Wednesday, December 13, 2006
So my "I'm only going away for about a month" turned out to be wrong. I'm back though. I had a lot of fun. And a bit of not-fun. Now I have a lot of work to do as I begin to pick my way through the events and try to work out the best way of explaining what I've been up to and where I've been. Well, where-I've-been is easy... I've been in the States, but I mean more than that.
I'm sure some unrelated stuff has happened while I've been away. Oh yeah... the BBC released the first series of Genius on CD. That's nice.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I've done all the things you're supposed to do before going away for a while. You know: sell your car, move an Australian couple into your home... that kind of thing.
Actually, I'm only going to be away from home for about a month. Maybe less. Maybe more. Obviously this doesn't warrant the selling of a car but the fact that my car has been driven so rarely in the last year - make that two - does. It's a pointless extravagance and I'd rather cycle around London and manage when I need to get out of London. In a few days time I will buy another car which will be mine for the duration of this new project but after that I will return to my non-car owning status. It feels good not owning a car. It probably feels good just owning less.
Australian house-sitters are a great idea. Bonzer, even. When Australians are in the UK they are so grateful that they don't have to check their shoes for poisonous spiders every morning that they're more than happy to lavish care and attention on the home in which they're living. Hurrah for that.
My passport was meant to be returned to me yesterday. Before 10am. It wasn't. I called the courier company whose phone line offered me three numerical options. None of which were 'press X if we have failed to deliver your passport.' This is a brilliant tactic on their part... offering a customer service line that refuses to acknowledge your company ever fails and so denying customers the right to complain. I tried all 3 options. The first two went through to recorded messages. The third option went through to a recorded message that told me that this line could not be used for any other purpose before connecting me to a real person.
"Hi... I was expecting my passport to be delivered this morning. I paid extra to have it before 10am..." I said.
"Can I have your invoice number?" said she.
I gave her the number.
"Mmm... that should have been delivered today," she said.
"I know... that's why I'm calling you."
"What happened is they made the delivery order but the van had already left."
"Right... only, I'm paying for the service can you..."
"You'll get it tomorrow."
"Before 10?" I asked. If you don't pay extra to receive it before 10 am they can only promise you some time between 9am and 5pm, a situation fraught with its own difficulties. Not the least of which being that if they screw it up you don't know about it until it's far too late to do anything.
"uhhh.... uhhmmm... yeah," she said with so little conviction that I was left far from convinced.
So I went about my day. Doing some laundry, buying that bag I needed and so on. At 6.47 my mobile phone beeped to tell me a text message had arrived. It was from the couriers.
A secure delivery is set up on 17/10/2006 between 9am-5pm
They somehow managed to send this text without there being a number I could reply to. I called the office I'd called earlier to hear a message telling me that the office was now closed. I wasn't very confident that things would go to plan this morning. In actual fact my passport arrived at 6.40 am. Remarkable. I will be on a flight tomorrow.
Oh... to clarify things: the reason I'm not telling you what I'm up to isn't because I want to keep you in the dark or build up any intrigue. I'm not on some top secret mission... it's purely because I don't want to be bombarded by opinions before the thing has actually unfolded. Peoples' opinions on what I've done are interesting to me while opinions on what I should do next are not. I just don't think interesting work is produced by committee. This point is best made by looking up the artists Komar and Melamid and their People's Choice/Most Wanted series of paintings. Regardless of making that point you should look them up. Fascinating and funny people.
I'll be back soon and one day I'll tell you all about it... but in the meantime, you can expect some website silence.
Monday, October 16, 2006
I'm about to start work on a new project. For reasons previously discussed on this page I don't find it helpful to explain what it will be because I want it to remain personal and not be affected by the opinions of many. Unlike the Googlewhack Adventure at least it is something I am undertaking deliberately and so it won't have the capacity to undo me emotionally in the way that experience did.
I'm packing my bags and tidying up my house and doing the things you do when you're about to go away for a while. In a right and proper world I'd be on a flight tomorrow but a lawyer didn't quite do his/her job in a timely fashion and so I wasn't able to get my visa in time and so instead I'm going to be on a flight on Wednesday. It's only a small delay and in a way it gives me a bit more time to get those final things done but even so I find it enormously frustrating. You get into a state of readiness before a new project begins and now that my head is there I don't want to be sitting at home fretting about it I want to be out there doing it. Heigh ho.
Before I can cook I need a tidy kitchen and the same is true of packing. I need to sort out the mess my home has become before I can sensibly pack those things I'll be taking. I've also arranged for a couple of house-sitters to look after the place and so politeness makes me want to leave the place in good order.
There are lots of bits of paper on my desk. A lot of it can be filed in the (recycling) bin but some of it has to be filed away properly and so I'm giving everything a cursory glance at least. One piece of paper has intrigued me. It has been torn from a ringbound notebook and then folded over twice. It's small and scrappy and I was pretty sure that it was going to be bin-bound but I opened it just in case it had the phone number of a girl who would one day be my wife on it. (I don't remember meeting anyone who fits that description recently but maybe this piece of paper would jog my memory. You never know.)
It didn't. It does however contain some odd and intriguing text. I don't recognise the handwriting. It has bullet points. It reads as follows:
* Get cape wear cape fly
* Jamie T
* Bromheads Jacket
What could it possibly mean and how has it come to be on my desk? There haven't been a load of people in my office (that's what I grandly call the bit of my house where the computer lives) recently and I have no recollection of anyone passing me any notes. The first line is the beginning of a fantastic (in every sense of the word) to-do list but the rest of it fails to live up to this early promise. What am I supposed to think? Surely this was meant to mean something to me at some point? To the bin it goes.
If you bother to read this page regularly you might well have noticed I've been getting tardier when it comes to recommending a book each month. When I add it, I cheat and slide it in at the start of the month but it's been happening later and later each month and feeling like a bit of a hassle to get it done during what has been an exceptionally busy time. Not only do I not have time to build the links properly but I don't have time to do the reading I normally do and so it's all been a bit of an effort. So - especially as I'm going to be going away and want to be able to retreat into my own thoughts for a while I'm going to let it slide. Maybe I'll read the odd book that will prompt an impromptu recommendation from time to time but to force myself to do it on a timetable seems foolhardy these days. I've enjoyed Snake Oil by John Diamond this last week and I'm devouring an entertaining biography of the poker player Stu Ungar right now but there really isn't time to find the graphics and do what I normally do. Reading is good. You should read. That was the point of starting the monthly recommendation. I think the point's been made.
I went to the production company who are making the Are You Dave Gorman DVD recently and watched the graphics and things that hold it all together. It was exciting. I think it looks lovely. There's been a slight delay in manufacturing it because they need to get it certificated by the BBFC and apparently that's taking longer than it normally does. Seeing as the series has been waiting for 5 years or so already I don't think another 2 or 3 weeks will hurt any.
A DVD extra that seems almost standard is a commentary but I can't see the point on a narrative show like mine. The same was true with the Googlewhack DVD. I do however love the songs that are there instead. Helen Love did a great song for the Googlewhack Adventure and trust me, Misty's Big Adventure have done an amazing job with this one. It makes me ridiculously happy to live in a world in which bands I love will do this sort of thing. Misty's Big Adventure have a new single out. The video is on Youtube. I highly recommend it. Noddy Holder's in it.
