Cinematic prescriptions for Weeping when Required – take Magnolia twice yearly

It was Josie Long who told me it was called crying porn. When the phrase comes into conversation, there is an initial look of suspicion, a pause filled with the gurglings of perturbed imagination and the hope that whatever these words mean will be a relief, not a reason to cancel an association or friendship.
What is in your mind?
While pornography hopes to create lust, crying porn hopes to make you sad (which the existence of the standard porn industry might do to you anyway). It is songs, film scenes, poetry or narrative, that brings forth tears. It is resorted to when someone may have skipped emotion during the day to day running of their life, but now feels the desire to be moved to tears.
After being stoical at a funeral, once away from the pews and back home, you might feel that you should have cried a little, so you manipulate yourself with art.
For many people, the first ten minutes of Pixar’s Up is very effective (not be confused with Russ Meyer’s Up!, which falls a little closer into primary porn category). Terms of Endearment crops up amongst the middle aged, as well as similar endeavors such as Beaches. Tom Hanks has made a few, though Bachelor Party is not amongst them, though Philadelphia and Saving Private Ryan may make the list. Philadelphia is helped by being bookended by Bruce Springsteen’s sparse, hoarse disease confessional and Neil Young’s funeral song.
For some of my generation, mercenary thriller The Wild Geese would make it into crying porn category too. I think I may merely be very tired, but have found that the last two times I talked about one scene I welled up a little, and on stage too.
Starring Richard Harris, Richard Burton, Hardy Kruger and Roger Moore, it is all about a mercenary mission going wrong due to the venality of Stewart Granger (bloody Stewart Granger). Poor Richard Harris, playing a highly ethical mercenary and single dad, nearly makes it all the way through the mission as almost everyone else dies around him. About to reach the plane of escape, he is shot in the knee and demands his best friend Burton shoots him so he is not unceremoniously hacked to pieces by some very cross people.
That scene may be crying porn enough, with the obligatory orchestral surge to manipulate adeptly, but it is the earlier scene where he doesn’t hear his son say he loves him that will cause a dad to emotionally stumble.

Parenthood leads to being surprised by sentences suddenly creating a surge of emotions. Sometimes it will merely be the potency of cheap soap opera moments combined with a cello, or a headline that leads to pity.
Backstage at a comedy gig last week, Jo Brand and I were talking of children, it reminded me of a newspaper story about an accident that led to the death of a six year old, as the words came out, I welled up and stopped mid-sentence.
It must be the sleep.

What is it about the potency of cinema and music that makes us more susceptible than reality? Does the news need more cello? (no, it is close enough to that already – “don’t forget, being momentarily upset by current affairs is now considered an action up there with being a poet going into the Spanish Civil War).

What of crying porn songs?
For some it may be Foreigner’s I Want to Know What Love Is, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Into My Arms, or Billy Bragg’s Tank Park Salute.

Who are the great actors of crying porn?
I would nominate Julianne Moore for Magnolia and The End of the Affair.

and there’s Ricky Schroeder in The Champ, not my cup of tea, but I know it worked for many, I would rather have Takeshi Kitano in Hana-Bi. I remember watching Takeshi’s Dolls and the woman I was sat next to wept all the way through. Another honorable mention for Takeshi’s final scene with Tom Conti in Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence.

And there’s Spartacus being shown his baby as he is dying on a cross.

And The Fisher King

And Edward Scissorhands

And Robert Donat and Greer Garson in Goodbye Mr Chips…

And as I write this, 24 Hours in A&E has started. I don’t watch much TV, but I always have time for this, humanity often at it’s best. Better get ready to be moved and warmed by an old couple facing drama, confusion and, hopefully, vanquishing death on this occasion…uh oh, here we go again.

feel free to comment below with your choices.

