31 July 2011

34 reasons to keep on keeping on

Last year's birthday blogpost was all peppy, as I looked out on a year full of promise. That year is now behind me, and it turned out to be full of reality.

So what now? I'm not sure. All I know is that the highs and lows must have taught me something; there's a lesson around here somewhere, I'm sure of it...

Aha! I've found it. That lesson is: keep on keeping on.

And sometimes keeping-going needs inspiration. Fortunately, I've got a list of 34 reasons to keep going/excuses not to quit/pithy wisdom nuggets

Like me, you can use them to help you keep going when times get tough.

     34. Just keep going, even (and especially) when times get tough.
     33. Buy yourself a really nice hat, you'll feel better and keep your head warm.
     32. Traffic can be a real bitch sometimes so maybe find an alternate route. Or invent the hoverboard. There, you just set a new goal. Easy.
     31. They keep moving the fucking goalposts? Maybe you need to take more shots then, you fucking baby.
     30. Even though everybody knows that 'it's a small world after all', Planet Earth is actually pretty big by most standards of size. That's why hot-air balloon travel has fallen so far out of favour.
     29. You haven't synched your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts? Maybe you should go outside for awhile. See what the sky looks like.
     28. Dreams don't come true - which is good because some of your dreams are pretty fucked up. Like that one with the rattlesnakes at Disneyland.
     27. Aspirations and goals can come true, if you work hard at them. And are extremely lucky.
     26. Relax. Do some breathing. Do this all the time.
     25. Nobody ever won a gold medal for crying.
     24. You can't spell fun without U. Or F-U. Or the N... Look, you need all of the ingredients to bake the funcake that is your life.
     2. Don't worry about writing out a whole list. Just cover a few key points and a couple other random things. That's good enough.
     1. Wear a tie now and again, but not too often.

It worked. I'm feeling much better now. About my life, and moving forward.

Look out 34, here I am.


27 July 2011

Countdown to Edinburgh Fringe 2011


In just one week's time I'll be back in Edinburgh for another kick at the Edinburgh Fringe. You may remember last year's encounter with the fringe as a thoroughly exhausting, and deeply rewarding experience.

And so, as August draws close yet again, I prepare to make another assault on the festival. Although there are some key differences in this year's strategy.

Two shows
It's not quite madness, but doubling the number of shows I'll be doing might be silly, or it might just be brilliant. We'll find out soon.

I didn't want to abandon Roman Around. It's a quality show, it got some good press, and I love doing it, so I've been polishing it up in preparation for another trip north for the Edinburgh Fringe. Due to the fact I've already done a bunch of previews I opted to go virtually preview-less this summer, save one excursion to Bedford this Saturday, for their Bedfringe.

I'll also be doing Marbles, my two-man improvised comedy show. (It'll actually be three-man, as we'll be joined by our Funk Overlord Rob Grundel). I can't say enough about how much I love working with these guys, and love the unpredictable nature of our show. It's both relaxed and slick, and always thrilling to perform. We prostrate ourselves before the comedy gods, and the show goes wherever we're blown. It's pretty special.

Last year I was a lone wolf. I met people of course, and knew some people up there. But I went alone, performed alone, flyered alone, often ate alone, and went home alone every night to a bubble outside of Fringe mania. And to be honest, it was great. But this year us Marbles will all be rooming together. I expect our flat will be a hotbed of us doing bits, writing, rapping, cooking and generally hanging out having fun. Even though we've had a busy year getting Marbles to this point (regular monthly shows in London, gigs at other comedy events, an Edinburgh run...) the three of us don't get to hang out all that much. So we're all very much looking forward to that. What will result from rooming together for ten days? I don't know, but I'm excited to find out.

Last year I was on the fringe hustle from June. This year, I'm slightly less so. I'm more 'quietly confident' instead of 'giddily nervous'. Unfortunately, with thousands of shows seeking media and audience attention, quiet confidence won't go far. Of course, I've sent out some press releases and have tried to get some people interested. But one show is a re-tread, and the other, well, people have no idea what a Marbles show is like, so it's a tough sell to journalists. That means that while we're in Edinburgh we'll be pounding pavement and flyering incessantly. The question is: will that be enough? Let's just say that I'm quietly confident that it will be.

Guest spots
Last year I did my 12:30 Roman Around slot and then had the rest of the day to myself. It usually involved a fair amont of flyering, a few shows, and possibly a nap. This year I'll be doing a few 'guest spots' in addition to the regularly scheduled programming. Already I've got a guest improv spot lined up at Fingers on Buzzards - a global pub quiz/improv mash-up, a couple of slots (improv/stand-up) at Late, Live & Loud at the Electric Circus. There's also a mad rap battle planned, where Marbles will attempt to verbally dismember Sanity Valve and the Beta Males. Shit's gonna be real.

Whether other opportunities arrive or not, it's always nice to have the opportunity to collab with other performers up in Edinburgh. I mean there'll be like 15,000 comedians and performers, so why not?

