Coming Soon to a Cinema Near You… Your Saviour Jesus Christ

(I am not sure what I think about this story, so you can help. The post stops suddenly as I am now backstage at Blooming Buzzing Confusion and I have to go onstage)

If it is good enough to be the least fondly remembered thing to come out of David Bowie’s mouth (on bended knee under the eyes of an arena), I see no reason that it shouldn’t be the lowest point in your visit to the multiplex. The Lord’s Prayer has hit the news again as it so frequently doesn’t. Apparently, some Anglicans were hoping to tug your ears as you discussed the exorbitant price of popcorn again. Usually, it is the film houses that hope for umbrage from some cleric or deacon to boost ticket sales for some vaguely sexy Jesus flick. Now, it is the film houses that have feared causing offence with an advert for the church of England. It was hoped it would appear before the new Star Wars film. I presume the intention was to woo a few Jedis back to the church before the next census. The advert in which people like you recite bits of The Lord’s Prayer, revealing that it is quite normal to kneel at an altar on occasional sundays, even if you are a courier or fireman.

(my Twitter Methodist chum has described it as  “this non story feeding the fearful and frightful”)
The three main cinema chains that have a tight grasp on what films you are allowed to witness (in much the same way that WH Smith controls the market for magazines that are fit to print) have worried that it will offend or upset even more than the gum you have sat on or the other 37 minute of ghastly adverts

(it may have something to do with this though –

This plays in the delighted, fidgety and furious purple fingers of those who wish to bang on about the religious being persecuted to the point of having to allow gays to eat their Cornflakes on the same doilies of their bed and breakfast as the good people.

(here is one of my favourite Methodist preachers stating it all a little more clearly –

Is the cinema meant to be the safe space for the godless or satanic or non-Abrahamic in general?

Some have argued that it sets a precedent, but I thought the precedent was set more by money than belief. As long as your advert slinks through the advertising standards wire and you have the cash, can’t most tat and ugliness be emblazoned on screen.

If the advert says, “don’t forget to remove the eyes of infidels as you’re leaving the foyer” or “please remind those that have not opened their hearts to Jesus that they’ll got to hell for eternity”, then I imagine there may be some issues with the standards authorities.

If we can advertise booze that may lead to brutality, or products that may be made unethically, or companies that are covering up dubious health dangers, why not let a myth tribe have their go at wooing the Wookie fanciers?

I didn’t mind the There’s Probably No God bus adverts, so can I get cross at Justin Welby doing a swimwear advert (hang on, that’s not what’s going on is it? I must be thinking of Cliff).

Some have said it sets a precedent, the more money you’ve got, the more you can advertise your religion, but that’s true of who controls the high street, who sells you your Christmas fripperies, who provides your coffee.

Can we tap into the unfair religion adverts and create a pipeline into the end of capitalism?
Or is just the deity addicts who are not allowed to sell their products which may not stand up to scrutiny and may break as the guarantee just passes its final month.

Warning: the afterlife may not be available if you do not keep up payments of reverence and prayer.

The Anglican Church is the trading name of the Acme Corporation.

The Shambles Podcast is back, now Book Shambles, with Josie Long, me, and lovely guests including Stewart Lee and Sara Pascoe.

Brian Cox and I are putting on our Christmas shows again, with lots of mystery guests (and profits to charity) some tickets left for the first night


(also told that “ASA guidelines ‘Ads must not exploit the audience’s fears or superstitions” they “must not condone discriminatory behaviour ‘ – I am not sure whether that would include Lord’s Prayer)

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Rare Beings on a Rare Planet

(this is a sort of post. My teacher friend Charlie asked me to make a speech at his school’s GCSE graduation do. I wrote some sentences and some notes. I then went off on a tangent. Some of the speech contained some of these things)

I am not an original thinker.

Everything I say to you has been learned from reading books, watching stuff and meeting people who were sometimes remarkable and sometimes awful.

(I then showed my brain scan)

This is my brain. It is like yours, though I apparently have quite a big occipital lobe and maybe you do too. Having a brain scan is useful. It helps arguments on social media.
When someone challenged me and angrily asked, “do you even have brain?”
I was able to reply, “yes, would you like me to send you a jpeg of it”.

This is where I do all my thinking.

