Monday, 30 January 2017

Pain, Nitrogen, and the shops.

From Ascension Island. Do you think their stamps only feature things that ascend? 

Hello, Earth! You have seven days left to hear the glorious, hilarious, moving, peculiar joy that is Time Spanner, by Simon Kane. Plan those days wisely, because you'll want to hear it at least twice. Simon has done many marvellous things, but readers of this blog may know him best from Double Acts (playing Luke in The Goliath Window) and Souvenir Programme (playing The Train Manager, Mr Hyde, Quasimodo, Thomas The Tank Engine, Prof. Daniel Fahrenheit, First Tentacled Creature, Lt-Gen Sir Hugo Hushhh, Rob, Sam, Ed, Ben, Sam, Joe, Rob, Rob, Sam, The Black And White Stripy Jumper I've Had Since School, and the Sun. Among others.)

Anyway, this is the first episode of - paws crossed - the first series of Time Spanner; and it is beautiful and wonderful and bonkers... except it's not bonkers, not really, that's just something people say about things like this, when what they (I) mean is that the author has an imagination, and isn't afraid to use it. I'm in it, playing a dead dog like normal, as are David Mitchell, London Hughes, Belinda Stewart-Wilson and Jeremy Limb.

Simon's been working on it, in one form or another, for at least ten years; and it's been such a pleasure and an education to watch him refine it from a dazzling explosion of ideas and jokes and characters and umbrella-headed monks to this intricate, beautifully plotted half hour with a love story at its heart - without losing any of the wild creativity, great jokes, and frequent poetry that made it so exciting from the start. Truly, a watch made of swans.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Quick stop at the ego massage parlour...

I had rather a strange- but lovely- day yesterday, in which first this happened:

...and then later on, this happened:

Yes, I have henchmen now...

So, thank you very much to the British Comedy Guide (and to you, if you voted for us!) and to the Writers' Guild. And of course to Ed, Lawry, Margaret, Carrie and Simon for Souvenir Programme; and to David Tyler, Rebecca Front and Beth Mullen for Double Acts.

 Now, off to buy some new hats. All mine have suddenly got too small.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Souvenir Programme, Series Six, Episode Three

Possibly should have mentioned this before, but Souvenir Programme is back! It's going out at 6:30 on Tuesdays. The first three episodes are available here, and the next three will go up there too in due course.

Random thoughts on today's episode:

The Pachelbel sketches (One Hit Wonder and Loose Canon. I still give sketches names, even though only Ed and the cast ever see them) were written for Radio Three's anniversary last year, on the condition I was allowed to re-record them and use them in my show too. Susannah Pearse arranged and played the canon, of course, while I sat next to her, miming, and at one point helpfully knocking the music off the stand, as she played, live, on Radio Three... (For non-Brits: Radio Three is the big serious classical music station.)

I do genuinely own all those shirts, and that jumper I bought in the sixth form, which as one of the cast kindly pointed out to me means that it is older now than I was when I bought it. The pineapples on the pineapple shirt are subtler than the ones you're probably imagining.

The first policeman sketch was inspired by Line of Duty, which is why I asked Simon to do a Northern Irish accent, in honour of Adrian Dunbar.

Apparently, the reason we can get away with saying Coca-Cola is made of dissolved children's teeth is that, to prove it was defamatory, they would have to a) argue that a reasonable person might think it is, and b) reveal their secret recipe to prove it's not!

The parrots sketch came out of Silly Voices Day*, and was Lawry's idea. The Save the Children sketch last week did too - that one was inspired by a perfectly nice woman one of the cast once worked with, who had a witch-y voice. I want to say which member of cast, but perhaps I shouldn't, just in case...
(Just in case the woman somehow reads this and is offended, I mean. Not just in case she actually is a witch.)

Ol' Vine Leaves, Baggy Grey, and Pineapples. See? Subtle. 

*It occurs to me this could probably stand some elaboration. Every series we have a Silly Voices session about half way through the writing process, where Ed, the cast, and I get together, and I pitch half-formed sketches which I don't yet know how to make work; and also quite literally get everyone to do silly voices in case that inspires something, which it often does. Other sketches that began at Silly Voice Days include: Basking Sharks, Kirates, the family reunion one with everyone being older than the person before, the slow-talking emergency briefing one, and many more.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Dry Spell

The national football team of Niue has never scored a goal.

Niue is a small island nation in the South Pacific, with a population of 1,600. And their national football team has in fact only played two matches in its history - both in the 1983 South Pacific Games. It's not as if goals weren't scored in those matches, however. Niue lost 14 nil to Tahiti, and 19 nil to Papua New Guinea.

At this point you may be thinking, well, so what? It's a tiny nation with the population of a village. Of course their sports teams are going to get thrashed by far, far bigger countries like Tahiti or Papua New Guinea...

In May 2015, the national Rugby League team of Niue played South Africa. They won 48 - 4.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Three poets who did not want to go to a party.

Vers de Society (Opening Lines)
Philip Larkin

My wife and I have asked a crowd of craps
To come and waste their time and ours; perhaps
You'd care to join us? In a pig's arse, friend.

Wishes of an Elderly Man, Wished at a Garden Party, June 1914
Walter Alexander Raleigh

I wish I loved the human race;
I wish I loved its silly face;
I wish I liked the way it walks;
I wish I liked the way it talks;
And when I'm introduced to one
I wish I thought "What jolly fun!"

On Mundane Acquaintances
Hilaire Belloc

Good morning, Algernon: Good morning, Percy.
Good morning, Mrs. Roebeck. Christ have mercy!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

All that glisters is not gold.

At the end of the nineteenth century, a rich gold strike near the Mexican town of Tlalpujahua meant that for a few years in the early twentieth century, it was the largest producer of gold in the world. The mine was a huge industry, and the population grew to a quarter of a million. Then, in 1937, a major landslide buried the mine, and much of the town. The mine closed, and the townspeople were forced to go elsewhere in search of work. Within ten years, the population was under a thousand.

One of the men who left was Joquaín Muñoz Orta, who in the fifties ended up in Chicago, working in a factory making artificial Christmas trees. When he returned to Mexico, he set up a workshop making first trees, and then baubles to go with them. The baubles were far more popular, and the workshop grew into a factory... which is now the fifth largest producer of baubles in the world. There is also a second bauble factory in the town, as well as over a hundred small family workshops. The population of Tlapujahua is now back up to about a quarter of a million... and around 70% of the town's economy comes from bauble-making.

I just thought that was nice. Happy New Year.