Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Friends Reunited.

Today, I was fortunate to meet with my good friend Rob, who I haven’t seen for months.

Every so often, he’ll stop off at Hitchin on his way to his job DJ-ing for a radio station in Milton Keynes, so we can have a coffee - and occasionally a pint - and a catch up. We met doing the Buddy show together, before setting up our own Sixties show in conjunction with Glyn, and connected very early on, thanks to our mutual love of Buddy Holly, The Beatles and our shared sense of humour. We don’t see each other as often now, since stopping gigging together, but whenever we go, we pick up where we left off.

Me being me, things had to start awkwardly today. A late night after yesterday’s gig meant I hadn’t got ready in time for Rob’s arrival, meaning I had to leave him waiting in his car outside while I finished getting dressed. This was a step up on what usually happens, when he arrives to park at mine to find me already in town; I like to make things strange.

Despite the initial back-footing, we had a lovely afternoon. Here’s hoping we do more of it.

In My Room.

Tonight’s Leicester Square Theatre show was pleasingly busy compared to the last date, yet somehow, it didn’t quite settle into the rhythm I wanted.

It’s funny how different a room and a gig can be, dependent on how comfortable the audience is with the situation they’re faced with. You can have approximately the same number of people in from one day to the next, and yet that same amount can feel either exposed or relaxed, as according to how 'busy' they perceive the room to be. Tonight, it seemed they thought they were in a small audience - in little pockets here and there around the room - and didn’t feel relaxed enough to laugh, yet last time, a room of less people seemed more at ease.

On the whole though, it wasn’t bad; I’m being hugely self-critical. There were a few people in tonight who hadn’t seen me do solo stand-up before that I wanted to see me in the best possible light. As it was, it sort of wavered in and out; it never quite hit the height I wanted to, yet every so often, it would edge towards it.

There were a couple of flies in the ointment anyway; for one, a slippery bathroom tiled floor had been put in for one of the shows running over Christmas that meant I had to keep stopping myself from losing my footing; this isn’t the sort of setback you can expect or account for. If I’m honest, I’m not framing it very positively; I did enjoy tonight, I just wanted it to have more impact. Still, if nothing else, at least the signage outside the venue was informal:

Monday, 28 November 2016

Carry on Cab Calloway.

I unwound the good old-fashioned way tonight, by watching the film Carry on Cabby. 

(The interchangeable double rr and bb combo-pack in the title is pleasingly symmetrical, so well done them.) 

I've mentioned here before how I'm a big fan of Sid James, particularly in the late Fifties / early Sixties Hancock's Half Hour era. It's often forgotten just how subtle a comic actor he was, when he wasn't forced into a corner by the subject matter of his late-Carry On era. He's particularly enjoyable when he's in the company of Hattie Jacques, when years of working together makes their chemistry effortless.

Good quality old-school comic performances like these often inspire me, giving me the fire to want to do the same sort of stuff myself. They remind how fun comedy can be; a simple fact I often forget. That's why I listened to an episode of the radio Hancock series every day before doing my show in Edinburgh; the quality of the writing and the comedic turns always cheered me up. I'm very suggestable (like Mel and Kim). 

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Strictly Come Tweeting: Week Ten (26.11.16)

Pulling together a blog compiling my tweets about last night’s Strictly Come Dancing makes me feel a little fraudulent, as I missed the first half of the show because I was out for a meal for my mother-in-law’s birthday (which I call ‘The Les Dawson Excuse’).

I nipped to my office afterwards to read this tweet from Glyn:

This only made things worse as, not only out, but my double act partner - who was away tour-managing an adult pantomime in Eastbourne (as you do) - was actually relying on my snarky commentary.

For the sake of completeness, see below for what I said about what I saw:

7:39pm: "You fanky chicken, you."
7:40pm: You don't love Judge Rinder, Tess. YOU DON'T LOVE ANYONE.
7:40pm: Barcey Dussell.
7:43pm: Well...the male model's a gimp.
7:43pm: Ed Balls can't get no double-negatives.
7:45pm: "Everybody's naughty.”

7:50pm: ...because go-karting is the best way to spend time you could be training.
7:51pm: Did everyone see how good the graphics were at the beginning of Claudia and AJ's dance? Christ.
7:53pm: I liked Claudia and AJ's joint putting-out-a-cigarette swivelly bit.

7:56pm: I wish everyone would stop saying about pulling things off.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Friday Night Fun.

There’s no more exciting way to spend a Friday evening than sitting up, waiting for the tumble-dryer to finish drying your towels.

