John Finnemore's Sketch Night

25 November, 2004 | 3 Comments

Or rather 'Nights'. Tuesday to Thursday this week, Mark and I, and three others, helped writer and performer John Finnemore showcase himself and his material at the Betsey Trotwood pub in Farringdon, and it went very well indeed. Here's a review of it from the Evening Standard for those of you who were unable to attend:

Frisky frolics with a breezy flourish

Revues are invariably inconsistent and Dead Ringers contributor John Finnemore's frisky showcase is no exception. What is promising is that although he undoubtedly hogs the sharpest skits for his own appearances, plenty of intriguing, refreshing material is left over for his talented team.

There is the obligatory folk spoof, the compulsory wedding send-up, the mandatory - emphasis on tory - Middle Englander. But Finnemore infuses clichés with considerable wit. The nuptials are a particularly neat anti-Richard Curtis subversion, with the jaded couple reworking their vows to declare their despair rather than devotion. Communication breakdowns are a leitmotif. Kevin Baker and Beth Morrey reveal the hidden meanings behind the most casual pub drink - second rounds cannot commence until romantic commitments are clarified.

Elsewhere dog walkers Baker and Marianne Levy conduct an abrupt courtship via canine metaphor.

The style switches breezily between Izzardish anthropomorphism - pit ponies bemoaning their lot - and rapid-fire Fast Show quickies.

Finnemore excels as ranting Right-winger Roger Wattis and nervy romantic Donald Kite. Most enjoyable is his three-hander with Mark Evans and James Bachman as useless philanthropists unable to give away massive yachts. Another communication breakdown.

One message gets through, though. Finnemore is sailing towards a bright future.

Bruce Dessau

Upgrade

13 November, 2004 | 3 Comments

I've upgraded the system behind this weblog, Movable Type, to version 3 which allows some protection against spam commenting. However, the result of this is that if you want to leave a comment now, you either need a TypeKey identity (easy, spam-free and free to register) or your comments will have to be approved by me before they appear. I recommend the Typekey approach if you think you might post here again - just one registration and you never have to be authorized. (There's no financial incentive for me to encourage you to use this by the way!) Sorry. But I'm bored of comments about Viagra and big tits.

Bee

9 November, 2004 | 2 Comments

Busy like one.

For Robert, who seemed to be beginning to worry about the decidely negative, maudlin and reflective tone of Gas Giant at the moment, I shall attempt to list some of the more positive things going on at the moment:

Ealing Live! Weekly character and sketch comedy at Ealing Studios that I'm doing along with lots of other excellent people like Lucy, Barunka, Simon Farnaby, Oram and Meeton, Gareth Tunley, Alice Lowe and so on and so on. Come and see it.

Projects in development Writing a script for Five; developing ideas for Baby Cow, Steve Coogan and Henry Normal's production company, hopefully for the BBC; a Radio 4 afternoon play treatment for Tiger Aspect; a panel game that Mark and I are working on with Nick Symons at Avalon; and a show about tractor drivers that I'm developing with Simon Farnaby at Ealing.

The Wicker Woman Only one more show to go, Wicker Woman fans! 10th December, Hemel Hempstead. Last weekend we were in the Isle of Wight which was nowhere near as stuck in the 1970s as everyone had told us. Nonsense. I'll be glad to see the back of touring, though.

Ministry of Mayhem Mark and I are still making our way down to Maidstone every alternate week to put some 'funnies' down on paper so that Holly, Stephen and Michael might entertain the kids. We've almost been doing this for a year now; this week is the forty-fifth show. That's a lot of ways to introduce Cakey Sk8. Perhaps we need a break, maybe in the new year.

John Finnemore's Sketch Night Old friend of ours, playwright and Mitchell and Webb Sound contributor John Finnemore is putting on a showcase of his writing and performing skills at the Betsy Trotwood in Farringdon in a couple of weeks, ably supported in his various skits by young bucks such as Kevin Baker and Marianne Levy and old men like me and Mark.

So, as I said, busy.

