Don Moses Comedy & Magic Blog - A light hearted look at life, comedy and magic.

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December 30th, 2007

Revisited part 2 more clips

It is that time in between Christmas and New Year when I should be wasting my time watching the telly.  But no, not me, I spend my time pretending to write new material for my stage act, while really surfing youtube clips to colour my blog, who is the loser now? (its rhetorical, thank you) .

August revisited with youtube clips – part 2

 Well, did you watch “Barry Ryan – Eloise” on “youtube”? And do you think the cape will ever come back as a fashion item? Everything these days is retro, so why not? I reckon, that if they found the video of the cape wearing Elvis, and released that video along with the Eloise video, then people would start wearing capes. Who knows, it may even encourage people to ride horses while wearing their capes; that has got to be good for the environment.

It is strange that nowadays if someone doesn’t understand my “seasoned with age” thoughts, I can simply show them exactly what I am talking about by using the internet. What I mean is, years ago, we used to pass on knowledge to the next generation by sitting them down and telling them about the past. This worked, mainly because the children had attention spans, and did not have Wii to distract them. However, today, if somebody hasn’t your vision of a particular memory, you can implant it into their brain in a “Tom Cruise Minority Report” kind of way, simply by saying “click here” on youtube to see what I used to watch when I was a kid. So now we have the ability to bring everyone upto speed, making sure the next generation’s heads, are as full as mine with useless information: you can’t tell me that isn’t progress.

Oh, I will remember anything, really, facts like, in 1977 there were 450 Elvis impersonators in the world, in the year 2007 there are over 200,000 of them and if this trend continues by the year 2057 one in four of us will be an Elvis tribute (I strongly advise buying shares in cape manufacturing firms).

Talking again of Elvis, the question“which Elvis did you like?” is almost as perennial as the James Bond preference one. There was of course the holiday camp blazered Elvis (only shown above the waist) or the very pretty, all black leathered, Elvis – which after Sharleen Spiteri did that video, is just too confusing to watch. No, in my opinion, it has to be the “pork chop” side burned, towel wiping, karate inspired 70’s Elvis. I mean, what could be more manly than a white sequinned jump suit – no sexual ambiguity confusion there surely?

It is coming up to exactly 30 years since Elvis died at the (kind to his memory) age of 42. 95% * of Elvis’ appeal has to be his, looking like, he was really enjoying himself entertaining those people. Charisma is impossible to break down – it is all the little things added up I suppose; the way he joked with the band, his eyes disappearing when he smiled etc (I am not gay by the way).

There are plenty of people (and comedians) who have made “ageist” fun of the fact that they would not like to see Elvis at 72. But to me, it should never be about age. No, it is about the performer still wanting to do it; and that life force can transcends age. Ok, he might have to pass the microphone over to his younger backing singer to hit that difficult final note, but as long as he was enjoying himself and he was throwing in a few karate moves, we’d all be happy wouldn’t we? I could be wrong of course.

*arbitrary percentage made up on the spot

December 30th, 2007

Revisited (youtube links)

I have just been contacted by a friend, who wanted to show another friend a blog I had written in the summer.  This particular blog had mentions of youtube clips but I had not added links.  Anyway, I found the blog he was talking about, and decided to add the links to youtube in order to show younger readers what the past was really like.  So, think of this blog as a repeat with extra editor’s material, a bit like Bladerunner – the director’s cut.

Anyway, here is the original with the youtube links added – hope you enjoy it.

August 2007 Revisited with youtube links.

I was working the other night on the same bill as a band: one member of this band had been responsible for that “dance remix”, of the 1977 song “Thunder in my heart”, that was so popular last year. I told him I loved that record (leaving it up to him to decide whether I actually liked his little version or the original masterpiece by the great Leo Sayer).  Most of these recordings where “they” lazily choose a classic song and then, talk over the top of it, are, how can I say this? – Oh yes, shit.  I mean, my dad used to talk over “Top of the Pops” when I was trying to record it with my microphone and spool to spool, but I never thought “I must release this as a single”.

Anyway it turns out he was a very nice guy and not just because he really enjoyed my performance.  We talked in the one changing room (to be used by both sexes, it did have a sink, mirror and seat so I wasn’t complaining).  As we were ushered out of this laughable green room by the female member of the band wanting to get changed (yes, we could have just looked the other way, that is what I thought) we talked about music.  I told him of my love of the classics from the 1960’s and 70’s: for example: Neil Diamond, Glen Campbell and Barbara Streisand (oh yes, I was bullied).

I told him I also love records which have great introductions, for example, “Thunder in my heart” (he was probably still undecided which version I meant).  Yes, I love a song which starts with a massive, completely over the top, intro and then, actually has the audacity to deliver.  Records like the “Rocky theme (Gonna fly now) and *Eloise by Barry Ryan (and to a lesser extent) Macarthur Park, open brackets, someone left the cake out in the rain, close brackets (it is actually just, “Macarthur Park” but I know you like doing a Jimmy Saville impression).  And talking of impressions, don’t even get me started on the fantastic “The wonder of you” by Elvis.

