Friday, 27 January 2012

old school

thought i'd join in with this meme...

Saturday, 17 December 2011

where are you?

i don't really write much on this blog anymore. if you're interested (why you would be, i have no idea) in what i spend all my time doing now, you need to go here:

Monday, 18 July 2011

bicycle

five cars that are now so ubiquitous and dull, that simply buying one signals an acceptance of how generic you are:
1: BMW 3-series
2: Mini (the new one, not the brilliant classic)
3: Audi TT
4: Peugoet 206 cc
5: Smart fortwo

Friday, 10 June 2011

i want the blues

#Photoshop help sought!

I'm working on the flyers for my Edinburgh Fringe show, but when printed it looks much too purple. Is there any way I can keep the bright red of the clothing accessories, but make the blue clothes look more blue? I'm already working in CMYK. If I just lower the red-tones, I'd lose the vibrancy of the bits that need to stay bright red.

Any ideas welcome, I am totally self-taught in Photoshop, so there's a lot of things I don't know about.

Thanks!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

3 is the magic number

i like this piece of marketing from the No To AV crowd. for a start, it's the first one that appears to resemble anything truthful. by that, i mean i can believe that someone called "Alice" lives in a place called "Islington". it's far better than some of their other propaganda.

the reason it amuses me, is the poster relies entirely on the concept that popularity is directly linked to how good something is. it puts faith in the theory that 'if more people like it, then it must be good / if less people like it, it must be bad'.

but loads of people like The X-Factor. Whigfield had a Number One single with Saturday Night. Katie Price's latest morony still sells thousands of shitty twat-mags, and the film Titanic won several oscars.
none of them have even an inkling of any value.

and don't forget BetaMax, MiniDiscs, Banksy, The Sex Pistols, sharks, De Lorean cars, linux - all very unpopular, but nonetheless all fucking brilliant, and usually much better than their rivals.

that poster, No To AV folk, is an argument with as much validity as saying "this new shampoo can give you ten times more colour radiance".

AV takes more points of view into account than just one very basic sum. the election of who runs our country should be more complicated than it is. you should be able to have an opinion if your first choice is that of principal. politicians should have to work harder.

if you're unsure of how democratic AV is, let some lovely zoo animals explain

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

hey ya!

way back in january i wrote about the 50-hour improvathon that i nearly watched all of. one of the highlights was a character called Tony Ferrari whose catchphrase "eeeeeeiiiyyyyyyyyy" became part of my everyday vocabulary.

joyfully, i was in vienna for work last week (yup, freelancing is working out allright). the joy wasn't particularly the work itself, but that i managed to get to see an improv show on the friday night at the Drachengasse Theatre, somewhere near a viennese church, somewhere in the city.

Jacob Banigan, the improviser behind T. Ferrari was in the show, and was happy for me to fire a bunch of questions at him in a somewhat amateur way. here is what/how it went down:

Jacob Banigan began improvising over 20 years ago in Edmonton, Canada, with the revered Rapid Fire Theatre. He's since moved to Austria, where he performs regularly with Theatre Im Bahnhof in Graz and The English Lovers in Vienna. He travels all over the world to teach and perform.

How did you discover improv?
JB: I first saw it when I was a teenager, when my sister told me to go see TheatreSports. I always knew I wanted to perform, and when I saw improv I realized the players were really enjoying themselves and the audience was with them the whole way. The world of stand-up looked pretty nasty, from a distance.

What do you really love about improv?
With improv, the audience accepts all your ideas. If you say you’re 10 feet tall, they just go: “Okay”. And if you act a little bit that way they see it even more. We can paint the picture as fast as we want. What sustains it is the reality of these ridiculous situations: audiences come back for the true moments, instead of the comedy of it.

What was your favourite ever improv moment?
In 2006 I got to do a World Cup of TheatreSports in the Canadian team, with two very good friends of mine: Steve Sim and Derek Flores. That was a super highlight for me. But I’ve worked with so many great people. I go to Edmonton and we have fantastic shows. Sometimes just me and Mark (Meer), sometimes with others. And Jim (Libby) and I tootle around doing a lot of two-man shows. We created a board game show where you roll the dice and it tells you how long the scene is. We both play all the characters. It’s a mix of short- and long-form.

You were in the 50 hour Improvathon, and you’ve done ultra-long Soapathons. What’s the best thing about them?
The stories can take so long and get so complex, and when you try to back-track through one you realise it started two days ago! In the Improvathon, Ruth (Bratt) and Mark (Meer) had a funny little boob-poke right near the beginning. It was so early, but it paid off throughout, and at the very end created the most romantic, touching scene. There would be no way to predict that, or make that happen, if you were writing that story.

Did you have any out-of-body experiences?
I had some brain farts, yeah. Nothing that was transcendent, just embarrassing. Part way through a scene you think: “Am I still here? Am I still talking? Fuck!” There’s always a time in the Soapathon where everyone is flumping on stage. But everyone comes back.

Have you ever had a totally shit show?
Oh yes. In Wetaskiwin, Alberta, a small town. We did a fundraiser gig for The Wives of the Mounties. Full of small-town ladies with power issues (because they’re married to Mounties), all hammered. We got there and the place was already a riot. We couldn't wait to get off the stage. It felt like forever. They hated us. They threw pennies at us. They even came on stage and said: “SHUT UP AND GET OFF!” I got mad. I’ve promised myself never to get mad on stage again. We did maybe 10-15 minutes… We were supposed to do 40.

