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Tuesday, May 18

Updates Galore

It's late Tuesday night and I've got a bunch of things I could possibly write about. It's either write this stuff or go to sleep, and going to sleep isn't something I do very willingly, I'm afraid. I like being asleep, and I hate waking up, but I only really willingly surrender myself to sleep when I'm already the walking dead and my body has given up. Right now, there's still energy in my system and my brain is still looking for stimulation.

I'll now work out the overall structure of what I'm going to talk about.

Post Brighton Slump
Last year's Brighton Fringe was such an exhausting process that I entered a major post-Fringe blues situation. This year's was slightly different. In some ways it was more tiring as the two sets of gigs I did were separated by a weekend, and I didn't get much down time, and I was thinking Brighton over a long period. Indeed, I still ended up with various amounts of voice strain and exhaustion, much as though I'd done a couple of weeks in Edinburgh, but with worse eating and more private accommodation, and more driving and... well myriad other differences.

However, Brighton Fringe is now over for me. It was successful in some ways and in other ways it was just a bit of a shot to nothing. I will (indeed, I have) publicise my appearance there as another string to my bow. See for the full self-promo crap if you must. I think what came out of the experience the most was the camaraderie. We did some fun shows and had a fun time. As far as my Edinburgh show is concerned, the ability to run it through and then see it with a bit of hindsight is going to prove a vital step towards making it really fly in the next couple of months.

I needed some down time after Brighton, and it eventually came in the form of the weekend.

The Weekend
Of course down time is a funny old thing, before you can say "maybe I'll have a lie in" you're in B&Q buying a bizarre lawnmower that uses plastic "blades" which snap within 2 minutes. Then you're home using said lawnmower and generally overhauling a garden that was a wilderness and is now a bit more of a series of bare patches. I say you. I mean me.

Saturday was relatively busy in that regard. There was busyness during the day, following by some relaxing in the evening, followed by the glorious throes of sleep. To sleep perchance to dream, unless you're a labour party election campaign producer from the mid 90's when it's to sleep perchance to D:ream. I digress.

A big sleep in on Sunday is what the doctor might have ordered, but The Doctor was busy having an adventure with a ginger scottish lassie, which we watched on iPlayer on Sunday, again having missed it on transmission on Saturday. C'est la vie. A great episode, of course.

Sunday had a visit from my parents and then it pretty much ran to the end of its line.

Last Night's Gig Highlights
I love to gig. I love gigging. I like it when comedy is spontaneous. So I spent some time before the gig writing a new song. Then I decided not to bother trying it out. I was MCing, and I decided to just wing it... see which things wanted to be done. Play it by ear.

We had a nice gig. There were some good acts. There were a couple of flops. It's hard to get started in comedy, and sometimes your schtick doesn't ever work, and sometimes it's unreliable either because of your own ability to deliver it or because it will work with a nice sympathetic audience who would laugh at anything. It's not my position to judge how individual people did at the gig last night. I had my favourite acts, and I had ones whom I didn't enjoy in the same way. I think that self-hating needs to be done well to be funny, and I think that parading one's self requires a really defined version of that self to parade. These comments may or may not apply to anything that did or didn't happen last night.

Look at me, Mr Diplomacy!!! But there's no real benefit in being the experienced critical act at a new acts night, which I was doing my best to hold together with nothing much more than enthusiasm. If I want to make a new act look like they didn't do a good job, what would it say about me? It would make me look like a dick. I won a heat of a new act competition when I was about 4 or 5 years into stand-up. I'd done 300-400 gigs by that stage and some of the other participants were on their 10th gig. As my name was called as the winner, a little part of me shouted "Stand-up and receive the prize you deserve. THIS IS YOUR MOMENT!!!" and I moved a little and then another, more sane, voice said "Ashley! You've beaten a bunch of newbies, don't rub it in".

So there.

Highlights of the gig. I back announced an act by pointing out that she'd been in lads mags and had recently lost weight... then I pointed out that one should be careful what one posts for all to see on Facebook. This act was affronted. Was I stalking her? Was I prying? Actually, no. I Googled the title of the book she stated, on stage, that she'd written, to see who published it (noone yet) and what it was about, and the first hit was her facebook, with a bunch of stuff she'd told the world - ANYONE COULD SEE IT ON GOOGLE - how was I to know it might be private.