I am fortunate. I live a life which I find exciting and I meet people I find enthralling.
I was not the most popular boy at school. I went to school with Charlie, surprisingly, we were not always the alpha males you see before you (Charlie is as alpha as me. Specs, lolloping walk, that sort of thing)
Outsider kids, that was us.
But fortunately, resilient enough to raise our head out of the toilet bowl without having swallowed too much water.
Marginalised but we survived in some ways intact.
Others realised they must change themselves to run with the mob, and not for the better. They shaved off the interesting edges of their personality so they could crush others, or at least stand in the background laughing as the odd ones were marked out and dragged around.
I am relieved that both of us did, because the bruises and the embarrassments of our teenage years has allowed us to enjoy our adult lives.
In a larger environment, fools such as us can gravitate to the other oddities who made up the bow-legged, last at games, head in a book when not in a toilet, 10% in the corner.
It helps handle the fear of attempting the unusual.
To do silly things
And exhilarating things
And not always worry what everyone else thinks to the point of doing nothing, too fearful of shame to take risks.
(though I am still far from fearless, you won’t catch me bungee jumping, which is one of the many reasons I won’t do it)

When I was 16, I wanted to be a writer and a comedian. It petrified me. I was terrible at my first gig. I got better, then worse, then better. Sometimes, when I think I can’t be rubbish again because I must have learnt enough by now, I am rubbish again.

My first big gig, at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, I felt sick for a week. One day, I walked up a hill and looked down on the whole of Edinburgh and thought, “most of the people getting on with their lives will have no idea about what happens to me tonight, my success or my failure”. That helped.

One of my favourite writers is Samuel Beckett. One of his most celebrated quotations is “Fail. Fail again. Fail better”.

The foolish ideas that I pursued have sometimes led me nowhere or worse, into a critical mauling, but they are also the reason that in the last month I’ve been to Canada to gig with an astronaut, been in the Lovell telescope with Brian Cox, drunk tequila with some of the most famous rock musicians in the world, and eaten pizza with my favourite comic book writer of all time. Don’t start making anything by thinking, “I wonder what they would like me to make”.
Think – “I want to make this. I will put everything I can into it. Hopefully, people will like it too”
Many of the most successful artists I have seen, I have seen create something that failed.

What is success?

I don’t think it being a millionaire. I think it is doing what you want to do and not feeling cold and hungry. Am I successful?
I don’t have to look at prices in the supermarket anymore and I can turn down work I don’t like the sound of.

Also, more often than not, I like the audience I play too. I hear of comics with success I could only nightmare of, and they look out at their thousands a night, and they are relieved to be driven away from them at high speed.

Poor Kurt Cobain got an audience he never wanted. He looked out at people moshing in the crowd and knew they were the sort of people who punched him in the head at school.

I remember doing a gig with Stewart Lee. It didn’t go very well. Afterwards he said, “but would you want to hang out with any of those people? Were they the kind of people you’d want to be friends with.” I didn’t think they were.
You don’t have to like your audience, but I think it can help.

Let’s start. (don’t worry, I have cut most of it from here. I must have said a lot of words last night)

Something I’d like to get out of the way first of all is that you are rare. We rare. This is a rare planet in a very big universe.

There is life here. Looking at our solar system, we have not found compelling evidence that there is or has been life elsewhere. Our solar system is one of billions in our galaxy, the Milky Way. The Milky Way is one of billions of galaxies. These are big numbers and long distances. There may well be many civilisations spread across our galaxy, and billions more beyond, but we have not found a way of contacting them yet. For the time being, this planet is the only illustration of life in our universe. It is impressive in its variety. Do not be nonchalant about the variety of flowers, weeds, birds, big cats, small cats, mice and jellyfish.

Life in the universe seems to be rare, and life such as you and I is rare on this planet. You are currently the rarest of things, life that can ask questions and is aware of itself. We can build telescopes and submarines, explore the depths and investigate the sky. We can ask each other questions, we can express love for each other through thought, word and gesture. We are complicated and problems arise from that.

Our communication is complex, so it easy to get confused or be deliberately misled.

Work out why you believe what you believe. If it is based on one person or a few people’s opinion, wonder why you trust them above others.

don’t be scared of asking questions – I have met great minds, become bamboozled, and wondered, do I risk asking a question?
Will they look at me with pain and pity as they see how little I know.