'Thanks for the link to this page'

9 November, 2004 | 3 Comments

As well as the usual spam comments for online gambling and viagra that everyone gets, I appear to have developed a new rash of totally pointless ones: comments like 'Thanks for the link to this page', 'Gracis', 'Parlez-vous francais?' or 'Just had a moment and finally found your page' from people with names like Stephanie Jones and Sara Sterling. But strangely, unlike a normal spam comment which seems to be trying to get you to link to their site and buy their products, these comments have links to sites based on the names of the commenter such as www.stephjones.com which don't actually exist.

So can anyone actually tell me the point of these? It's not even like there's so many it's annoying - unlike the daily comments from top@tredgf.com, I only get one or so a week. I'm mystified.

Expensive Doorstops

7 November, 2004 | 2 Comments

For the first time ever, I'm going to have to send my computer to be fixed. This is the fifth Mac I've ever had, and apart from the one that arrived broken, I've never had to take any of them in anywhere to have their bits prodded and poked.

However, a few days ago I connected my iPod to my desktop to sync it and recharge the battery, resulting in what appears to be the destruction of my iPod's hard disc, and the crippling of my PowerMac to the extent where I can barely turn it on without a kernel panic, even when booting from the Install CD.

A nice man at the AppleCentre in New Oxford Street told me it might be a problem with the extra RAM I added a while ago, but I swapped it all in and out and it doesn't seem to make any difference - if anything it's just got worse, which leads me to believe it's probably the logic board.

So now I have two useless pieces of plastic and circuitry lying around my flat, one (the iPod) that would have to be sent away to Apple and costs as much to repair as it would to replace with a brand new one, and the other (the PowerMac) that I've got to take in to an Apple dealer to get fixed up, or at the very least to rescue all the writing, design and website work that's on my hard drive. (Luckily all my music, bought and composed, is on a separate FireWire disc.)

At least I have an old iBook to work on and collect my emails, and I can always pop upstairs and use my sister's iMac (we're a Mac household, isn't that nice?), but not having a computer connected to the two LCD screens that sit on my desk, not having anything to output sound to the mixing desk that sits next to it, not having any reason to sit at my desk at all, it seems like I'm missing a limb or something. And I miss having an iPod terribly. It's amazing how reliant I've become on all this technology.

And now, because everything's conveniently out of warranty, I need to find about a thousand pounds to replace and fix it all. Jesus.

Spiv

7 November, 2004 | 0 Comments

Charlie Hartill, ADC Theatre dressing room, Cambridge, 1995.

John Peel 1939-2004

26 October, 2004 | 2 Comments

John Peel has died of a heart attack while on holiday in Peru.

He was only 65.

I used to listen to his show on Radio One when I was at school and was just getting into music, and although arguably my indie-loving peers informed my musical upbringing more than him, I'm sure the kind of stuff John Peel played back then was subconciously laying the ground-work for the more sophisticated tastes I think I have now.

It'll be weird not to see him sitting in shorts on the BBC's Glastonbury coverage, or hearing his uniquely low-key drone coming out of the radio or television like some laconic uncle.

Elephant Graveyard

22 September, 2004 | 1 Comments

New Ambassadors Theatre, 21st September, 2004

Guardian Review

14 September, 2004 | 0 Comments

Lyn Gardner gives us a perfectly respectable three-star review in The Guardian today, even if it is rather begrudgingly patronising. And for some reason she seemed to have heard 'Treves' as 'Trewley' which I don't quite understand. Anyway, perhaps it will net us some extra audience, perhaps not.

The Elephant Woman
New Ambassadors, London

Just when I thought that I had finally recovered from this year's Edinburgh Fringe festival, up it pops again in London, like a particularly virulent infection. Over the next couple of weeks, the New Ambassadors is host to a raft of Edinburgh comics and four shows with a more theatrical bent. Two of these are Chris Larner's very jolly musical romp up the Amazon, The Translucent Frogs of Quup, and Glyn Cannon's shockingly good contemporary spin on the Antigone story.

First off, though, is a show I overlooked in Edinburgh. It falls into that increasingly popular genre of comedy theatre - as opposed to a play that is a comedy. Produced by Population:3, a company who last year transgendered the cult film The Wicker Man, this piece also pays homage to a movie, with an entertaining little show very loosely inspired by David Lynch's The Elephant Man.