Do you perform in German when you do shows in Austria?
I perform in German sometimes, very bad German. My characters are usually foreigners or animals. Or objects.

Did you have to adapt your humour in any way?
Performing in another language forces you to simplify. You can’t be clever. You can’t make jokes. If I lose track of what’s going on in a show that’s mostly in German, it’s usually because people have started making jokes or doing wordplay. If you keep it to what’s real, and what’s here, it’s no problem. It can be really helpful for people to travel and perform in another country where you can’t just make references to your own pop culture.

How would you describe your own style?
I don’t mind giving life to objects or to dogs. Again, don’t play the dog like a crazy dog - just be a dog. The reality of that is interesting, too. I don’t mind looking stupid, because it’s not me, it’s the character. If I went out there and tried to be funny and charming I’d be dead. You don’t have to defend your ideas or sneak them in emotionally, you just have to bring them to the stage and connect them to the other people. People respect that. Sometimes people take the serious stuff too seriously, that’s bad theatre. It just needs to be alive.

What was your favourite improv show you ever saw?
The first time I saw Crumbs in Winnipeg they just blew my mind. Their style was so different from anything I’d seen before and I immediately wanted to steal from them. I was watching their show looking for a structure, and afterwards they told me they didn’t have one. They just start: no games and no hooks! They just kinda play. It was a revelation.

Do you have an improv hero?
Mark Meer. Everyone is just trying to catch up to him. Actually when I’m playing with him I’m not trying to catch up to him, I’m trying to knock him off his balance. I learned years ago not to try to play the same game he’s playing, because you won’t be able to. If you’re in his game, great, but if you’re not - don’t even try. My job now is like: “Okay, Mark seems to know what he’s doing, I’m going to try and make him trip.” But he totally glosses over, like that’s part of his world too! There’s nobody else like him. And he does it with pure joy.

Do you think improv works on TV?
It’s on in America occasionally, but I don’t think it’s exactly been done properly. ‘Whose Line’ is fantastic, for what it is. There was this show called ‘The Green Screen Show’ [where actors do a short-form show in front of a green screen, then environment and props are animated in before it’s broadcast]. I liked that it was about suggesting something that could then be put in afterwards. You can’t do that on stage. I think that’s the way to go, just without all the ‘funny-funny’.

Jacob is currently working on an improvised movie. At the moment he's not sure exactly how it will work.

If you would like to read the whole unabridged interview you can: HERE

what have you done for me lately?

oh. yes. i have this blog don't i? i sorta forgot for a while. i've been doing this instead, putting a website together so that more people can experience improv in the world.

improvisation is now, well, kind of a full-on addiction. it's basically forming about 40% of my thought processes. that's quite a lot considering i spend 63% of my life asleep, and/or enjoying the throws of passionate freelancing.

anyway; 8bit have a gig this weekend and it's going to be a right royal phenomenon. without the royalty, those guys are basically pointless.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

broken flowers

what with my mum, sister, niece and nephew being in an horrific car-crash (pictured) on monday, the terrible earthquake in new zealand, gaddafi fulfilling his murderous tendencies in libya, witnessing a video of a government van willfully plowing into a crowd of protesters in egypt and me falling down some stairs while carrying an 8' x 4' set panel yesterday... i can't help but be thoughtful on the fragility of human life and how people should stop being shit and help each other out.

this is why i started an online argument today with some girl who thought it was acceptable to book an airline flight from cardiff to newcastle. i don't have kids, and probably won't as i wouldn't want them to grow up breathing this idiot's carbon output.

Monday, 21 February 2011

why don't we make up?

here is the promo for my improvised musical comedy group/troupe who do improvised comedy musicals with music and songs and comedy in. feel free to enjoy it more than tractors (who are total fuckers anyway).

i don't like myself in film, so i cunningly only put myself in it for a split second. well done me.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

quadrophenia

i don't know anything about this film, but i love the poster design.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

wall-e

my #improvathon ended earlier than i wanted. which was annoying. what is more annoying is the reason.
it wasn't due to tiredness - i'd pushed through two horrific walls of sleepiness and had got to a point where it really was a downhill stretch. if i could make it to 38 hours of watching a show, i could make it to 50.
it wasn't due to the the quality of the show - yes, it had some bits that were better than others, and some of the worst bits were really quite bad; but that's part of the show. even with total sleep deprivation, the cast were still finding some absolute genius from somewhere within.

it was due to drunk people. yeah. annoying. i hate drunk people at the best of times. being drunk can often turn even the most pleasant of people into arrogant, selfish pricks. when those selfish pricks are there ruining a show you are trying to watch, that's just too much to bother with.
and for some reason you can't tell them to shut-up, because you would be the one classed as unreasonable. the response would be "oh they're just having a good time, leave them alone."
i would argue that's total balls. they're drunk, they're being twats, they should just automatically be asked to leave. or they should be put down in the stalls, leaving a chill-out zone in the balcony. or something.

so, accompanied with my tiredness levels it just pushed me to the end of my tether. and i just couldn't be bothered anymore. which is annoying, because the first night was really pleasant. you could just sit quietly and watch the show until dawn came or lay down and absorb it just through audio. but saturday night was this: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH WWWWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO - repeated to infinitum.

