last night.
Love In The Fast Lane
A story that's orthogonal to my mood, today.
They were sitting side by side. They had been there for nearly an hour, the rain sluicing over the windows, putting the rest of the world into soft focus. There was no chance of leaving this place in the next hour; the rain would not let up and they were trapped in. As they were in separate cars in this particular traffic jam, they’d not yet managed to strike up a conversation.
It’s hard to determine if you’ve made eye contact with someone when the glass of your car window is covered in running water, which distorts and disguises what’s beyond. Neither of them was sure that the other was really glancing their way. Nothing in the book of dating etiquette seems to describe what to do when you may or may not be subject to a case of mutual admiration between vehicles in a traffic jam.
Eventually, out of sheer bloody-mindedness, Simon waved. At first he thought he’d misread the situation, that the girl he’d been smiling at and sneaking glances at for the last hour wouldn’t respond. Then, with a giggle, Lucy waved back. As soon as the tension was broken, they couldn’t act quickly enough. Simon opened the window of his car, allowing the rain to have its way and slowly, but effectively, drench the right hand side of his body. He motioned for Lucy to do the same. Lucy had other ideas. In the slight mist that had formed on her passenger-side window, she wrote her mobile phone number, backwards.
As they checked into the Travelodge, a couple of hours and a very long chat later, asking for separate rooms, Simon couldn’t help but marvel on how unlikely a meeting theirs had been, and how amazing it was to meet a woman so practical and so able to write neatly in reverse. Lucy, on the other hand, was wondering whether it would be possible to use the pretext of Simon’s soaked shirt as a way of getting it off him, and soon.
Over the course of this entire week, some people at the other end of the office have been doing some sort of morale boosting motivational training thing. This, apparently is a good thing. This, apparently, requires them to whoop and cheer, breaking the illusion of sanity in our office, and making them sound at best like a bunch of primary school kids at break time, or at worst like a bunch of ignorant twats. It does not make me happy to hear a bunch of raised cheers punctuating my working day. Ironically. I say that because it is ironic given that I would love to work as a stand up comedian where hearing cheers and enforcing jolliness on the people around me would exactly what I want and not a shoulder tensing stomach churning pit of shit.
Thursday, June 14
Beware What You Google...
...you may find something to your disadvantage. Like the "review" of last night's gig. If ever there was a reason to feel insecure, it would be seeing a punter bitching quite convincingly about everything that might be wrong with what you do.
Still, as Oscar Wilde said, there's one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
For what it's worth, I'm not entirely guilty of everything accused of, but I'll hang my head in shame if it makes anyone feel better about spending their £3 to stare at me. Oh... and some of what happens on stage is play acting.
I like the karmic balance of seeing both the nicest ever review (friend's blog) and the worst ever review (above) on the same day. I can end the day at around about zero.
Get Back On The Horse
So my last gig filled me with a sense of inadequacy. It came at the end of a soul-crushing day and I was tired and not feeling as funny as I would like to. I was also out of my comfort zone.
What's the solution? Well, the title gives it away. I'm off to do a last-minute gig tonight in Nottingham. I shall not be beaten by a single gig. Never. You're as good as your next gig. And my next one is 150 miles away and due to start in 6 hours. All to play for then. In fact, if I can throw myself into it with gay abandon I shall do very well indeed.
There. I almost feel better.
Last night was a hard gig. It was the sort of gig where something was wrong and it might have been me. It might not, of course. The other acts reported a similar sense that the audience were reserved, but, of course, that state of being reserved might have been caused by some poor MCing on my part. Conversely, it might be considered somewhat arrogant to suggest that my skills, which were weak enough not to raise a huge quantity of laughter from the room, would have been strong enough to destroy the gig for two very experienced acts.
So, probably just one of those nights. Though, to quote my late grandmother "If you'd tried a little bit harder, you could have done a little bit better". It's probably that I was clearly trying so hard that I didn't do so well, so now who's wrong!? Sorry. It's not her fault. She's had a much more difficult death to deal with than the one I dealt with last night. At least mine was only slight and, more importantly, figurative.
