“We’ve both given up smoking. ‘Coz it’s fatal…so who’s matches are those?”

SO HARD – Pet Shop Boys

Hello again, whoe’er you are. Possibly no-one. Because to date I have told only, I think 5 people I’m writing this. Is it time to go public? HAhahahahaha, like that would make a difference. I expect I shall start posting the link to the ole blogosphere this week. In the spirit, once again, of something. I know my pal Alex (more of whom later) has snuck a peek. And my old Understudies/comedy/writing pal Neal has kindly sent an “I’ll take a look when I no-longer have work, wife or kids” email. Bless him.

The rest, as I believe someone once said, is silence.

Anyhoo, it’s been – as Barenaked Ladies probably once said – six days since you looked at me. It is Tuesday evening, and notes tell me we were last in the Surbiton Grind, deciding about Venom and cigarettes and nights in and freedom and finding quizzes and getting gigs.

So. Progress. Or lack of.

We’re back in the ever dimming darkness of The Grey Horse. It’ Tuesday the 19th. It’s creeping  up on 7pm. Quiz is in an hour. We (the pub) haven’t had ANY bookings so it might be super quiet. I only know that some staff are coming down (1 team), someone phoned to book but then didn’t (poss 2 teams) and a nice chap stuck his head round the door half an hour ago asking if it was “just turn up?” So maybe 3 teams. And if the two fine ladies who make up the stalwart ever-present team “Grey Area” arrive as they oft do, that’ll be 4 teams. Hmm. Hardly Woodstock. I have the sheets and print outs and Spotify Playlist (songs with numbers in the title) all set. So just an hour to go before I hammer it out to the best of my whatnot, pocket a much needed £75 (minus what I’ve spent on “stick another Neck Oil in there mate”) and head home to Claire at around midnight.

SO what’s been going on, in order of importance.

Well. Stand-up. I am putting that front and centre in a way of gee-ing up my flagging enthusiasm for live comedy. I have at last received an email from Erich which had, in its body:

A link to the video of my first solo performance; A request for feedback/reviews to help push the course; a maddening apology that he fiddled with the lighting on his phone halfway through the filming of my set, which is why it fades out JUST BEFORE A PUNCHLINE and then fades back in quickly to the responding laughter. Like this…

So this means the following. I will have to edit down the video of my live set and, somehow, insert earlier footage of the “testicular cancer” joke into the act, as MADDENINGLY in got not only a huge laugh, but spun off into my only bit of improv’. Will take a look at that in the morning.

I should also write some nice things, or even, if I’m feeling kind, put a 60 sec “this course is great” video testimonial in Erich’s inbox. Seems the least I can do as he took me patiently from frothing eager has-been to confident has-done.

Have watched a bit of the video when it arrived. First thoughts:

Footage is better when there’s an audience. Silhouettes of heads at the bottom of the screen. Actual reactions. There are also actual laughs. And big ones. Although it doesn’t end with a BANG as the Aryan Cupboard/Airing Cupboard pun isn’t big enough for a closer. Was too conscious of over-running so cut the set there. I have WHITE HAIR. Maybe it’s the lights, maybe it’s being 6 weeks away from 49 years old. But I SWEAR in the home bathroom mirror, the sides and front still look light brown. It is NOT. Under showbiz lights I have Jim Jarmush/Steve Martin hair. Not even “silver fox.” Just “old man” grey. Fuck.

Ten past 7. Plenty of time. Second beer.

Now I have this video, I will cut and trim and add titles and (shiver – extra laughs from sound effect library? No) cut it to “send to promoters” length. Erich seemed to think (I say seemed, obviously he knows) that sending a full “5 spot” to a promoter might not be the best thing. But then, what is? Do I get fancy shmancy with fades and cuts and grainy filters and do a show reel of my “best 3 mins”? Maybe. That might be fun to do over a latte tomorrow.