At least I’m using the time wisely by writing as I wait, though I can’t see this making for a hugely exciting blog post; if anything, I might have peaked with the first sentence.

Today's been reasonably productive. I did a run of my show in the afternoon, which I was happy with. I did it at home rather than in the office, which was nice, as I often feel a bit self-conscious talking to myself in a tiny room in a shared office building, when people from the other companies walk past. At least at home, I didn't have to be quiet, plus I had my cat as an audience, though she was largely indifferent to the whole thing; everyone’s a critic.

I hope some people come to see it. I feel like I’m promoting it relentlessly, probably to chagrin of everyone around me. Sadly, it’s a necessary evil when you don’t have PR behind you. I’ve taken to posting the odd advert on Facebook, which seems to rouse attention, but whether that will equate to sales remains to be seen. Being a self-employed performer is an expensive business. Still…at least I’ve got dry towels; you can’t say fairer than that.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Me: The Next Generation.

One thing I’ve been busying myself with today is registering the three work-in-progress dates I’ll be doing at the Brighton Fringe next year.

…and so begin my thoughts on how to follow this year’s show. I haven’t put the current one to bed quite yet - I’m back at Leicester Square Theatre next week, and will be doing it as part of the Leicester Comedy Festival in February - but I’m trying to gently set the wheels in motion for what I write next. At the moment, I’m mostly concerned with the admin - booking the dates etc - but I’ve also been loosely thinking about what the content of a new show might be.

At the moment it’s all very vague. Sadly, you can’t do anything like this on a whim; venues need to be found and applied for and blurbs and pictures need to be submitted before you get down to the nitty-gritty. It’s quite intimidating to think I have to start again with a solo show for the third time around. On the whole, I’m proud of what I pulled together this year; there are things I'd have changed if I hadn’t been so tied to deadlines to finish the bloody thing, but it felt like a good few steps ahead from what I did in 2015, when I first put serious time and consideration into working alone. The only setback now is trying not to be too intimidated by the thought of starting over and finding better and funnier things to talk about.

The biggest aid to all of this will be this blog. Any time I worry about what the content of the next show will be, I remind myself that I’m not working from scratch; I have over three years’ worth of nearly daily blog posts to sift through and hopefully find plenty to work with. The hardest part is finding the best stuff, when there’s so much to get through; I’d hate to miss things that would work because they’re lost within a deluge of material that's both good and weak. What I really need is an editor who’s prepared to read it all for me. Any volunteers willing to face the onslaught can drop me a line at the usual address. 

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Fake Plastic Horses.

The other day, I was watching TV on mute - I find all noises distracting - when an advert for My Little Pony came on-screen.
“Does that even still exist?” I asked my wife (a pointless question, as it clearly did).
“Yes,” she replied. “For some reason, they're very popular with teenage boys.”

This blew my mind. Why would they be interested in it? Surely they’re the completely wrong catchment. Not because they’re boys - I don’t hold with toys being gender specific - but because they’re entirely the wrong age group to appreciate it.

For one, My Little Pony was designed for pre-and-infant-school kids; the gumpf-selling bastion Argos lists them as suitable for kids of 3+. But what confuses me the most is the current teen generation isn’t even the right age to enjoy them for nostalgic reasons, as they’d be too young to remember them first time around.

I can’t fathom it out. Am I missing something massive? Why would they be into a toy with no purpose, least of all to people approaching adulthood? It’s not as if they teach you anything about equestria, which is ironic, as Equestria is apparently the name of the land the My Little Pony figurines are meant to inhabit. Horses don’t come in lurid primary colours, with manes as long as they are tall. The only thing My Little Pony teaches you is how to own a tiny plastic horse.

 When I questioned my wife’s assertion, she assured me it was true and said I should Google it. I wasn’t falling for that; the day you look up ‘Do teenagers like My Little Pony?’ is the day the police come knocking on your door; that, or Jeeves will swing by, asking why you searched the whole question and not just a few key words.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Hitchin's Diana Ross.

Either people have started recognising me locally, or I look weird.

I guess it's not that surprising that the people in my area might know my face, what with the comedy club I run, the theatre stuff I’ve done here, and the fact my band were popular in Hertfordshire back in the day. I’ve achieved the lowest level of celebrity: I'm 'Big in Hitchin'; if I could just break Cambs, Beds and Bucks, I’d be on my way to bagging Anglia and the South East.

The downside to this bijou fame is I feel self-conscious doing mundane things, like buying toilet roll or going to the doctors’. I feel like Wings caught in the spotlight on the cover of Band on the Run: everyone knows the sick, twisted things I’ve been up to (just ask my GP).

