Saturday, June 26, 2010

I can't think of a title for this either...

When I first decided to cycle from the southernmost point of the British mainland to the easternmost, westernmost and then northernmost points it wasn't going to be anything other than a bike ride. That was what I wanted to do. For the challenge.

Then I was persuaded to do a stand-up show every night along the way and so - even though the show wasn't about the ride - it seemed odd not to acknowledge the cycling in the title somehow. Which is why the show first took on the rather literal name: Sit Down, Pedal, Pedal, Stop And Stand Up.

If I'd thought at the time that there was any likelihood of the show touring again once the bike ride was over I probably would have called it something else. Something more multi-purpose. But because I didn't think of it as a tour in those terms - and indeed, touring was something I thought I didn't want to do - the idea simply didn't occur to me.

I'd last toured a stage show in 2005 when I took Googlewhack around the States and I hadn't done straight stand-up since as far back as 2001. The bike ride wasn't planned as a way of getting back into stand-up... the stand-up was a way of making the bike ride more of a challenge. It was a way of adding a deadline to each day and forcing me to keep going on the days I imagined I'd want to give in.

I loved the ride. It turned out I also loved doing the shows. I'm glad I discovered that.

Trying to set up a show every night to fit in with a bike ride is a ridiculous thing to do. Certainly from any commercial perspective. The route is what the route is. I was aiming to cycle 50 to 60 miles a day. And each day's ride had to take me in the right direction - towards the next cardinal point. What if that takes me to a town where there isn't a theatre? What if it takes me to a town where there is a theatre but it's already booked? If a venue says they can't do a particular date but offers some alternative dates instead that's no use because my route only takes me to that part of the world for one night. And so on. There's a reason why the tour involved playing some village halls, a barn and a train carriage.

But because I'd discovered that I liked doing live stuff again - and because a lot of venues had shown an interest in hosting the show - I decided to do it again on a conventional tour. Y'know, one that involved travelling between venues in a car or a train. One that involved the stupid kind of journeys you only do on a tour - like travelling from Reading to Edinburgh to Bradford - because those are the days when those venues can accommodate you.

I considered changing the name of the show for this new leg of touring but decided against it. While the 'Sit-Down-Pedal-Pedal-Stop-And' parts of the title were no longer relevant, I thought it was important that people understood it was the same show. I wanted anyone who came to see it twice to be making an informed choice.

But, just as the bike ride begat the tour, so that tour has begat a DVD. Or at least it will have begat it when I've filmed it on July 12. (Come along... it's at The Bloomsbury Theatre)

Each leap takes the show further away from that bike ride... and consequently, each leap make the title even less relevant.

While Cycling:

Q: Why is your show called Sit Down, Pedal, Pedal, Stop And Stand Up?
A: Because I'm doing a stand-up show every night. While cycling between the cardinal points of the British mainland. So, y'know... I sit down, I pedal and I pedal and then I stop... and then I do a stand-up show... and then the next day I do it all again.

While Touring:

Q: Why is your show called Sit Down, Pedal, Pedal, Stop And Stand Up?
A: Because, when I first toured it I was travelling by bike.
Q: I see. So it's about cycling?
A: No.
Q: Oh? So why is it, y'know, called whatjamacallit?
A: Because I thought a different title would imply it was a different show and I didn't want to mislead people.

In The Future:
Q: Why is your DVD called Sit Down, Pedal, Pedal, Stop And Stand Up?
A: Because once upon a time, many moons ago, I cycled between the cardinal points of the British mainland and performed that show every night.
Q: Oh. Are DVDs often named after the mode of transport the performers once used to get to venues?
A: Not really, no.
Q: Don't they normally describe the content in some way?
A: Yeah... yeah, I suppose they do.
Q: So what's the show about?
A: Um... well, it's me doing stand-up.
Q: So what's the theme?
A: There isn't one.
Q: So isn't a title that makes any right-thinking person think it's about cycling kind of misleading?
A: Um... yeah... but...
Q: Look. I'm in the future. I have absolutely no interest in how you once travelled to some venues. I mean, I came to chat to you in my time machine... but if I was to write a show about this conversation I'd hardly call it the Time Machine Show now would I?
A: Actually, you probably would. Time machines are really interesting. Talking to someone from the past is way more interesting than just, y'know, talking to your next door neighbour.
Q: Yes. Yes. I see what you mean. Bad example. But you take my point?
A: Absolutely. You're right. Having a DVD named after a mode of transport I used a while ago is kind of silly. Um... could I borrow your time machine?
Q: What for?
A: I want to go back in time and change the name of my show. Before the DVD. Y'know, so that it isn't confusing.
Q: What are you going to call it?
A: I don't know yet.

So... any suggestions? Actual, serious, why-don't-you-call-it-this ones? If you've seen the show, let's avoid spoilers, eh? No point ruining any surprises for the audiences still to come.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Changing Horses Midstream

Making Genius is behind me. But not quite. I've spent the morning talking to various journalists about the new series.

We don't have a confirmed start date yet but it can't be far away if I'm doing press.

But this afternoon I have to sharpen a different pencil and put my head elsewhere.

The show I toured - by bike last autumn, and by car and train this spring - is being filmed for a DVD soon.

I need to remind myself of how it goes. And, on legal advice, I need to change a couple of bits too. (No guessing which bits though... there's no point putting spoilers out for the audience that's still to come, after all.)

