Tuesday, December 20, 2011

No Stopping

Saint Nick, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.

Santa's going to have trouble delivering presents round this way.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Listing. Sinking.

For many years I've run a mailing list on my website. It's on the Contact page.

It's what they call a double opt-in list. That means that when you subscribe to it, you fill in your email address, it sends an email asking you to confirm and you only end up on the list if you do so.

Occasionally someone asks me if I can change their address for them as they've moved jobs etc. I decline because it seems to me to be bad practice to start adding addresses manually. While it's unlikely, they might be giving me their friend's address - or a stranger's address for that matter - and not their own. With the double opt-in mailing list, I know that everyone who's receiving the mail has chosen to do so. Every email comes with a working unsubscribe link - so it's dead easy for people to remove themselves, remove old addresses, add new ones, whatever.

Over the years the list has grown to over 10,000 addresses. I use a company called Bravenet for it - it isn't really possible for me to have that many addresses in my address book - and that way, I can visit a website, type an email out and hit send. Normally when I send an email, I get around 150 mails bouncing back to me. I delete those addresses from the list and try to keep things tidy.

But today when I sent an email to 10,119 subscribers... I had 4,493 bounce back to me as undelivered.

The problem seems to be that Bravenet's servers have been used to send spam... so now lots of other servers are blacklisting them. Including Hotmail and all their related domains. So about 45% of my mailing list won't have seen the latest email. Which is annoying. But I'm not sure what I can do about it.

I pay Bravenet for the service and over the last few years I've had more and more misgivings about the service they provide. Theirs is obviously a service that can be abused by spammers - and they can profit by allowing spammers to do so. Do they really care if a spammer pays them for a list or if I do?

But if their service ends up blacklisted they're no use to anyone. It's certainly no use to me.

If anyone has any expertise in this field and knows a reputable, affordable company, do let me know.

Meanwhile... here's the email I sent out today. It was announcing the 2012 tour extension - and letting people know about the presale link available from today:


Hello you, seasons greetings and all that.

Firstly, a big thank you to everyone that came to see the show on tour. I had a fabbo time. I genuinely didn't want the tour to end... which is just as well because it hasn't ended. The tour is going to continue in 2012.

There's a one-off at the Doncaster Comedy Festival in February and then we'll be back on the road with the show in May, June & July. We're returning to some venues where the show sold out and also visiting a whole heap of new places.

Most of the venues go on sale officially on Friday. But we wanted to give you first dibs... which is why, from 10am today - Wednesday - you can buy tickets for most of the shows if you're in the know. And you are. Or at least you will be when you read the next line of this email.


There. Now you're in the know. That's the link. You can find all the shows that are on presale available behind that link as of 10am today. Then from Friday they should pretty much all be on general sale - and the links and details will be on the Live Dates page of my site.

The full list of dates is as follows:
February 12: Doncaster.

Great Torrington (Devon), Wimborne (Dorset) Andover, Aldershot, Stafford, Durham, Colchester, Norwich.

Hayes, Dartford, Treorci (Wales), Dudley, Salford/Manchester, Swindon, Harrogate, Ipswich, Belfast, Tunbridge Wells, Bristol, Truro, Reading, Cambridge, St Albans, Kings Lynn, Cheltenham, Coventry, Yeovil, Guildford.

Dorking, The Isle of Wight.

I hope we're coming near you and that you'll want to pop along.

Oh... Belfast is already on sale as it's the re-scheduled gig for the show we had to move due to the industrial action.

Oh... and Norwich, Wimborne and Andover won't be on pre-sale but should be on general sale from Friday.

Oh... and Truro won't be on sale til December 30.

Oh... and... nope... that's all the 'Oh... ands' there are. I hope this email finds you well. If I don't email again between now and Christmas, I wish you the best of the season and of course, a very happy new year.

I look forward to our paths crossing...

Pip pip!



Friday, December 2, 2011

Ctrl C, Ctrl V

I was surprised this morning to find a couple of messages saying, "I liked what you wrote in The Mirror, well done."

