Subject: FROM: Mr. AHMED KHAN Hello Ashley Frieze,
I am Mr. Ahmed Khizer Khan a citizen of UAE .I have in my bank the existence of a very big amount of money that belongs to a customer , Mr. Daniel Frieze who happen to have the same surname as yours .The fund is now without any claim because Mr. Daniel died in a deadly earthquake in China in 2008 . I want your cooperation so as to make the bank send you the fund as the beneficiary and next of kin to the fund. This transaction will be of a great mutual assistance to us. Send me your reply of interest so that I will give you the details .
Strictly send it to my private email account : firstname.lastname@example.org or send me your email address to send you details of this transaction.
At the receipt of your reply, I will give you details of the transaction. And a copy of the Deposit certificate of the fund and also the incorporation certificate of the company that generated thid fund .
Mr. AHMED kHIZER KHAN. email@example.com
Even when I'm less busy than normal, life seems to be eventful. Let's discard landlord visits, misbehaving cats, days at work where things make sense, and days at work where things make no sense. Let's avoid the idea of publicising the various previews of the Fringe show, and somehow procrasting over certain aspects of the preparation for said show in terms of rehearsal and rewrites. Let's even avoid getting various bits of life in order for the upcoming trip to Budapest. What's left?
It's at this stage in writing a blog entry, that I write a series of titles for the rest of the post; these will become what I write about. Normally, you might just read ahead and discover them as though they'd always been there, but here's me pulling back the curtain on how this particular trick is done. I'll be writing the titles first, then filling it all in. It's not rocket science; it's not even interesting, but it's truthful.
Gigging in Leeds Friday night was the night of a gig in Leeds City Centre. I don't gig that far up north very often. It's for a good reason; it's a bloody long way away. I thought I'd arranged a bed for a night at a friend's place, but I set off with the 75% intention of making it a round trip, assuming I wasn't too knackered.
We're talking a 4 hour car journey from here to Leeds. It's not to be pooh poohed on a Friday evening; Stuff could go quite wrong. Traffic can hurt.
As it was, the journey passed by ok. I felt fat... but that's because I am fat. That's not a feeling, it's a fact. A fat fact.
I made it to Leeds at quite a reasonable time. I'd not quite worked out where the gig was, but a bit of random circling of the one-way system, to the surprise of the Sat Nav, and it was soon clear where I was heading. I found a car park at around 8.15pm, and then I was on my way to the venue.
Now I'd been warned that it might not be especially busy. I hadn't been warned firmly enough. It was really really not busy. That's not to say that I "require" it to be busy. Gigs are what they are. I'm not going to object so much if there aren't many people in. That's how the cookie crumbles. It was very quiet, though. Enough said about it. Honestly. Quiet, though. Very. Quiet. Ssssh.
Anyway, we went ahead with the gig and I had a few moments of big hilarity, a few moments when I had to lean on them, a few drops, and the cookie was crumbled. I wish there was a highlight greater than when I got the giggles about my description of the stage curtain looking a bit like a man's perineum. Barrel. Scraped.
Then it was time to decide whether to go to my friend's house or whether to head home. I'd decided to head home. I'd also received some texts from my friend which I'd somehow assumed meant that he was heading to Leeds from Glasgow. This turned out not to be the case. I rang him to say something like "don't rush back on my account" to discover he was still in Glasgow. There'd been a mix-up on dates and I hadn't been especially well organised in reminding him of the dates. So, no apologies to make, I was going home and nothing was going to be affected by this. What could possible stop me getting on the road?
The Naughty Ticket Machine The title gives this away. I put my ticket into the barrier gate of the car park and was told I needed to see a cashier. I assumed that the machine was faulty, so parked up again and went to a pay station. The pay station tried to charge me £30. It had decided that I'd been there for nearly 2 days. That's impressive. I know time flies when you're having fun, but I hadn't had that much fun. I had no option. I had to press the help button.
This is where a disembodied voice in a call centre started patronising me. It patronised me because I couldn't hear what it was saying and was trying to work it out by asking questions: "you want me to put the card in?" or "am I meant to press the button now?". The guy at the other end assumed I was an idiot. I assumed he was an idiot because I'd already told him I couldn't hear him clearly because the machine was distorting, and he was shouting even harder at me. In the end, he understood that I'd only been in the car park for a couple of hours and tried to charge me the hourly rate. I pointed out that there was a night rate... then he pressed some buttons, told me to press a button of my own, and the machine basically said "give me £4 and I'll give you a new ticket which will let you out".
What had been a £30 hostage situation eventually became a rather amenable £4 exit fee. Job done.
Sleeping until Ironing Time I got home late. 2am. That's not too bad for a long-haul gig. I spent some time "decompressing" and then hit the hay quite late. I zonked out for a long time. I remember my girlfriend going to work, dumping a cat on the bed, which quickly disappeared, and telling me the other one was outside. I definitely remember waking up around 10am to go and find the other cat, who was shouting at me from the outside of the house, and bringing him in. At this point, I think the first cat came back to sleep with me for a little.
Then it was half past one. The day was largely gone. What should I do with my time? I decided to spend a little time hugging the cat... because I can... and then I took on the ironing pile. This took about 3 hours. It was good, though. I just stayed in and did some ironing. No stress, just me, the new iron, the clothes, and the TV.
A Glut of Doctor Who It's been quite a Doctor Who based week. The best way to understand how much Doctor Who this is is to itemise it. On Thursday evening, I watched 3 of the 4 episodes of "The War Machines" - a 3rd series William Hartnell serial. I finished this off while ironing on Saturday. Then there was the two Peter Cushing Doctor Who movies, which disappeared under the ironing on Saturday - Doctor Who and the Daleks and Dalek Invasion Earth 2150AD. These were entertaining and cinematic, with some truly authentic Who traits, like a gorgeous blue box, and an ingenious and enigmatic Doctor. They were also 60's formula films where Roy Castle in the first and Bernard Cribbins in the second were both romantic lead and comic foil characters (mainly the second). Thing is, they had some lovely cinematography, which was really enjoyable, even if the characterisations and scenarios were lame in other respects. I'm glad I watched them.
Saturday night was part one of the latest Doctor Who two parter... and then we also watched both parts of a David Tennant story - Silence in the Library and The Forest of Dreams.
