Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lights, Camera... Action Figure.

You might well have seen a trail for the new series by now. There are a few different variations out there, but the gist of them all is that someone in the marketing department is treating the show like a price-comparison website and trying to bribe people to watch the show by offering a free toy in the shape of a, um, Dave Gorman action-figure. But I overrule the idea because it's silly. (And they get withdrawn anyway because they're toxic and dangerous etc etc.)

There's one for every episode for you to not collect...

Grown men, playing with their dolls.
I haven't actually seen one of the ads go out as yet - but I can always tell when one's been on the telly because I get a small flurry of tweets from people telling me they actually want one of the dolls.
Some people seem genuinely disappointed that they're not available. But they're not.

You can't get one. Even I can't get one.

When I respond to say as much, some people seem convinced that this is some kind of cunning double bluff and that we'll make them available as an ironic, nonsense bit of merchandise at some point.

We won't. We really won't.

(No, I don't think they look like me either.)
For what it's worth I've always found the idea of merchandise a bit weird for a comic. Maybe weird's not right. Uncomfortable?

I've never been comfortable with the idea of selling myself as a product. I tell stories for a living. I'll cheerfully sell you tickets, books and DVDs and so on because those are all just different ways of delivering what I do.

T-shirts, key-rings and, heaven help us, dolls are something else. I know plenty of people who do sell that kind of merchandise - some of them, friends, many of them comics I admire.
And people have tried to persuade me to join their ranks because it could/would make touring a more lucrative enterprise.

But there's always been something making me resist the idea. The way I see it: I don't think I'd be comfortable standing next to someone in a pub if they had my face on their t-shirt. So it would be a bit weird of me to sell them that t-shirt?

I don't know. I don't think there's any great moral argument being made here... it's just not something I'm very comfortable with.

Not available, not even in bad shops.
That doesn't mean that on the day of the shoot I wasn't quite keen on getting hold of one of them when we'd finished.

But it wasn't allowed. Presumably, because they needed them all for some post-production reason.

I'm probably not the best judge as to whether or not they look like me or not but I'm not very convinced. On the day I spent some time trying to work it out.

I'd hold one in my hands and look at it from all angles and as I turned it slowly between my fingers, there'd always be one moment - just one, precise angle - where it seemed to resemble me... but then a millimeter more rotation and it would look nothing like me again.

I wanted to get one because I wanted to send it to my Mum. Anonymously. She didn't know anything about the trail and there would have been ample opportunity to have one dropped off at her house before any of the ads had been shown on the box. Imagine coming home to find a doll designed to look like your son waiting for you without any context to explain its existence?

She'd have called me to ask what it was and why it was there. I'd have denied all knowledge of it. She'd have believed me and...

Oh well. Too late now.

I don't know what's happened to them since the shoot. I dread to think.

The heads and the clothes were obviously all made for the job. (Whoever painted the heads very flatteringly left all the grey out of my beard - which I'm very grateful for.) But the bodies were all from existing dolls. I have the body of a One Direction singer, apparently.

I think they were all Nialls. Or maybe they were Liams. They had to all be the same one because the neck size varies from doll to doll otherwise.

So pity the poor props buyer who had to go to a toy shop and buy eight Niall dolls.

Monday, August 24, 2015


Series Three of Modern Life Is Goodish is now in the schedules. It starts on Tuesday, September 8th at 10pm and will be there every Tuesday for 8 weeks.

Just so you know...

Friday, August 7, 2015

More Goodish News

Since we finished making series 3 of Modern Life Is Goodish recently I've had a lot of people asking me when it's going to be on. I don't know yet although it seems likely that, as with series 1 & 2, it will launch in September. I won't be shy of letting you know for sure as and when it gets a confirmed date.

What I wasn't expecting to find out at this stage - but I'm absolutely bloody delighted about - is that the channel already know they want more of it. They've commissioned series 4 and 5. Blimey. Just another 16 hours of stand-up, then.