Plunging us into foggy Victorian London, where street urchins sing songs from Oliver! and big-hearted prostitutes offer their bodies, The Elephant Woman takes us to the London hospital where bungling medic Mr Trewley is lecturing to his students - concentrating this week on the birth of his own baby. Soon things are going disastrously wrong with the "Caesar salad" section (not surprisingly, as Trewley, in culinary mode, sets about his wife with a pizza slicer). With his orphaned son in hand, Trewley sets off into the murky depths of London and the freak show where he discovers the Elephant Woman.

Like Pygmalion with more leathery skin, Population:3's show is a story of true love, tragedy and melodrama told with a highly developed sense of silliness and some clever gags. It may be fluff, but it is fairly amusing fluff.

Lyn Gardner

IndieLondon Review

13 September, 2004 | 0 Comments

IndieLondon, a London theatre and entertainment website that I must confess I have never heard of, give us the first review for our New Ambassadors Run. Apparently I'm delectable. And don't get excited, there are no baboons in the show - she's just quoting from an old press release...

My Fair... Elephant?

Inspired by David Lynch’s cult classic, The Elephant Man, comes comedy trio Population: 3’s The Elephant Woman, an extraordinary tale featuring prostitutes, surgeons, baboons, a hansom cab and a woman with a bag on her head.

After losing his wife during childbirth, Dr Professor Treves, played by the delectable James Bachman, stumbles across a travelling freak show.

He and his new born son, played by a Terrance and Phillip-like puppet, are fascinated by the main act, a woman so disfigured that she could only be deemed half-human.

She is, the Elephant Woman, aka Miss Anella Phant.

The high-camp acting that ensues is hilariously entertaining. Barunka O’Shaughnessy is delightful as the devilishly wicked Russian freak show owner, as is Lucy Montgomery as the child born from an unholy union between an elephant and a very sexy lady.

Using the word 'shit' in as many ways imaginable, Miss Phant’s owner tells Dr Professor Treves that he may take the Elephant Woman away for 'scientific purposes', as long as he promises to bring her back.

Failing that, the fur-clad Russian threatens that she will take something precious of his, his one and only son.

Lucy Montgomery hams it up as Miss Anella Phant. Completely unaided by facial expression, as she wears a mask throughout most of the show, she is remarkably talented in her use of body language and the deliverance of her lines.

I particularly liked her operatic talents in one scene where she sings to the audiences' delight.

Her swift introduction to polite society is very much like that of My Fair Lady’s Eliza Dolittle.

And just as Miss Dolittle charms her teacher, so, too, does Miss Phant.

Dr Professor Treves' curiosity soon turns to love as his scientific experiment results in a proposal of marriage.

The show then takes a more romantic turn, as the couple go on their first date, a night with Oscar Wilde.

Bachman's riotous portrayal of camp Irish writer was an absolute side splitter.

With many a reference to 'bumming', the crowd were in fits of laughter at his anecdotes - and it's worth seeing the show purely for that alone!

All three comics are great fun, their good natured tomfoolery is simply a must see.

Having received critical acclaim for their recent performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I can say their run at the New Ambassadors should enjoy just as much success.

It is guaranteed good clean fun with laughs a plenty!

Emma Whitelaw

West End Wendys

3 September, 2004 | 5 Comments

Looks like we'll be appearing in London's glittering West End of London, then.

24th Hour

24 August, 2004 | 1 Comments

Last night, Barunka, Jon and I went to watch the final hour of Mark Watson's Over-Ambitious 24-Hour Show - midnight to midnight of non-stop performance, assisted by his audience, various well-known comedians (Stewart Lee, Adam Hills, Dara O'Braian amongst them) and ten or so 'lifers' (audience members who had stuck the full 24 hours). The small venue was packed with people squatting on the floor, and apparently had been since the show began 23 hours before, the venue operating a one-in-one-out policy to comply with fire regulations. Mark Watson was stood on-stage, looking a lot less tired than he should have been, just being amiable, intelligent and above all funny. And I mean really very funny indeed. After twenty-three hours of performing comedy, this recent ex-Footlighter was as funny, if not funnier, than most shows I've seen at this year's Fringe. Despite the sleep deprivation he was astonishingly quick-witted, never once working from a pre-prepared script, just chatting to the audience about the show and responding to what was going on around him. It was an extraordinary experience, the closest I've got to being part of a 'happening' in the true Sixties sense that I can think of, and I am genuinely in awe of him. He says he's thinking of doing it again next year, but I'd advise him not to. After all, the second one can never be as exciting as the first.