I was surprised because I hadn't written anything for the Mirror. It seems you don't have to these days. I did a bit of googling... and found this. If the words are familiar to you, that'll be because you read my last blog.

As did someone at The Mirror. Who then cut and pasted it into the paper. Odd.

Apparently someone on the Radio 2 breakfast show was talking about how I'd written a piece for The Mirror on the whole Clarkson thing too. I don't imagine many of those who read it thought that it wasn't written specifically for the paper.

Which is a bit cheeky of them to say the least. Oh well. As if we needed a lesson in not believing what we read in the papers at the minute.

Or maybe this is how things work these days and this blog is automatically being fed into the Mirror. I hope so. I can't wait to see this one!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dermot Draws The Egghead's Curtains...

Does Dermot do this every day or was this a coincidence?

And finally...

Hello Coventry!

Hello Carlisle!

Hello Preston!

Hello Perth!

Goodbye tour. For now.

We're going to extend the tour into next year. I'll have the dates all sorted soon!

Thanks to everyone who's been to see the show. I've bloomin' loved it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hello Again. Again.

Hello Cheltenham!

Hello Wolverhampton!

Hello Leicester!

Hello Hammersmith!

Just Coventry, Carlisle, Preston and Perth to go... I'm going to miss this show.

Or maybe I'll just find a way to do it some more.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Mind Wanders When You're On Tour...

Take a full page ad for Specsavers from a national newspaper. Cut the face in half, removing the nose:

Then see what you'd like with grey hair:

Or a stubbly, silver beard:

Like I say. The mind wanders when you're on tour.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I'm Sorry Belfast!

Well this tour was just going a bit too smoothly so something had to come along and upset the apple cart. Bah.

Unfortunately there's a day of industrial action planned for November 30th. Which means that the Waterfront Hall in Belfast is unlikely to have any staff. Including stage crew. Which makes putting the show on... well, kind of impossible.

So unfortunately we're left with little choice but to postpone the show to another date. It's a bit far off. June 15th. 2012.

That's literally as much as I know at the moment. If you have a ticket for the show next Wednesday - I can only advise you to contact the agency you bought it from. Of course, I'll try to find out more and update this page as and when I find anything out.

I'm gutted. But there really isn't anything I can do about it. Sorry.

The Wolves Civic

I'd love to have been at the Wolverhampton Civic yesterday because it was home to the final of the Grand Slam of Darts. I like darts.

The tournament was won by Phil Taylor - the finest darts player there's ever been. I like Phil Taylor. I'm a fan of darts.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to watch the final. I was on stage at the time. Having a lovely time in Cheltenham Town Hall as it goes. But I will be at the Wolverhampton Civic later on today as it just happens to be the venue for the next gig on the tour.

I've been hoping that a little bit of darting memorabilia might have been left behind for me.

But I wasn't expecting this:

Here's a close up of the sign:

How bloomin' lovely is that?

Very lovely.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ecky Thump 2

I can't quite believe it, but I've now had a second report of someone pulling a muscle laughing at the tour show. (See here for the first!)

Last night, on my way back from High Wycombe I saw this tweet:
So I asked...

and the reply came...


Saturday, November 12, 2011

He's maximum something, that's for sure.

I'll start this post by saying that I like Ricky Gervais. I'll also say that the point of this post isn't to debate whether or not I'm right to. That's tedious. Because comedy is a matter of taste. Besides, this post really isn't about him. It's about another comic creation. One called @MaximumGervais.

I didn't realise it was a comedy character at first. But it's always worth looking at the details... and I'm genuinely convinced that it is now. I'm not being obtuse or playful when I say that. I'm convinced.

So... I'll tell you how I first encountered @MaximumGervais. It starts with this tweet from Ricky.

For those unfamiliar with the grammar of Twitter, the abusive 'who-told-him-he-was-funny' post came from someone else (I've filtered their username because I don't want to encourage any pitchfork wielding mobs) and Ricky has retweeted it - ie sent it out to all his followers - with the added retort, Bafta.

