Saturday, 23 June 2018

Vacuumedy.


I’m aware time is ticking regarding this year’s Fringe, though I’m trying my best to be measured in my response and not be overwhelmed by it.

I’m finding it hard to get in the right frame of mind this year, and while there’s a sense things are moving forward at my work-in-progress shows, I’m weary of talking myself up. I hate it when the process starts to feel so serious as that’s the worst frame of mind for writing comedy.

This is why I’m not going to labour the point today as I’ll only blow smoke under the harder parts of what I’m doing; sometimes I don’t want to be asked about it, by myself or by anyone else. The best approach is to be gentle and delicate and only dip in and out of it as much as is necessary. It’s been a hard few years of working alone from which I’d like a break. The good news is now able to pay myself more for the effort I put into Mostly Comedy, but the bad news is it still takes up too much energy. I’m hoping I can begin to strike a more healthy balance, though this may mean putting something down for a while, to relieve the pressure. The crux of it is I'm tired of spending so much time alone in a room.

Prolific McCartney.


The dropping of two new songs from Paul McCartney this week, combined with a warm and spirited appearance on the James Corden segment Carpool Karaoke, definitely bode well for the release of his next album ‘Egypt Station’ in September.

The guy belting out ‘Come On to Me’ isn't a 76-year-old; in fact I think it's all a con. I’d happily fund research into whether 18th June 1942 really is McCartney’s birth-date. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but the energy of the man - and his want to keep making music - is as extraordinary as it is envious. I don’t know how he does it but I’m grateful he does; if I can approach life and work with the same zest if I reach his age, I’ll be winning.

I've never subscribed to the theory that an artist's early career is the only part worth listening to. Of course, the insane level of creativity McCartney exhibited from 1962 to 1970 (or even from 1970 to 1980) is practically without parallel, but that’s not to say there hasn't been plenty of gold in recent years; stick with an artist for the long-run and you hear how they mature with age. Half of the negative criticism Macca's party to only comes from comparing the man to his own exceptional back catalogue.

Of course his voice has changed, but so does everyone’s. However it fits his contemporary work far better than it does his Beatle years. When he was young, his range was extremely broad, and it doesn’t have the same fluidity it once had, but it's still got depth. I’d much rather he put it to use singing new material than be reminded of the time that's passed when I hear him sing stuff from his twenties.

Ultimately, I’m grateful he’s still going strong. Each time he releases a new album I entertain the niggling worry it may be his last. But until that day comes, I’ll keep enjoying the ride; whatever the naysayers think, the man’s a fucking legend.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Simon's Day.


Tonight’s Mostly Comedy had a very special headliner - true to form - in Simon Day and was a great gig all in all, though the last few hours before the show were a little frenetic, so we went into it pretty stressed.

June's Hitchin Mostly Comedy line-up: (clockwise from top) Simon Day, Spring Day and Lorna Shaw.


If there’s one thing I could eliminate from the whole Mostly Comedy experience it would be the tendency for a race-to-the-finish (or more accurately, a race to the start) with no backstage to disappear to to get your head together for it; just a dressing room would do, rather than slipping into the gents’ (which has the world’s slowest closing outer door) feeling sweaty and low status, hoping you won't first meet meet the main act when they burst in on you in your underwear.

Running the club means constantly switching hats, much like that old, chaotic Tommy Cooper sketch, and the lack of a proper backstage area is often the final straw that breaks the camel’s back, to mix metaphors. This evening wasn’t helped by my only remembering last-minute that the bulb in the angle-poise lamp we use for the hand shadows material we were doing exploded a few months back, with the bayonet part stuck inside it so you couldn’t fix a new one. This led to me poking at it with a pair of scissors (not the ideal tool to use, but it was off) while on speakerphone to Glyn to see if he knew of where there might be another lamp. In the end, my wife nipped home to get the nearest thing we had to replace it, which initially was too diffuse, until our techie Andy had the wise idea to remove the outer - for want of a better word - orb that surrounds it.

Once we got started, things settled a bit, but I still didn’t feel exactly on form due to the stress of it all. I barely had time to speak to all the acts, which was a shame, but I think they enjoyed it. Simon's set was great and I managed to at least have a quick chat about some of his other projects I’d seen and heard recently, but he seemed to keen to potentially come back. It’s funny, but it only just came into my head that I first saw him perform in person when I went to see 'The Fast Show Live' in the West End twenty years ago; where on Earth did that time go? I ASKED A QUESTION.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Day Tripper.


I spent most of today in a Corby pub garden with my friend Stephen, which is something of a rarity (particularly the Corby part) but a pleasant diversion nevertheless.

