Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Time Travelling Lookalikes

Gioacchino Rossini was born on Fenruary 29th, 1792.
Here are some of his lookalikes from history:

Gorden Kaye. aka Rene in Allo Allo.

Arthur Scargill

Bernard Manning

I'm pretty sure someone used to run a blog of modern-day-lookalikes-in-historical-paintings... but I can't find it now. If there's one out there let me know. In the mean time I've created a Tumblr blog for these:

Let me know if I'm treading on anyone else's toes.

And let me know about any time travelling lookalikes you might have seen. But not men with red beards that you think look like me. I'm a bit bored of those.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Like a horse and carriage...

Like many people I never thought I wanted to get married.

And then one day I did.

And now I am. And I bloody love it. I don't know that it's possible to describe in what way it is different to not being married. I know that today wouldn't really pan out any differently for Mrs G and myself if we weren't married. It's one of those undefinable things. I love my wife and I love being married to her.

I recently saw someone online arguing that they were against the idea of same-sex marriage because they felt it would belittle what marriage meant in some way. I don't know in what way because I simply can't begin to get my head around it at all. I cannot imagine a way in which the love I have for my wife - and, more pertinently, the love I have for our marriage - could be affected by other people getting married.

As an argument it puts me in mind of the way shallow teenagers sometimes talk about music. Y'know... they love a particular band. They say a particular song is their favourite song. And then the band becomes huge. And everyone likes their song. And the shallow teenager decides they don't like the song anymore.

The chord structure hasn't changed. The lyrics are the same. The melody is the same. All the ingredients of a song that your brain reacts to are the same. But what the shallow teenager really liked was feeling special. Feeling part of a small and select group.

That's what straight people objecting to gay marriage remind me of. Sulky teenagers, grunting and shrugging that marriage won't be special if we let everyone do it. As I said before, I can't imagine a way in which that could make my marriage less special. I really can't.

As I was at a computer when that thought drifted through my mind, I tweeted it. I don't think it's a particularly challenging thought. If anything I thought it was so obvious it didn't really need saying. But having put it into 140 characters I pressed send all the same.
I got a few pats on the back, a couple of people called me a poof and that was pretty much as I was expecting. But a few people also got in touch to tell me they simply couldn't understand what I was saying. I think some of these people were thinking, "But a band is less cool when everyone else likes them... so what's that got to do with gay marriage?" But I don't know for sure. Still, when 5 or 6 people had expressed their confusion, I decided that maybe 140 characters wasn't the best medium for that particular thought and so laid it out - not unlike the start of this blogpost - using twitlonger. Problem solved. No room for confusion.

Or maybe not. Here, someone calling themselves Funky_Dung chipped in with an argument that I'm still trying to unravel. Here's some of the to and fro...(Where more than 1 tweet was sent, I've photoshopped them together to make it an easier read) Now there were probably enough warning signs there already that this wasn't going to be a sensible discussion. The whole "serious views about the core of human society" is a clue. But I didn't take it all in and was actually concerned that someone thought I was being prejudiced with my silly, wanting the same rule of law for all. So I replied.

No insults. Just an explanation of what I think. But Funky had me bang to rights!
Which is interesting. (Or not. Feel free to stop reading any time you like, I appreciate this isn't for everyone.) If I read this right, Funky D is a gay person who is opposed to gay marriage and he thinks it is prejudiced of me to say I think straight people who are opposed to it remind me of a shallow teenagers' shifting musical allegiance.

For the record, I think gay people who are opposed to equal rights for same-sex marriage are silly too. But of course it would have been nonsensical to include them in that first tweet because they don't remind me of the shallow teenagers for an obvious reason. I don't think it's possible for a gay person to be against gay marriage because it would make their straight marriage less special. Something I tried to explain to my new friend, Funky:But he wasn't finished.
Of course, I think it's important for men and women to enjoy stable relationships too. Not necessarily for evolutionary reasons... but they're nice and important and stuff. But we're back to square one for me... I don't understand how a same-sex couple being happily married would make a male-female couple any less stable. I just don't. And stating that male-female relationships are important doesn't explain why someone thinks same-sex marriage shouldn't be allowed. Or, as I put it at the time:And this is where I start to find this kind of discussion frustrating. Because to me this conversation is civil and has an obvious route to take. To keep it civil and flowing all Funky has to do is explain the detrimental effects that he believes same-sex marriage would have. But instead of explaining in what way same-sex marriage would be detrimental... he just repeats that it would be:

Hmmm. When did he say it? Am I the only person who inferred it here? I mean, I thought that was an argument for straight marriage and against gay marriage and it seemed to hinge on the importance of stability for straight relationships and silly old me put two and two together and assumed he was saying that marriage helped to provide that desired stability. If he wasn't, I have absolutely no idea what point he was making.