as i write this, the show is still going. and the performers are nothing less than heroes. it's a mighty accolade, but for the most it's totally deserved. the most notable performances are as follows:
(in no particular order, and not knowing some of the actors names so i'll use their character name or a description)
Mark Meer - even at his lowest points he was a better improviser than i can ever hope to be. his Hunter S Thompson is magnificent. he is quick, witty and clever. and his physical comedy is a pleasure to watch.
Dylan Emery - never ceased to retain plot-points and keep the story in some semblance of an order.
Jacob Tony Ferrari - the only man who will finish this with a catchphrase. Really entertaining and a superb improviser.
Ruth Bratt - is constantly brilliant, but had a meltdown on stage and kept improvising to perform the best song of the show. Her love story with The Geek will be one of the few stories everyone will remember.
Paul Foxcroft - i really enjoy watching Paul. he has a knack of playing around in scenes that i envy, and the fooling about never seems to ruin the truth of whats going on.
Woody Allen - the guy's impression of the neurotic film director was brilliant. and he was brilliant with it. His story of obsession with Annie Hall was my favourite one of the whole show.
The Country Girl with the animal milk obsession - was just really enjoyable to watch and i missed her when she went.
Oliver Senton - his impression of Tom Waits was perfect.
Josh D'arcy - his security guard character was utterly convincing and never put a foot wrong.
Seamus Allen - totally brilliant drug-addict comedy role and a brilliant clown.
Charlotte Gittins - her 'Hot 30' was always the best one of any episode.
Sarah-Louise Young - apart from a weird time dressed in a silver bikini; was slick, professional and wonderful at all times.
Donovan Workun - just brilliant.
Alan Cox - an enviable pallet of abilities.
Vackith/Vackis or something (she was a russian dancer anyway) - always enjoyable to watch and never seemed to lose energy.
Bryony And Tonic - i was always very relaxed when she was on stage. this could have any one of a number of meanings.

but by far my ultimate hero, someone who was consistently incredible, funny, witty, sexy, energising, committed, convincing; who powered into any role that was thrust upon her, did a brilliant impression of a well-known character, astounded me with her improv-abilities, energy levels and contributions to the show.. was Cariad Lloyd. she was absolutely fucking brilliant and stands out a long way as my favourite performer of the show. amazing.

do i regret not seeing the whole thing out?... yeah, a bit. but now i get to go and have a curry and a pint. so that's pretty ace. and i still saw most of the show.
as for personal achievements; i stayed awake for something close to 52 hours, so i'm feeling pretty good about myself.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

forget paris

I just re-read my hour 16 #improvathon review. it was REALLY negative. that's crazy. I guess it was tiredness being an ass.
basically the whole improvathon thing is genius, and the actors should be praised. yes, some bits aren't as good as other bits... but that's because improv is unpredictable, and because the actors are battling extreme levels of tiredness. they are encountering all the tiredness things I'm going through, but multiplied by at least 10. exhaustion, paranoia, confusion.
it is amazing that they are still pulling out hilarity at regular intervals.

there was a bit earlier where I didn't care what was going on, but that fell away like a wave and I'm back to loving everything that is happening.

there is currently a Jesus puppet doing the title role of an improvised version of Jesus Christ Superstar. it is amazing.

this whole thing is still weird. but that's why it's brilliant.

in the night garden

we're about 16 hours into the #improvathon . by my calculations (if they are at all trustworthy) that means I've been awake for 28 hours, bar the twenty minutes I spent in a horizontal position on a wooden slat when I hit a tiredness wall at about 6am this morning.

it would be impossible to try and recollect what's happened in 16 hours of improvised nonsense. it's gone through times of brilliance and times of rubbishness.

some memorable things are:
- carrie fisher has sex with a lot of young boys.
- hunter s. thompson is being played magnificently by mark meer.
- my favourite storyline has been that of woody allen and annie hall, a lot to do with how brilliantly they were played.
- there have been a couple of actors, that I have no idea why they've been allowed on stage. they are terrible.
- there was a dark time through the early hours of this morning, where only mess happened, and plot was thrown aside.
- there was a great bit where an actor was called to stage, but he was asleep on the front row. he was awoken by demons, and delivered halfway through the scene. and was noticeably fucked up by the whole thing.
- the lighting fell asleep and a scene ended up being strung out for ages until he woke up and went to black out.
- there has been a lot of racism.
- woody allen & annie hall had a baby and it was Jesus Christ, who turned out to be evil, so they had it murdered.

I am not feeling that tired right now. I'm definitely on a second wind, that was fuelled by three things:
1. a bacon and egg sandwich as Dawn broke.
2. having a big shit.
3. sarah-louise young's bottom writhing about when she was being a lapdancer.

it is messy. it is scrappy. we are experiencing the full range of 'good' levels of improv, but that's to be expected.
the performers are heroes.
this is a weird thing to do.

Friday, 21 January 2011

la science des rĂªves

tonight sees the start of the 2011 improvathon. a bunch of improvisers get together for perhaps the ultimate theatrical challenge: to improvise one 50-hour play. all in one go. battling all the things that sleep deprivation throws at you. they will hit depression, angst, exhaustion, fear, paranoia, hallucinations. why anyone would willingly do that to themselves is almost beyond understanding.

except that i'm going to attempt to sit through the entire thing. attempt. this will be no mean feat, and as an audience member i will be hitting similar walls that the actors will; only i might be able to catch the odd wink of sleep from my uncomfortable seat in hoxton hall. i will be blogging and tweeting all the way through, so if you would like to read as a man slowly loses grip on reality, immersing himself in a fictional 1977... stay tuned to this blog.

and follow the whole thing in tiny, progressively non-sensical bursts on twitter. everything will be hash-tagged #improvathon.

