Thursday, September 28, 2006
I'm having a ridiculously enjoyable time in New York - but without a great deal of free time which is why I've not really updated this page in a while. There have been an incredible run of guests on the show while I've been here. Bill Clinton was on during the first week and I thought I was witnessing some pretty highly intense security at the time but yesterday General Musharraf, the President of Pakistan was the guest and I've never seen anything like it. Snipers on roofs, big men in flak jackets wandering corridors and much, much more. It was the first time the show has had a sitting world-leader as a guest and it was pretty stunning. It was definitely a thing to see.
I recorded a piece for the show just as soon as the bullet-proof shield had been removed from in front of the desk and I think they'll be playing it in tonight and so it'll be in the Thursday show in the UK. (If I'm wrong, it'll probably be in the show tomorrow and Friday) It's the happiest I've been with my performance on the show so far (although I haven't watched it back yet so it's impossible to really know.)
Saturday, September 23, 2006
I'm having a fabulous time in NYC but then I always do. There hasn't been any down time so I haven't even had a chance to stop and consider what I'm doing which is good because I also haven't had a chance to stop and consider how tired/jet-lagged I am.
Life is creating the illusion for me that I'm some well-connected New York socialite but it is just a ridiculous series of coincidences. I keep finding myself socialising with London-based English friends who I normally fail to see in London. In fact it started in international airspace when I bumped into an old pal on the plane which helped the hours to pass.
In my car from the airport to the hotel I then received a text message from an English friend who was having some party that was quite coincidentally in the venue immediately next door to my hotel. Then yesterday an English photographer I've known for years and years got in touch to tell me he was in a hotel 5 or 6 blocks from mine.
There's no way of describing it without appearing all swanky and jetset but honestly it's all much more unlikely and odd than that. Of course I haven't come here to meet English friends, I'm here to do some more work on The Daily Show.
My first on screen contribution for this trip came last night with a new debate style segment with me and fellow Englishman, John Oliver. It seemed to go over well in the studio. It was broadcast last night (Thursday) on Comedy Central here in the States and so will go out later today (Friday) in the UK on More 4. Things are set up well to tape another couple of pieces next week.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
If you're in showbiz - and I hear an unconfirmed rumour that I am - you're supposed to have lunch at The Ivy I don't feel very showbiz. I've had lunch at The Ivy on two or three occasions - each time because I was being a judge in the Guardian Student Media Awards and they hold their judging dinner there. It's very jolly. I was a judge again this year and so had my third (or maybe fourth, I can't remember) Ivy meal on the Guardian's tab.
The last time I was a judge it was for the best website category which was a right old pain. By the time I came to look at the sites half of them were out of commission and how many pages do you need to read before you feel like you've given them a fair crack of the whip. Myself and the other judge spent the whole time hunched over a laptop while everyone else was having hapy discourse over their fine food. You have to give every entry proper consideration because the awards are quite important and there are some serious prizes on offer.
This time I was judging the Travel Writing category. I was a judge in this category once before and it was incredibly easy because there was one stand-out piece. There were three judges and before the first course had come we'd all realised that we'd all read and hugely enjoyed that one article so much more than the others that there was no need for any debate. We sat around feeling smug and enjoying a very convivial meal while people in more hotly contested categories broke into a sweat and began to negotiate with one another.
Maybe it's something to do with the travel category because pretty much the same thing happend today. Before we'd even sat down, Victoria Mather (who amongst other things is the Travel Editor for Vanity Fair) mentioned how much she'd enjoyed a particular piece and the Guardian's Travel Editor, Andy Pietrasik confirmed that he thought it was the best one too. I (nobody's Travel Editor) reached into the envelope containing all the articles and pulled out the one they were talking about to reveal that I'd been so delighted by it at the time that I'd scrawled At last! across the top of it and a big number one to boot. No debate necessary. Nice lunch.
Unfortunately I couldn't dwell there any longer than strictly necessary as I've had a busy day. On Sunday I am flying to New York for 10 to 12 days and there are things to write and organise before I fly.
I also had some organising to do here at the site. The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed a few links popping up advertising the imminent release of Are You Dave Gorman? on DVD. I have to keep reminding myself that the series was actually called The Dave Gorman Collection but if I ever refer to it as that, somebody inevitably says, "Oh... I've not heard of that one... what's that then?" Weird that people seem to remember the show in such alarming detail but misremember the title. Anyway the series is released on October 30 but can be preordered now, just be clicking the banner at the top of this page or visiting the shop.
As with the Googlewhack Adventure DVD I found myself thinking a bit about what kind of extras to include. There isn't any extra footage lying around. A commentary hardly makes any sense because the show is a story... if I tried to add a commentary I'd just be repeating the story a second after the younger version of me had explained it in a funnier way and that wouldn't add much in the way of value. I still thought about it though ... just because the notion of one extremely long non-joke that not one person would see through to the end amused me ever so slightly. Not enough though.
