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


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.


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


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

Sunday, 23 January 2011


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 rêves

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.


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:
music box
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....

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

The Miller
96 Snowsfields Road
London Bridge

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.