Saturday, 20 November 2010

Mackenzie

This was going to be a post about a delightful little sojourn up north. A post about warm crowds,adapting to northern audiences, coming to appreciate Liverpool as a grown-up and then returning for a triumphant Really Lovely, sold-out and well reviewed.

But today's front page of Chortle changes that. A lovely man, a talented man and a man who popped up more often than not at the start of my comedy career, took his own life on Thursday. Pretty much everything else pales into insignificance against that sentence.

I will be one of hundreds who knew Mackenzie Taylor mildly well. I gigged with him a few times and, as he was good friends with Terry Fromant and John Soffe, I gigged for him as well. At all times, even though the conflict and turbulence within him was apparent - he was a funny, gentle, open, kind and charming human being. I don't think any of us who knew him could imagine the enormity of the effort it took for him to even discuss his condition on stage, let alone create a whole critically-acclaimed show about it.

I remember sharing a pint with him at the start of last years Fringe. He was excited, apprehensive, but mostly bullish about the show. Not just the critical appraisal, but about what it meant to him and what it would do to him. The fact that this year he wrote a sister show called 'Joy', says everything. Here was a man who felt the ups and downs of existence far more than most of us, and it is a real tragedy that on one day, the downs plummeted too far.

I will cherish seeing Mackenzie's routine of a magic trick with his fingers, his ability to reduce me to fits of giggles with silly pronunciations of words and his support and advice when I started out as a comic.

I read of this horrible news as I sat at home preparing for what is undoubtedly the biggest gig of my life tonight. I was feeling a little nervous, apprehensive that I might fail. But not now. Tonight's laughs are all dedicated to a man I knew mildly well, but was immensely fond of and his passing confirms a belief of mine that solidifies with every day. Don't waver in your determination to achieve what you want and don't fail to act, lest you have regrets. And always, always fight the good fight.

RIP Mackenzie, you will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Uber-report

I don't know where to start this blog, so we shall begin with the fairly odd fact that I've just had an episode of Charmed foisted upon me by my girlfriend, which inexplicably contains Uncle Phil from the Fresh Prince in it. Not the character Uncle Phil, that way madness lies, but the actor behind the legend. I think his appearance is a lesson in desperation and humility which we can all learn from.

And oh so much learning has been done since I returned from the dreaming towers and churning stomachs of Edinburgh. Really Lovely has returned, to increasing modicums of success, I've been hitting the stage again, to increasing modicums of success and modicum has become my new favourite word to use in this sentence. Modicum.

And so for want of anything better to put in a blog which is currently suffering a personality crisis at it genesis, being somewhere between mind-splurge, guilt-ridden accelerator pad and not really up-to-date gig report, here is my 7 weeks since Edinburgh in three word gig reports:

Really Lovely Comedy Tea Party: Comic's Summer Holiday
BBC Writers Bar: Surprisingly Low Brow
Milton Keynes: Drunken Rabble Rousing
St. Barts Uni: Emergency Trachaeoctomy Club
Laughtershock: Ideas Above Station
LSE: Fun-Filled Friends (and Breaking Up Relationship:)
Scram: Up and Coming
LLAugh: Bloody Good Opener
Set-Up, Punchline: Try Following Burtscher
Tumbleweed: Angry Birds Song
Harlequins: Where Is Pat?
Really Lovely Comedy Tea Party: Miles Loves Us!
Really Lovely Comedy: Dan Antapolski's Futureproof
Soho Comedy Club: Very Angry German
Charing Cross Comedy: Very Humbling Experience
Yeovil FC: Power of Henge!


And that's me up to know. A variety of creative tubes feel like that was a useful enema for them.

And I shall leave on the cliffhanger that by current calculations, I have approximately 900 days until I'm 30... All the excitement and trepidation of that fact is to be explored more in a couple of days...

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Guttenplan

It's been a while. Many things have happened, many hard-working men and oxen have died in the interim. But finally, I have the internet in my house and I can continue with my happy blogging times from the comfort of my own sofa, rather than next to a man looking at dubious photographs online in the internet cafe.

And to start, nothing big, nothing clever, just something satisfyingly silly:

Monday, 2 August 2010

Welcome!

What better way to cross the virgin ground of my first blog post than by declaring my arrival in Edinburgh. Bloody bloody hello!

It’s always an intriguing experience arriving in Scotland for the start of the Festival. As you approach Arthur’s Seat from behind (quiet there at the back!) your mind stars to wonder what flavour the Festival will have, who you’ll meet, what, exactly, you’re going to say on stage, how many late-night, ill-advised takeaways will happen to you and how often you’ll have to throw keys out of a fourth storey window, narrowly missing a passing member of the All-American High School Street Dance 4 in 3D tech crew.

And this year is no different in its delight and in its difference. I’m arriving earlier than ever, staying not in blagged accommodation or over-priced student digs, but in my girlfriend’s plush Marchmont flat. I’m doing solely stand-up for the first time ever. I’m part of the Five Pound Fringe for the first time ever. And, strangely, I’m yet to feel the real bubble of excitement. For the first time ever.

I know it will come. Arriving by the Meadows with the sunlight hitting the children’s playground and watching a shambling Jack Sparrow look-a-like snip into view, Edinburgh put a Cheshire Cat grin on my face within minutes, but I’m yet to really feel like a raucous, gregarious Fringe is about to start. Maybe it isn’t.

I’ve been saying for months on end that this Fringe is about writing, honing, developing, creating and most of all sticking a leviathan of a rocket up my ass to get better, better, better. Now it’s not like other comics come up to the Fringe without the desire to improve, but I know very clearly what I need to do and this feels like a crucial time to do it. I need to write, get in the habit of writing and start chasing that most wondrous of beasts: the rolling laugh.

I’m definitely the kind of person who like to narrativize his life – fill it up with grand gestures only for myself, as though I’m part of a second-rate coming-of-age movie on Hallmark, but this year seems to have a couple of good markers. Moving in with my girlfriend in London means that I spent this morning sifting through all kinds of hoarded crap in my old home in Newcastle. I threw so much out: flyers, exam sheets, birthday cards, congratulation and commiseration cards, wristbands, a toy helicopter, concert tickets, bleached polaroids, stubs of a late adolescence. Shoebox upon shoebox of magpied nostalgia that I don’t actually need, but pretend is important. It took me a long time to unwrap the anchor-rope of the past from around my body, but I think I’ve done it. I value and cherish all bits and bobs of my past, but throwing out so much ephemera from my two times at university felt very liberating. Especially throwing out all my history, politics and acting notes taken from lectures, kept ‘just in case’ I become a teacher. They’re now compost. No way back. Only looking forward.

Couple that with what feels like a real determined effort to knock smoking on the head (I no longer enjoy having crepe-paper lungs) and a fresh, new morning feel to Edinburgh, and I’m really excited about this month. Not because of shows or audiences or good times or drinks or capers or being spotted or good reviews or making money, but because this time the blank slate isn’t going to be defaced with a Jackson Pollock of hazed partying and occasional good performances. It’s going to be scrawled and scribbled and sketched and doodled on till it is covered in ideas, words, thoughts, ruminations, aphorisms (and most importantly jokes, jokes, jokes) until I’m blue in the face and sore of wrist.

3, 2, 1…