I am however very excited because I've somehow managed to persuade another one of my favourite bands to contribute a special song. I love Misty's Big Adventure anyway, but I love them even more now. I've heard the song and I think it's fab. I've made a video for it because it deserves one. It probably deserves one better than the one I made but y'know, I did my best.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
So I mentioned cryptic crosswords yesterday and I'm going to mention them again today. I promise it won't become a habit. It's just that in today's Guardian there's a clue that sums up why I like them. Actually, there are a couple. It's set by Orlando who I like generally but who was on sparkling form today.
18 Down is worthy of mention because Cast, cast or cast (6) is just ridiculously elegant and concise. The answer is Actors. It's probably a classic that occurs from time to time, but maybe I'm doing Orlando a disservice. I don't know enough to say for sure but in any case, it's smart.
But it was 11 Across that I thought was so special today.
Top man, by not retiring, starts to lack authority, increasing resentments. (4,5)
So... Top man is the whole thing, if this was a regular crossword, that's all you'd get.
By not retiring means that the letters in 'by not' are retiring... or reversed, so B,Y,N,O and T, becomes T-O-N-Y-B.
Starts to tells you to take the starts - or first letters - from the next words. So Lack Authority Increasing Resentment gives L-A-I-R.
Run the letters together and you get Tony Blair who is, for now at least, the country's top man.
Every word is there for a reason. It builds up to make a fair cryptic crossword answer but also makes sense as a whole in a way that it doesn't have to because yes, by not retiring, Tony Blair is losing his authority and resentments are increasing. That's the thing with cryptic crosswords... it's a little bit of poetry hiding in the corner of your newspaper.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Genius seems to have got off to a good start with some good press and some nice feedback. Apparently the show was on Pick of the Week although I didn't hear it. If you missed the first show with Johnny Vegas as guest, you have until the next one goes out on Thursday to catch it on the Listen Again page over at BBC Towers.
In my last post I mentioned a Guardian photoshoot. It was for a feature on comedy in which several comics recreated famous images. Along with Lee Mack, Laura Solon, Tim Vine and Jason Byrne, I was part of a recreation of the Trainspotting poster. You can see it - and all the others images, here. It's only really ruined by my beard. And the faint hint of a belly in that tight tee. Not very heroine chic of me. They obviously didn't like my answers to the questionaire very much... but then I don't really have an ability to be concise on things like that. Or anything pretty much. That's why I generally don't do those Talking Heads shows... I don't do pithy. I convolute.
It was back in February that I realised I had become a man with hobbies. Cycling, photography, poker and rock-balancing being they. The problem with my work is that it can be all-consuming time-wise and for periods I am robbed of the free time I'd like to have to indulge in such things. I'm aware that I'm about to have all of my time eaten up - the process is already happening - which might be why I've been trying to get some of these things done in odd spare moments of late. No rock-balancing I'm afraid... I just haven't seen any rocks to balance. But I have played poker. It was a home game at a friends. 8 of us. £5 each and winner takes all. I came second in the first game, winning nothing but salvaging some pride after a poor start. I won the second, pocketing £40 and then was dreadful (and drunk) for the third and went out early. That's £25 profit. Minus a bottle of wine.
I had dinner with some lovely friends in Chelsea the other night. I ought to mention that one of them was Geoff because as you know, he likes it when I mention him here. I cheerfully cycled over to Chelsea for the dinner. A while ago that would have been an intimidating journey, from the East of London to the West but these days I find myself wanting to do it far more than I want to sit on the tube. Knowing that I would be cycling home late and that I would be in the unfamiliar environs of west London, I put my camera in my bag thinking that if I was wide awake I would steal the opportunity for a bit of night-time photography on the return journey. I like night time photpgraphy most of all, I think because the photographer wields more influence over the final image - choosing the exposure time and so on. Golly I'm interesting.
On my way home I was scooting down Chelsea Embankment and into Grosvenor Road and I thought the disused Battersea Power Station was looking pretty spectacular against a clear night sky and so I decided to stop and have a crack at getting a decent shot or two. Bike parked up, tripod out, camera on... away I go. Here's one of the pictures...
I'd been there a little while when a police car pulled up on the street behind me. Two officers got out. One male, one female.
They told me that they were stopping me under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and asked what I was doing.
"Taking photos," said I.
"What of?" asked she
"Battersea Power Station," I said. "Would you like to see some?"
"Yes, if you don't mind," she said.
I showed her a picture.
"Can I see some more?"
I showed her 6 or 7.