One thing I often forget is how loud I’m speaking in a pub or a coffee shop, and that I may be overheard. I’ll be moaning about a time I felt slighted, or orating my opinion of a gig or a venue, without considering whose ears may be around me. It’s like a shit version of the WW2 ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ campaign, with the Town Centre Manager in place of Hitler; imagine what it would be like if the local paper knew my controversial standpoint; I’d never waitress in Torquay again.

This must be what it’s like to be Justin Bieber, or Billy Pierce.

Monday, 21 November 2016

University Challenged: Volume Fifteen (21.11.16)

Many people where talking online about how tonight’s University Challenge had a unusually high female contingent compared to the usual mostly white middle-class male contestant fare, but I didn’t notice. Why: because I was being dazzled and perplexed by Ducklin’s psychedelic shirt.

It was much the same the last time he was on, when he was sporting another questionable number (not too dissimilar to my vast array of floral shirts), which also caught the nation’s notice; so much so, it has its own spoof Twitter account; proof that whatever you may be thinking at any given point, someone else is probably thinking it too.

See below for tonight’s UC-related Tweets; I don’t mention how badly East London were doing until more than two-thirds down.

East London Vs. Warwick.

8:01pm: #UniversityChallenge Prediction of the Evening: Jeremy Paxman will be impatient.

8:01pm: #UniversityChallenge Second Prediction of the Evening: some of the contestants will have ridiculous hair.

8:03pm: "Hello, I'm Christopher Ducklin, and the early-to-mid-1970s has been sick on my shirt".

8:04pm: "Hello, I'm Thomas Van and I look like I've swallowed a van."

8:06pm: Warwick's Van.

8:07pm: Rudd's wearing an Eighties curtain.

8:08pm: Warwick's Van: TONIGHT'S MURDERER.

8:09pm: Ducklin's shirt's a piece of work.

8:10pm: East London are Warwick's parents.

8:11pm: Jeremy Paxman is so over it.

8:12pm: Imagine Paxman's tie worn over Ducklin's shirt. Madness.

8:12pm: Roger Tilling: loves his job.

8:14pm: Paxman even throws his question cards down disdainfully.

8:15pm; Van's beard is made of iron filings. Van is sucking a magnet.

8:19pm: Warwick are so study-centric their mascot is a cone.

8:20pm: East London have still got only five points. Still. Now. At twenty past. STILL.

8:23pm: East London's low score is undeniable proof that Ducklin shouldn't have worn such a distracting shirt.

8:24pm: "Where had he discovered helium many years before?". IN A BALLOON.

8:26pm: At Christmas, Jeremy Paxman strangles the turkey himself (not a euphemism).

8:27pm: Do the Funky Orlando Gibbons.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Strictly Come Tweeting: Week Nine (19.11.16)

One thing everyone involved with Strictly seems to drone on about all series is Blackpool Week, at least until tonight, when they’ll probably pipe down about it for another year.

While I understand the importance of the town to the ballroom world, I’m never that excited at the prospect of the programme coming from there, primarily because I’ve actually been to Blackpool, which I loved as a child, but less so as an adult; it makes Great Yarmouth look positively glamorous.

See below for my tweets about tonight’s show (with a big prediction as to one of next series’ contestants at the end; I bet I’m right):

7:00pm: That awkward moment when Will Young appears in the #Strictly opening credits.

7:02pm: The musical theatre songs I hate the most are songs about musical theatre.

7:05pm: No one's squeezing MY slow winkleman.

7:06pm: Tess' sympathetic "Awwww" due to Daisy Lowe leaving made me swear and shake my fist at the television.

7:08pm: Tess Daly was taught emotions by a Vulcan.

7:11pm: Not changing the lyrics to "Hey #Strictly, you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind" was missing a trick.

7:14pm: Calling Claudia a tiny mistake isn't fair.

7:17pm: Well, we won't be able to watch any dancing now that Peter Kay's made it all about him.

7:21pm: Somebody call Esther Rantzen; That's Life! is finally back on prime-time TV.

7:23pm: Bruno's subtle reference to Brucie's Play Your Cards Right was much appreciated.

7:24pm: I've got the longest flagpole in history and a slight incline on the head.

7:24pm: Tess likes a long flagpole, apparently. Poor Vernon.

7:28pm: Louise: "I definitely feel like I'm in Blackpool". you are.

7:28pm: Shit. Louise can walk down stairs.

7:29pm: Louise and Kevin are essentially dancing my wife's and my relationship.

7:31pm: Tess' patronising "Look at your little smiley face" comment to Louise made me want to punch someone.

7:35pm: Danny always looks like he should be in an advert for Gillette.

