Lattes and Lunches

“Three cigarettes in an ashtray…”

Pasty Klien

Righto. Well given that nobody but nobody is reading this, you’ll have neither card nor noticed that 2 weeks have passed. I know it’s two weeks, as my last entry was about hearing I got a gig in Hammersmith for the 4th Nov. Which was 2 days ago. It’s come and gone. I did it.

We’re back in a chillier afternoon today. Saturday, 12.27pm, outside the Surbiton Grind. I have my laptop and latte combo. A half pack of smokes (I know, I KNOW! Piss off. I am not happy about this either. Beginning to wonder what it’s going to take to get me off the dumb fucking habit and the nicotene addiction). Had some harmless “Viagra” based bants with the nice staff as I ordered. They’re going to put a fried egg, free of charge, in my Bacon and Cheese and Tommy Toe Toastie. Claire is at home doing her course for the rest of the day. And I am, pretty much, fancy free once again.

Have been back in the office a week. Previous week was spent in Glasgow. A long long train journey there and a fuck of long train journey back (10hrs, due to floods and rockfalls). 2 days of training Operations Managers on the official 121 Coaching Process of our organisation. It’s a tiring, quite intense 6 hour session, but I have it under my belt now so I can relax and try and enjoy the back and forth. I have another 3 weeks of delivering the same training session in Kingston approaching. SO that’s pretty much my November.

Oh. As I was typing just then, a chap (ordinary blokey bloke. Puffery jacket, jeans, trainers, balding, holding takeout coffees) stopped at my table to say he “really liked my style. My clothes and everything…” Which was terribly unexpected. I have literally rolled out of bed and slung on leather jacket, hoodie, white tee, jeans and bike boots. Maybe the half assed quiff and the NHS specs added to it. But that, plus the fact my sandwich has just turned up, ain;t too damned shabby. MMmmm, that fried egg gives it some juice.

Another latte ordered.

Winter has arrived. Clocks have gone back so it’s a grey and blustery afternoon here on Ewell Road, Surbiton KT6. Cars and bus glide and thunder past on their way from Kingston or to Tolworth. I see the Prince Of Wales just over the way which might offer me a lunchey-time pint of bitter. But that will lead to a nap and then that’s the day gone. Not sure what the evening holds. I know there’s some French tennis going on. We watched some extraordinary drop shots and passing shots last night as I munched chicken & leek in white wine and sipped tea and fucked about on Instgram.

But what’s the story, morning glory? Well a couple of incidents. Three perhaps, are on the agenda.

First up, my second Pub Quiz gig.

I may have mentioned (although my Find/Replace WORD function suggests otherwise) that I got approached by a young lady a number of months ago at The Grey Horse pub quiz one night as I was packing up. She was young and had a heavy fringe and was all doc martens and scruffy dog so I gave her the time of day. I can’t help that. But she told me she worked in The Foresters.

Actually, I did mention this back on Oct 19th. I spelled Foresters wrong in my word-search.

SO lah-de-dah, the calendar rolled around and finally it was Nov 1st, which was my date to go to The Foresters in Hampton Wick and knock them out a pub-quiz. I trundled to the pub the night before to check all was good with the room and the lights and the landlord and such. He pointed out a “dining area”ina sort-of curtained off bit of the pub. Some well laid tables for 2 (napkins and glasses and cutlery and menus) and some tables of 4.

Looked like it say about 30 people. Explained this would be the “bit.” Showed me how to turn the PA music system down in that area for when I was speaking. Checked his booking system to say they already had 3 teams who had “reserved in advance” which was encouraging. And I pumped hands and smiled and was terribly upbeat and professional.

And then Monday night was upon us. As is trad, it was dark blue tuxedo jacket, blue embroidered tie from Vietnam (a lovely gift from Claire and one that oft gets compliments), jeans and doc boots. Got there and started sorting my papers and pens. Had brought my tiny 10w Philips iPOd speaker to run my phone through for the music round. Hoped it would be loud and clear.

And lo, the Hampton Massive began to mill in. The staff had to start rallying around and we were finding spare chairs and asking people to “budge up” and splitting tables of 4 into table of 2. When 8pm (a late start, but they’re going for the “after-dinner” crowd) rolled up, we had a tight packed house. Tables of 6, of 5, of 4, some couples. About 40+ people crammed in, all humming and buzzing for what I assume they hoped would be a fun night.

And what a night it was. The whole thing went gloriously smoothly. I was tremendously in charge, authoratitive, cheeky and playful as you would of course hope and imagine. There was some great back and forth, heckly laughs and cheers and boos as answers came and went. Music went fine. Speaker nice and clear in the packed room. The bodies helped. Lots of clapping. And I wired up Queen’s “We Are The Champions” to blare from the speakers upon announcement of the winners which makes a great triumphant close.

It would appear that either I really really know what I’m doing, or Hampton Wick is like SummerIsle and they don’t get this sort of “fancy London entertainment2 down their way. But the crowd were hugely appreciative, pumping handshakes and well dones and “that was greats” and “great night!” as they all left.

One chap, which it seems is now becoming deregur (not the spelling) approached me about my – ahem – business model. A youngish, fresh faced chappie-m’lad called Luke. Said he was something of an “entrepreneur.” Asked lots of eager questions. Was I a staff member? Was I booked through an agency? How does this all work? Where do you advertise? And all sorts of guff like that. It seemed clear to me he’d sat through the night watching plate after plate of expensive food being ordered, tray after tray of wine and beer being handed out, punters handing over £3 a time. All just to be entertained by one man and his photocopies. Lots of money in, very little cost. Which I guess is true.  We eager;y swapped numbers and I think (I’d had a beer) he said he’d be in touch to “talk.” Probably nothing. I may sling him a text.

But I had thoughts earlier (I may have bored you with them) of the idea of a roving pub-quiz agency. Book a comedian/quiz-master through a website. Get a team of reliable UK local ex-actors or stand-ups. Set up a site. Landlords can then book in advance. All the questions and whatnot are already written (I have to date, I think, well over 1000 in the bank). And one could get a tidy little business running.

But the overheads? I mean I don’t know what printing costs. To do it “privately” – through a copyshop or whatever – has to be 5p a sheet, minumim. To run a quiz as I do requires £10 worth of copies. So add travel costs to wherever the quiz is. Plus enough for the quizmaster to make it worth 3hrs of their time. And then a cut for the business of, what, 15%? You’d be charging each pub £80-85 pounds. Is that reasonable? How would one EVER find out? I suppose you could offer (or would HAVE to) a discount for multiple block bookings? Oh I don’t know.

Anyhoo, that’s not for here, (as the german stand-up Lucas once said). They have booked me now for 3 more before Xmas. 22nd Nov, 6th Dec and 20th Dec – the inevitable Xmas special. So that’s marvellous.

In the meantime I still plug away at The Grey Horse every Tuesday. Last Tuesday’s was particularly rowdy with some cheeky heckley backchat from a table of bar-staff from the Canbury Arms who I know from….well, from drinking in The Canbury Arms. Plus they really need to do something about the lighting in that room. It’s dark and atmospheric enough for cabaret-style comedy nights and theatre. But when EVERYONE in the room has to get their phone torches out to see the quiz sheets? Hmmn. Some neat battery powered table lamps might be in order. Amazon has them at about 20-30 pounds each. 12 tables? Fuckinell. I can’t see Leigh at The Grey Horse springing for them.

Yay! Claire just responded to my text and has swung down from home to join me for an iced-latte and a chat about Psychosynthesis concepts of Pragmatism and Mysticism. Plus psychological emergencies and disturbances. All good lunchtime lightweight chat…

So. Where were we? 3 mins to 2pm. We were talking pub quizzes. Well that’s all there is about that. Have just check the ole’ Samsung and I can see I have Luke’s number saved under “Luke Foresters.” Will I text him? Time and embarrassment and courage and feeling the fear and doing it anyway will tell.

Think I need a poo now. Back in a bit.

Better. Have ordered another coffee and I;m going to start a fresh one of these. As I did another gig and we need to talk about it. We really, really do…

Measuring out afternoons with TS Eliott and Coffeespoons

“Sleep away the afternoon…”

Barenaked Ladies

Afternoon. Okay. Well a fine day so far. It’s Thurday afternoon. Have just said a huggy cheerio to the tremendous Claire who was my boss way back when. We bumped into each other t’other day and arranged a lunch (which, you will recall, was postponed after my “staying over in Bath” at the weekend). So we had toastie sandwiches and a gossipy catch up at “The Grind.” She has returned home for conference calls (she is the biggest of wigs at Sony) and I – as I am still carefree – have come for a lovely afternoon pint in The Prince Of Wales opposite. I have an ale in the warm sunlight cosiness of their lounge and tippy tap away at a copper-topped table. Honestly, it’s like writing memoirs downstairs at Downtown Abbey.

Morning has been, I hope, productive. I’ll explain.

I finally braved the Stand-Up Comedy circuit planner and downloaded the “guide to getting gigs.” An AMAZINGLY comprehensive spreadsheet in Excel of seemingly ALL the comedy gigs in the UK. Contact details, email addresses, details on who they want, open spots or pros etc, links to Facebook pages and such.

So, with a sense of order and organisation, I downloaded the planner, filtered by “London” and “Open Spots” and began methodically contacting each promoter/club.

Now some were email addresses, so I slung them something keen and polite with a link to my YouTube clip. Others were FB pages so I did the same in their message boards. I started with the first 14 in no particular order. These range from the Angel Comedy in Camden to Full Frontal Comedy in Twickenham and all the stuff inbetween.