Friday, October 6, 2006
Sunday, October 1, 2006
I'm back in London having had a great time in NYC. I really am a fan of the show so it's an incredible pleasure to be a part of it in anyway. It's a great show to witness the making of and I'm sure I come away learning a great deal. Professional courtesy prevents me from providing you with a story about the differences between UK and US satire. Hmmm.
On Thursday I pre-taped another Poll Smoking segment that will be used in a future show. If I find out when, I'll let you know.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
I'm having a ridiculously enjoyable time in New York - but without a great deal of free time which is why I've not really updated this page in a while. There have been an incredible run of guests on the show while I've been here. Bill Clinton was on during the first week and I thought I was witnessing some pretty highly intense security at the time but yesterday General Musharraf, the President of Pakistan was the guest and I've never seen anything like it. Snipers on roofs, big men in flak jackets wandering corridors and much, much more. It was the first time the show has had a sitting world-leader as a guest and it was pretty stunning. It was definitely a thing to see.
I recorded a piece for the show just as soon as the bullet-proof shield had been removed from in front of the desk and I think they'll be playing it in tonight and so it'll be in the Thursday show in the UK. (If I'm wrong, it'll probably be in the show tomorrow and Friday) It's the happiest I've been with my performance on the show so far (although I haven't watched it back yet so it's impossible to really know.)
Saturday, September 23, 2006
I'm having a fabulous time in NYC but then I always do. There hasn't been any down time so I haven't even had a chance to stop and consider what I'm doing which is good because I also haven't had a chance to stop and consider how tired/jet-lagged I am.
Life is creating the illusion for me that I'm some well-connected New York socialite but it is just a ridiculous series of coincidences. I keep finding myself socialising with London-based English friends who I normally fail to see in London. In fact it started in international airspace when I bumped into an old pal on the plane which helped the hours to pass.
In my car from the airport to the hotel I then received a text message from an English friend who was having some party that was quite coincidentally in the venue immediately next door to my hotel. Then yesterday an English photographer I've known for years and years got in touch to tell me he was in a hotel 5 or 6 blocks from mine.
There's no way of describing it without appearing all swanky and jetset but honestly it's all much more unlikely and odd than that. Of course I haven't come here to meet English friends, I'm here to do some more work on The Daily Show.
My first on screen contribution for this trip came last night with a new debate style segment with me and fellow Englishman, John Oliver. It seemed to go over well in the studio. It was broadcast last night (Thursday) on Comedy Central here in the States and so will go out later today (Friday) in the UK on More 4. Things are set up well to tape another couple of pieces next week.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
If you're in showbiz - and I hear an unconfirmed rumour that I am - you're supposed to have lunch at The Ivy I don't feel very showbiz. I've had lunch at The Ivy on two or three occasions - each time because I was being a judge in the Guardian Student Media Awards and they hold their judging dinner there. It's very jolly. I was a judge again this year and so had my third (or maybe fourth, I can't remember) Ivy meal on the Guardian's tab.
The last time I was a judge it was for the best website category which was a right old pain. By the time I came to look at the sites half of them were out of commission and how many pages do you need to read before you feel like you've given them a fair crack of the whip. Myself and the other judge spent the whole time hunched over a laptop while everyone else was having hapy discourse over their fine food. You have to give every entry proper consideration because the awards are quite important and there are some serious prizes on offer.
This time I was judging the Travel Writing category. I was a judge in this category once before and it was incredibly easy because there was one stand-out piece. There were three judges and before the first course had come we'd all realised that we'd all read and hugely enjoyed that one article so much more than the others that there was no need for any debate. We sat around feeling smug and enjoying a very convivial meal while people in more hotly contested categories broke into a sweat and began to negotiate with one another.
Maybe it's something to do with the travel category because pretty much the same thing happend today. Before we'd even sat down, Victoria Mather (who amongst other things is the Travel Editor for Vanity Fair) mentioned how much she'd enjoyed a particular piece and the Guardian's Travel Editor, Andy Pietrasik confirmed that he thought it was the best one too. I (nobody's Travel Editor) reached into the envelope containing all the articles and pulled out the one they were talking about to reveal that I'd been so delighted by it at the time that I'd scrawled At last! across the top of it and a big number one to boot. No debate necessary. Nice lunch.
Unfortunately I couldn't dwell there any longer than strictly necessary as I've had a busy day. On Sunday I am flying to New York for 10 to 12 days and there are things to write and organise before I fly.
I also had some organising to do here at the site. The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed a few links popping up advertising the imminent release of Are You Dave Gorman? on DVD. I have to keep reminding myself that the series was actually called The Dave Gorman Collection but if I ever refer to it as that, somebody inevitably says, "Oh... I've not heard of that one... what's that then?" Weird that people seem to remember the show in such alarming detail but misremember the title. Anyway the series is released on October 30 but can be preordered now, just be clicking the banner at the top of this page or visiting the shop.
As with the Googlewhack Adventure DVD I found myself thinking a bit about what kind of extras to include. There isn't any extra footage lying around. A commentary hardly makes any sense because the show is a story... if I tried to add a commentary I'd just be repeating the story a second after the younger version of me had explained it in a funnier way and that wouldn't add much in the way of value. I still thought about it though ... just because the notion of one extremely long non-joke that not one person would see through to the end amused me ever so slightly. Not enough though.
I am however very excited because I've somehow managed to persuade another one of my favourite bands to contribute a special song. I love Misty's Big Adventure anyway, but I love them even more now. I've heard the song and I think it's fab. I've made a video for it because it deserves one. It probably deserves one better than the one I made but y'know, I did my best.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
So I mentioned cryptic crosswords yesterday and I'm going to mention them again today. I promise it won't become a habit. It's just that in today's Guardian there's a clue that sums up why I like them. Actually, there are a couple. It's set by Orlando who I like generally but who was on sparkling form today.
18 Down is worthy of mention because Cast, cast or cast (6) is just ridiculously elegant and concise. The answer is Actors. It's probably a classic that occurs from time to time, but maybe I'm doing Orlando a disservice. I don't know enough to say for sure but in any case, it's smart.
But it was 11 Across that I thought was so special today.
Top man, by not retiring, starts to lack authority, increasing resentments. (4,5)
So... Top man is the whole thing, if this was a regular crossword, that's all you'd get.
By not retiring means that the letters in 'by not' are retiring... or reversed, so B,Y,N,O and T, becomes T-O-N-Y-B.
Starts to tells you to take the starts - or first letters - from the next words. So Lack Authority Increasing Resentment gives L-A-I-R.
Run the letters together and you get Tony Blair who is, for now at least, the country's top man.
Every word is there for a reason. It builds up to make a fair cryptic crossword answer but also makes sense as a whole in a way that it doesn't have to because yes, by not retiring, Tony Blair is losing his authority and resentments are increasing. That's the thing with cryptic crosswords... it's a little bit of poetry hiding in the corner of your newspaper.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Genius seems to have got off to a good start with some good press and some nice feedback. Apparently the show was on Pick of the Week although I didn't hear it. If you missed the first show with Johnny Vegas as guest, you have until the next one goes out on Thursday to catch it on the Listen Again page over at BBC Towers.