I am off to Edinburgh with a new show where I will reveal too much of my brain HERE

My new tour, with added Grace Petrie, will go across England, Ireland and Wales (a bit of Norway, but no USA or Australia until 2015), dates HERE

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My Brain Officially Exists…Barring Philosophical Conundrums on the debatable nature of reality

I presume I am likely to be neurotic, so surprise myself when I am not. I anticipate the loss of nerve and am surprised when it is still there. When I visited a prison earlier this year, my biggest worry was my worry. As the metal gates clanged behind me, would I become like a yellow Richard Attenborough in a wartime submarine movie? Nothing happened, I wondered if my nonchalance was playing a trick on me.

When I went for an fMRI brain scan last week I was again worried that I seem unworried. This was a voluntary procedure. I have been wanting to see my brain, the cause of all my troubles, for a long time. On a train from Tunbridge Wells, the deal was sealed with a a traveling neuroscientist. Even when I was walking down the disinfected corridors of the scanning facilities in cardboard trousers, I had no butterflies.
When would the panic set in?

It was all so fascinating that my curiosity left no room for worry.
On every wall, galleries of temporal and parietal lobes, rainbow coloured neural connections, and occasional brain stems. This is the National Portrait Gallery as I would like to see it, none of those humdrum noses and painted lips, just the brains of the notable, pondering how each fold helped them forward plan for war or poetry.

I filled out all the forms, as usual an accumulation of “no”s ticked due to my fortunately mundane medical history.

I had a quick go at the tests I would have to do and worried that my scan would mainly reveal how lacklustre I was at words and number games.
Once on the machine, my skull was sandwiched into place, the panic button placed in one hand, the mind quiz button in the other. The final encasement was lowered over my face, now would be the time for my panic, during this Man in the Iron Mask moment. Slid into the body of the marvelous contraption, my lilac surgical ballet shoes sticking out, I felt rather comfortable. Alone in the room, the isolation was calming. I was relieved, my worries of possible claustrophobia were unwarranted. I had been warned that the noise of moving magnets was almost deafening, but even this was enchanting, the sense of process and progress clicking into place and out of place as I was ready for my close ups.
Parietal Lobe, are you ready? Ventricles, do not be too vain. Amygdala, do not be coy.
The tests involved concentration, not my strongest suit. A letter flashed up eight times, as it faded I would have to say a word beginning with it. My mind cramps when i play scrabble, what if it turns out I don’t know enough words?

My self-awareness is always at the forefront, so when one of my Bs was “breast”, my homunculus Freud warned me to be careful of later choices for fear I may be pronounced a fiend. The first word that came into my word for my third T was “tantric”. Homunculus Freud looked panicked, the best I could do was Timotei (I must have been thinking about Brian Cox).

After the games, I had to relax with my eyes closed. I am not very good at that and I think that they noticed I was occupying my time by attempting to replay The Long good Friday in my mind, scene by scene.

I was then removed from the innards and saw my brain for the first time. There was the bundle that interprets the world and causes me to shout an unruly inanimate objects as if they were sentient and malicious. I worried that I had fewer folds than my friend, less of a cortex canvas spread before me, but he is much smarter than me, so it was to be expected. My untrained eye was not drawn to any shadows hinting at growing sickness within. I had been asked if I was worried at what the scan might reveal, but whatever it might have or could tell me of impending illness would be there already. The act of observation would make only a positive difference, even if it might be a melancholy one.

I wondered what might happen if they scanned my brain and found it was only a near empty sack containing some liquid and at that point, I would stop existing.

“I am afraid you have no brain. This was fine before as you were unaware of this, but now you know, all awareness will vanish”, and with that, the me-ness of me ceased to exist.

Now, these scans will be projected behind me night after night in Edinburgh, and I will have to wait for that foreboding night when a neuroscientist approaches me at the bar and says, “I was looking at that scan, and I fear there is something that went unnoticed…”

My brain based, with diversions, Edinburgh show, is HERE

I will then be taking my brain on tour to England, Ireland and Wales – locations and tickets HERE

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Eluding Boredom

My ability to say no has improved, though my fear of pins and needles in my left arm, hastily followed by dropping dead on Paddington’s platform three remains.
Why don’t I do one thing at a time? Is it because if I concentrated on one thing, it might make me face up to my limitations? Juggling so many things, I have an alibi for my many ‘make do and mend’ endeavors.