at time of publishing i have been awake for 5hrs 45mins.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

careless whisper

so #FastandLoose happened. impro is finally back on mainstream TV, at least for 8 weeks anyway. we had an impro-watching party around the main event, watched some made-up-on-the-spot telly such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and Reno 911, and we watched some YouTube clips of brilliant groups like Beer.Shark.Mice and the fucking amazing Upright Citizens Brigade (video below). which were all magnificent, but by far the central reason for our evening was Fast & Loose.

there has not been a mainstream British impro TV show since Whose Line Is It Anyway? 15 years ago, so the expectations amongst the impro community could be felt like a build up of silence before a tidal wave hits... so did the wave hit with the full force of a 15-year surge and a burgeoning contemporary impro scene? well, um,... -ish... sort of like... sort of.

the twitterverse was lit with swathes of commentators. i would say it was mostly positive. interestingly, the good complimentary stuff seemed to come from the 'normal' TV viewer. lots of people thought it was hilarious. that is great. the dissenters, however, appeared to be people from within the improv community. there was a noticeable voice from improvisers all over the country that was disappointed and unsatisfied.

i am mixed. i thought the show was okay, but felt very calculated and safe. one if the most joyous aspects of doing impro is that the audience call out suggestions. this does two things:
1. proves that it's improvised.
2. gives the improvisers completely bat-shit crazy unexpected suggestions to work with.
there was no audience interaction whatsoever on Fast & Loose. why the hell not? they managed it 15 years ago with whose line? so why take a backwards step now?

the cast list included pippa evans and humphrey ker. these are two perfectly decent improvisers who could cope with any suggestion the audience could muster. future cast members for the series include ruth bratt and dave reed, who are also off-the-cuff masters. the Fast & Loose decision-makers are happy to use less-well-known but entirely capable improvisers, but it appears that due to some wet fear of risk-taking they also had to go down the danger-free route of stand-up comedians and a fail-safe format. the name of the show ended up being quite the opposite of the truth. series two should be called "Slow & Constrained".

my lady-cohort observed that if you wanted to broadcast a show about mime, you would go and talk to some mime artists; find out if there was a community of people who do mime and which performers those mime artists respect most. you would work with those maestros to form the best mime format you could for your TV show and the best mimists for your cast.

why then, didn't Fast & Loose work with prominent people in the improvisation circuit? there are people out there who've practiced incessantly on the art of improv for years and years and are regarded as figureheads in the community. Dylan Emery is one of the creators of Showstoppers, performs in Grand Theft Impro, runs the Crunchy Frog Collective, part of the astounding School of Night and is well regarded as a bit of a powerhouse in making existing improvisers work harder and be better since he took up the mantel that Alan Marriott left behind when he moved back home to Canada.
Steve Roe almost single-handedly runs Hoopla! and you won't find anyone battling harder to get improv out of dingy pub cellars and into the public eye. He is also an effing brilliant improviser himself.
Katy Schutte is just about one of the best improvisers i've ever seen and imparts the knowledge she has gained from training in (impro-Mecca) Chicago to our little island.

any one of these people could have given Fast & Loose a list of incredible, reliable, hilarious improvisers (including themselves) who would have astounded the audience. they'd have had some pretty brilliant ideas about show formats too, that certainly wouldn't have felt as stale as F&L did for a lot of it. these are people that trust in the abilities of fellow improvisers, and prove it by performing in front of real-life audiences with them. 'them' includes me, and i'm a long way away from the best improviser in town.

when you perform live you don't even get to edit out the poorer bits in post-production like they can with TV. if F&L producers were scared of going the whole hog and committing to impro, they really needed to have at least watched some impro shows and realised how risk-free it can be.

Fast & Loose just didn't seem to stray that far from the sterile safety we saw in mock the week; a show that pretended it was impro but was not even close.
Exhibit A, it didn't have improvisers in it.
Exhibit B, it had stand-up comedians in it.
Exhibit C, everything looked rehearsed.

hmm.

wow. that's all pretty negative. there are positive things that came out of the Fast & Loose series debut. for a start, with the list of evidence above you can now delete Exhibit A.
F&L did actually have improvisers in it. it's a start.

also, there were some bits that were actually impro. the dinner scene was a TV evilution of a 'Scene Replay' impro game, albeit rushed through.
the sideways floor thingy near the end was pretty much a classic 'Genre Swap' but with an added aspect you can't easily do live on stage in a room above a pub, with no budget because it's hard to get a decent-sized audience because no-one knows about improv because TV execs have been too scared to put it on TV even though everyone liked a show that was on 15 years ago. that game worked really well and the twitterverse was almost unanimous in it's appreciation.

so, i guess in summary; it was frustrating for improvisers or impro-fans who've seen just how good impro can be; and what can possibly be achieved live on stage. those who have seen entire musicals and shakespearian style plays created in a moment, those who have been whisked along an intricate weave of intertwining storylines and characters, those who have seen skilled actors work together to create miraculous and hilarious things on stage... will have been rather underwhelmed.

but for anyone who doesn't know about improv and hasn't been exposed to it, well, it may have opened their eyes to a whole new form of comedy that isn't the standard vanilla much-repeated one man stand-up routine. which can only be a good thing. it's a tentative toe-dip in an improv pool that can only be improved by a braver jump into the shallow end. and then a doggy paddle.
or if you're a newcomer, already into the idea of diving from the top board, why not try the 50-hour improvathon?