Shows to see
Last year, I performed like a raconteur and meandered like a flaneur. This year, I've got an agenda. As I don't usually go out in London unless I'm performing, there are a lot of shows of friends, acquaintances and friends of friends that I am quite excited about and want to see while they're all lined up for me in Edinburgh. Such as Music Box, Max & Ivan, Cariad Lloyd, Fraser Millward, Casual Violence, Alex Horne, the Pappy's trio, Cabaret Whore, Late Night Gimp Fight, The School of Night, Baby Wants Candy, Jingo & Butterfield, Delete the Banjax, Mr B. The Gentleman Rhymer, Lady Garden, Robin & Partridge. And many more. Will I be able to see all those shows as well as hang out and relax and flyer and stuff. No. Will I try? Yes. And I'll also try to see some other shows from people I don't know, or haven't met yet. Setting comedy dials to 'overload'...

It's going to be a mad, mad time. Not unhinged fear and loathing, but a seething cauldron of creativity, comedy, inspiration, baked potatoes and beer. And it's just one week away(!) If you want to stay regularly up to date on what's happening, I suggest getting your Like button-clicking finger ready and go to Facebook (for Marbles and Roman Around). Or follow Marbles and/or me on Twitter.

Let it commence.


25 July 2011

Opening the '-gate' gates


Before any scandal even hits the streets of the internet it's got a '-gate' tacked onto the end.

Wikipedia has a page dedicated to scandals with the 'gate' suffix. David Marsh, editor of the Guardian Style guide wrote a blogpost about the practice last year.

That post was recently invoked when people were attempting to come to grips with the News of the World/News International-led collusion of the Government, the police and the media. Marsh proposed ending the practice, but it didn't work.

Instead people dithered about what word to attach to the front of '-gate'. Would it be known as Hackgate, Everything-gate, or simply Gategate? In the end, they just went with the ho-hum Hackgate.

But how to '-gate' your scandal is really just an issue of taste. There are bigger, more practical concerns.

For one: There will soon be a massive scandal about water. It's impossible that there won't be - what with the issue of global water privatization, and the powerful socio-economic forces behind it, and the effects of climate change. The documentary Flow raises some key questions, but not the crucial one: how will we call this scandal?

If we continue using the current system of suffixing, we will be unable to have a handy shorthand for this global water crisis. We'll either end up with 'Watergate' - which, while retro and catchy, would be totally confusing.

Or we'll be forced to circumvent that confusion by calling it something like 'Aquagate', 'Liquigate' or 'Privatizagate'. Stupid and unintuitive, one and all.

A lesser concern, but one which deserves to be raised is: what if there's another scandal involving the Watergate hotel? It's certainly possible. Going by current practice that would be known as 'Watergategate', which is entirely too unwieldy as a moniker, and much too self-referential. So where do we go from here? Easy.


That's right. Buck. The trend of a short, hard, single syllable word that can double as a suffix is now long-established. So why don't we arbitrarily pick a sweet new word, like '-buck'. It will save us so much confusion when that water scandal hits. So let's work on it. Try using it now: Hackbuck or Everythingbuck. Remember Bigotbuck?

Try them on, see how you feel.

It's only slightly less arbitrary than 'gate' - it just popped into my mind. But it works.

As a bonus, check out this picture of a waterbuck.


15 July 2011

David Shore's making waves!

A recent article in the Guardian on Canadian improviser and improv teacher David Shore has stirred up a lot of feeling among the London improv community. And by 'feeling' I mean 'indignant anger'. The article, which was essentially a puff piece on Shore, can also be interpreted as a hatchet job on improv in the UK.

Broadly speaking improv in the UK lacks some of the panache and forcefulness of its overseas cousin. It's frequently viewed as the poor relation of stand-up here, and doesn't have the same tradition of innovation and broader respect within the comedy community that it enjoys in Canada and America. But it's getting there. And rubbishing it was definitely not Shore's intent.

According to him in a response he posted to the article, "The article itself contains a few errors and some of my statements were taken out of context." I believe it.

The piece, written by Andrea Hubert - a former student of Shore's - suffers from a distinct lack of research. Not on the origins of longform improv, how advanced the scene is on the other side of the pond, or Shore's background - those are all covered off well. However, she definitely doesn't seem informed on the scene here.

I mean the whole article does not once mention Marbles. That's a stunning gap in basic research, that's for sure.

She's put to rights in the comments, which are as interesting a read as the article itself. They correct a lot of the misconceptions and factual errors.

But for all the strong feeling (much of it justified) that this article has generated, I think people will eventually see the bigger picture.

Longform improv got a big article in The Guardian! The Guardian is a national newspaper, and a tastemaker for a lot of potential audience so this can only pay off for the community as a whole.

And the subject of the piece is a talented and accomplished performer and teacher. He's got the gravitas and chops to get an article in The Guardian, and deserves respect for that. Yes, an opportunity to spread some of that love around was missed, but let's rectify that by using this publicity to invite more.

