I Blame Aslan – do humans really care more about lions than other people?

Soon the outraged were out raged by those who were outraged at the outraged for choosing the wrong outrage to be outraged about, and that then led to a new outrage that seemed even ragier, and everyone knew that those people were wrong, and all those other people knew they were right.

There was this lion and this dentist, maybe you’ve heard the story already.

Animal stories capture the heart.

Big game hunters beaming proudly next to something beautiful and dead that they have killed with guns and paid assistance stir a nausea in the belly of many.

After the highly publicised death of Cecil, injured by bow and arrow paid for by fillings, caps and whitening treatment, then eventually killed by guns some time later, social media and front pages were busy with condemnation and occasional jokes about Narnia and Wittgenstein.

The dentist was soon in a safe hole, though maybe we could lure him out with some meat on a string, I think that worked on his safari. This meant that within 24 hours, we hear that the real victim here is not the lion, but the dentist. Then, a few people overreact, and animal rights campaigners find themselves having to publicly declare that they are not calling for the assassination of Walter.

Perhaps he will never be seen again, but rumours soon emerge that Morrissey’s trophy room has the dentist’s head mounted above his mantelpiece, just by the wax effigy of Rita Tushingham.

While all this goes on, others feel a little put out that there is so much outpouring for some mammals, while when one of our own species is killed there seems to be less bother or if refugees are painted with the broad brush of innate criminals come to take your daughter, fewer tweeters seem to give a jot.

I am not sure that people are jot-less.

The Cecil story is a simple one, it has no layers, you are either for killing lions for fun or against it. It is safe outrage. It is unlikely that it will be revealed that the lion was wanted for war crimes in Rwanda or has been actively involved involved in making snuff movies or developing eugenicist experiments.

“I am against killing lions for fun, this story is clearly in my remit for being cross”.

Once stories are all about adult humans and the things that may or may not go on in their mind, things get messy. I think people are fearful of offering an opinion or being infuriated in case someone snaps at them, declaring that they clearly don’t know the whole story. The fear of embarrassment gets in the way.
Doubt fogs the judgement.
The cocksure march in and declare you are a liberal or a leftist or a nazi or a duplicitous soothsayer. Whether it is Israel and Palestine, immigration, human rights or someone who told a joke that backfired, there are so many people in spring heels ready to pounce for pleasure and profit, so many ready to tell you you are wrong without explaining why, that you remain perplexed, unenlightened and pointlessly admonished.

I think it is the simplicity of the lion story that has led to it being sprayed across so much of the internet, this does not mean that all humanity has more compassion for a cat than a human.

Well I hope it doesn’t.

Footnotes (of a sort)

All that typed, there still are some people who prefer other animals to human ones. Less apish mammals can have innocence projected onto them. Their lack of a comprehensible language means each lion or leopard or elephant can be a Rorschach test that you project yourself upon.

Also, our empathetic minds mean we can believe we know more of what goes on in other humans’ brains. We can project venality and criminality onto them. We are also in a time where we are lured to believe that people have “made their own bed”, if you are in a precarious or deathly situation, you have probably contributed to it in some way. That bomb that fell in your house, that dictator that murdered your family, that policeman that shot without warning, maybe you brought that on yourself somehow. It’s an unhealthily, sometimes poisonous chain of thought that can be imagined to be a healthy sort of scepticism.

Two more episodes of Monkey Cage on the way and extended versions HERE

I am in a state of semi retirement, though I am doing some Christmas shows with Josie Long & Bridget Christie and some with Brian Cox and secret science guests, as well as appearances in Edinburgh, Folkestone and Stowmarket. Details of all such things HERE

And new Dead Funny anthology too.

