Thursday, August 31, 2006

Poor Anna Ford

I've had an odd few days after the brief illusion of time-off finally evaporated. I've attended the wedding of a stranger, watched some people go through a ballet lesson and learn to rap. I've had my jacket stolen by a Shoreditch twink, written a chapter of something that might or might not one day be and been soaked to the skin in a pair of tight jeans and a t-shirt for a Guardian photoshoot which will inevitably make me wish I was thinner.

I also recorded several trails for the new series of Genius which is very encouraging as it seems Radio 4 is really going to get behind it. I had a message today telling me that there was a preview of the series in the new edition of the Radio Times. Ah... I may have missed out on the Edinburgh Fringe but I still got to walk to a newsagents, worrying about what a journalist had made of my show so I guess I sampled a tiny fraction of the paranoia that seeps into performer's veins during the festival. I'm glad to say it's very nice.

It's been a long time since I laughed until I hurt listening to a radio comedy but the return of Dave Gorman's brilliant series is painfully funny.
For those who missed it first time round the premise is simple: Gorman invites Radio 4 listeners to submit ideas that he and his special guest will deem to be genius or not.
This week he is joined by Johnny Vegas whose surreal tangential humour is fed by the listeners' ideas to such a level of inspiration that they might as well have plunged him into a vat of his greatest love, Guinness.
The first suggestion, for example, is that to avoid the embarrassment and pleasure of metal detecting, one should strap the detector to the belly of a dog and then wire headphones through the its lead. This sends Vegas off into a world where pets can be used to disguise other moments of human awkwardness and he imagines getting polar bears to place our ageing mothers into old people's homes in the future. Fast, fresh and formidably funny - don't miss this, it's genius.

Team Genius have got to be happy with that. I know I am. What's more it's illustrated with a picture of me from 5 or 6 years ago. When I was thinner. It starts a week tomorrow. 6.30pm. Radio 4.

By the way... poor Anna Ford. That it should come to this:
The Anna Ford Hole Sale

Monday, August 28, 2006

In Shoreditch

Stilts. Again.
Stilts. Again, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Not going to Edinburgh

It's always odd not being in Edinburgh during the festival. At the same time I'm kind of glad to be outside the madness of it this year. I started going to the festival as a teenager, once appearing in a terrible children's musical (written by a man who later tried to take photographs of some of teenage girls in the cast. Ugh) but mainly going to see a load of shows and absorb as much culture as I could. I attended in one capacity or another for nearly 20 consecutive years. I couldn't go last year because of the American tour and this year... well I'm not sure why I didn't go early on but now I am too busy with lots of time being spent staring at a screen.

I did see a few preview shows down in London before the festival and I can highly recommend (in no particular order) Adam Hills, Robin Ince (both solo and in his guise as Book Club head honcho), Charlie Pickering, Simon Brodkin, Talk Radio and The Runaway Lovers. I've heard nothing but good about Klang, Richard Herring, DJ Danny and Phil Nicol and I would dearly love to see Toby Hadoke's show Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf - even though I don't have a sci-fi lovin' bone in my body (deal with it geeks.)

As well as missing Edinburgh this year I've completely missed out on the last series of Big Brother. I have gathered by osmosis the names of two contestants; Pete and Nikki, but no one else has been on my radar at all. I caught two bits of it, both of which appeared to be the Nikki girl being evicted though how she ended up back in, in order to be evicted a second time I honestly don't know. What I do know is that on both occasions, on watching her face contorted with rage and fear and witnessing her complete inability to function I felt like I was watching some form of abuse and had to turn over. It honestly troubled me.

Maybe if I'd seen more of the shows up to that point I would have had some context to explain what looked like a bunch of yobs booing someone with the mind (and frame) of a seven year old girl. Odd. I normally enjoy appearing on BBLB (I pronounce it bubbalub, how about you?) but I had to pass on it this year as I just haven't been able to understand the main show and would have had no opinions to offer. Was it that bad or did I miss something?