I have a few warm up gigs to get the gears working smoothly again. The first three are sold out but I believe tickets are still available for The Lights in Andover on July 9th. And for the night of the recording too. I'm doing two shows. Both on July 12th. At The Bloomsbury Theatre.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cramming It In

Having not had a day off for a couple of months I seem to have contrived to cram four or five days worth of entertainment into one beautiful, hectic, silly, funny Saturday. It was ace.

It started with a trip out to Whyteleafe - that's Croydon way - to go zorbing. I've wanted to do this for ages.

I love living in London. I love the buzz and energy of the city. And I love that it only takes a 45 minute train ride to completely leave the city behind. Best of both worlds.

Zorbing - which, if you haven't heard of it before is basically just rolling down a hill in a big, silly, rubber ball - is ace fun. Myself and TDB did it once and then insisted on doing it again immediately. I had my flip-video camera with me. Sometimes it was pointing at our faces.

After that we went for a stroll, hoping to find somewhere nice for a spot of food. But with no country pub in sight and some bunting waving in the light breeze to tempt us we ended up popping into a school fete instead. I say 'fete' it seemed to be a two day festival. Things have certainly come on a bit since I was a lad. They had driving instructors taking kids out for a spin at one end of the field, a climbing wall, an impossibly dangerous looking ramp for mountain boarders and two stages for various children to perform on. We saw some impressively un-self-conscious teenagers singing a close-harmony version of Mumford & Son's Little Lion Man as well as some thrash guitar band made up of 12 year olds with faux American accents and I forget how many teeny weeny kids singing songs I didn't recognise.

There's something odd about being at a school fete when you have no connection to the school. But at least I wasn't dressed as inappropriately as the man I mentioned in my previous post. And we did get a bite to eat so it was mission accomplished.

Having made the train ride back to London I would have been quite happy to put my feet up and watch some football but there was a big event happening a short walk away in Victoria Park and it seemed churlish not to at least take a look.

There was a fantastic festival atmosphere going on here as well - with the beautiful old-fashioned, Carter's Steam Fair occupying a large chunk of the park and stalls and stages scattered elsewhere.

(It was not only bigger and better than the school fete it was cheaper too. Well, free. School fetes might have moved on but so have prices... £5 I tells ye!)

The thing that most excited me here was the sight of a Wall of Death.

A proper one. I don't get excited by engines in general or motorbikes in particular but if they're riding horizontally around the inside of a wooden tube then I'm very keen to take a look.

I'm pretty sure I'd put it down as the best entertainment £3 has ever bought me.

Ace. Horizontal. Motorbikes. Look no hands! Look no feet! Three quid! Ace.

But there was more to come. Like a giant. Leading a parade to the lake. Where there was floaty dancing. Giant swans. Acrobatics. Darkness. Fireworks.

Right. I won't need another day out for months.

Is it just me or is this not really the shirt to wear to a school fete?

No mister. Please tell your boobs to stop staring at my eyes.

And while you're at it, stop staring at girls' tits.

Friday, June 18, 2010

NickNaming With Attitude

So a while ago - on the radio show - we ended up talking about nicknames. A woman called Leigh Kirby got in touch during the show to say that she'd never had a nickname and we decided it was our job to come up with one. There were lots of suggestions - such as Kirb Your EnthusLeighasm - but the name that came out on top was Bucket. (Leigh Kirby led to Leaky led to Bucket as I recall)

That show led someone else to get in touch and request a nickname and while I can't remember quite how we got there, they ended up being called Dross.

We ended up making it a part of the podcast extras for a while where the three of us came up with various suggestions for people but because we obviously don't have any direct feedback during the podcast it seemed to lack a bit of finality so we've moved it in to the main show to see how it sits there.

Last week, Dan Duggan was the lucky recipient of a nickname. We got him on the phone for a brief chat first of all and then came up with a few suggestions. There used to be a show on TV hosted by Peter Duncan called Duncan Dares and of course there was also Dan Dare so both his names were sort of suggesting a Dare connection. Dan Dare. Duggan Dares. But obviously, anyone called Dares would end up being called Darey... or Dairy and so we eventually settled on Hey Milky You're So Fine, You're So Fine You Blow My Mind, Hey Milky. Or Milky for short.

If you've never had a nickname - or you just think you need a new one - and you'd like to be on the show, get in touch via the nicknames page of our show website and we'll see what we can do. We'll need a photo of you holding a sign declaring the words, I Want A Nickname obviously. We want to make sure it's really you after all.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hello Again...

Hello blog. Nice to see you again. Sorry it's been a while. I didn't just give up on blogging though... I pretty much gave up on everything for the last few weeks. Everything that wasn't Genius anyway.

For about three weeks I was working seven days a week, mostly starting at 10am and finishing late. Like 2am. There wasn't really time in the day for a pause to stop and contemplate. Or blog.

But I'm properly delighted with the way the shows have gone. The format's had a proper big shake up. After the first series we were sent loads of ideas - more than we'd normally have to work with before a series - and we were really keen on getting more of them on screen. I don't just mean another couple either... I mean loads more.

So instead of inviting a handful of people to come along with their idea and putting them in a sort of formal setting where they're taking the stand - as with the last series - this time we had around 70 people present, all of whom had sent in ideas and all of them had the opportunity to get involved. It means the show is more improvised, more energised and pacier because we know there's always something new to move on to. And it isn't always another what's-your-idea conversation either. It's been much looser for me to present and much more fun as a result. We also had two (and in one case, three) guests per show which threw up some really interesting double acts. All in all it's been a blast.

If you came along to the recordings - and especially if you brought an idea - huge thanks. It was ace to hang out with people before and after the recordings. Not least because the excitement I'd see on people's faces after the show always gave me confidence that the changes we've made to the format were for the better. Thanks!