7:36pm: Danny's very, very, very, very good. He's very good.

7:39pm: Putin on the Ritz.

7:44pm: Ed Balls even plays the piano; can we have him as Prime Minister and President, please?

7:45pm: Ed had better give that floor piano back to Tom Hanks.

7:49pm: Ed Balls always manages to surprise you with his ability. Good lad.

7:50pm: Coincidentally, Ed Balls' score was my PIN.

7:53pm: Blackpool is perhaps the only week when everyone genuinely wants to go home.

7:55pm: Greg Rutherford's come as Matt Smith-era Doctor Who.

8:05pm: Something tells me @glyndoggett will enjoy Judge Rinder's choice of music (a man who owns the Special Edition of Spice World).

8:07pm: I just said to my wife "I'm very depressed that Ore's four years younger than me". Her response: "Four and a half".

8:09pm: Appearing on next year's #Strictly: Tony Blair.


I may have just reached the apex of personal dullness when I thought to myself whilst brushing my teeth, “I wonder why Listerine stings?”

I’m not even going to bother to look it up, as if I did, I’d be admitting defeat. It’s not the sort of thing you need to know, unless you work in dental hygiene; if you don’t, it’s better to remain in ignorance as educating yourself suggests you even care about the mechanics: as far as I’m concerned, I’ll make do with “because it’s makes your teeth clean”.

It’s worrying when you realise this is the sort of stuff that crosses your mind. There must have been a point when I’d ponder exciting, magical things, like “What makes the sun so bright?”. Now, I only want to know why my gums tingle when I rinse them with a partly alcohol-based liquid that’s the colour of WKD Blue. Still, at least it stops me drinking it.

Friday, 18 November 2016

'A Change to the Scheduled Programme'

I’m quite proud of myself that I did my solo show at Mostly Comedy tonight with very little notice, because one of the acts in the line-up had to pull out.

The moment it came up, I felt surprisingly calm. The performer in question is a character comic, who it was possible a sizeable chunk of the audience may have booked to see specifically, and who’d been down to do three of his alter egos tonight. Unfortunately, personal reasons conspired to make it impossible for him to come, which left us in a bit of a quandary. Thankfully, I did the show on Tuesday, so it was loosely in my mind, and on balance it just seemed to be the best option, as I was technically billed to be on tonight anyway, and it would fill a decent chunk of the evening. So, after a quick phone conversation with Glyn, we decided it was the way to go ahead.

Despite things being a little stacked against me, I really enjoyed it. While as a recurring event, Mostly Comedy is obviously going exceptionally well at the moment, there is an underlying sense of a shift in people’s expectation of what they’re coming to see. There was a time when everyone on the bill was of a similar standing, and audiences were coming to see a variety of acts they didn’t know trying material out. Gradually, as each year goes by, this has continues to change; now, punters tend to be booking for a particular act - be it Rory Bremner, Phill Jupitus, Katherine Ryan or Stewart Lee - without considering they’re coming to a comedy club presenting a mixed-bill line-up. In many ways it’s Glyn and I who suffer the most, as our integral role ends up forgotten; none of it would happen at all without us, yet we wind up looking like we’re solely the promoters and organisers, rather than an act in our own right: on one memorable occasion, when Glyn told an audience member who’d dived out of the room to go to the bar before the beginning of the show that it was about to start, they said, “It doesn’t matter. It’s only Doggett & Dave”.

Gripes aside, that wasn’t how I felt tonight. I decided the best approach was to try to ‘own’ the show, rather than be perturbed by the potential lack of interest, and use it as a chance to reiterate my (and our) right to perform on a night that we organise every aspect of. It was by no means perfect, but it felt like a world of difference to my preview back in May. I’m definitely learning - though now, I should definitely be going to bed.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Little Miss Money-spinner


To anyone who suggests my comedy career is progressing slowly: I WAVE THIS IN YOUR FACE. Look at the figures and you can clearly see I’m winning; I’m nearly three quid up on the game. Take that, Mr Chilcott, Careers Advisor at Thomas Alleyne School; I can make my living as a performer (as long as somebody agrees to consolidate my debt).

Admittedly, that £2.52 BACS payment doesn’t take into account every aspect of the cost of my recent EdFringe run; this is just the Box Office Settlement after the remaining half of my venue hire fee was paid off. There's still the accommodation, the brochure fee, the posters & flyers, the flyerers, the subsistence, the PR, the previews, the train tickets and the adverts to consider. But forget all that; I’ve done good. I can afford to buy 6.3 red peppers from Sainsbury's and live like a red-peppered king.