Imagine being out in the fresh air, running up concrete steps with the backdrop of an industrial wasteland, listening to the Rocky theme or Eloise by Barry Ryan (there is a slow bit in the middle – perfect for getting your breath back, if you are not that fit).  Although, I wouldn’t recommend Macarthur Park, as you would probably just sit on the steps sobbing.
I can’t wait for Channel Four to make another one of those “talking head” shows (that is the industry name for that genre of programme).  It would have to be titled something like “The Top 100 “over the top” records which make you either cry or feel ridiculously optimistic”.  I will probably get asked to say something witty like “if only Richard Harris had an A4 folder to keep his recipes in, he could have made the cake again” or maybe not.
Now you will have to forgive me, I am off to buy some new trainers.

*“Barry Ryan – Eloise”, tell me how that is the best record you have ever heard.  The video doesn’t even need the Peter Kay treatment.  It is all there already, the Austin Powers’ hair and shirt – hellfire, he even has a horse and a cape.

Also to see Elvis do his karate moves, click here Elvis

December 29th, 2007

London Magician, London Comedian or Newcastle Comedy Magician?

Ok, I will be frank with you, this is not really a blog entry, it is in fact a list of FAQs about bookings – hopefully the next blog, my first of 2008 will be a cracker – however, until then, you may want to skip this one, unless you are thinking of booking me some time soon, if that is the case this blog may be informative and useful for you.

So here goes, because I am playing more and more varied performances (e.g. stage comedy and close up magic), I thought it may be useful for potential clients to know what conditions will make their function a great success.  So, here is a list of questions I am frequently asked.

FAQ1:  What do I need to provide for Don, if I book him for a close up magic performance?
The short answer is, very little. 
The slightly longer answer is, just a set up area (i.e. somewhere to leave his case, away from the guests) and an orange juice is generally enough.  Hotel accommodation and food may be required depending on the location of the function.

FAQ2: So, what do I need to organise for Don to perform on stage to over 100 guests? 

Well, ideally the following would make the gig a great success:

A raised up platform or stage with really good sightlines.  So, watch out for those over elaborate table centre pieces or pillars which can restrict viewing.
Make sure the catering staff are informed, Don will be performing just after the coffees & brandies are served – hopefully the wait staff could also be informed to wait until Don finishes his performance, before finishing the clearing up.

For all the guests to enjoy the show, the P.A. system should be industry standard, such as Shure equipment.  Don can work with any mike with a long lead, however, a radio mike, either a lapel or an “over the cheek” type, would be excellent.  A DJ’s mike or the hotel’s mike is not good in a room with over 150 guests and should not be used.

The stage area should have good front lighting, and if possible, a spot light to follow the action on stage.

There should also be a method of playing Don’s “intro and exit” stage music (ipod).

If Don is performing to over 200 guests, a live video feed of the performance is required.  This is so the guests at the back of the room can see the large video screens of the action on the stage.

Hotel room and expenses would be appreciated – unless Don has already informed you that his price includes these costs.
FAQ3: is Don insured? – Yes, through Equity’s Public Liability insurance
for 5 million pounds.

FAQ4: How do I book Don for a function?
The best way is to telephone Don, so you can work out the details and decide what would be the best for your function.  Or, there is a contact page on http://www.donmoses.co.uk/contact_magician_uk.htm  and a form to fill out if you prefer to do that, but why would you, when you could be having a lovely chat with Don instead.

Normal blogs will resume soon.

December 14th, 2007

I am a Darwinist

I believe we came out of the sea.
Yes, I have just picked up the newspaper to see John Darwin, the Hartlepool / Panama resident (very strong arms) is still news.  People are already saying his life is in ruins.  No, not at all, this is England, a place, were doing something wrong is the best publicity in the world.  The general public are such idiots and will always buy newspapers and lap up such stories, just like I am doing now.  No, in my opinion, he has come back to England because he has spent the insurance money and is now trying to cash in on the lucrative corporate after dinner entertainment circuit, stealing the work from honest comedy magicians.  Well, I can tell you Mister Darwin it is “survival of the fittest” out there.  Ok, that is quite enough tenuous word play on his name.  It is a strange case though isn’t it?  I wonder why he did it.  Was the thought of living in Hartlepool for the rest of his life too much for him?  Where did he get the idea from?  I suppose we will never know.  I wonder if just writing a blog now I could solve this riddle.

Anyway, it is first thing in the morning – when I say first thing, I mean 9:15 a.m. obviously.  I am staying over in the hotel in which I will be performing tonight, so I have the whole day to myself, and therefore should be able to manage to write at least one blog entry, surely?

It’s a crisp day; cold but the air is still, and so perfect for my new fitness programme.  After a great breakfast (very good hotels rarely mess up on breakfast) I will work on my stand up comedy script for a company dinner at the weekend, then I will go for a walk, followed by a swim and steam at the Hotel’s Leisure Club, then prepare for this evening’s gig.  What could possibly go wrong with that plan? – hold on a minute “to buy or not to buy” is on the telly.

OK, now I am now running late, so I will go for the walk first, to see if I can observe anything on my travels which will switch my brain into comedic mode; so that when I get back I can go straight into my script for Saturday’s gig.  Now that’s a plan.