My ritual humiliation-by-audience was beautifully complemented by the presence of someone that can only be described as one of the most beautiful women in the world. So stunning was she that I was totally incapable of speaking to her, except as she offered me the chance to walk past her in a bottleneck in the room and said to me "After you, sir", I was able to reply, masterfully, "No. After you.". Yeah. Classy! I might just as well have said "I carried a watermelon". I was utterly reduced to a wimpering mass of inadequacy by the extremity of her beauty. Add to that my post-gig come down (a combination of slight disappointment, exhaustion and hunger), and other stresses that I'm presently dealing with, and I was left sitted bemusedly in the corner wondering why I couldn't pluck up the courage to speak to someone who has made the effort to speak to me at two gigs now, and can only be described as "someone I'd like to speak with". Yeah. That's me in the corner. And nobody puts Ashley in the corner.
I even managed to avoid a hug with a sympathetic member of the production team last night. She went in for a reassuring hug and I turned it into a dance. We waltzed, which is odd. I can't even dance the merengue.
I left the gig, unsatisfied in every sense, and went to a friend's place for tea. I don't drink tea as a rule, but the hot tea and company (I'd say sympathy, but I'm so self-pitying, there's no room for anyone else) was very enjoyable.
Then home, feeling like a husk, and sleep. I would have maintained my fast, but the car needed fuel and so did I. So I had something to eat at some point. It was low calorie, probably.
Understandably, I woke up this morning somewhat empty again.
To the beautiful girl at the gig, I say this:
I remember you from two gigs I did in Southampton. On both occasions we spoke in passing, you were lovely, and I wished we'd spoken some more. You've called me "mister", "sir" and even "lovely" - as a noun - which you did with grace and care as though I deserved it. I'll admit it, though, I've been too struck by your beauty to do more than smile and lose myself to my lack of self-confidence.
While some people watch the comedian performing, it's quite normal for comedians to watch the crowd. A room full of people laughing is what the comedian thrives upon. So, it's no surprise, then, that I was enraptured last night when I noticed your delightful smile, the glint in your eye, and the totally unreserved way you threw yourself into each laugh. It was like I was seeing the comedian, the crowd, and then just you.
It was a bit like staring into the sun.
I'm sorry I didn't find an excuse, any excuse to talk with you properly. I'm sure that it would have been a better experience than just admiring from afar. But maybe that's the natural order of things.
Maybe there will be other times. Maybe my neuroses and insecurities will stay away in future. I hope so, but I'm not banking on it.
Note: If some of the lines in the first part of this post make no sense, please watch Dirty Dancing approximately 5 times. This will make it clear how witty I think I am being.
Point Of View
We all want to believe something amazing. I think we try to believe it wherever possible. I'm not saying that this makes us incapable of rational thought - I'm sure that if we recognise that something might not be amazing, we start to believe that it's fool's gold and stop wanting to believe any more. In fact, a simple chink in the armour can lose the illusion of amazingness, even if the sum total is actually worthy of being called amazing.
So, I guess what I'm saying is that I want to believe that I'm good at what I'd like to pride myself at being good at. I think I allow myself to over-believe that sometimes, because it would be amazing if it were true. I think, then, sometimes, something small might cast doubt in my mind, and I wantonly withdraw all belief, thus undermining myself. The insecurity of the performer.
I read a friend's blog today. It was very complimentary about me. It was even a qualified set of compliments, explaining how I'd progressed from totally shit to the state of compliment-worthiness that was described. How better to prove that you're not bluffing, than to first list the negative opinions you used to hold? So, a very nice review indeed on this particular blog. And I want to believe that I was amazing again. I truly do. From the "official review", I'm one of top 1% of comedians this friend of mine has ever laugheed at.
Thing is... I've listened to the recording of the gig. I've also done enough gigs to know the difference between light amusement and rapture. Though I'm confident enough that I held my own on that particular stage, I've enough perspective to know that there will be better gigs and there will be worse. Having said that, though, it was a nice gig and I'm glad my friends didn't see me apparently die on my arse. That they found it funny enough to enjoy is more of a reward, perhaps, than any reward I've had from comedy of late.
So. Let's pretend that I rocked the asses of everyone in the room. It's what I want to believe for now.
Wednesday, June 13
A Nugget of Wisdom
Sometimes you get more respect for failing to do something considered to be more serious than for succeeding at something apparently frivolous.
A Bit Of A Lyric
I wrote these lyrics recently. Maybe some of it is apposite:
Tell me why nothing tastes as good as it used to,
why the sky looked grey when I knew that it should be blue
Seriously, if I get any more miserable, I'm going to have to become a goth... and that would never work. You can't dye hair that's not there.