for impro virgins with a whetted appetite, there's so much to discover (shortform, longform, musicals, theatresports, impro soaps, harolds). if you want to discover more don't limit yourself to a TV show that's controlled by TV executives, seek out the good stuff:

in london:
hoopla!
showstoppers
music box
8bit
grand theft impro
school of night
horse aquarium

in brighton:
the maydays
the noise next door

anywhere else:
start from the crunchy frog collective website, and work outwards.


and then demand that TV execs allow this kind of thing to happen:

Friday, 7 January 2011

double team

gleatings comedy fans.

this year looks like it might be the year of 'Cor-Blimey-Thats-Genius' impro double bills, and to kick your ImpDubble-Bil year off in WonTon style and enviable joy: 8bit will be teaming up with the mighty powers of THE INFLATABLES for a night of fast-paced, hyper-bole, bum-good improvised comedy joygasm.

The Inflatables present the ultimate fast and funny quickfire short-form impro show with lots of games and rapid scenes.
Cast: Andrew Gentilli, Steve Roe, Becca Gibson, Dylan Buckle and Matt Andrews.
.... and if that cast list doesn't tickle your fancies nothing should, you heartless mung bean.

8bit bring you Chicago-style longform impro in a teacup with a Union Jack on it; creating an intricate weave of stories and characters from your idea and taking you on a journey the likes of which has never been seen before or since. Or now. Or before.
Unscripted... live... right there in front of you. Yeah, Right there. Yeah. There. Mmmm. Unnghgh....

COME!
Doors 7:30pm, Show 8pm - 10pm with interval, 26th January, The Miller... get along to have your funny bone touched in a way you never thought possible.
Available for £5 on the door, or reserve tickets at www.wegottickets.com

Where:
The Miller
96 Snowsfields Road
London Bridge
London
SE1 3SS

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

back to the future

and there we are. 2011 plops into place as predictably as 2010 did. and 2006. happy new year, you hobos.

welcome to a year that starts under a useless government and will finish under a useless government, that much is guaranteed. so what am i going to do about it? bend over and take a flaccid iron rod, or spin round and grin menacingly into their eyes?

every year for about the last seven, I have said "this was the best year of my life," and it is not without truth. my enjoyment of the world has increased in leaps and bounds since I managed to put behind me how fucking awful i found school, how disappointing university was, and how sorrowful the time i ended up working in sales and retail became.
thankfully i'm out of all those things now.

the only thing about 2010 that i didn't enjoy was my job. i liked some bits of it, but the rest was dragging me down. i have now cured that as i sit face-to-face with my own freelance future. i'm happily putting aside the fact that my first freelance booking has been and currently is, covering my old role in my old job; because now i'm doing it on my own terms. it makes a big difference. now i actually care about what i'm doing.

every other aspect of 2010 was the best i've ever had it. i had brilliant friends, i had a brilliant family, i had a brilliant hobby and i had a brilliant lady-freund. i still have all those things in 2011, and now i also have a job that i'm excited about.

2010 was the best year of my life.
2011 will be the best year of my life.

Friday, 31 December 2010

don't let go

this is barry. he drives a crane. for some reason, he has painted his credit card pin number on it.

"hey barry."

barry once used the website www.webuyanycar.com
they gave him a tiny amount of money for his immaculate 2002 nissan micra. barry felt like this wasn't enough, but the people on the helpline told him he should have read the small print better.

Monday, 27 December 2010

four lions

i like to go to theatre workshops.

that sounds a bit gay and rubbish.

I'm sorry you think that. what do you like to do in your spare time?

oh, I like to watch 22 men run around a field with shorts on.

oh, right. what else do they do?

sometimes they kick a ball into a net. and every time they do they get a point. the more points they get, the better their chance of winning.

that sounds brilliant. so I guess that happens a lot then.

normally about 2 or 3 times in a game.

but you don't have to wait long, right?

sometimes ninety minutes can pass by without a point. and then no-one wins.

that's like fishing and not catching anything.

but when someone does get a point, loads of people cheer. and the players celebrate by having a little tumble. it's really great.

do you get your money back if no-one does a point?

nope.

so, do the players get paid less if they don't do their job properly?

nope. sometimes they get given £50,000 for a week.

for what?

for trying really hard.

so, if your team doesn't win any points, do they say sorry?

no, normally they blame the quality of the grass or something.

if you watched archery, and none of the archers hit the target, that would be rubbish wouldn't it?

but sometimes there ARE goals. sometimes.

how many on average...?

about two per game.

and how long do they last?

ummm... they're sort of just instant.

so potentially, in an hour and a half, you probably only get a couple of moments of good bits?

sometimes games are longer than that.

it sounds pretty dull.

there are loads of attempts at points. loads.

an attempt isn't an actual achievement though, is it? I mean, if I ATTEMPTED to draw a picture, but ended up not drawing a picture, I might as well have not bothered even picking up the pencil. hey that's a nice t-shirt.

thanks, its the away shirt for my team.

I like it. how much can I buy that t-shirt for?

£40.

WHAT?! for a t-shirt?!

yes. my team won a competition last year. they scored 33 points in ten months. I will buy another t-shirt this year.