That's a lot of Doctor Who. But I like this programme and I'll watch it if I want to.
Doing nothing Sunday was occupied with sitting around, doing nothing and having fun.
Joe ****ing Power I couldn't sleep Sunday night. So I went to Channel 4's on demand service and watched the Derren Brown Investigates in which he met Joe Power. This led me to write a reasoned guest book entry on Joe Power's website, pointing out that Power wasn't actually stitched up, and that he seemed perfectly capable of claiming to do readings in any situation that suited him - i.e. not at someone's home, without apparently knowing who the people were - when he was performing in a theatre, but had to immediately blame Derren's Brown's experimental set up for the abject failure in his obvious attempts at Cold Reading at the end of the show. This, simply, is a charlatan being defensive because he got caught out. I found this individual to be a deeply unpleasant cynical manipulator of people.
Derren Brown's conclusion that mediumship might bring comfort to some individuals was a rather charitable point. I think the orange-painted mugs whom this man swindles are truly naive and credulous... but they don't deserve being ripped off.
Skeptics Galore I'm enjoying the world of Skepticism. In my travels (and I spent about 9 hours in the car on Friday), I've been listening to Righteous Indignation, a podcast which casts its skeptical eye on whatever paranormal/non-scientific stuff is surfacing in the news. As I mentioned on Tuesday, this podcast sort of sets me off, as it contains the thought processes you need to see through the bullshit people peddle. Once you spot some of it...
Result!!! As a final bit of news, I've discovered that my master plan to provide good software to provide genuine help to a real person... well, it paid off. Yay!
It's late Tuesday night and I've got a bunch of things I could possibly write about. It's either write this stuff or go to sleep, and going to sleep isn't something I do very willingly, I'm afraid. I like being asleep, and I hate waking up, but I only really willingly surrender myself to sleep when I'm already the walking dead and my body has given up. Right now, there's still energy in my system and my brain is still looking for stimulation.
I'll now work out the overall structure of what I'm going to talk about.
Post Brighton Slump
Last year's Brighton Fringe was such an exhausting process that I entered a major post-Fringe blues situation. This year's was slightly different. In some ways it was more tiring as the two sets of gigs I did were separated by a weekend, and I didn't get much down time, and I was thinking Brighton over a long period. Indeed, I still ended up with various amounts of voice strain and exhaustion, much as though I'd done a couple of weeks in Edinburgh, but with worse eating and more private accommodation, and more driving and... well myriad other differences.
However, Brighton Fringe is now over for me. It was successful in some ways and in other ways it was just a bit of a shot to nothing. I will (indeed, I have) publicise my appearance there as another string to my bow. See ashleyfrieze.co.uk for the full self-promo crap if you must. I think what came out of the experience the most was the camaraderie. We did some fun shows and had a fun time. As far as my Edinburgh show is concerned, the ability to run it through and then see it with a bit of hindsight is going to prove a vital step towards making it really fly in the next couple of months.
I needed some down time after Brighton, and it eventually came in the form of the weekend.
Of course down time is a funny old thing, before you can say "maybe I'll have a lie in" you're in B&Q buying a bizarre lawnmower that uses plastic "blades" which snap within 2 minutes. Then you're home using said lawnmower and generally overhauling a garden that was a wilderness and is now a bit more of a series of bare patches. I say you. I mean me.
Saturday was relatively busy in that regard. There was busyness during the day, following by some relaxing in the evening, followed by the glorious throes of sleep. To sleep perchance to dream, unless you're a labour party election campaign producer from the mid 90's when it's to sleep perchance to D:ream. I digress.
A big sleep in on Sunday is what the doctor might have ordered, but The Doctor was busy having an adventure with a ginger scottish lassie, which we watched on iPlayer on Sunday, again having missed it on transmission on Saturday. C'est la vie. A great episode, of course.
Sunday had a visit from my parents and then it pretty much ran to the end of its line.
Last Night's Gig Highlights
I love to gig. I love gigging. I like it when comedy is spontaneous. So I spent some time before the gig writing a new song. Then I decided not to bother trying it out. I was MCing, and I decided to just wing it... see which things wanted to be done. Play it by ear.
We had a nice gig. There were some good acts. There were a couple of flops. It's hard to get started in comedy, and sometimes your schtick doesn't ever work, and sometimes it's unreliable either because of your own ability to deliver it or because it will work with a nice sympathetic audience who would laugh at anything. It's not my position to judge how individual people did at the gig last night. I had my favourite acts, and I had ones whom I didn't enjoy in the same way. I think that self-hating needs to be done well to be funny, and I think that parading one's self requires a really defined version of that self to parade. These comments may or may not apply to anything that did or didn't happen last night.
Look at me, Mr Diplomacy!!! But there's no real benefit in being the experienced critical act at a new acts night, which I was doing my best to hold together with nothing much more than enthusiasm. If I want to make a new act look like they didn't do a good job, what would it say about me? It would make me look like a dick. I won a heat of a new act competition when I was about 4 or 5 years into stand-up. I'd done 300-400 gigs by that stage and some of the other participants were on their 10th gig. As my name was called as the winner, a little part of me shouted "Stand-up and receive the prize you deserve. THIS IS YOUR MOMENT!!!" and I moved a little and then another, more sane, voice said "Ashley! You've beaten a bunch of newbies, don't rub it in".
Highlights of the gig. I back announced an act by pointing out that she'd been in lads mags and had recently lost weight... then I pointed out that one should be careful what one posts for all to see on Facebook. This act was affronted. Was I stalking her? Was I prying? Actually, no. I Googled the title of the book she stated, on stage, that she'd written, to see who published it (noone yet) and what it was about, and the first hit was her facebook, with a bunch of stuff she'd told the world - ANYONE COULD SEE IT ON GOOGLE - how was I to know it might be private.
Of course, I Googled all the other female acts on the bill, just to be on the safe side. One of them works for an organisation called "S-T-R-E-T-C-H" which is something to do with widening. I know it's actually a really good organisation doing something socially relevant, but for me it sounds like they work on anuses. I'm sorry. I'm childish.