I went into Currys today. This is always a mistake. After forty minutes of walking round the store I managed to find someone in a uniform. I said, "Hi, can you help me, I'm thinking about buying a vacuum cleaner and a microwave."
It's a bold, no-nonsense start to a dialogue I'm sure you'll agree.
"Certainly Sir," said he, "let's start with the vacuum cleaners, is there a model you're interested in?"
I liked the cut of this young man's gib.
"Yes," I said, leading him to the model I was interested in.
It was all going quite well wasn't it?
"Okay... sorry," he said as if suddenly realising that he worked in Currys and so hadn't yet displayed the requisite lack of knowledge and/or manners, "I need to disappear for five minutes, I'll be back ASAP."
He disappeared. Fifteen minutes later he hadn't returned and so I left. I'd rather have dirty carpets and within five minutes of leaving I'd decided that I actually like not having a microwave. Don't buy things just because they're shiny. That's my advice. As I left the shop, an hour wasted and no cash spent, he was chatting with his mates at the till. What (and I believe this is the phrase that a comedian is supposed to employ in this situation) is that all about?

Two bits of newsy news by the way. Number one, I believe that the new series of Genius now has its place in the Radio 4 schedules. It will be going out at 6.30 on Thursdays and starts on September 7th. Secondly - and this is an odd one - it seems that later this year there is a goodly chance of The Dave Gorman Collection (or as most people, myself included misremember it, Are You Dave Gorman? being released on DVD. If I knew more, I'd tell you. When I do know more, I will. That's how that works.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Blogging with Richard and Judy

One of the things that I find odd about my work is that when I do a show in which I demonstrate my lack of expertise in a field, people then start to treat me like an expert. I still regularly receive e-mails from strangers that ask me if I can help them track down a long-lost friend or similar because Are You Dave Gorman? has convinced them that I'm some kind of brilliant person-hunter. I would have thought that anyone who'd watched the show or read the book would understand that I was no expert.

Similarly, when my Important Astrology Experiment was on air I started getting asked questions about star-signs that were entirely irrelevant. I distnctly remember one journalist asking me to tell her what Librans were supposed to be like and when I told her I didn't have the first idea she basically said, "Well why on earth do you think you can present a series about astrolgy then?" It wasn't really worth explaining that I wasn't presenting-a-series-about-astrology but instead telling-a-story-about-something-I'd-experienced. Se'd been sent a tape of the show.

Since my Googlewhack Adventure has taken over as thing-I-get-asked-about-most-often I seem to have been filed away on some kind of TV research database as man-who-knows-about-the-internet. I don't especially and again, anyone who'd seen the show or read the book would understand that there's nothing about it that makes a claim to any expertise.

But that doesn't stop the phone from ringing every time there's an internet-related news story someone wants to discuss on TV. If Google's shares suddenly shoot up (or down) in price the phone rings and someone is inviting me to appear on a news programme to discuss it. I always refuse these invites because I don't really have an opinion and even if I did I don't really see how it would be a) more informed than anyone else's or b) relevant to the story.

For this reason I was a little sceptical when my agent rang to ask me if I was interested in taking part in a discussion about blogging and almost said an automatic 'no' in reply. I'm not an expert in the field, (I don't really think that this is a blog - this is my sometimes-bloggy-news-page which is different and not as bloggy as a blog) and I know nothing about the technology either.

But then two magic words were used. Richard and Judy. They are such genuinely lovely company that there is little I won't do for R&J. More to the point, a sensible question was asked. Instead of assuming I'm some kind of expert, the simple query, 'Do you read any blogs?' was made to which the reply is 'Yes.' This was followed up by the simple follow up question, 'Would you like to talk about them?' Another 'Yes' was forthcoming. I do read a couple of blogs and I am able to string a sentence together so why not talk to Richard and Judy about it?

In the end the discussion was fun and lively and involved Emily Bell (editor of Guardian Unlimited) and Catherine who is better known to blog-aficionados as Petite Anglaise. Catherine's blog is largely about her life as an ex-pat living in France and recently she's made the news because her employers discovered her blog (in which they weren't identified) and promptly sacked her.

So, for what it's worth, the blogs I regularly read are Emma Kennedy, Richard Herring and Paul Daniels all of which make me laugh - some more deliberately than others. They referred to the blogs of Kennedy.E and Daniels.P on the show and I seemed to induce some panic behind the cameras when I referred to this particular entry on Paul's old blog (from before he moved it over to his shiny new website) although why anyone should be panicking when it's in the public domain is beyond me.