In my last post I mentioned a Guardian photoshoot. It was for a feature on comedy in which several comics recreated famous images. Along with Lee Mack, Laura Solon, Tim Vine and Jason Byrne, I was part of a recreation of the Trainspotting poster. You can see it - and all the others images, here. It's only really ruined by my beard. And the faint hint of a belly in that tight tee. Not very heroine chic of me. They obviously didn't like my answers to the questionaire very much... but then I don't really have an ability to be concise on things like that. Or anything pretty much. That's why I generally don't do those Talking Heads shows... I don't do pithy. I convolute.
It was back in February that I realised I had become a man with hobbies. Cycling, photography, poker and rock-balancing being they. The problem with my work is that it can be all-consuming time-wise and for periods I am robbed of the free time I'd like to have to indulge in such things. I'm aware that I'm about to have all of my time eaten up - the process is already happening - which might be why I've been trying to get some of these things done in odd spare moments of late. No rock-balancing I'm afraid... I just haven't seen any rocks to balance. But I have played poker. It was a home game at a friends. 8 of us. £5 each and winner takes all. I came second in the first game, winning nothing but salvaging some pride after a poor start. I won the second, pocketing £40 and then was dreadful (and drunk) for the third and went out early. That's £25 profit. Minus a bottle of wine.
I had dinner with some lovely friends in Chelsea the other night. I ought to mention that one of them was Geoff because as you know, he likes it when I mention him here. I cheerfully cycled over to Chelsea for the dinner. A while ago that would have been an intimidating journey, from the East of London to the West but these days I find myself wanting to do it far more than I want to sit on the tube. Knowing that I would be cycling home late and that I would be in the unfamiliar environs of west London, I put my camera in my bag thinking that if I was wide awake I would steal the opportunity for a bit of night-time photography on the return journey. I like night time photpgraphy most of all, I think because the photographer wields more influence over the final image - choosing the exposure time and so on. Golly I'm interesting.
On my way home I was scooting down Chelsea Embankment and into Grosvenor Road and I thought the disused Battersea Power Station was looking pretty spectacular against a clear night sky and so I decided to stop and have a crack at getting a decent shot or two. Bike parked up, tripod out, camera on... away I go. Here's one of the pictures...
I'd been there a little while when a police car pulled up on the street behind me. Two officers got out. One male, one female.
They told me that they were stopping me under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and asked what I was doing.
"Taking photos," said I.
"What of?" asked she
"Battersea Power Station," I said. "Would you like to see some?"
"Yes, if you don't mind," she said.
I showed her a picture.
"Can I see some more?"
I showed her 6 or 7.
"They're very good," she said. "Have you go any ID?"
"Yeah," I said, handing her my driver's licence... "what do you need that for?" "If we stop anyone under the Prevention of Terrorism Act we have to fill in some paperwork. Do you have any possessions?"
I pointed at my bike with a bag on the panier.
"Just that," I said.
"Okay... well, even looking through your camera constitues a search so we have to fill in the form."
She started filling in Form 5090: Stops and Searches.
"It's a beautiful building," said her colleague. "The thing is, we're in Central London and we have to be really careful these days. I like your shots though... very nice. What do you do with them?"
"Nothing really," I said. "I'll probably put a couple of them on a website."
"Right. What website is that then?"
"Oh flickr!" said the WPC, stopping her form-filling for a moment. "I've got photos on there. Photos of my wedding from 7 weeks ago."
"Really?" I asked. "It's good isn't it? Oh... and congratulations on 7 weeks ago."
"Thanks," she said with a smile. "So... have you ever been arrested?"
She picked up her walkie talkie and contacted someone else, asking them to run a check on my name. There was no awkward break in the conversation though as her colleague picked up the slack.
"So, is digital the same as a film camera at night?" he asked.
"How do you mean?"
"Y'know, exposure time and all that... with the poor light," he explained.
"Yeah, I guess so," I said. "That's why I like night time photography. But I've never been any good with film."
The walkie-talkie crackled into life to tell them there was no match with my details.
"Do you mind if I write down that website?" asked PC Chap.
"It's flickr.com" said PC Lady.
"There are thousands of people posting photos there." I explained.
"How do I find yours?" he asked.
"flickr.com, slash photos, slash dgbalancesrocks," I said. "Don't ask."
"Here's your copy of the form," she said, handing it to me. "Nice chatting to you. You can carry on if you like." "Thanks," I said. "Have a good evening."
"Thanks," said he.
"Thanks," said she.
And they drove off into the night. It was all surprisingly jolly. A novel good cop/good cop routine.
I've got the form here. Stop Code: B = To check personal details/documents. Search Code: J = Terrorism 44(2) Outcome Code: 1 = No further action. Search started 12.55am. Search ended 12.57. Grounds for Search or Reason for Stop: Male seen taking photos of powerstation. Vicinity of bridges, within government security zone. Stopped under terrorism act.
They were both lovely and chatty. It was a surprisingly friendly and untroubled exchange. I'd go so far as to say that I enjoyed meeting them.
A little while ago I was chatting with a stranger - a normal one, not a police officer who had stopped me under the Prevention of Terrorism Act - and they said, "Your comedy is very studenty isn't it?" I find that odd. In this instance they meant it as a sort of compliment although the word can be used to mean both good and bad... and for that matter indifferent things.
People often assume that if they get something it means that other people don't. In Manchester one day after a gig I spoke to a father and daughter who had both come along without the other knowing. It turns out that when my first TV show was on she'd watched it upstairs in her bedroom thinking 'Dad wouldn't get this... he's too square' (because that's how young people speak) and her Dad had been watching it in the living room thinking, 'She wouldn't get this... she's too young to follow it' (or something like that.) It was only when they set eyes on each other in the theatre bar that they realised they both got it. It's true that when I last toured a large part of the audience were students but a large part were grey-haired also.
On stage I don't do any of the things that I would label as studenty comedy - I don't celebrate drink or drugs, I don't discuss sex and I'm not remotely ladsy. (Am I? I swear a bit in the Googlewhack Adventure show but only because the real life story pushed me into a place where normal language fails me.) There's no sexual content and no sexism at work - not even of the postmodern, ironic variety. Essentially I just tell a story - albeit it one augmented with evidence provided via a powerpoint presentation - but still, what could be more old-fashioned as a form of entertainment than a story-telling show?
The more I analyse what I do, the more old-fashioned it seems to me. I like that. I think Genius is quite an old-fashioned format. It's really just an excuse for a silly conversation.
Having hobbies seems old-fashioned too. I cycle around London at night with a tripod and a camera in my bag in case I happen upon something I want to photograph. It's hardly the life of the young and fashionable is it? No. Good. At the front of my last book in the 'about the author' blurb at the front the last sentence says, 'His ambition is to one day become a team captain on Call My Bluff.' I've met a couple of people who thought I was joking. I wasn't. I love Call My Bluff. I think it's a far superior show to the testosterone fuelled nonsense of, say, Never Mind The Buzzcocks and it's ilk. Nothing against that show in particular, just that it doesn't seem to be about enjoying each other's company.
With this in mind, you can imagine how happy I was to be asked this week to write a foreword to an Observer book of Cryptic Crosswords. Heavenly. I am the old fuddy duddy I've always wanted to be.
Sunday, September 3, 2006
Saturday, September 2, 2006
Thursday, August 31, 2006
I've had an odd few days after the brief illusion of time-off finally evaporated. I've attended the wedding of a stranger, watched some people go through a ballet lesson and learn to rap. I've had my jacket stolen by a Shoreditch twink, written a chapter of something that might or might not one day be and been soaked to the skin in a pair of tight jeans and a t-shirt for a Guardian photoshoot which will inevitably make me wish I was thinner.
