Thursday, July 26, 2012

Met a famous Brit in Montreal this morning...

I guess not everyone's heard of him... but for those who 
have it's pretty impressive stuff

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I don't think I've ever stepped off stage and been told to run before. But I did last night.

It was a strange day all round. My schedule had three shows in it. And because two of them were being filmed for TV (one Canadian, one American) they also involved rehearsals.

A rehearsal of that sort of thing isn't really a rehearsal. You don't go on stage and run the words - there's nothing more uncomfortable than delivering material to nobody. I can't say the words to an empty room - stand up, like a tree falling in a forest, only really makes a sound when there's an audience to hear it.

No, what a rehearsal really means is someone showing you where you'll enter and exit the stage from, maybe asking what kind of microphone/stand combination you want to work with and various of your shirts being held up on camera so that a decision can be made as to which one you should wear.

It only really needs to take 10 minutes... but they generally find a way of stretching it out and making it last an hour or two. I have no idea why. Nor do they.

Doing two tapings in one night is a bit weird and meant everything had to run exactly to time. At 11am, I had to drop two shirts off in the hotel reception so that one of the shows could take them away and check them. Then I'd head off to a rehearsal at the other taping. I'd leave a shirt at the first "rehearsal" and then head to the venue of the second taping for a "rehearsal" there... and by the time that was done, even though it could all have been dispatched in 30 or 40 minutes, it was time to make my way to my solo show.

The day's schedule had been finely tuned... it's just that it didn't really include a meal time. It felt as though every minute had been occupied. Largely by the kicking-of-heels in various backstage areas.

So at 6pm, I grabbed a sandwich on the way to my venue and started to set the show up so that we could start on time at 7pm.

And then I strapped myself in for the what I knew was going to be a frantic night.

The audience numbers had dipped low on Monday night - the fact that it was a Monday was no doubt a factor, the fact that the show was now one of thirty or more english language shows instead of one of three was probably a factor... and I'm pretty sure that the monsoon that threatened to wash the streets away for the hour before the show was a pretty big factor too. A Summer's Night In Montreal
Less energy in the room means you have to work harder to make the audience coalesce. We got there on the Monday but I was really hoping there'd be a more sizeable audience for it on the Tuesday night so that it would energise me and give me some momentum for the upcoming two-tapings-dash.

I was lucky. They weren't the biggest crowd I've had here but they were big enough and while they held the show at arms' length for about ten minutes it didn't take long for the audience to trust me with it and relax and it raced away from there. Probably the best of the run so far. Great fun.

I was out of the door by 8.15 and running the short distance back to the hotel in order to dump the kit from the show in my room and make it downstairs for an 8.30 car. I made it by 8.32... engine running... and we were off... the first part of the mission had been accomplished.

But the rest of it wasn't going to go so smoothly. Both the TV tapings were starting at 10pm. I was meant to be on first at the first one - so I'd be onstage at about ten past the hour - and then I was second from last at the other... meaning I ought to be on stage some time between 10.40 and 10.50.

But 10 o'clock came and there was no sign of the show starting... and people started getting agitated. And when I say people, I mean my Bjorn. And when I sat Bjorn, I mean my agent. The next thing I know is they're saying the show won't start until 10.30 at the latest... and that means it's now impossible for me to do both shows.

So the decision was made to pull out of the first recording and head over to the other one - it was one of the festival's big galas and was being hosted by the brilliant Bill Hader in a 3000 seat theatre.

So I get there and try to watch the show and let the pre-show adrenaline subside a little as I now have a bit of a wait before I'm on. I change into the shirt that they've agreed and go into a different make-up room so that they can redo the make-up done at the first taping.

As I'm waiting in the wings, I realise there's a slightly off grammar to this gig. Just a little something I haven't seen before. When someone finishes their set and leaves the stage, a voice over then back-announces them and they step back on to the stage and acknowledge the crowd one final time. I've never seen that done before and it didn't come up at "rehearsal" so I asked the stage manager if that was what was expected of us all and she confirmed that it was.

So I go on and do my set and as I'm leaving, I think to myself, "don't forget to do that bit where you step back on stage and acknowledge the crowd!" Except that the first thing I see when I step into the wings is Bjorn who's holding my bag and my shirt and yelling, "Run!"

"Just a minute," I say, feeling ever so slightly confused. I step back on stage, I salute the crowd, I step back into the wings.
"Quick," he yells again, "Run!"

And so I do. I run. And he runs. And as other performers scatter in the backstage corridor to let two sprinting loons through, he breathlessly explains that the first taping is running so late that it might still be possible to get me on stage to close the show.

"There's a car waiting for us outside," gasps, Bjorn.
"No there isn't," says a female voice, just as we reach the stage door. "I'm sorry. There was an emergency, it had to go somewhere else."

There was some light swearing.

But we didn't have time for the heavy stuff because it was more important to make progress. So we sprinted into the street and ran for a good 300 yards before we finally hailed a cab.

I was in the process of changing shirts in the back of the car when we pulled up outside the studio. Phew. Just in time. More running. People holding doors open. Showing us short cuts through the building that we hadn't seen on the first visit.