London?

24 August, 2004 | 0 Comments

Interest in taking The Elephant Woman to London has been surprisingly high. You will remember in January we took The Wicker Woman to the Jermyn Street Theatre off Piccadilly Circus, well it seems we might have moved a step up. We have already been offered a slot at The Riverside Studios in Hammersmith; Soho Theatre seem possibly persuadable; and best of all, despite their not having seen either show, The New Ambassadors Theatre in London's glittering West End of London seem about to offer us performances in September on word of mouth recommendation alone. All quite good really.

Scotsman Finally

24 August, 2004 | 3 Comments

After their refusal to review The Wicker Woman last year, and a general reluctance to come along this year, The Scotsman have finally been in to see The Elephant Woman and given us a great review. Except it's only got three stars. Sometimes I just don't understand.

The Elephant Woman

London movie-spoofers Population:3 had a big hit last year with The Wicker Woman and they’re back, sharp as ever, updating the terrible true tale of John Merrick, in a riotous and naughty hour.

We all know the plot: Dr Treves finds "the creature" and brings her (this time) to the London Hospital. "Severe osteoparenthesis of the bonal canals," he diagnoses, a good indicator of how silly this show loves to be. "Who are you?" he asks, and she replies: "I’m an elephant." "Don’t put yourself down." "No. I’m Annella Phant." Boom, boom.

Treves and Miss Phant fall in love, battle "the keeper", and attend the opening night of The Importance of Being Earnest, hosted by an outrageously camp, very northern version of Oscar Wilde ("Arrait, cock?!"), a highlight.

Barunka O’Shaughnessy, Lucy Montgomery and James Bachman are all gifted and nimble comedians, tipping many a knowing twinkle at the audience. There isn’t that much in the gender reversal itself, and the show sidesteps this with excellent parodying of Victoriana itself - all urchins and prozzies.

Janet Bird’s lovely DIY set is a veritable music hall character in itself. A nip and a tuck here and there, and this show could run and run.

James Mulligan

Sleep Deprivation

22 August, 2004 | 0 Comments

Two shows a day now: The Wicker Woman at 12.20pm and The Elephant Woman at 7pm. Then up till about 4am every night. As a result I'm very, very tired, and possibly beginning to lose my voice.

Both shows are going very well though, indeed The Wicker Woman is storming it with the lunchtime crowd - something we were quite surprised by.

Must get nap before show. Zzzz.

Metro Review

18 August, 2004 | 1 Comments

Another day off yesterday, and by God did our costumes need it. Vigourous dry-cleaning and washing ensued. And then, entirely unexpectedly, a fabulous review in Metro:

The Elephant Woman

Monster of a hit

The team behind Fringe hit The Wicker Woman once more stake their claim to be the heirs of Python and the Cambridge Footlights when the Cambridge Footlights was still funny, this time with a complete reworking of David Lynch's moody black-and-white tale of funfair freak turned London sophisticate John Merrick.

They are comedy parodists of the first order whose day in the sun of TV stardom is surely long overdue.

A riot from start to finish, this is as side-splittingly funny a slice of ad hoc Victoriana as you could wish to see.

It's a simple tale - boy meets freak, boy gets freak, boy loses freak - and one crammed full of puns, buns, slapstick semantics and malapropisms so tasty you can see why the cast can't wait to get their teeth into them.

Farcical, risible and just downright laugh-out-loud funny - this is a show with a ventriloquist baby, featuring Oscar Wilde as an unreconstructed Northern comic and a woman whose ability to put on a bit of lippy and mascara while still wearing a bag over her head has to be seen to be believed.