I also recorded several trails for the new series of Genius which is very encouraging as it seems Radio 4 is really going to get behind it. I had a message today telling me that there was a preview of the series in the new edition of the Radio Times. Ah... I may have missed out on the Edinburgh Fringe but I still got to walk to a newsagents, worrying about what a journalist had made of my show so I guess I sampled a tiny fraction of the paranoia that seeps into performer's veins during the festival. I'm glad to say it's very nice.
It's been a long time since I laughed until I hurt listening to a radio comedy but the return of Dave Gorman's brilliant series is painfully funny.
For those who missed it first time round the premise is simple: Gorman invites Radio 4 listeners to submit ideas that he and his special guest will deem to be genius or not.
This week he is joined by Johnny Vegas whose surreal tangential humour is fed by the listeners' ideas to such a level of inspiration that they might as well have plunged him into a vat of his greatest love, Guinness.
The first suggestion, for example, is that to avoid the embarrassment and pleasure of metal detecting, one should strap the detector to the belly of a dog and then wire headphones through the its lead. This sends Vegas off into a world where pets can be used to disguise other moments of human awkwardness and he imagines getting polar bears to place our ageing mothers into old people's homes in the future. Fast, fresh and formidably funny - don't miss this, it's genius.
Team Genius have got to be happy with that. I know I am. What's more it's illustrated with a picture of me from 5 or 6 years ago. When I was thinner. It starts a week tomorrow. 6.30pm. Radio 4.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
I did see a few preview shows down in London before the festival and I can highly recommend (in no particular order) Adam Hills, Robin Ince (both solo and in his guise as Book Club head honcho), Charlie Pickering, Simon Brodkin, Talk Radio and The Runaway Lovers. I've heard nothing but good about Klang, Richard Herring, DJ Danny and Phil Nicol and I would dearly love to see Toby Hadoke's show Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf - even though I don't have a sci-fi lovin' bone in my body (deal with it geeks.)
As well as missing Edinburgh this year I've completely missed out on the last series of Big Brother. I have gathered by osmosis the names of two contestants; Pete and Nikki, but no one else has been on my radar at all. I caught two bits of it, both of which appeared to be the Nikki girl being evicted though how she ended up back in, in order to be evicted a second time I honestly don't know. What I do know is that on both occasions, on watching her face contorted with rage and fear and witnessing her complete inability to function I felt like I was watching some form of abuse and had to turn over. It honestly troubled me.
Maybe if I'd seen more of the shows up to that point I would have had some context to explain what looked like a bunch of yobs booing someone with the mind (and frame) of a seven year old girl. Odd. I normally enjoy appearing on BBLB (I pronounce it bubbalub, how about you?) but I had to pass on it this year as I just haven't been able to understand the main show and would have had no opinions to offer. Was it that bad or did I miss something?
I went into Currys today. This is always a mistake. After forty minutes of walking round the store I managed to find someone in a uniform. I said, "Hi, can you help me, I'm thinking about buying a vacuum cleaner and a microwave."
It's a bold, no-nonsense start to a dialogue I'm sure you'll agree.
"Certainly Sir," said he, "let's start with the vacuum cleaners, is there a model you're interested in?"
I liked the cut of this young man's gib.
"Yes," I said, leading him to the model I was interested in.
It was all going quite well wasn't it?
"Okay... sorry," he said as if suddenly realising that he worked in Currys and so hadn't yet displayed the requisite lack of knowledge and/or manners, "I need to disappear for five minutes, I'll be back ASAP."
He disappeared. Fifteen minutes later he hadn't returned and so I left. I'd rather have dirty carpets and within five minutes of leaving I'd decided that I actually like not having a microwave. Don't buy things just because they're shiny. That's my advice. As I left the shop, an hour wasted and no cash spent, he was chatting with his mates at the till. What (and I believe this is the phrase that a comedian is supposed to employ in this situation) is that all about?
Two bits of newsy news by the way. Number one, I believe that the new series of Genius now has its place in the Radio 4 schedules. It will be going out at 6.30 on Thursdays and starts on September 7th. Secondly - and this is an odd one - it seems that later this year there is a goodly chance of The Dave Gorman Collection (or as most people, myself included misremember it, Are You Dave Gorman? being released on DVD. If I knew more, I'd tell you. When I do know more, I will. That's how that works.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Similarly, when my Important Astrology Experiment was on air I started getting asked questions about star-signs that were entirely irrelevant. I distnctly remember one journalist asking me to tell her what Librans were supposed to be like and when I told her I didn't have the first idea she basically said, "Well why on earth do you think you can present a series about astrolgy then?" It wasn't really worth explaining that I wasn't presenting-a-series-about-astrology but instead telling-a-story-about-something-I'd-experienced. Se'd been sent a tape of the show.
Since my Googlewhack Adventure has taken over as thing-I-get-asked-about-most-often I seem to have been filed away on some kind of TV research database as man-who-knows-about-the-internet. I don't especially and again, anyone who'd seen the show or read the book would understand that there's nothing about it that makes a claim to any expertise.
But that doesn't stop the phone from ringing every time there's an internet-related news story someone wants to discuss on TV. If Google's shares suddenly shoot up (or down) in price the phone rings and someone is inviting me to appear on a news programme to discuss it. I always refuse these invites because I don't really have an opinion and even if I did I don't really see how it would be a) more informed than anyone else's or b) relevant to the story.
For this reason I was a little sceptical when my agent rang to ask me if I was interested in taking part in a discussion about blogging and almost said an automatic 'no' in reply. I'm not an expert in the field, (I don't really think that this is a blog - this is my sometimes-bloggy-news-page which is different and not as bloggy as a blog) and I know nothing about the technology either.
But then two magic words were used. Richard and Judy. They are such genuinely lovely company that there is little I won't do for R&J. More to the point, a sensible question was asked. Instead of assuming I'm some kind of expert, the simple query, 'Do you read any blogs?' was made to which the reply is 'Yes.' This was followed up by the simple follow up question, 'Would you like to talk about them?' Another 'Yes' was forthcoming. I do read a couple of blogs and I am able to string a sentence together so why not talk to Richard and Judy about it?
In the end the discussion was fun and lively and involved Emily Bell (editor of Guardian Unlimited) and Catherine who is better known to blog-aficionados as Petite Anglaise. Catherine's blog is largely about her life as an ex-pat living in France and recently she's made the news because her employers discovered her blog (in which they weren't identified) and promptly sacked her.
So, for what it's worth, the blogs I regularly read are Emma Kennedy, Richard Herring and Paul Daniels all of which make me laugh - some more deliberately than others. They referred to the blogs of Kennedy.E and Daniels.P on the show and I seemed to induce some panic behind the cameras when I referred to this particular entry on Paul's old blog (from before he moved it over to his shiny new website) although why anyone should be panicking when it's in the public domain is beyond me.
I probably emerged looking a bit obsessed with Paul Daniels because another blog that I mentioned - and which is something of a favourite - is Paul Daniels' Ebay Transactions in which someone blogs every minute details of every transaction the magician makes on ebay. (He buys and sells and has a penchant for horror films that as far as I can see he makes no mention of on his blog.)
Sunday, August 13, 2006
"I see your blogging has died a death," said my old friend Geoff over lunch a couple of days ago.
"What do you mean?" asked I.