Adam Hills was on stage (and storming it, naturally) and everyone could breathe a sigh of relief. I was there. The host - Danny Bhoy - just had to go on when Adam had finished and introduce me and we'd be on the home strait.

Only then they told us that because it had run so late, there was some problem with the sound, which meant they might not be able to record the audio for the whole of my set unless they stopped first and reset something.

Danny did a fantastic job of keeping the energy in the room on a high while they did whatever they had to do. In less capable hands the evening could have fallen apart a bit here and turned into a truly uphill struggle.

My body had been in about-to-go-on-stage mode four times and had four strange come-downs... and now I was about to go on stage. As Danny was finally given the go ahead to introduce me, I glanced  at my watch and saw that it was midnight.

Monday, July 23, 2012

In Montreal

Woo! Yay!
The exciting thing about bringing a show to a new country is that you wipe the slate clean. You start with no real reputation to back you up. Just some strangers taking a punt on you by buying a ticket.

The truth is that in the UK, audiences will give me a bit of a headstart. It's a headstart I don't get - that I haven't earned - here. It puts you on your mettle and ensures that you put the work in. I'm glad to say I've been rewarded so far. The show is going great guns.

There's no way of posting a positive review without seeming boastful... so here, um, boastfully, is some proof that things are going well: a review from the Montreal Gazette. That's nice - and compared to many, it's refreshingly light on spoilers too.
"Far from a gimmick, using the slides proves to be a particularly effective comedic tool, especially in the facility it gives Gorman to quickly pile up visual evidence to buttress whatever point he’s arguing for or against.

You can take it all at face value, simply as comedy, and Dave Gorman’s PowerPoint Presentation is an unmitigated success on that level. But there is also a subversive, culture-jamming spirit at play in Gorman’s presentation, particularly when he trains his sights on the worlds of media (social and mainstream) and marketing. Leaving the show, I couldn’t help shake the feeling that those segments should become mandatory viewing in media literacy classes everywhere.

Gorman is also about as polished a performer as you’ll see at Just for Laughs, betraying none of the side-effects of the shabby, alt-comedy ethos that can occasionally hamper some of the too-cool-for-you performances at the festival’s edgier Zoofest cousin. I don’t think I heard him hem or haw a single time during the hour-plus running time of the show. (And I could have easily sat through another hour.) There’s something to be said for consistently applying that level of professionalism to one’s craft, comedy or otherwise. Trust me, we in the audience notice – and appreciate it."
But I'm not just doing the one man show while I'm here, I also have some short stand-up sets to deal with. I can't take a bit of my show and do that in a one-man-and-a-mic comedy club set-up so instead I've been playing with different bits of material.

It hasn't been as easy a transition. Indeed, it's no exaggeration to say that the first short set I did here was the worst gig I'd had for about ten years. A routine that has never failed just flatlined. Nothing.


I'd left my one-man-show feeling like the funniest man on earth and then an hour later I was feeling like the least.

Yet again, that's a surefire way of putting you on your mettle. I added in some extra sets and made a few adjustments - tiny things in the performance - and since then each set has gone better than the last. Well, the second one had to be better than the first... but it wasn't just better it was... well, it was okay... but the third was good and the fourth one was really good with the routine that had died in the first suddenly going down a storm.

The same words. The same routine. In the same club. Just two nights later. Going down a storm. It's in the details. This is why comedy is just such a fascinating thing to practice.

Now that I've worked that bit out it's far easier to relax. It's all fun from here on in.

The festival is changing shape. Just For Laughs has been very much Juste Pour Rire so far with only a smattering of English-language shows around. (If you're in Montreal I highly recommend Sam Simmons... although he is on at the same time as me so, y'know... I don't want to recommend him too highly!)

But yesterday and today more acts from America, Britain, Ireland and Australia have been arriving in numbers. A lot of English language shows start tonight. Familiar faces are everywhere. The buzz around the hotel is completely different. It's been nice being a bit of English-language exotica at Juste Pour Rire. But we're not the side-salad anymore... we're a part of the main course.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Picture Postcard

Coming here was nice.

Being here is nice too.

Absolutely July 15

I've been trying to blog the radio show in recent weeks - basically to showcase the two songs I brought from home - but this last Sunday whizzed by in a blur as I had to dash across town and jump in a hire car immediately after the podcasting was done in order to get to Latitude in time for my reading.

I made it and the event at Latitude was a lot of fun but being at a festival for just a few hours of the final day did feel like turning up late for a party. I was conspicuous by my cleanness... I obviously hadn't spent the last few nights under canvas...

With Latitude done and dusted, I then had a day of preparing stuff for my trip to Montreal and then I was on my way... and so the usual, here-are-the-songs-I-chose blog sort of fell through the gaps. Which probably didn't trouble anyone... I'm not sure anyone else is that bothered... but I still feel like I ought to be completist about it... especially as there were two fantastic songs this week.

First up: Liz Lawrence and Oo Song.