The backdrop fell down during the gig and I decided to fix it between acts. Aided by a member of the audience, whom I thought would help me hold it up, but who decided to do some "improvising" which I took as a cue to do jazz mouth-trumpet and he used as an excuse to try to be a comedian before a stunned audience, I turned the backdrop fixing into a bizarre performance piece. Yes, you had to be there. Imagine this, though. I'm blasting out the tune for "The Gallery" on my mouth trumpet, the man is trying to do some stand-up, when everyone's not sure how this can be happening, I'm interrupting to do little blasts of the trumpet into the microphone occasionally, returning to the back wall to merrily dance my way through putting the curtain back up. At one point he said something like:
"I mean, internet on the mobile phone, what's the point? I want my phone to be a phone, not have internet access..."
to which I interrupted with something like
"there speaks a man who's never had a wank on the toilet at work"
after which I returned to my merriment at the back.
At one point, I put my hand on his shoulder to pause his diatribe and declared "bass solo!!! ga dum dum dum dum dum dum dudum dum" and then let him continue. It was me having a lot of fun. I finished off the piece with a take it home style ending. Of course.
There may, one day, be a video. There was a camera crew in. It may be less funny than I remember it, of course.
Wooo Wooo Wooooo
I listen to skeptic podcasts when I can. I listened to the wonderful Righteous Indignation on the way to the gig. As such, I was in my full "show me evidence" mood last night. So when one of the acts declared that astrology was true, I'll be honest, I dismissed it, challenged it, and demanded proof.
Her How then, if it's not true, can I always guess people's star signs? Me Ok, what's his? Her Sagittarius. Me (to him) Is it? Him No Her Cancer Him No Me So, not always then. Is it possible that maybe you prefer to remember the times you get it right?
We debated hard, and I'll be honest about this - she set off my "prove this person wrong" switch. I have that as a personality trait and it, no doubt with the podcast as a catalyst, banged into the "all systems go, we're at skep-con 1" position.
Her It is true. I've studied it all for years. Me Just because you've studied it, it doesn't make it true - you could read all about holocaust denial, but it doesn't mean the holocaust didn't happen Her It is true. There are four elements. Me Earth wind and fire... and what's the fourth one? KC and the sunshine band? Her You should read my book, it's all explained in there. Me Ok. How does it work? What's the causation? What is the mechanism? Her It's all to do with the alignment of the stars. Me Yes, but what does that alignmentDO?" Her You're putting me on the spot Me Yes. You've studied this for years. You've written a book about it. Surely you know one reason that this works. Her I've never been wrong. Me You were wrong a moment ago. Her I'll prove it. I can show you that your personality is dictated by your stars.
I'm not James Randi. I'm not going to offer her a million dollar challenge, but I agreed to an experiment. She would send me the personality profiling traits of each star sign, blinded from me via numbers, I would then send a reading of my personality to see which sign it reflected, and she would then reveal what she's expecting, which is that I'd come out Pisces.
I thought about it some more overnight and decided to blind the study further. I would randomise the order of all the traits, score every trait out of 5 for several people, and send her all the scores with a letter for each individual. One is me, the others are random co-workers. From the scores, she can work out who is which star sign and then send me a list of star signs. If she gets them all right, then she has given evidence that her system works under those limited conditions. If she gets one or two right, then it's really no better than chance.
If you're reading this, then I predict you're an Aries? Am I right? Maybe in 1/12 cases, I am. Right? Come on. It's the power of the mind!!!
This experiment won't change the beliefs of anyone involved, by the way. It's impossible to use direct argument to undo ingrained superstition. Still, at least we're enjoying ourselves, eh?
Maybe I did buy the 4 series box set of this, and maybe we are working our way through it, and maybe they are almost just as good as I remember, with occasional deviation both up and down. So what!? Can't a man and his girlfriend enjoy a few hours of Alan Davies and Caroline Quentin pissing about with mysteries? I ask you!
Obsessed As my girlfriend would undoubtedly jump up and shout "Damn Right!" to, I'm a bit obsessed with comedy. By a bit, I mean a lot. By obsessed, I don't mean obsessed in the way that I am with something like Doctor Who or (less so these days) musical theatre. In some of my obsessions, I'm fascinated by the details, the minutiae, the relatedness of the details, the sheer amount of stuff there is to know. With musicals, I was additionally fascinated with "how is it done?". I suppose, in a different lifetime, I might have become an illusionist, as that's a world which I'd similarly enjoy learning the trickery from.
However, with comedy, the obsession is a lot more consuming. It's a combination of me being a fan, an analyst and a practitioner. As a fan, I look for a hit of enjoyment from my various comedy drug suppliers - Bill Bailey, Stewart Lee, Harry Hill... there's a long and diverse list that I won't go into. But, as a comedian and thinker about comedy, it goes a lot deeper. Being a comedian is about finding a way to create the sort of thing which causes laughter. Being a comedy fan, means basking in the laughter caused by a joke. Being both makes the whole thing very very personal. You're constantly looking to take the very personal feeling of enjoying a joke and find a way to force it on other people.
Done well When comedy is done well - i.e. in a way that works AND is also worth the effort of doing, as it needs effort, as opposed to being facile and pointless - it's amazing. It's truly amazing. When comedy is done badly, it's a disappointment. When it's done badly with a bad attitude, then it's more tha a disappointment, it's worthy of getting angry about. When you're a comedian, when you've driven 3000 miles in a week to pursue the distant gigs, when you've lost sleep, played to small unappreciative audiences, but given your all anyway, when you've done all that, and you see someone else make a mockery of the craft with their attitude - it annoys you. It's even worse if they look like they're being successful with this dross. It's even worse if they're being more apparently successful than you are.
It's easy to hail an act as brilliant if they're doing well. Strangely, it's easy to brand them as brilliant if they don't do well, but you can claim that they were being misunderstood, or the world's not ready for them, or the audience were wrong... This is where the emperor's new clothes effect kicks in. It's received wisdom that a lot of people in the popular media and arts worlds are idiots who don't know quality when they see it. That may be true. It may also be true that they're fairly young, latte sipping iPhone slapping buffoons, looking for something to call fashionable, rather than looking for something which could widely be hailed as quality. There are acts out there, in pretty much every field, who have been brilliant-bordering-on-genius for many years, but that's not what "the kids" are looking for.
