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Tuesday, January 19

The Daily Grind

A friend of me was complaining about his job. He said that from day one they just had him making the coffee, which he could understand them doing when he was new, but even after a few weeks, that all they'd let him do. Make the coffee. He said he found himself dreading going in for, as he put it "the daily grind". I said, "If you don't want to be the coffee boy, then perhaps you'd better quit your job, at Starbucks".

This, my friends, is how to write a joke whose punchline you can seem coming a mile off. I resolve not to write jokes like that whenever I can avoid it. Merci.

I think I'd like to have a catchphrase and I think "Merci" is a good catchprase to have. Unlike Roy Walker, whose catchphrase, for me, was basically "Caaatchphrase". That's rubbish. The new Doctor Who has a catchphrase of "Geronimo!" which, I fervently hope, will be temporary. I don't think you need a catchphrase if you're The Doctor. Admittedly David Tennant had a few phrases he said a lot, though of them my favourite was just "What!?", which is a great word, especially with its punctuation mark at the end - the "!?". As I noticed in a book I was reading recently, that punctuation can also be provided with a single character called the "interrobang". "Interro" must come from the questioning aspect of "interrogation" and "bang" is the publishing term for an exclamation mark. But there's no interrobang on my keyboard. Really!? Yes. Really.

It amused me when I suggested that an interrogation had a questioning aspect of it. It makes it sound a bit like a survey - a survey with a threat. This is different from the normal surveys you get asked to participate in, where, if you're lucky, they'll give you a pen. If you don't answer the questions, they don't threaten you, or even come around to your house and take a pen. So interrogation is not a lot like market research. I'm glad we've got that sorted out.

I did a day's work today. At some point. My day's work involved trying to put some plans together. I was due a meeting with my temporary new boss, my new temporary boss, or my new boss, temporarily. Either way, the meeting didn't happen, so I had more time to do the planning, which basically involved getting everyone into a room and filling in a spreadsheet until we were bored... then a bit beyond that. Then swiftly we drew our plans against stuff. That's a bit War of the Worlds like... which is nothing like what we did. How cool would it be in meetings, though, if, when you got to a critical moment, a massive string section went "Dum dum derrrr"?

It ain't gonna happen.

I've noticed that a number of my typographical errors actually come out reading like mishearings. In other words, I might try to write "went" and write "when" instead. This suggests to me that my fingers have ears and are simply mishearing the internal monologue that rattles through my brain and onto the screen as I yatter away.

I am yattering, aren't I? This is the mental equivalent of the dog in my mind shagging the leg in yours. Don't worry. I know what happened. I had a bit too much coffee and now I can't stop blethering. In many ways I should channel this into the comedy extravaganza that I plan to write, but somehow plain old beligerance or laziness or just inertia seems to be stopping me.

I'll go for a shower in a minute.

It's been a good evening. I read some of my book - a Richard Wiseman one no less - and had a meal, and some nice coffees, and I also wrote a pitch for a radio drama. If that radio drama ever sees the light of day I'll be surprised. It is amazing, though, what happens in the name of displacement activity. I'm perfectly capable of writing my stand-up show, but I choose, instead, to pitch a radio drama on a whim using vital creative time for no apparent reason.

There's always a reason. Optimism breeds good feelings. Smiling makes you think you're happy. Life is better when you say yes. These appear to be platitudes, but actually there's scientific research behind them. Curiously enough, I think I've intuited a lot of these things over the years and I think this blog is a way of me focusing my mind on some of the things which make me who I am. I can't guarantee to find the time to update the blog beyond this trip, but I'm enjoying writing it right now, so all effort is good.

What other things can I tell you?

I could tell you that the 200 HUF notes that I kept carefully on my desk, planning to use next time I came here have been replaced by a coin. They are no longer acceptable money. Ooopsy do. This means that I have 600 HUF that is unusable. What ever will I do. £2 of my own money that is useless. I bet the charity people at the airport will know what to do with it, and so it will land in their bin. Let it be their problem.

