It is getting much harder to leave the house.
After so many years of touring, i find my attic room a cosy place to hide.
It has been a year since my supposed retreat from stand up, and despite what some of my scabrous friends have suggested, it has been quite successful.
I haven’t turned into Howard Hughes, there’s not a single bottle of my own urine on any shelf in the house (I wish I knew whose urine it was bottled all around the house), but I have severely cut down the number of showing off outings per month.
Not that long ago I was out between five and seven nights a week, now it’s nearer two. I would cut that back further, it’s only my difficulty in saying “no” that has stymied my hermit existence.
Despite what I imagined, I am not hungry to perform (though I am quite peckish for a book deal).
The events I have done have mainly been benefit shows or one off events for festivals. I rambled on about horror for Words by The Water and attempted a dissection of what it might take to be a stand up for Cheltenham Science Festival.
Tonight is my last proper stand up show of the year, though you’ll find me at the Nunhead Women’s Institute on Monday and cosmos rambling at Blue Dot the weekend after.
Then, I am chaperoning Brian Cox around the UK and Australia and quizzing him about the particle physics he keeps in his head.
The necessity to perform is not within me at the moment, but I still go on.
My timing was fortunate for misfortune. When I first stopped, I began writing a short story every day. I was trying to learn how to write like an Astounding Stories Pulp writer, train my mind to be a storyteller. Then, my mother got ill, then she died. Nothing to cancel, I had good timing for bad times.
In January, I had a hankering. I returned to Old Rope, one of my favourite clubs. This would be the first time I did a “my mum’s died” joke.
“My mum’s just died. This is predominantly bad news, but on the plus side, I can have my haircut anyway I want now”.
I went to Old Rope every Monday for a few months, but something wasn’t quite right about how my mind and mouth connected. The necessity was not there. I had no tour coming up. No big TV gig.
I could mull over my too many thoughts on my own for now, they did not need to be dripped into the ears of a lab rat audience. I am back with the secret notebooks in the loft again.
For this last foray into solo shows for now, I am doing one of my favourite touring things. I am sitting alone in a Manchester Coffee bar imagining I am in an Edward Hopper painting. I am in the first café where I experience internet paranoia. My skin is thicker and deader now when social media pugilists and irritants decide to try and cut me. Touring with Ricky Gervais a decade or so ago, getting unsolicited hate and venom was a spiteful novelty. Sat in this café in 2005, i wondered if those who had threatened me might be around every corner, hiding near the muffins or behind the metallic news vendor stand. It took a while to shake, maybe I was never quite the same afterwards. The ability to deliver hate to any door can feed the voices in your head.
I walked by a big poster for the Blue Dot festival, and there in might font, it said The Infinite Monkey Cage. Eight years ago, I sat in a front room in Levenshulme and frantically wrote and wrote and wrote, seeking out a title for this new 4 part science show I was doing with the man who would be “the sexy face of the standard model of electromagnetic, weak and strong nuclear interactions”, but wasn’t quite yet. Radio 4 had suggested Top Geek, so my mind splurged to find an alternative. In the end, it was The Infinite Monkey Cage that stuck, the other 317 possibilities are now forgotten.
a little of Why and Why Not by Mark Titchner
about ugliness and between the war stately homes in TLS1
Watched… Brian Blessed on The Wright Stuff
Bought in an Oxfam…
Death’s Dance Floor by Ian Breakwell
Music and the Mind by Anthony Storr
Three Little White Lies (Map to the Stars, Carol and The Rover)
radio column about Roald Dahl for next week’s Big Issue