Asking The Unaskable
Here's a thought. Be careful what you ask. Sometimes the very asking of the question is a threat to the natural order of things. Forget the answer. The answer might be yes or no and it matters not either way. The point is that some questions just shouldn't be asked. For example, you don't ask a pensioner at the bus stop if she's aware that she has an inch-long black hair growing out of her top lip. You don't ask the person in the office who has just posted pictures of a game of pass the parcel on the company internal website why they've done this.
Some questions just don't work. The idea is you either know the answer, or you remain ignorant of it. That's how life is supposed to work.
I, of course, can't help ask the occasional blinder of a question... which may or may not make me sit around wondering if I'll ever get an answer. The big question, though, is what the hell would be the point of this random nugget of knowledge I've sought. Either way, it's just data. Still, I think my naturally outspoken nature, and my desire to have a full knowledge-tank have produced someone incapable of just letting things lie.
Tuesday, June 12
I'll hand it to Vision Express - they have a no questions, no holds barred, approach to customer service. I said my vision was wonky, and they said to come back and they'd retest me and revise my specs. They did, they did, and it's different. It's not perfect, but now it's not perfect when I take the specs off. I think my eyes are now adjusting to the new shape of the world and I've only gone and changed the lenses some more. So now everything is the wrong shape. However, it should all somehow converge in the next week. If not, then I have to spend a couple of days with no glasses, just so I can go with virgin eyes and be retested again - this is my diagnosis, not theirs.
Anyway, the point is that nothing looks or feels quite right at the moment. This both literal and metaphoric. I'm unhappy. I've been unhappy for a while. I can't see it getting better, except for the 3 or so hours, every so often, when I'm at a gig and really enjoying myself, or the brief periods when I'm in the company of valued friends. The rest of the time, quite frankly, I can't see what the fuss is all about.
Even B&Q let me down, not stocking the particular format of ceiling insulation I was planning to use. So, I'm left with an evening, in which I was going to do one DIY job, and in which I now want to curl up in bed and feel sorry for myself. Guess what I'm going to do. I can't help it. I'm weak.
It feels a bit like life doesn't really fit me anymore. I've crossed some sort of line and I don't know quite the way back. Now, if any set of words I've written sounded like a suicide letter, those last few are high on the list. No. No suicide attempts, thank you very much - at least not literally. I've considered professional suicide, financial suicide and even comedy suicide (where you go on stage intent on telling jokes which you know will not, or at least should not, work). However, I'm not into the whole ending it all thing.
But something must change.
I don't know.
Then why, given that this is just me typing on my own (while on the toilet, incidentally - mmm craptop computers), am I asking these rhetorical questions to which I have no answers?
The answer is that I'm asking the questions to illustrate that I have no answers.
Ahhh. There's no question for that then, is there?
Technically that last one was a question, but it's all just my inner monologue having a pseudo-dialogue, so you may want to switch off for a minute, dear reader.
I think the solution lies in stabilising situations. There's my Newcastle house, my Reading house and my job. If I can get some of those under control, maybe life will seem easier. The difficulty is that time really drags on for me. I do so much in a day that I'm immediately thinking that the events of, say, last weekend, were ages away and wondering why nothing much has changed.
I know this, though. Sitting around waiting isn't me.
I must comment again on the performer we saw last Wednesday at the Bedford Arms in London. He's called Vijay Kishore and his songs are haunting, beautiful and other good adjectives which might only demean him if I tried to use them in this blog as they would still understate how good he is. We all bought his CD after his gig, which, at the time, was a bit of a sort of statement of how much we enjoyed it, rather than, necessarily, a commitment to listen to these CDs a lot and get his songs stuck in our heads. I don't know about the others, but I've got Vijay in my head. I kind of like it.
The thing is, this sort of music is not guaranteed to make it to a wider audience. So, it's like a special secret. We've found a great musician that others don't know about. Now, I don't know how the music industry is going to go. It's possible that we'll see the end of the mainstream acts as we know it, and people will have a much more "My Music" focus on their music tastes, as they can download whatever they want into their iPod. Or, maybe things will stay as they are, and there'll be 100 Vijay Kishores working at a grass roots level and not getting the opportunities that lesser acts, like Girls A Fuckin' Loud, get. Who knows!?
It does strike me as amusing, though, that the likes of HMV are selling the mp3 players that may, one day, render the shop out of date. It's a bit like a butcher selling a really convincing guide to why vegetarianism is the best way forwards, or a Christian Science bookshop selling Richard Dawkins and Dan Brown books.