Jesus.

when my team lose, I get really sad.

oh dear. sometimes in theatre workshops I get to kiss girls, and my girlfriend doesn't mind. in fact she normally watches, and then says how good it was.

sometimes I pay £30 to watch a game where no-one does any goals.

oh.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

christmas present #7

my nephew dressed like a christmas idiot.

christmas present #6

a lovely dry bottom.

christmas present #5

shit joke.

christmas present #4

a fine spread.

christmas present #3

a raging fire of heat.

christmas present #2

pyjamas with 'men' and 'mom' written on them.

christmas present #1

the fuck-birds

Monday, 20 December 2010

here comes santa claus

unusual conference set-up this morning. aside from the fact that they've gone with a hawaiian theme for santa's christmas grotto, it's not what you'd normally expect to find on the presentation theatre stage on a Monday morning.

"hello little boy, whats your name?"

"it's ken, santa"

"and have you been a good boy, ken?"

"well, i was the deputy co-team-leader for the investment & adherence focus group on the TODGER project."

"and what would you like for christmas, ken?"

"i'd like to shift any blame for the state of the world economy right away from me."

"oh well, ken, was it your fault?"

"i'd like to think i had nothing to do with it. i was merely a pawn accepting orders and only made a bad decision when it meant i made more money for my bonus pot. some of which i'd spend on my family."

"is there anything else you'd like for christmas, ken?"

"money."

"haven't you already got some of that, ken?"

"want more."

"'want' is not a very nice word, ken. the elves and i always say 'i want, doesn't get.'"

"i'd also like a prostitute to sniff cocaine from."

"next child please."

Friday, 17 December 2010

water of life

please enjoy our delicious mulled urine.
nappy rolidays!

give peace a chance

for today, you can get the 4'33" track for FREE!
and to top it off, money still goes to charity and it still affects the music charts.

so lets get this straight: you can make a contribution to some great charities, take an active role in the battle against mediocrity AND send a message of disinterest to simon cowell - without paying any money.

1) register or log in at mflow
2) click on your name in the top right of the screen
3) on the drop down menu click 'redeem code'
4) Type in XMAS to the redeem code box - it then puts £1 credit in your account
5) Search 'Cage Against The Machine' and then click to buy it with the credit.

say it loud

ME: hello sir, i've just come to put a microphone on you.

HIM: i hate those things. do i need one? i can project.

ME: you have an audio conference call on this event, so you need to speak into a microphone otherwise people calling in won't hear anything.

HIM: can't i just shout?

ME: from london to mumbai?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

let's get retarded

in my last couple of weeks of full-time employment, it's refreshing to know that I've made the right decision.

today a conference I am running has an audio dial in. for those not in the know, this means that I've connected my sound desk to a telephone line and dialled it into a conference call so that bank workers all around the world can log in and listen to the meeting.

there is also a similar facility where people can log into a website to watch the PowerPoint slides I am sending out.

a section of this meeting had a slide show showing the department's achievements for the year, while playing the theme tune from Mission Impossible.

half way through this section, the events girl (who has spent all morning coming back and forth every 2 minutes to ask me questions like "can I dial a normal phone number on a phone?") came and said she'd just had an email from someone listening in on the conference:

HER: the people on the phones are saying they can only hear music.

ME: that's because we're playing music. there's nothing else going on.

HER: but they're saying they can't see anything on the phones.

ME: see?

HER: yes, they can't see anything.

ME: on the phone?

HER: yes.

ME: ....

HER: they can't see anything on the phone. can you make sure it's working?

ME: I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean. do you mean they can't see the slides?

HER: I guess so. hmmm.

ME: have they logged into the slideshow website?

HER: on the phone?

ME: on their computers. they need to do that. they had an email explaining it all to them.

HER: oh. maybe they haven't done that.

ME: I expect so. could you get them to do that, if they look at what I'm broadcasting they might be able to see it.

HER: ... and then they'll be able to see?

ME: yes.

HER: ... the presenter?

ME: the slide show.

HER: oh. so they won't see the presenter?

ME: no. we don't have cameras in this room.

HER: do you need them? can you just put it on the computer?

ME: I'm afraid not. to get a camera shot of the presenter, you need a camera.

HER: so what will they see?

ME: the slides.

HER: but they need to log in to the website for them?

ME: yes. they were all sent log-in details via email.

HER: does that not happen automatically when they dial in on their phone?

ME: no. their phones and their computers are separate pieces of equipment.

[she gets out her blackberry]

HER: oh. I've just had an email saying that some of the others can't hear anything.

ME: are they dialled in on the phone line?

[she goes away and returns a few minutes later]

HER: do they need to do that as well?

ME: yup.

[she disappears again]

while she is away I send an email out to anyone online informing them of the correct phone number.

shortly after I start hearing loads of people dialling into the call.

she returns.

HER: people can hear now.

ME: okay.

....

these are the people who run your bank. these are the people who're in charge of your money and the world economy.

ace.

Monday, 13 December 2010

killing in the name of

dear simon,

i thought i should bring something to your attention. you may already know about it, or your personal assistant army of bikini-clad chavscum may have missed it while they were engulfing your unbelievable manhood with their desperate lips. if you have missed it, it appears that a bunch of nobodies - including suggs (who?) and the kooks (what?) - have got together to record a single in the lame attempt to knock your x-factor single from the much-deserved and arbitrary Christmas Number One slot.

this group of artists that no-one has ever heard of have decided to cover the legendary John Cage's track "4'33"", which is just four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence. how silly! who would even want that? i mean, if people didn't want to hear the x-factor single they could just turn the radio off. i'm listening to 4'33" right now, actually. (i bought the album, including all the remixes.) it's so incredible to think that people would rather pay money for silence than listen to your release.