But they know how long it takes to understand general relativity or quantum chromodynamics or Finnegan’s Wake, and they know you haven’t spent four years or five decades studying it
and they are not embarrassed that you know less about their life’s work than you do.
and they are glad you are interested.
… anyone who answers “what a stupid question!” may not be worth taking to in the first place.

challenge yourself musically, cinematically, with what you read… the initially impenetrable can be the most rewarding.

(I have cut the rest of my notes from here, I talked about much more, and then when they began to cough a little, I sat down again, somewhere around this line)

and from one of my favourite songs by my favourite band, remember that it takes guts to be gentle and kind.

The Shambles podcast with Josie Long is back. The first two, with Stewart Lee and Sara Pascoe, can be found HERE

My angry happy stupid music podcast with Michael Legge is HERE . We are doing live shows on 20th and 21st December too with lots of musical guests

and there are still a few tickets left for the first night of the shows I am doing with Brian Cox and a horde of scientific, musical and comedic guests at Hammersmith HERE

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The Bully as Victim, The Real Sceptic as Dogmatist – pointless conversations on Climate

(see if you can spot where I started drinking as I wrote this. Clumsy as usual)

How can you argue with someone who thinks all evidence is a lie or a scam or a conspiracy. You can’t, as you will see…

Like a few of us, I sometimes hold opinions on subjects without holding a phd in them. I have attempted to follow Neil Postman’s advice and cut down my opinions by a third, though I think I should be bolder in my opinion diet and aim for 90% reduction. This is the reason I don’t do political panel shows. I am aware of some of my limitations.
I recently attempted a social media conversation with someone who is less shy and more sure than I when it comes to regular seats in the soft furnishings of a TV studio.
It did not go well. In the past, I have found that some journalists find the slightest questioning approach to be an affront to them tantamount to cyberbullying (I cannot say my skin has not been nano thin at times too). They may use their newspaper platform to deal it out with vigor, but see the amateur as lacking the licence allowing them to publicly oppose.

It was about climate change, so you may have an inkling as to how quickly the descent began.

He is a journalist I am not always in disagreement with. Sometimes I quite like him and many talk of his charm. I noticed a tweet about renewable energy and climate change. I did not, as he accused me, seek it out as I am some climate change doubter heresy hunter. It must have popped up on my timeline as I follow both him and whoever else was in this discussion. I was informed that the internet is awash with barbarous, unmannerly heresy hunters, the Matthew Hopkins of the science community, mercilessly hurling the deniers into ponds and burning twigs at their feet. How anyone has the time, I have no idea. From my experience, I have found quite the opposite, but I would say that, we all notice our bullies and are blind to our bullying. I asked a Met Office worker about the post they received. They said they were hassled from both sides. The “deniers” complain of hysteria, the “warmists” complain at the lack of alarm. The worker did say that the sceptic groups were a little more dipped in vitriol.

I am not an expert on climate change. My position comes from reading a few books (The Weather Makers, The Hot Topic, The Rational Optimist, The Rough Guide to Climate Change etc), meeting a few scientists and Arctic investigators, and sometimes risking an occasional column from one side or the other.

If I am honest, my position, that human output from industrialisation is creating dangerously fast changes to our planet’s climate with carbon dioxide as the prime mover in this, comes from conversations with scientists and my trust in their opinion. Rather than spending many years training to be a climate scientist, I have realised the best I can hope for is by educating myself at least to the point of being able to ask better questions.

The conversation with the journalist and some of his internet companions was an education.

I was naive. I had not known that he had probably written about the lie of climate science before. I tweeted a link that I had quite genuinely found useful when trying to get to grips with climate change.

NASA graphs

I was abruptly met with a graphs prove nothing reply.

I was not trying to prove all of contemporary climate science with some graphs, it was merely that I found these graphs useful as it showed that science has not just said, “we believe CO2 is important in this and we have therefore not thought about any other possibilities”

His main issue at this point was that the climate science position on CO2 was not falsifiable. An interesting question. Here is a blog post that seeks to answer that.

(I sent this to the journalist but he says he has not interest in the ‘warmon’ doctrine. he sees climate science as a dogma yet refuses to read it as he has made his mind up based on, well, you’ll find out)

Remaining naive, I sent this link which is handy in understanding the current comprehension in what is presumed to be going on.