I haven't had as much fun since... well, I can't tell you how long it's been. Mockingly self-aware, The Elephant Woman takes its limitations and wears them on its trunk with pride. As Dr Professor Treves says of his elephantine lady love, his mission 'is to turn the creature you see before you into a real half-human being'. But the real triumph here is turning a half-baked idea into a fully formed hit.

Alan Chadwick

(Apologies to any young Footlighters out there for the first paragraph. Indeed, I hear the show this year is actually rather good. But hey, we've all been through it.)

ThreeWeeks

16 August, 2004 | 0 Comments

Four stars in ThreeWeeks (found incidentally almost at the same time by Rory):

The Elephant Woman
Population:3

The team behind last year's surprise Fringe hit The Wicker Woman repeat the formula for this novel re-interpretation of David Lynch's The Elephant Man.

Chronicling the travails of a woman fathered by an elephant and her love for a surgeon who takes her under his wing, fast-rising comedy trio Population: 3 blend bawdy humour and Shakespearean farce to create an outrageous, infantile, yet irresistibly infectious spectacle.

Unleashing a range of stock Victorian caricatures including street urchins, prostitutes and even a hilariously crude Oscar Wilde, this is burlesque comedy refracted through a post-modern prism.

Random tomfoolery or knowingly ironic parody? Either way, The Elephant Woman is a spectacularly silly jaunt which reveals itself as first-rate entertainment.

Independent on Sunday

16 August, 2004 | 2 Comments

A small mention in the Independent on Sunday yesterday, bizarrely in the Theatre section, but good nonetheless:

...Frankly, you'll have more fun with the mock-gothic doctor and disembowelled puppets in The Elephant Woman, a wildly silly spoof presented by Population:3 at the Pleasance...

Kate Bassett

And rumours abound of a four-star review in ThreeWeeks but we've yet to see it.

A Week Later

16 August, 2004 | 0 Comments

We finished our first week in Edinburgh with a fantastic show on Monday night. Just a lovely audience, laughing in all the right places, and nice to have it just before our first day off.

Saw a bundle of shows on the Tuesday to add to the few I'd fitted in already. Highlights include Otis Lee Crenshaw, Laurence and Gus, Tony Law's A Tony Law Show and Marcus Brigstocke - all engendering pretty much constant laughter which in my view is basically what you want.

The next day we're back to doing the show again and as always with the first performance after a day off it seems really weird to be doing it again. Edinburgh is much like cramming for exams - doing the show over and over uses a substantial amount of short-term memory, and if you stop doing it for a day there's always a nagging worry that when you step out on stage you won't have a clue what you're supposed to be saying. Thankfully such disastrous problems were avoided and we had a nice audience and a good show.

The rest of the week is largely uneventful - good houses, good responses - one odd one where hats kept falling off and props were dropped and it was a bit of a mess, but nothing to worry about to much, and the show feels like it is getting slicker and better every day just from performing it. There are still bits that aren't perfect but by now it seems okay to ride over them and get to the good stuff, rather than toiling each day to work on replacement material with the inevitable messiness of performing new stuff. Better to be really getting to know the show we already have, I think.

A bunch more shows caught during the week, although I'm definitely a bit behind already this year - still 25 or so to go - of which the best was easily Stewart Lee, and the oddest was definitely La Clique, a very entertaining two hour long burlesque and acrobatic sideshow at the Spiegeltent, which felt like a Fringe version of Zumanity, the Cirque show Cal was involved with.

A moment away from the Fringe last night as, after an excellent show (much enjoyed by both Graham Linehan and Ben Miller apparently which is good), Robert Webb and I took in a showing of the rather dull I, Robot at the local multiplex. I think we probably should have gone to The Bourne Supremacy instead.

Day off tomorrow, Barunka's birthday today, and Pleasance Party tonight.

First Review

13 August, 2004 | 1 Comments

Four stars in Fest:

The Elephant Woman

Wielding more comedy and kooky characters than many casts twice their size, Population: 3 returns to the fringe with a brand-new show loosely based on the concept of Joseph Carey Merrick, The Elephant Man. The show is largely a cavalcade of Victorian personalities: the pompous doctor exhibiting his freakish discovery with as little sensitivity as the Russian woman at the circus, a streetwalker, a street urchin, and Oscar Wilde.