And it went on in this vein for ages. With Funky restating that my initial tweet was anti-straight because it only belittled straight people and also that I was anti-gay because I have insisted that he must agree with me because he's gay (I didn't). And every time I asked him to explain in what way gay marriage would be detrimental to society his argument seemed to boil down to, "because it would be detrimental to society." And when I asked him to explain why he thought I was being anti-this or anti-that his argument seemed to be, that I should just know.

Here are some highlights:
How many times did I ask him to explain his point of view? To give me an example? (Answer: at least 4. How many times did he do so? None that I'm aware of.)

Of course, I have to imagine them because he refuses to explain what any of them are. What divides in particular is he addressing? What kind of wedge will be driven into them? What damage to society will be done? He won't explain and instead just urges me to imagine something that I simply cannot imagine. I've tried to imagine something of that ilk. I've genuinely failed.

And finally, my favourite tweet of the lot...

For the record. My beard is ginger. My hair isn't.

This all happened yesterday. Today two people have tried to tell me that Funky is right. But I've cut those exchanges shorter because, well, because they were entering the same circular it's-not-fair-to-allow-same-sex-marriage-because-some-people-think-it's-not-fair-to-allow-it-and-who's-going-to-think-about-them? logic. (You can read one of them on Storify here.)

So... please don't pile in on twitter and send any angry tweets their way. I'm not trying to raise a mob. But I am interested in the debate. And I feel frustrated when people refuse to properly engage in one.

To be clear, I don't think it's got anything to do with religion. (And nor does Funky). If a particular faith wants to be against same-sex marriage then that's up to them. But my marriage has nothing to do with God and I don't think the State should have either. There's no point in allowing for marriages that are not informed by faith if you're going to restrict access to them based on faith.

Someone also said, "a civil partnership is exactly the same legally so why is anyone bothered about whether it's called a marriage or a civil partnership?"

Well exactly. Why is anyone bothered by it being called a marriage? Isn't that where we started?

My apologies if this is somehow too painfully right on for you to read. Normal service will no doubt be resumed shortly.

Monday, February 27, 2012

On the show this week...

The two songs I brought to the show this week were...

Back Of Your Neck by Howler:

I Felt Like Jesus by Chuck Prophet:

We also saw the return of the Autofill Quiz this week, with a listener, Seth, taking on Danielle. I won't spoil the result for you as it's on the podcast... but let's just say it was almost as if neither of them wanted to win. A sort of precursor to the Carling Cup Final penalty shoot out that happened later in the day.

That, and all the other blather - (Pun Street, Found Poetry, Ward's Weekly Word, Martin's Song and Listener's Lexicon) - can all be heard here (itunes) or here (not itunes).

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Nomination

It seems the tour has been nominated for a Chortle award. For best tour.

It's a strong list - I mean, I'm not sure about this Seinfeld chap, he must be new or something - but the others are all great.

Anyway... it's one of those things you can vote for, so, y'know, if you feel that way inclined and... well, this is awkward isn't it? Hmm. Well. Right.

It seems odd to not let people know about it at all but then it feels like you're asking people to vote and that feels even odder. It's here if you're interested.

I'm just going to walk away, now. You can find me at the bottom of the page telling you where you can still see the show.

The tour's been extended so there are still plenty of chances to see it. I've got three warm up gigs at the end of March - two in Newbury and one in Chelmsford. Then I do the four night run in London at the start of April before heading to Melbourne, Australia for a couple of weeks. Then from may 19th to July 6th I'm on a full national tour. All the details are on the Live Dates page here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

On Today's Absolute Radio Show...