I probably emerged looking a bit obsessed with Paul Daniels because another blog that I mentioned - and which is something of a favourite - is Paul Daniels' Ebay Transactions in which someone blogs every minute details of every transaction the magician makes on ebay. (He buys and sells and has a penchant for horror films that as far as I can see he makes no mention of on his blog.)

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Cromwell Tower
Cromwell Tower, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.

Navel Gazing

"I see your blogging has died a death," said my old friend Geoff over lunch a couple of days ago.
"What do you mean?" asked I.
"Well, you haven't put anything on your news page for nearly a month," said Geoff.
"That's because there's been no news," said I. "I haven't done anything. For the first time in years I've had a bit of time off."
"Yes... but I looked at the site this morning," said Geoff, pushing his food around the plate, looking sheepish. "I was hoping it would say, 'I'm really excited because I'm having lunch with my lovely friend Geoff later' ... but it didn't.
"No," I said. "It didn't."

I have a job which means there are lots of strangers out there who know stuff about me. One of the things that happens when strangers know stuff about you is that they sometimes assume that the stuff they know is all there is. So I get a lot of e-mails from people that start with "I saw your first stage show, 'Are You Dave Gorman' and..." or things like, "I was in the audience the first time you came to Brighton..." and so on. Even though I know they generally mean well it always seems strangely dismissive and arrogant of them... I mean... how could I possibly have existed before they'd heard of me? Maybe I do the same thing when I talk about musicians or actors or whatever and I'm only aware of how odd it is when it's about me. I hope I don't.

Now I don't expect people to follow my every move... in fact I'd be really scared if anyone did... but one symptom of this is that someone who lives in, say, Reading, sees the Googlewhack Adventure tour in 2003 and then doesn't see me touring again and assumes that because-they-don't-know-about-it-I-must-be-doing-nothing. So while I was touring Australia, America and Canada I used to get the occasional e-mail from people accusing me of being lazy and unproductive and asking when I was planning on bothering to do another show.

Now... I don't really do stand-up; I don't write jokes. I tell true stories for a living. In order to have a story to tell, I need to live life and do stuff. I figure that if something happens that I think is worth telling I'll do something about it and if it isn't worth telling I won't. That seems wholly better than deciding to do a show because it's-about-time-I-did-another-show.

The Googlewhack Adventure basically ended up taking up my whole life for the best part of three years and when it finally came to an end at the end of 2005 I was in no position to just start again on a new project. For a start, the only thing I could have talked about was touring the Googlewhack Adventure and I think a show about touring a show would have been the definition of disappearing up my own fundament. Besides, Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure Adventures would only have prolonged the madness of life on the road and I was really very keen on reacquainting myself with my home. My bed. My friends. I get excited when I know I'm going to be able to have lunch with my friend Geoff. You can't do that when you're on a four month tour of America. I'm not complaining about my lot in life - far from it - but if you were unable to see your friends or family (or bed, or front door, or whatever) for 8 or 9 months a year for 3 years running you'd probably want to spend quite a lot of time doing just that when it became possible.

So when I came home from that final tour I was pretty determined that I would take a few months off and do nothing except enjoy life for a while. Partly because I thought I deserved it and partly because I figured that without taking time off and living some life there would never be a story I wanted to tell people and there wouldn't be a new project anyway.

To begin with I wasn't very good at doing nothing. A quick flick through the entries I made in the first three months of this year shows that I was readily accepting loads of invitations to guest on shows. Some of them I did because they were old favourites that I've always enjoyed and others I did because, 'well, if I'm going to do that old favourite show and that means I'm not really taking time off I might as well do that thing on Thursday as well' but in truth I probably did a lot of them because having been away from the UK for what felt like ages I was worried that the phone would have stopped ringing and I was stupid and shallow enough to be delighted that it was. Silly me.

