Sunday, August 28, 2005

Napa no more

Well that's the first venue on the US tour done with and what an enjoyable two weeks it's been. The venue was terrific and we were made very welcome. It wasn't always the fullest of theatres but the audience reaction has been very rewarding and there's been some good press. More importantly the size of the houses was steadily increasing through the two weeks which is certainly better than the other way round. It seems from the conversations I had after the show that people were mostly coming because of friend's recommendation.

I was rather skeptical about doing a Sunday matinee because 2pm on Sunday doesn't feel like a particularly funny part of the day but today's audience were really up for it and it was a lot of fun.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of touring the show in the States is that it gives so many of the people involved in the story the chance to see the show live for the first time and, of course, we get the chance to catch up. Several of the Googlewhacks came to see the show in New York, more came in LA and I'm delighted to say that today I was visited by Unicyclist Periscopes... otherwise known as David and Danielle. It's always a little odd telling the story when one of the participants is there in person but in a nice way. Things seem to take on an extra resonance when the audience don't just have to take my word for it but can confirm for themselves that the person I'm showing them on the screen is sitting amongst them nodding away. It was great to see them again.

I now have a short break before the tour resumes in Cleveland on September 13th.

Monday, August 22, 2005


My day off was spent visiting wineries and, of course, tasting wine. The Nicholson Ranch, Peju and Francis Ford Coppola's winery Niebaum-Coppola were all fascinating and showed us great hospitality.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


I went for a wine class at the Goosecross Winery yesterday which was great. On Monday I'll be spending my day off visiting several wineries and I'm glad I did this first as I'll know a little more about what to look for.

The show has gone up a couple of gears. I was concerned about the ending losing some of its power but I think I've solved it by adding a few images at the end that seem to make the facts clearer and now everyone seems to get the information at the same time instead of in dribs and drabs. It's odd that if an audience find something funny but they each do so in their own moment it loses any punch. But if the whole audience come to the realisation at the same time it feels really funny. But how do they know that everyone else is getting it? How does this atmosphere make itself known? Hmmm.

The audiences have been smallish so far but the reaction has been great. There was a review in the local paper - The Napa Valley Register - which I've added to the reviews page which was nice enough although they largely told the reader what the show is about and neglected to say much about whether or not they liked it and why.

Perhaps the best review came, not from the paper's critic but from a local B&B owner, who wrote to the local paper. I won't add this to the review page because... well because while it was in the paper it wasn't a review... but if you removed the words "Dear editor" it would be a doozy:

I wish Jim Beazley was the Napa Valley Register theater critic and Sasha Paulsen ran a B&B.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


I had an early start yesterday morning in order to do an interview in San Fransisco on KFOG. Luckily it was fun to do.

The second show went better than the first, smoother and more consistently performed... although I am going to spend today looking at the ending. It's always been one of the most powerful parts of the show and twice here it seems to have lacked something although I can't quite put my finger on what.

Time makes me forget quite how physically demanding the show is. My throat is already raw so I'm having to do all the usual things to look after it. I have to cut out coffee (difficult), dairy (okay) and have almost no alcohol (in Napa!)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


I haven't performed the show for nearly 4 months now so while the story still feels like it happened to me yesterday, the intricacies of how I normally tell it have faded dangerously far from my memory. There's no script as such - I've never written anything down on paper for any of the shows - so it's a process of looking through the powerpoint presentation and listening to a recording that helps to lodge it back in my head.

With that in mind I'm delighted with the way the first night went in Napa. I was a beat or two off on things on a few occasions - I was probably having to concentrate too much on knowing it to be fully in the moment for performing it - but all in all it was a good solid start.

When I performed the show in New York it took a few shows to find its feet and for me to get the tone right. When it started to go really well there, there were people who'd say, "Of course it goes well here, we're New Yorkers, we're smart..."

When I then took the show to LA I had a few people say, "You won't find it as easy in LA. They won't concentrate as well and follow a story... they're not as much a theatre crowd as New York" which proved to be nonsense. If anything the LA audience were by and large more effusive than the average NYC crowd.

Before the show opened in Napa I had a few people offering words of advice along the lines of, "You'll have to remember that this is a small town. This isn't New York or LA... the crowds here are more conservative and you might find it harder to get them to go with you" and again it seems to me to be nonsense.

I only have the evidence of one show so far so I won't be complacent and I'm sure in a tour of this scale I'll have a few hard nights along the way, but the idea that people here just aren't as equipped as others to get something seems a bit patronising. It's also a dangerous idea to plant in a performer's mind.

