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Take That China!
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Friday, February 27

A day started in New York. Breakfast was a typical New York treat - coffee and bagel at Starbucks. Ok, so I could have done that in Newcastle, but this was New York, so it was special for me! Then I walked from where I was - around 50th Street - down into the lower part of Manhattan.

I wanted to see what used to be the twin towers. They have called it ground zero and that's probably a good description for what is, basically, an absence of New York architecture. It's a building site. It's a hole in the ground. It's a hole in the sky. Perhaps it seemed strangely calm, or perhaps I was more focussed on the calm than the busy city around me. I honestly don't know why I went there, or exactly what feelings were evoked in me as I peered through the fence at the absence of one of New York's famous structures. I had to go, though. So I did. Then I went back up town.

I met my brother for lunch - he just happened to be in the city too (sometimes it's a smaller world than you think). And then we went to Radio Shack - it was a semi religious experience.

From leaving my brother, I was a part of The Wedding Party. It was a good wedding and a good party. It would be inappropriate for me to describe it here in detail. I will reiterate my heartfelt congratulations to the happy couple, of course.

Thursday, February 26

I had plans to save money and take the bus to the airport. Well, take a bus into town and then metro to the airport. That was the plan. It seemed like a good idea... I didn't do it. I took a taxi - much more convenient! Shocking!

Anyway, the stay in Newcastle airport was fairly eventless. I read a newspaper and arranged for my phone to work over in the states. For it was the United States of Apple Pie I was bound for. I didn't want to get too heavily into my reading matter before the long-haul flight, so I didn't! My first leg of the journey was a wee hop from Newcastle to Heathrow.

Travel is probably very boring unless something happens. I bet travel writers pray for things to go wrong when they're researching their writings. Luckily, in many ways, nothing particularly notable happened. I got the flight it arrived, I got a transfer bus, I arrived in time to transfer. I had time for a quick game of the Monopoly quiz machine at the gate in Heathrow (using that last 50p piece to good effect - I lost the game, of course).

The flight to Newark, New Jersey, was notable for nothing more than the slightly pungent breath of the Israeli man snoozing beside me and the fact that only the left ear worked on my headphones. These both were irritating, as was being stuck in a window seat on a long-haul flight (not the ideal position for the larger gentleman). However, I survived admirably, reading about how to put on a show at the Edinburgh festival and then editing the script for the show I intend to put on. I even managed to get into a Stephen King novel and watch some comedy on the wee TV - hearing only one half of its soundtrack, of course.

Arriving in New Jersey was fine, but I had to get to New York. After a few moments thinking my bag was lost - it wasn't, but my ability to recognise it was poor, I found getting through customs and immigration to be no problem. The bus ride to New York City was prompt and I headed along New York's streets to my hotel. That's when I noticed two things:

1. A poster for The Little Shop of Horrors on 52nd Street - some 2 streets from my hotel
2. The fact that it wasn't much after 7pm

I can do this! I thought. It only required for me to check into the hotel and then run up a couple of streets for me to be able to get myself into the audience of a Broadway show. I'd been resigned to not being able to see such an event this trip.

I checked in quickly and pretty much followed the bell boy out of the room after dropping my bag in it.

The man at the box office on 52nd street paused when I asked him the essential question - "Are there any seats free tonight?". Then he gave me some information which made me react very quickly:

"I can put you in the middle of the second row of the stalls for half price - $50".

I reacted by handing him my credit card. I think you can guess why. I bought a programme and a CD - I was in my element. I'd even arrived at the theatre in plenty of time for its 8pm show time. Fantastic. The CD even has the exact cast I saw on it.

Little Shop of Horrors is one of my favourite musicals and I hereby declare it the Musical of the Day for 26th Feb 2004!

Wednesday, February 25

Woke up in Manchester and headed to Leeds for a day with the folks. Then headed back up north for a gig. The gig was a bit surreal, but I still pretty much enjoyed it. Then it was time to pack for my trip to America.

That's a pretty poor summary of 24 hours, but that's long-term memory for you!

Tuesday, February 24

The time is faked on this entry.

This was my "birthday day". I turned 30. Yikes! Well, not really. I wasn't that concerned about turning 30. I was concerned about celebrating the fact in style. I have never really been one for birthdays. It struck me that I had to do something to honour the occasion, which involved a lot of people, but which was heartfelt. So I begged to be on the bill of one of my favourite venues. The promoter did more than just hear my plea, he embraced it and put me on for a good spot.

I was looking forward to it as I left the office at 4.15.

I did not bank on the M62 being closed. Entirely. People were stuck there until midnight or so.

I wasn't. I heard about it on the news and re-routed just in time. I went through the peak district. I spend a good 90 minutes or so stuck in occasionally moving traffic, wondering if I'd ever get to the gig and if I'd have missed my time slot when I did.