The hotel is called the confusing name of the Slough / Windsor Marriott.  It is a strange name for a hotel – I am guessing it is actually in Slough, but the hotel wanted to jazz up the title by adding the Windsor bit, so making it less Ricky Gervais’ office and more somewhere the Queen would stay. 

Anyway, outside the hotel I find myself strangely in a place called Langley.  Now, I have always thought that Eastenders was rubbish and not at all reflective of live in the Capital.  I am not wrong, it is rubbish, but Langley does have a plethora of small shops and greasy cafes (much like Eastenders) where people seem to know each other and speak Cock in knee (yes, that is how you spell it, and the spell check agrees – so shut it you slag!– sorry, just the thought of Eastenders does that to me). 

Visiting and walking around the various parts of the UK, I often wonder why some shops thrive and others don’t; I guess it is really to do with the proximity of their nearest Supermarket.  In the North of England, because there is more land we have lots of Supermarkets, and therefore our small village shops are very “hitty missy” with virtually no cafes and yet many charity shops.  There is always that strange incongruent mix of shops too (a bit like the shoe repair shops that also cut keys).  Today, I saw a bookies’ shop which was right next door to a firm of divorce lawyers, which makes sense I suppose, and not as strange as that life insurance and canoe shop I saw in Hartlepool.  Hey wait a minute…..

December 8th, 2007

Donny Vegas

I am writing this blog travelling back on the train from London in early December, where I performed at a lavish corporate function for a Russian Gas pipeline company and its’ international directors.  More about that party in a later blog, however, I thought I’d let you know about my time in the States, particularly Las Vegas.

I have been many times to Las Vegas, but never to gamble; my theory being, great hotels surely wouldn’t get built if people were actually winning.  No, I go for the shows, the restaurants, and the sun by the pool during the day.  Sounds great and it is, although I have never chanced more than four days in a row, just in case I get tempted.

Being at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival, I found the time to see Jerry Seinfeld at the Colosseum.  As I am a massive Seinfeld fan I was really pleased to see this American icon; he did not disappoint.  I loved the fact he could make me laugh without swearing.  Strangely enough, I also saw Chris Rock, who made me laugh by swearing all the time; this shows there are no rules for comedy; if it is funny it is funny.

What really surprised me was Chris Rock’s show shouldn’t have worked.  Men are different from women – really?  Black people are different from white – well it is not 1960 but ok then, I believe you.  Airline problems – that can’t be new stuff?  In a UK comedy club that set list would have sounded like a mundane show, but Chris Rock’s show was excellent and all done on attitude.  The swearing was also needed to sell his attitude, and the F word peppered nearly every sentence of his hour long show and yet still we laughed like drains.  Chris Rock has the ability to talk about such topics with such confidence that we go with him, but he will always add a clever slant to the topic, which stops it being a rant anyone could have done.  I think this fact alone singles him out as a great writer and performer.

While in Vegas I thought I would see David Copperfield.  Now I know a lot of magicians read this blog, so let me start with the positives.  The illusions in the show were great and the audience reaction was subdued amazement – so they clearly had no idea how the effects were done.  Again, only for magicians: I liked the way the audience were randomly picked when it did not matter and, it “appeared they were randomly picked” when it did matter.
OK, now the negatives – boy, did he look bored by it all, as he walked through his illusions, not helped (or even hindered) by his low energy delivery.  His humour was lacking in comedic timing and in my opinion bordering on seedy.  His hair was unnatural and Uri Geller black; having said all that, it was still an impressive show, although for his age he would have been better in a great suit instead of his white T shirt and open Ben Sherman shirt.  Magic this classy deserves all the trimmings not a bloke who looks like he is on a stag night in Blackpool.

December 7th, 2007

“Run Forrest Run……..”

Ok, I agree, that was a bit of a holiday from the blog.  So, thank you to all the people who said they were looking forward to the blog starting up again.
I think I mentioned in the last blog (let’s face it, you have had plenty of time to read that one) that men were very bad at multi-tasking;. Well, since that last blog, I have added the extra task of attempting to get fit, to my list.  Run, cycle, swim, you name it, I fought against nature and did them all.  Of course something had to give, and it was, unfortunately, my well intentioned daily blog writing.  So for the last two months I have eaten sensibly and exercised everyday, instead of writing the blog.  

Anyway, the blog is back, spurred on by your requests to start it up again, but mainly due to the fact that filming is over. So, my healthy lifestyle has ground to a halt, thus freeing up some spare time.  It is a shame I can’t keep fit and write a blog, and that is why I have thought up a plan to achieve both.

My plan is simple- I will get as much exercise naturally, by making the exercise part of my day to day life, so that I will still have time to write a blog.  For example, if I am going into town for a meeting or gig I will get off the underground three stops before, and walk.  What could possibly go wrong with that plan?  Bad weather – no problem, no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.  Running late – no problem – gig time 9pm, pretend it is 7pm.  Too much to carry – hire a donkey.