"Well, you haven't put anything on your news page for nearly a month," said Geoff.
"That's because there's been no news," said I. "I haven't done anything. For the first time in years I've had a bit of time off."
"Yes... but I looked at the site this morning," said Geoff, pushing his food around the plate, looking sheepish. "I was hoping it would say, 'I'm really excited because I'm having lunch with my lovely friend Geoff later' ... but it didn't.
"No," I said. "It didn't."
I have a job which means there are lots of strangers out there who know stuff about me. One of the things that happens when strangers know stuff about you is that they sometimes assume that the stuff they know is all there is. So I get a lot of e-mails from people that start with "I saw your first stage show, 'Are You Dave Gorman' and..." or things like, "I was in the audience the first time you came to Brighton..." and so on. Even though I know they generally mean well it always seems strangely dismissive and arrogant of them... I mean... how could I possibly have existed before they'd heard of me? Maybe I do the same thing when I talk about musicians or actors or whatever and I'm only aware of how odd it is when it's about me. I hope I don't.
Now I don't expect people to follow my every move... in fact I'd be really scared if anyone did... but one symptom of this is that someone who lives in, say, Reading, sees the Googlewhack Adventure tour in 2003 and then doesn't see me touring again and assumes that because-they-don't-know-about-it-I-must-be-doing-nothing. So while I was touring Australia, America and Canada I used to get the occasional e-mail from people accusing me of being lazy and unproductive and asking when I was planning on bothering to do another show.
Now... I don't really do stand-up; I don't write jokes. I tell true stories for a living. In order to have a story to tell, I need to live life and do stuff. I figure that if something happens that I think is worth telling I'll do something about it and if it isn't worth telling I won't. That seems wholly better than deciding to do a show because it's-about-time-I-did-another-show.
The Googlewhack Adventure basically ended up taking up my whole life for the best part of three years and when it finally came to an end at the end of 2005 I was in no position to just start again on a new project. For a start, the only thing I could have talked about was touring the Googlewhack Adventure and I think a show about touring a show would have been the definition of disappearing up my own fundament. Besides, Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure Adventures would only have prolonged the madness of life on the road and I was really very keen on reacquainting myself with my home. My bed. My friends. I get excited when I know I'm going to be able to have lunch with my friend Geoff. You can't do that when you're on a four month tour of America. I'm not complaining about my lot in life - far from it - but if you were unable to see your friends or family (or bed, or front door, or whatever) for 8 or 9 months a year for 3 years running you'd probably want to spend quite a lot of time doing just that when it became possible.
So when I came home from that final tour I was pretty determined that I would take a few months off and do nothing except enjoy life for a while. Partly because I thought I deserved it and partly because I figured that without taking time off and living some life there would never be a story I wanted to tell people and there wouldn't be a new project anyway.
To begin with I wasn't very good at doing nothing. A quick flick through the entries I made in the first three months of this year shows that I was readily accepting loads of invitations to guest on shows. Some of them I did because they were old favourites that I've always enjoyed and others I did because, 'well, if I'm going to do that old favourite show and that means I'm not really taking time off I might as well do that thing on Thursday as well' but in truth I probably did a lot of them because having been away from the UK for what felt like ages I was worried that the phone would have stopped ringing and I was stupid and shallow enough to be delighted that it was. Silly me.
Then I was offered the part in Annually Retentive, then the opportunity to make a second series of Genius came up and then I was invited to go to New York to write and record some bits for The Daily Show and as far I'm concerned all of these definitely fall into the too-good-to-miss-can't-say-no category. So I didn't say 'no.' I said 'yes.' And I'm very glad that I did because all three were a joy to do.
And so recently... months after the Googlewhack Adventure came to an end, I've finally been taking that time off that I was craving. And I've been loving it. And it means there's been nothing to report. And it means that my head has started to think again. Which means that I've had an idea - or rather that a memory and a thought and an emotion have crystallised into an idea - and the seed of my next project has been planted. Which just goes to show... if you want me to do something new, don't hassle me about it... give me time off, let me get rid of the old stuff that's crowding out my head, let stuff happen to me and then I'll come back and tell you about it later.
Now I'm worried about posting this because I don't want to suddenly get a load of e-mails from people asking me what it's going to be about or speculating on what it might be. I don't understand how that is remotely helpful. The point of the kind of work I do is for me to try to explain the how and the why and the what of a series of events; my thoughts, my emotions and my take on the whole thing. If hundreds of people start telling me what they think of it, it ends up making less sense rather than more.
For example... if the Googlewhack Adventure had been a deliberately planned show (which it wasn't) and I'd have put an announcement on here saying that my next show is going to be about googlewhacking how would that have helped? The moment people knew what the show was about I started getting hundreds of e-mails from people telling me about the googlewhacks they'd found. I know why people wanted to send them to me and I don't really mind them doing so (although there is nothing I can say in return) but had I been in the middle of creating the show when those e-mails were received would it have been helpful? Not in the slightest. Relevant to the story? No. Filling up my inbox and making it harder to see the wood for the trees? Probably.
Which reminds me... about once or twice a month I get an e-mail from someone (a different person each time) saying pretty much the same thing. They write saying, "Hi Dave... I've had this idea for a book/show/TV show/etc and I'm not sure if it's a good idea and if it is a good idea, I'm not sure how to go about getting it off the ground. Have you got any advice?" My honest advice is that there's no such thing as a good idea. Things that sound terrible on paper can be great in reality. Things that sound promising on paper are very often disappointing because they create expectation that can never be surpassed. It's not really about what-it-is, it's about how-you-carry-it-out. Which I suppose means, It might be a good idea if you're interested in it... but my opinion is irrelevant. (Seriously, Father Ted, just as a random example, was a brilliant sit-com because it was brilliantly written, performed and directed. It wasn't a brilliant sit-com because it was about three priests on an island. It's not a good idea. It's a good sit com.)
As to how to get the thing off the ground... I don't even really understand the question. Just go and do something. Write something. Perform something. Show people something. It isn't the kind of job you get given... it's the kind of work you create.
So anyway... just as I don't think there is any advantage in them asking for my opinion I see no advantage in me soliciting stranger's opinions either. So don't bother asking me what it's about because as always, if it's about anything, it's about what's going on in my head. I'll tell you all about it when there's something I think you'll be interested in. It's not as if it'll exist any time soon anyway. It's going to take time. So you're probably best ignoring this and carrying on as if I'm lazily doing nothing. It'll probably be a book one day. It might be something else too but I doubt it will be a stage show. It won't be a novel.
Wednesday, August 2, 2006
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Rob Brydon's Annually Retentive, the series we taped earlier this year starts its run on BBC 3 this evening and runs for 6 weeks.
I've written many times before about how much I enjoy the photo-sharing website flickr. Well now, thanks to flickr, I've ended up taking part in my first exhibition. There are around a dozen artists exhibiting a variety of work in the exhibition which is at St Matthews, Tarring Road, Worthing on Friday evening and from 10-5 on Saturday and as ridiculous as it might seem, some of my photographs (all of doorbells as it happens) will be amongst them. It's part of the Artists and Makers festival. If I can get away for a day I intend to pop down and see what's going on. Maybe I should cycle. No. Maybe not.