I guess it’s surprising we can still manage to fill a day with such easy flowing conversation, particularly when you consider how difficult we find interaction with the public in the outside world, but then we have a lot of past history (not to be confused with future history, which is a confusing topic). We managed to cover a lot of ground we’d fallen behind on thanks to Steve’s recent move to the midlands. I caught the train from Luton to Corby to meet him, which was actually a lot of fun, without a single trouser press in sight.

It’s a shame he moved away as it was inevitably much easier to meet when he lived down the road in Hitchin, but we do our best to work around it - and if his changed address gives us reason to spend the day catching up in a ub garden then so be it.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Say What You Want.


What was the first thing my dad said to me today when I walked up the street toward him as he chatted to one of his neighbours? Was it, “Hi Dave”, “Hello” or “How are you?”

No. It was, “You’ve put on weight”.

Who cares if it’s something I'm self-conscious about, that general etiquette dictates you don’t point out? With my dad, you head straight for the nub of the matter: do not pass go and do not collect £200. So it was that I was thrown headfirst into a conversation about the side-effects of the tablets I'm taking; so thrown off-kilter by the inappropriate observation, all I could say was, “Thanks for pointing that out.”

When it comes to this stuff, my dad has form. The most legendary example of unfiltered Barry Ephgrave among my friendship group has to be the time we went on holiday with a few of his workmates and my friend Chris, when I was a teenager. We were eating in a chip shop when I accidentally put so much ketchup on my food I wondered out loud if should get some cutlery, to which my dad muttered under his breath, “You can’t even wipe your own arse.”

I was so shocked by the overreaction i could only manage a "What?” to which he replied, YOU HEARD.” 

That little interjection has gone down in the annals of Barry Folklore to regularly be quoted whenever it’s appropriate. The amount of times someone has whispered the first line to then bellow out the second goes beyond counting. I could almost be forgiven for forgetting the conversation actually happened if it hadn't been seared in my memory; I never knew using a knife and fork would be so shocking. But that’s how my dad rolls; this is the man who, minutes after proposing to my mum said of the large barmaid who walked past, “I bet she smells when she farts”; my mum should have run while she still had a chance.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Sweet Dreams.


Billy Joel's ‘Lullaby (Goodnight My Angel)’ is one of the most heartrending songs I know.


I have a theory about music that touches you: it has the power to stop time. There are a handful of songs I give my full attention to any time they come on and this is one of them; it’s searingly honest without a trace of artifice and that’s what’s so special about it; Joel’s love for his daughter as he tries to answer her question, “What happens when we die?” whilst in the midst of divorce from her mother glistens from every note with no word or sound out of place; it's perfect.

The song came up in an unlikely situation only last month: while I was chatting to Bobby Davro before we shared the bill at Mostly Comedy. He was telling me how he’d recently learnt the harmonica part to 'Piano Man'; painstakingly going over it repeatedly until he mastered it, much to the frustration of his daughter (it’s not the nicest instrument to listen to when you’re starting out, like the violin).

While his practicing drove her mad, she told him how proud she was when he got it note-perfect at his next gig. From there our conversation went to talking about Joel’s recent concert at Wembley Stadium, which it turned out we both were at.
“He didn’t play my favourite song though” said Davro.
“Which one’s that?”
“Goodnight My Angel.”
“That’s mine too” I exclaimed, delighted at the common ground.
“You have kids, don’t you?” Davro said, after a beat.

That’s the thing about a song from the heart of a great writer; it’s puts you in their place. Lullaby's a perfect example; it has a beautiful vulnerability that gets me each time I hear it. I could listen to it on a permanent loop (though don't tell the staff at Guantanamo Bay should I ever end up there).

Friday, 15 June 2018

PR-Edinburgh.


Today I met my PR at The Ivy for a catch-up and to discuss our plans for this year’s Edinburgh.

It’s great to work with someone I get on with so easily, who makes me feel positive about my ability and whose opinion I trust; there’s a definite sense we’re both singing from the same hymn sheet and while we didn’t get as many people in to see last year’s show as we would have liked, he still brought lots of positive attention to me while I was up there; more than I’d had in the past.

Ultimately, you need someone to hand over the promotional side of performing on the Fringe to, as it’s too much to do yourself with any kind of authority. I’ve tried it in the past when working with Glyn and you never do yourself justice; too much is chased up too late and I suspect you may even end up being taken less seriously. It’s also nice to have a degree of separation from it all; you don’t always want to be the first port-of-call, nor do you necessarily want to read your reviews if you can help it.

Paul’s definitely the best fit for me, which is very fortuitous. I’m almost reticent to trust people to look after my stuff but I do trust him. Most importantly of all, today he bought me cookies and that’s never to be sniffed at; I’m easy to win over really.