Apparently, UKTV estimate that the second series reached 7.8 million people... and the biggest audience was 102% up on the slot average. If you watched any of series one and two - thanks. I hope you'll enjoy series three too. And then four and five. When we make them.

PS: This is the corporate announcement which contains more numbers I don't really understand.

Monday, August 3, 2015

That's A Wrap

Photo by @hicksm6
We finished filming Series 3 of Modern Life Is Goodish last week.

Blimey. That was an intense few months.

There isn't an easy way of making eight hour long shows. Making the powerpoint files - I reckon there are around 3,000 slides in a series - is always going to be time consuming. In the last couple of months there have been a fair few days where I've started work at 10 in the morning and not finished work until 3 or 4 the next day... and then only to get some kip as I lie in the passenger seat of a car as we head out to a small theatre for a dry run.

But there's no getting away from the fact that making the shows work live first is the best way of making them work on TV. And putting several hundred slides together - and trying to do it well - just takes a long time. I wish I could see a shortcut through it - but there isn't one I can see that doesn't chip away at the end result in some small way.

Photo by @thatsafineidea
I wanted to let the dust settle a bit before I talked about something that I've had a lot of comments on: the ticketing for the series.

It seems that this series, more people have been turned away and a lot of people have been sending me messages full of anger and outrage at the fact that the show has been - according to them - massively oversubscribed.

I don't think that's a completely fair reflection on what's happened. I'll try and explain.

They issued the same number of tickets for all the shows this year as they did for all of the shows  last year.

This year, the most we turned away was around 80 or 90 people. But on one occasion it was only 30ish. That's still more than I'd like to see turned away. But then, last year, issuing the same number of tickets meant that on one of our four recordings (we do two shows in a night) we didn't turn anyone away and we could have squeezed a handful of extra people in.

The factor that varies so much is not the number of tickets issued. It's the number of people who turn up.

For reasons that I don't quite understand, tickets for recordings are free. They always have been. I imagine they always will be. I like the idea in principle - after all, there's an income involved in the making of the TV show that has nothing to do with any ticket revenue.

But it also creates a problem. If you get a free ticket to something and then decide that you can't be bothered on the day... well, so what? If there's football on the TV? Or your babysitter cancels? Or you find yourself in a sunny beer garden and your mate's just got a round in? Or you weigh up the idea that you might not get in anyway and so decide not to spend the money on a train fare? There are no consequences. So people ask for tickets... only to then not use them all the time.

And this happens to pretty much every TV show that has a live audience. I know of one show - a big rating, popular show that has an audience of around 400 people. It regularly issues in excess of 3000 tickets. It rarely has to turn away more than 20 people and sometimes isn't full. That's a hell of a lot of people taking tickets and then not using them. And nobody knows until the day who is and who isn't going to come along.

I suppose they could try issuing 2500 tickets for their show. But what if the 500 tickets they didn't issue were the ones that would have gone to the 500 people who would have turned up... and they ended up only issuing tickets to the 2500 who don't bother?

On Modern Life Is Goodish the audience - there are around 200 of them - are in between the cameras and me. If we end up being 50 people down it will affect all of the shots. Having a full house is essential.

How would you solve this mathematical conundrum? The one thing that I know would solve it - selling the tickets - isn't allowed. It has to be based on guesswork and previous attendance rates. Which is what it is based on. Sometimes there's no excess. Sometimes there's a relatively large excess. That's down to the randomness of human behaviour and has nothing to do with those issuing the tickets.

I wish every one who requested tickets would just turn up. But over time, I've come to accept that this just isn't the case. Sometimes 30% of people show. Sometimes it's 80%. Most of the time it's somewhere in between.