I wonder if the charities of the world are the modern day wombles? I say that as though wombles existed, but in the past, when, of course, we all know that wombles never existed (on this planet) - they're a myth, a legend, a glint in the eye of every human... I'm drifting. Anyway, the charity shops, right? They're where we take a whole bunch of stuff that's so shit we don't want it, but not quite in a condition where we can justify throwing it away. It's seldom that we take something that's in pristine condition and worth some money. That would go, in the modern world at least, on eBay. Charity shops probably have to throw away and recycle a whole bunch of stuff and they probably go through a thought process like this "the idiot should have chucked this out... but no... they insisted on boxing it carefully, carrying it here from their car or bus or whatnot, and then getting us to chuck it out for them... while they go away feeling like they're doing us a sodding favour". Maybe I should have made my radio drama about a charity shop worker who goes mental and starts returning all the useless items they were donated to all the people who even bothered to fill out a gift-aid form to somehow capitalise a bit more on the useless tat that they were trying to expunge from their bloated lives.

Don't worry, this criticism is largely directed at my own pseudo-middle-class-angst, since I gave quite a lot of boxes of shite to charity shops recently as a result of the combination of a house-move and the realisation that I own way too much useless crap.

Still, one man's meat is another man's poison. Just as one man's fish is another man's poisson.

It's strange how good fortune lands in your lap. In the link above, there's actually quite a usable joke for the show I'm still not in the process of actually writing gags for. It's all stirring in my mental stirry pot thingy, though.

Incensed by a recent spate of "pay to play" comedy nights and new acts competitions, I posted a rather splendid format for one online this evening. As this article is both a component of and a compendium of the things I've done to avoid the real work this evening, you may as well have a look. In fact I'll post the idea here:

It's called "100 to 1"

It goes like this. We get 100 acts. Each of them pays £1 admission. The venue seats 50, so acts are allowed to (but don't have to) bring, on average, half a guest each. We also have a normal audience of the general public to fill any remaining seats.

Each audience member is paid £1.

The show starts at 4.30pm without the audience. At any time, 49 of the performers are outside the venue, 50 are in the seats, watching, and 1 is on stage. At the end of each act, which is 2 minutes long, the comedians in the seats are asked to give marks out of 49 for what they just saw. These are kept by the organisers.

After all 100 acts have been on, everyone goes outside, where there's room, and the votes are announced. Of the initial 100, only 20 are allowed into the evening show, which starts at 9.15pm They are the ones who received the most marks. Everyone else is allowed to go home, or they can choose to be paid £1 and sit in the audience seats, but only if they promise to stay to the end.

The remaining 20 acts are then put on the stage in pairs. The pair has 4 minutes. Each has to tell a single joke from their set and then let the other person have a go, back and forth for 4 minutes. At the end of 4 minutes, the audience points to the one they prefer and that person goes through to the next round.

After 10 rounds, we are down to 10 acts.

Then there are 5 rounds, taking us down to 5 acts.

At this stage, each of the 5 acts is allowed a 3 minute solo set.

Then every comedian comes on stage in front of the remainder of the audience, who should have stayed to the end or they would have had to return the £1 they were each paid. The audience have a clap off for the act they liked the most, who finishes the night by doing a further 25 minutes of whatever they like.

The winning act gets the remaining £50 along with any money returned by early-leavers.

The show doesn't have an on-stage MC, instead, there's an off-stage mic and the promoter just tells everyone what to do.

If there's anything that would make the gig worse, I can't really think of it. I hate comedy competitions. They make a mockery of that which is funny. Although something standing on stage can feel like a competition to win the hearts of the audience, it's one on one. I, the act, need to win you, the audience, over. As simple as that. I don't need to prove someone else either better or worse than me into the bargain.

It was illuminating, but strangely irrelevant, to read Steve Martin's autobiography, which I did in one session last night. It's good to know that he wandered aimlessly in obscurity for years; I can relate to that. It's also good to see how he learned his craft through doing it over and over and over, which I think is important. I can even spot how some of what I think is funny is slightly influenced by the video of his which I saw as a late teenager (him in his hey day in front of a massive stadium-sized crowd).

However, the sheer pain underneath his soul is nothing like what I feel. I'm quite jaunty really... though there's got to be something wrong with me to make me enjoy playing with the world at an awkward angle, which is all comedy is... in its simplest form. That and showing off.

Distraction comes in the form of this:


I'm out.


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