There's some unnecessary smut, two inanely long repetitive sequences, and quite a bit of bizarre medical information – apparently you can give birth to a puppet by cutting open a big foam stomach – but the handmade props threaten to steal the show, particularly the horse-and-carriage.

James Bachman, Lucy Montgomery, and Barunka O'Shaughnessy sparkle on stage with their wit and energy. The Elephant Woman doesn't mind poking fun at itself for its small cast or cross-dressing, so the audience is always in on the laugh.

Tracey S Rosenberg

She gave us five stars last year, but I guess that show was more of a surprise. And last year we'd have been overjoyed by four, so I musn't act like a spoilt brat.

Back Again

8 August, 2004 | 5 Comments

Okay, boys and girls. Like Trevor Nelson I'm going to give you the Lowdown on what's been going on so far in the far distant reaches that are the Northern wastes of Edinburgh.

Firstly though, for those of you worried about my state of mind having read my previous admittedly depressing entry, my financial worries have in some small way been ameliorated (though after the tragic loss-making exercise that is the Edinburgh Fringe I may find myself back to square one in September) and the show came together a lot more satisfactorily once we started actually performing it.

A number of previews in and out of London during the end of July (the out of London ones providing simple practice in doing the show, those in London providing the opportunity for our friends and family to laugh at us and tell us, yes, it's all right, you are funny) set us in good stead for the trip North.

Disappointingly, when we arrived in Edinburgh, everything was not fun and games and instant success.

What I seem to forget about the kind of shows that I do with Population:3 is that for the last two years we seem to spend the first week at the Fringe just making and fixing props. This is definitely not something I enjoy, particularly when the small amount of time you have to do it before your first show makes the whole process incredibly unpleasant and stressful. So our first few days up North found the three of us sewing puppets, jig-sawing holes in the set, painting polystyrene balls to look like our faces, gaffer-taping pieces of card together in the forlorn hope that they wouldn't all fall apart again in the damp environment of our set storage area, and barely having any time to think about the actual things we have to do in the show.

Similarly the time given to us for our technical rehearsal - an admittedly generous six hours - is fraught with problems, mainly because of the impossibly unwieldy lighting boards fitted in most of the venues in the Pleasance this year, resulting in the first five hours being spent programming the lights, only to find that the last hour is wasted when all the previously programmed cues suddenly disappear.

And so we find ourselves getting up at 6 a.m. the next morning in order to get in to the Pleasance for another couple of kindly allotted tech hours at seven. Some of the problems are solved, but we are also without a director (David can only make it up to Edinburgh for the second show) and a substantial part of the show - mainly the traditionally troublesome third act - has been completely reworked, but in not a terribly satisfactory manner.

Anyway, we finally get on stage in what is basically a fantastic venue (I'd definitely recommend Pleasance Two to anyone) and smoothly make our way through the first forty minutes of the show only for it to all fall apart in the last twenty.

Not apocalyptically, you understand. The audience know this is a preview, the tickets are only five pounds for those who have paid and many are just there for free to bulk up the numbers, and so thankfully they give us a lot of leeway to mess up. The end result is a show they seem to have enjoyed, but which still has lots of problems (mainly from the Music Hall scene onwards).

However, when David arrives the next night to watch the show we have a bit of a stinker (no reviewers in yet luckily, indeed by pure chance we put off one from Metro, thank God) and his notes are copious.

We spend much of the next day on another radical change to the last third, and although tentative, it feels like it might be a better solution to the inevitable malaise audiences feel around the forty-minute mark in Edinburgh shows. We cut all the acts from the Music Hall, changing it to An Evening With Oscar Wilde, and add in a 'silent film' sequence to outline the denouement. Thankfully when we perform this new version on Friday, although still a bit unsure of ourselves, it appears much more successful and we have a pretty enjoyable show, which is comforting when we discover that there have been reviewers from the Independent on Sunday, Metro and the Evening Standard (Bruce Dessau, who is also Chairman of the Perrier panel) scribbling in the darkness.

