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Tuesday, January 4

Contrast is the spice of life
Following yesterday's marathon instalment of this blog, I did sod all. I didn't even go for a bike ride. I just sat on my arse. Ok. That's not entirely true. I sat in my dining room, which is now a messy recording studio, and recorded the backing track for something which will either be a total disaster, or hailed as a masterpiece - more on that in a moment. During the recording session, I received a phone call which threatened to take some of my observations in the aforementioned marathon post the wrong way. I reiterated over the phone that I'd not taken umbrage and that I'd take umbrage if umbrage were taken at the purported umbrage that did not exist. I think we managed to get out of that one unscathed and with our "brage" intact. I love the word "umbrage" (really - no way!?). I think it sounds like the noun a red indian might use to describe a thoroughfare which goes across a gap or over a road or river (oh dear!).

Anyway, after the recording session was complete, I sat down and watched 3 consecutive episodes of Scrapheap Challenge. In fact, two of the episodes were branded as Scrapheap Challenge when they were, in fact, the sister program, as exported to the U.S. - Junkyard Wars. The two shows share the same concept - give two teams of nutters a pointless task to complete using only the contents of a scrapyard and 10 hours of assembly time. They also share their female presenter, the wonderful Cathy Rogers. There's probably an online fan club for her. She's ace. She Executive Produces the U.S. version of the show, so she's not just a pretty face (actually, she's not all that good looking - some of her teeth are a bit fang-like, though they're quite well kept). In addition, this is a woman who seems to understand machinery. Not just any machinery. Machinery that is bodged together by sweaty men - usually with welding apparatus. The whole show is like that bit in the A-Team when they get locked in a barn with oxy-acetylene welding equipment and are able to create a bizarre tractor-like-tank which can shoot cabbages as ammunition and which doesn't harm anybody, though some of the bad guys have to leap through the air as they're hit.

Scrapyard Challenge is definitely like the A-Team. Of the three shows I saw, one was a challenge to launch an ostrich egg as far as possible without breaking it. One was a challenge to build a drag racer and win a race. The last one was a pumpkin (not punkin - why these Americans insist on calling it that...) firing machine. It was brilliant. One of the guys had to be drugged to get him on a plane and one of the other members of the team was busted out of a mental home... oh no, that was the A-Team. Anyway, Cathy Rogers gets my vote, even if she does have dodgy teeth.

So, apart from sitting on my arse for three hours watching addictive TV on the Discovery Science channel, and noticing teeth, I did my recording. Just before I complete the story of the recording, I should say a couple of words on the subject of teeth. I have to say that it's been on my mind for a while now and I've never published on it. Now's the time. I really notice teeth. I don't have particularly nice teeth myself and I doubt I look after them well, which is a shame, since they're probably an important part of the mechanism I've been overusing to input food and make me so overweight that my clothes don't fit properly. Maybe the teeth are to blame... that's not the point I wanted to make. There's this friend of mine. She's female, but don't let that cloud the issue. She has really nice teeth. It's a pleasure to see her toothy grin. Yet many people have really horrible teeth. It's not difficult to get from horrible into the moderate-to-nice category. As I was flyering during the Edinburgh festival (and I met someone I'd flyered during the Christmas volunteering - he told me that I'd sold the show well, but he didn't come anyway, though he wanted to... I wish he'd kept quiet about it, since I hadn't recognised him and still didn't when he'd finished... because->) I must have met about 4,000 people. Of those, I had a good chat with hundreds. I was in the queue for the Fringe office for 2 hours every day and a lot of people went past. In total we handed out over 15,000 flyers for the show and I wasn't taking rest breaks. Anyway, I really noticed some people's teeth. Tobacco is the least of some people's problems - in some cases, they almost had moss growing in there. Get a toothbrush and use it. Jeez!

Anyway, I got sidetracked from talk of my really easy going day. I wanted to get myself into the right sort of mood for coming back to work. Actually working wasn't on the cards, though the time spent in front of the computer completing and posting the blog was a good start for reacclimatising myself to a day in front of a PC. I wanted to have a day that wasn't spent hiding under a duvet getting lethargic. So, I took on one of my pet projects and took it to near completion. I might have gone for total completion, but I needed a bit of objective distance before calling it a job done, so I put a pause in.