The King is not altogether any good The emperor's new clothes story comes down to this single element. People couldn't quite see the clothes, but they were convinced that they simply didn't understand how to see them. They thought they'd better appear to see them because surely they were there. So it is, in my view, with certain comedians. There's nothing actually there, but there's the impression that something MIGHT be there, but you can't see it. It takes a small boy to point the finger and say "here's what I can see".
So far, this looks like it's a rant against bad comedians, or bad comedy with a sort of holier-than-thou attitude, as though I, perhaps, think I'm a better comedian that someone, or that I'm an undiscovered gem. That's not where I think I'm coming from (who knows what my subconscious is up to, though). I think I'm coming from the point of view of someone who really cares about the world I inhabit. I was buying a DVD last night and pointed out, more for my own interest than anyone else's, about one of the performers on it, "I know him". The till assistant took it as meaning "I know who that is". I didn't push the point as I didn't really want to be a celebrity name dropper... but inside I was proud. I get to meet and gig with people who are bloody amazing. That's brilliant. There are people pushing the boundaries all the time, and there are people whose mind works in a fascinating and enjoyable way.
As an intellectual snob (no point in doubting it), I get very uppity when I see someone with all attitude and no intellectual process. "I'm making a serious point", no, you're making a vacuous point as though it is serious.
How do you come to terms with all of these inner thoughts and conflicts? Well, I know how I deal with being a comedian, and I think it's partially right and has a few problems. In the rest of this message, I'll include some notes about recent me-Activities.
Rewrites Since my comedy world is largely about what's in my head, it's rather neat that I'm involved deeply in the creative process for my show - The Seven Deadly Sings. This is not high art. It is a bit of fun, and has a few minor points to make, which I think are fairly lightly put and then we move on. Having performed it three times, twice as a fee-paying show, I think I can see where it is right now, and it's got a way to go before it's complete. But it's my baby and I care about it greatly.
This is the second hour-long stand-up show I've been involved in, my first solo effort. It's a big challenge and I've grown a lot while making it.
On Wednesday night, I sat down in Pease Pottage services, being disturbed by the noise from the TV and other users of the service area. I wrote the show plan from scratch again, including the re-writes and reworkings that I've decided to do based on feedback (largely in the form of laugh/no-laugh, though some was the sort of vaguely veiled criticism that people let slip when you ask them about it). Most importantly, if you think of a show as an attack on people's funnybone, then I've decided how to reconfigure my comic army to hit more consistently with bigger skirmishes. This metaphor has gone too far.
The rewritten show plan for a show with 7 in the title took 7 pages. Woooo... well, it was seven and a half... but still... woooo.
I feel positive about the changes, and I have a fair bit of rehearsing to do. I think I may also release an album.
The next performance is June 7th in London. Tell everyone. Box office details to follow.
Do you live here? Understandably, since I've been away from home for 4 nights in the last couple of weeks, and have felt remarkably distant, my girlfriend has started to forget me. The cats may also run the risk of miaowing in my direction as if to say "oh, it's you, we thought you'd died". So, last night was the opportunity for a nice night in. It was an opportunity well taken up. I only did a little bit of admin stuff, which didn't take too long and was just the essentials.
We watched Jonathan Creek (original series) which is reasonably enjoyable still, even when you remember the secret behind each mystery.
New Material It's important to write new material. I've got some techniques for material generation. Here are a few of them.
Write something that is the opposite of what you want to say and then reverse it
Write a series of individual ideas as quickly as possible, without stopping, keep them coming
Imagine you were doing a certain sort of gig - how would you explain yourself in that environment?
There are more ideas, and better bits of advice than that out there... one trick I like is the "write the opposite" trick. My "christmas song" is based on a generic christmas song I wrote without any jokes in, though I think it had a placeholder line of "throw fruit at the ceiling" which isn't a christmas thing to do at all. Once I'd written a template for the song as a straight song, it became clear how I could make an alternative subverted song.
The new bit of material I'm working on is based on an idea I had a while ago. It relates to the fact that albums often contain filler tracks, or, worse still, only the 3 singles you've heard of and then a bunch of non-descript other stuff. So, I want to write the perfect album filler track... it may not work live, but I want to make an album in the next few months, so it may fit. To write this, I'm working through a page of quips I threw together on the subject. Some of it may stick. If it's dilute, without artistic merit and over long, then it's the perfect album track!
Appreciating Others A comedian, who shall remain nameless, is good. I contacted them today to tell them that I enjoyed their work. This is worth doing. If you saw a good comedian last night (or whenever), then google them and tell them how great you thought they were.
The Last Picnic In Brighton I didn't realise it at the time, but the last show of the picnic in Brighton was my 850th performance as a stand-up comedian. If you're meant to celebrate that one, then I'm glad it was celebrated in the company of (among others) the following people:
The local hero - a comedian and gent whom one can have lunch with
The thrusting starlet - keen to be the life and soul of the post-match chat, and charming too
The insane-comic-powerhouse - never one to leave the room in any doubt that something special and funny is happening
The stalwart - solid, dependable, an all round good bloke, the man who could take the world on his shoulders, but doesn't need to
The non-cuddly curmugeon - a comedian who isn't even half of what he claims on his poster and rudely spoils the mood by abusing his free entry by being visibly miserable in the thick of the crowd
The three witches - a fee paying triumvirate of drunken women, who'd rather not be there, think it shold be free, like the last show, and refuse to enjoy themselves, resentful that they'd been asked to move into the middle of the room with the rest of the audience so they'd feel more involved
The silent majority - audience members who are rather enjoying themselves, but can't seem to put that into noise
The two live-wire front-row bellowers - they sole providers of all the laughs-in-the-right-places
I hit the stage determined to enjoy myself, and it was quite a silly experience. Financially, the show was a wreck, emotionally, I could have hoped for more, but it felt like it was fun at the time. Sometimes you just need a bit of inspiration and joie de vivre. I was going for a repeat of my personal record of singing a note for 16 bars on the last song, but at bar 13, I felt like I would either be sick or pass out, so I stopped... no point in spoiling the last show.
Still reading Shame on you - this stopped being interesting ages ago!
Don't read this... I'm just curious about whether "I Will Survive" has another story to tell, from the point of view of the other person. Here are the original lyrics...