Every week on the wireless I bring a couple of tracks in of my own choosing. We always put the details up on the Absolute Radio site, but for the last few weeks I've been making an effort to put the songs here too.

Two great tracks this week. Coastlines by Hares which has only just been released:

And Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars which has been out for a while but surely deserves to be heard by more people.

I hope you enjoy.

Todays topic was retaliation. Sadly, this tweet arrived after we'd finished the show.
I recommend all women try it. In fact, what the hey, men should try it too.

Of course the songs don't make the podcast - we just put the chat and nonsense in there. But not just the chat and nonsense that went in between the songs on the live show... we do a whole load of extra chat and nonsense especially for the podcast.

There was drama in the Pun Street Planning Committee Chamber this week. People have been rattling on the door for months trying to make us address the scandal of 300 Spartans... well, this week, their calls were answered and the issue dealt with.

That, and all the other blather - (Found Poetry, Ward's Weekly Word, Martin's Song and Listener's Lexicon can all be heard here (itunes) or here (not itunes).

Pub Olympics - TONIGHT!

Pub, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.

A little while ago I mentioned recording a one-off show for Radio 2 called The Pub Olympics.

It's not really about the Olympics. Or pubs for that matter. It is however quite silly. I hosted it and the guests were Geoff Lloyd, Chris Addison, Roisin Conaty & Seymour Mace. All ace.

The BBC website describes it as "a very silly panel show that takes place in a world where the Pub Olympics is far more important than that other Olympics you might have heard about." And I reckon that's as good a description as any.

Anyway... it's on tonight. 10.30pm. Radio 2.

And it's on the iplayer for the next six or seven days. Link

Good Advice

Letterbox Mosaic, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.

I like the website, Letters of Note. They dig out some amazing correspondence from some amazing people. (For example, you might feel voyeuristic reading this but you surely won't feel unmoved. It's beautiful)

They have a twitter account which often points to interesting stuff too.

A couple of days ago, they linked to this blog by Brian Brushwood. In it he explains how, as a young man, he wrote to Teller - of Penn & Teller - asking for advice on finding his own voice as a magician.

Teller is generous with his wisdom. He replies. His reply is beautiful. It is also, very good advice. I've no doubt it's the best advice, not just for anyone who wants to be a magician - but for anyone who wants to perform at all. And probably for others too.

The next time someone asks me for advice about starting in stand up... I'm just going to send them this link. It says it far better than I would.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Some more thoughts - and information - on that Nicky Paris spam thing...

I've had so many emails and tweets about my recent blogpost (about a particular wave of twitter spam) that I thought it was worth adding a new post. There are two reasons really. Firstly, because I've been sent so much new information that it no longer made sense to add to and edit the initial post and secondly because I want to make sure I'm not misconstrued as being on any kind of personal attack.

Unfortunately, that seems to be how Nicky himself saw it. At least if the two friends who came to his defense are anything to go by. According to them, I'm "a hater" and I'm trying to ruin his dreams. I really don't want to encourage a pitchfork wielding mob. As I said in my initial post - and repeatedly in the comments below it - I wish Nicky well. Genuinely. The only thing I have a problem with is the spam. The rest is none of my business. The spam is my business because it was sent to me. And because spam is everyone's business. Spam makes the internet a less pleasant place to be. Sending spam is like dropping litter. It doesn't have to be dropped in my front garden* to offend me. Litter is everyone's concern. And so is spam.

Unfortunately, it's not really possible to discuss all this without namechecking Nicky. I suppose I could have tried... but it's definitely impossible to discuss it without namechecking the spambots and as all they do is namecheck Nicky that's pretty much the same thing. Each spambot is dedicated to the same task. Churning out the following tweet over and over and over again:

When I wrote the initial post I was aware of close to a dozen spam accounts. But lots of people have been in touch telling me about more and more. With thanks to the many net-detectives amongst you, these, as far as I know, are the accounts that are still active, alongside the number of tweets they've sent so far:

TheFunnyMouse1 (14,925)
TheFunnyShrimp (13,125)
TheFunnyCroc (12,670)
TheFunnyPeanut (12,644)
TheFunnyCheetah (12,102)
TheFunnyHouse (11,697)
TheFunnyCherry (11,547)
TheFunnyCake (11,361)
Princess_Peach7 (11,324)
TheFunnyTooth (11,321)
TheFunnyDragon (10,643)
TheFunnyKitty (10,255)
TheFunnyBaby (9,740)
TheFunnyCupcake (9,494)
TheFunnyCow (8,554)
TheFunnyCamera (5,266)
TheFunnyWitch (4,430)
TheFunnyLips (4,421)
TheFunnyMustach (1,798)
TheFunnyDiamond (1,523)
TheFunnyCoconut (1,270)
TheFunnyFrog1 (1,245)
TheFunnyHeart (1,229)
TheFunnyDuck1 (1,016)

Which makes for a staggering 193,600 tweets from 24 different accounts... all saying:

No matter which way you look at it, that's an astounding little industry he's got going there.

And that's only the tip of the iceberg. He was also sending the same tweet from the accounts, TheFunnyWhale (proof) and TheFunnyGenie. But he's recently closed both of those down. It was TheFunnyWhale that first spammed me and he deleted that account after I'd replied intimating I knew what was going on. I assume something similar occurred to inspire the early demise of TheFunnyGenie too.

But there are more. It turns out Nicky's already had several other accounts suspended. It's not hard to verify that he has sent the same spam from accounts called TheFunnyOwl(p), TheFunnyPanda (p), TheFunnyBird1 (p), TheFunnyGranny (p) TheFunnyBear1 (p) and the not quite so TheFunny titled, BritBrit123123 (p), TheJokerWild1 (p) and JoyceJoyJoy1 (p) all of which are now suspended. It's not hard to work out why.

That's 24 active accounts, 2 accounts that he's shut down himself and another 8 that have been closed down by Twitter. 34 accounts in total. And there are bound to be more. These are just the accounts turned out by a few curious souls as fascinated by the situation as I am. I don't think it's fanciful to imagine he's sent that tweet - you know, that tweet - more than 300,000 times. In fact that seems like a highly conservative estimate to me.

But there's the odd thing. With the knowledge that at least 8 accounts have been closed down already, comes the knowledge that Nicky knows he's not supposed to be doing what he's doing. He might see no wrong in it himself... but he knows that it's against Twitter's rules. He must do. They've caught him at least eight times.

And to my mind, that makes it seem like an even more foolish course to steer. Because every time he sets off another batch of spam, he runs the risk of being caught again. And surely he runs the risk of the people at Twitter joining the dots between all of these different accounts and closing down all of them. Including TheNickyParis. In which case, all his efforts will have been for nought.

I really do think it's a shame that Nicky took what I said as a personal attack. I really did mean it when I said I wished him well. It really is only the spam I have a problem with. When it comes to spam, I'll go along with the accusation that I'm "a hater".

Unfortunately I know a few people decided to tweet unpleasantness his way - and one person has been on a mission to email folks and "grass him up" all of which makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. I think spam is wrong. I think this kind of spam is obnoxious. But he is just 19.

If I was him, I'd delete the spam accounts myself. It's surely only a matter of time before they get closed down anyway.

If you dislike spam you should report it. Don't send him any aggression. Do report each of the active accounts above. (Unless you don't want to. In which case don't.)

It's just I think that spam makes the internet a less pleasant place to be. It's like litter. And it doesn't have to be in your own front garden to be a problem.

* I don't even have a garden.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On the show this week...

The two songs I brought in from home were:

Calamity Song by The Decemberists:

The Decemberists- Calamity Song by MMMusic

I've been a fan of The Decemberists for years, but my second choice was a far more recent discovery. It was Kill You by The Severed Limb. There's little in that song-title/band-name combination to suggest skiffle... but that's what it is, and it's ace.
Kill You - The Severed Limb by SeriousTypes
First I'm gonna kill you, then I'm gonna bill you the price of the bullet. That's a fine lyric, right there.

The show also featured an interview with Daniel Radcliffe who picked a track of his own too. It was Zorbing by Stornoway - a fine choice indeed. In fact, many moons ago, it too was one of my songs-I've-brought-in-from-home.
Stornoway - Zorbing by underhisempire2

The interview was filmed and there are a series of videos from it on the Absolute Radio website, here if you fancy it.