Wednesday, July 5, 2006
Tuesday, July 4, 2006
Tomorrow I will become a doctor. This is a quite ridiculous state of affairs but a delightful one all the same. Many years ago I was a maths student at Manchester University. I dropped out because I'd started performing comedy and knew that it was what I wanted to do with my life. If my sums are correct (and who knows if they are, I did drop out after all) that was back in 1990. Then in January of this year I received a letter from Staffordshire University telling me that the Acadenmic Board of the University wishes to bestow upon me the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University. The letter explains that the nomination is in recognition of my contribution to mathematics through my professional work which I would have thought was approximately nought. (Again - don't trust my calculations, I'm a drop-out.)
Obviously I was very happy to accept and my Mum was very quick to ask about whether she needed to wear a hat. Back in March when a Brazilian magazine asked if they could publish some of my photographs I thought about getting some new business cards printed saying, Dave Gorman: International Photographer. I didn't bother. Now I think Dr David Gorman; International Photographer might be worth it. It sounds like a character in an Agatha Christie novel... which is probably not a bad thing to be. Apart from the increased chance of being murdered.
The Rob Brydon series, Annually Retentive, which we recorded earlier this year starts soon on BBC3. The first episode goes out on July 11 at 10.30pm
Sunday, July 2, 2006
Saturday, June 24, 2006
I popped into 6Music to be a guest on the Round Table section of Steve Lamacq's show earlier. It's always a friendly place to be. The other guests were Ed Larrikin and the legendary broadcaster, Paul Gambaccini. A real pleasure. I was in the pub afterwards with Steve and his producer, Lovely Jude (that's her real name) and a few others when the subject of myspace and its phenomenal success came up. "I haven't got a myspace page," said I. "Oh yes you have," said LJ. "No, I haven't," I stated, "after all, I'm sure I'd have remembered." "Oh," said Jude, "then there's someone out there pretending to be you... he's using your photo and talking about your books and... well, pretending to be you."
She's as right as she is lovely. There is. He's here. That's my face. That's a bad description of my books. A lot of the details are right. I am 35. I am a pisces. I don't smoke but I do drink. But I'm not a swinger. Or a proud parent. I'm not any kind of parent. Nor am I a post grad. I am however a bit pissed off with discovering someone out there pretending to be me... after all he has 'friends' who, from their comments, clearly think they've befriended me. Whatever he's said to them... they will think I said. He could have said anything. Hmmm. Maybe this is why myspace has become so successful? Maybe everyone ends up joining myspace in order to prevent other people from stealing their identity? I've written to myspace to let them know about this situation. I wonder if they'll remove his page or not?
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
With 27,000 people taking part it's a massive thing to organise and they really do make a spectacular job of it. There must have been nearly 200 marshal points along the way and every major junction was well managed and controlled. The journey ended up taking me around 5 hours all in but I reckon if I'd started earlier it would have been nearer to 4. The ride started and ended in gridlock and at one point, maybe a third of the way in, we ended up stationary in a lane for a good 10 - 20 minutes while something was cleared up ahead of us. I spoke to a few people who'd left before 7 and they all said that their ride was uninterrupted.
There are small crowds that gather along the way to offer encouragement which really helps to keep you going and the young kids with water-pistols offer a welcome dash of cool water in the heat which is, I think, their intention. And of course there's the encouragement of sponsors who have all chipped in too. They're the ones who actually raised the money - I just had the fun of the ride. And the sunburn.
I really thought I'd cross the line and collapse - or worse still, fail to cross the line, but I'm pretty sure I could have carried on for a good while longer. I stayed in Brighton for a couple of hours for a cup of tea (it does cool you down and anyone who says it doesn't is a liar) and a sandwich and a bit of pebble-balancing on the notoriously stoney beach.
For many years a lot of people have travelled back to London on the train but last year the train companies banned bikes on the day of the event and so now the organisers arrange for a fleet of coaches to ferry cyclists back while the bikes go on lorries. I could see the pained looks on the faces of those who owned expensive bikes as their bikes left Brighton on a separate vehicle to themselves but it was a pretty efficient system and our bikes turned up in Clapham about 5 minutes after us. At which point I cycled home. Not a twinge of pain I tells ye, not a twinge.
My favourite images from the day: the youngster on a BMX bike who was speeding up one of the early slopes, throwing some amazing jumps off the back of the speed bumps and the lady of a certain age who was puffing along on an old clogger of a bike with nothing in her basket except the Mail on Sunday.
Incidentally, I recently mentioned taking part in a photo shoot alongside Brian Dowling and others and I'm reliably informed that it appeared in yesterday's Sunday Mirror magazine. It's laughingly titled Sexy British Male Celebs: The Entertainers (so there's two words that make me squirm (no, not entertainers, I have some pride in my job)) and as well as Dowling.B and myself it features Alan Carr, Alex Zane, Dave Berry and Richard Bacon. I'm the oldest man there by a clear 5 years although surely Bacon.R is lying when he says he's only 30. Surely. Isn't he? If anyone who was reading that thinking, Sexy? Him? could have seen me at 12 o'clock, red in the face with both sunburn and effort as I slowly scaled Ditchling Beacon they would have known for sure how wide of the mark it really was.
The ride is done but you can still donate... and let's be honest, it's all really just an excuse to donate money to something that you should support anyway... www.bhf.org.uk/sponsor/davegorman.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Armando Iannucci's Charm Offensive was fun but I have to say I'm sure it would have been a bit more focussed if it hadn't been recorded on the day of the England game. It meant that we spent the hours before the show thinking of something else and the audience turned up a little more drunk, hot and bothered than they would have done on a normal day also. But then, y'know, two-nil.
I enjoyed my week on The Wright Stuff again... the only bad thing being that other things have been keeping me up late and I've had to survive the week on 4 hours sleep each night. Full credit to the make-up department if they managed to hide the bags under my eyes. I almost always end up doing the show with Janet Ellis and she has the same attitude to the show so the two of us just spend a lot of the time giggling while Matthew selects topics that will allow him to get some personal therapy in.
The final part of the show doesn't involve the panel, it's just Matthew and a guest and a phone in. Sometimes the guest is an agony aunt, sometimes they're a a doctor and so on. While we're not on the show with these people we often end up sharing a chat and a cuppa in the green room with them before the show. On one of the shows this week the guest was Derek Ogilvie, a man who claims to be able to read the minds of babies. This is the kind of thing that winds me up no end but inevitably I find myself shaking his hand and nodding as if I understand when he tells us how horrible it is that there are so many skeptics in the world. Hmmm.
On the Monday the guest was Rosemary Leonard, a GP who appears on the show quite regularly. It turns out that she is also taking part in the cycle from London to Brighton tomorrow and I think she's the person who persuaded Matthew Wright to take part. On top of that, Amol Rajan - the guy who wields the microphone amongst the studio audience should they wish to join in any discussion - is also taking part in the ride so amongst the 27,000 cyclists there should be four people who were all on last week's The Wright Stuff.
The ride was mentioned quite a lot through the week of shows but more was said off-air with both myself and Matthew getting slightly nervous because of the lack of training we've done. 54 miles is a long way to go. What I have done is bought some very padded cycling shorts and a tub of vaseline - both of which have been recommended to me by several people. Last night, as my interest in the Mexico-Angola game waned I decided it would be wise to remind my posterior what a saddle was like in advance of big journey so I set off on a random night-time ride. I really like cycling in London at night. I set off with no particular goal in mind and headed off on a route I know well towards the Isle of Dogs. On a few occasions I've cycled down this way and used the Greenwich foot tunnel
under the River Thames to cycle up towards the Millennium Dome and the Thames Barrier but this time I decided to stay on the North side of the Thames and continue around the Isle of Dog's perimeter to see what I would see.