Will do the same again tomorrow until I have contacted all Eighty Nine clubs in London. (89? Fuck). Then sit back. I don’t know how long one has to wait. If one has to chase? If one gets a “are you free tonight?” or a “can you make Novemeber 2025?” But that’s the “fun” of it I suppose.

The pub is playing “True Blue” by Madonna. Oddly, a song not featured on her masterpiece “The Immaculate Collection” greatest hits. One of the few “all killer no filler” best-ofs ever compiled. I wonder why.

Claire is “in the office” today so not at home. This meant I had to see to the “gutter cleaning men” who rolled up at 12.45pm with hoses and extensions and ladders to “do their thing” on our communal bits this afternoon. I left them to it. I assume they will be all cleaned up and packed up and gone by the time I return. Depending if this turns into 1 pint or 8.

So. Stand-up video done, edited, uploaded to YouTube and now “out there in the world.” Halfway, once again, through Allen Carr’s “Easy Way (HA!) to Stop Smoking” audio book for the 2nd time. I suppose now is the time to ACTUALLY start updating my CV and seeing if the world has more to offer a man like me than my current cosy work position.

Obviously no small amount of dread here. I mean, technically nothing to lose. And if current climate is as reported, it’s unlikely I will get ANY response (positive or otherwise) from these applications. Itr seems that is how the world is, if any of Alex’s friends are anything to go by. One slings one’s CV into the ether and sits back to deafening silence. No “thanks for applying” or even “we are keeping you on file,” these days. Just binned if they don’t like you. So one sits back and waits, never knowing if the role has been filled. Until 6 months pass and you assume you didn’t get on the long list.

Anyhoo, just checked my laptop and I don’t have my CV saved on it here. It’s on a drive or a USB or something. So that’s delayed that. Secretly thrilled about this, obv. I can do it tomorrow.

Okay, so that leaves me time to talk jokes.

Jokes. Oh how silly they are.

Wanted to take some time to discuss Grainne’s (oh the wrong spelling) guide to writing jokes. This was week 4 of the course, which was back on Sept 27th. A pro comic, she did a GREAT session on how to – for want of a better phrase – find the funny.

Now “finding the funny” up until now has been pretty much sitting back, talking a lot, listening a lot, and waiting for that slilghtly autistic bit of my head to “click” and create some entertaining wordplay pun (splashing out = dogging / chased = chaste / Paw Patrol = Poor Patrol / Aryan = Airing) or skewed observation (competing inferiority complexes etc). There was no “process” to this. Certainly not a “system” to this. And I have always been quaveringly fearful of applying a “process” to this. It’s said that art is always 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Which I agree with. But up until now, when it’s been for my own amusement only, I have been happy with awaiting the “insp’.”

Comedy writing as a business however cannot simply be trundling about, head in the clouds, awaiting genius lightening strikes. It has to be worked at.

Here’s what Grainne had to say about that:

Firstly, structure your writing time. You can’t control the luck of hitting on a zinger. You can ONLY control the time you give it. So come up with a writing schedule and stick to it.

It won’t always be fun. Or even pleasant. It’s an uncomfortable process. Know this and LEAN into it, like a workout. Push and push.

Write every day. No matter what. Even if it’s just 15mins.

Okay, so some thoughts o the above: I don’t write everyday. I do at the moment (you’re reading it) but this is something of an annual leave, long-afternoon luxury. Coming home after work (especially, ffs, factoring in a hopeful gym visit) is going to mean having time and a workspace and some commitment. It can’t just be noting puns on my phone.

It did occur to me I could possibly get something from the Netflix “Romantic/Quirky/British” descriptions of movies they put on trailer screens. I have a “bit” I sent to Kermode and Mayo about how certain phrases fit certain movies. Eg, Not Without Floors (Die Hard). I have some reservations (Dances With Wolves). Surprisingly Touched (Spotlight). Maybe there is something in here. But again, this was a “just occurred to me” moment, not bled out over a yellow legal pad in a frenzy of writing exercises. I like this idea of “leaning in to it. “ Pushing and pushing to find the joke. Is there more? Is there even more? How far can one take it? It seems like something I could do, synapses firing and links sparking. I could do this. This is, after all, how my laundry “bit” managed to get to “coloureds needing hanging/airing and Aryan cupboards/hues and jews.” This was all achieved by lying in bed and just pushing the idea and imagery and phrases/terms as far as they could go. Erich forced me to do this. “See what MORE” there could be in an idea. Have you taken it as FAR as it can go?

Anyway. All good advice. But now we get to the meat. This was the bit that got me excited.

Spidergrams. Those circles and lines as ideas jump off each other. Give yourself a deadline to get ALL the ideas out of a notion you can. If we stay with laundry, for example, a simple spidergram gives me:

Washing (clothes and personal)/socks (sex?)/ tumble dryer (Mr Tumble? Kids TV?) / Hotpoint (key topic)/Zanussi/Bosch (bish bash bosch?)/ comfort (comforting) / White Goods (klan hood/crucifix) /John Lewis / Ironing board (bored?) / hangars (hangers-on? / airplane hangers?) Folding clothes (folding businesses?) Laudromat (doormat?) / soap (soap opera?) / bubbles (Aero?) Starch (potatoes?) and so on…

All this in 3 mins. I’m not saying there’s gold there. But I could get ANOTHER line out of it. And that’s from doggedly hanging onto an idea and saying “what else? What ELSE?”

And then the magic 4 words. Weird / Hard / Scary / Stupid.

These are Grainne’s kick off steps to finding the funny. Think about your topic. And then dig in to these ideas. Let’s have a go, again, on laundry day:

WEIRD: What’s weird about laundry. The prioritisation that sounds like culture wars (black vs whites). The escaped sock (always). Hangar status (wood vs wire). Decorating the radiators with clothes. Hiding the drying laundry so no-one can see it (shame?) Smell of conditioner (outdoor smells for indoor clothes? Why do my pants smell of pine?) Items climbing into duvet covers? Clothing label instructions.

HARD: Well. Planning ahead is tough, knowing what you might need to wear 3 days in advance. Judging the size of the load so it doesn’t break the machine. Finding enough place to hang a big wash (sheets, duvet covers over doors etc). Doing different temperatures.

SCARY: The dreaded “dry clean only” label (a bit Seinfeld). The odd beeping of the machine. The dreaded leak or spill or flood. Does it smell? Does it not? How often to clean? The scary stain (wine) that won’t come out? Shrinkage?

STUPID: Hmm. Not sure. The care one takes on things no-one sees? Ironing bed sheets? Pairing socks? Pairing items of equal “worn-out-ness.”

So you see the idea. I mean this is GREAT stuff. Even now, typing this, I can get another 3 mins of decent laundry material here. Even if it isn’t all solid “closers” there are ideas here than can transition from one idea to the next.

We then moved on to more terrific tips. The premise is the headline. “Laundry is like racist segregation.” Then ask what is the article? Ask the W’s. (who. Where, when, what, why, which, how?)

Ask yourself how OTHER comics would tackle the subject. Is going the Seinfeld route going to lead you somewhere? The Izzard route? The McIntyre route?

Then finally, as we said back in week one, pick an ATTUTUDE to the premise. There are dozens of attitudes (or “approaches”) to the premise. Apply each one. Let’s have a go at that now! (Gosh this is exciting isn’t it! I wonder if this counts for my 15mins writing today?

ACT OUT: Physical mime of loading washing, hanging washing, struggling with piles of clothes, sheets.

COMPARE: Extremes in status. What is this process LIKE? Compare high and low.Laundry is like ethnic cleansing? Personal hygiene? Washing money? Cleaning house?

CHILDISH: Have a tantrum. How would children see this silly adult behaviour? Why not wear clothes in the bath? Why not throw them away? Why not buy new like Barbie or Action Man outfits in plastic sets? Why not have a bib? Why not a romper suit?

SUPERIOR: Am I above all this? Why me? Seems awfully upstairs downstairs? Good use of my time?

BLUNT TRUTH: I HATE/LOVE laundry day. Why?

WORDPLAY: (Now we’re talking) Starch/potatoes – bubbles/social-circles – soap/drama / board/bored – whites/coloureds/blacks – hamper/hinder – hangar/hanger  and so on.

PULLBACK and REVEAL: Well, this has to be more than Stewart Lee’s “and then I got off the bus/and that was just the teachers/he’s 28 years old…” Or does it? Pretend you’re at home…but you’re at a laundromat. Or vice versa. Pretend your at your kitchen cupboard…but you’re in a supermarket. And so on…

RULE OF THREE: Well this speaks for itself. Idea. Repeat idea. Twist idea.

FUNNY DEFINITION: Or what I prefer to call…

WILFULL MISUNDERSTANDING: “Dry flat.” “Do not mix.” “Delicate” and the hilarious possibilities therein.

SELF-DEPRICATION: I am bad at washing. I don’t know what I’m doing. My mistakes.

ANGRY RANTS: Go big about something small. Go SMALL about something big. Off-hand attitude to the environment. Huge fury at lost sock.

LITERAL PHRASE: Again, a bit like the misunderstanding. “Do not tumble.” How to acrobats clean their leotards? Oh for heaven’s sake. Etc.

OPPOSITE OF RECEIVED OPINION: Clean clothes are bad / ironed clothes are bad / wet clothes are bad / mixing fabrics is bad / clean sheets are bad etc

SWITCH ATTITIDE: Liking something/hating something for the wrong reason.

INCLUDE EVERYONE: That may be what you think. But what do older people? Younger people? Foreign people? Think…

And finally, there should be no such thing as writer’s block. Just keep playing with it.