I was in New York in November and really got into the walking. Staying in Midtown Manhattan meant I was perfectly positioned  for walking everywhere.  One day I walked almost the length of Manhattan – I was up by Central Park and I went to see my good friend Bruce Nichol who works in the Tribeca area of lower Manhattan .  New York must be the best city in the world for walking; so much to see, and not just the models coming out of the agencies on Madison Avenue.

I felt like Forrest Gump when he just kept on running for no reason.  The very next day I was walking everywhere, choosing routes to challenge myself, taking the long way round to get to that evening’s comedy club.  I obviously got taxis back from the comedy clubs, as I am not an idiot (and I have seen the film “Ghost”- although to be fair, you will recall the “Swayze killing” wasn’t the random killing it appeared to be).

Walking everywhere is great – I don’t know why I haven’t thought of it before.  Anyway, I will let you know how I get on.  However, if the blogs tend to be very long and/or very good you will know it is probably not working and my podgy fingers are bashing away on the keyboard.

November 16th, 2007

The perfect gig

Has anything ever gone wrong when you are on stage at a large corporate event?

That is a very good FAQ.  The answer of course should be never.  Why? Because I check everything, always more than twice, and then slightly less than the worst ever recorded case of OCD.  And also, because I try to arrange the conditions in the room, well before I get to the gig – so what could possibly go wrong?

Well, I will tell you.

1. Bad sound equipment with electrical feedback so bad it sounds like your gig is being hijacked by dolphins.
2. The radio lapel (or “over your cheek”) mike you ordered is not there, or if it is there, no one knows how to set it up in the system.
3. The sound engineer doesn’t turn up, and a good natured hotel staff member says, “I’ll have a go – how difficult can it be?”
4. Corporate dinners mean large circular tables; which also means 50% of the audience have their backs to the stage, which is fine and I can work with that, as at the end of the dinner, the chairs can be turned to face the stage.  However, then you are told everything is running late and the organiser says: “Could you perform during the meal?”? Yes, of course, shall I start the show with “Hi, my name is Don Moses – now if all of the 150 people with their backs to me, yes! you! could you pick up your Gordon Ramsey Plates, swivel around in your seat and place the plate on your knees. That’s right, TV dinner style that would be perfect?”  It is not going to happen.

Sarcasm aside, I pride myself on being a meticulous planner and a relaxed performer.  I really do want the whole show to look easy.  The expression in magic is, like “a swan on a lake”.  It should look easy going and effortless on the surface, but beneath, everything is going crazy.  Well some gigs, because of the obstacles presented, can make the swan a little bit flustered.

I have actually worked with big named TV comedians (I have been doing the close up magic at the tables earlier in the evening and then stopped to watch the end of dinner entertainment) who have died on their showbiz bottoms simply because of the layout of the room.  I have also seen true professionals (mainly excellent stand up comedians who are gigging 300 times a year) battle on against all these adverse conditions, as if racing against the clock in a Buckaroo game, and then just getting off the stage before the collapse.  You have got to admire that.

I can tell you that most entertainers are in the business because we love performing and we want the audience to have a great time.  Sure, we get paid a fortune for corporate gigs, but if we had the choice of a well paid bad gig or a fantastic gig for less money, would we choose the lesser paid fantastic gig?  Yes, you bet we would.

October 5th, 2007

Aditloa Corporate Entertainer

Aditloa Corporate Entertainer – Guesses anyone?  No? It is A Day in the Life of a Corporate Entertainer.  Sounds much better than “competes with background noise on PA systems (of varying quality) around the country” doesn’t it?  The PA system may not seem important, but believe me, it is everything.  I have seen top TV comedians at corporate gigs die on their showbiz bottoms due to a very bad PA system.  I have also seen inexperienced comedians do really well on a fantastic (clear as a bell) PA system. 

Don’t even get me started on sight lines for my set of comedy and magic.  My magic in the very best rooms can be seen clearly from a distance by an audience of 200 or more.  If they have the “real time” video screens playing, then sight lines are not a problem – however, if they don’t have the video screens my advice would be stick with the comedy.  If they have bad sight lines, no big screens and only a train station loud hailer, ask if you can just do walk around close up magic (or the dishes).

That is why I always like to arrive in the afternoon to check on my performing area.  If the check-in time at the hotel is 2pm well I am there at 1:59pm asking for 5 small soaps to weld together as I am thinking of taking a bath.  After lunch and pathetic inappropriate flirting with the Eastern European waitresses I have to work on my notes for the gig.  This is very important for two reasons 1. It keeps me on my toes. And 2.  And far more importantly, it makes the guests feel included and special.  The secret is to make this part look effortless, as if you have just thought it up on the spot.  I am stopping there – I am telling you too much.

I would love to mislead you by saying I am given a green room to relax in just before the show.  The truth is I have to ask, which leads me on to “Top Tip for performers playing at corporate functions in 5 star hotels”.  Ask the manager if he can open up the boardroom which is closest to your performing area.  It is important to say boardroom as the manager is now thinking you need space (you do by the way, to spread out notes, props and to eat the sandwiches you will also ask him to send to the boardroom at a convenient time).  Oh and water or orange juice – no alcohol (unless you are Johnny Vegas).  I am serious about the alcohol – at best you will trip over a punch line (never good) and at worst, set fire to someone.

