Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I mentioned a few days ago that I'm trying to work out how to get back into some kind of live performance... but that I'm not sure what form it should take.
The thing is, I gave up stand-up for what seemed to be very good reasons at the time. The landscape has changed a bit these days. Somebody has coined the phrase 'documentary comedy', giving a name to the genre*. Each year at the Fringe there are maybe a dozen shows tagged with the phrase and audiences turn up to see them without questioning what the format will be.
*Or maybe they're just pretending that the age old art of story-telling is some kind of new genre by coming up with a new name for it. Either way, the effect is the same.
When I first did Reasons To Be Cheerful at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1998, audiences were confused about what to expect. There would often be some awkwardness at the start of the show as it dawned on them that they weren't watching the stand-up show they were perhaps expecting. People simply didn't believe that I really was going to spend the whole show discussing one subject, without jokes, and that it would be funny. Luckily, on most occasions, most people were won over eventually. (As those who saw it will know, I've got the marbles to prove it.)
Of course it makes sense that audiences were expecting a stand-up show: I'd done stand-up shows at the festival for a few years running. I was a stand-up comic. And there wasn't really another kind of show for them to expect it to be.
The night I finally decided to knock stand-up on the head came after a gig at The Meccano Club in Islington. I'd just finished a ten-show run of Are You Dave Gorman? in the West End. I was really proud of the show. It hadn't been on TV yet but word of mouth meant I'd managed some respectable ticket sales in a proper West End theatre. It was really exciting and I was convinced it was the best show I'd done thus far.
Then a week or so after the run had ended I was booked for a thirty minute set at The Meccano. It went well although most of the material in the show was more than three years old. At the end this nice young couple came up to me.
"It was really good to see you tonight," said she, "We wanted to come and see you in the West End but we couldn't get a baby sitter. But it doesn't matter because we've seen you now."
That was it. As far as they were concerned seeing me do 30 minutes of jokes was equivalent to seeing me tell a 90 minute long story. I wanted to try and point it out to them... I wanted to explain that it was a completely different thing. But I didn't. I think I'd have looked like a churlish arse if I'd tried to explain it. I probably look like a churlish arse right now for admitting that I wanted to. But I did.
So, while I left my arse unchurled, I did decide there and then that if audiences were going to see me once and make their minds up about me based on that one offering, then I should only make available the work I was proudest of. If people didn't like it, that was fine - so long as enough people did - and it was better than confusing the issue by working in different fields... especially when they appear to be so similar in an I-talk-I-stop-they-laugh way.
I didn't have many stand-up engagements left in my diary... so the next day I called my agent and told him that I wouldn't accept any others. From that point on, the only thing I wanted to be judged on were the one-man shows.
Over the next few years I toured four different stage shows. And over time I definitely noticed that audiences' expectations were changing. When I revived Reasons To Be Cheerful a few years later they were entirely comfortable with the format of the show. There was no awkwardness at the start. The idea that I was there to discuss one subject, to tell one story was no problem. In fact that's what people expected of me.
So part of me thinks that maybe I don't need to draw the line in the sand for myself anymore. If someone saw that I was doing a storytelling show one night, a book reading on another and some stand up the night after that, I think they'd understand that each of those things were going to be fundamentally different in a way that wasn't clear 8 or 9 years ago.
It's probably been true for a while. It's just taken me some time to see through the fog I created for myself. I am stupid.
Anyway... I haven't toured a live show since I came home from my exhausting American tour of Googlewhack Adventure nearly three years ago. And that means I've been starved of audiences. I love doing Genius and that obviously involves a live audience but at six shows a series it's hardly feeding a habit.
When I was doing the book-readings for Googlewhack Adventure they were fun but it didn't possess any great novelty because I'd only just finished touring the UK with the stage show and more overseas touring was just around the corner... so facing an audience was just a normal, everyday thing to do. It's always been something I've enjoyed... but it's only when you don't do it for a while that you realise quite how much fun it is. And that's what I discovered (rediscovered?) when I did the run of book readings for America Unchained. I was really excited to be doing them... and I decided that when the book readings ended I'd try to work out a way of doing something else live instead.
I don't think it would be sensible to try and contrive another big story-telling show. I'm proud of how honest and un-contrived the previous shows have been and think it would inevitably feel a bit lacklustre if I engineered something just so I could do another one. Several people have suggested I create a stage-show out of America Unchained... but I can't see the point in telling people a story they already know and so, with the book and the documentary already out in the wild there's no reason to tell the story another way.