So. What to make of all that? Well I love it. Obviously. I could talk about it all day. But won’t. It’s 3.45pm now and I still don’t know what the afternoon/evening will hold. The only OTHER book I’ve ever seen this stuff in was a yellowing paperback on “How TO Write Comedy” I probably got at a jumble sale.

It was by an old timey comedy TV writer. Of the 70s sitcom era I think. And the advice was…similar…ish…to the above. But seemed so much more strained. Perhaps it was due to my lefty-alternative attitude. When I wanted tips on how to be Ben Elton and Eddie Izzard, rather thgan Croft/Perry. I recall it was things like “try and compare things! If a car is slow, how slow is it? “My car’s so slow…bada bing!” and such. “I wouldn’t say it was a small town…” and so on. Didn’t really help me at the time.

But typing all this up has helped. There is SO much here to help one (me) get the MOST out of a “premise.” The thing to do next I suppose would be to think of a funny premise and apply the rules over a few 15min writing drags and see what happens.

Shall I do that now? Not sure. Second pint is doing its work. Perhaps an audio book in the garden in the dying sunshine would be a nicer couple of hours now. I might meet Marie at 6pm for a pint. I have to travel to Scotland on Monday so need to figure all that shit out.

In the meantime, well. It’s 4pm. Nowt to do til…well. Til whenever. Claire will be home soon I expect if not home already.

Oh! Here’s something exciting. Have just checked my phone. I have been “accepted for a spot” through the “giggag” app to appear at The Groovy Grove in Hammersmith on 4th November. That’s 2 weeks time. Well lahdidah! So it begins! Hooray! Hopefully more to come… Ooh, quite excited now…

Filmed in front of a live studio audience

“We’re a big hit.” “With the machine!”


Well good afternoon lovelies. It’s pissing down where I am. I hope the weather with you (copyright Crowded House) is suiting your mood. God it’s hard to be pissed off in the sunshine.

So we’re back on Wednesday. A long sleep-in after the quiz. (Well, a long sleep in after getting the bus home, missing my stop, walking back from Tolworth, making 4 slices of toast and peanut butter and watching The Simpsons on Disney Plus, anyway). Didn’t arise til gone noon. Claire was at work on the phone and I mooched about charging phones and laptops and sorting out dead cat insurance. (Don’t ask).

Today is a weird one. Once again, like exactly a week ago, you find me in The Surbiton Grind. I have had my second latte and my bacon/tomato/cheese tommy-toe toastie. (That really is a great sketch). (Clover? I’d like to have this man put down please…). One of Hugh Laurie’s exasperated best. Claire loves it too so we quote it a lot. Cancey Wancey? Killy-chum-chums? You have to know it.

So I’ve had a somewhat productive day so far as I hoped I would. Unpack the laptop and brought up the FINAL video recorded at the Crack Comedy Club in Kingston last Monday. Christ seems an age ago. Opened up my marvellously useful Movavi Editing software and got busy.

Main job was to edit the opening so it starts with me and some titles. Easy enough. Edit out any long gaping gaps of nothing (thankfully none to speak of). Add a fade at the end so it closes on the sound of laughs. Peasy. Adjust filters to make it grainy black and white. For no reason but it amuses me. And I think avoids the glaring over-saturation of the iPhone 13 Pro and all its high-def detail. And then try and edit BACK IN the “testicular cancer” joke from another night neatly so the build up gets the right response. Whole thing took an hour. And it runs about 7mins.

Blimey though. Once you start seeing how easy it is to edit laughs, increase their volume, cut and paste them into areas that didn’t get as big a laugh as you wanted, you can see how simple it is to make ANY show sound like a Robin Williams LIVE screaming laugh riot. Avoided this temptation of course. Because blimey, where would it end?

So it’s now done. Ready. Uploaded. If you’re interested, it’s here:

I think it’s okay. I mean the laughs are there. I hit all the lines. The recording works. The cut from one set to another for the joke that got “lost” isn’t too jarring. Quite like it actually. Gives the impression of a concert film made over a series of sell out nights.

But what now? Well I suppose the ONLY thing to do next would be to get on to some kind of “find an open spot in England” website/facebook page and start contacting clubs.

A-ha! I did infact get a Facebook alert this morning from the Phoenix Hostelry, London NW1 saying there are 5 minute “bringer” spots this Sunday. 5.15pm start, early finish.

“Comedy’s a night time thing, Stan. You can’t be funny in the daytime. That’s why there are no dayclubs. Only nightclubs.” Mr Saturday Night

Hmn. Now Erich didn’t say DON’T do bringer gigs. (Reminder: bringer gigs require you to have an entourage with you to ensure full seats and drink ordering). But he did say “beware them” as they are becoming more and more common. But I shall swerve it as I’d rather not, it’s the last day of my holiday, no-body would come with me and…like that.

In scrolling through the “London Stand Up Circuit” Facebook page however, theres does appear to be a an actual world out there. “Comics wanted/spots needed/paid tens/new club openings/call now/phone for a spot…” Which, as you would imagine, fills me with utter glee and a squirming stomach dread. God I feel more nervous reading those requests than I did about to go on stage last Monday. Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway? That’s what they say.

I downloaded that book once. Used it as motivational chutzpah on my 5k walks I would do daily. This was a month or 2 ago when the first itchings of “self improvement” were scuttling about my nipples. It’s a great book. I remember nothing about it. But then as ever, that’s because I didn’t read it properly. One is meant to write things down and pin things up and have mantras and diaries and things. And me being me, I just ploughed on. Nice ideas. But, as always, because I didn’t commit to to the program fully, it all fell away.

It’s ten to four now. I have to be home by 7pm for an early dinner. I have my gym kit. I expect I will go, but I’m not feeling it.

Another latte. Yum. Well the FB posting of the act is already causing “likes” and “lols” from my adoring group. Aren’t people sweet.

So. What next. Well I am torn between updating my CV to start seeing what’s out there in the world of work, before I finally turn 50 and people start putting my application under the “awright Grandad, nice try. Have a Werthers and sit down,” column. Is there anything more painful than the line by line CV update? Having to self-promote and use ghastly business speak about being solution oriented? Decision focused, aware of Cost Benefit Analysis and Learning Needs Analysis processes? Well it’s the price we pay I suppose.

Although, was it not last night when I had a though about a Pub Quiz company? I mean…how would that work? Am going to spend 5 mins now seeing if such things exist…

Well nothing jumps out. There are companies that act as “middle men” for professional entertainers. These include DJs and PhotoBooths and Magicians and Corporate Entertainment etc. But it all looks very sparkly waistcoats, expensive PA equipment, Vans and Marquees. Not quite me really. Then there’s a co. called Most of it seems corporate and virtual. But given the cost of printing and transport, it’s difficult to imagine you could get an ACTUAL person to show up with a bespoke quiz, buzzers, pens etc to YOUR pub and run 2.5hrs of entertainment for less than £100? Can’t it? Am I being thick? I mean fuckadeedoo, printing costs alone for 15 teams would run into the 20-30-40 quid? Oh I don’t know.

Man this third latte is kicking my ass. My body is asleep but my eyes are wide. Weird. Do I want to look into this as a thing? Or just hope, as has happened so far, that word of mouth happens? I could email all the landlords in the 26 pubs in Kingston/Surbiton alone. Hmm. Food for thought perhaps. Surely they’d rather deal with a one-off than an expensive agency? Or not. Oh I don’t know.

And it’s now half past 4 so If I’m going to gym, it better be now. What happened to updating my CV? Oh one thing at a time.

More soon xxx

To gig or not to gig, that is the question

“In which year was Prince Harry born?”

Richard Asplin, Grey Horse Pub Quiz 19th Oct 2021

Blimey. Apparently I could clean up in the Lake District.

By which, I hope it’s clear, I don’t mean they are in need of waste disposal staff. I was just chatting (it’s post quiz now, 10.50pm and I’m finishing my pint) to a guest of one of the teams. She has come down to visit friends in the “south” and they have decided, to show her a “good time,” to bring her to the Grey Horse pub quiz. They don’t have anyone like me in the Lake District apparently. I could do the rounds of the countryside pubs and “clean up.”

Is this a thing? Am I missing, now Covid is gone, a business opportunity? Shall I go online tomorrow and see if there are “pub quiz” agencies? Maybe I will…

In the meantime, it was a top night. 8 teams, all shouty and lively. My 4min “name the celebrity lego figurine” round was a hoot. The music round was pitched juuuuuuust right, with its mix of Chuck Berry, Spice Girls, Sim & Garfunkel and Louie Bega’s Mambo Number Five. Lots of thanks and handshake. Must remember to pick up my salary before the tills shut.

So I’m on my usual buzzy high from being in the spotlight. I am very comfortable up there. The gags, adlibs, put-downs and asides come very quickly and I almost always pitch them at just the right side of, let’s face it, “cheeky.”

So that’s tonight done. Home soon for shower and bed. Tomorrow I am on the last few days of my holiday. Wednesday to Sunday. 5 days to make the most of…something. I don’t know. Before the world kicks its throttle once more and I’m back on the treadmill.

I did, cheekily, push my new gig at the end of the night.

As promised earlier, I plucked up the testicles last week and took a long walk over Kingston bridge and met the owner of The Forresters. A nice country-ish pub in Hampton who are looking to bring in more of a weekday crowd. An hour of chit-chat and CV and I have agreed I will run a quiz for them every OTHER Monday, starting Nov 1st. Will need to pop by to sort speakers and space and such before then. But ghood to have another spot and another £150 in the pocket every month.