So that's what Ricky tweeted... and I saw it because someone I know, retweeted that. Now, I don't have a lot of time for the person who sent the original, abusive tweet... because actually, no matter what you think of any comedian, the answer to who-told-them-they're-funny? is always the same: audiences. There's no empirical evidence of funny/unfunny. Every comedian that you think is unfunny makes other people laugh. (And every comedian that you think is hilarious leaves other people cold). And whatever you think of Ricky, there is plenty of evidence that lots of people think he's funny. Including some evidence from Bafta. Fine.

Now one of the things about social media is that it is what you make of it. You can lurk and read. You can participate. You can troll. You can use it in myriad ways. And some people think that their way is right and that other people's way is wrong. Personally, I have a policy of not retweeting praise. Or criticism. It wasn't ever thus for me... but it's where I've ended up. It's what makes me feel comfortable. But I don't think everyone should do the same. There are people I admire a great deal who do both. If it offended me so much I'd unfollow them. (I don't see unfollowing someone as an aggressive act - it's like changing seat on a bus to sit away from the passenger with the loud headphones... it's just making your own journey a little nicer, that's all.)

But the thing that struck me as odd about Ricky's tweet was that the abuse he was rebutting wasn't actually sent to him. It didn't contain his twitter name. It didn't refer to him as @RickyGervais... but as Ricky Gervais. So the only way he could have seen it was by searching for his name. Which seemed to me to be a surprising thing for him to do. Because it's not possible to appear on TV without being hated by someone somewhere. Every time anyone appears on TV someone somewhere is watching and saying, "Oh no... not that twat... I hate them...". (Okay, maybe it doesn't happen with David Attenborough. But it happens with everyone else.) And that's fine. Someone thinking that - someone saying it to their friends - is fine. You don't like to think about it obviously, but it's fine. It's the people who say it to you that are being anti-social. And on twitter that means it's the people who include your username - ensuring that you'll see the comment - that are the problem.

Now I'll reiterate that I like Ricky. And I was surprised to see that he was searching for criticism and taking the time to rebut it... but I'll also reiterate that social networking sites are what you make of them - and for each individual that can - and will - be different. Nobody's right, nobody's wrong.

But I registered my surprise by sending a tweet to the person who'd retweeted Ricky's post:

(again, I've filtered out their username)

And this is where MaximumGervais tipped up. They too must have been searching for comments relating to Ricky - and they must have been following all sorts of threads because my tweet doesn't even mention any obviously searchable terms - but they tweeted me the following:
Which made me laugh as an approach, so I replied...

To which they then replied:

Which again made me laugh. I didn't know that the person who'd been on Letterman most was the best (but it must be nice for David Letterman to know that he's several thousand times better than everyone else on earth, except Paul Shaffer) and comforting in a small way to confirm that both I and David not-the-magician Copperfield are significantly better than MaximumGervais.

Now at this stage I just thought they were a genuine Ricky Gervais superfan. I thought they really were patrolling the internet and defending their hero against any slight, however small. But I was also genuinely curious as to why they thought my initial tweet was deemed critical. I wouldn't expect the word 'Criminy' to inspire such vitriol. Surely, you'd only see that tweet as being critical if you thought that searching for your own name and wading in was wrong. If you think it's okay then... well... it's just 'criminy'.

So I asked. And they didn't answer. They told me I'd slagged off Ricky and that I was motivated by jealousy... but when I asked them in what way it was a slagging off they sent more abuse but no context. So in my head I dismissed them as a troll and decided not to feed them.

But then I saw another of their exchanges... and this is when I started to suspect that maybe they weren't just a slightly unhinged, OTT Gervais fan at all and that this was actually someone creating a comedy of their own. It was this:

So... a fan posts a link to a clip featuring Liam Neeson and Ricky Gervais. (It's from Ricky's new sitcom and it is indeed brilliant.) And the comment seems to be par for the course for that kind of thing. It seems to me to be written from the point of view of a fan who expects Ricky to be funny - it's in his show after all - but is surprised by how good the serious-actor-stepping-out-of-his-comfort-zone is.