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The Time Has Come to Sit in the Stalls – Latitude and Impostor Syndrome made Flesh

According to this post, my first words at the late show at Latitude were “Fuck. Look at you. Fucking Hell”. I was surprised, that didn’t sound like my normal opening, even when doing the Pointless Anger shows with Michael Legge (he is in charge of swearing output, I handle the overly niche references). I was quite taken aback to read it (it was tweeted to me, I don’t go searching my name on the internet). It felt odd to have so little memory of being so brutish. Initially, I was in denial, desperately seeking some neuronal activity that would jog the memory into the front of my head.

“Work for me for you fucking calcium ions, ah fuck, there I go again. maybe I have a condition”.

Slowly, it has fallen into place. To the bemusement of the audience, I started the show with Michael Legge in the guise of an aggressive Daphne and Celeste act, singing ferocious, disemboweled version of “Ooh Stick You…” and “U.G.L.Y.”, then straight into compering with Josie Long, with my caterwauling Daphne guise still simmering. Overall, I think I am surprisingly unsweary by the standards of the current circuit, but now a corner of the web will know me as Robin “Fuck. Look at You. Fucking hell” Ince. I thought the Shy tory opening was tongue in cheek, clearly I delivered it with too much authenticity, such a pity the Royal Shakespeare Company never call.

Since I have “officially” stopped stand up, I have had a benefit and a few outings in various guises at Latitude and something feels a little awry. I don’t feel creative or engaged on stage. I should have drawn the line a little thicker and made the Stop sign bolder. Only have a few little gigs left, a trip to Edinburgh, some benefits, the John Peel Center (how could I say no) and a festival in Folkestone, but nothing more for this year and next. My impostor syndrome is energetic, because for now, I am one. The manic show off departed after the gig at The Bloomsbury, and he should sleep now.

As for the rest of Latitude, it was excellent. It has been some time since I have had the opportunity to wander the site so freely with the time to see so much. Despite the cliches that may be trotted out on some stages by me and others, it is a pretty remarkable feat. There is so much bloody art and so much bloody good art.

I was lucky enough to host an event with three of Yonderland – it is a superbly stupid creation – “this is not a good day to be made of jelly” (a slight misquote of dialogue from a blue jelly)

The Chris Goode Company’s Stand was a passionate piece of documentary theatre performed with superb authenticity by actors including Michael Fenton Stevens, Cathy Tyson and Spencer Brown.

Dolores Haze are a noise, punk to post punk jolt from a band who look like a drawing of Riot Grrrls by Edward Gorey.

The Districts were good independent-ish americana guitar music of a type that will see them on the main stage soon I would imagine (a good album too, but not a favourite of 2015).

Timber Timbre sounded at times like Link Wray performing PiL’s Order of Death and sometimes like the mighty Morphine interpreting My Charona, magnificent. A performance persuasive enough to make me purchase an album on Monday morning, and probably one on Tuesday afternoon.

Fight Like Apes – just the sort of aggressive hooks and powerful vocal delivery that a hastily and effectively assembled faux Dingle chapel by a lake in Suffolk needs.

King Creosote – first time I have seen them live, so sprightly you’d barely believe their collective age was 300 years, and double denim on a hot friday, brave.

Public Service Broadcasting – a band that create beautiful soundscapes around samples about space missions, did Brian Cox make this band in a particle collider especially for me (they are currently on UK tour, you should go)

Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells – surely you own these albums by now. Even better than the recordings. A Frankenstein monster of jazz and tales of misanthropic casual sex with hints of despair that does not wish to kills its creators on a frozen wasteland.

Drenge – I realise that all Sabbathy Nirvana-ish rock makes me smile beatifically, and a mosh pit too (I didn’t go near there, I am 46 and my glasses may have been crushed) – One sodden lad left creased and mumbling, “I wasn’t expecting that”. (also nice to see such a noisy band having a cup of tea between songs)

Savages – perhaps the live performance of the festival, terrifyingly mesmeric, and one looks a little like a Victorian ghost nanny or a young Mrs Danvers (in a good way).

Ibeyi – somehow missed all the hoo-ha about them earlier this year – hoo-ha deserved

Portishead – more than I hoped for, all the adjectives you imagine you need for something so beautiful and enigmatic, think them now.