Not bad for one of many, shoddy for a one and only.

Money can’t be the prime motivator, as I am probably better at turning down cash jobs than I am freebies.Most of the limited TV I am offered is rejected. TV may steal the soul. You think you are wise and witty, but a misfire on a panel show, combined with an ungenerous edit, and you are, “that dick on that show that said that thing that led to silence”. Each time the spell weakens, a repeat on Dave makes it fizz sulphurously.

I am in that devilishly lucky position where most of what I am asked to do is something that I want to do. I was talking to a talented and famous friend some months ago, his voice was reedy, it had gained an aristocratic drawl, the laziness of diction that comes with exhaustion.
“But ***, you have fame and awards now, you can say no now.”
“But I don’t want to say no, each one of these jobs is something I would love to do, it is just they have all been offered at once.”
And so, he is being crushed under the weight of his dreams coming true.

Last night, I was fortunate enough to be doing Infinite Monkey Cage with Eric Idle, Lucie Green, Stephen Fry and Tony Ryan (and my Sid Little, Brian Cox, as usual). Then it was an early morning meeting about next year’s US tour of Monkey Cage, a remarkably exciting proposition. If Brian plays it right, he could be the new Deepak Chopra I reckon, he just has to add the word consciousness every time he says quantum. He has the open face and hair to be a prime woo peddler. Then it was off to Steve Lamacq to give the public a little Voodoo Queens and some of my abysmal attempts at creating a sketch of someone based on their song choices. I even got the gender wrong today, it was Iron Maiden that sent me scurrying in the wrong direction.

A dash across the BBC forecourt to interview a historian about Darwin’s tummy aches Boyle’s sexual abstinence for a three part documentary on self help, then a blistering walk jog or jog walk to get to Paddington so I can be in Bath Spa to interview an American academic about “the models or metaphors of self”, then an Edinburgh preview of a show that may or may not exist in my head. Only the idea of doing nothing is more terrifying.

Recently, I watched an episode of Louie than rang painfully true. Louie CK attempts a night out. It is an evening of painful socialising. He bails out and walks the New York streets. Passing by a club, he chats to the guy on the door. “Can I go on and do ten minutes”. On occasional nights off, my wife suggests I go and see some friends (I presume this is to get me out of the house so that I don’t tetchily commentate on her TV viewing).
“Nah” is my general reply. Once, I agreed to go to a play.
“Who are you going to go with?”
“I thought I’d just go on my own”
“You have to go with someone”.

And so it went on. I attended the play. My friend and I hated it, then read the reviews that said it was a triumph, then became confused in a pub.
I won’t be doing that again when I could have been trying out ten minutes new material at Old Rope.

I wish I wasn’t always so late with my homework. 8 nights until Edinburgh fringe begins for me. One show, the angry one with Michael Legge (“one of life’s losers” today’s Metro), is already, it even has an ending, but as most of it is improvised, that was easier to finish.

My solo show remains 137 postcards with a loose collection of words on them (some may be sounds more than words). The few previews have been very enjoyable, and about double the length of the slot I have, and that’s avoiding 75% of the ideas I hoped to fit in.

I have a beginning, and then lots of words, some funnier than others. I also have my brain scans and some post it notes and a lot of good intentions to gesticulate wildly. I would like the safety net of some structure, just so there is something I can break every night.

The older I have become, the more I love stand up and realise that, after half a lifetime at it , there is no escape. This is what I am. Whatever real life holds, I have the valve of showing off, of making odd thoughts into a sideshow. What a relief, there’s no need to be a serial killer, rather than place my atrocities in a drain, I can just make them echo in a venue.
How fortunate to live a life where boredom is rare.