I still don't know what this is all going to lead to. Maybe I'll get back into stand-up properly. Maybe I won't. I just know that sitting around and trying to think of things in the abstract isn't very helpful. The only way of finding out is to go and do something and see how it fits. It'll either provide enough fascination and drive or it won't. Maybe it'll close down some options but maybe it'll open up others. On stage, with an audience to play to (and with) the possibilities become real in a way that they never will when I'm sitting on my sofa muddling my thoughts.
But I'm aware that I've unlearned some of my stand-up ways and it's a form that needs to be respected. So, I'm not going to start hawking myself around as the finished article. So yesterday, I put together a short set - maybe 5 or 6 minutes - and went to a new material night run by some friends.
It went well. I enjoyed it. Things clicked. I was aware that my brain wasn't thinking as fast as it should. I was lucky. Because the audience were going with things I had plenty of thinking time to spare. It didn't matter that I was a bit behind the pace. But if it had been a quiet room - or perhaps if it hadn't been a new material night - where the audience don't expect the performers to be quite so well-oiled and slick - I might have been playing catch up; finding my next move a few moments after it was really needed.
Still it was a worthwhile exercise. And I guess I'll do some more short sets in the next few weeks. Just to loosen my muscles and tighten up some words. I might as well find out.
Monday, October 27, 2008
With so many new people involved we decided early on in the production to have a night out as a bonding exercise. This was when our work was largely office-based and before we started recording the shows; before the whole working into the early hours schedule really kicked in.
So Team Genius went for a night of fun and frolics. And competitive bowling. Fun was had by all. Luckily - and I really was lucky - I won. As a reward, I was allowed to host the show. It could all have been so different; Gemma (Team Genius, Non-Bearded Division) came a very close second.
Anyway... when the series ended we wanted to have a wrap party and because various members of TG were working on other projects we had to wait until this last Friday to do it. Now that we'd been in the studio, membership of Team Genius had swelled further still as there are people who only join a production at that nuts and bolts stage. Opinions were canvassed but there was no real debate. Bowling had somehow become the official sport of Team Genius. So a second Team Genius Bowlarama was arranged.
Of course this put the pressure on me. I knew that my job was on the line. Winner = host. It's as simple as that. In the first game of Bowlarama II, Gemma (TGNBD) equalled my score but we were both left in the shade by a fine game-winning performance from Paul (TGNBD(WTF)). I knew that in the second game I had to step it up. Not only did I need to win, if I wanted to continue hosting Genius I needed to do it with a score higher than Paul's first-game-winning total.
It was a close call. It was difficult to keep track because Team Genius were spread over three lanes. It wasn't just Gemma (TGNBD) and Paul (TGNBD(WTF)) I had to worry about... a newly competitive Alison (TGNBD) was bowling well also... with her and Paul ahead of me for most of the game.
With two frames to go I was in deep trouble. If either Paul or Alison hit strikes I was out of it. And I needed not one, but two consecutive strikes to put me back in contention. I love hosting Genius. I couldn't let someone steal my job from under my nose. I dug deep. Strike. Strike.
My job is safe ladies and gentlemen... I, Dave Gorman (TGBD), am the Two-time, Team Genius Bowlarama Champeen. Get in.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
My performance felt woolly and shapeless at the start and I don't think I pulled it into proper shape until we got into the Q&A part of things.
I always like the Q&A bit, not least because it makes each night different for me and stops the evenings becoming routine. It was certainly interesting last night to find the questions were a bit more writerly than normal. Maybe it's a consequence of being part of a literary festival. Or maybe it's what happens when an audience breathes in Cheltenham's refined air. Or maybe it's simply because the book's now been out for quite a while and so more of the audience have actually read it and so have opinions and questions that relate to the content. I hadn't expected that - most readings happen so soon after publication that you can safely assume nobody there has read it - but I enjoyed it for all that.
Friday, October 17, 2008
If you're in or around Bethnal Green, visit Gallery 320 and take in Sean Pines' exhibition of fashion photography. The gallery can be hard to find, mind. According to that link it's on Bethnal Green Road... but the entrance is in Voss Street.
Listen to Television's People by Misty's Big Adventure. They're fab. The album's fab too.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I illustrated the post with a picture taken on my roadtrip outside an abandoned gas station in Moab, Utah. It turns out it was a pretty good answer to the question. Sorta.
The following video seemed to be about as informative a response as any. It's 47 minutes long, but I think it's worth it...
I'm sure I'm going to look very simple... but it's a genuine question.