i haven't bought the x-factor single yet, and as such i don't even know what it is. to be honest i missed the x-factor final as i didn't know when it was on. partly this is because i was normally out meeting other humans on a saturday night, and partly it was because someone offered to gouge my eyes out with a dagger. perhaps you should think about spending more money on advertising, or organise some sort of ridiculous media frenzy surrounding all the performers on your "talent" show, then it wouldn't be so easy to avoid miss it.

actually thinking about it, i think i did accidentally catch some of the x-factor show. the television was on while i was getting ready to go to a music gig of music performed by a real-life band of guys who had worked hard on their art and written the songs themselves. we temporarily lost the signal to the channel we were watching and searched for another one that worked. we ended up on ITV (because that button is largely unused and was therefore easy to operate). we saw about 3 or 4 minutes before my girlfriend vomited and i'm pretty sure it was the x-factor even though it looked like an advertisement for Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

during that 3-4 minutes we saw a humanoid who looked like cheryl cole spout-forth a classic hit by music historian Jay Zee which is a re-hash of an annoying song from an old musical starring an precocious little drama-school girl. luckily it wasn't cheryl cole, though; otherwise i think i may have shot myself (that awful pikey scumbag is famous only because she is pretty, and no-one seems to have realised how much of a talentless, wretched bottom-feeder she is). i'm so glad you haven't fallen into the media trap so many others have and allowed that racist on your show. no, luckily this spitting image of cheryl was completely different, even her name "cher" was nothing like "cheryl." and instead of miming to an autotuned backing track like (violent offender) tweedy does, cher stood proud in her complete inability to sing. this bravery was astounding, and i hope that she was rewarded by some sort of fix that enabled her to win the x-factor celebration. i can't imagine there was anyone better.

a christmas without the x-factor single being at number one wouldn't be the same. it would be reminiscent of that horrible year some time ago, when half a million people bought 'killin in the name of..' by rage against the machine instead of whatever that song was that whoever won x-factor did. do you remember that? do you? most of those people probably hadn't even heard of rage against the machine, so they might not have even been buying the song 'cause they liked it, only because they didn't like you. that's hardly a reason to buy a single.

why would no-one like you, simon? why?! you're totally rich and you've made your money by your own level of integrity and the integrity of the people who keep telling you how great you are. you remember 'saturday night' by whigfield, right? that song didn't get to number one because it was good, it got to number one because it got into people's lives and was almost impossible to ignore. like an infection. that's like you, simon. you're like an infection. you've slid into consciousness and remained there despite any attempts to remove you.

your magnificent offering to the integrity of british music has some real backing from some significant people. for example, drugged-up fuckhead Pete Doherty didn't even turn up to the 4'33" recording. i think that was probably in support of you and [insert name of x-factor winner here]. billy bragg was so desperate to not be at the recording of 4'33" of absolutely nothing, that he had to provide his contribution from a mobile phone that sat in the recording studio. he probably even had to pay for that phone call.

the chances of this ridiculous behaviour even achieving it's goal are entirely slim. compare it, for example, to the other online cause of over 630,000 people who are backing the track 'surfin bird' to win. loads of those people would be from other countries like america, so if they buy it the sales won't even affect your x-factor single progress. and americans are from a different continent, so they probably haven't even heard of you. therefore it can't possibly be a reaction against your torrent of musical disease.

perhaps if all the people in the world who didn't like (or even despised) the x-factor got together with one plan they would obliterate you from the music scene altogether. ten thousand here, half a million there, six hundred thousand people somewhere else. coo, there's a lot. however lots of those people have wide and varied tastes in music and don't take too kindly to one single command telling them what they are and aren't allowed to like. if only people weren't such free-thinkers, simon, then this would all be much easier. for example, some want to buy 'surfin bird,' some want to buy '4'33"' and some want to throw their own fecal matter at your hair. not a chance of winning there. millions of people who hate you will have no impact whatsoever. ha!

simon, i once heard that you were thinking of doing the same thing to politics that you did to the british music industry. i heard that you were going to attempt to create a television show where the sorts of viewers that watch the x-factor would also have a contribution to the way our country works. is this true? i hope so, that would be hilarious. imagine the x-factor demographic running the country, it would be like a dickhead being given a shotgun. SO funny.

i should tell you that i also bought surfin' bird by the trashmen to see if it was better than the x-factor single that i haven't listened to. you should also know that i am now going to buy all the other tracks suggested by the various different online rages against your machine. i think i can only draw a fair argument against them if i make sure i've listened to them all. i already have most tracks, but i thought i should buy them again just to make sure i have the latest version. i won't need to buy yours as loads of other x-factor fans will (if their dole money is enough). the money i save not buying yours will be used to buy 4'33" again, to make absolutely sure i am totally up to date. i do this in whole-hearted support of you and your manufacturing system.

i have my fingers crossed that you win this year. that way, people will get to hear a new improved version of whatever original song you decide to recycle. and there will be an overwhelming amount of self-satisfaction for anyone who believes that any proceeds will go to a charity. it will also get loads of airplay on radio stations, which would be better than DJs having to play four and a half minutes of dead-air. i stopped listening to the radio ages ago because it seems to be full of shit, so DJs playing silence would be no different to me. however loads of people still buy compilation albums like Now That's What I Call Music, so there must still be a call for mediocre songs performed by mediocre people.

good luck, simon. you may only have a short time left before the nation can't take it any more. i can't wait for that day.

vote dukakis!