I think it's fair to say that The Musical! still remains the finest thing I've written and performed (that's co-written and co-performed, but I'm talking about the bits I did alone in this context). As a one hour show it came to life as a more complete and entertaining entity than some of my most tried and tested material as a stand-up comedian. The point? Well, at a certain level of experience/expertise in comedy writing/performing, you can only produce so much good stuff in a given year. I've invested my efforts in one show at the expense of my stand-up. Fair enough. So, what I need to do now, since I'm not writing a follow-up fringe show, is put my efforts into the stand-up. So, I gave myself a silly writing exercise. Not only that, but the exercise is in the vein of something I already covered in The Musical!. I've written a James Bond Theme. I could probably write them all year long if asked. I love the genre. I probably couldn't write a genuine one (not that anyone would ask) but writing cod John Barry rip offs is my thing. Actually, I've also ripped Marvin Hamlisch off aswell in this little number. For the first time in my stand-up career, I'll perform a song to a backing track. This will make things a bit easier - the backing track will be more powerful than a lone guitar and less likely to go wrong mid song (thus it can be more complicated). However, the backing track puts me on a ski-slope - there's no backing out and no sudden changes of speed or direction available to me. I'm making myself into a Karaoke of myself. However, other acts can make performing to a backing track work, and I've thought this thing through. It can also be re-done if it's going really wrong.

So, I'll have to find a gig at which to demo this feat of silliness. It has me playing keyboarded instruments, bass and electric guitar on it (for that distinctive dang-daddle-dang-daang-dangdangdang) along with a few sound effects. I'll report back when I've premiered it. It still needs a beginning putting on it (I'll steal from the genuine article) and I have to add a sound effect using the computer. I had a few listens to the mix tonight and I still like it. A review after 24 and 48 hours is a good test. Hearing it repeatedly on stage for countless performances is not so much a test as a horrible consequence.

So, yesterday was a day of relaxation and faffing with fun stuff. Today, on the other hand...

Tuesday
The body clock is still set for an odd time of the morning, so I was up before the lark - I've no idea where the lark is, but I'm calling it a late riser! Eat my premature wakening lark-boy! However, I allowed myself to snooze until the hour had an 8 in it. Then I was showering and, before I could say - "it's blowing a gale out there and seems a bit rainy too" I was on the bike and headed into town. I shaved a little off my record for speediest time into town, but I wasn't really trying that hard. I think I topped 25 miles an hour, which is nice. I've actually exceeded 30 mph on the bike - that was the other day when I went on one of my long bike rides. I had a long swooping hill and stuck it in top and gave it my all. It was a good feeling.

Anyway, I was in work within 15 minutes of leaving home, which is pretty magical. I then did a day's work. During the day's work, I took a long lunch-break to do various things, including meeting someone for coffee, buying my overdue road tax (4 days overdue, no massive worry) and attempting to collect an item from the post office. As I was walking to the Post Office, I wandered past a 90's theme bar. Surely that should be an 80's theme bar. Surely they don't have 90's theme bars... why, that was only a few years ago... oh my god, I'm getting old! I'm clearly getting old. Every time I stand up, I make a noise to go with it. This isn't funny. It's very worrying.

Following the day in the office, there was the ride home. Not a difficult operation... it got slightly slow in places, but I've owned Highgate Hill's ass! Seven times! I can handle it.

Then I drove to the tap-dancing rehearsal.

Then my world came to an abrupt halt. There was a lot of tippety tappety clicking of shoes and ground and I was in a state of complete bemusement. Do they really expect me to do this stuff? Yes. What does hop, ball, spring, brush, tap change actually mean? Will I ever shuffle? Can I really translate the whole thing into "dadum dadum da diddly dum" in my head? Will there be enough rehearsals for me to master some of the moves where I'm just running and hiding my feet? I'll have a damned good crack at it.

So, the contrast is there. One day, I'm at home pissing about on a piano. The next day, I'm cycling, working, feeling old and then tap dancing for three hours. I left the rehearsal as one huge mass of sweat. I sat in my car and, as I did when I first saw the surmountable (but only just) Highgate Hill, I pissed myself (laughing - I still have control of my bladder). I had a damned good laugh about it. I shall keep smiling and laughing all the way to the stage. We're rehearsing hours for what will be a three minute routine. Perhaps this is akin to how I've put hours into the preparations for my Bond Theme, which will be about 2m 30s when complete. The trick, I suppose, is to condense a huge amount of work into such a neat package - this is what impresses audiences.

Although I'm quite verbose in real life (no? really?) on stage, I rather like things to be tight and polished (like Mr Sheen's wooden arsehole). I don't believe in the idea that if something's funny for 2 verses, then you can stretch it out to 5. I know a few musical acts who are yet to learn this trick and I know that I frequently overwrite my spoken material. It takes a lot of doing to make something seem consistently entertaining for a long stretch - this is why there's such a thing as a one-liner.

E.g.

I dated this girl who worked in a post-office. We didn't have sex. She had a tattoo above her fanny which read "this box is for official use only".

I thought of that joke while I was waiting to be served in the Post Office. It's not very good. If you think it is funny, then please let me know on ithinkyourpostofficejokeisfunny@incredible.org.uk. I expect to hear no replies (though the email address will work).

Enough for now. Much sleeping and farting to do.

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