Joking aside, thing did work out pretty well this year. Doggett & Ephgrave have had Fringe runs together that cost far more to put on and took a lot less back. My first solo Edinburgh was a great and enjoyable exercise that in most senses paid off, plus I now know what I could do to make the next one fair better, both financially and creatively. Just don’t ask me to break a fiver at the moment as I don’t have enough (unless you don’t mind me taking half as commission).

(Leicester) Squaring the Circle.

Tonight’s Leicester Square Theatre gig was just what I needed to give me the boost to get myself back on the case with my solo stand-up.

For one, it was nice to be in a proper venue with the appropriate tech set-up, rather than having to take everything with me; I’ve grown tired of spending the majority of my journeys into town resembling a comedic pit-pony, carrying more equipment than any one man should ever be lumbered with, with my wife roped into the deal, lugging a load of gear as well. Not only does this make you sweaty and stressed, it zaps half of the energy you need for the show, making it all the more likely you take any of the problems you had in getting to the venue (and setting up the space) into your performance; it’s a shitter of the highest level, and one I’d sooner avoid from now on if I can.

I was fortunate to have the assistance of Mostly Comedy’s technical wizard Paul Willianms tonight, which made things easier; it was good to have someone to take on some of the tech responsibility rather than doing everything yourself.

But that’s enough backstage talk. The most encouraging aspect of tonight was having a decent-sized audience who were on board and responsive from the beginning, in a focused space that helped me keep their attention. I was a little rusty and rushed in places, but it was still fun, with a couple of nice off-the-cuff moments that gave me a buzz and kept me on my feet. This was the case from very beginning when a woman in the audience decided to openly take a photograph of me on her phone as I did my introductory spiel (which led to me quickly posing with the rest of the audience). Thankfully, she was a good sport as I gently ribbed her (which is the best way to be ribbed). I'd also forgotten to set a notepad I read part of the show from, so went off-stage to get it from the bottom of my suitcase, giving an audio-description as I did from a mic in the wings; these bits always give me a bit of extra energy, and are often more fun than the material.

I had a few performer friends in tonight too, which can add a little tension, as you want them to enjoy it, and know they’ll inevitably have their own subliminal critique. Thankfully, they saw a reasonably good example of the show. After the gig I caught up with my actor friend Joe over a pint, packed up and caught the train back to Hitchin. All in all, it was a good night, which put me in a good mindset for my next gig at the venue in a few weeks. Still, I'm surprised I didn't sell as many tickets as the other act on tonight; what can you do, eh? What can you do.

Monday, 14 November 2016

'University Challenged 2016/17: Volume Fourteen (14.11.16)'

There’s something frustratingly repetitive about University Challenge at the moment, when currently faced with so many returning teams.

This is all well and good, but I like having new unhinged people to focus on; alternate speech impediments or questionable haircuts to assiduously mock. I know the show doesn’t bring out the best aspects of my character, in that I essentially don’t bother listening to the questions as they go by, instead focusing on the social awkwardness of that week’s contestants. I’m hardly one to talk - awkwardness is essentially a constant shadow to my life, but it can at least be put into perspective in comparison to some of the students who put themselves through something as unremittingly pressured as competing in the iconic long-running quiz show.

See below for tonight’s Twitter ramblings; as per usual, I’m sorry for any insult I cause.

Birmingham Vs. St Andrews (14.11.16)

8:04pm: Birmingham's Sutherland looks set to be tonight's murderer.
8:05pm: Green's centre-parting is imprecise.
8:06pm: St Andrews’ Vokes appears on tonight's show post-lobotomy.
8:07pm: Parker was Fido Dido in a past life.

8:09pm: You could use Parker's head as a paintbrush to complete a massive mural.
8:11pm: Sutherland is handy with a knife.
8:13pm: Everyone in Birmingham's team has the look of the recently bereaved.
8:14pm: Parker does a cracking mid-Nineties rap.
8:15pm: Look at Vokes. LOOK AT HIM.
8:16pm: Parker is Facebook friends with Jazzy Jeff.
8:17pm: Green's the lead singer of The Commitments.
8:19pm: St Andrews' team display the complete range and scope of musical haircuts.
8:22pm: Parker can recite the theme from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air backwards.
8:23pm: I produce "a pungent semi-soft cheese"; I don't want to talk about it.
8:25pm: The fact Vokes can identify a portrait of René Descartes suggests a misspent youth.
8:30pm: Every time a #UniversityChallenge contestant smiles while getting an answer right, a student's scholarship is revoked.
8:31pm; Competing on #UniversityChallenge looks like a joyless experience.