If I take to the stage in Napa thinking that I have to dumb the show down, sanitise it or change it in anyway to account for some mythical small town sensibility then I won't end up giving the best performance. I'm convinced that these things can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


When the papers are full of stories of chaos and abandoned travellers and you turn up at the airport to find a tented village of passengers trying to outdo each other with their stoicism it saps the spirit a little bit. But it seems I'm one of the lucky ones. My flight was one of the estimated 40% that took off as normal yesterday and all was fine. In fact, not having to eat airline food on the trip can probably be regarded as something of a bonus. Napa is sunny. So am I.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Here we go.

My US tour starts on Tuesday in Napa, California and so I'm supposed to be flying to San Fransisco tomorrow. From Heathrow. On British Airways. The news is full of stories of cancelled flights and chaos at the airport so that should be a fun way to start the tour.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What's My Point?

I thoroughly enjoyed the retro-recordings on Tuesday night... I think a dinner suit rather suits me. The other panellists were Amanda Platell, Amy Lamé and the other-wordly Brian Sewell while proceedings were charmingly chaired by the charming Hugh Dennis.

As a panel we weren't exactly brilliant at playing the game - it really made you appreciate how good at it the likes of Gilbert Harding were as they'd get down to the nub of the issue in as few questions as possible compared with our flappy approach.

So now I'm concentrating on packing for the US tour. For someone who's travelled on the fly so much I'm terrible when I actually have some kind of plan to stick to. If I was going to Napa tomorrow and I didn't know how long I was going to be away or where I was going next I would be at the airport in the blink of an eye (or a cab ride) and on my cheerful way but because I know of my other destinations and that Seattle will be cold come December it forces me into thinking and it's always dangerous when I have to do that. And of course I have a job to do when I get there... how does the show go again?

Tuesday, August 9, 2005


I'm taking part in a recording for BBC4 this evening which celebrates some shows from the past by reviving What's My Line? and the lesser known The Name's The Same (the internet only seems to be aware of the US version of this show but the BBC did make it in the 50s.)

I really like these shows - they feel similar to Call My Bluff which I adore - and they come from the days when testosterone wasn't assumed to be a vital ingredient of panel games.

Saturday, August 6, 2005


Well I didn't win anything playing poker. I played in the charity tournament on the 3rd and only had two hands that were even remotely playable so my stack of chips was just gently eroded by the blinds. Still, I lasted longer than John McRirrick and was still playing when the three tables were broken down to two. The next day saw the start of the tournament proper.

Your seat is drawn at random so I was a little perturbed to find myself sitting at a table with 7 big name pros and a PE teacher called Rob. I got some good hands early on and was briefly the chip leader - is there another sport where a rank amateur can take on world champions and spend 20 minutes ahead? They were playing for 90 minute sessions with 10 minute breaks and at the end of the first session I had turned my $20,000 stake into $26,000 and was feeling pretty good about myself. But then I had been gifted some amazing cards having been dealt AA once and KK twice. There's something ridiculously satisfying about taking a pot from Gus Hanson or Scott Fischman.

In the second session I lost around $15,000 and then in the third, with my stack dwindling it was getting too easy to bully me out of a pot. In the end with a 10J suited I flopped top pair (10s) stayed in the hand and then was given two pairs when a Jack came down on the river card and decided that it was time to go all in. If I won the hand I'd be back with enough chips to compete properly and if I didn't I'd be out but I hadn't had many opportunities and if I folded I was pretty sure that I was just delaying the inevitable and committing myself to a slower and more painful demise. I lost. Heigh ho.

A lot of players had bought their way into the tournament and I'd been given a free-roll so I had nothing to lose and enjoyed myself hugely. If only it was possible to cash-out part way through a tournament. As with the charity tournament at least I lasted longer than McRirrick. J. which means nothing but as randomly assigned benchmarks go it's good enough for me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005


I'll be spending the next few days playing poker at the London Open 2005... I'm not sure how I came to be invited to play in this... there are far better players of far greater celebrity status than myself but I enjoy the game and it looks set to be a fun event. The other UK "celebrity" listed on their site is John McRirrick and I don't think our names have shared a list since some sideburns-wearer-of-the-year award failed to gather momentum some time last century. Hmmm.

Monday, August 1, 2005

A book I like...

I only discovered this book when John Fortune agreed to be a guest on Genius and I was finding out more about his background. He co-wrote it with John Wells over 3 weeks in 1971 and it's remarkable. At the recording I used it as an example of his genius and with good reason. It concerns a man who... well, who knows trees in the Biblical sense. Odd. Funny. A classic.

A Melon for Ecstasy


See all the books I've recommended so far here.

Go Eugene Go.

I was a guest on Big Brother's Little Brother this afternoon... largely arguing the case for Eugene. I'm surprised by how much I've been following Big Brother this series but somehow it's got to me and I really do hope that Eugene wins.