Didn’t go to the gym today, and had no excuse not to. Which frustrates me, given the plans I had for my 2 weeks off. Just wanted to find out if there were other Learning Manager Jobs in the world (one can always do with a £15k pay rise one is not going to get at one’s current role) and then, after an exhausting trawl through Indeed, Reed, Monster (horrible website) and LinkedIn, I have a handful of opportunities. Do I go for them? Well yes. Because I can no longer live hand to mouth with the escalating cost of London living and no sign of a cost-of-living bump on the horizon.

Some of this thought has been solidified by my weekend, hanging out with, let’s face it, “grown ups.”

My weekend with Alex in her gorgeous rented top floor rooftop apartment in the poshest of the posh parts of Bath was a little glimpse into how “the other half” live. Lovely women in their 40s-50s talking about second homes, third homes, rental properties, listed buildings and seemingly endless incomes to “do places up” or “get people in” has made me feel somewhat like a teenager at the grown-up table, ordering fish-fingers and fried eggs while others enjoy seabass and brie. Gave me lots to think about, but nary have I ever felt such an under-achiever. Claire tells me often how I am “under-valued” in what I do. But my job is comfy cosy and not a stretch and too easy to stick with. But at 48 and 46/52ths, perhaps I have waited too long to take my career seriously. Too much time as a 20-30-40 something believing things would just “work out.”

So I have found a dozen “learning & development manager” roles in London that require glittering CVs and dazzling “covering letters” and it seems churlish to think that, for a 15k pay rise, they aren’t worth taking a punt at.

Or I could move to the Lake District and clean up on the Pub quiz circuit…

Anyhoo. The weekend. Marvellous fun (darrrrrling) with Alex. As I say, I threw myself on a train to Bath and we enjoyed excellent dining, hilarious chat, the company of Alex’s tremendous sister and her too-politely-charming-for-words friends. They all seemed twice my age and double my income and IQ, so as ever I sat somewhat like a nephew at the kids table while conversation moved around property and profit. I had nothing to add. So I went for “charming and funny” which is my wheelhouse. I believe I was a hit. In that they all said “hope to see you again soon” and appeared to mean it. But who knows. Perhaps, as ever, I was tiring and “punny” and will go down as “Alex’s slightly overbearing friend.” Wouldn’t be the first time.

Saturday night was, in an oddly retro way, Strictly Come Dancing. Which, if memory is going all on the blink, I haven’t seen since I watched it with Helen and Luthfa, my previous partners. Claire is not a fan and – frankly – it isn’t something I’ve missed. Odd that. The things that were once “must see” TV (Big Brother, Changing Rooms, Ground Force) have just faded away from my life. But there is a guilty wriggling pleasure in the re-visit which I had on Saturday night in Alex’s sumptuous lounge.

Ahhh, Strictly Come Dancing. What a thing. Astonishing how quickly one becomes an expert. Yelling at the screen about frames and arms and feet and length and grace. As if we had ANY IDEA what we were talking about. But jolly wine-fuelled fun none the less. Oh and Greg Wise got voted off, which according to Alex, is a good thing.

Ah well, pint is empty and ashtray is full so we’re done. I’ll pick you up in the morning. Good night.

And goodnight x


“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

Hump Day

“Ah well. Back to the world of dreams…”

Basil Fawlty

Well you’ll be bored by now. So let’s just say it’s Wednesday. Day 3 of my 2 week vacation. It’s just after 2pm. And I am, once more, in the Surbiton Grind with my latte and Bacon sarnie.

Feels llike my holiday starts now. Today is my first day with no commitments or planning or tasks or chores or expectations. I have literally NOTHING to do today. I mean, I could sit here all afternoon, sipping coffee, typing this, listening to an audio book. Until dinner time tonight – when Claire and I have promised ourselves a treat (I hope) in watching Tom Hardy in Venom on Disney Plus over supper – I am a free man. Seems weird. Not a situation I’m used to. There is normally something hovering at my shoulder as a “don’t forget you have to…” But today, nada. Which is lovely.

Sun is out, glinting on the passing traffic of Surbiton. Opposite the café is a rather incongruous piano shop. Not that the pianos themselves are incongruous. It’s more…piano shop? Seems such an odd thing to have in a suburban high street. More fitting Bond Street or Charing Cross Road. Well it’s been there forever. And presumably managed to keep a trade going. Until now, it seems. Despite lockdown – which you would have thought would have been very good for “let’s buy a little electric piano for the spare room and Matilda and Josh can learn” middle class investment, it has now closed. Yesterday in fact. It is now an empty shell of a building. The reason I mention this is that it has taken less than 24 hrs for the appearance of those fucking creepy, never changing, permanently out of date, depressing “circus” posters to be slathered all over the front glass.

Circus posters refuse to change. No matter how modern or exotic. They ALWAYS look exactly the same. Very little money changes hands with graphic design consultants I fear. I wonder if there is a simple computer programme that generates the garish, gurning clown faced rainbow big top eye-sores automatically? I hate them. They depress me. I don’t know why. Something about a grim, drizzly british car-park, clanking poles, a whiff of manure and a sense of heart ache and neon desperation. Perhaps I’ve been listening to that Smiths song too much. “last night of the fair…By the speedway, generators…” etc. Can’t remember what it’s called. (Teenage me would have a fucking fit). It’s off Meat Is Murder I think. Rusholme Ruffians? Possibly. Here it is:

Yep that’s the one.

So I;ve packed my gym bag. (Actually Claire’s very useful backpack. Lots of compartments for such and such). So the intention today is a lazy afternoon until I am bored of this or my battery/latte funds run out. Then it’s off back to The Gym.

I’ll probably have more to say on this sudden “gym and activity and hobbies” tip that I’m currently surfing. Wave, actually. You don’t surf a “tip.” I don’t know what a “tip” is.

It’s all part of this change of heart I’m having about things. Was pondering it last night when I ambled, happy and tired, back from a STORMING pub quiz at the Grey Horse. It was a great one. 8 teams, which is ideal. Some lively back-chat and heckling. Some good improv’ and gags between questions. And the right team won. Not that that matters. But it’s nice sometimes.

The gym links into the comedy course. And the quiz. And the health kick notion of sobriety and clean living. I am finally, FINALLY, tired of the life I am living. The endless waste of good money on beer, leaving me headachey and woozy and in-bed-by-9.30pm three nights a week. No energy, no effort and a dragging heavy feeling of just lurching woozily from one day to the next with nothing but a Saturday nap and a Kermode Mayo podcast as an incentive to keep breathing.

Smoking is out of hand and the horrendous raspy phlemy cough and the constant “achem-hEM!” throat clearing that speckles the first 2 hours of each morning. I sound like my dad used to. And that was always painful to listen to. Loose dentures, ratty dressing-gown, coughing into his weak tea in the kitchen.

Plus the fatigue of listless sedentariness. That’s not a word. But just the lack of gumption and get-up-and-go that meant I was never really “in the mood” to do anything that wasn’t sitting on my arse. The days and days spent drowsy on the bed with calming ASMR nature-sounds in my earphones as afternoons melted into each other. Lockdown didn’t help, of course. When there is nowhere to go, the act of staying in, slumped infront of The Big Bang Theory night after night is hardly a conflict of interests.

And of course the podgy, bin-bag-full-of-yoghurt (copywrite Stephen Fry) silhouette that paley plops back at me, spilling over loose elastic pyjama bottoms in the humming glare of the bathroom mirror. A face with no jawline that goes from ears to nipples without any discernable detours. It’s all just piling up on me. Regrets about bad habits, wasted evenings, tired mornings and a grey feeling of “well it’s just 20 more years of this and then I’m gone,” is worrying my like a loose tooth.

I know I know. Classic male panicky midlife crises nonsense of course. I claim no insight or originality. But as I paced home up the hill to the flat last night, it did occur to me, not for the first time, that to CHANGE all these thing? It requires nothing but a shift of mind. No relocation, no retraining, no huge investment, no disruption. Just a simple decision to do things differently.

The rings were the first step. I wear rings now. Yes. Rings. Four of them. Chunky silver things. I never ever used to wear any jewellery. Ever. It just wasn’t something I did. I never even thought about it. But in the last 6 months or so, I would catch myself admiring a photo of an old rocker, a teddy-boy, a rockabilly, Jeff Goldblum, Johnny Depp, that sort of thing. And they would have chunky silver across their knuckles. And a lot of it. And I was suddenly gripped with an idea that this would make me happy. Or happier. Another midlife crises thing I guess. I suppose in another universe, I would be growing a pony-tail. Or buying leather trousers. Christ.

But I went all out, online, browsed the cheaper end of the scale (as I was very aware this would turn into a short lived fad. I wouldn’t mind bundling them embrassed, into a drawer if they’d only cost be a tenner). And I ordered 5 of them. Just like that.

Claire is not a fan. I see something in them that she doesn’t. I think, in honesty, it’s the student goth “try hard” cheapness of them. Like they’re cracker novelties. The equivalent of buying a string of candy sweets on some elastic, putting around your neck and then going to a job interview. All just a bit “daft.” Especially for a man who owns £450 handmade Church’s brogues, 2 tailored suits, silver cufflinks and vintage tie-clips. It’s a bit like James Bond having a Claire’s Accessories voucher.

But I have them. And I wear them. And I love them. And I receive enough remarks and compliments (mainly from idiot teenagers who don’t know better) to be happy with them.

You remember Ducky from Pretty In Pink? The final scene at the prom? When he’s all tuxedo and bollo tie? THAT’s the look I like.

So the rings were the first thing. Just deciding there was the type of person I wanted to be, and realising there was NOTHING stopping me being that person. Visa card, Amazon, jiffy bag and BOOM. I am a man in jewellery.