At first I was afraid I was petrified Kept thinking I could never live Without you by my side But then I spent so many nights Thinking how you did me wrong And I grew strong And I learned how to get along
And so you're back From outer space I just walked in to find you here With that sad look upon your face I should have changed that stupid lock I should have made you leave your key If I've have known for just one second You'd be back to bother me
Go on now go Walk out the door Just turn around now 'Cause you're not welcome anymore Weren't you the one who tried to break me with goodbye Did you think I'd crumble? Did you think I'd lay down and die? Oh no, not I
I will survive Oh, as long as I know how to love I know I'll stay alive I've got all my life to live I've got all my love to give And I'll survive I will survive, hey hey
It took all the strength I had Not to fall apart Kept trying hard to mend The pieces of my broken heart And I spent oh so many nights Just feeling sorry for myself I used to cry But now I hold my head up high
And you see me Somebody new I'm not that chained up little person Still in love with you And so you felt like dropping in And just expect me to be free But now I'm saving all my loving For someone who's loving me
Go on now go Walk out the door Just turn around now 'Cause you're not welcome anymore Weren't you the one who tried to break me with goodbye Did you think I'd crumble? Did you think I'd lay down and die? Oh no, not I
I will survive Oh, as long as I know how to love I know I'll stay alive I've got all my life to live I've got all my love to give And I'll survive I will survive, oh
Go on now go Walk out the door Just turn around now 'Cause you're not welcome anymore Weren't you the one who tried to break me with goodbye Did you think I'd crumble? Did you think I'd lay down and die? Oh no, not I
I will survive Oh, as long as I know how to love I know I'll stay alive I've got all my life to live I've got all my love to give And I'll survive I will survive I will survive...
Maybe one day I'll hilariously subvert them. Like a fox.
This is the second year that I'm going around the place telling everyone that there are only 7 original ideas. So maybe it's expected that there should be similarities between things. There's no doubt that unintentional similarities come up and that some things are innately similar. However, sometimes you spot what is either intentional copying, or just supreme "being influenced"itude.
I watched a YouTube clip. That was my story - did you like it? (That's modified from a nicked gag from Jim Jeffries). Anyway, I watched a YouTube clip of a comedian that I seriously don't rate. If anything I non-rate this guy. What I saw him do was imitate the idea of being a comedian and do something which seems like it was meant to sound as powerful as the work of one of the great comedians like Stewart Lee, who can impose the mood of comedy on the audience in that particular sort of way. It didn't work. It was the equivalent of a conspiracy theorist making himself look insance while telling you his ideas, as though he was being as effective as a great leader compelling his troops. If this doesn't make sense, then maybe my schtick is also nonsensical and ill-defined.
So, it's important to find your own voice. It's important to avoid other people's modes and try not to make any one thing your own. We're all unique (even twins, though less so), so we have to find the combination of all permutations of styles that fits who we are.
I sometimes feel like a bit of a chameleon. I stand on a twig and eat flies... I mean I feel a bit like I adopt and blend into myself various influences. I don't think I come across as a pale imitation of other stuff, but perhaps if you could spot certain influences, then I might. I don't know. I do know that last night I sort of came across as a pale imitation of myself. I'm a bit "gig blind" at the moment. Too many gigs in a short period with the proper build up to being funny. As a result, I think I'm sort of doing a workman-like version of myself, rather than having massive hilarity...
...but even after 7 years of doing it, I'm still finding my George and Zippy from Rainbow bit to be funny. Why oh why oh why is this pale imitation of some childhood puppets so funny. I think it's simply because it's ludicrous, and I like ludicrous things. When it works best, it's a poignant earnest rendition of a dumb song, using silly voices.
Sorry, this is not really a coherent post, just a brain dump. I keep returning to my imitation chorus, like a bad Stewart Lee impersonator might.
Anyhoo. Last night's two shows were quite contrasted. There was a fairly full room, which I felt I'd failed to gel with a bit, then there was a fairly empty room, where some seriously mental stuff happened. I can put the seriously mental stuff down to one individual - our closing act. It was one of the most wonderfully insane performances I've had the pleasure of seeing in a while. I'll never tire of this man. It's almost worth putting on the same loss-making show, next year, for the pleasure of being sure of seeing him again!
My new song, last night, didn't work. Perhaps it's not funny. Perhaps I need to do the musical comedian trick of subverting an existing song to get laughs. This is maybe where I can help myself. What if I take some insipid bollock and subvert it, but what if that dross is actually something I wrote myself, like my 2003 entry into the Eurovision song contest...
Here's a song I wrote. You might want to sing it note for note... or not
Was an empty shell before I fell for you Was a hopeless case; you came to my rescue Had no song to sing, no words until you came to me.
There's a song inside of me a whole new sound and it's shouting out about the love I've found and I can't believe that this is happening I can find the words to sing
I can tell the world that you are mine I can tell them you are everything Everything is different since I fell in love with you I can find the words to sing
Now I've found my voice I'll never let you go I have seen the sun and I've begun to grow and I can't believe that this is happening I can find the words to sing
I can tell the world that you are mine I can tell them you are everything Everything is different since I fell in love with you I sing I sing (key change)
I can tell the world that you are mine I can tell them you are everything Everything is different since I fell in love with you I can find the words to sing
If I could mess with that song, it has a musical structure which might lend itself to mockery... be thankful you only had to read the lyrics, rather than hear my reedy whine on the demo version.
I really enjoyed some of last night. I enjoyed it from the moment that we were doing the gig. Before then it was a bit, well, stressful to be honest. It needn't have been stressful, and I had been reasonably well prepared. Unfortunately, a few things got in the way.
I got to Brighton in plenty of time, parked for free right opposite the venue, taking a 15 minute risk on the arrival time (since the free parking started a little after when I stopped the car). I wandered over to the venue, and then problem 1 started. No posters on display. Shit. They must all be on the walls of the other venue; I'd seen some there.
I walked over to the other venue and it became apparent that my posters, which I'd ordered to be delivered to the right venue, had been co-packaged (even though I pay packaging individually) with the ones for the other show which was at the other venue. D'oh. I had to wait until a show had finished so I could collect the remainder of my posters and then take them over to the right venue to put them up. This sort of dampened my spirits.