The Angry show is here and the Blooming Buzzing confusion one is here

and if you are not coming to Edinburgh, I will be traveling across England, Ireland and Wales too this Autumn with two different shows and Grace Petrie too. Information HERE

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Penguins May Explode – Python at 02

I wasn’t a fan of the Monty Python TV series. I had no choice. I was growing up in a time when it wasn’t repeated. (despite my haggard face, I was too young for it first time around). Monty Python’s Flying Circus was like The Avengers or The Prisoner, a programme I knew of as a legend, a series that I invented in my mind from the few stills I had seen.

I came to Python via The Holy Grail, a film that would have milk running through my nostrils due to uncontrollable laughter from the moment the mock trailer began.

John Boorman’s far more serious Excalibur was always tainted by its similarities. There is something about Holy Grail, and Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky, that made the middle ages seems so dirty and real. They didn’t skimp on the shit.

The LPs were also far more familiar to me than the TV series. Thanks to the Holy Grail album, I was able to quote King Lear with ease in my English A Level.
“Let copulation thrive”.

I am of a generation where comedy could be contraband. The furtive listening to these fertile minds was an act of rebellion, sometimes solitary, sometimes in small groups; eager teens seated, leaning forward, eyes wide and eager.

On Wednesday, I went to see Monty Python at the 02. I have never been to the 02. These modern auditoriums make me nervous. There was a sense of occasion, but not to the point of fundamentalism. A few knotted handkerchiefs, some people in Chinese costume, a couple banging coconuts, why the hell not, they’ve spent a lot of money to visit their heroes, seize the day with an instagram image.

There has been much criticism as well as spiteful hope that the Pythons would be some wretched gang of geriatrics, sighing and reciting, using occasional rictus grins that have been bought from celebrities who used to invite you in to their lovely mantlepiece for Hello magazine exclusives.
The overture began, the audience clapped along. Those unconscious smiles you are unaware of until you are suddenly surprised by your own glee were on the faces of those around me.

I won’t give away too much, but the show was delightful. It was not a trudge or a painful revisiting of things that should be left in the ground. This was not displaying Sarah Bernhardt’s amputated leg as a medical curiosity (she refused when offered money for her lost leg anyway).

It was intriguing to see people spluttering with laughter at lines they knew so well, this wasn’t just applauding the familiar, for many, the excitement of seeing them live made everything both known and new at the same time. John Cleese’s eyes had the wickedest glint, his timing remains immaculate. There remains a sense of danger. Idle had gleeful chutzpah, Terry Jones bumbled with charm, Gilliam created explosive felt guts and contributed assorted grotesques, Michael Palin modeled lingerie with aplomb.

The sketches that charmed me most were not the most glitzy or famous, it was Ann Elk, the exploding penguin on the TV, and Mary, Queen of Scots drew me. It was the timing of the pauses, the ridiculous amongst the mundane, the twisted faces, that seemed untainted by time. There was something bold in these quieter, suspenseful moments played to an audience of over 12,000.
Much was made of the age of the Pythons, and it is true that their combined ages are the equivalent of Ken Dodd’s, but it was seeing the giddiness of septugenarians that proved comedy is not “a young man’s game”. Though the sketches themselves may be as old as me, the performances, the suspense of when one or other would depart from the script, the daring look in the Pythons’ eyes as they tempted themselves to throw the other one, that was infectious. (high points included John Cleese grabbing the crunchy frog chocolate assortment where Terry Jones’s lines were written after Cleese had forgotten his own)

This was not a lazy production.

This was a celebration of six hugely creative comedy minds who have gone on to write fabulous children’s books, intriguing novels, direct dark and strange films, as well as creating further great moments in TV whether travelogues, Ripping Yarns or Rutland Weekend Television. The standing ovation at the end was not merely for the show, far more, it was an audience who wanted to thank the Pythons for all they have created and continue to create. It is not as if they have spent 40 years living of last glories, I am glad I witnessed this, whether resurrection or final burial.