The rest of the changes? Gym visits, a jawline, less (or no) beers. No fags. A writing project. A stand-up career/hobby/night out. All that? Just a matter of will. Will, sadly, comes and goes of course. What seems like a great idea for tomorrow morning can easily collapse into a “why bother?” when the alarm clock comes around. There’s always another tomorrow…

Well, its brought me here. 2 weeks off to “do some things” and change some habits and experiment with being a person I can face in the mirror.

So where were we?

Right. Monday night. I got a huge round of applause, feat. whoops and cheers as I climbed back off the stage and stumbled humbly back through the smiling crowd to the rear of the comedy club where I could at last relax. I knew it had gone well. I knew it. Better than expected? Not sure. Perhaps. But I suffer from appalling narcissism so maybe in my head “smashing it” was just what I’d expected? This not being my first rodeo, as no one ever says. But the buzz was there. Other acts (Iman, Sarah, Mike) were effusive and high-fiving. Because I’d nailed it, sure. But I’m certain also that I’d shown it could be done, that I’d kept the crowd laughing and relaxed them into knowing it wasn’t impossible.

The rest of the night, as is typical in such memoirs, is a little blurry. I had another drink, of course. I felt I deserved that one. Pulled up a stool at the back and settled in to enjoy Mike, Sarah and Iman get up and do their “fives.”

And in the words of the turns-out-not-immortal Bruce “Brucie” Forsyth, didn’t they do well. Sarah’s grinning energy and charm won the audience over immediately. Mike’s “biker wizard hippy schtick” got a great response. He is such a larger than life character (Love child of Dumbldore and Hagrid, as he brilliantly put it) the audience ate it all up. Iman got huge recognition for her fish-out-of-water ethnic-middle class bits that went down a storm. We all felt jolly smug and proud of ourselves.

Erich and Dinesh both did a “shout out” to us four with the crowd, which might have been good manners or might have been “genuinely impressed” but either way, the four of us, like leaping blonde A-Level students in the Daily Telegraph, whooped and back-slapped. It goes without saying that Dinesh got up to close the night and did a storming 20mins on the pains of aging and family life that the crowd lapped up with big laughs and cheers.

Night closed and Erich got us all up for a group photo. I then, inevitably, had another drink and sort of prowled around with nervous energy, like an eager puppy, sort of hoping for “well done’s” and “you were greats” from the departing room. I got a few. So that was that.

In the calm of recollection I can now think clearly about the experience. I enjoyed every second of it. The whole thing. The course, the camaraderie, the video watching, the writing, the editing, the practise. There was a HUGE sense of teamwork about the process. All of us gee-ing each other on. Like doubles players at Wimbledon with their high-fives after each winning point.

I NEVER would have done this, or done it half as well, without the course. Hearing one’s material  out loud, week after week, from an actual stage with an actual microphone, with real people giving real feedback. It’s the only way to learn. I think the otherwise terrifying act of “watching yourself back on video” – while stomach churning as a concept – did more for the delivery and polish of the act than all the bedroom pacing and Dictaphone playback n the world.

But now? Here I sit. Was that it? Can I finally put the ghost of the Rich Hall heckler to bed? Right now, I don’t know. The right thing to do would be to now go onto the Facebook Page of the Open Spot nights. Start emailing the promoters with my short “5 min spot” YouTube link and see what happens.

The idea of this is terrifying of course. As it was back in 1993. I mean I’d take an email and a video-clip over a dreaded phone-call any day of the week. So perhaps technology and Covid have helped remove the gut-twisting fear of the “hello? Do you have an open spot?” quivering telephone enquiry. That would be the right thing to do. Sitting here however, at 3.06pm on a Wednesday afternoon in the overcast grey of a Surbiton café? My bottom has other ideas. (That may however be just as much to do with the hastily bolted Cheese/Bacon/Tommy-toe white-bread toastie. I could do with a poo, if I’m honest).

And another latte wouldn’t hurt. I have the £75 from last night’s quiz tucked in cash in the wallet, which was an unexpected bonus. I could also, now I have my Monday’s free again, make a call to the pub in Hampton that is looking for a quiz master. I have let that contact whither on the vine a little. Mainly because it would have meant being out 3 nights a week. But also because it’s a phone call. And I HATE phone calls. Perhaps tomorrow I might take a walk to the pub in question, sniff it out, and speak to the manager. 2 Quizzes a week could work out a tidy £600p/m cash-in-hand income. Which believe me, if energy prices are going to do what they’re promising to do, will be a necessary investment in my heating bills.

There are now about 8 huge buggies and about 15 women in Sweaty-Betty active wear in the café. I think hoping a staff member will come out so I can order another coffee is futile. Plus I can’t just wander in without leaving the laptop on the street. Arses.

Okay. Plan of action. I will have another coffee now. I will close the laptop and catch up with a podcast or audio book. (I am trying “The Naked Mind” which is a self-helpy audio thing about controlling alcohol consumption. I will then head to the gym. Tonight will be shower and dinner and Venom. Tomorrow I will skip the gym and – if Erich has uploaded the videos – make a real and genuine effort to try and get another booking or two, while the struck iron is still warmish. And I may take a walk into Hampton to see if that pub is genuine about wanting their own Quiz night. Friday I am off-line as I am decending on the lovely Alex, an old pal who has upped sticks to Bath. So that’s a bit of a weekend-away thing. Okay.

That’s the plan. Been nice talking to you.   

The Day After

“Send in the clowns. They’re already…here.”

Stephen Sondheim

Ahhh. Good morning. Good afternoon, technically. I slept late. I slept the sleep of the tired. Of the buzzing, of the full of fried chicken, of the relieved, of the weight-lifted.

We’re back, as I imagine we’re going to be for most of the next 2 weeks, on the busy sunny street of Ewell Road, Surbiton KT6. Half a lovely latte at the elbow once again, my now trad cheese and tommy-toe toastie (tommy-toe! Tommy-toe! Don’t say it again! Copywrite Fry n Laurie) mid munch at the table. I have the last 3 fags left of my final packet at my side).

I caved. Yes I know. I’m not proud. But in all honesty, it was simply too much to jump in feet first to a highly stressed pub environment, with the crowds and lights and clatter and the people and the pressure and the nerves to decide this was also the night to start coping without a tiny white mouth-crutch. So I caved and got a pack and that way had 1 less thing to think about. Forgive me lungs, cough, throat and bank balance. We start afresh again. “It matters not how often we fall, but how often we get back up again.” Or something. I want to say The West Wing, but it’s bound to be something more profound. (More profound than The West Wing? Ha! I know).

So today I have this to type up, about which I am keen. I also have a date with a treadmill and a rowing machine, as I promised myself I would – every day I could – during my 2 week hols. (Can’t believe I;m only on day 2 of my holiday. Mental. Considering since I left work on Friday I have done LOADS of writing; been to the gym twice; eaten out at FIVE GUYS with Claire; seen the new Bond Movie “No Time To Die” [spoilers. He apparently does have time to die];  edited a 10min comedy video; created a five min show; learned the show and delivered the show. This is the most productive I have ever been. Feels oddly satisfying). After the gym, I need to return home, write the quiz, format the quiz, create a Spotify Playlist, go back into Kingston to the office, print the quiz, get BACK to The Grey Horse (my new home it appears) and deliver the quiz for an 8pm start. And it’ll still only be fuckin’ Tuesday.

I s’pose this is a bit like how people must live who have a job they love. With energy and purpose and enthusiasm. Rather than a tired drudging compliance. Is it too late to get that life? We’ll see. Infact, this 2 week holiday is, I suppose, a bit of an experiment into that.

Here’s a joke from last night’s closing act (I’m paraphrasing) that rang true with everyone.

“When you’re in your 20s, anything is possible. By the time you’re in your 30s, you’re thinking “wait I can turn this around, it’s not too late. In your 40s, that’s it. This is your life.” Same idea as the City Slickers bit from earlier blogs I suppose. I’m clearly at that stage of life.

So. Where to begin. Well you left me, phone in head, taking a long long long stroll north towards Kingston, hanging a left towards the river Thames and then a long walk south along the river, playing my newly minted “YouTube” clip over and over in my ear. I would pause it every few lines as I walked, and then try repeating the jokes outloud to myself. Trying trying TRYING to keep to the script, and not suddenly throw in 3 extra sentences of unnecessary exposition. I used visual clues to help me lead from the end of one joke to another. This is my way. What image does the end of one joke conjour up that I can twist surreally into an image to launch the next. This is an old Bob Monkhouse “memory palace” idea. Derren Brown talks about it too. What it means is all I have to learn are the links. My act opening, for example, I remember like this:

Right foot on glass (Right, lets get this clear)…Gove sounds like Grove which is a place (good evening Kingston) Villages are where couples retire to (I’m divorced)…Couples have things in common (we had a lot in common)…Better than mine was (a land mine blowing up a school)…Education…Greggs (Greg Davies hosting a TV quiz)…we met at a quiz night… and so on.

So on I trudged through Surbiton, towards Claygate and Esher, muttering and pausing and repeating. Recalling the links, trying to solidify “phrases” rather than ideas to keep my timing tight. Until I began to feel it was coming quickly and naturally. Using Erich’s advice, as I went over and over, I pictured the stage, the lights, the front row, the feeling of the microphone, the pacing and gestures, to get a vivid idea of what the act would look and feel like.

Blimey these lattes are AMAZING. I don’t know what their secret is. But I can down them in glugging sloshes like cold lemonade. Mmm, and the almond biscotti biscuit isn’t hurting either. Plus they are delivered at EXACTLY the right temperature. No blowing or sipping. But still warming and creamy. Fuck this place is going to be expensive. Maybe quitting coffee? Hahahahaha etc.