People often ask me what happens if you come up with an idea for a great piece of comedy material and you are driving.  Well I can tell you my friend that is an awkward one – firstly there is no where for your mouse, hold on a minute
Roundabout

September 15th, 2007

Heroes

Here is a weird thing.  I am not able to lift anything heavy – I will spare you the manly joke which usually follows that set up line – you know the one?  Sure you do.  It is the one which implies the very opposite of why men buy sports cars.  I have a sports car, so it is not a very realistic joke coming from me anyway.  Look I am not explaining ,ok?  So anyway, I can’t even lift the kettle and I should really be resting.  Perfect you would think?  This will be an ideal time for me to keep up to date with my blog.  But no.  I don’t know how this has happened, but I seem to have slipped behind with my daily writing target*

There is that expression, which states: “if you want something doing, give the task to a busy man because the man of leisure has no time”.  I am annoyed with this adage, and not just because it seems a little sexist.  I am annoyed because, even though I know this saying, and therefore should be able to fight  against it, I seem to have fallen in to its’ trap.  Not to mention, the saying which goes: “a job will always expand to fill the time available for it”.  Since there are at least two sayings warning  us of the dangers of thinking we have loads of time to do stuff and then doing sod all, does make me think it is only human nature to kick back when we get the chance.  So I should not be too hard on myself and I am recovering, but hell, I have been lazy this week.

This is how lazy I was the other day, I was wanting to listen to fellow comedian, Mark Watson’s Radio 4 show, which strangely enough was about the deadly sin of sloth, and I could not even be bothered to switch on the radio.  The only thing I have seen on DVD has been all the back episodes of “Heroes”, which I never thought I would get around to viewing, well, without using my superpower of reversing time to watch them all.

I know what I should have done of course, and that is, to focus on one thing at a time – this should be easy as I am a man and therefore can’t multi-task.  I do love it that the TV programmes think that men can multitask.  Let me tell you, Sky Sports News, if you are expecting me to do the maths on Sunderland’s relegation chances, I will be requiring the ugly newsreader.  And what is the point of the “stock market type” news running along the bottom of the screen.  It isn’t even breaking news; you might as well have the captions – Jose pretends to be a tramp and beats up Fergie, or these breasts are magnificent aren’t they – yes they are real.

What was I talking about?

*Although I am certain my very good start in July, to the blog writing, will be keeping my average at over 500 words ever day.
 

September 11th, 2007

Pain threshold

I did not sleep very much last night, as I had my hernia operation yesterday.

By the way, the more observant of you will have noticed that I have missed a week of blogs.  Well, I feel I am doing so well with these blogs* that I have decided to take a week off.  We self employed answer to no one (well, obviously the tax man).

Anyway, last week I was enjoying the Indian summer, and I had made a late bid at getting fit for the operation, by swimming three mornings in a row.  I was also doing as many shows as I could, in preparation of my (hopefully short) layoff, due to the operation.  I have passed the jobs I would normally have been doing, on to colleagues, who will reciprocate later in the year when I am fit (a gentle reminder there).   You see, life doesn’t have to be cut throat.

Talking of cuts, I don’t want to be one of those people who talk about their operation.  However, I will say, it seems to have gone well.  Although, I am in agony today just writing this blog – but then again, I am a man, and so my pain threshold is ludicrously low. 

I would also like to say, that the surgeon was very reassuring.  Before the operation he explained everything so well, and I was filled with confidence, that he would be meticulous enough, not to leave anything inside of me after clipping up (they don’t use stitches these days).  He must have been very good, because after the explanation, he returned to my ward to pick up the pen he had been using for the paperwork – and I still had faith in him.

The pre-operation nurses were also brilliant.  Customer relations must be at its’ very best for people who are about to go in for surgery.  I was not disappointed; the ladies were very upbeat, and again put me at ease.  I love to see people really enjoying their jobs. 

All systems seemed to be in place and they were very thorough with the form filling.  When I was asked which religion, I resisted saying “All of them, I don’t want to be caught out on a technicality”.  I treat hospital questions the same way as I treat airline security questions, seriously.

I had a general anaesthetic** for the operation.  Two hours later, I returned to the ward talking gibberish (the effects of the anaesthetic I guess) and feeling as if I had been stabbed in the abdominals (which I guess I had). 

Surgeons are like Super-Heroes who turn up, solve the problem, and leave unnoticed.  It takes years to train to be a surgeon and I like the thought of that.  It is a bit different from a stand up comedian, who even on his first time on stage, is introduced as a funny comedian.

Anyway, he did not strike me as the type who just wandered in and said, “Any one could do this, give me that knifey thing”.

*I am writing nearly 700 words per day – I had promised 500 per day, so, by my maths, I am about 9 to 10 blogs ahead, and so still on target for 182,500 words in the year – that is 500 per day for 365 days.

**I decided not to try the being awake self hypnosis – I suppose I could have checked that the surgeon was performing the operation and wasn’t just doing the old Penn and Teller Psychic surgery trick.  Only a magician would think this way.