So now I know that I am a spectator, the place for me is watching the event, not trying to create one.

I take one trip to Edinburgh for this. A new Monkey Cage series is currently being aired with Brian Cox and me, and a series of podcasts with Alan Moore, Grace Petrie and me arrives soon. For the time being, there is our grumpy and stupid music podcast Vitriola (also on iTunes).

Also, if going to Edinburgh Fringe, may I recommend Michael Legge, Joanna Neary and Gavin Webster.

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Stand Up Sabbatical – “And Now I Must Mumble to Myself and Gesticulate Wildly Alone”

Will I have to resort to drilling holes in my skull now that my stand up days are over (for now). Live comedy is a non-invasive form of trepanning.
It is a chance to release the angry spirits within you with a lower risk of septicemia, unless your angry spirits stir the audience to throw broken bottles at your head.
I wrote a post a while a go about why I was stopping stand up, I have not returned to it as most of it is probably gobbledegook and the sort of blether that surfaces when you are touring alone ten thousand miles from home.

Last night was the “official” final show, though as I underlined, it is a final show for now. Over the next six months, my diary has as many gigs in it as I usually have down for a week. I have not gone off stand up, quite the opposite. It is because I value it a great deal that I don’t want to let myself down by becoming tired, nonchalant or blasé about it. I mentioned Rik Mayall at the end of my gig, after all, it was witnessing his magical brutality and wide-eyed stupidity that led to me attempting to show off for a living. Every time you saw him, it looked like total bloody commitment, no half measures, no dead eyed, counting the money in his head demeanor on his face. The older I have become, the more I appreciate the necessity of total commitment. My penultimate gig was shoddy. My brain was dozy and I do not function well on autopilot. I left the stage feeling I had cheated both myself and the audience. These occasions have grown fewer over the years, but it never stops smarting when they happen. “what a bloody disgrace”.

I think my insomnia became an overbearing thug in my existence precisely because the fear of letting the audience down and therefore myself became more and more important. The cackling homunculus hiding behind a lobe would whisper until dawn, “there’s not half measures in your game, but how are you going to justify yourself on 90 minutes sleep. Oh how the people of Wolverhampton will rage at you”.

The final show at The Bloomsbury was very different to Bath. There was just the right level of anxiety to sharpen the mind. Perhaps it would have been best to have had a shoddy show, then I could look back on it and think, “well, it’s pretty obvious why you are ceasing stand up, look at that mess you spewed out and slid in on your final night”.
But I enjoyed showing off. I talked very fast. I barely even ran over, the whole night was done in two hours and forty minutes. And Grace Petrie was superb as usual, firing out justified political ire before driving the tears out of everyone’s eyes with a beautiful song about Charles and Emma Darwin.

I had more to say, but there came a point when I thought, “that is enough”, let them leave before the Stockholm syndrome kicks in and we all drink the Kool-aid. (poor Kool-aid, once the by-word for a refreshing drink, now a trademark shortcut to mean cult insanity).

Now I’m going to go hunting for ideas and landscapes to try and fill in a few of the vast, echoing caverns of my ignorance. Back in the Winter months, I wondered if I might find that this sabbatical would lead to a dawning realisation that I should have been doing something else all along, and thus my Bernard Black existence would fill the rest of my life, decaying and decalcifying in my seafront bookstore.

I may be wrong, but I think a stand up is what I am, and it is going to be a challenge to not have the chance to immediately release new ideas on a crowd or smattering. Hopefully, these ideas will gestate over the years or die before being mouthed, and whatever I come back with will be better than before.