Then the show before ours didn't happen. This was caused by an accident/injury, so I feel bad for the person who was injured. That said it gave me stress, since there was an hour of nothing happening in the room, which is an hour during which people could leave the venue thinking it's all over.
Then I went into the room and found the PA system was neither working, nor obviously located anywhere I was expecting to find it. I returned to my car for my torch, and then quickly located the PA system. I got it working. It was a good PA system. I was pleased... I like PA systems. That's how I roll.
But I'd left the CD in the car... back to the car. The CD worked. Job done... still 45 minutes to show time. Time to pace and stress.
I did a run around the venue and drummed up some potential trade... then it was show time...
People actually came. That was impressive. I hit the stage and quickly changed gear from "stressed promoter" into "act". The rest of the show was a lot of fun. Really. I hooted with laughter. It was great to be a part of.
The audience were nice. Even the people who forgot to pay on the way in came along and gave me their money. It's not about the money, but that's going to help with the show accounting. That's for sure.
On top of that, I found the missing review for the opening show of The Seven Deadly Sings. It was, overall, a positive review. That's nice. It's not that quotable, but it seemed to get the show and sort of confirmed my own opinioin, which is that the show seems to have a reasonable foundation in terms of message and information, but needs a bit more comic pacing; exactly what I'm trying to do in the re-writes.
So, I ended the day relatively happy. Just a quick 90 minute drive to my hotel on the outskirts of Reading and then we were done.
Unless there's been a secret massive blunder, I'm finally a landlord again. I have 12 months' worth of tenants, which really requires celebration with champagne or some-such. It's been a long bloody journey!
That was the past. Now let the future commence. Two shows tonight, one tomorrow and then a bit of R&R.
Highlights of the weekend seem to be things which cause lack of rest and relaxation. Given that this week involves 4 gigs before Thursday and that last week involved me performing in Brighton at great effort (keyboard hoisting included), I would have hoped for an easy start to the week, but it wasn't to be.
Saturday Here's the challenge. I have a house. It's supposed to be rented out. I provided it unfurnished. I was talked into renting it out, at no higher rental amount, furnished, on the basis that most of the furniture could be provided cheaply by a contact of the estate agent. This fell through. After a lot of chasing about what the next steps were, we got to a single day for me to sort everything out. Saturday. Sure, I can magic up 4 beds, two wardrobes and a dining suite. Of course I can.
Well, I can.
I organised the beds from the same people who fitting a house full of carpet for me last Februrary. I was worried about getting divan beds up my rather narrow stairs - that's the thing with divan beds - they divan't gan oop the stairs... So I also worked out a contingency plan where I could get some metal bed frames by driving round three bed shops and picking up a frame from each.
Luckily, plan A worked out after all.
I went to Argos and bought the dining suite and canvas wardrobes in flat pack format.
Then it was back to the house with my magic power drill. There was a lot of assembly to do. The beds arrived around lunchtime and the company who provided them also took them upstairs, fitted them, and charged me over the phone. Neat.
The dining suite was relatively easy to assemble. The wardrobes were a bit of a challenge, lots of screws. However, I'm a nice guy and I thought I could reasonably spend £10 to get a 2-piece wardrobe set for each room. The second piece was a shelf unit. This came in 22 pieces. Each shelf was three slats screwed to two ends by 6 screws in total, and then screwed to the sides of the unit by 8 more screws. So to assemble the shelf required inserting 56 screws... aaaagh!
But I'm the magic furniture pixie. It all got made.
I even dropped off some post on the way back out of Reading.
I had hoped to watch Doctor Who when we got back, but it had already started. It also refused to be available for download until way too late. So we watched some other crap and then went to bed. Exhausted.
Sunday Not really as much effort as Saturday. I had to be up early as we had someone visiting. This mean the restorative crash-out-sleep didn't quite happen as long as I would have liked.
Then we had to drive over to Bath for my girlfriend to take a professional assessment test. This wasn't much effort, and it left me in a hospital atrium, with music playing in the background, to inspire me to do the re-writes of my show. The re-writes promise some extra highlights... I hope.
Then it was a wander around Bath, limbs still aching from the previous day's efforts, and then a stagger home to watch the now-downloaded Doctor Who - and other stuff on TV, which I accompanied with ironing. And that was that.
It's a good trick. I often say the unsayable. I often say the foolish. I act in a way that's intentionally going to cause an unusual reaction. I do this because I'm filled with glee regarding the illlogical. I've got this book called "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat", which is a lovely engimatic title. However, I love referring it it with a bewildering array of silly alternatives. I don't quite know why, but the following make me laugh:
The man who did a poo on a dog
The man who put jelly in a shoe
The man who coughed on a bus
The man who kept beetles in his fridge
The octopus who knitted a dolly
I could go on...
Anyway, the good thing about deliberately being outspoken is that you get to spot the emperor's new clothes. There's a quote from Bill Hicks, I believe, which is a favourite of mine, and I don't quote Bill Hicks very often - "Once you start spotting some bullshit, you start spotting it all". This is interesting to me. I am relatively credulous, but I'm also a kidder - a joker - and you can't kid a kidder. So I'm getting better at spotting the game, the racket, or whatnot, and either ignoring it, or gaming it.
I like that.
However, sometimes one can get wrong-footed. Sometimes this is a metaphor.
On Friday I did a gig in Rawtenstall at a music venue. I was the opening act. I wasn't quite getting much response from the audience, so I picked on a guy in the front row who had a beard and tried to do this gag:
I've done it before. It was spontaneous once. It's not something I use very often. I did a reasonable job of it... but... the audience were not ready for reacting to it... and on leaping back to my start position, I went through the stage.
"It's just a stage you're going through" is a classic line used by comedians when someone cuts across the stage. I got to use it on myself in a weird subversion of the cliche. The stage didn't quite give way, it was carpeted and the wood under a square section of carpet, about 2 feet on each side, was no longer there. I had to somehow work around the hole. In the end I put the microphone in it... It was silly.
The last act, Steve Royle, an excellent comedian when it comes to physicality, did about 5 minutes of mime surrounding the hole, and various tricks of appearing to sink into the hole, or go up and down in lifts, escalators etc. I felt like my initial embarrassment was set up well for his later messing about opportunities.