September 3rd, 2007

September Morn

It is Monday morning 8:53 a.m.  Last night I did not wear the airline blackout mask, and yet I didn’t get woken up at 6 a.m.  Usually, the gap down the side of the blinds and the sunlight combine to produce a laser beam effect which ends up on my retinas with sniper accuracy.  Since this did not happen, it must be cloudy, or because summer is nearly over, the position of the earth in relation to the sun has changed.

Yes, we are heading for autumn, which means my subconscious mind has reminded my conscious mind that I used to teach in schools and colleges.  The start of September means that the children will soon be back at school.  It would be good for the kids to go back to school, so as our (world renowned and enviably low) murder rate can return to normal – and yes, I am still blaming the overrunning Big Brother series.

People (and other teachers) often say, teaching is a great job, which it is.  But then they follow up by saying, no two days are ever the same – yes they are, nearly all of them in fact.  Well, that is how it appeared to me as I was leaving teaching all those years ago.  Don’t get me wrong, teaching is a wonderful profession and I have taught in the very best and the worst of places.  The best were a real joy, the worst, the equivalent of self harm. 

It would be easy to say I left teaching because of the above; however, it is simply not true.  The truth was, I had always wanted to write and perform comedy.  I’ll rephrase that, I was driven to write and perform comedy; I say driven because it felt as if I had no control over it.  The only problem being, when, was I was going to get my arse into gear and do it? 

For years, I had admired comedians who could walk out on stage, grab the microphone out of the stand, and then perform for an hour; however, it was only when I read an article by Jerry Seinfeld, that I realised the time was right for me to take the first step towards that goal.  It was a particular paragraph in this article which made me immediately book myself an “open mike” spot at a local comedy club.

Anyway, here is the part of the article, which got my arse into gear and started my new career.  So, without building it up too much, here is my moment of epiphany.  Oh yes, that is not too much build up Don.

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking, Number two is death.  Death is number two.  Does that seem right?  That means the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the coffin than doing the eulogy” *.

I am not sure why this article acted as my fillip for action, but it did. 
They do say, you should always be preparing for your next job while you are still at your present job.  And that is exactly what I did.  I started writing comedy immediately, stopping only occasionally to look up and set homework for the pupils**.
*I am certain, judging by the comedic sentence structure, that this bit of the article was also a part of Jerry Seinfeld’s comedy set from the early 1990’s. 
** I felt the need to shoe horn in that last joke, as I have realised that when I talk about comedy it can get a bit serious.  Yes, it is a joke, I was very professional at college.

September 2nd, 2007

London’s World’s End

I hope you enjoyed Rob, our decorator, standing in for me yesterday.  That is right, he is a nice bloke.  I haven’t read his blog entry yet; I hope he didn’t just bang on about my poor sanding techniques, or the fact that the “spell check” keeps second guessing him.

Well, it is Sunday morning and the house looks fresh* unlike me.  I was using trains and taxis as my method of transport last night, so by law, had to have a drink.  Yes, after the gig, not before; see my blog on dangers of this.

I met up with my wife and friends and only had a few drinks (not several, I can’t be more specific than that surely); so must be a bit out of practise.  I used to over indulge, however, nowadays I am a real born again sober** and sanctimoniously frown on you heavy drinkers.  I think this is because I look back on all the time I wasted as a youth (youth age ends at 43, right?). 

Don’t even get me started on why anyone would want to do drugs.  I remember being asked when I was a kid, if I wanted to take some drugs (I don’t know which type of drug it was, as I have not done a degree, in names used as euphemisms for illegal drugs).  The guy said I should try it because, I would be able to sit around with my friends laughing about things which weren’t even funny; I told him I had that one covered, thanks.

I don’t take drugs but I have seen all the adverts for the use of drugs provided by the media.  I particularly like the one which says “take drugs and you get to go out with Kate Moss”.  If I were a youngster today, I would be seriously confused and possibly think drugs are an option; what with recently discovering the Lynx deodorant does not live up to its’ advert’s promise.

Last year, I was going to a stand up comedy gig in London.  I can’t remember the tube stop, but it comes out at the appropriately named “World’s End” public house, frequented by Goths.  It could have been North London, I am never quite sure of my Norths and Souths in London, what with the Thames being so curly (you have seen the start of Eastenders).  Anyway, as I left the tube station, in the space of two minutes, I was approached four times by badly dressed people, mumbling “do you want some “mumble mumble / obscure euphemism” drugs?”***.  They could not have been more obvious if they had a cardboard sign on a stick, with the word “Golf” crossed out, and the word Drugs written in its’ place.  I mean, how can’t we stop this kind of behaviour in the UK?  Now if you excuse me I am off to buy my Daily Mail.
*I haven’t told my wife that Rob did all the things on my “to do, when I get time” list.  However, I don’t think she is reading my blog, so I should be able to pass them off as my handy work.  I don’t want her thinking I wasted my money on my leather tool belt.

** Well, I say sober, not quite – a bit like a vegetarian who eats fish.

*** My friend Patrick Monahan does a great bit in his comedy set, about a guy asking him, if he would like to buy a skunk.

