The Agony of Being Complimentary

when I am too tired to read on trains, I write. good for me, bad for you probably.

There is a fear in complimenting a friend or acquaintance about their work. I am not sure if it is considered Unenglish or Unhuman.

A few years ago, I decided that if I worked with someone whose creativity I admired, I’d bloody well tell them. It can be disconcerting. You are all in a studio together or green room and you turn to the person who, at least for a short while you are on equal footing to when it comes to access to a table of small pastries and metal coffee flagon, and you say, “that thing you made, I bloody love it”. Will such actions mean you go from fellow interviewee to fan placed in the wrong room? Or will you be deemed to be some squalid, unctuous fellow, greasily ingratiating yourself. Is it better to remain mute and share stilted pleasantries?

I was wondering that after the McAlmont and Butler gig. It was superb. They were fabulous. Everything was as delightful as you could wish a gig to be – a mesmerised crowd, a powerful noise, a band that looked so very happy to be playing together. I had been treated to a comp and sent a message to Mr McAlmont about its excellence and we spoke today. I had no wish to hold back on compliments. Also, I had inferred that there was something about his stage movements that had reminded me of Pee-Wee Herman, so was worried this may have been interpreted as an insult (it was not) and wished to dig no deeper.

On Friday, I was hosting a screening of Death Line and Dead of Night. Let me briefly deviate from the possible point of this post and say both were bloody brilliant on the big screen. Dead of Night was further enhanced by hearing the clacking of spools as the 35mm print ran through the projector. (side note to side note – how good are the projectionists at The Phoenix? Well, reel one of Dead of Night broke, and they managed to repair it as it was running without anyone noticing). Death Line, a very underrated horror flick, was a revelation on the big screen. An intriguing, hefty jazz soundtrack, one of the greatest, most moving near mute “monsters” on the big screen, shocks that still make you jump, and a gloomy, dripping, dirty, cannibal meat stinking tracking shot that is up there with A Touch of Evil’s opening scene for grandeur and ambition.

My co-host was Reece Shearsmith. The event was originally intended to launch the next Dead Funny horror anthology. Reece wrote the opening story of the first volume, a dark tale of blindness, revenge and dog shit. I like Reece’s work a great deal and think Inside No.9 was the best show in TV this year. Episode 2, The Twelve Days of Christine, had a denouement that was like being hit in the stomach by a towel full of oranges soaked in tears. Again, I didn’t hold back with my effusive praise.

And now, I sit and wonder, do I seem mad to these people (and others who I have been giddy with praise for), is there a danger in failing to hit my cynicism targets for this year?
Only today I complimented Julie Hesmondhalgh on her powerful performance in Black Roses, will this nightmare never end?

Oh well, I’ll risk this insane disposition for a while, and reconfigure myself as Eeyore at sometime near the small pastries if the delight becomes disabling.

Dead Funny, and the sequel when it’s ready, is here

Still tickets for first night of this year’s Christmas Compendium of Reason with Prof Cox, me and a host of secret guests. Tickets here

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