Thing is, without a mainstream music scene, maybe even more gems will get lost. After all, who would find them?
Apparently, some people at the other end of our office are doing a team building exercise today. This involves them playing some music, running round like twats and generally being annoying. Still, at least THEY will bond... maybe we'll bond against them.
Gigs Gags and Greggs
I found out, this weekend, that I have actually lost some weight. I don't know where I was when I returned from holiday, which I assume to be a time of peak weight, given that I spent the week away doing very little except eat. However, I do know the weight in terms of my aims and objectives. Last year I lost about 4 stone. Soon after moving into my house this year, it had increased to about 4 stone 2. Now, by the same measure, I'm back to a total loss of 3 and a half. This isn't a major headache. There were long periods when my weight stablised at about 2 pounds lower than it was on Saturday. So I think I'm ok. I don't feel outsized for my clothes, even though I have worn the arse through a little (just below the pocket - that's seat wear) of my jeans. I feel optimistic about the weight thing. I'm on the wagon at the moment.
I'm also writing jokes at the moment. Not necessarily good ones... but there are ideas coming up. The hard part is remembering them and having the nerve to try them. I've had a couple of gigs lately. Neither was ideal for suddenly coming out with new material, though, oddly, I'm always confident to throw off the cuff remarks at an audience, whether they work or not. Assuming I don't get spooked, I can usually turn them into something with a laugh. Sometimes that's because my off the cuff remarks are tension breakers... and sometimes it's because I make the off the cuff remark as a way of saying "by the way, I'm feeling funny at this particular moment - here are some words".
Sunday evening's gig in Southampton was an odd one. Bear in mind that I don't believe in gig excuses. So, if I'm disappointed with my performance, which, according to everyone else, I shouldn't be, then that's my fault, and not the circumstances. However, to describe the circumstances, it was a hot room - I sweated buckets, and the PA system wasn't up very loud. Consequently, I felt very much like I was inaudible. I wasn't. I wasn't booming either. But, there was a feeling that I was saying the words into a vacuum a bit. I couldn't judge how loud to go or how loud I was being. It was an odd feeling. Plus, whether it was down to a lack of confidence, a lack of recent practice (like it had been 8 days since my last gig), or an overdose of caffeine in my system, my words weren't quite connected properly between brain and mouth. This happens sometimes.
Still, I had enough experience on stage to make the gig work and the room was mostly with me. That the other acts spoke to me, some very kindly, is enough to make me feel like I didn't make a total arse of it.
Last night was another gig opportunity. This was in Westminster. It had the added "pressure" that a couple of friends of mine were present. They'd come all the way from the US just to see me perform... and while there were over, one of them (a friend I've known since school) thought he'd cram in some business meetings while his wife thought she might see some museums. On reflection, maybe their attendance at the gig wasn't why they bought the tickets. I've been had!
It's good when friends come to gigs. It's also a little extra pressure. I think that pressure is equally and, in some cases, surpassed by the support of friends. The worst case scenario for friends coming to a gig is if it's an intimate little thing, with virtually no other audience and shit loads of acts on, many of whom are very new. Last night's gig was in a small underground cellar bar with a handful of audience members, and about ten new acts, all doing 5 minutes. I got to "headline" this show. Yeah! Rock and roll. I closed the gig with a pretty standard club 20 from me.
I did manage to shoehorn in a couple of new/newer bits, and even saw some of my tried and tested material go a bit wibbly wobbly with this rather random audience. However, I'm one for speaking my mind while on stage, and I managed to play off the fact that I had friends in, and workshop the gags that didn't amazingly work "out of the box". Listening to the recording I made of the gig, it sounds like I was doing badly, but I think that it felt better than that, and towards the end, the room had loosened. I recall seeing the barmaid, standing at the back of the room, laughing heartily, and that's always a triumph.
I have an important gig tomorrow. It's important for my confidence more than anything else. I'm MCing a couple of cracking acts on, and I won't have my guitar. It's important for me to demonstrate that I don't need it. Plus, it's going to be a good show.
I'm looking forward to it.
I may even do my material about the woman who put, in the hobbies section of her CV, "slimming". Thing is, I'm not sure if I made her up. Still, I'll satirise her until she cries into her rice cakes.
Being on a diet sucks.