September 1st, 2007

Don can’t come to the blog right now

Hi, Rob the decorator here.  Don can’t come to the blog right now, what with it being the weekend.  He said, he was going to give a lecture on escapology and he couldn’t get out of it.  “Sniff, sniff” that smells like a joke, no just the emulsion, but I think he was trying to be funny –  quite good really, no wonder Don can command such exorb, exorba, sorry about this, as you can tell I am not used to standing in for Don.  Wait a minute, these computers have a spell check, exorbitant – there you go.  Blimey this blog thing is easy; I don’t even need to spell correctly.  My job as a decorator is much more difficult, I mean, if I put the wallpaper on the wrong side down (believe me that anaglypta can be a bastard) I can’t just press “undo”.

Actually, I shouldn’t complain too much, as Don did hold the ladders on the exterior of the local Chinese restaurant “Wok this way”.
I seem to be getting a lot of those types of jobs recently; for example last week I did the flock wallpaper in the Indian restaurant “Balti Towers” and also did the graphics on the side of a minibus called “PG Trips”.  And last year I was flown standard *class to Dublin, to redo the sign, for the magician who owns the Greek takeaway shop “Abracadabra”.  I can’t believe it, I have just been overruled by the “Spell check” – I make the decisions, I wanted to say Abra Kebab ra – get it? 

The guy who owns the Abra-kebabra (lets see how “spell check” deals with a hyphen) wishes he hadn’t called it this name though, as he gets a lot of drunks.  Their favourite gag is saying “Now you see it, now you don’t” (magicians of course never tire of such comments** and laugh heartily as a rule, I would imagine) anyway, at this point the drunk eats all of the kebab in one go.  He then promptly throws it up (Da darrr, a very messy prestige).  That has got to wear thin after a while, for the proprietor.  Next door at “Chews carefully” restaurant they have no such nonsense.

Anyway, I have been drafted in, to touch up the paintwork.  Well that is the pretext, actually Don has left a list of jobs for me to complete; you know the kind of thing, fence repairs, shaving bottoms of doors etc.  I am almost sure that Don will convince his wife that he actually did the jobs himself.  Yes this is exactly the kind of thing he would do.  He is really not very handy and he sands like a girl.  I had to re-sand after his poor prep on the “Breakfast at Timothy’s” roadside caravan kitchen job.

Got to go now; I must say, it has been a pleasant change standing in for Don.  I suppose comedy is a bit like painting: it is all in the preparation and you should always have a great finish, however, if people are laughing at you, you probably just have undercoat on your nose.
*I am not sure what an upgrade is, however, the Ryan air stewardess did drop two bags of peanuts.  Result: peanuts F.O.C.
**I would also imagine that magicians love it, when you say to them, “Can you make my wife disappear?” – Why not try it next time you see a magician.

August 31st, 2007

Highs and lows

I enjoyed the festival more this year by dipping in and out of it, with my three days at a time visits.  Many acts complain, saying the festival is about one week too long; if you are losing lots of money I assume it seems about three weeks too long.  However, when you visit (as I do) it feels just about the right length of time.  Sometimes it leaves me with wanting a bit more, but that is exactly how entertainment is meant to leave you.

This year I was covering the festival for magicweek.co.uk, and some magicians have told me, I have not reviewed as many (comedy or magic) shows as they thought I would.  So for them, here are some more highs and lows of Edinburgh Festival 2007.

Well, I met up with Noel Qualter, Rob James and Alan Hudson.  So between us we managed to see all the magic acts performing this year.  Pete Firman, we have already discussed, was great.  I also heard very good things about Chris Cox’s “Everything happens for a reason” and Dougie C’s “A brief history of magic”.  However, the “All Star San Francisco comedy magic and more” show, did not live up to its grand (and promising a bit too much) title.  Maybe it is too American; Anyway, I was told by a few people not to bother going, so I didn’t (there is only so much time).

The best new talent (by miles) was Pappy’s Fun Club; so good I can’t even do one of those “like someone hilarious crossed with someone else equally hilarious” explanations.  That is how unique they were.  Ok I will give it a shot – it is like Vic and Bob reigned in beautifully so as every sketch worked; only twice as good (there is four of them).  Even if you did not get Vic and Bob you would still love PFC.

It seemed the theme this year was to do your normal show and then do a chat show.  I imagine with so many TV industry people at the festival, the entertainer was trying to say to them, “Have you thought about a chat show?  This is how it would look if I did a chat show”.  I found this a little insulting, to actually pay to see a chat show.  After all, we can all ask people questions and get the best out of our guests.  It was only Parky who pretended for years that it was an exact science and that only he had the power.  He used the “how many times people touched his leg” as his empirical evidence of his greatness.  Terry Wogan surpassed Parky’s top score in 1985 with a very impressive 6 touches in one interview.  Although Parky has never acknowledged the record, claiming Best was merely pissed.

Ok it is a very short blog today as I am rushing off and I want to catch up with some friends before I go.  I will try to interview them to see how difficult it is.