Thank you to everyone who has supported all my tours and solo shows.
I still have a few things in my diary. I have a few charity gigs including this one in Brighton next week, and I’ll be popping up to Edinburgh Fringe for a single show.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to shout “Voltan!” and talk music with Michael Legge, discuss reality tunnels with Alan Moore (no idea when those particular podcasts will see the light of day. Recorded and waiting) and obviously I’ll continue to comb and provoke Professor Cox.

oh, and Josie Long and I will return to The Bloomsbury for a Christmas Shambles with Sara Pascoe, Bridget Christie, Hollie McNish, Rufus Hound and plenty more.

Bye, I am now off walk the streets to mumble to myself between 730pm and 1030pm every night.

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Not Tying Nooses Yet

This blog post is probably of little interest to those acts currently in limbo, hoping for a room at the Edinburgh Fringe after the Cowgatehead debacle.

I would like to explain why I have not pulled out of the Free Fringe benefit at the Bloomsbury theare and why this does not mean that I am ambivalent towards the currently frustrated, venue-less acts.

Firstly, let me make it clear that neither Stewart Lee nor I, or indeed any of the other acts, were asked to do a benefit “to help fund the smashing of people’s dreams”. Though anyone who knows us will be aware that most of the benefits we agree to are based on our desire to create a dystopian future that maximises people’s misery, this is not such a venture.

I agreed to the benefit, as I have all the other free fringe benefits, to support the acts and the idea of it. The money goes towards creating the PBH’s Free Fringe brochure so hopefully helps all the shows get an audience. The money does not go to Peter Buckley Hill’s beer and Ferrari fund.

I, and other acts, have been criticised for not pulling out of the show due to the current stalemate and confusion.

Why have I not pulled out?

Because as yet, I have not seen enough evidence of heinous skullduggery. This is a fucked up situation, but it still does not seem clear to me who is to blame.

The version of events I have seen so far, and this seems to be changing depending on whose facebook statuses you monitor, is that a venue was booked full of acts before the landlord was confirmed. When the landlord was confirmed, he did not want that particular booker and, again from the version of events I have been told, was angered when he heard it had all been booked without his permission. A further problem was that there were far more rooms needed than the landlord wished to create for the fringe. The story of how this hopeless scenario occurred is still a mess.

I have not seen a full account of why the initial booker believed it was definitely theirs to book. I have read some status updates, though they seem far from transparent.

I have also seen status updates that seem fueled by animosity towards Peter Buckley Hill that has built up long before this incident.

The most important part of this is to house those acts currently with fringe listings and without venues and work out the most effective way to publicise where they will be.

It would also seem to be useful to hear from the current landlord and those who were the potential landlords as this could make thing far clearer.

I know we are always meant to act like a government reacting to tabloid rumours of dangerous squirrels, act first and fuck the evidence, follow the flags of popular outcry, but I try to make decisions based on the clearest possible version of events.

Too many egos, not enough facts.

I am sure there is more to be revealed in the next hours and days and I will keep up to date with what information comes out and my actions and reasoning may change, but I’d rather not lynch now and regret later.

Addendum: Much is being made of the fact that the Free Fringe only informed the Fringe the day before the brochure deadline (8th april) . Some acts believe this was done maliciously to punish them for joining Freestival. Surely it would then have been better to say nothing. If the Fringe had taken this seriously, they could have contacted the acts. The brochure is not printed the day after the deadline, in fact, there is still  a week to change from the proof copy (at least from my experience), so all this nonsense could have been stopped in time.

This is a statement put up on Facebook from Frank Gailbraith, with intro by Paul B Edwards.