A bit more work on Saturday afternoon on the silent sequence and by Saturday evening's show it all seems to be coming together. Pleasing The Elephant Woman is now looking at least as good if not better than The Wicker Woman and hopefully we're off to a good start. Certainly the director of another clown show in our venue thinks it's the funniest show he's ever seen. Let's hope those first set of reviewers feel the same.

Still Here

25 April, 2004 | 10 Comments

So, after incessant finger-tapping and supposition about my whereabouts from various abandoned readers, I thought it was only fair that I write something here for a change.

Things have been quite busy recently. (Though the lack of updates on this weblog are mainly due to my own laziness.) Mark and I have spent the last few weeks re-writing Zoom, our sitcom that we wrote two scripts of for Absolutely and the BBC, for the radio after the development of it at BBC TV seemed to stagnate. Our script went into the PDG (Programme Development Group) at Radio 4 on Thursday and we now have to wait a month or so to see if anything comes of it. We don't hold out an enormous amount of hope for success as the commissioning process is basically a massive scrap between a large number of people for very few slots, and Absolutely's relationship with Radio 4 is still relatively new and untested, but I think the script is as pacy and packed full of jokes as we could have made it, and maybe that'll be enough.

Mark and I have also moved to a new agent, Claire King at Noel Gay. This was something of a massive step for us, but we just didn't feel we fitted in well at International Artistes anymore. Luckily our leaving was amicable, especially as the one paid job we're doing at the moment - writing for Saturday morning ITV show The Ministry of Mayhem - is still contractually through our old agent, and she still has to deal with the payment from that contract for us. Claire seems pretty good so far and is doing a good job getting us meetings with production companies who are interested in the work we've done before and the spec scripts we've written. And, most interestingly, she seems to be about to finally track down a tape of the Doritos advert I did in Holland four years ago that I've never seen.

Tomorrow Lucy, Barunka and I begin work with David Sant on our new show for this year's Edinburgh Fringe, The Elephant Woman, and I'll be filling up the next four or five week's rehearsing that on and off, as well as working on a script and taster tape for Channel 4's Comedy Lab with Simon Farnaby through Ealing Studios, and doing a five-night run of The Wicker Woman at the Komedia in Brighton the week of May 10th.

The problem is, the only one of these things that I'm getting paid for at the moment is the day's writing every other week on The Ministry of Mayhem which basically equates to a wage of £150 a week. Which wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to pay my house insurance in May, and my tax bill which has yet to arrive, and my third of the budget of The Elephant Woman which currently stands at about sixteen thousand pounds. Which wouldn't be so bad if I had actually received any of the five grand or so I've supposedly earnt over the last five months and wasn't currently looking at my last thirty pounds in the world sitting in my wallet.

Basically, I'm broke, at the limit of my credit card, still meant to be paying off the loan I got to fund Edinburgh last year, and about to spend five weeks working on a show that I'm going to be paying for the priviledge of doing, and it's astonishingly depressing.

I should be sitting here enjoying the fact that I can type this entry while watching The Gift on Channel 4 because I got a wireless card for my iBook two months ago, but all I can think about is that that card cost about sixty quid and I don't have that money anymore. I'm worrying that I won't have the twenty quid to give to my cleaner next week. I'm worrying about how I'm going to pay for my new Travelcard on Wednesday so that I can continue to get to rehearsals.

It's not any fun at all.

Still - chin up and everything.

Where Has Everyone Gone?

19 March, 2004 | 10 Comments

So it's Friday night, just after ten, I pop out to the shops and there's just no-one about. The bar at the end of my road which would be packed every other Friday night of the year is barely half-full, and its customers mainly men; the restaurants on the Common are empty. Why?

The only reason I can think of is that tonight is the last ever episode of Sex And The City.

32

24 February, 2004 | 8 Comments

Happy birthday to me.
Happy birthday to me.
Happy birthday, dear me-e.
Happy birthday to me.