August 30th, 2007

Post office

Thursday, so before I set off for my gig I am going to do that tricky thing of fitting in errands before I go.  I say tricky because Sunderland is a strange place at 11am on a weekday (it is my home town, so don’t be making jokes about gene pools, I know what you are like).  No it is the length of queues at banks and post offices which are unpredictable and time variable. And I once stopped a shop lifter and had to give a statement to the police, which took hours.  I learnt my lesson from that day, and now I would simply work out a quick “cost versus my time” type calculation.  I am not sure how it would work, but if they were running out of a pound shop I probably wouldn’t bother.

So I am standing in the post office; there is a long queue, no worries, I will simply observe the queue and then I will have something to say in this blog.  It will be a quick queue anyway, as there are not many tartan shopping trolleys.

They say that age creeps up on you.  I can see why people feel the need to disguise their age (I am one of them I guess).  We buy clothing (after much deliberation) which takes a few years off and we don’t buy items which make us look older (tartan shopping trolleys being a good example).  Hence the expression 50 is the new 30.  I do wonder if this is true.  My wife has just bought me slippers, so maybe 50 is the new 80.

It is true; my wife has bought me slippers.  She (not having my ostrich approach to health) has actually read the detail in the letter that has come from the hospital, and it clearly stated (I missed it obviously) that I am to take my slippers (those will be the ones I don’t have then).  My wife has used her own approach to purchasing footwear and brought a few examples to try on.  I choose the first pair, no procrastination on that one.

This is a down side of age but the up side is, I qualify for cheap car insurance.  I wonder how old you have to be, before the insurers stop being “price friendly” to the older driver.  I guess it is the age when you go into a showroom and say “have you got a car with less mirrors? I don’t tend to use them these days”. 

Anyway, I am now at the front of the queue and with my Road Fund Tax paid, the lady asks me, if I shop around for my car insurance, because if I do, Peter will talk me through the Post Office’s deal.  I say, not normally to the shopping around question, and yes, as long as it doesn’t take too long and only if you are very competitive and therefore able to save me money, to the “talk through” bit. 

It takes a long time; how do people have the patience to shop around?  The questions just go on and on.  So much so, when he says, “has the car had any changes or improvements made on it, in the last year” I resist saying “well I did hoover the glove compartment”.

It turns out my present quote is actually cheaper than the Post Office deal by £230 and Peter says “shall I print out the quote or shall I send it to you by email?”, and “is there anything else I can help you with?

August 29th, 2007

Charity ideas?

So, it is the Wednesday morning after the bank holiday, and back to normal; I was going to say back to the routine, but in the past, I have tended not to have a routine.  That is, until now, as I fully intend to write for the first hour in bed every morning. Yes, even when I am working away, the hotel maid will just have to work around me. 

I am aware that being self employed you can please yourself; no one is demanding you be in a shirt and tie at 8am , however, there can be the tendency to let things slip.  For example, I have not shaved since Monday morning (and probably won’t until Thursday’s gig) but surely it is more important I get some comedy writing done rather than worry about personal grooming.  Perhaps I do need routine.

So what else could I do to start this new routine; I could go for a run and pick up some small items from Morrisons.  This is time management at its best.  I will get my notes scribbled down (I can type them up later), and then I will go for a run to (and along) the beach and call into Morrisons on the sea front.  This really is a very good routine; something creative followed by some practical exercise, oh yes this is definitely going to last. 

So as soon as these notes are done I will get changed and head off, no time to shave.  I’ll take the short cut to the beach through Sunderland Football Club’s training ground, so no one sees I am unshaven (I am sure Roy won’t mind, what with his five o’clock shadow).

Although, changing the subject, a friend of mine said recently, that I should think about getting sponsored (for a charity) to write this blog.  I suppose he has a point, I mean the blog is a bit like a marathon and I am writing this entry while dressed as Batman, so why not?  I think it is a good idea.  How would this work?  I guess, if  you like the blog, you could tell me how much you are going to pay to the charity and I could give your name (and pledge) a mention on my website (and then other readers  could see how generous/tight you are).  I don’t want to get involved with the money.   I would leave it up to you, to actually give the money you pledged to the actual charity direct, via a link from my website to the charity website.

So which charity will it be?  I will take suggestions*.  Let’s think, in Edinburgh there were a lot of homeless people and I really don’t like to see that.  So, maybe I could choose a homeless charity.  Although, I am not 100 percent convinced; on the one hand, I will buy a “Big Issue”, but there is always a part of me saying, “don’t we have the very best social and health care in the whole world, how can you be here?”  Last year, I even saw an unshaven man walking the streets in the South of France – I mean if you are gong to be homeless that is the place.  I felt he should be giving me money, I live in Sunderland .  Although on reflection he may have just run down to the beach and was looking for la supermarche Morrisons, I still haven’t mastered French.

Actually, I think I will get shaved and take the car.  One step at a time ehh?

*really, have a think about the charity idea and let me know.


Don performs as a wedding magician, corporate entertainer, and after dinner speaker at events throughout the country. London Magician, Manchester Magician, Liverpool Magician, Birmingham Magician, Newcastle Upon Tyne Magician, Magician Surrey, Edinburgh Magician, Oxford Magician, Bristol Magician, Magician Milton Keynes, Leicester Magician, Leeds Magician, Magician Kent.