This was deemed patronising, and I was told that he obviously knew it all. I then asked where he had begun on investigating this and what he had found most useful. Answer came there none.

In between, I was told by people that CO2 is good for life on a planet. Indeed it is.
Oxygen is vital too, but 100% is damaging. There are many things that are good for you, but that doesn’t mean that neverending gorging on them won’t have negative effects. (there is talk of plants being healthier and growing seasons longer with increased CO2, though this may also have knock on effects with depletion of water levels and drying of streams)

Some then chipped in with “but there’s always been climate change”.
Again, yes, it seems so, but this is about the speed of change (also, some of the major moments of climate change did not occur when there was a large civilisation of sentient beings. Just because something has happened more than once does not mean I welcome being drowned or burnt or starved). Death is natural, that does not mean that all deaths must be brushed aside as “well, this has always been the way of things”. If your partner is suddenly murdered by a chainsaw wielder would your nonchalance in the naturalness of things dying remain, or would there be a touch of umbrage.

I asked again what the journalists favoured texts in climate change were, and still no answer came.

Another arrived and wrote of the nonsense of climate science. I asked why he believed this.

“some of the brightest minds alive. For every exception you have, I have an email from The University of East Anglia”

I asked who the brightest minds he referred to were and received that odd reply that seems to be used in social media arguments. “why should I tell you, why don’t you find out for yourself”.

A most peculiar way of winning an argument – “oh yeah, you’d like me to tell you how I can prove I’m right wouldn’t you eh? Well, I am not going to. You must prove I’m right”.

Later on, in turned out his great minds were the authors of Superfreakonomics and his argument was based on their one chapter on climate change. I do not deny they are pretty interesting, but why did he say, “great minds” when it would have been quicker to answer, “one chapter of Superfreakonomics”. I asked which emails from East Anglia Climate Change Unit he was referring to. He asked me if I had read them. I replied, “not all, but I did read the ones most referred to in the popular press”. He then wrote that it was up to me to work out which ones somehow destroyed climate science. I explained that I didn’t think any did and he again informed me that it really was my job to prove him right. Later, he used some Latin. This is the faux intellectuals victory cry of defeat. “Haha, bet you don’t know Latin, thus I am right”.

Meanwhile the respected panel show journalist eventually revealed that the reason he knew climate science was bunkum –

“Most persuasive factor has always been the furious heresy-hunting intolerance of the Warmons…..always a sure sign of an argument in difficulty.”

He refuses to read anything about climate change science, but sees that as no hindrance to being enough of an authority to write about it.

This is the strange argument of, “well, the experts are in agreement, so that is fishy.”

I asked for examples of heresy hunting and it turns out, the answer was “you”.

And now I was in an episode of The Prisoner. It was my fault all along.

I found the whole discussion utterly pathetic. I was never rude. I never made a declaration. I just offered some information for him to mull over. Apparently, offering other points of informed opinion is now bullying and cheating and awfully unfair.

I do not consider asking, “why do you believe what you believe?” to someone who is paid to write opinions based on what they believe a gross affront. Seems I am wrong.

This has gone on too long already, so I will cut the rest, and there was much more said that said nothing.

Brian Cox and a huge number of guest musicians, comedians and scientists will be putting on our Christmas Extravaganzas (filled with the usual scientific propaganda), Tickets HERE

I am in Folkestone doing my final solo show of 2015 HERE

And Book Shambles podcast is back. Number one is with Stewart Lee, and Sara Pascoe is up this week. Find it HERE

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Doctor Who – a lifebelt to the odd child

(written on train from Doctor Who Festival, apologies for any errors)

Doctor Who still fulfills its most vital role, it gives succour to those that have been deemed weird.

The schoolyard oddball finds security in Saturday night eccentricity.

I have spent Sunday in a voluminous conference hall, surrounded by amateur Silurians, Colin Baker frock coats, tinfoil K-9 headed humans, and heated conversations about social media contretemps concerning the possible holes in scientific logic in episode three, series 4 (or similar). Fez sales in the UK have clearly skyrocketed of late.