“Perhaps it would be a good idea to read this statement just released by Frank Galbraith (our man in Edinburgh and one of the only people who knows all about the Cowgatehead fiasco:

“Hi Guys,
Just to keep you all updated we have now completed discussions with the Cowgatehead licensee and the Fringe Office regarding the mis-reported claims that Freestival had rights to use the venue during Edinburgh Fringe 2015.
These continued claims by Freestival that PBH, the licensee and the owners are all to blame is only a shameful smokescreen to cover up their mishandlings and I can only assume avert possible civil action claims.
So that everyone is clear on these issues, having previously had discussions with the building owners and a potential licensee, we emailed the Fringe office on 7th April 2015 of a possible conflict of interest in using Cowgatehead this year and to be wary accepting advertisements from performers until the venue licensee and promoters were confirmed. We were then contacted by the newly confirmed licensee on Tuesday 19th May, and had Edinburgh meetings with him on Wed 20th and Thur 21st May, agreed and exchanged contract details on us promoting events at Cowgatehead & Cowshed, Bar-Bados (St Johns) and Tron Kirk.
We also had further Edinburgh meetings with the licensee on Tuesday 2nd and Wed 3rd June 2015, and also met with the Edinburgh Fringe Society management on the Wednesday afternoon when the licensee, Peter and I further confirmed the position with the fringe office.
It has been very disappointing to read some of the social media reports and comments, from several performers and a few bloggers/journalists, that Peter Buckley Hill and the Free Fringe organization team had irresponsibly taken use of the venue, left 150 performers without a stage to perform on and £1000’s out of pocket. It was also disturbing to read Freestivals claims that we refused to compromise on relinquishing or sharing the venue and that we further refused to attend pre-arranged mediation with the licensee, fringe office and Freestivals sponsors in London on Tuesday 2nd May 2015.
Whilst it’s understandable that the concerns of the performers have foundation, it is disappointing that some of them have taken to shamefully denouncing PBH in their social media posts based on grossly inaccurate information given to them by their promoter.
It is also extremely concerning to us and the licensee that Freestival are continuing their claims that a verbal agreement existed and that the FREESTIVAL LTD board have backed a petition demanding they be given the venue and are considering legal action against the licensee.
The recent claims by Freestival that they had hammered out a compromise agreement with the licensee and that we had declined the compromise deal was incorrect. Their further claims that a London compromise meeting, with the licensee and the fringe office being in attendance, was cancelled due to our non attendance was also fabricated.
Not only was the reported meeting never agreed or programmed by the licensee, the fringe office management had no confirmed details of it either, other that what was told to them by Freestival.
On the alleged London meeting date the licensee was at pre planned meetings in Edinburgh with members of the PBHFF team.
So that we are all clear on this point the licensee has confirmed with us and the fringe office that NO COMPROMISE MEETING WAS EVER AGREED OR EVEN DISCUSSED WITH FREESTIVAL FOR THEM TO USE OR SHARE THE BUILDING. What was apparently discussed during Freestivals Edinburgh meeting on 25 May, was that the licensee would meet with Peter to discuss the affected acts, as apparently Freestival informed the licensee that Peter had refused to take any of the displaced acts.
As Peter has already reported, the genre AD’s are presently working extremely hard finalising offers with the affected Freestival acts and 51 of the 89 CGH acts that are listed in the EdFringe programme have already had their allocated slots with us confirmed.
However, despite our efforts to sort out this mess, it is still shocking to read recent posts by Freestival that an Eleventh hour compromise may still be possible if PBH can be convinced to give up the venue. This is simply not an option we could consider, as the licensee has already informed the Freestival organization that they were never promised use of the venue nor would they be offered usage in any of their venues due to the yet unreported conduct of Freestival during the venue bidding process.
In recent statements Freestival reported that discussions had been on going since 2014 with the prospective licensees and the building owners, whom they claimed are the same management company as their sponsors La Favorita. These statements were grossly inaccurate and served no purpose other than to mislead people.
The facts are that La Favorita and their owners have never had ownership of the building and as such no agreements or authority could have been given to Freestival. The actual owners of the building and both perspective licensees (The decision makers) confirmed to us that no agreement with Freestival was ever in place. They (The decision makers) have also pointed out that this can be backed up with Corroborating Evidence.
I am also personally angered to see the barrage of abuse towards PBH, the Free Fringe committee & organising team, the licensee and the building owners. Some of the posts include suggesting people should veto our venues AND that our London fundraiser performers should reconsider their association with PBHFF. This in my opinion has exceeded the acceptable lines of voicing their protestations.
Please be assured that we have all conducted ourselves in a professional manner throughout this and we do not deserve the criticism that has been thrown at us. We do however take on board that the emotional outbursts from the performing community is only on the back of information given to them by their promoter.
We are also extremely saddened to hear about several acts that expect substantial financial losses this year due to the unfulfilled promises and agreements they had with Freestival. We of course cannot guarantee putting all the affected acts back into the rooms promised to them by Freestival due to the fact that three of the rooms simply do not exist. Had Freestival been in discussions with the licensees, as they have claimed, they would have known that one of the floors they claimed to have as a staged area in will in fact be a music bar. Simply put there is only enough room for six stages. However, we are presently in discussions regards putting in place contingency plans to secure additional venues/stages to accommodate the remaining displaced acts that wish to apply to us and our own acts that have been waiting patiently.
It is our hope that the Freestival team will now move on and concentrate on their own show preparations and cease this senseless course of vindictive action towards the Free Fringe organisation.
I trust this explains some of the many questions asked of me recently and that we can now concentrate on our own final preparations in ensuring Edinburgh Fringe 2015 is our best to date.
Regards,