The first time I heard it I thought she was singing about Frankie Boyle (39 seconds in) but the lyric is actually, 'The seasons change, but that quite frankly bores you' and not 'the seasons change, but that's like Frankie Boyle who...' as I first thought.

Next up: Mississipi Isabel by King Charles who's new album is full of gems.

I want that bike... 

As I'm in Montreal, there won't be a radio show this coming Sunday. But we did find time to record a mini podcast so that should still show up and help to tide folks over.

The podcasts from this week - the Sunday and the Someday - are both available here.

Meanwhile, I'm in Montreal and I did my first show last night. It's always such a relief to get the first show done. You never know for sure that things will work as well when you take them to foreign lands and as much as you can try to make changes and second-guess how people will respond it's only when you do the show for the first time that you find out with any certainty.

I'm delighted to have discovered that the show works just fine here. The next few days are going to be fun!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Absolutely July 8th (& Stuff)

It's been a strange few days of abrupt gear changes.

The last gig of the poster (but not the last UK gig) was on Friday night in the Isle of Wight - that was followed by a TV show taping on Saturday night and then the radio show on Sunday morning.

It made time feel kind of elastic. By the end of Sunday night my trip to the Isle of Wight was already feeling like it was something that had happened a week or so ago... rather than the night before yesterday.

Because of my commitments on Saturday, Friday's gig was planned like a military operation. After the show and the meet and greet we were away from the venue at just after eleven and racing across the island to make the midnight ferry.

Not that we needed to race. The drive that had taken us 40 minutes on the way there took us only 25 on the way back so we were at the ferry terminal in plenty of time. In the end I was home and on my way to bed before 3am - which seems to be pretty good going for a night when the show took place on a different land mass.

The TV show I was doing on Saturday night is a new show for Sky Atlantic called Don't Sit In The Front Row which is hosted by Jack Dee. It's an improvised show - which is what I mean by a change of gear. My live show is as tight as a drum - I don't need to do any preparation on it on the night but only because I know it inside out and backwards... but with Don't Sit In The Front Row I can't do any preparation because there's nothing to prepare. It's just whatever happens on the night.

It's like working a completely different set of muscles. With one the laughs come because of how well I know my way around it... in the other, it's to do with how well we find our way around it. Very different beasts. And exhilarating in a completely different way. It was great fun... but I've no idea how their editor is going to squeeze it into 30 minutes.

And then a few hours later the gears change again and my head goes into another space for the Absolute Radio Show where we're freewheeling and live but structured and planned in different ways.

We talked about those moments when you find yourself playing at being a spy - which led to some great stories from listeners.

The songs I brought in from home were Easier Said Than Done by Rachel Goodrich:

And Too Insistent by French/Finnish duo The Dø

Of course you can get the podcast here if you want to catch up with all that was said as well as all the extras that we do just for the podcast.

I have another change of gear tonight and a completely different style of performance - I'm doing a book reading in town as a sort of pre-Latitude event.

And having said that the Isle of Wight show was the last of the poster but not the last... I'd be a fool if I didn't mention the show we're doing next Saturday - July 14 - for Shelter at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London.

A few people have assumed that because it's for charity it has to be a mixed bill with lots of people doing short sets. It's not - it's the full show, exactly as you'd see it on the rest of the tour - it's just, y'know, for Shelter. I hope you can come.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dorking, Isle of Wight, London & Montrealx8

The last time I posted some of the 'Hello Photos' I ended the post by saying that was 122 gigs done and with just 6 to go.

Which means that after the following three photos it should now be 125 done and 3 to go.

Only it's not. It turns out I was lying. Not on purpose, mind.

But I'm delighted to say that I'll be heading to Montreal for a week at the Just For Laughs Festival. I'm a bit excited about that. If you know anyone in that part of the world, do let them know.

Hello Coventry!
(which is where Warwick Arts Centre is, despite the misleading name)

Hello Yeovil!

Hello Guildford!

Just Dorking, The Isle of Wight and the London gig which is for Shelter left here in the UK, then... and then eight shows in Montreal. All details are here.

Absolutely July 1st

So the two songs I brought in from home were Long Straight Lines by Matthew P:

I think it's ace. And regular listeners will have got used to me giving that kind of track a bit of a push because it's very much the kind of thing I like and listen to a lot at home.

My other selection this week was a bit more of a departure. It's not the kind of thing I usually listen to... but it's got under my skin and I think it's utterly beautiful. It's Broadcaster, featuring Peggy Seeger. I love Peggy Seeger.

I love the life she's lived and continues to live. The song - The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face - was written for her by Ewan MacColl when she was 21. It's been covered by so many people since then (I love the Johnny Cash version, Roberta Flak's is probably the best known, Elvis sang it... the list goes on and on) but here Peggy Seeger sings it again, now in her seventies and in a completely new style.

It was another busy show, with a return to the Birthday Quiz feature as well as our regular bits, Found Poetry, Ward's Weekly Word and Michael Legge Is Angry.

A couple of people got in touch after the Found Poetry to say, "you should do a small book of those." Um... I have!

You can get the podcast and/or subscribe for free here.