It wasn't entirely my fault. Apparently, the venue had had "Fat Elvis" the Elvis impersonator, and he'd weakened the stage. They have these cover bands, including, at the end of the month, "Guns or Roses", the Guns 'n' Roses tribute act, which sounds like an American deciding what to buy his girlfriend as a gift. Get it wrong and you get the valentine's day massacre. Whe the compere explained that the hole was "Fat Elvis's fault", the audience looked at me as though I'd just been nicknamed. Cheeky!
So I went through the floor. Worse things happen at sea, especially on icebergs.
I've nothing nice to say on this subject, so look away now if you are easily offended.
The simple truth is that there are generally more cars around than there is capacity for them. If this were not true, I'd never be stuck in traffic or seeking out a parking space. People are not equipped for this reality. People live in a convenient bubble where accepted wisdom defies reality.
Fact: more people vote for big brother than in a general election... like bollocks they do! The election turn out is two thirds of the population, probably a similar number to the number if bad drivers.
Back to parking, the point of this record; it brings out the worst in people. Two examples.
At my office there is a small overflow car park, dumb by the council. It is small. Too small for the volume of cars. Too small to be able to drive fast through it. It has just been upgraded to have more nerve and a crossing and speed bump. Net result: smaller car park. There is no road safety advantage of a speed bump in a confined space. Tossers!!
On Wednesday, I was parked in someone's gated back yard. When we tried to leave, there was a car parked across the drive. Across the opening, when there were double yellow lines... and space enough to have parked further forwards or backwards on them. Not good.
The person whose house it was went off to see if the driver could be found, perhaps in the creche opposite. I stayed calm. My friend spotted, instead, a traffic warden whom she brought over just as a scrawny eastern European girl in her mid twenties arrived with a child and started loading the car. The warden decided to leave it.
Picture the scene. Her car is making a T with mine as she shuts the passenger door in front of us, who are poised to set off in my car, doors open ready to get in. Scrawny brat girl said nothing. 'Don't apologise, it's fine' I said. She looked up, surprised, like we were from the moon. 'You are blocking my drive' said my friend. No apology, just a comment that she hadn't been long. It is not her right to park like that... and there were other choices. She wasn't backing down
'That's the problem with mail order brides!' I said as loudly as possible. Then it was over. No point brooding over it.
Sometimes it's a case of credit where it's due. When you see something that's good, it's nice to acknowledge it. A bit of unqualified praise goes a long way. So "You were good, but I'm better" or "I like some of what you do, but did you have to do X?" doesn't cut it. If something is, on the whole, good, you should be able to express that. If someone asks for more detail about things you didn't mention, then sure - tell them anything they want to know, but you don't have to do the whole "yes, but" business. Not in every review.
Last Night Last night I was at a gig. I enjoyed a lot of things at the gig. I had a chat with an act where in the "yes but" category, which seemed appropriate as what they'd done had been so fascinating, that I wasn't in the mood for praise, so much as analysis. However, there were acts on the bill last night who were just in the "mate, that was great" category. So that's the sentiment I want to record.
Chortle is a good place to do this sort of a thing. Their forums allow comedians to comment on each other. Back in the day, I think this was also a bitchy sort of place, and maybe it still can be, to an extent, but these days I use it in the form of "if you've got nothing nice to say, then be quiet". There were some outstanding contributions last night, so I recorded my thoughts on them. This makes me happy, and I hope it's nice for the acts in question to read about themselves.
Having said that, the last post on this blog, suggests that a review can be a bit reductionist; it turns all that effort into a few glib words. For all I know, my review may make the act feel like they've been lessened in some way; do they even need my blessing? No. But I know what I like, and I like to share that. So don't let's start reviewing the reviews too much.
Positivity in the tea-cakes I want to be positive today. Today is a new day. The start of a new world. It's the end of a week, and the start of a mental weekend... with a pretty damned ridiculous week next week to follow. So today I will exercise being happy for a bit.
The hatred will follow in the next post. :) Really... it will.
One final thought A few months back (not quite two years) I did a gig in Huddersfield. I knew from the bill that I wasn't the right act to close that night. The opening and middle act were more experienced and advanced in their comedy careers than me. In fact, when I'd first spoken to that promoter, I had decided not to ask them for a closing spot, but my "booker" had gone in afterwards and up-sold me to the closing spot at the last minute.
I wasn't going to turn down a reasonable paying gig on the basis of my own status. I was going to go out there and do my damndest to be worth the money that was being paid. I don't recall exactly how well I did. Luckily, there's a little record of it. I recall feeling a bit apologetic around the other acts. It made me raise my game and I gained from it, even though the promoter didn't.
I didn't want to be slated by anyone as a resulf of what happened on that night. I also didn't want faint praise or false praise to be heaped on me. So I was glad not to be reviewed back then.
I've been to Glastonbury. They have bands. Some of the bands do songs that people like. Some of them do songs that people haven't really heard, but then like and go out and buy in the post-Glasto slump. Then there's the band about which you say "You know them. They're the band that does the song that goes 'bong'". And that's it. It's that easy to reduce someone's efforts to a pithy phrase that may or may not be appropriate.
It takes days of work, many many man days, to make a record. You have the initial writing, the experimentation, the demo recording, the fine-tuning, the rehearsal, the hours and hours in the studio doing it over and over again, the mixing, the mastering, each run through of which may take many times longer than the 3 minutes or so the song takes to listen to. But if it's the song that goes 'bong', then that's what it gets known as.
I don't know if it trivialises the work that goes into the experience if it gets summed up by the people who experience it. Maybe to them the summary is just an aide memoir of a whole complex series of feelings and delights. It amuses me greatly, though, that you can't really expect more than just a few glib words in summary of one's efforts.
Ah, now I'm making this personal. What's happened? Have I been reviewed? Am I harbouring some dismay of some sort? Did I meet a reviewer last night and have a slightly awkward moment? Well, yes... but that's not it.
I spent the last two evenings of my life in Brighton doing my show The Seven Deadly Sings (coming soon to a venue near you, or far away from you, depending on whether you're near any of my venues). The show is, in simple terms, an attempt to reduce all music down to 7 glib words or phrases. So, in fact, I'm doing a massive review of ALL singing in a pacy 45 minutes of a 62 minute (sorry for overrunning) show. So, I'm just as guilty as any reviewer who may or may not have said nice things about me.