I wasn’t there for myself, I was merely accompanying my seven year old, a celebration of his first full year of Who watching. There was an embargo until he was sixish. Peter Capaldi is his Tom Baker (whenever he sees a doll or poster or woollen that reflects Tom Baker, he’ll say, “look dad, it’s your doctor”.). Easy accessibility due to Netflix also means that Matt Smith is his Doctor too. I delight in Smith’s boffinish performance, a hairsbreadth from appearing to be the real doctor, Ben Goldacre.

I learned a delightful word this weekend, anticippointment. This was coined to cover the reaction of the die hard Whovians. Those who eagerly wait for each new story so they can delight in its disappointments and spend the rest of Sunday night destroying the thing they loved once again.

I watch Doctor Who when my son does, so that is quite a lot nowadays. It is certainly the most I have seen it since 1981. I have no critical claws. He loves it. I like him loving it. We often have conversations about what it all meant afterwards. This series has had at least three good, proper wide-eyed, jump moments. There isn’t much room to hide behind the sofa, so we just have a cushion to be placed over one non-peeking eye if necessary.

I was reminded of what Doctor Who meant to me as I wondered around the halls and stared out an eyeless rubber Davros. I met a few monsters, some only half dressed to grotesque, and they seemed delighted and delightful as the latex swamped their limbs.
Michelle Gomez cameoed on the production village stage, sneaking through the curtains and invisible for a second or so before the sense of the audience suddenly awoke and thought, “blimey, it’s Missy”. There was an energy at each stall and exhibit, and it didn’t just seem to be the energy of commerce. There was no trampling for photo opportunities around the LEGO, people waited patiently without the aid of a rope or queue or guide. There was respect for each other, for each person knew, they were gathered by a common love of Doctor Who.

Doctor Who is mainstream, yet it is still very special for the outside, child or adult.
Star Wars is for jocks, Doctor Who is for those with ink on their fingers and nebulae on their mind.

When I was boxed and transported to a boarding school, I thought it would be fine as long as one or two other boys were fans of Tom Baker and liked comic book adaptations of Hammer horror films.

But there were none (later, I would find one, and we remain friends to this day).

The importance of the worlds and ideas Doctor Who continues to take people into remains. Doctor Who still knits a thick security blanket of imagined possibilities.
These include the possibilities of who you might one day be allowed to be and that the world you are in, where you may currently be the outsider or oddball, is not the only place.

At the Doctor Who festival, the writers panel of Steven Moffat, Toby Whithouse and Jamie Mathieson spoke of the necessity of saying out aloud ideas that may seem too preposterous or silly, even for Doctor Who. Many live a life where you try to put your oddest thoughts to the back of your mind, here is a place where you can release your oddest thoughts and even be celebrated for them.

This is why so many of my generation of peculiar boys and girls adored horror stories and films. We were brought up on creatures and situations beyond our reality, not just madmen bludgeoning. A writer and performer like Mark Gatiss, a very entertaining guest on the first monster panel of the day, offers a role model to many. Don’t just sulk or hide, be creative. Rejection by the mob at an early age can be turned into a career advantage.

The Doctor is not just literally other-worldly, he is one of the great eccentric characters, a gregarious loner. He is an encouragement to everyone who is left behind as the pack howl and run.

Just as in the seventies, I am still told of children who find Doctor Who gives them armour. If the kids who bully don’t understand Doctor Who, then are they worth being bothered about. Who would want to change themselves to fit in with those no marks?

Today, I remembered what I got from Doctor Who and why I would jump up and down with glee when the theme tune began. Why time never traveled faster than those 25 minutes. Why I wasted my pocket money on not one, but two copies of Doctor Who weekly every week. And how this magazine introduced me to Alan Moore and Steve Moore and all those fecund minds. Sure, I liked The Professionals too, but I never had a scrapbook of that. I didn’t covere my blank pieces of paper with car chases and African dictators. I never made useless sound effects tapes of tyres squealing in the way I made awful recordings that attempted to sound like eye sucking aliens.

Doctor Who, a lifebelt to the odd child for 52 years.

Thank you to Toby Hadoke, who introduced me to a plethora of fine monsters in the hotel bar on Saturday night and then helmed the actors’ panel with aplomb.