Of course, I Googled all the other female acts on the bill, just to be on the safe side. One of them works for an organisation called "S-T-R-E-T-C-H" which is something to do with widening. I know it's actually a really good organisation doing something socially relevant, but for me it sounds like they work on anuses. I'm sorry. I'm childish.

The backdrop fell down during the gig and I decided to fix it between acts. Aided by a member of the audience, whom I thought would help me hold it up, but who decided to do some "improvising" which I took as a cue to do jazz mouth-trumpet and he used as an excuse to try to be a comedian before a stunned audience, I turned the backdrop fixing into a bizarre performance piece. Yes, you had to be there. Imagine this, though. I'm blasting out the tune for "The Gallery" on my mouth trumpet, the man is trying to do some stand-up, when everyone's not sure how this can be happening, I'm interrupting to do little blasts of the trumpet into the microphone occasionally, returning to the back wall to merrily dance my way through putting the curtain back up. At one point he said something like:

"I mean, internet on the mobile phone, what's the point? I want my phone to be a phone, not have internet access..."

to which I interrupted with something like

"there speaks a man who's never had a wank on the toilet at work"

after which I returned to my merriment at the back.

At one point, I put my hand on his shoulder to pause his diatribe and declared "bass solo!!! ga dum dum dum dum dum dum dudum dum" and then let him continue. It was me having a lot of fun. I finished off the piece with a take it home style ending. Of course.

There may, one day, be a video. There was a camera crew in. It may be less funny than I remember it, of course.

Wooo Wooo Wooooo
I listen to skeptic podcasts when I can. I listened to the wonderful Righteous Indignation on the way to the gig. As such, I was in my full "show me evidence" mood last night. So when one of the acts declared that astrology was true, I'll be honest, I dismissed it, challenged it, and demanded proof.

Her How then, if it's not true, can I always guess people's star signs?
Me Ok, what's his?
Her Sagittarius.
Me (to him) Is it?
Him No
Her Cancer
Him No
Me So, not always then. Is it possible that maybe you prefer to remember the times you get it right?

We debated hard, and I'll be honest about this - she set off my "prove this person wrong" switch. I have that as a personality trait and it, no doubt with the podcast as a catalyst, banged into the "all systems go, we're at skep-con 1" position.

Her It is true. I've studied it all for years.
Me Just because you've studied it, it doesn't make it true - you could read all about holocaust denial, but it doesn't mean the holocaust didn't happen
Her It is true. There are four elements.
Me Earth wind and fire... and what's the fourth one? KC and the sunshine band?
Her You should read my book, it's all explained in there.
Me Ok. How does it work? What's the causation? What is the mechanism?
Her It's all to do with the alignment of the stars.
Me Yes, but what does that alignmentDO?"
Her You're putting me on the spot
Me Yes. You've studied this for years. You've written a book about it. Surely you know one reason that this works.
Her I've never been wrong.
Me You were wrong a moment ago.
Her I'll prove it. I can show you that your personality is dictated by your stars.

I'm not James Randi. I'm not going to offer her a million dollar challenge, but I agreed to an experiment. She would send me the personality profiling traits of each star sign, blinded from me via numbers, I would then send a reading of my personality to see which sign it reflected, and she would then reveal what she's expecting, which is that I'd come out Pisces.

I thought about it some more overnight and decided to blind the study further. I would randomise the order of all the traits, score every trait out of 5 for several people, and send her all the scores with a letter for each individual. One is me, the others are random co-workers. From the scores, she can work out who is which star sign and then send me a list of star signs. If she gets them all right, then she has given evidence that her system works under those limited conditions. If she gets one or two right, then it's really no better than chance.

If you're reading this, then I predict you're an Aries? Am I right? Maybe in 1/12 cases, I am. Right? Come on. It's the power of the mind!!!

This experiment won't change the beliefs of anyone involved, by the way. It's impossible to use direct argument to undo ingrained superstition. Still, at least we're enjoying ourselves, eh?

Jonathan Creek
Maybe I did buy the 4 series box set of this, and maybe we are working our way through it, and maybe they are almost just as good as I remember, with occasional deviation both up and down. So what!? Can't a man and his girlfriend enjoy a few hours of Alan Davies and Caroline Quentin pissing about with mysteries? I ask you!

Message ends, continue with your lives.


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