Of course that - and all the other nonsense, Found Poetry, Ward's Weekly Word, Martin's Song, The Pun Street Planning Committee and Listener's Lexicon are all in the podcast, which you can get from itunes here, or, if itunes isn't your bag, from here.

After the show was done I had to high tail it to the train station so that I could head to Doncaster for the final night of the Doncaster Comedy Festival. It had been a while since I'd done the show but it was amazing how easily the tour team of me, Kumar and Jay Foreman (I'm still the only act touring with a rhyming support act) slipped back into our normal pre-show dynamic. It was a lovely show.

And I didn't forget to revive the Hello-photo tradition.

So, Hello Donny:

Yup. Nothing says welcome like a wicker man.

This show fell outside the usual tour because of the festival. The next live dates will be at the end of March, when I'll be doing two warm-up shows in Newbury and one in Chelmsford before the four night run in London at the start of April. Come along!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Giving a young actor a helping hand...

There we were, just chatting, when a photographer walked in and snapped us. That's why we look so relaxed and natural.

My interview with Daniel Radcliffe is on the show tomorrow. He was bloomin' lovely.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Do You Think He's Named After The Hilton Sisters?

One of the questions most often asked in interviews is, "How did you start out in comedy?" (Of course, I'm sure a fair few people want to ask, "are you ever planning to start out in comedy?" but that rarely comes up in interviews).

The answer to the question is, I'm afraid, rather dull. Because like everyone else I know that's involved in comedy, you start out by doing it for free and keep doing it until someone pays you. (Fingers crossed, that'll be happening for me some day soon.)

That's it. There aren't really any short cuts. People always want short cuts. New acts often want to know how to get an agent. The chances are that any act asking how to get an agent doesn't really need an agent. And when they're at a stage where an agent can help them, they'll find there are agents there offering to help. That's how it works.

I feel like an old man typing this. But I was once a 19 year old stand-up who thought he needed an agent. I was wrong. I didn't. Not when I'd done so few gigs.

The only things you need to do at that stage are to write and to perform. As much as you can. And the places you'll be performing at aren't the kind of places that deal with agents. Or rather, they aren't the kind of places that agents want to deal with.

And the kind of places that agents do deal with aren't interested in you because you're not ready for them. So add a third thing to the list: write, perform and spend time on the phone looking for opportunities to perform. Be your own agent. That's pretty much the only advice you can give someone who's starting out. Work as much as you can. You get better. And as you get better, other things will come to you. (Fingers crossed, that'll be happening for me some day soon.)

I apologise for the avuncular, old-man tone of this blog. You didn't ask for advice and it's arrogant to assume anyone would just roll up here looking for it. It was prompted by something I saw on twitter yesterday. Like I say, people always want shortcuts.

It started when I received a tweet last night from @TheFunnyWhale. The tweet said, "u guys gotta book @TheNickyParis. 19 yr old comic in nyc who is BLOWING UP he's done a bunch of radio interviews check his page."

It seemed kind of odd. It piqued my interest. But not so much my interest in Nicky Paris. I looked up @TheFunnyWhale.

The account described itself as "promoting the funniest people on twitter." Uh huh. I wasn't sure if that meant they were working for some comedians or were just someone trying to help out people they'd seen and liked? Their last twelve or more tweets had all been sent to people who host radio shows and all said the exact same thing so it was obvious they were pretty keen on this Nicky Paris guy. But what about the tweets before that? Who else had they been tweeting about? Who else had they deemed worth promoting? There were hundreds and hundreds of tweets. With identical words. Each and every one said, "FOLLOW 1 OF THE BEST Comedians on twitter my pal @THENICKYPARIS u'll LOVE his tweets! ILL FOLLOW U! Tweets are perfect 4 RT"

That was it. 600 tweets telling people to follow Nicky Paris and a dozen or so telling radio shows to book him. And no other tweets. Wow. It seemed fairly obvious that Nicky Paris was tweeting as TheFunnyWhale. Which made me chuckle. I tweeted back:

TheFunnyWhale didn't seem to like the insinuation. They replied that they went to school with him, were a big fan of his and had no other connection to him.