lots of love and kisses from
F. House

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

legion

jay rhoderick is an new york based improviser who teaches improv for businesses. he shows them that when people in business collaborate and encourage each other's wide and varied skills, then businesses will flourish and leaders can become inspirational. to you and me it seems obvious that an atmosphere of encouragement and support can lead to people performing better, but i work in a business environment and i see on a day to day basis that business folk are much more comfortable with stifling and self-importance. in my experience, business people tend to be of the 'no but...' culture of negativity and limitation. and most of them are happy in the tiny world they create for themselves and not being seen to think outside their self-inflicted box.

google didn't flourish because it constantly set limits. apple certainly didn't restrict itself to a pre-decided square. innocent smoothies didn't accept it when they were told 100% recycled bottles couldn't be done.

on jay's twitter feed, he recently posted the following quote by american critic walter lippman:
"When all think alike, then no one is thinking"
... and i haven't been able to get it out of my head.
what i think lippman was referring to was the crowd mentality. often when there is a big group of people the ability of that crowd is much lesser than the sum of it's parts. a crowd will stand looking at someone who has fallen over, and no-one will offer to help.
the x-factor is a good example. have you ever watched it? (i did once, it made me want to drive over a child). when someone says something critical in the x-factor (and they have every right to do so) the audience only have one reaction - to make a booing noise - regardless of whether it's a valid opinion. say anything positive, anything, and the audience will go mental with joy.
SCENE 1 [participant sings really really badly.]
judge: "you didn't sing very well."
audience: "BOOOOOOOOOO. what an invalid opinion."

SCENE 2 [participant sings really really badly.]
judge: "you have a nice pair of shoes on."
audience: "WOOOOOOOOO YEEAAAHHH!!!! that was great!"
i think they probably don't even need a studio floor manager to cue the audience on that reaction. i imagine the average x-factor audience member to only have basic responses to stimulus anyway.

the result is that the x-factor continues to churn out unimaginative, mediocre acts that won't be remembered in ten years time. and the people who subscribe to ITV's celebration of mediocrity remain totally happy with that.
no-one strives, no-one achieves, they all remain stagnant.

i attended a jay rhoderick workshop earlier this year. in it we learned that one of the best catalysts for interesting things to happen is when opposing forces meet and are changed by each other. the world expands inexplicably when - rather than sitting still and not standing out - people explore their differences and allow those differences to grow into something new. if everyone just sits in a room and agrees with each other, nothing will ever change.

when fire meets fire, it just makes more of the same destructive force.
when fire meets water, it makes steam.

although when water meets fire, it can put the fire out. so, fire service men are like overbearing managers who put too much control on the flame of creativity, and all you are left with is a sodden mess that's no use to anyone. what you need is a skilled arsonist who can burn down a square building in such a way that it collapses and lands in the tinder box of a steam-train. and sometimes metaphors can go too far.

CHOO CHOO!

this blog is a prime example of what happens when i try to write while being distracted by my job every ten minutes. that is: a big fat list of non-sequitous gumpf. i think i'm going to start putting a word limit on my entries. wait... a limit?.... DAMN!

Monday, 6 December 2010

as you like it

sometimes comedy just gets you right there. you click with it or you don't.
as any fine regular readers are unavoidably aware, stand-up doesn't usually do it for me.
but these guys do:

the beta males picnic (great name) played the hoopla christmas cabaret last night; a gig that i was running tech-stuff for. and they were brilliant. they sat really well with me and i easily found their level of humour. it was playful and silly, but wrought with intelligence. they defied preconceptions, had some fantastically dark sketches and were fundamentally hilarious throughout.

best of all, each one of them came independently to thank me after the show, for doing the technical bits. it's a very simple and easy thing to do, but it makes a huge difference. i hope they are recognised for the brilliant sketch comedy they perform, because they are lovely chaps and totally deserve it.

the good, the bad and the ugly


GOOD
a new impro show is coming to your screens in the very near future, and it's pretty blaardy exciting. fast & loose looks to be a short-form show, similar to whose line is it anyway?. ace.

improv hasn't really been in the world of mainstream entertainment in about 15 years or something, so this is a fresh and exciting time. it's pretty darn marvelous actually, because not only will it bring improv back into the forefront of people's minds and give us all a little bit more exposure, but it will be fricken funny to watch - judging by some of the acts that are on it:
pippa evans
humphrey ker
marek larwood
ruth bratt

all brilliant. brilliant. brilliant.

BAD
i'm slightly worried about how impro will translate to our TV screens, and it totally depends on the bravery of some TV executives. Fast & Loose is from the creators of Mock the Week, which was a show that suggested that it was off-the-cuff but was so transparent you knew it was all lies.
Mock the Week was partly created by Dan Patterson, however Dan was also a big genius-hand in putting Whose Line is It Anyway? on our screens. hmm.
hopefully he is allowed to do actual impro this time, like in the heydays of Ryan Stiles (consistently hilarious) and Josie Lawrence (impro singing master) and not the annoyance of Andy Parsons (just has a weird delivery) and Gina Yashere (just does african accents).
thankfully the cast members suggest actual impro, as the ones i know are very talented improvisers and not stand-up comedians. huzzarp!

UGLY
from the press release:
Suzanne Gilfillan, Executive Editor for the BBC, comments: "Fast And Loose is warm comedy entertainment with a modern twist, with a rich mix of established performers and new comedy stars in the making, reflecting the wealth of new and exciting improv talent on the stand-up comedy circuit."
... improv is not fucking stand-up!