Frank”

I hope everyone can now move on, as he suggests. I don’t think this post merits discussion but it is worth reading. Thanks.”

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The Cowgatehead Fringe Chaos

I have been sticking my nose into the Cowgatehead debacle at this year’s Summer fringe and I am not sure all is as it is being portrayed.

http://www.chortle.co.uk/news/2015/06/01/22600/we_will_try_to_fix_this

It seems like PBH is being made the villain here, but reading through reports and events, it looks more to me like Freestival may have cocked up, perhaps unknowingly, and PBH is getting the blame. The problem is that it is ultimately the acts who end up being victims. The main points seem to be –

1. more rooms were offered than will exist at the venue for the fringe, eleven rooms when there will only be six, as much of the space is being used for music.

2. Peter did not approach the landlord, he approached Peter to book the venue. This seems to be where one of the issues may be, the lease had not actually been assigned to the venue at fringe programme deadline. As far as I can see, it is a very poor idea to book a venue based in the hope your chosen landlord gets control of it. Perhaps Freestival were talking to someone they believed was in charge of the venue when they were not.

3. Peter put a hold on booking any alternative acts for a week until those who believed they had a place under Freestival made it known they still wished to be at Cowgatehead. As there are not as many rooms as were offered, it seems there is no way of accommodating all. This is where the parlous state comes in. PBH’s Free Fringe is being blamed for leaving acts out in the cold when it is down to the fact there are just not going to be the rooms promised.

I thought it was important to get these important to put these points up again as it seems this situation is being turned into a heroes and villains situation unfairly.

The saddest thing is that this debacle is making all the free fringes and festivals look like the whole thing is a turf war and leaving acts with dashed hopes and debt. There may have been many people who have been misled in this situation, and I am not entirely sure why the Fringe office didn’t act when they were warned that the Cowgatehead venue lease was still on the table. Shouldn’t they have spoken to those booking it and warned them that it wasn’t safe practice to book out rooms in a venue when you don’t know who will have ultimate control of it?

The free fringes and festivals have helped revitalise much of the fringe and encourage more experimentation and given opportunities to new acts without the money to play major venues, it is great pity that it has descended into this.

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Losing My Religion – on why I am giving up stand up

Before reading this post, I should reiterate that I love stand up and reading back over this, it probably looks a bit melodramatic. In the act of writing about it all, everything seems much clearer now. So you could well dismiss this whole thing if you wish. All in all, I may just have spent too long on my own in hotel rooms and gone a little mad.

Also I should stress that some of these thoughts are infrequent and do not represent some constant fog of gloom. This is the biscuit box selection of regular and occasional doubts.