Where does it come from? It's all symbolic anyway. If there were a hundred people living on an island without any contact with the outside world and they all had a pound each... and one of them opened a bank and offered the others 1% interest per annum... then how would they pay that interest? If someone invested their whole pound, then at the end of the year they'd be owed a penny and that would mean the banker had only 99p of their own pound left... which would make banking an inherently unprofitable business. Which (despite the recent evidence) it can't be... or there wouldn't be bankers.
If those hundred people continued to live with their pounds, swapping them here and there, the baker buying an apple from the greengrocer for a penny here and the greengrocer buying a loaf of bread from the baker for tuppence there, then I can see how some people would do better than others. Some people are going to get richer than others because more people spend more with them... but the sum total of their money would still be £100 and the only way of changing that would be to create more money out of thin air.
If some of them had kids that would just spread the wealth a little thinner. There are more people in the world now than there were 300 years ago and there's more money too. So where did it come from?
Someone has to have decided to just make more of it. Someone somewhere must be deciding to increase the amount of money in the world year on year. But who decides how much and where does it go to? Say you're one of the 100 people who all started with a pound each. And say you've decided that for your society's economy to function you need to have another £10 added in to the mix? So what do you do next? You mint another ten coins... and then where do you put them? Who do they belong to? Are they yours? The governments? How do they get into the system?
If governments are just creating more symbolic money each year, how do they decide how much to create? How do they balance that out with each other?
Let's say there was another group of a hundred people who lived on another island and they all started with two dollars each. Then one day, some brave mariner from Island A discovers Island B and the two islands start trading with each other. As it goes, what costs about a penny on Island A costs a couple of cents on Island B so everyone's happy trading two dollars for a pound.
So now what happens when the first island decides to add another £10 into their economy. They've just created something - out of nothing - that makes them wealthier than their neighbours. So what's to stop Island B deciding to just create even more money to make them even wealthier?
Countries borrow money from each other. For that to work there has to be some agreement between nations about where money comes from. You can't decide that a pound is worth two dollars if they're allowed to just make more dollars whenever they want.
Somebody somewhere has to be increasing the sum total of money in the world bit by bit... because there's more of it now than there was then... and there has to be some kind of international agreement between governments about how that works... or there would be no way of trading with each other.
So... on the off-chance that the World's Money Increaser (I think that must be his/her title) is reading this (and come on, I think there's every chance they google themselves) can I offer them this suggestion: make more.
You know how tax-payers are meant to be bailing out the banks with 500 squillion pounds? Why not just create a new 500 squillion pounds and use that instead? You won't even have to print the paper or mint the coins... because it's the kind of money that only really exists on computer screens and bank statements. Just tell everyone it's there... and then it is there... because surely that's how all money works anyway. Then the problem is solved and it won't have cost tax payers anything in real terms because we'll only be spending money that didn't exist before.
You know that National Debt that people are always going on about? However much it is... that's how much I'd create on Day 2 if I was in charge. Just make enough money to pay it off.
I don't know why no one seems to have thought of it sooner.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
There was no chance of the last two recordings bucking the trend as our guests were Johnny Vegas and Germaine Greer respectively. They were both on remarkably good form. There was a moment in Johnny's show when I looked across and saw people literally crying with laughter. The fact that I was experiencing no small amount of physical pain at the time wasn't unconnected. Definitely a highlight. For the audience at least.
Germaine really is a remarkable woman. She's sharp, witty, feisty, flirty and seems to have boundless energy. A real treat. The fact that she left our show and immediately skipped into the studio next door to appear on a live show - Newsnight Review - only served to underline quite how fab she is. She's a force of nature and quite, quite, brilliant.
There's always a strange low after something like this draws to a close. Making the show has occupied pretty much every waking minute of the last few weeks - and not just for me. So many people have been putting in remarkable hours to make things happen. From the outside looking in I think people imagine there's an endless pot of money in tellyland and that anything you want built will be... but obviously that's nowhere near the truth. We've had a small team working really hard with quite limited resources... tie that up with a show that is constantly evolving as the recording approaches and you don't get a show out the other side without people going the extra mile to help.