At which point they told me I was being rude and blocked me.

Now at this stage it might look like I was being a bit of a bully. He's obviously just a 19 year old kid, looking for a short cut and creating a separate account to shill for him might have seemed like a good idea. It's no biggie. There's no need to give him a hard time. Pfft. I was only teasing him.

But it turns out there's more. Lots more.

And these aren't the only ones. As well as TheFunnyMouse1, TheFunnyLips, TheFunnyCupcake, TheFunnyDiamond and TheFunnyPeanut There's also TheFunnyCoconut, TheFunnyMustach, TheFunnyWitch, TheFunnyCamera, TheFunnyHeart, TheFunnyFrog1, TheFunnyDuck1, TheFunnyHouse, TheFunnyShrimp, TheFunnyCherry, TheFunnyDragon, TheFunnyTooth, TheFunnyCheetah, TheFunnyCroc, TheFunnyCake, TheFunnyKitty, TheFunnyBaby and more. Many, many more. There are loads of similarly named accounts all tweeting the same thing over and over and over and over. They get closed down occasionally, but new accounts get created and so it goes on. And on. And on and on and on.

I can't think of a worse way to promote comedy. He might be brilliant. He might be shit. Comedy is always a matter of taste and I'm on side with anyone who gets on stage and gives it a fair go.

But spam is, in its nature, insincere. Spam is dishonest. These are qualities that destroy comedy. Comedy thrives on sincerity and honesty. Spam tries to con us. Spam is used to sell dodgy goods. It's used by people who claim they're selling insurance/high-end-watches/mortgages/medicines/porn but are actually doing no such thing. Smart people learn to spot spam and they don't trust it.

If there's one thing worse than a comedian tweeting "Follow me, I'm the best!" it's surely one who pays others to tweet it for him. I do wish Nicky Paris a bright future. I suspect that's more likely to happen when he stops looking for the short cut.

FEB 11. EDIT TO ADD THE FOLLOWING: The comments section on this post has been fascinating. Thanks to everyone who's contributed. One of the things that Nicky's supporters, Alexes and Kristy (who might well be Nicky - but you never know) offer as evidence for the defence, so to speak, is that Nicky gets retweeted a lot. I'm not sure how that makes spamming okay... but I think the argument is that the spam works and the RTs are proof that people like him.

So I'm indebted to one correspondent (who wishes to be anonymous) who's been in touch to point out the connection between Princess_Peach7 and the hero of our piece, the spammer.

As the picture shows, it seems there's a whole lot more self-interest behind those RTs than there is love for Nicky.

Monday, February 6, 2012

On the show this week...

The two songs I brought in from home for yesterday's show were a) Capricornia by Allo Darlin'

I've played a few Allo Darlin' songs over the couple of years I've been doing Absolute Radio and they've always been well received. As was this one.

And b) Hush If You Must by Brooke Waggoner

who's new to me... but turns out to be fab.

I think it was my favourite show for a few months with some amazing tweets and emails and the like from folks at home. At least I assume they were at home. They could have been anywhere. We started with some discussion of urinal-etiquette before moving sideways into a discussion about being scrutinised... which prompted this tweet from Ian B: "When I first met my ex-girlfriend's Dad, he was polishing a gun. Turned out he collects antique guns, but still. Scrutiny." Yup.

Found Poetry returned this week alongside our other regular features; Ward's Weekly Word and Martin's Song and of course there were the usual podcast only extras too. Some controversy was soundly dealt with in the Pun Street Planning Committee Council Chamber. Good.

Of course you can get the latest podcast here, or for you non-itunes folks, here.

A few people have asked me if I'll be doing the show next Sunday given that I'm gigging at the Doncaster Comedy Festival that night (come on down!)... and the answer is that yes, I will be. I'll be doing the show as normal and then hot footing it to the train station.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

10 Times A Day...

For the last three weeks I have been asked the same question at least 10 times a day. Over 210 times and counting.

Here is the answer.

This man has a red beard and a face that does not resemble mine.

I am not him.

He is not me.

I am not in the Sainsbury's Finance Ad.

I hope that's cleared things up.

If not, maybe this will. This is what it would look like if I was in it.