I ended up taking a few dead ends into derelict industrial estates and then ending up on dangerously busy roads as I found myself in Canning Town, Royal Victoria Dock and then North Woolwich where there is another foot tunnel under the Thames. It's similar to the Greenwich tunnel but in a worse state of repair and smelling distinctly of piss. Which is a shame. I lugged my bike down the stairs and scooted through, then cycled along the south bank of the Thames to the Greenwich tunnel which put me back in familair territory and my cycling comfort zone. I reckon by the time I got back I'd done a 20 mile round trip. It took a while - but then there were those strange dead ends and the carrying of a bike up and down four flights of stairs and I did stop at the Royal Victoria Docks to take some photos so I don't really know how much of a guide this is to tomorrow's trip. It was only about a third of the distance to Brighton but it didn't hurt and I can walk perfectly well today so it bodes well and gives me a little confidence at least.
With 27,000 cyclists they inevitably stagger the starts for people to spread things out. Aware of the sun I'd applied for a very early start and was scheduled to go at 6am. But the British Heart Foundation (who organise the whole shebang) have asked me to do an interview on the morning and so I've had my start put back to 7.30. People are suggesting that it takes between 4 and 7 hours for inexperienced cyclists like me - which involves a huge margin of error. I expect I'll be nearer the 7 hour mark. It's not a race and I don't think it could be with those kind of numbers involved and I will be taking my camera with me and stopping for an ice-cream or two along the way. Wish me luck.
I now know a little more about the technical problems that were plaguing my sponsorship page. As ridiculous as it seems, the problem was caused by too many people visiting the page and sponsoring me... which meant that at busy times people were struggling to load the page and getting an error message instead. They've made a temporary fix by taking out the first few hundred sponsors from the page (but not from their records) and adding up their sponsorship which shows up on the page as 'money raised off-line'. In doing this, the page then doesn't cound the Gift Aid that will be added by the government to the amount raised 'off-line' but when these figures are totted up at the end of things it will all be sorted out. Assuming that most of the online donations will be from UK tax-payers and that Gift Aid will apply there will be an extra 800 odd quid to add on to the total which would tally well with my running total before the fix happened.
In any case - it's not me raising the money, it's people like you that are raising it and it's all appreciated. If you'd like to donate to the British Heart Foundation, and help to encourage me up the 813 feet climb that is Ditchling Beacon tomorrow then please pop along to www.bhf.org.uk/sponsor/davegorman.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
We recorded the last episode of Genius last night and I'll be sorry not to be working on it any more. It's been a tremendously fun few weeks spent thinking about some very stupid ideas. Armando Iannucci was a brilliant guest and so right from the start it stopped feeling like a job-of-work to me and just became a fun night out. I will remember the audience all screaming Tetris-based advice for a long time to come. It floated through my head earlier today for no reason in particular and made me chuckle to myself while I was sitting on the tube. I expect the series will be broadcast in September but obviously when I know more I'll let you know.
It would have been great to have a proper last-night drink after the recording but because I've started another week on The Wright Stuff it wasn't possible. I felt like I was leaving my own party when I left the theatre relatively early. It still hurt getting up on Tuesday morning in time for my 7am car. I didn't think I'd be very compos mentis during this morning's show but it seemed like a lively one when it happened and as usual it whizzed past. Matthew Wright is also taking part in the London to Brighton bike ride on Sunday and we've both spent some time panicking about our lack of training. Oh dear.
On Thursday I'm a guest on Professor Iannucci's Radio 4 show, Charm Offensive. I agreed the date some time ago and was more than a bit miffed at myself when I realised that it clashed with England's second World Cup game. The game is at 5 and I was assuming that the recording started at 6.30 because that seems to be standard for these kind of R4 things. I confessed this to Armando but to my relief the recording doesn't start til later than I thought and there'll be no need to miss the game at all. Disaster over.
Something odd has been going on on my sponsorship page for the London to Brighton ride. I started to get a lot of e-mails from people telling me that they were failing to open the page and getting an error message instead. I got in touch with the British Heart Foundation because it's their website and this was obviously going to cost them money if people were unable to load the page in order to donate.
Apparently the problem was that there were too many sponsors and too many people trying to access the page. They reckon it will take a few days to fix it properly so in the mean time they've deleted some of the names of sponsors - but only as a temporary measure. They told me they'd made adjustments so that the total amount was still correct but I know that's not true because the total raised has gone down and that can't be possible. When last I was here it said it was £8682.99. More people have sponsored me since then, but the total is currently given as £8315.75. Whatever it really is, I hope they can sort it out and that they don't end up short changing themselves due to a technical error. I'm sure they will get it sorted. And of course, whatever it is, you can always make it more by visiting www.bhf.org.uk/sponsor/davegorman.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Brian Sewell made for an excellent and eccentric guest at last night's recording of Genius. He really does play the role of Brian Sewell better than anyone else. The recordings are coming thick and fast right now - the moment a show is done, it's time to focus on the next show. The final recording is on Monday when my guest will be the brilliant Armando Iannucci.
I'll be seeing Armando again on the 15th when I'm a guest on his Radio 4 show, Charm Offensive which is, I believe, broadcast the next day. We have no such frenzied edits on Genius... it will be a few months before the series goes to air. We're recording it now because it was about the only chunk of time in my diary when it could be squeezed in and done properly.
I think when Genius was first conceived we imagined it would be a two-way conversation between myself and the guest each week. Instead it's definitely become a three-way conversation between the two of us and the individual who's pitching each idea and it's their input that makes the show so much fun for me. They all turn up with such different attitudes and given that they're unlikely to be accustomed to speaking in public they can be quite nervous.
But I don't think we've ever had anyone come to take part in the show and not enjoy it and they all leave at the end of the day with a real spring in their step. I wish we'd started a guestbook back at the start of series one because I'm sure if they could read the comments from previous guests in advance of the recording they'd all relax a bit sooner.
We've tried to set the show up so that they're under as little pressure as possible and we try our hardest to make sure they have a fun time. Every night, as they read their idea out, there is always a moment where the audience cheers or laughs or makes some other kind of noise-of-approval and I can see them visibly relax as they realise the audience are on their side and it's going to be fun. From that moment on they seem to have a ball.
Understandably a few people get cold feet and I mentioned recently how one chap called us on the day to say he couldn't come but was persuaded and had a great time. Well recently someone took the not-turning-up thing to a new level. When we start making the series we look through thousands of ideas and we get in touch with lots of people whose ideas we enjoyed. Then slowly as people's availability becomes clear we start to put ideas together that we think will blend well in the same episode.
This time round we had a couple of ideas come from people across the Atlantic. We got in touch with them but didn't really expect anyone to come from Canada or America in order to be on the show. This is Radio 4 so naturally we don't have the kind of budget than can afford to fly people over or anything silly like that. To our surprise and delight a couple of people - one from Canada and one from America - said they wanted to come over and were prepared to fly themselves.