15 Storeys High

11 February, 2004 | 1 Comments

The second series of Sean Lock's 'sitcom' 15 Storeys High starts tomorrow night at 11pm on BBC3, and some clever detective work by someone with a lot of time on their hands has discovered this clip of me in one of the episodes...

For more clips and an episode guide, visit Sean Lock's page at Off The Kerb.

M. M. Kaye, 1908–2004

4 February, 2004 | 10 Comments

Today I attended the funeral of my grandmother, Mollie Hamilton, more well-known as the author M. M. Kaye, who died last Thursday aged 95, in Lavenham in Suffolk. I was asked by my mother to read part of Psalm 91 at the service, and I think it was one of the most stressful moments of my life; certainly the relief at having got through it successfully was enormous, and this from a supposedly experienced performer.

I would have maybe like to have said something about her, about how much of an extraordinary and fascinating person she was, about how when I would come home her tiny frame would grab me affectionately and seem to hold on for dear life, about how funny she was and how much she laughed, but the terrible thing is, as hard as I try, I can't seem to remember anything specific she said. Perhaps mobile phones have scrambled my brains, too many boozy nights in the pub drained the memories from my head. More likely I didn't realise that it would be important to have paid attention until it was too late.

It was a nice service though, with many distant relatives who haven't seen me since I knee-high to a grasshopper at the reception afterwards, and printed in the order of service was a poem that my grandmother had written in 1942 on a fishing trip in Morala in India with my grandfather, Goff Hamilton, that was touchingly appropriate:

Evening at Morala

Opal river and twilight falling. The scent of woodsmoke. A peacock calling.
At the edge of the evening the far snows glow topaz and apricot, amber and rose -
Ramparts of Heaven, all glorious with light, that will fade and be lost
As slow falls the night.

Out of the west the teal flighting. On creek and sandbar mallard alighting.
Shy from the shadows the nilgai fording the river shallows. Before dawning
They will return from the crops through the river to the far banks
Where the tall reeds quiver.

Along the horizon daylight failing. Beyond the weir the jackals wailing.
Across the plains and swift away the last gold gleam has followed day,
And dim in the dusk to the water's brink the wild boar, wary,
Come down to drink.

Pale overhead between the bars of night glimmer the first faint stars.
A young moon lifts in the quiet sky as homeward we return, my love and I.
Silent the river and folded each feather. Homeward we wend,
Happy. Together –

But at the back of the pamphlet was this simple, unattributed quote:

You can shed tears that she has gone.
Or you can smile because she has lived.

Despite her age, and the numerous near misses of recent years, her death must have affected me much more than I imagined: I couldn't look at that for the whole service.

Obituaries: Times, Washington Post, Independent, Telegraph, Guardian, New York Times, LA Times

Guess What Book I'm Reading At The Moment

31 January, 2004 | 2 Comments

Googlewhack!

(I was going to post the two words that made up the googlewhack here, but then realised that this would be a second page with those two words on and it wouldn't be a googlewhack anymore. So, by announcing my discovery of a googlewhack I'd cause it not to exist. Very self-referential; very Schrodinger; very quantum.)

Tunnel Vision

28 January, 2004 | 0 Comments

My first go at making music with GarageBand, Apple's new loop and MIDI tool, Tunnel Vision (stream/download) was put together in about half an hour in Las Vegas on Lucy Bradridge's new iBook. I like to think of it as Beck meets Unkle. You, on the other hand, may not.

A Hood Or Carapace*

28 January, 2004 | 10 Comments

Charlie Hartill, one of most entertaining and intelligent people I ever knew, died while I was away in the States.

In Edinburgh last year he drunkenly told me that the reason that I was funny on stage was that my face moved faster than the human eye could register, which I think is a remarkable compliment.

I also vividly remember standing at the ADC Theatre bar in Cambridge with him one evening and apropos of nothing he said that if he died he'd want everyone to be really happy at his funeral and dance around on his grave. Sadly, I suspect that won't happen.

(*From The Man Who Crucified Himself, Charlie's one-man show about eccentrics that he wrote on the day of the first performance after he lost all his notes.)

Morning Frost, Evening Snow

28 January, 2004 | 0 Comments

Surrey, 10am.

Clapham, 6pm.