Written in 25 minutes on the train home, expect mistakes.
Why is brevity so hard to grasp? 45 years in to a life and still I overrun. It’s as if I have no confidence in anything and so I say everything.
The constant imp that crouches in crevices and mutters, “what do you think they think of you now?”
Early evening was spent recording an Infinite Monkey Cage with Prof Cox, Katy Brand, Kevin Fong (Dr) and Philip Ball. Brian and the producer often, and quite rightly, tease me for my preposterously long questions. Why use one word when you can use 57 which bear no resemblance to the meaning you require? It was a difficult record as we were dealing with war and the innovation that can sprout from the brutality. My job of levity (or ruining the mood and content, depending on your opinion) is made all the more precarious when dealing with a subject so laden with premature death and horror. The tiptoeing becomes voluble as you wonder when to throw in a joke about cannibalism when a historian talks of the 16th century treatment of burns using salt and onions. It was an intriguing topic with a rich and surprising history, stories of Marie Curie’s horse drawn X ray machine of the first world war and the rise of heart surgery after World War 2, mixed in with discussion on the possibility of amorality in atomic research during war. Astonishingly, we talked of Los Alamos without mentioning Richard Feynman.
We ran out of time before we could get to the question – “if a scientist makes a discovery that has a reasonable chance of leading to human catastrophe, should they refrain from revealing it?’ The Moral Maze can have that one on us.
I sweated my way to the Bloomsbury for a benefit for the British Humanist Association. Benefits can be a worry when you have been touring for a long time. You are so used to having two hours to set out your ludicrousness that it is hard to know where to start when restricted to 20 minutes. Stewart Lee began his introduction to me and I decided to furiously walk on stage and berate him and talk of how The Independent would celebrate him as a Ionesco or Beckett for saying things like, “I can see Robin Ince looking at a cup”, while I would have to gurn and leap and shout and propel my arms violently like a drowning pantomime dame for a sideline comment. “Then, a man came on who moved too much. He was damp and purple”.
Once such nonsense would have been defined as “banter”, but I am told that banter now means abuse and hostile demeaning, so it was just silly, faux fury nonsense. I have know Stewart since we talked of Hal Hartley’s Simple Men at the Cabbage Patch in Twickenham. These were days before I risked discovering free jazz. Lee did all the groundwork into the confusing noise genre.
By the time I officially came on, I had quite forgotten what I had thought of talking about while eating peanuts in the green room, and it took me almost as long as my set time to find the starting point I wanted. I lacked concentration. I craved stillness. I overran. I am not sure I said what I meant. The imp watched me, leering and arch. I leave dissatisfied, so sleep will be elusive. I will play my intentions in my head, cross cut with the actual event (though on each replay it will become more fictitious). Next year, I plan on returning to some comedy clubs (if they’ll have me), to attempt to remaster the brevity of an idea. Even when I began, youthful and dark-haired, I found things never fitted in to 20 minutes as neatly as I had presumed. It may remind me how to begin.
You can be spoilt when you on your own are the show. You have time, most of the audience have entered with some presumption of what you might be. The stand up circuit demands you must show your intention to entertain clearly and concisely while, at the same time, facing the challenge of doing what you wish to do. You must meet your demands and the their demands. Have long shows made me lazy? The oddest moments are when you hear your critical commentary while your mouth is moving and your body is miming. “Why are you saying this? You have chosen wrongly. Bail out you detestable jester and find the thing you meant to say or hope to say or the thoughts that may surprise you”.
The ruthless edit is not available after the live gig has ended. The “might have been” cut is pointless, just another hessian vest for the way home.
My slapdash 3 hour DVD is here
My slapdash incessant tour dates – Hull to Swansea, Newcastle to Newport and on here