Weekend Shopping Spree
I haven't admitted to my weekend's spending yet. Not that I'm actually accountable to anyone. That's the problem, I think. As I'm not accountable to anyone, I can just go into various shops that sell media - be it silvery discs or books - and buy whatever shines brightest to me (given that the discs are in boxes, it's a level playing field). I can spend about £50 in HMV with impunity. That, my friends, is the single-man tax. I have to spend a certain amount of money each month on crap that I may never even watch/read. This is my girlfriend substitute. Were a girlfriend to come along, I would spend more money than that on her and feel guilty spending a fraction of that money on myself. Actually, owing to some short circuit in my brain, I wouldn't feel guilty, but might do it a bit less anyway, rather than have to explain myself.
On Saturday, having walked into town, I made good use of HMV. I also got the glasses which have been giving me trouble since, and bought a tent (for some post-Glastonbury camping) along with some other camping items. I bought wellies and a new pair of regular shoes. I had a lot of stuff in bags to take home after that trip.
This plan somewhat evolved, after the original plan was abandoned. I had been threatened with being taken to London, against my will, and forced to watch a musical. When this plan was abandoned, I got some extra sleep, did some varnishing and then headed into town to do a variety of pseudo-important tasks.
My media frenzy resulted in a rewatching of the movie "So I Married An Axe Murderer", which was better than I had expected it to be, and worth the few quid I spent buying it. I even managed, the following day, to force the loan of it onto the person who had reminded me of its existence - thus doubling the value of the disc. Now it was even cheaper-per-view.
The following day was a trip to Southampton for a gig. The trip was preluded by a wander around Southampton where I bought a book and another DVD, along with an item of kitchenware. Yes. I am an interesting shopper. Oh yes.
So, much money was spent over the weekend. On the up side, almost everything I bought was a gosh-darned BARGAIN!
Damn My Eyes
Wow. They came this morning, before I even arrived, and turned off the light that's been glaring in my eyes for the last two months. Wonders! Ah, marvellous. Brilliant. Now I love my job.
Well, I don't, but at least there's no uncomfortable glare here any more. Thank you to the system which can take with one hand and then give with the other so you almost feel grateful for returning to a zero-state.
Now I have one further problem to deal with. The new glasses, which seem to have been manufactured to make my world look totally non-rectangular. Yes. Now I've acquired some sort of weird astigmatism. Let's blame everyone but me. Maybe I should have given different answers during my eye test. I have to rush back to Reading after work tonight in order to give them the chance to put this all right. I know that I can't spend much longer constantly taking my glasses off to see whether the floor is really sloping up and to the right (it's not).
It freaks me out.
Still, once my eyes are sorted out, maybe the world will look like a better place.
Monday, June 11
A Series Of Small Achievable Tasks
Generally speaking life is easier to cope with if you divide things into a series of small and achievable tasks. That's achievable within the constraints of your abilities or available time. Doing lots of things and succeeding is good. This lunchtime my mission was to post a letter and get a key cut. Both jobs were done. I'm the king of lunchtime tasks. Bo!
Likewise, when it comes to the house, I enjoy the subdivision of the overall goal - make the house into somewhere people can live. My smaller tasks, like "put a coat of varnish on the front of the front door", are a lot more tangible and can be seen to progress from not done to completed within a reasonable timeframe.
That is all.
It's Started Early Today
The tension in the muscles, the sense of irritation, the glazed look in the eyes, the discomfort, the pit of depression in the stomach, a feeling of soporific powerlessness, like a zebra fatally-wounded by a lion going "this chewing hurts a bit", yes: it's ten past eleven, I've been at work an hour or so, and I know why I'm not that keen to get here any sooner.
Things that would make my working life easier:
Friday, June 8
I had to plunder a policy I've been paying into for the last few years. That's how I'm going to finish paying for everything that's going into the house. Sad but true.
The money just came through. It was more than I expected. So. I'm back in business.
Now to blow it all on drugs and hookers. Again.
Secs Lies and Hazard Tape - A Review
Show seen 7th June 2007, Etcetera Theatre, London
Billed as a "Musical Farce", Girl Friday Productions' self-written piece is about office workers in a company called "Total Rubbish". The cast comprises one male actor, playing the sexually prolific office hunk and two women, each playing two characters. Ostensibly, the show seems to be about relationships - the power relationships between management and staff and the sexual relationships that might underpin the office environment.