The Canadian chap was scheduled to take part in the show with Carol Vorderman and an American lady (or Americaness as I believe they're called) was scheduled to appear in the show with Sid Waddell. The Canadian chap, Chris, (I'll leave his surname out to spare his blushes) was particularly keen and went to great lengths in his e-mails to explain how he was prepared to fly over at 72 hours notice if required. Then shortly before the show we found that he was no longer replying to our e-mails. Occasionally people have to pull out and as incovenient as it is we understand that there are reasons and we do what we can to accommodate people. If Chris had e-mailed us to say that on reflection he really couldn't afford a trip to London to take part in a show we would have been fine with that and we could have started work on finding an idea to replace his. But instead we just received no replies.
Then, onlya day or two before the show, we received an e-mail from his address but signed by 'Maria.' The e-mail started with the words, 'Sadly, Chris is no longer with us.' Hmmm... we weren't sure if this was someone at his work telling us that he was no longer employed there or someone from the world saying he was no longer a part of it. The e-mail went on to say that he would be dearly missed and that as he had often talked excitedly about the show that it would be a wonderful tribute to him if we were to still include his idea in the show.
It was a very odd e-mail. It was clearly implying that he was dead but at no point did it actually use the word. We were all pretty convinced that it wasn't quite right in some way but of course when the subject is as serious as that it isn't really easy to question it in case it turns out to be true and you appear to be incredibly insensitive.
There was no way we were going to include the idea in the show without someone there to pitch it because the show just doesn't work like that and so we replaced it and got down to work on the show and didn't really give it much thought. The show passed and then the next show came along and this time our transatlantic guest stayed in touch, showed up, pitched her idea and had fun. All was well.
Then a couple of days ago for some reason Chris floated back through my head. I was trying to write an intro for Brian Sewell and was distracted by thoughts of a potentially-dead-but-probably-not Canadian. So I picked up the phone and gave him a call. It went through to his voicemail. I didn't leave a message and returned to thinking about Mr Sewell. Then five minutes later my phone went. I picked it up.
"Hello," said a Canadian voice, "It's Chris, I missed your call."
"Oh," said I. "Hi Chris."
"Who's that?" asked Chris who I have to say was sounding very much alive to me.
"It's Dave Gorman."
"Oh. Hi Dave."
"Hi Chris. How are you?"
"I'm good," said Chris. There was a pause. And then the phone went down. He was definitely alive but, I imagine, rather embarrassed.
How odd? Imagine being so concerned about what some-strangers-you'll-never-meet will think of you that you would rather fake your own death than be honest about letting them down? How very, very odd.
Nine days to go before I cycle to Brighton. Not many opportunitues for training rides between now and then. Gulp. I'm really impressed by how much people have donated though. Total sponsorship so far: £8682.99. You can make it even more here.
Thursday, June 8, 2006
Genius continues to be a hugely enjoyable series to make. It's remarkably unfraught. Maybe that's just how radio is. Or maybe it's to do with the particular people involved - Team Genius (four bearded men and a Dutch lady - there's a film title) are a very affable bunch. Or maybe it's the fact that every show is so different. I really like the way in which the members of the public who are pitching their ideas all get involved and of course the guests all bring their tone to the show also. So it's impossible to rehearse and the show remains a fresh and fun night out for me as much as anyone else.
We've recorded two shows since I last wrote and they've been very different affairs. I was dead chuffed that Carol Vorderman agreed to be a guest and she was a brilliant sport on the night who completely entered into the spirit of the show. Sid Waddell was as wonderfully eccentric and Waddellish as anyone could hope for and again, I had a really fun night. I'm not sure everyone there understood him, mind.
The recordings are coming thick and fast now with one tomorrow and another on Monday so there's no time to sit back after a recording and we go straight into thinking about the next one. As well as the final show on Monday, I also start a week on The Wright Stuff. I'm going to be on with Janet Ellis again which is always fun. Don't get me wrong, I once enjoyed a week on the show in the company of Anne Widdecombe but I've done the show with Janet more than anyone else (well, apart from Matthew Wright... he's always on it... I think he knows someone) and whenever I've agreed to do the show there's a part of me thinking, 'oo... I hope it's a Janet Ellis week'.
Incidentally, Janet is involved in organising a benefit gig at the Lyric in Hammersmith on Sunday night. If I wasn't so busy with the Radio 4 show I'd certainly be going to it and if you're free you should think of doing so as it's a top line-up. There are details here.
Not so long ago I wrote about the evil ITV show, The Mint after I turned up as an answer. I really do think it's a horrible show while still admiring the skill of some of the presenters who can talk about nothing for hours on end. It's like QVC only instead of selling tacky jewellery they sell hopes and dreams. I mention this because last week I found myself in a photographic studio with Mint presenter Brian Dowling. I was wearing a vaguely Miami Vice outfit and holding a toy golf club while he was licking a cornetto. Did I confront him with the fact that I think his job is evil? Of course not, I shook his hand and said, "Nice to meet you" because I've been brough up properly and he's a nice man. A nice man who gets paid to persuade people to spend money they can't afford entering stupid competitions that offer them only the tiniest chance of riches maybe, but a nice man all the same.
Friday, June 2, 2006
Saturday, May 27, 2006
The second Genius recording was a somewhat less exhausting affair. I had a thoroughly enjoyable time in the excellent company of guest, Chris Addison.
There was still oddness... one of the people who was pitching a potentially genius idea on the show called at about 5.30 to say that he wasn't going to come. This is very late notice on the day of the recording and quite an inconvenience... after all, we plan the show around the ideas and with an idea missing, some of those plans are wasted. He claimed to be too busy but I suspect it was really nerves brought on by the prospect of speaking in public.
He was persuaded to turn up eventually and he wasn't too busy to hang around for quite some time at the end of the night. He definitely enjoyed it and was happy to have done the show - so far I'm pretty sure that everyone who's taken part in the show has done. It's one of the things that I enjoy most about the recordings.
The pitchers turn up and are inevitably a little nervous... but the audience are always completely on their side and part way through reading the idea out they give them a laugh or a round of applause and you can see the pitcher's shoulders relax and their confidence grow. They always walk away from it confident and buzzing.
Odder still was the weather... and the way it entered the theatre. The day was marked by huge downpours and there wasn't a problem during any of the time we spent setting the show up so there was no way of predicting it would happen. Part way through the recording rain started to drip down into the venue. To begin with it was a couple of drops but by the end of the evening it was no longer dripping, it was pouring in. It was a little distracting but we were lucky it fell where it did as it all fell at the front of the stage between our desks and the audience ... and more importantly, away from the electrics.
We're back at The Cochrane for another recording later in the run. I hope they fix it before then. Or that it's a dry day. The next recording is back at The Shaw theatre on Tuesday.
London to Brighton by bike. Total sponsorship so far: £7307.17.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
We recorded the first in the new series of Genius yesterday with Johnny Vegas as my guest. This morning the show's producer (Simon Genius) called me and said, "I can't wait to see what you say about last night's show on your website." There was mischief in his voice when he said it. He was saying it because he knows that the show was... well, more unusual than normal. It lasted two and a half hours for a start. At some point it has to be cut down to 30 minutes... hopefully in a way that keeps the unusual nature of it intact.
I don't think I can adequately describe what it was like to host the show last night. If it was easy to describe I suppose Simon wouldn't be telling me that he can't wait to see what I say about it. Which I suppose is the best way of illustrating how odd it was. It was so odd that people who were there are mischievously anticipating reading this description of it.
London to Brighton by bike. Total sponsorship so far: £7185.37.