It's going to be a bit strange on Monday when I don't head to Genius HQ in the morning... and I'm going to miss working with those people. But then it's going to be nice to sleep. And to have my social life back and... and I'm going to miss working with those people.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
One is that, when you have three thousand, ahem, friends, it can make opening your own profile a bit difficult. I've never understood all the applications that exist, I have no desire to be a vampire or a pirate or to send a stranger a questionnaire or... or any of that. But obviously lots of people do. And they often send them indiscriminately to their friends. So I often find I have 200 pointless invites waiting for me... from people who weren't really specifically aiming the invites at me in the first place... they were just clicking a button that meant some of their friends got an invite. The point of me using facebook in the first place was to try and live a more spam-free online life... but the reality is that facebook's never ending stream of applications that are developed faster than they can be blocked - not to mention all the groups and events - just add up to another kind of spam. A well-intentioned kind, maybe... but if you've got five minutes to check your mail and find 300 invites waiting for you first it adds up to the same thing.
The other problem with facebook is what happens when someone decides to create a fake profile, pretending to be me... and then goes ahead and mails people, creates groups and so on.
So, the sensible advice seems to be that I should set up a page instead of (or as an adjunct to) my profile. So I have done. It's here.
Monday, October 6, 2008
(I also don't like how hard facebook have made it to report... and how slow they are at reacting...)
I have a website. (I know... you know.) Given that I have a website, what are the chances of me having a facebook profile or a Myspace profile and not linking to them? Pretty slim I'd have thought.
Which is how you can verify that this is my facebook profile and that this isn't. That second link has got nothing to do with me. Unless you're listed as his friend (or you're in the Brighton and Hove network) you won't be able to see his page. But he's using my photo, my name and my biographical details and basically trying to pass himself off as me. Which is kind of unsettling to begin with... but is made worse by what he then does as "me."
He's created two groups.
One of them is called Gormans Idea Group.
He introduces the group saying "A group for my friends and fans to post any ideas they may have, for new books or tv programmes for me to write, as i am suffering from serious writers block at the moment.... lol."
Agggghhh. Leaving aside the whole people-might-think-I'm-begging-for-ideas thing... there's also the fact that he thinks I'd use a lower case i and a lol. Lord help me. I don't lol. I often laugh out loud. But if I ever want to tell someone that I've laughed out loud... I don't lol.
His other group is just as bad. It's called Googlewhack Fan Club. My skin crawls even as I read the words. In his introduction he writes, "Been a while since i did the googlewhack series, thought i'd give my friends a chance to post their own. When i get chance i'll check them and post the results. maybe devise a leaderboard or something - DG....."
Where do I start? Googlewhack series? Well there's your proof that it's not me writing those words right there. What series would that be? There wasn't one. There was a stage show and a book. The stage show was filmed and is available on DVD. But there's no series. Then there's that lower case i again. And again. And again. And the idea that I'd encourage people to try and googlewhack... or even go near the game again myself. Ugh. Shudder.
I've written to facebook and asked them to remove him but they don't make it easy to report these things and they're being very slow in responding. Far slower than Myspace have been when similar things have occurred over there. If you're a contact of the fake me... or you're in the Brighton and Hove network and can therefore view his profile, why not take the time to click on the 'report this person' link that should be there towards the bottom left hand corner? Or e-mail him... firstname.lastname@example.org and ask him to kindly stop...
Thursday, October 2, 2008
This Tuesday/Wednesday our guests were Stewart Lee and Frank Skinner respectively. They were both brilliant. They also, both took really different approaches to the show which is one of the things that makes the job so exciting for me... it shows no signs of ever becoming routine.
There are so many variables in a show like this. It's not just the guest genius, there are also the members of the public who pitch their ideas, and of course the ideas themselves. The end result is that every show feels really unique... while at the same time, the series seems to have a really strong identity binding it all together. I hope that comes across on screen as well as it does in the studio.
Once again, our pitchers (for want of a better word) all seemed to have a good time. On paper, Genius could have been a show that chewed people up and spat them out and I'm really proud of the fact that we don't do that. Without exception they're always really beaming at the end of the night and whether they were deemed a genius or not, they're always happy that they took part. Before the show I always tell them that they're going to enjoy it... and I can tell they don't all believe me... but afterwards they always tell me how much fun it was. Which makes it all the more fun for me.
This time next week I'll be part way through recording the fifth show... and by the end of Friday night, the series will be over. Lorks.
By the way... a few people have asked a few questions about the show... so here are the answers:
1) It'll go out early next year some time. The dates will be on my site as soon as I know them.
2) Simply because we get loads more ideas from men than we do from women. Of the ideas we receive, something like 19 out of 20 come from men. We'd love to have more female pitchers too - get thinking ladies...
3) Yup, the ideas for this series are locked and loaded... but we're always looking for more. But I'm not the person to send them to. I'm the least organised member Team Genius... so visit the Genius website instead.
4) Yes, he is real and yes, his name really is Thorin.