Then I was offered the part in Annually Retentive, then the opportunity to make a second series of Genius came up and then I was invited to go to New York to write and record some bits for The Daily Show and as far I'm concerned all of these definitely fall into the too-good-to-miss-can't-say-no category. So I didn't say 'no.' I said 'yes.' And I'm very glad that I did because all three were a joy to do.

And so recently... months after the Googlewhack Adventure came to an end, I've finally been taking that time off that I was craving. And I've been loving it. And it means there's been nothing to report. And it means that my head has started to think again. Which means that I've had an idea - or rather that a memory and a thought and an emotion have crystallised into an idea - and the seed of my next project has been planted. Which just goes to show... if you want me to do something new, don't hassle me about it... give me time off, let me get rid of the old stuff that's crowding out my head, let stuff happen to me and then I'll come back and tell you about it later.

Now I'm worried about posting this because I don't want to suddenly get a load of e-mails from people asking me what it's going to be about or speculating on what it might be. I don't understand how that is remotely helpful. The point of the kind of work I do is for me to try to explain the how and the why and the what of a series of events; my thoughts, my emotions and my take on the whole thing. If hundreds of people start telling me what they think of it, it ends up making less sense rather than more.

For example... if the Googlewhack Adventure had been a deliberately planned show (which it wasn't) and I'd have put an announcement on here saying that my next show is going to be about googlewhacking how would that have helped? The moment people knew what the show was about I started getting hundreds of e-mails from people telling me about the googlewhacks they'd found. I know why people wanted to send them to me and I don't really mind them doing so (although there is nothing I can say in return) but had I been in the middle of creating the show when those e-mails were received would it have been helpful? Not in the slightest. Relevant to the story? No. Filling up my inbox and making it harder to see the wood for the trees? Probably.

Which reminds me... about once or twice a month I get an e-mail from someone (a different person each time) saying pretty much the same thing. They write saying, "Hi Dave... I've had this idea for a book/show/TV show/etc and I'm not sure if it's a good idea and if it is a good idea, I'm not sure how to go about getting it off the ground. Have you got any advice?" My honest advice is that there's no such thing as a good idea. Things that sound terrible on paper can be great in reality. Things that sound promising on paper are very often disappointing because they create expectation that can never be surpassed. It's not really about what-it-is, it's about how-you-carry-it-out. Which I suppose means, It might be a good idea if you're interested in it... but my opinion is irrelevant. (Seriously, Father Ted, just as a random example, was a brilliant sit-com because it was brilliantly written, performed and directed. It wasn't a brilliant sit-com because it was about three priests on an island. It's not a good idea. It's a good sit com.)

As to how to get the thing off the ground... I don't even really understand the question. Just go and do something. Write something. Perform something. Show people something. It isn't the kind of job you get given... it's the kind of work you create.

So anyway... just as I don't think there is any advantage in them asking for my opinion I see no advantage in me soliciting stranger's opinions either. So don't bother asking me what it's about because as always, if it's about anything, it's about what's going on in my head. I'll tell you all about it when there's something I think you'll be interested in. It's not as if it'll exist any time soon anyway. It's going to take time. So you're probably best ignoring this and carrying on as if I'm lazily doing nothing. It'll probably be a book one day. It might be something else too but I doubt it will be a stage show. It won't be a novel.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

A book I like

Even if I don't love a book, I normally persist and make sure I finish it. Maybe I have become less tolerant of late or maybe I have just been easily distracted with my mind elsewhere (or maybe I just chosen bad books to read) but 3 books have been started and discarded part way through this month and those I have finished haven't exactly thrilled me. So instead I've perused my shelves to find a recommendation from way back when and come up with this.
It's written by Peter Farrelly - one half of the Farrelly Brothers (that's if you're talking about the Farrelly Brothers as movie-makers, if you're Mr. & Mrs Farrelly, Peter is only one fifth of the Farrelly brothers and one ninth of the Farrelly children) - and while it is set on the fringes of the entertainmnet industry, it isn't a book written for those in the know. It's the story of a well-meaning guy from Boston who moves to LA to pursue a career as a writer and how his life gets turned upside down by a strange girl he encounters. Don't be put off by the title, it isn't about zinging one-liners - it does have laughs but it's about the story and it's full of heart.

The Comedy Writer

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