"They're very good," she said. "Have you go any ID?"
"Yeah," I said, handing her my driver's licence... "what do you need that for?" "If we stop anyone under the Prevention of Terrorism Act we have to fill in some paperwork. Do you have any possessions?"
I pointed at my bike with a bag on the panier.
"Just that," I said.
"Okay... well, even looking through your camera constitues a search so we have to fill in the form."
She started filling in Form 5090: Stops and Searches.
"It's a beautiful building," said her colleague. "The thing is, we're in Central London and we have to be really careful these days. I like your shots though... very nice. What do you do with them?"
"Nothing really," I said. "I'll probably put a couple of them on a website."
"Right. What website is that then?"
"Oh flickr!" said the WPC, stopping her form-filling for a moment. "I've got photos on there. Photos of my wedding from 7 weeks ago."
"Really?" I asked. "It's good isn't it? Oh... and congratulations on 7 weeks ago."
"Thanks," she said with a smile. "So... have you ever been arrested?"
She picked up her walkie talkie and contacted someone else, asking them to run a check on my name. There was no awkward break in the conversation though as her colleague picked up the slack.
"So, is digital the same as a film camera at night?" he asked.
"How do you mean?"
"Y'know, exposure time and all that... with the poor light," he explained.
"Yeah, I guess so," I said. "That's why I like night time photography. But I've never been any good with film."
The walkie-talkie crackled into life to tell them there was no match with my details.
"Do you mind if I write down that website?" asked PC Chap.
"It's flickr.com" said PC Lady.
"There are thousands of people posting photos there." I explained.
"How do I find yours?" he asked.
"flickr.com, slash photos, slash dgbalancesrocks," I said. "Don't ask."
"Here's your copy of the form," she said, handing it to me. "Nice chatting to you. You can carry on if you like." "Thanks," I said. "Have a good evening."
"Thanks," said he.
"Thanks," said she.
And they drove off into the night. It was all surprisingly jolly. A novel good cop/good cop routine.
I've got the form here. Stop Code: B = To check personal details/documents. Search Code: J = Terrorism 44(2) Outcome Code: 1 = No further action. Search started 12.55am. Search ended 12.57. Grounds for Search or Reason for Stop: Male seen taking photos of powerstation. Vicinity of bridges, within government security zone. Stopped under terrorism act.
They were both lovely and chatty. It was a surprisingly friendly and untroubled exchange. I'd go so far as to say that I enjoyed meeting them.
A little while ago I was chatting with a stranger - a normal one, not a police officer who had stopped me under the Prevention of Terrorism Act - and they said, "Your comedy is very studenty isn't it?" I find that odd. In this instance they meant it as a sort of compliment although the word can be used to mean both good and bad... and for that matter indifferent things.
People often assume that if they get something it means that other people don't. In Manchester one day after a gig I spoke to a father and daughter who had both come along without the other knowing. It turns out that when my first TV show was on she'd watched it upstairs in her bedroom thinking 'Dad wouldn't get this... he's too square' (because that's how young people speak) and her Dad had been watching it in the living room thinking, 'She wouldn't get this... she's too young to follow it' (or something like that.) It was only when they set eyes on each other in the theatre bar that they realised they both got it. It's true that when I last toured a large part of the audience were students but a large part were grey-haired also.
On stage I don't do any of the things that I would label as studenty comedy - I don't celebrate drink or drugs, I don't discuss sex and I'm not remotely ladsy. (Am I? I swear a bit in the Googlewhack Adventure show but only because the real life story pushed me into a place where normal language fails me.) There's no sexual content and no sexism at work - not even of the postmodern, ironic variety. Essentially I just tell a story - albeit it one augmented with evidence provided via a powerpoint presentation - but still, what could be more old-fashioned as a form of entertainment than a story-telling show?
The more I analyse what I do, the more old-fashioned it seems to me. I like that. I think Genius is quite an old-fashioned format. It's really just an excuse for a silly conversation.
Having hobbies seems old-fashioned too. I cycle around London at night with a tripod and a camera in my bag in case I happen upon something I want to photograph. It's hardly the life of the young and fashionable is it? No. Good. At the front of my last book in the 'about the author' blurb at the front the last sentence says, 'His ambition is to one day become a team captain on Call My Bluff.' I've met a couple of people who thought I was joking. I wasn't. I love Call My Bluff. I think it's a far superior show to the testosterone fuelled nonsense of, say, Never Mind The Buzzcocks and it's ilk. Nothing against that show in particular, just that it doesn't seem to be about enjoying each other's company.
With this in mind, you can imagine how happy I was to be asked this week to write a foreword to an Observer book of Cryptic Crosswords. Heavenly. I am the old fuddy duddy I've always wanted to be.