I was home by 5pm just as Claire was wrapping up her course. I had time for a short nap (mind tumbling with script) that was cut short as I was too hyped. Shower, shave, iron shirt, dress. I chose the boots, dark jeans, white shirt, copper vintage tie, grey box jacket with velvet trim and silver tie-clip with ruby stud. Oh and for no reason apart from I saw a Bond movie the night before, I ironed a crisp white hanky for the top pocket. Deep breath. I felt good. Reflection told me likewise. I;m not a handsome man by a very long stretch. (My jokes about Michael Gove, the Proclaimers, Mark Kermode etc get far too big a laugh of recognition for me to think otherwise. Not a hunk among them). But I do know how to dress. Quiff was slicked and shiny and glinted like gun metal.

Wanted to get the bus to Kingston so I could play the show four or five more times in my ear for polish. But wasn’t til the bus stop that I realised I was mask-free. And London Transport are still enforcing the no-mask, no-travel rule. So I walked it. Didn’t want to get too sweaty in my clobber so a casual walk. Which actually was a blessing as I was able to recite the show a couple more times.

Got to the pub. Busy. Lots of folk eating and chatting and clinking among the dark wood and Hallowe’en cobweb décor. Couple of people (Marie and Karoliina) from work had come down to support. Which was tremendous. I wasn’t really expecting anyone. And would have been just as happy to be playing to strangers. But it did mean I had company for the hour before it started, which stopped me whipping myself up into a panicky twitch.

Went back to the club. Very dark. Chairs and tables. Erich was there, all mic stands and cables. They had put up banners and posters and such. A much more “pro” atmosphere. He ran through the plan.

HE would host (obviously). Opening act would be Jenan (her of the “how to get gigs” seminar of 2 weeks ago). Phew. An actual “comic” to start. That would warm the place up. Give everyone a chance to settle in and get some booze inside them. Then a break. Then it would be the FOUR new acts back to back as the middle part of the show. He’d put ME on first.

Felt weird and good about this. In an ego moment, I figured he might have put me on first as the most “guaranteed” of the acts. That is to say, the one that would most likely hit the ground running and give the audience a sense of “well thank god these amateurs aren’t going to be utter shit.” Maybe. Also it meant less “hanging around waiting” time. Which is a plus. I could do my bit, for better or worse, and then relax for the rest of the acts and the show. Then there would be a break and our “closer,” who would be none other than Ramesh Ranganathan’s brother Dinesh Ranganathan– also an accomplished stand-up, living in his brother’s “15mins of fame” current favouritism. I have no opinion of Ramesh’s act. Have only seen him being heavy-lidded and grumpy on panel shows. But he is very much the flavour of the week these days, so good for him.

So it was nervously back to the table and the work chums. Marie’s current squeeze Dario had turned up too. Lovely chap. So we sat and I sipped a pint of bitter (Twickenham Naked Ladies, my sup of choice at the Grey Horse) and I tapped my feet and tore up beermats and waited.

Mike turned up with his partner. So we shot the shit for a while, bluffering and booming and shoulder slapping and saying “how are ya?” and generally pounding each other with nervous energy.

7.15pm we headed in. Crowd was filling up. Erich asked my “group of 3” to sit near the front to keep the energy up. People milled in. I chatted with Mike. I spotted Iman up the front with whoever she’d brought (friends/family) and we shared an anxious cringey wave. Sarah was at the back with her guest. So I bounded over and we nervously told each other how well each other was bound to do.

I’d had 1 pint by now. I knew I didn’t want to have too many. Despite what the body might think in its dumb boozy blurry logic, alcohol was not going to make me sharper, tighter, more focused or better able to remember the act. It might loosen up the muscles and give me a giggly get-up-and-go energy. But it wasn’t going to make the show better. So I carried the dregs of Naked Ladies in a smeary empty pint pot about the room.

Erich opened the show. He is a HUGELY natural performer. Seemed amazing to see him “at work” rather than in “teacher/tutor” mode. This was the first time I’d seen him actually on stage with a crowd. And the guy can MC like the best of them. Huge confidence, a snarky aside, good crowd work, very strong material, actual jokes. So I was able to sit at the back and enjoy the show as a punter. He invites on Ginan and she does her set.

As there’s no point writing this if it isn’t true, I enjoyed her set very much, but was distracted. Knowing I would be the next act up. A set based largely on ethnicity, Muslim Britain, body hair, religion, terrorist panic and her experiences, it got all the laughs it wanted to get. I don’t recall any screams or hysteria. But the crowd warmed to her experiences (despite a little frostiness at the front table) and then a big cheer at the end. Erich came back on, explained it would be a break and then the “4 newbies.” And then the break started.

Out for a fag. Another pint? Oh fuck it why not. The first one hadn’t even touched the sides. This was Neck Oil, which was colder and fizzier than expected. I sipped it. Marie and Dario came out to see me but I politely asked them to leave me be as I sat at a quiet table and ran through my memory palace links again. Yep. Got it. Was never going to be any more prepared than now.

Back into the club. Lots of hubbub in the dark. Food being distributed, energy and crackles at the table. Music loud. I paced the back of the room by the bar. The lights on the empty stage seemed very bright. Erich was milling about, talking to the owner, ensuring food wasn’t delivered during the acts, which caused some fuss in the busy kitchen. Break seemed to drag on. And I was hopping and stamping and getting the energy out. Much pacing. Right lets get this clear…you remember the movie the fly? Over and over. As long as I started strong with this, and the Michael Gove line got a laugh, I’d be fine.

Music fades and Erich bounds on. He does much longer than I expected. 10mins? Material about his dog, material about his boiler. All good stuff. Crowd are eager. Then he introduces me. Crowd claps and I bound forward through the chairs. Confident and eager. Heart thundering. But also, weirdly calm. I know this. It’s like an exam one has not only revised for, but also seen the questions in advance. Nerves, yes. But a calm “let’s just get it done” feeling.

Up onto the stage. A hygenic fist bump with Erich. He steps down. I step up. Face the front, hold mic in stand. “Right, let’s get something clear,” I say. Mic out of stand, heave stand to the back, thump it down, back to the front, lights bright. Just shadows. Relax. “You’ll remember the movie The Fly?” and I sort of lean out, eyes wide, sweeping the whole room. My stage. I’m in charge.

What happens when the movie critic Mark Kermode got into the transporter…” All quiet. Where’s this going? “Not realising that crouched behind him was (beat) Michael Gove.”

CRACK. Huge laugh. Boom. But big. Enough time for me to stand up straight again. Laughter still coming. Step back. Walk the stage. Touch the wooden stool. Face the front again. And we’re away.

The five minutes flew by. I got all the jokes out, in order. No fluffs, no extra padding. I felt steady. Every punchline got a laugh. Some big “inferiority complexes/Tesco bagging area/dogging/chronic obsesity.” I recall at one point I even had to give a “okay, okay, shush” as I didn’t want to over-run but something had got the crowd roaring. Me, obviously. But until I see the video tape back, I won’t know which bit. I forgot to do the Goldblum impression – as I ALWAYS do – and I said thankyou Kingston, instead of the funnier callback “thankyou little lower Richmond village.” But I said my name, mic back in the stand (a bit clumsily), took a stagey little bow, a la 1980s Ben Elton, and left the stage.

Okay, it’s 2.31pm now. I have to get to the gym. And I have forgotten my phone. Which means I can either go back and get it or just plough on. I think, mood that I’m in, I’ll plough on. Walk and think and relive last night in my head. Get some thoughts together. Then back home to shower and write up the quiz. Have lots of nervous happy energy that the treadmill can absorb.

Much more to say about the rest of the night. And all sorts of other things. But we’ll pick that up tomorrow I expect. Love to all x#

Chinese Dentist time

“Fuck it.”

Richard Asplin

Hello. Well it’s a couple of hours later. And that didn’t work out at all. Arse.

I took off from the café, with my print out in hand, ready to find a quiet spot in the park to read out my “chopped down” five minute version into my Mp3 recorder, ready to load it and play it over and over for the next few hours.

After scouring the park looking for a quiet unoccupied bench – of which there were NONE (who are all these people sitting in parks mid afternoon on an October Mondy?) – I found a desolate tree in a corner. I whip out the phone, I whip out the script. I press record, I start to read…only to find out FUCK IIIIIIT, that the print out is of an old but from weeks ago. Not the full final set, Arsebiscuits.

So heigh-ho, as the seven dwarves once said, it was BACK to the coffee shop. (Hello again! They said. Yeah yeah yeah). I got a Camomile Tea (no more lattes for me – oh and fags have gone in the bin. Yayy) and I opened up the video of my last set. All 10mins 8 secs of it. I went through on a handy piece of desktop editing software and chopped out the errs and uhmms and the 4 jokes I;m cutting, added some titles, a b/w grainy look for that Beat Poet Lenny Bruce vintage feel, and converted it to an MP4. And have shoved it on YouTube here:

So I can now happily stroll about Kingston with it playing in my ears. It runs 5mins 9 seconds. Including pacing and laughs. Which I’m okay with. So now I am ready. What to do now?

Well it’s 2.24pm and I have nowt to do but learn it. So perhaps a walk to the gym and a half hour or so on the treadmill. Or perhaps just a long long walk for a couple of hours. Hmn. Not sure.

Either way, phone battery permitting, I am good to go. Righto. As I said before. Broken legs people, broken legs.


Tonight’s The Night

“Get up, stand up.”

Bob Marley, presumably?

Morning everyone. Well here we are. It’s a much brighter Monday morning. I am back in the Surbiton Grind. Sat outside this time. My own dumb fault.