Josie Long and I return with our Shambles podcast, episode one with Stewart Lee is HERE

A few tickets left for next Christmas extravaganza with Prof Brian Cox and a host of guests from space and screen HERE

AND I am hosting a horror double bill at NN Cafe, Northmapton on 25th November (Horror Hospital and Scanners – free entry) and a London double bill of Lifeforce & Quatermass and the Pit at The Cinema Museum

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We’re The Warriors of Genghis Kan – my night of Classic Rock

Can I put into words how much fun the Classic Rock awards were?

Noddy Holder was there.

Lemmy was there.

It was hosted by a wrestler.

What! I have to say more?

Tonight, I was in a room with Brian May, Alice Cooper, Europe, Jimmy Page, and Chris Jericho. Last night, I was beneath the Cutty Sark sat with AC Grayling, Liz Bonnin and the Danish ambassador, while shouting across the table at Royal Society president, Sir Paul Nurse. I am not sure how many of them were also at the Classic Rock Awards.
My life does not lack variety.

Walking into the Classic Rock awards, i was funneled into the red carpet entrance. Like a role playing novel, the way to the Roundhouse is 1. or 2.

  1. Do you go straight to the tequilas on the second floor, walking on concrete
  2. Do you walk by the paparazzi and the journalists on the carpet of red.

Unlike an Ian Livingstone book, you may not choose your own adventure. The camera people were very nice. They told me to look at each of their lenses as if my portrait was of some use. Once to the tunnel of interviewee doom, I had Jimmy Page in front of me and Brian May behind. Eventually, I turned to the orchestrator and suggested the journalists were having quite a lovely time, and they wouldn’t wake up on Thursday with regret.
“Damn, we never asked the one in specs what Brian Cox was like.”

Once inside, I milled. Under the tea clipper, I had known people. In the Roundhouse, I was a stranger in a strange land. I wore no black. I had no tattoos. I had never charted in Finland. I went to the bar for some Prosecco and adopted a stance that intended to suggest that I was comfortable alone. I was then found by Danny from Roadrunner Records who had been waiting for me at the end of the velvet shagpile of inquisition.
He and his fellow Roadrunners then became the delightful companions on the evening.

A table away from me sat Wilko Johnson, I wanted to approach him as I knew he was a keen amateur astronomer and would love to have his passion for the stars expressed on Monkey Cage. I risked an approach and he seemed delightful. We briefly talked of the rings of Saturn. His drummer was with him, and suggested he could be a point of contact. I looked at his card, by jingo, it was Dylan Howe, the creative mind behind one of my favourite albums of last year, Subterranean – New Designs on Bowie’s Berlin. Brian May was little more than a metre away. To hell with it, I introduced myself as Brian Cox’s parasitic twin and suggested he joined us for one of our Christmas Hammersmith shows in the future (rather than ask him to join us for one of the ones we would be doing in the past. Brian Cox tells me that is still a no go in direction of time travel due to the pesky laws of physics).

I can’t remember if I had eaten my vegetarian starter when Yoshiki of X Japan came on. He performed an easy listening piano version of Bohemian Rhapsody and his own tender piece in memory of band members who had died. Sadly, in such a rock environment, as he struck each melancholy note, all I could think was, “it’s called Lick My Love My Pump”.
Then, I think it was Blackberry Smoke who took to the stage before wrestler Chris Jericho endearingly hosted the awards.

And then they came. Lemmy came to present an award in celebration of Jimi Hendrix. I was appalled, not everyone gave him a standing ovation. It is bloody Lemmy. Looking around the Roadrunner table, you could see the adoration for Lemmy in their eyes. We stood, and so did Brian May, the barometer of rock etiquette for the night.

Phill Jupitus presented a clerihew, a haiku and a limerick in tribute to Noddy Holder, before giving him the showman award. Not everyone stood. It’s bloody Noddy Holder. We stood, and so did Brian May. We were in the right. He can still bellow delightfully.

Bruce Dickinson received an award for Iron Maiden’s last album (quite proggy you know) and spoke with cheek before reminding everyone that tonight’s 6.6% Iron Maiden 666 Trooper beer would happily wash your memories away.

Brian May, Joe Satriani, Foo Fighters, Alice Cooper and on, all won awards…and Europe too, for best comeback. And there was the final delight of the evening, a 4 song set from Europe. It was like seeing them as a wedding band, as people left their tables and wandered to the bar. But they played loudly and passionately and they had me smiling broadly enough to almost crack open the corners of my mouth. It was a sight to see. I rang my wife and held the phone up so she could hear The Final Countdown.