There are some laughs in the script, and some of the characterisation is very vivid and enjoyable. The staging of the piece is neat, with little attention wasted on set changes, contributing to a very fluid piece. The regular costume changes for the women as they swap roles seem to be covered quite well with on stage or recorded action, though there is always a sense that the woman who is leaving the room in one role is bound to return as her alter-ego any minute. Some of the musical performances are reasonably competent, with occasional flashes of inspiration, like the abuse of office equipment as song and dance props. With choreography involving office chairs, it's not hard to see how the producers have embraced the spirit of setting a musical in an office.
Yet with all of these ideas festooning their production, there's something distinctly missing from the piece. Musically, it seems bereft of strong melody, lacking in inspiration lyrically, and in need of tightening, if not totally rewriting. There are some recurring musical themes, but it's only by deduction that you might notice, so unmemorable are the tunes. A musical doesn't just need good songs, it also needs the audience to feel that each song is relevant. With occasional moments along the lines of "why does this need a song?", which are born out of a quasi-tourettes-syndrome approach to emotion in the overal writing, and some poor choices of musical style to underpin these songs, this piece doesn't gain through being a musical farce.
Then there is the question of how much of a farce we're observing. The farce seems to be almost entirely incidental and the plot is not big enough to sustain the show. Someone is hiding something, but the magnitude of that thing is not impressive enough for the other characters to play off it. This is evident when occasional reveals between the characters cause the audience to chuckle, rather than laugh with glee.
With various unresolved subplots, a confused timeline, a collection of office-working cliches that make you wonder if the writers have ever even worked in an office, and a denouement which leaves the audience nonplussed, this show has very little true grit. The capabilities of the actors, switching characters and playing them distinctly, is without question, but the fact that they have had to write the show around a half-sized cast, has reduced the ability to play their characters off against each other, and bring what little they have of a plot to a climax.
A musical should start with a strong opening number and come to a rousing finale. This show limps along for an hour and then stops. My guess is that it will improve some with repeated performance in Edinburgh, but I can't see it garnering much in the way of audience or critical acclaim. I suspect that their fictional company name "Total Rubbish" will come back to haunt them.
Today I noticed that a fruit smoothie I was drinking contained the Alphonso Mango. Now, if you'll excuse me a moment for this stupidness, doesn't Alphonso Mango sound like the name of an easy-listening-jazz soloist?
I'd love to do a Bossa Nova spoof band called Alphonso Mango and the Muppetones.
Maybe that's Edinburgh 2008's show...
Another work of fictional nonsense:
He’s not like that, you know. Some men, they just use you up and knock you down. Not my Davey. He’s a lovely man. He’s a strong man. He’s always seen me right. It’s not his fault if his work sometimes winds him up. He works hard for what little we have, and he needs to let off steam.
I don’t mind him going to the boozer a few nights a week. All his mates go and a man needs to be with his mates. Right? Anyway, if he didn’t go to the boozer, then he’d be around the house and I know how confining that can be for someone. No. I like it that he goes out, even if he does come home a bit worse for wear if you know what I mean. That’s Davey though. He’s a big man and he does things big.
The thing you don’t understand, though, is that he’s really gentle inside. He’s a big bear. He doesn’t know his own strength, that’s all. He sometimes gets frustrated and he doesn’t realise what he’s doing. It’s not his fault. I reckon if there’s anyone who should know how to handle him, it’s me, but I don’t always do the best of jobs. I wind him up, sometimes, you see. It’s being at home all day long, it gets me a bit lippy, and then I wind him up.
Some nights I think he won’t come back from the pub. I get frightened. After all, he must see this house, this life, as the thing I’ve locked him into providing for. But he comes back every time, and I don’t always handle him right. I sometimes have a go. I’m just relieved that he’s back, but I can’t tell him that, so I have a go. And sometimes, when he hits me, I know it’s the only way to stop the argument that I’ve started, and I’m sorry.
He looks after me, though. Don’t you see? If it wasn’t for him I’d have nothing. So it’s not his fault. He just doesn’t know his own strength. It’s not his fault.
If This Were Any Other Day
I'm tired and groggy after a busy, but not too challenging week. I've been miserable, and that has taken a lot of effort. I've also done stirling work with varnish, which leaves me with only one coat to put on my new back door - on the inside - along with a little bit of touching up on the doorstep. Very pleasing.