In fact it's exactly the sort of thing a Ricky Gervais superfan would tweet. Except that MaximumGervais replied saying:

Because in their headspace it's disrespectful to point out that Neeson is brilliant and not mention that Ricky is too. The idiot! Duh! etc. etc.

All of a sudden that doesn't ring true. That seems like someone playing a character. So I started looking through their other posts too. Here's another where a fan of the show is told they're not a real fan because they only mentioned the one scene that had them crying with laughter:

I know there are all sorts of unhinged people out there - and that the internet is particularly good at incubating them - but after that I can't see how MaximumGervais is anything other than a situationist prank.

Especially when they also tweet:which came at the end of several tweets to their hero explaining why he should cut loose from his long term collaborator, Stephen Merchant. Compare and contrast it with the tweet from before about how every scene should make you cry with laughter. Unconditionally. Because that's what being a fan is. And anything else is not good enough.

By this stage I was starting to suspect that this was so much more than a spoof. This was high comic writing in its own right. Because it involves idolising someone/something while at the same time completely failing to get what it is that makes it work.

In fact, I suspect that they're really rather anti-Ricky. A lot of what Ricky does is about ego. And when people don't like him it's often because they're unsure where the line is between the performance and the reality. Some people think he's really just an overblown ego. Others think he's doing it for comic effect. Some like it either way. Some hate it either way.

But I think MaximumGervais is someone who hates it - and has created a character that is meant to be Ricky's ego broken free and wandering loose as an uncontrollable monster. I think it's a satire on Ricky's comic persona from the point of view of someone who doesn't buy it as a comic persona.

Do an image search for Ricky and tell me you think this is really the picture a genuine superfan would use to illustrate their account:

See that Ricky has apologised for his use of the word mong having accepted that - while it wasn't his intention to use it that way - he understood that the word is still used to denigrate disabled people and then see that MaximumGervais has a twitter biography that still says, "no mongs allowed."

Then see the various posts in which he tells Ricky he's wrong to apologise for it:
There were lots of others. And then finally, the tweet where he inexplicably decides that Ricky's apology wasn't sincere and was just an in-joke:
Can you imagine anything more calculated to annoy Ricky? A superfan who completely misses the point of him? A representation of an ego gone mad designed to tell someone he doesn't like that their ego's gone mad.

I like Ricky. And now I'm convinced that MaximumGervais is a character-act, I kind of like them too. And I think Ricky probably would do too. It's a parody of a parody that he doesn't think is a parody. It's the most meta- of meta-jokes. What could be more Gervaisian than that?

Tour Snaps Continue...

Hello Dublin!

Hello Birmingham!

Hello Oxford!

Hello York!

Hello Middlesbrough!

Only thirteen gigs left now... Bristol tonight. High Wycombe on Sunday, then Tunbridge Wells, Cheltenham, Wolverhampton, Leicester, London, Coventry, Carlisle, Preston, Perth and Belfast. Details here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Well this is getting silly now...

Having only just got my head around the idea of someone pulling a muscle at the Guildford show (see my previous post) I was surprised this morning to see the following tweet about the Birmingham show.

I was curious. How do you accidentally headbutt someone in a theatre? I assumed he meant it was some kind of reaching-across-the-bar-during-the-interval accident rather than a during-the-show-and-sitting-in-your-seat kind of thing... so I asked. And this was the answer:

Another person hurting themselves in one of the shows. I was getting worried. But luckily, someone else has been in touch to tell me of the show's healing powers:

So y'know... it's not all bad.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ecky Thump!

A man once died laughing at The Goodies.

I'll settle for causing a pulled muscle. At least that's what two folks on twitter are telling me happened in Guildford.

Is it true? Does anyone know the woman in question?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hello Guildford!

Hello Bournemouth!

where, incidentally, the backstage speakers must have been installed by a Spinal Tap fan:

Dublin next... and then Birmingham, Oxford, York, Middlesbrough and more...