I have been a stand up comedian for over half my life, and now it is time to stop talking.
It was January 2014 when I started to think, this showing off has got to stop.
I have no idea what the effect of closing my professional bile and jumping about valve will be, perhaps I will be murdered by my wife not long afterwards.
Or maybe I’ll fall silent and like it.
It is not that I have gone off the idea of stand up, or that I have come up with some grand or minor project to usurp it. It is an experiment. What happens to me without it?

The reasons why I have decided to stop change regularly.
When I am in a good mood, or post a successful gig, I wonder why I am going to attempt this silence, but in the shadows near the back of my skull, I know I should.

Most friends reckon it will last about a month. I want to give it at least two years, and then review the situation.

My notebooks have scribbled sentences that explain to me why I am doing this. Some of them I agree with as I am typing them out, others I am not sure of in my current frame of mind.

1. The main reason is my son. He is seven and I am not around enough. I am in a position that I can take a sizable chunk of time off and play Doctor Who Top Trumps and go to dinosaur museums, so I should do just that. I try to ration tour dates. My agent is responsive when I say I only want to do three shows in a week, but then others ask for talks or appearances at peculiar and fascinating events and that’s 7 days of the week gone. Cutting down is not an option. Total abstinence is required.

2. My impostor syndrome is more vibrant now than it was in 1992. I still don’t think I am a proper comedian. I find myself on benefit bills and look around a green room of professional comedians, people who really know how to do it, and wonder how I have snuck in with my mind shambles.

3. Paranoia is rife. However well a gig is going, I have drawn faces of fury on the front row. If everyone seems to be laughing, I am imagining the lone man in the audience is furious with it all. Later, he explains to other members of the audience that it was actually awful, and they realise they have been conned. Towards the end of the gig, I look down at the person whose face I have scribbled on to make it furious, and it turns out they are jolly. I must stop graffiting the audience’s faces with felt tipped fury emotions.

4. I am stuck in my niche. I like the world I am in. I like the audience I get, but there still seem to be too many towns where I can’t get more than a few stalls seats sold. I can go from 600 people to 43 in 24 hours. The ego deflates like a spitty whoopee cushion..

5. All this science has brought on doubt. Why am I saying what I am saying? Do I know what I am talking about? Is there anything original being exhaled? This is much the same reason I stopped writing a regular blog – my “shut up shut up shut up” inner voice began to screech. Once I am off stand up, I will also depart social media for a while too, for more effective shutting up. So if I disappear for a while, I can do some reading and looking through microscopes & telescopes and working out what I might think.

6. Aren’t there enough middle class white males talking already?

7. Sometimes I look at stand up and see all the commercialisation, the demographic researching, the secret writers making up observations for the big name, the disco ball illuminations, and I remember the less funny, but more passionate stand up 15 year old me saw in some gum and burn hole carpeted pub room, and I go off it. I know there are many wonderful, curious, exciting acts really, but for a moment, that knowledge slips away as I see the same panel on every panel show. The seating position and the desk colour may change, but look, there’s Jimmy Carr.

8. I see the work of Daniel Kitson or Bridget Christie or John Kearns and face my limitations. Do I delude myself that I may be capable?

9. I think I was starting to go mad. I didn’t have some Hancockian black dog hovering above me, more a facetious little grey dog yapping. In Hull and Alnwick, I started to lose hold of the leash I keep my English emotions on (as poor Grace Petrie knows).

10. Insomnia decided to deposit itself in my gut and brains sometime ago. As I want each show to be better than the last, this hoped for perfectionism was stymied by that self-loathing homunculus who sneered at 3am – “how can you do the show justice when you won’t have slept for 49 hours. Hee hee hee”. I must buy some homunculus deterrent spray.

I was also hugely disappointed that the new nights I attempted last year, such as Your Culture is Ailing, Your Art Is Dead, failed to ignite enough passion to get a regular audience.