My order of Spax screws, which arrived yesterday, was too tempting a thing to have. When I returned home at about 12.30 last night, I couldn't help but put a few tens of these beauties in. I did it until my drill was hot and I was sated. There are more floorboards to affix, but I can safely say that my order for 300 screws was a bit over the required number. By about 250! Still. Mmm... screws.
I'll review last night's show separately. It was an entertaining evening and a fairly inexpensive one at that. I nearly compromised my diet with some vietnamese food, but I suspect that it wasn't so unhealthy as to be worth feeling guilty about.
There's not a huge amount more to report. I finished the book I was sent the other day by its author, someone I know from the world of comedy. I enjoyed the book greatly, and it is probably the sort of thing I wouldn't have sought to read normally, so that's a bonus. It was nice to be able to text the author afterwards and express my appreciation. I'm also pleased that I chose to take a book on the journey, rather than an mp3 player. Sometimes the mp3 player isn't the answer.
I kept dreaming of being late for work, but I was just in the nick of time as usual. Ha! Dreams don't come true.
Thursday, June 7
Taking It For Granted
So, imagine the scenario, you trip over a stone one day and bang your head. It puts you into some sort of coma. Medical technology, a few months hence, has moved to the point where you're cryogenically frozen and stored until medical science has a cure. Your cryo unit gets put somewhere and the years tick by. At some future point, after some bizarre apocalyptic event, yours is the only cryo unit left running, the time runs out, you're thawed and, as a massive fluke, you actually wake up, asking "how long was I out?".
The cave dwellers in this archive where you were stored, are not very capable of communicating with you, but soon encourage you to make a life for yourself in a world that you no longer recognise. You decide that you'll start to come to terms with this world by writing a diary. There are no books, so you think "I know. I'll take a few leafs of paper, write on them with a rudimentary quill pen, and hold them together with a paper clip."
Here's the problem though. Never mind that you've no idea how paper and quills and ink are made. How can you make a paper clip? You know what they're made of. They are a piece of metal wire bent into shape. Surely it's one of the simplest devices known to man, second only to the wheel and the wire coat hanger? These post-apocalyptic beasts have figured out the wheel, they've worked out fire too, but they've no clothes to hang on a wire hanger, owing to a mishap with the fire, a poor sense of fashion, and the lack of necessity, since they only have the one set, which they wear all the time. How are you going to make this paperclip?
There's no wire. You'd have to extrude some metal. Huh? You know... erm... stretch it out somehow. Right... and how big a piece of metal do you need? And how many twists are there in a paperclip again? And how do you get it regular shaped, rather than sort of lumpy? And how tall is a paperclip? You're not even going to be able to work your designs through on paper, since you've not even gotten round to sorting out the paper and writing thing. You think "fuck this, I'll just use a stapler" but you've no stapler, or staples and making staples seems even more precise a job than paperclips. Ring binder? You're having a laugh.
In the end, my advice is to forget about it, get a pet, and maybe work out how to make fireworks to go with the big bonfires people insist on having every night. You'd start to appreciate how they start these fires, given that there's no newspaper to use to get it all going.
I heard on the radio recently that people in this country are readers. I think that's good. I also know that my recent holiday was the first time in ages that I actually managed to get through more than one book in a week. In fact, it was the first time in ages that I'd managed to come to the end of a book at all. I'll discount from this the couple of times, earlier in the year, when I pretty much devoured one of the two "Timewaster Letters" books on a train journey each, as they weren't quick as text-heavy as the average novel.
The radio interview pointed out that reading isn't just about books. It can be about blogs too. I read a fair amount of text across various blogs each day as well. So maybe my thirst for reading has, in some way, been slaked by my use of the internet. But reading a real book is always going to be a pleasure for me. I hope that we continue to have real books in this increasingly electronic age. Why? Well, a book never stops working because its batteries have failed, or there's no signal.
Anyway, luddite tendencies aside, I find myself onto the second of two books I possess that have been written by people I know. The first of these, "Now That's What I Call Newspox" was completed while I was on holiday. The second one is by the author Jane Hill, and is called Grievous Angel. The mode of the narrative is, perhaps, not the sort of thing I would normally expect to spend time reading, given that it's very female-oriented and makes one too many uses of expressions relating to dampness and feelings. However, it promises to subvert this genre further, and is festooned with enough linguistic charm and vivid imagery to keep me amused.
I like reading.
I shall read this book some more on my two train journeys this evening.
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