I arrived just in time. I went up, did my thing and the audience were lovely to me. Really lovely. I enjoyed it. Then I was presented with a birthday cake and the compere made the crowd sing happy birthday to me. It sounds a bit silly to say that it was "so unexpected" and "touching", since I'd made it clear to everyone that I was turning their gig into my birthday party... I just didn't expect them to take it as anything other than me being self-aggrandising or selfish. I was overdoing it a bit, ironically, of course - I really didn't expect it to be a big deal to anyone (even me!).

I can't say I minded being made a fuss of. I guess that's one of the hidden reasons for why I perform. Turning 30 was probably one of my best birthday celebrations. And to think, it would only have taken a couple of wrong turns on the road, or my hitting the audience in the wrong mood for me to have either died on stage, or spent the night needing a wee on the M62. Birthday magic still works!

Monday, February 23

I went "under the knife" today... and I'm hairless:


A most odd experience. I'm back at home only 40 minutes into the last day of my 29-year-old-hood, despite having dropped over to Glasgow for the evening. The gig went well... it would have gone even better if the slightly clumsy me hadn't stumbled over a few words, accidentally delivered a half a sentence on auto-pilot before realising it was the wrong sentence and having to improvise it towards the right meaning, and smashed my head on a low beam while leaving the green room of The Stand in Glasgow. Despite all of these things, the audience reaction was to my liking and I enjoyed the gig. I left early (having seen the headliner before) and had a clear run home, hence my presence at the keyboard at a most reasonable hour, under the circumstances.

That's the last gig for the beard. I've shampooed below the level of my ears for the last time (for now at least)... which is a shame, because my beard gags get the most hearty and natural laughs, according to recent experience. Never mind!

The day has been a strange one. My clumsiness has been abundant - probably because I'm knackered - but I've managed to get through some important household tasks and I arrived in Glasgow - after a wee tour of the city, because my printed instructions were missing key words which scrolled off the right of the page - in plenty of time for the gig. I took a cappuccino in the Hogshead pub near The Stand and found, to my surprise and chagrin, the drink to contain a label from an item of Marks and Spencer clothing. Clearly some previous patron had removed the label and dropped it in the cup and then the dishwasher had failed to dislodge it. I couldn't even be bothered to complain - it did me no harm, once I'd removed it from my mouth.

On the up side, I wandered into the green room at the comedy club to say hello to the compere and suddenly discovered myself in the presence of a "himoff" - as in "oooh, that's him off the telly". It doesn't really matter who the chap was. The critical question is "did I make an arse of myself". In short, no. I did not make an arse of myself. We're all fighting the same fight, we comedians, and there's no points for going all star-struck. I think I was just impressed because I wasn't expecting it to be someone I recognised. Served me right for not associating this chap with his name, which I knew in advance. This may be the first time I've been introduced by someone who I have on a video cassette (albeit in a minor role). So, let's acknowledge it and move on.

Sunday, February 22

Camelot's over. A good and successful run! Hoorah.

A few hours of laundry and housework later... and I'm off to Glasgow for a gig. Croikey.

Friday, February 20

Well, we've done the Lion's share of the show. If you count the dress rehearsal as the first show, we have 8 shows to perform and we've only three left. Ooooh. Of course, it's when you think you've got it licked that complacency sets in and you start making mistakes. I'd reckoned that last night was to be the night it all went wrong. Actually, things went pretty smoothly... so tonight it is, then!

Just remember, when you're having your interval drink, the cast are not sitting around quietly contemplating their stardom. Instead, they're probably rushing off stage from the end of Act 1 to arrive at the dressing room just in time for the 5 minute call to get back to the stage for Act 2!

Not that I'm complaining. Why would I do this if I didn't enjoy every bit of it? Hopefully, there'll be more photos from the show. Souvenirs of costumes worn and soon-to-be-ex facial-furniture grown.

Thursday, February 19

Ah, this acting lark... it's all good fun.

Yesterday afternoon we had a combination of "the improvised scene because an actor was missing" - in this case ou dog didn't show up and we made it work without him - and the "the theatre manager having stern words with us about storage of costumes during a quick change"... "er, look we'll get these out of here immediately - we'll be wearing them on the stage in 30 seconds... now please excuse me, I've armour to get into"

But I do get to clank around in armour:

Camelot - The Gala Theatre, Durham - until Sat 21st. Be there or miss out!

Monday, February 16

While waiting for this computer to do something, I suppose I could put some meat on the bones of what's been happening since the post at the month's start, which was itself after a frenetic weekend's activity.

A lot of what I've been doing has revolved around rehearsals for Camelot, and quite rightly so. The show has been in rehearsal since September and it's the sort of show which needs a lot of thought before it's put on. I'm still finding new ways to play my minor role in the performance - albeit only subtely different from all the other ways I've tried.