I will be playing far smaller rooms and with far fewer dancers (though Grace Petrie may cartwheel once or twice) in the autumn. Tour dates from Sheffield to Croydon to Exeter between and beyond HERE

also, my new show, Blooming Buzzing Confusion runs in Edinburgh for 12 days HERE

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They Came to Demolish Candy Rock Mountain – Can I escape sugar?

I have decided to attempt giving up refined sugar – my joyous diet of muffins, choc bars, and nostalgic biscuits such as Clubs and Penguins. This is not due to any fad, merely intrigue. About four years ago, I smoked my last cigarette. I stood with Steve Lamacq watching a band that would go on to go nowhere, in a tent at Reading Festival, and when that was stubbed out, I thought I’d attempt a cigarette free life. The motivations included being a father and seeing Christopher Hitchens talking after his first bout of cancer treatment. I was no smoker like him, I lacked the elegance of inhalation that can also be seen from Peter Cook and his louche hands on 70s chat shows, and I was considerably lower on quantity. For some idiotic reason, I thought I would give up coffee and alcoholo at the same time. Though the plan was never to return to cigarettes, the coffee and alcohol was part of an experiment and I have no idea why I did it. Two months of headaches and a general antsiness, while also discovering that it wasn’t alcohol that made me a dick late at night, I was just a bit of dick at times. It went deeper than mood altering Jameson’s, I inherently enjoyed being facetious on the internet even when sober. I reasoned that if I gave up all three, when I finally went back to the other two, I wouldn’t give a jot about cigarettes, so great would be my elation at drinking thick dark coffee and whisky.

Whatever, I have not as yet returned to cigarettes.

When giving up imbibed chemicals that have become habitual, you can worry if your personality was partly crafted by nicotine and tar. Did I need those nervous cigarettes I’d smoked at stage doors to give me the impetus to take the stage. Would my brain malfunction, the words dry, the mind jumpiness cease? It doesn’t seem to have done as far as I can see, if anything, I more frenetic than every before and I am sure the cleaner lungs are useful when I decide to bellow a Brian Blessed impersonation.

Ten Months ago, I decided to give up alcohol, this time as an experiment in ending, or slowing down, my insomniac rages of sleeplessness. It seems to have helped, mainly because it is easier to argue with yourself when sober. The anger of sleeplessness is not so extreme, there are no more holes in the plaster behind my bed. And again, I worried that giving up booze would somehow change me. I always had a few pints after a gig, I had persuaded myself that it helped switch my mind off (or something similar), I feared that sobriety would lead to even more sleeplessness. It would also be much harder to get a bit weepy in a Premier Inn when watching 24 Hours in A&E, I would live with sober emotions, my id angrily caged as my superego sipped lemon tea and read more. Again, I seem to have found it has made my onstage insanity greater, my loonish yelling more preposterous, my face more possessed by 1000 demons and a clown on a unicycle.

Now the sugar experiment begins. How long will I manage? What contribution did Lion bars play in my stage manner? Three days in and I have noticed some stomach rumbling and colon twitching, but that may be due to an increase in salad and the problems of digesting beetroot.

Is veganism next? No, I must always let Michael Legge have that high horse, or tofu alternative of a high horse, to look down at me from.

Or will Edinburgh Fringe crush me and you’ll see a bloated, flatulent shell of humanity, slumped in the street surrounded by milkshakes, KitKats, a bonfire of Marlboro and a bottle of Wray and Nephew overproof rum.

(I also like the idea of returning treats to the status of treats. I gorge on things as if they were mundane. I may return to the excitement of being a child in a sweetshop.My first temptation in the desert, or 2324 from Euston, was carrying a box of Milk Tray all the way home. I was peckish. I looked. I imagined. Then I cried, “get thee behind me Turkish delight, and that goes for you too Strawberry Sensation”.)

Like Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine, I might save it all for old age. At 67, I’ll start smoking a pipe, ingesting blotter acid, and hanging around with dolphins.