Then, The Urban Voodoo Machine picked up their brass and led the partygoers to the aftershow like the cortege of a New Orleans funeral. I had drunk enough tequila by then (donated by Cleo Rocos the programme tells me) and I was sober enough to know that any more booze would not enhance tomorrow’s journey to Durham to do interviews about general relativity.

Long Live Rock n Roll, and goodnight.

Footnote – Brian May played at the first gig I saw at Hammersmith Apollo, it was Bad News with the beloved comic strip.

Thank you Jo, Danny and Roadrunner table.

Shambles podcast is back – here are Josie Long and I talking to Stewart Lee

Who knows if Brian May will join Brian Cox and me at Hammersmith, tickets available for our Thursday show here

all of this will be spoken of on my regular music podcast co-starring Micheal Legge – VITRIOLA

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When Jedi Love Dies – Wishing I Could Love Star Wars

(written on train, beware lousy grammar and spelling and reasoning)

What would I give to be excited about the new Star Wars movie?

To lack giddiness for The Force Awakens is to declare yourself a citrus eyed cynic, a joyless grouch, a spent and twisted vessel who spits at rainbows.
Yet I loved the first film, at least I think I did. I remember the excitement over the collectable cards housed with dry gum. My sort of Uncle, a former military man, did not understand why I should be excited by getting hold of card number one (Luke Skywalker), and interrogated me as if he was annoyed by my delight (he was a military man). In a real adult world, card number one is no more remarkable than card 43 (probably the trash compactor), but this was not the real world, this was an eight year old’s world. Number one is special.

I know from the memories of what I did, and from the things blu tacked on my nd from the creased copies of Starburst magazine in that cupboard, that I was enthralled by this new age of boy’s own, laser gun, nobble-headed alien hijinks, but I can’t recapture that joy. I can for Hawk the Slayer or The Monster Club or Battle Beyond the Stars, I still get a little kick of delight watching the original Star Trek series, but something happened with Star Wars and I don’t know what has dispersed its nostalgia. I am pretty sure I enjoyed The Empire Strikes Back, and that at the time of Return of the Jedi I was not perturbed by the introduction of muppets.
Dougal and the Blue Cat delights, but the Star Wars franchise does not.
I could say it is the clunky scripts. I watched TESB or ESB with my son and I was surprised at how plankish the spats between Han and Leia were, close to John Wayne’s Genghis Khan flick (“why, you are beautiful in your wrath”), but this doesn’t stop me enjoying an occasional Blake’s Seven or Space 1999 (and that can be prime teak and dutch elm disease acting).
Too much merchandise, not enough plot?
Too much worry about the shape of the doll, not enough about the shape of the character?
Has the wash of CGI emulsion smeared over the originals subliminally dampened my spirit?
Is it the hype? So much hoopla, I, the obstreperous child, refuse to join in?
I don’t think my inner child is dead. Maybe the childish me has so many outlets he doesn’t need Star Wars too (but I would happily watch anything by Oliver Postgate again and again).

George Lucas was not some cold careerist who, after a parade of focus groups, decided that Tattooine was the cash cow. So I can’t blame THX coldness can I?
I watched Mad Max Fury Road with seat edge delight. I am not against reinvention of the fictions of my past.

I will go and see the new Star Wars. I have no choice, I have a seven year old who may manifest Freudian father ramifications if I don’t take him to the big screen. And watching his wide eyes as he fumbles for popcorn and accidentally eats his own hand may be infectious.

Why does some youthful glee and excitability grow into nostalgia and others die on the vine? I better see a cinetherapist, but I won’t lie on their couch if its Hitchcockian.

Baby, Baby, where did my love go? Probably scavenged by Jawas.

Space 1999 fan, Brian Cox, and I will be hosting another couple of Christmas science extravaganzas with a heap of mystery guest. Tickets still available for the Thursday night show HERE

Plus, two nights of music and comedy with Vitriola

Shambles podcast will return this week and I am doing a one off full length show in Folkestone

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I Lost My Context as I Was Digitised – stand up and accidental taboos

“What is taboo? What subjects do you shy away from on the stage,” asked the man in The Sound of McAlmont and Butler T shirt ( a wise sartorial choice).