Peter over at The Funny Magnet ran a couple of inaugural gigs this mont and I was at them both. I also went to a new gig in Newcastle, which I then ended up performing in - slightly unexpected, but all part of the fun.

I've been working on writing a musical with my cohort CP and we've high hopes. This is going to take a lot of effort and work to make it happen. March will be an important month for it. Watch this space.

I had a very tiring day last week when I did a day trip to High Wycombe and then got back in time for a 3 hour rehearsal. The hire car, in which I drove some 9 or 10 hours, was a Micra... I actually enjoyed driving the wee beastie. It didn't feel powerful, but it willingly did my bidding and I'm used to driving a larger car. It didn't have much boot space, mind!

Valentines weekend was spent at another comedy gig premier. This gig was run by in Kilmarnock. I'd never been to Kilmarnock before and the fact that they booed when the MC said I was from England didn't bode well. We had some fun together, though. I opened the show and surprised myself when I found that I hadn't picked up the guitar for a good few minutes after the start of my set. Usually, the guitar comes in very quickly. It was nice having a chance to talk as well as sing. I suppose I'll miss the beard - I can get a minute's worth of laughs out of it. One more bearded gig to go and then I find out whether it's the beard that was making me funny all along!

Days and days go by without a post and then I come back to you and deliver this - possibly the most innuendo-loaded version of Rainbow ever. Quite whether it's been doctored I can't say. Either way it's very funny.

This month has been a crazy month so far in which I've basically been getting read to perform in Camelot. This week is show week. Dress reheasal tonight and then we're in front of an audience. It's a lot of work. It's a lot of fun.

Monday, February 2

Though it's now technically Monday, I'm really talking about Sunday. In the same way, the last post (not the song, the entry on this weblog) was about Saturday. This one-day behind nonsense comes from the fact that my life is not in sync with the GMT clock system. For me, it's now nearly the end of the day. I suppose, I'm on an American time system or something.

It's been one bizarre day.

10.45 - wake up, later than planned - by about an hour
Hurriedly dress and start trying to find a car parts supplier with a new distributor cap for the trusty vehicle. This is a long and difficult process, achieved with a very sore throat.
11.30 - get cash in case of need
11.40 - heading to South Shields, get stuck in traffic - unsure of the route
12.30 - find the car parts place and buy the part
13.00 - arrive home and fit the new distributor cap, finding the old one to have no visible means of ever having worked for the last 180 miles.
13.15 - eat hurriedly
13.30 - set off for rehearsal
14.00 - arrive at the rehearsal in the nick of time
16.25 - leave the rehearsal to meet people to go to Manchester with
20.30 - the Manchester gong show starts
late-ish - I go on stage and, before I've done anything, they're booing me off
late-ish + 5 minutes - having won them back, I leave the stage having beaten the gong and feeling like I was a reasonably competent comedian
late-ish + 20 more minutes - discover I've not won the entire evening, but still feel pretty good.
3.00 - arrive home, somewhat tired... and eat some cranberry filled mini shredded wheat style cereal

In the words of Shaggy - MMmmmMMmmm

Sunday, February 1

When driving to Edinburgh using your new route, try to ensure two things:
  • You know whether it's going to be flooded and, therefore, a treacherous aquaplaning risk
  • Your car is not about to break down in, quite literally, the middle of nowhere
  • You understand that nowhere can be, quite literally, the middle of nowhere and, therefore, is somewhere... and should be easily found by breakdown recovery folks.

Actually, breaking down, for all its obvious inconvenience and worry, was not an entirely unpleasant experience. My car contained another performer and also a good friend of mine. We three used the opportunity of being stuck in a predicament in order to bond. The lads shared some alcohol, while I regaled them with stories of the old country. The country was so old, that a lot of it was very dusty... Actually, I didn't. But the time passed by very quickly as Bethlehem Breakdowns finally found us and the mystical Steve opened my bonnet, polished something and got the car, which had been staunchly refusing to make its fire and propel us, to change its mind.

I'd like to thank RC and JS. RC suggested it and JS introduced me as he's just managed to arrive here with five minutes to spare after being breaking down en route from England... this provided me with a nice healthy laugh on the words Does anyone have a distributor cap for a 1995 Volvo 440?. They were hooked and I was reeling them in.

Gig went well.

Must sleep now. More performance related fun to be achieved tomorrow.

Tits On Wheels

So far a busy run of gigs. Friday in Whitehaven was fun and the car journey back was all gags and talking about tits... they made me say it... it's not like my entire family, including my mother, reads this or anything!

Just did a gig in Bathgate for Capital Comedy. This was good fun but, as an event, it was overshadowed by the car trouble we had between leaving Newcastle and arriving, on time, at the gig. I was surprised we made it at all! More on on this subject and other shite.

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