I pulled on my denim jacket this morning to throw over my hoodie and gym kit. Got to the café, reached in to find my wallet and what should be nestling in there…an almost completely full pack of the dreaded Camels. Oh for fucks sake.

Now given that I completed Mr Allen Carr’s “Easy way To Stop Smoking” yesterday at about 4pm, with a great feeling of achievement and gusto, this is very irritating. I mean I should just bin them. Get up no and walk to a “trash can” and buckle and bend and tear and get rid of the whole thing. And if it was only 1 or 2 in there I probably would. But now they sit next to me on the bench outside the café being all gross and “taunty.”

Is today the best day, given I have to stand in a pub for 2.5 hours and do a stand up set later tonight? Am I making my head too crowded with “do stand up, don’t drink, don’t smoke,” all on the same day. Or am I simply using this as an excuse for weakness? Oh ffs I don’t know. Time will tell.

Oh yes, the drinking. I’m knocking that on the head too. Or going to make my best endeavours to do so at least. Again, is today the best day for THAT?

Allen Carr has some interesting advice on this. In fact, it is the ONE part of his book that suggests it’s up to the reader: When quitting smoking, do you AVOID stressful and social and likely smoking environments? To give yourself a fighting chance? Or do you run towards them, thrilled at your new status, enjoying the freedom of being the “new you” in the “old new” world? He says it’s really up to the individual. Great.

Anyway, enough of THAT. Tonight, dear reader, as you will know, is the night. I have my latte and my bacon/tomato toastie, (tommy –toe!) I have the laptop, the phone, the headphones, the print out of the material, and about 8 hours before I have to get up and do it infront of a mixed crowd of strangers.

How am I feeling? This is what you’ll all be burning to know.

Just had a fag. They were staring at me. Now I feel stupid. But fuck it.

Nerves? Some. I feel I have done “well enough” (see previous videos of the course practise) to know I won’t absolutely die on my arse. There are enough good jokes in there with clear and present PUNCHLINES to get me through. I can’t see it going awfully. I am also now secretly glad of the glaring stage lights, so tonight’s show, once I clamber up there and grab the mic, will be identical to the rehearsals I’ve done. Unlike Downstairs At The Kings Head which is lit like a movie set and one can see the staring whites of the eyes of all the punters sat 3 feet in front.

So not worried about the material.

However I have, thanks to the Surbiton Grind Wifi, just downloaded the last practise session video (below) which pisses me off as, despite needing to be a tight 5mins, runs 10mins 5 seconds. Some of this is fluffing lines and pacing and having to check the script. But it isn’t 5 mins worth.

So my number one anxiety right now, as the clock approaches ten to twelve, is that I will over-run dramatically. Which is VERY bad form. Or I will forget my act. Which is equally unprofessional.

The ONLY solution to this is the following:

I need to listen again to the video, watching it carefully, and see if I can lift out 3 or 4 of the weakest jokes. Which I don’t really want to do, obviously. Especially as I have learnt the set like a play, and in my mind each joke follows the next. Can an actor say “TO be or not to be…” and then naturally, without missing a beat, go straight into “wherefore art thou Romeo?” Well we’ll see.

In a perfect world I would have done this already. Gone through, re chopped it, downloaded the audio and now have a tight 4mins 45secs loaded on the phone to listen to over and over. Sadly however life has run away with me so I’m going to have to do that now.

Okay, here we go. Let’s take a listen to the full 10mins 8 secs and see what doesn’t work:

(Oh this WILL be fascinating for you): Line by line, here we go:

Okay let’s get this clear. You’ll remember in the movie The FLY what happened when Jeff Goldblum got in that machine and a fly got trapped in there with him? Well I’m what happens when film critic Mark Kermode got in the machine without realising, crouching behind him is Michael Gove.

“But life uh…found a way…”

Good evening Kingston. Or if you’re an estate agent, welcome to “Lower South Ham Village.”

Where to start. I am a divorced man. Which you would assume, I know.

We had a lot in common though. For example, my wife and I both grew up with terrible inferiority complexes. Hers was great obviously, mine was shit.

Okay. First thing to note. This all takes too long. Long pauses, extra information. I’m adding “anyways” and pacing and twitchy Goldblum pauses. Extra details. It just isn’t tight enough. The above 3 jokes runs 1.30 seconds. Blimey. So we can practise (in the next few hours) just sticking to the key words, Seinfeld style. I think it was Jerry who said you should tell a joke in the least possible words it takes to get the idea. No fluff, no filler. When you watch him live you can see that even the random “adlib” sounding bits are BANG BANG BANG. When he talks about Superman on Hallowe’en, we get “I was physically ready, I was emotionally prepared.” And that’s it. Move on.

Anyhoo, let’s see the next 90 seconds…

Neither of us were academic. We had no interest in classroom lessons. We learn best I think from experience, from nature. Green, maybe healthy. Plants, fruits. Red, dangerous. Fire, blood. Bright blue, not healthy. Mould, rot, Greggs.

We met at a pub quiz. I was trying to be impressive. The quizmaster asked this geography question “what is the name of the huge fault that runs for 600 miles through California.” I shouted “Chronic Obesity?”

She got on with my family. She liked my dad. We weren’t wealthy. Dad didn’t like to work weekends. He preffered, as my mother used to tell me, to spend his Saturdays splashing out on used cars. Or dogging as it’s also known.

Not a big extended family. One uncle. Uncle Alan.  We used to tell people who’d be about to meet hit: Uncle Alan’s like Marmite. Not that you either love him or hate him. Just that he’d sit in the kitchen cupboard and cum in a jar.

She got on well with my niece. Took an interest. My niece is into PAW PATROL that’s her thing. Which for years, I thought was the follow up to BENEFIT STREET

Right. We’re at 3:30 now. Well again, it’s lots of fluff and making the point over and over. The MARMITE JOKE I think can come out. It sits there and is obviously nonsense and never gets a huge crack. So that’s out. Plus it takes me 23 seconds to tell it.

In fact, looking back at the script as written, compared to how I deliver it, it’s no wonder the whole thing runs long. I’m taking, essentially, twice the amount of feedlines to get to the punch. Is it nerves they haven’t got the set up? Maybe. I need to be more trusting perhaps. Note there, a “Maybe” and “perhaps” in that sentence. Oh it’s like Raymond Chandler…


She was with me through the tough times too. When Dad died. Testicular Cancer. Complete surprise. Although the signs were there. Every time we’d go the Tesco self-checkout it’s say:  Came home via Tesco. Till said “unexpected item in bagging area.”

But marriage is tough. You have to show someone you love them. Its not enough to tell them. Truth is we probably spent too much time staring at our phones instead of talking to each other. But we were that generation when phones and games were a novelty. I asked my brother, “How do I get Angry Birds” on my phone. Trying shagging half a dozen and not calling them back.

Right. Well this can come out too. It’s a looooong lead up to the “Angry Birds” joke. A joke I have since lost confidence in since Erich told me 2 things: “The angry birds joke, I fear I may have heard a similar version somewhere before. I can’t put my finger on where or who, but just thought I would mention that. And the couch and girlfriend on your phones, didn’t have a clear gag at the end of it.”

So Erich has forgotten that the gag at the end of the “couch bit” is infact the ANGRY BIRDS joke. Let’s see on the clock how long that bit runs: Fuck. 49 seconds. That’s like 18% of my act. That’s COMING OUT!

So, onwards:

We’re divorced now.  It was the sex that broke us up. I’m shy, she was adventurous. We tried everything to keep it spicy in the bedroom. Tried everything. She ground up my Viagra and rubbed it all over her chest – , that went tits up

Final straw was when my wife shoplifted a copy of 50 Shades of Grey. To use as a manual stimulant. I told a friend of mine. He said, “shoplifted soft porn books? Has she always been sticky fingered? I said yes but it’s the shoplifting I object to.”

Well again. Sigh. It’s just so much padding. Pacing, padding, muttering. Adding extraneous detail. Repetition. We’re now at 6mins 10 secs and I’m nowhere NEAR the close. That 50 shades gag took 41 seconds. This isn’t the BANG BANG BANG it looked like when I was writing it down.

Keep it tight, Richard. Get to the point.

So last bit before the laundry section:

She learned some stuff from that book. She wanted anal action and some kind of elaborate spanking. I didn’t have that sort of equipment. Friday nights I’d find myself literally up shit creek without a paddle.

Now I work in an office. Dull place full of teenagers. Kind of office where they tell you to make sure you leave the microwave ovens in the canteen “as you would wish to find them.” So I always pop in 2 grams of coke and a copy of Razzle.

But that’s where I met my girlfriend. So I’m back to domestic bliss.

So. We’re at 7:35 now. Fuck. Now I like the Razzle joke (possibly because of my cheeky Harry Hill delivery on the punchline) but it jars. It doesn’t take us anywhere and has nothing to do with the theme of family or sex. So it might have to wait for my 10 spot. It runs 38 seconds. Fuckinell.

Now we hit the penultimate bit. The laundry section, which Erich and co seem to feel is the best bit and the most original bit. And certainly, if I watch back the first time I delivered it 6 weeks ago, it did get a huge CRACK of a laugh. Let’s see how long it runs (or rather, let’s see how long I force it to run by padding it out for no reason…)

Does anyone else feel racist when they’re doing the laundry?

Now we TRY not to feel racist! We try and be woke and use other words. But when you’re not concentrating on a Saturday morning. We have to try and Segregate…SEPARATE! Separate it all out without it turning into a Klan rally. What’s more important, the whites? The blacks? There’s a lot of coloureds about. We’ll do the whites first, they’re most important. Blacks? Well they shouldn’t really mix. Plus there’s a lot, they’re gonna need hanging.