I made the mistake of reading the review of night 1 before I performed night 2. I think the initial hope of it being a "this man's a genius" was quickly winked out and replaced with a concern that I may never get the show into the sort of steam-train-of-joy I'm aiming for it to be. This was later replaced by a grim determination to do my thing and see what happened. I'm pleased to say that I didn't think about the review for one second while I was on stage doing my thing. I'm also fairly aware that the review, while not exactly what I would have written, wasn't unfair. Three stars for an opening night of a new show isn't too bad... it's not quite what I hope the show can achieve, and I have some serious re-working to do (some of which seems like it might just be editing to get some momentum - reordering, for example).
I'm rather glad. I don't think I expected to have things perfect first time round. I'm doing shows to get feedback. The feedback isn't what I expected it might be, but I expected to be surprised. So when the audience members I spoke with gave me feedback - the equivalent of "I like the song that goes 'bong'" - I can use that feedback to make the whole thing stranger... or stronger... or perhaps both.
Despite my appearance on the radio on Tuesday lunchtime, the attendance at the show was, somewhat, scant. Owing to some curious happenings, I'm slightly confused at how four people had tickets when only two appear to have been issued through that particular channel. It matters not. People came and they liked some stuff.
I hurt today. The hurt is nothing like the feelings I had back in July 2004. Strangely, the show back then was probably better received than the one I did the last two nights. Strangely also, the highlights of the 2004 show was definitely the music and lyrics, where the highlights of this show seem to be favouring some of the bits between the music and lyrics. Typical, isn't it!? I write a collection of some of the best musical material I've ever written, from a musical and craftsmanship perspective, and it proves to be less of a big-laugh generator than the almost-pedestrian stand-up I weave between it. I am, of course, being hyper critical - an important part of my creative process.
I'm not feeling bad about the process, because it's only early May and I have three and a half months still to tune up my show before the zenith of the performing year: Edinburgh in August. I'm already ahead of the game...
The reason I hurt today, though, is more physical. The show involves a great big piano - this needed a lot of lugging around the streets of Brighton. I also performed in 3 shows in two nights and watched a fourth. All while doing a full day's work (remotely), sitting in a cramped position with a laptop on my knees. This takes it out of one, physically. I really need to get an exercise regime together, otherwise the show is going to destroy me. Luckily, the shortness of breath I was experiencing, which I think was actually a muscle strain in the shoulder area where I'd been carrying a piano, has gone.
And the cats are being very attentive, which is always nice.
Today is a nice day.
I haven't seen the other review yet, though (yes, show 1 had 2 reviewers in). It could all still go wrong. Or bong!
I am going to lose weight. Honestly I am. It's just easier to say than to do. We had a nice long weekend away just gone, and you can't do that without hanging out in coffee shops, and you can't hang out in coffee shops without muffins and so the calories go in and the weight stays on.
However, that's not the reason I've taken to the keyboard this fine morning. I've got a few words to say on the subject of my two day trip to Brighton this week, not to be confused with the three nights in Brighton next week, which won't involve me spending the day here, and so are totally unrelated.
I set off from home yesterday morning around 6am. A mere 3hrs 20mins later I was in Brighton, having finished a morning call I do for my day job, and I was ready to do a day's work. This is where telecommuting really comes into its own. A friend/ex-colleague provided me with a safe house in which I could do my work, be undisturbed and, more importantly connected to the internet.
There was also the small matter of being given a bed for the night, for which I am and was truly thankful.
Yesterday's early start was really the tip of an iceberg. It was a hell of a day. I headed out at lunchtime to pop in for a chat on local radio. I was on BBC Radio Sussex at 12.40, chatting to Danny Pike, a radio presenter who knows how to present radio. I really enjoyed our chat, and I did a song at the end, which I also enjoyed doing.
I'm reminded of a radio interview at Chris Parr and I did in promotion of The Musical! on BBC Radio Newcastle. On the one hand it should have really given us a boost and a bit of coverage. In fact, I think the DJ thought we were a pair of young upstarts who must be punished. He asked how many shows we were doing in Edinburgh. I think it was something like 25 or 27. He then asked if we'd done that sort of thing before. Of course we hadn't (nor have that many sane people). He then said "that will be very gruelling... very gruelling", like he was expecting us to come home in body bags or something. I think he assumed that we had no idea of how hard it is to put on a Fringe show.
Well, we know now.
In fact, I'd say doing a longer run is, on average, a lot easier than doing a short run.
But this trip in Brighton is about just that. A short run. A brief two dates for The Seven Deadly Sings. Show one, yesterday, had two reviewers in, and no pre-sales. Oh joy.
After my radio interview, I then lugged, and the emphasis here is on the sheer physical exertion of lugging, the equipment from my car to the venue. I stored it all backstage. It's bloody heavy!
Then back to work for the afternoon. Meetings to be had, stuff to type etc etc.
After work, I headed down to the venue aiming to bide my time until it was time for my show to start. I went to watch the show before mine, which was a handy distraction and an enjoyable show.
Then it was show time. I think the stress of having to wire up a piano, three FX pedals, a microphone, a guitar and a bunch of other similar things, actually stops me from worrying too much about the other things like "what are the words again?" and "will there be an audience".
There was a small, perfectly formed, audience who came and laughed in much of the right places. The show romped along and I didn't feel like I was uncomfortable at any point. They groaned at my puns and I didn't really seem to mind. Why not!? It's not like I'm doing any harm to anyone.
I got to the end of the show. It's all a blur, but it's on video. The upshot of it was that I felt like it had worked ok. The spoken material seemed to go better than I thought it would and the musical stuff went ok, but didn't fly as high as it ultimately will.
Then it was the tear down. That's a bugger to do too. Additionally, I was told I had to store my stuff elsewhere in the venue, so I had to drag all the kit down to the basement. That's going to make it a bit annoying when it comes to the set up today, but it can't be helped.
First show was done. It was time for dinner.
Then I performed in the 9pm show. So we watched that, except for the bit when I was on stage, where I watched the audience.
And that was that. A long day with about 75 minutes' performing in it and way too much carrying for my liking. I slept awfully well.