I am doing two different shows for a half run at Edinburgh Fringe HERE and HERE.
My autumn tour dates – from Croydon to Leicester, Nottingham to Bristol, Newcastle to Exeter are HERE

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The Man with the Wheelie Suitcase Stood in the Way of the Blossom

I am not sure I am made for capital cities, especially capital cities that splutter and gasp, and so I am not made for London. (actually, I have just remembered that I am made for New York, Paris and Edinburgh, so that first sentence isn’t true, sorry) (oops, New York isn’t a capital city) 

I feel the pins and needles in my left hand as soon as I return from a few days in other towns. With little sleep to woo my mood, I find myself faced with ticket machines that don’t dispense the tickets you require, toilet queues like the DSS in 1982, and people who have been stunned into immobility who seemingly swell to ensure no pathway is possible. It is the siege against getting anywhere or anything done.

The ticket queues, a tapeworm of aggression and stupidity, lengthen with each nincompoopish question at “position number 8”. There should be two lines – “I know what i want and I know how to ask for it” and “this is all new to me, do you mind if I enquire who built the line to Clacton and whether I get half price tickets if I have a cold”.

(I pause at Stratford to try to hoist my luggage on a rack as the carriage fills, succeeding on spilling coffee on myself as I attempt manouevres like a witless mime with cramped elbows. No one sits next to me, they would rather stand than sit next to this drink stained, crumbling artifice of human evolution).

I do not despise all of London, it is only if I have to use it and expect it to function that the little veins pop. I enjoyed it on Friday when I took my dad to see a Dennis Potter double bill at the BFI.

(damn, I have now spilt flapjack all over the keyboard. I type flapjack, really it just seems to be a loose collection of oats, I fear someone on the flapjack line forgot to pour the syrup in)

The two plays were Potter’s view of English cold war traitors. Traitor, with a superlative central performance by John LeMesurier, and Blade on the Feather, a feature length flick of pudding and custard obsessions, lawn tennis and assassination. Before the screening, Potter’s longtime producer, Kenith Trodd, talked of his work and read an excerpt from Potter on Potter. Potter considered the English upper classes the least English of all people, the England they lusted for was the England they owned, once others started to get their mitts on the land, he believed they would happily embrace fascists or communists due to a mixture of spite and avarice. Archive screenings are a fine place to feel younger, as the audience has an average age of 72. The BFI cafe by the box office is far too hopefully cool for its audience. The chairs at just the right height to make use of older, or newly installed, knee joints hard to operate, and the lighting at that ghostly dimness that creates the worry that it is not the wattage but your own ocular degeneration that is making that biography of Denholm Elliott tricky to read. In his introduction, Kenith Trodd told us that he had approached the head of BBC1 about screening some Potter for the 20th anniversary of his death, but he was informed that BBC1 don’t do nostalgia. Obviously they make new nostalgia such as Call the Midwife or Cash in the Attic, but they don’t want musty old nostalgia.

A pity, as so much of Dennis Potter’s work demonstrates the dramatic and artistic possibilities of television. Perhaps that’s why it should remain off air, for fear that it will embarrass us all by reminding us of what sort of thing was allowable in the mainstream a few decades ago. I suppose that means no Shakespeare, Austen, Brontes or Wodehouse either, all a bit too nostalgic that old writing.

I am off to Southend, Salford, a few London gigs and then a run of a new Edinburgh show I am currently panicking about. all that and Autumn tour dates are HERE

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the Wrong Cough in Hull Derailed Him, and he went to stare at himself in the dock water

Written between Nuneaton and Milton Keynes, here is one of my self indulgent blog posts on performing. Niche. 

The weight of expectation on any given night can propel you through the air or crush you into bone splinters of self-loathing.