And the contentiousness of the piece is actually another huge positive. The article has gotten a bunch of London improvisers all hot and bothered. I'm expecting that heated botherness to turn into a greater enthusiasm for the craft, a deeper belief and pride in their own abilities and what they've accomplished, and redoubled efforts to step up their own game.

And hopefully, rather than ultimately dividing the community, David Shore's Guardian article will get improvisers talking to each other more, and working together to bring longform to a wider audience here.


14 July 2011

Cycling London on a Boris Bike


I'm a people person. So you'd be forgiven for thinking that I like to spend a bunch of hours a day standing nose-to-shoulder on the bus or tube.

I don't though.

What I do like is getting off the bus, punching a bunch of numbers into a screen to free up a heavy bike and zipping through downtown London on said bike.

Yup. As much as I love(d) actually being a bike owner, there is something even more convenient about being able to pick up a bike from a docking station and scooting from place to place. No attachment, no maintenance - just pick it up whenever you want, and dump it off when you're done. Think no more about it.

Not only has this arrangement got me out of the necessity of taking two (or more) buses in the morning, it's actually significantly faster than straight transit. And it gives me options when I'm moving through the city; sometimes I bike, sometimes I walk, sometimes I'm on the bus, and other times I even plunge into the sweaty bowels of this city and hop a tube. It's about freedom. Of choice.

There is of course a downside: sometimes the docking stations don't work, and you end up meandering like an unfocused pinball from machine to machine trying to make the docking station release just one lousy fucking bike.

Or once the cycling leg of your commute is done you can end up circling neighbourhoods looking for a docking station. But it gets easier, once you know your spots.

On another level, the TFL Barclays Bike Hire London City Gadabout Arrangement also suffers from being known more colloquially as the 'Boris Bike' scheme. Boris merely carried on the scheme started by his predecessor 'Red' Ken Livingstone. So perhaps they should be known as Kencycles. But that's just nitpickery. Let's think big picture.

Right now these bikes are holding a significant added advantage over buses: I can spend my bike time frantically muttering my Edinburgh show to myself, and not look like a crazy. (I do have headphones in, so in theory it appears that I'm on the phone. That's what I tell myself, anyway. Not crazy at all.)

And, as Edinburgh draws ever nearer, this precious rehearsal time trumps all. Even rainstorms.


11 July 2011

Beats, Rhymes & Mirth: The Anthem (live)

Friday night was Beats, Rhymes and Mirth #3, London's foremost live jazz and improvised comedy night that features a lot of hip hop.

The first two BRM nights were good - amazing even - but, with apologies to those who didn't make Friday's show, this night was when we became proper alchemists.

If you want to get a sense of how correct it got, click on the link below and listen to the BRM anthem.

BRM-001-Anthem by Beats Rhymes & Mirth

It just went on from there.

Carry on through to hear the strange rap battle that took place between Henry VIII, Fred Flintstone and a dinosaur.

Toe-to-toe on the mic? That's right.

BRM-010-HistoricalFreestyle by Beats Rhymes & Mirth

There was a serious amount of sweaty uplifting fun funk thrown down. Hopefully enough to tide everyone over until the next comedy jazz and rap spectacular in October.

Until then, keep checking the Marbles website, or fanpage to keep up-to-date on what's going on.

If you can't wait to get your fix, the next episode of our talkshow The Yak is this Wednesday, and it will be of the highest order.


08 July 2011

John Arne Riise: Making sandwiches

Roma's short-sleeved, left-footed wingback John Arne Riise is heading to Fulham.

The reason that is important is the video you'll see if you click through. It is a JAR tribute that will blow your mind.

Thanks to Chris at the always-excellent Roma Offside blog, for digging this up.


01 July 2011

Celebrate Canada in London

welcome image

It's Canada Day in London! There's a massive street party in Trafalgar Square. In addition to timbits and poutine, there is a hockey tournament and music from The Mahones, Alex Cuba and Blue Rodeo. Also yoga. And chef David Adjey. I don't really know who most of those people are, but the point is: it's a party.

I mentioned this to a colleague today, to which she remarked that Canada Day is a way bigger celebration in the UK than any British celebration of anything patriotic.

That gave me pause.

When I resumed I realized why that is: because while both Canadians and the Brits are known to be modest and self-deprecating, Canadians secretly think they're awesome - and are happy to have an opportunity to bury their 'aw shucks' persona under a Canada Flag cape and belch along to Oh Canada. In public. In a foreign country, no less. Canada Day makes this kind of behaviour acceptable.

The Brits have no such release valve. Generally uncomfortable with any boast that isn't either sarcastic or almost-impossibly roundabout, they're just not good with celebrating Britishness. The only day that even comes close is St. George's Day in April. And that day has been co-opted by racists (or the concern that celebrating it appears racist).

How to deal with this sensitive situation? Easy.

I did what any Canadian would do: I invited my colleague to come down to Trafalgar Square and celebrate how awesome Canada is! That's Canadian pride and Canadian hospitality for you.

We're more than happy to come over to your place, throw a huge party celebrating how awesome (and dangerous), we are - and then make sure you feel free to attend.

You're welcome.

Seriously... come on down.