So we’re both there trying to avoid eye contact while we discuss putting all the browns together as one batch called “coloureds.” What other words are there? We’ve tried saying “hues” instead of coloureds. But that’s worse. Because what about grey socks. They’re “hueish.” So now we arguing about the Huish problem. And don’t get me started about keeping them warm in the Aryan cupboard. 

Blimey. That bit runs 2 mins 48. Blimey. That’s like HALF the running time. Does this mean if I keep the laundry, I have to lose half of the other stuff? Fuck, it probably does. So we’re gonna needa bigger cull, coz I tell that about as tight as I can.

And the closer? The mum ISA joke? Is it strong enough? I’m going to say NO right now.

Let’s have a listen:

But we get along now as a family. I call my mother every week. Well…Christmas. She was telling me she’d been seeing documents on the news about ISIS. She thinks great idea, very modern, suits people of her age. Not for everyone, perhaps only the middle England middle classes, but ISIS certainly has its merits. I said really? What is it you like about ISIS? She said how else she would be able to save up to £20,000 tax free…

Thank you Lower South Ham Village. You’ve been a treat, I’ve been RICHARD ASPLIN

Hmm. It’s not bad. Does anyone under thirty know what an ISA is? Seems awfully 1980s doesn’t it?

Well let’s be methodical. If I cut out:

ISIS (47secs) / MARMITE (23 secs) / MICROWAVES (40 secs) / ANGRY BIRDS (45 secs) that removes the better part of:  2.5 minutes. So if I do that, and really nail down the “tightness” of the rest of the show, I think we’ll be at about 5-6mins.

Okay. So that’s what I have to do. I suppose the best way of doing this will be to trim down the script, record it into my phone and spend the rest of today playing it over and over and over…

How to record it when I’m sat in a café? Hmmn. Don’t really want to go home to do it as lovely Claire is elbows deep in her R&D Course session and this will be a huge noisy stompy disruption.

A local park? There are plenty. I could go and hide under a tree…

Oooh, let’s see if I have a hard copy in my bag so I don’t have to laptop-it in an arborial setting like Bill Oddie setting up a webcam / a paedo setting up a webcam… Two tics…

Oooh, I DO!!! Okay, well I guess that’s what’s next. Timing wise, if we work backwards…

Get to the club for 6.45? Leave at 6.25pm. Shower and iron shirt, shave and do quiff? That’s another 30mins. So get into shower at 5.55pm. So I have 5hrs 11 minutes. How many times can I listen to 5 minutes of material in 5hrs 11 mins? Sixty two times. That should do it.

But now I’m at the point when…well, if I leave the café now and record the set onto my phone. I will have NOTHING to do for the most of the afternoon. Gym? Hmn, seems an odd thing to do. Somehow completely distracting. Unless I listen to the audio while pounding an hour on the treadmill? I still have tomorrow’s quiz to write. And collate. And print. Fuck. Well that can be tomorrow I guess. One thing at a time.

So y’know, I’m going to sit here a while. Maybe catch up on my Kermode & Mayo podcast over one more latte. Then off to the park. Yes. That’s the plan. Marvellous.

I may chat later, if I go to the club early. But until then. Please break my leg xxx

Gym’ll Fix it for me

“And me, and me aaaand meee-eee-eeeeee”

Sir Jim’ll Saville

Hello again punters. Which is a terribly Julian Clary opening. So to speak.

I am given to be thinking of J.Clary and his “Sticky Moments” and his “Camping At The Aldwych” and his Hugh Jelly and such a ma like. He appeared of course in that live AIDS benefit show I mentioned some blogs back. Hysteria 3. London Palladium etc. I bumbled my way through his “snatch” as it were (oh give over Asplin…) on YouTube on Friday night as I had my final booze and fags blow out.

Which we might as well use as a kick off to what’s going on now. Which is that it’s 3 minutes to 4pm on Sunday afternoon. The same Sunday afternoon of the previous entry, where I was noshing bacon sandwich (or Vyvyan’s Pet Ferret, as us nerds like to call them) and thinking about gigs.

I did pack up about 2.30, passed a Chinaman on his way to the dentist, and hauled my ass Gymwards. Unpacked denims and satchels and laptops into one of the few un-buckled and un-dented flimsy tin lockers and clambered aboard a rowing machine.

Ooooooh I do like a rowing machine. Don’t know why. I think because it’s “sitting down” which of course is always a plus. But also the little stick man, icon, Keep Britain Tidy silhouette figurine drawn on the peeling stickers that these machines have, does seem to have every part of him “light up” so to speak, as the diagram illustrates the “rowing manoeuvre.” Which implies an “all body” work out. Which I like. Because going off to different machines for every different muscle group is a massive pain in the ass.

So 15 sweaty minutes on that, another 15mins on an inclined treadmill, back on the rower and then back on the treadmill gives me a solid dripping 60mins of light muscle and cardio. Especially with my now patented “do dumbbell weight lifts while on the treadmill” technique which sees me pounding away on a speed walk while lifting and crunching the 3kgs in each hand. Tremendous.

Am not quite through my 2 litres today. Prob about half a litre to go. So, in contravention of all that is fit, I have pulled out the laptop at a little table in the gym and am now trundling away on this machine instead.

I have about 30mins before I can head back and this will work out perfectly with Claire finishing up her course. Splendid.

Being an attention deficitted addle brained twit head, I cannot possibly JUST do exercise. (In the same way I cannot just type this. Somekind of soundtrack is required in the old lugholes).

Exercise MUST be accompanied by some kind of mental stimulant. I like an audio book, I like a podcast, I like a Radio 4 show, I like a bit of Rocky-style gym-pumping brassy orchestra. And today I like Allen Carr’s book on Quitting Smoking.

I smoke too much. And I quit too much too. I know that sounds stupid. But I take on things like tobacco and alcohol with such drive and commitment (lagers, bitters, shots, whiskies, chasers etc) while sporting a silver cigarillo case and a shiny Zippo that I almost give the same level of passion to quitting. If you could buy a silver “non cigarette case” to carry empty all the cigarettes you aren’t going to smoke in, I would have one in my tuxedo at all times.

In other words dear reader, when I smoke I smoke a lot. And when I quit I quit with gusto. Same with booze. All or nothing. No half measures. Why have 3 pints when you can have 6? Why have 2 cigarettes when you can have 20? And so on and so on blah blah excuses excuses. Tedious.

But once in a while (usually with a very good reason. Relationship/health/finance etc) I decide to jack in the weed. And you join me today on one of these kicks. I hope it will be the last kick. And this is the one that proves to be the turnaround. I am confident it will. (No point trying otherwise). But then have been confident EVERY TIME I have binned the Camels and cleared the neon Bics from the kitchen drawers.

Why now?

Well, we said that 6 weeks ago when we started all this. Why now quit smoking? Why now start the Pub Quiz again? Why now embark on a return to Stand-Up? For fucks’s sake, why now to throw myself at a fucking rowing machine? Oh dear reader. Why now?

Well let’s think about it. Honestly.

Firstly, I’m tired and bored. There, I said it. If I thought that my life was nothing more than call-centre training, Friday drinks, a hacking morning-cough, stinky clothes, Netflix, dinners with Claire and feeding the cat…well I don’t know. It’s been that for a while. I mean, I suppose technically it’s been that for years. I’ve tried to mix it up and get “another thing.” My Jeff Goldblum YouTube Animations got me excited for a while. Until I think, I proved I could make them. Thus making “more of them” somewhat a pointless exercise, if my only reason for their creation was showing it was possible.

Picture asking Roger Bannister if – now he’s run the mile in under 4 mins – he fancies doing it again. “Fuck off,” Roger might say. I did it. It’s done. As am I. Next is a 3 minute mile, and that ain’t doable. I’m off for a fag.” Why do it twice?

“Why do it twice?”, is something of my motto in life. And a fucking crap motto it is too. Achieving as it does, single one-off freaky achievements, mostly flukes and luck, that get discarded. This MUST be evidence of a “proof” thing. Doing whatever to “show the world” I can do it. And then, promptly stopping doing it, as the point has been made to whichever ghostly figure I am trying to impress. School friends? Peers? Family? Jesus? Rowan Atkinson? I don’t fucking know.

So if you ever want to be bored poo-less by someone chirping up “er…yeah, I did that once actually…” then invite me over for dinner. I’ll try not to smoke between courses.

So what’s all this navel gazing achieving then? Well I’m still not sure. But I’m finding out. Perhaps it’s an idea that, as I approach my 49th birthday, (49 days and counting – how pleasing) I am facing some kind of Last Chance Saloon. A decade too late one could say…

“At our age? Where you are…you are…” CITY SLICKERS

Ahh Babaloo Mandel and Loel Gantz. What a couple of Jews. An excellent midlife crisis script. But that line has stayed with me for years. And I mean YEARS. I think Darren and I saw City Slickers on VHS at his flat in Kenton back in 1992. We were going through our Billy Crystal/Jeff Goldblum/Northern Exposure period. When Harry Met Sally and Throw Momma From The Train were high points. “Father’s Day” wasn’t. Nor was that piece of crap improv’ shilling he did with Robin Williams in that Friends episode “The One With The Ultimate Fighting Champion.” Christ that’s painful.

But “where you are, you are,” is a depressing maxim. I’ll talk about it more soon. What it means. And what it doesn’t mean. And why it might explain how I come to be typing this on a laptop in a gymnasium with a “self-help” guru on the headphones while I practise stand-up comedy, 49 days before my 49th birthday.

Heigh ho.

Back soon. Burgers and Bond tonight.