When you start as a performer, the pre-show nausea can kick in days before the show, as experience is gained, the time of sickness and urge to flee to Inverness (as long as the gig is not in Inverness, and few are) decreases. For a very few, it vanishes all together, though this can be through boredom and disinterest, when it has just become “a job”. Some of the most respected comedians still find themselves not standing too far away from a bucket before leaving the wings of an Alhambra or Apollo.

On occasion, you can be quite nonchalant before starting to show off in earnest. I had a lovely night performing at the Winchester Discovery Centre, having spent most of the pre-show anticipation period talking about The Inspiral Carpets and other music of the Madchester scene of the early 90s with the manager and technician. Similarly, the night after at Cheltenham Science Festival was occupied by technician conversations before yelping and howling about self-consciousness in a packed Parabola. That night, my internal monologue was in full Waldorf and Statler while I performed, casting doubt wherever it could, but eventually I boxed them and disposed of them and left with a reasonable sense of success.

Sunday, something had changed. I am the sort of person who finds doubt in an audience’s eyes when there is none. The chutzpah me and the paranoid I duel on many nights, hopefully unseen by the audience. I was performing shows with Michael Legge on Sunday and Monday, and on both nights I felt disjointed, both standing their shouting and also observing me from the outside, the connections of improvised thoughts seemed out of focus. It is those moments where you wonder if their is a homunculus/ghost in the machine stuck deep in your brain, and they are not concentrating. They are forgetting to create the illusion of you being in the outside world.

Hull, back on my own, with a winning interlude of songs from Grace Petrie, I had to fight very hard to stay in the spotlight, the doubt was beginning to seep out. This is my favourite tour, and I think many of the nights of performing it have been some of the best tour shows I have done, should I fail to replicate the very best ones, things can crumble. I don’t want to disappoint you. I don’t want to disappoint me. Whenever I get asked advice for “anyone who is thinking of being a comedian”, I usually reply, “are you diseased enough?”. If you just want to do it “a bit” , you may not have the kamikaze zeal to go on and on and on. It can be self-harming, with a lower risk of septicaemia. 

I have seen some interesting books of comedians’ photographs, both Andy Hollingworth’s exhibition catalogue and Steve Best’s Comedy Snapshot, the next project I would like to see are a collection of photographs of comedians a few seconds before taking to the stage and then the faces as their lip approaches the microphone and their faces are in the spotlight. From “what happens now, breath in, look down, fight or flight, walk on”, to “Hey, I am showbiz!”.

In the past, when my skin has puckered with doubt in the footlights, I have decided to take the issue head on. “Is this not what you thought it was going to be? Is everyone okay? Things seem a little awry”. I thought this might be useful, but have found that my paranoid mind has led to a misstep. I remember asking an audience at Finchley Arts Depot that. Afterwards, people came up to me with confused faces. They had no idea that anything was wrong, and then felt out of sorts that maybe they had not been performing as they should. Similarly, I would occasionally tweet that a gig had gone skewiff and then receive tweets from those confused by my perception. I have been banging on about reality tunnels ever since I began this tour, and I remain intrigued by how performers can dull or amplify the sound of appreciation or the noise of hate. One sigh can knock a performer off course, a tickly cough can be interpreted as boredom, a cavalcade of bored coughs can be interpreted as merely an outbreak of auditorium tuberculosis.

Many years ago, I was watching a late night show with John Sessions as the Donmar Warehouse, and learnt the crushing power of a little sigh when a performer is verging towards doubt. It was late at night, and as John Sessions found a way to improvise towards his Laurence Olivier impression, a tiny sigh left me. I didn’t even mean to. It was very late at night. John Sessions immediately reacted, not at me, but to everyone, “quite right, crowbarring in Olivier, errr, let’s go somewhere else, um, let’s have the interval here”. I was horrified at what I had done.

Whenever I am asked what I would do if i didn’t do what I do now, I draw a blank. Whatever mental highs or lows, there is no other career I can imagine, how fortune that nature and nurture made me diseased.

Come see me, oozing chutzpah and shunning self-doubt in Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Swansea, Newport and many other places. Details HERE

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