At the Chortle book festival, I was on a panel with Phill Jupitus, Sara Pascoe and chaired by Deborah-Frances White and Marsha We were nominally there to promote their book Off the Mic, a book of stand up comedians extemporising about stand up comedy. We like doing that sort of thing. We discussed why we were drawn to comedy. Sara had wanted to be taken seriously with performance art that would destroy the bourgeoise, but was laughed at, and so called it comedy. Phill was a hopeful artist who left some poems in his folder that were spied by Attila the Stockbroker, and so the indian ink congealed in the cupboard while he transformed into Porky the Poet and then Phill Jupitus, Star Wars enthusiast, ska aficionado, Glastonbury DJ, and Buzzcockswain.
My journey was straighter.
The boy looked to Rik and said, “yes please to such extravagant madness”.
There was no other way. I was always the shy boy who wanted to be centre stage and then hide in the downstairs cupboard for the rest of the day.
We talked of senile adrenal glands, the stygian stinkpit of the Comedy Awards, and the definition of success. I class it as gigging with astronauts and having access to the Lovell Telescope dish, so I am the King of Comedy in such a tightly defined world.

Then, the question was asked. The first and final question, so we attempted brevity while Chortle duke Steve Bennett waved his arms in the hope he could actually keep to the listed show times.

From my coffee punctured memory, I recall that we all agreed that no single subject was taboo, context, approach and intention were arbiters. This was in the live arena. Social media was entirely different. The possibility of being misunderstood, the desire of many to misunderstand for rage gain, meant much of faith, pop and politics just isn’t worth the bother. Without a guiding emoticon, many of the interpreters are lost at sea and determined to drag as many as possible into their sinking tub.

I am tremulous the moment the stand up is removed from the context of the audience in front of you. Even authentically filmed stand up, when removed from the dampness of the room and translated into a corner screen can dull intention and meaning. When being recorded, I have often found that after the event, I want edits of lines as their is an increase in the possibility of being misunderstood when removed from the immediacy of a performance which, however blatant or subtle, is being driven by the audience there and then. Even in a theatre, stand up can still seem like a private joke between you and the 500 people watching.
“you really had to be there”.
The DVD or TV recording becomes a retelling. The person in the bar re-enacting what he saw on that stage, now with his own perspective added. The concentration of the laptop viewer is not as thorough, the camera angle may change what seemed to be a frivolous aside into a sneer.
The comradeship of an audience also changes the jokes’ perception, four people gathered around a tin tub of biryani and a screen is not the same as 30 or 400 or 2000 people breathing the same smell of damp velvet, Red stripe fumes and gingivitis.
My set was recorded at last month’s Lolitics and I agreed that it could be on the podcast, but as it was predominantly improvised, I now wonder what sentences really deserve to go further than that night and that room. I performed and then discussed a joke about Help for Heroes. On the night, I think the joke’s intention was pretty clear. Will it be the same when listened to at 7:34am on a commuter train from Chertsey to London Waterloo?
The adrenaline of the performer and of the audience can change everything. The spontaneity is dulled and reconfigured by recording and replay.

While recording the new Shambles podcast, there were a variety of moments where Josie Long, me and the guests talked as we would in the hip jazz club cafe bookshops that we normally frequent in our fabulous lives. Afterwards, the texts began to rattle my phone. “could you cut when I said that?” “do you think people will misunderstand that?”
One story was lost as the teller realised that the idiots in it live nearby him and may well, should they stumble upon the podcast, recognise themselves and things could be chilly at the school gates. We also debated lengthily about a use of the word “whore”. I reckoned its context, from the mouth of a fictional, archaic sea captain viewing a poster from the 1920s publicising the perils of venereal disease, distanced it far enough from misogyny. Others were less sure. My no platform days may be upon me.

That Wittgenstein was right – “language, it’s a bloody menace. Now how do you spell tractatus?”

Keep live comedy live, that’s what I say, but also remember that I have a new DVD out soon too.

a few tickets left for the first night of this year’s Christmas show hosted by Brian Cox and me with a host of mystery guests from science, comedy and music. Tickets here

The Shambles podcast finally returns this week, details here

and we are doing two live Vitriola events with stand up and musical guests this Christmas

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