I have two months left. Let’s see if I can give up stand up for longer than I gave up whisky, or if the addiction is such that I’ll start busking jokes outside the Hayward Gallery by August. This whole thing may just be a nonsense, and in a matter of weeks I will be pugnacious, facetious and armed to play low turnout border towns all over again.

I have two more gigs in Australia, then a couple of months of UK gigs, from St Austell to Salford, Leeds to Bristol,  ending up at The Bloomsbury, London. I will occasionally be popping up at festivals, including a one off show at Edinburgh. All dates are here.

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Merely Burble – I Am Just Showing My Working Out, But I Am Not Sure What the Question Is

this is not really a blog post, just some sentences I am using to try and work something out. You may want to leave now. Merely Burble.

When I was young and hair my was lustrous, did I imagine that with age would come greater certainty. Was I more sure of the world at 15 or 45? I was never that sure of anything, apart from the diseases I thought I had and that those people over there in the cafe were laughing at me because of my shoes, hair, walk or face.

Everyone else seems so sure. Are they all discreetly hiding their imposter syndrome, or do they really know what they know?
Maybe this scepticism was a bad idea.

It is the cocksureness (I prefer cockcertainty, but that doesn’t seem to be a word as yet) that I keep knocking my head into that is swelling my uncertainty about nearly everything.

So many arguments where facts are stated and never backed up by evidence.
So many universal truths that can only be traced back to rumour or misheard pub talk.
(Culture Wars: The Media and The British Left is a very good compilation of how those 80s staples like “they have banned black bin liners for being racist” sprung from).

I have been accused of being arrogant and smug for asking people where their opinions came from. Last week, someone accused me of criticising and dismissing the work of an individual who I had never heard of (nor did I know of their work). When I asked the accuser why they believed that I believed what they thought I believed, they flew off the handle, they started swearing and taking great umbrage.

When I was told some alarming foreign aid statistics that seemed improbable, I was told that I was an idiot for not knowing about them, and if I couldn’t find these statistics, I should look harder. I searched and came up with nothing. I was then told that everyone knew they were true and the fact they didn’t exist anywhere and could be backed up by nothing did not change their veracity.

Today, I read of there is a launch of an Anti-Feminist party, as we all know, men are the real victims now and “Feminism is a hatred, and it should be a badge of shame”. Misogyny is apparently very rare and… oh, I have to stop typing now, I must force myself to believe this is all a grand parody that will have a delightful absurdist reveal. I have to presume this man really believes what he believes. His reality is granite solid, he is certain of his truth.

I was asked to write a reaction piece on the Hebdo murders and free speech, but I could find nothing but banal and obvious observations, so I declined. I could think of nothing that I might say that could contribute, not even in a pay per sentence scenario.

I am only typing this to try and diagnose my illness, to try and locate the the thought blockage and decide whether it should be flushed out or if a sharp burst of a bicycle pump up the nose will shift it, or whether it should stay write where it is – a needed wall that should have been built some time ago.

I feel I should have opinions all the time.
“I haven’t tweeted anything for ages, quickly, think of a view of the world that can fit into 140 characters. Now monitor the reaction – was it an opinion that stirred or has it shriveled up and died on contact with the web?”

“Damn, that person’s opinion on the thing I was opinionated on has been favourited more than mine.”

What purpose this slurry pipe of my perpetual opinions? Is it just to air my brain before it festers and rots in fluid of aging, septic thought. Is the internet predominantly a trepanning tool?

How deluded am I? When people have created such impervious bundles of barbed wire around what they must and will believe, what is the point of butting in?

I think it is time to read Neil Postman on Media ecology, which he described as looking into “the matter of how media of communication affect human perception, understanding, feeling, and value; and how our interaction with media facilitates or impedes our chances of survival” – but will trying to understand really help, or should I just read less and drink more?

If you are not in London, information on my forthcoming gigs in Didcot, Bedford, Swindon, Glasgow, Salford, Swindon and on, is HERE

And info of USA gigs HERE

And Australian tour HERE

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