Oh, can’t forget I am meant to be having lunch with my previous boss Claire on Thursday. Blew her out (not in the good way) on Monday as I was accidentally (although my complete fault/decision) still coming home from Bath at midday, instead of comfy cosy at home. Explanation later. Claire hired me when I was an out of work call-centre manager in 2009. All engaged and moved to London and eager to provide for my growing family (well, my soon to be wife and our soon to be expanding rent). She hired me after my interview when I hadn’t reached the train station afterwards yet. Literally a buzzing phone as I tugged my tie loose and fumbled for my Oyster Card. Desperate? Not sure.

So what else since we spoke. Well I have been arguing with my conscious and my subconscious about smoking and drinking which is driving me CRAZY. Why didn’t the Allan Carr book “take”? It always has in the past. I am so depressed about this. Was deciding to quit smoking the day before I did stand-up in a lonely pub for the first time a stupid idea? Was thinking about quitting drinking before I clambered aboard a downbound train for a boozy weekend with an old pal a dumb-ass decision. Am I using all these things as an excuse. Well, dear reader, you decide. Claire (MY Claire) despairs at this. And I can only shrug and agree. Feeble I know. And here I am on a Tuesday night with a pint and a fag again. GOD I AM BORED OF THIS.

Why won’t clarity and wisdom arrive? I know if I never drank again I’d probably never smoke again. As the “pint and a fag” double-act is so hard-wired into my limbic cortex, I can’t think of a night out without a pint, and a pint needs a fag. And on and on and on.

The pub stereo has moved from stumbly 60s jazz to Wham’s I’M YOUR MAN. Marvellous. Takes me back. My only other foray into music (you’ll recall talk of The Understudies in earlier episodes) was a very short-lived but hugely promising 2 piece, then 5 piece, then 4 piece wit-pop act called “Smallville” which myself (songwriter/guitarist) and best pal Darren Perry (vocals and hips) put together in the mid nineties. Lots of silly rehearsals, 6 silly songs about smoking and lego and Reservoir Dogs and whatnot, roping in of brothers and old friends and we were – for about an hour – quite a fun live act. After we disbanded due to no reason at all apart from we weren;t very good so it wasn;t much fun and none of us took it very seriously (and Darren didn’t want to sing anymore understandably) I re-recorded (for posterity) my 6 best attempts at songwriting so I had some evidence I knew how to add a horn-section to a bong-part and bunged them all on YouTube. Here are 3 for no reason at all:

Make of that shit what you will.

Annoyingly, my staff at work will, on occasion, when talking about staff, say “our boss is on YouTube. Let’s watch!” and make new hires sit through this chirpy singalong hook-heavy garbage. What this does to our attrition rate has yet to be calculated.

Oh, the reason I’m Your Man reminds me of these halcyon days is that it was one of 2 of our cover versions. That and “Do You Know The Way To San Jose.” Oh we knew a crowd pleaser…

7.38pm. Few more minutes. The Grey Horse “team” have turned up. And I’ve spotted one of “Grey Area.” So 2 teams at least. I hope my salary isn’t crowd-based.

So, in the dying few mins of tonight…what else?

Well despite intentions of last week, I STILL haven’t started looking for stand-up gigs. I wanted to wait until I had my “show reel.” But now I do, so the ONLY thing stopping me taking the SE England Open-Spot word by storm is effort. Oh effort. MUST do that. These 2 weeks off MUST have something to show for them.

Let’s talk the weekend. Not much to say for blog fans, aside from hauling my weary greying (grey? Ed.) self aboard a Paddington train and descending from it 80 mins later in Bath Spa on  Friday to spend a delightful weekend in the company of one of my few true pals, Alex.

I won Alex, as I like to say, in the divorce. I won’t bang on about it, but like so many 40-something married men, in a sigh of lacksidasical-ness (spell check that, Motherfucker) I left my lovely wife to organise our social affairs.

Ohh, Madonna’s playing Like A Prayer and it’s 7.45. So fag and set up. Back later p’raps. Break some legs. And lets hope the crowd tonight is big and like Lego. (Picture round…) Love to most… x

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