Many years ago, when I made my first TV series - The Dave Gorman Collection - a decision was made to not over-subscribe the tickets for the first recording. We were in a tiny studio that could accommodate just 100 people. My mailing list at the time was tiny. So small that I could remember many of the email addresses. Because the gigs I was doing were in smaller venues I also knew a lot of their faces. Everyone felt so certain that because all the people asking for tickets were from that mailing list, they would all come and it would end up being rude to massively oversubscribe. So we issued 110 tickets for the first recording. 50 people turned up. The other seats were eventually occupied by people who had been turned away from an oversubscribed recording of Goodness, Gracious Me. They didn't seem thrilled by the idea of watching someone they'd never heard of, doing something a bit weird rather than a series of sketches by the people they'd been excited about when they left the house that evening.

It's the 60 people who didn't turn up that night who are the problem. It would be so much better if we could issue 200 tickets for these recordings and do so in the confidence that they'd all show up. But we can't. Because they simply don't. But at every recording this series - significantly more people got in than didn't. In fact, the number of people turned away is not only smaller than the number of people getting in... it's also smaller than the number of people who are requesting tickets but not showing up. Which illustrates how unpredictable people are.

It's an imperfect system. But when 280 people turn up. That's not because the ticketing people issued 80 tickets too many. On another night, they could issue 80 tickets less and end up with a theatre with only 120 people in it. There isn't a way of knowing who will and who won't show in advance. If there was - we'd issue 200 tickets to the right people.

Oddly, one of the people who sent a very angry email about not getting in to one of the Series 3 recordings did have tickets for one of the shows in Series 2 also. But they didn't turn up that time. In their head, we were supposed to issue two more tickets for the series 2 recording because we should have predicted they weren't coming... but issue  two less tickets for the series 3 recording because we should have predicted they were.

None of us likes to see people turned away. But insisting that we should have known how many people would show up and therefore could have done something about it in advance just doesn't add up. One thing we do do is ensure that anyone turned away on the day is offered a guaranteed seat at a future recording. But do you know what - some of the people who request that, then don't show up for that... and so the prediction game remains as difficult as it ever was.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Sprint Finish

We're three quarters of the way through the recordings for series 3 of Modern Life Is Goodish. Two more shows to go.

Doing two shows in a night sure as hell makes it feel like it's whizzing by. We've turned out six hours of fresh stand-up in the last three months. Blimey. Now there's a sprint finish to get the final two sorted for the end of July.

I really enjoyed the last two shows. Especially the final week of preparation. That's because that final week mostly happens on stage and that's the fun bit. Doing a dry run on stage one night, re-writing it the next day and then doing it again and so on and so on is perhaps the most enjoyable part of this job.

You find out infinitely more about how to handle material by running it with real audiences than you ever could do by staring at it on the page or by any number of meetings etc. My way of not-staring-at-it-on-the-page is to, um... not put it on the page in the first place. I find scripting stuff in advance takes something away from the material. For me, it's almost always best to take an idea on stage, rather than some words. The words that fall out as you try and explain things to people are often better than whatever you would have written because you're not imagining an audience - you're there with them and can sense how much they've taken in, whether the first part of an idea has settled in the room or not etc. Writing stuff out in advance turns it into a test of memory rather than an exercise in communication. I want people to attend a show, not a rehearsal. I'm sure that watching a rough-around-the-edges show is better than watching a polished rehearsal.

Writing it down means you create something that feels like the "correct" version. Which is a very rigid way of dealing with something that hasn't yet been tested. I figure that if my focus is on saying it the right way that involves closing my mind to other possibilities that feel better in the moment.

Lawks, I'm navel gazing today. Sorry.
A few related bits and pieces.
1: We recorded two episodes of the show last Sunday. That's Sunday the 28th of June. These were our fifth and sixth shows of the run, although that's not necessarily the order in which they'll be shown. We start the recordings around 6.30pm, but the audience normally starts filing in at around 6 which means I have to have the final version of the powerpoint loaded on the laptop before then. I only mention this because last Sunday something happened at 5.24pm that changed the endings to one of the stories I was telling. So I was screen grabbing something and adding a couple of new slides to the presentation about five minutes before we opened the doors to the audience. This is why I love making the show in this way. It's home made. I make the powerpoints myself. There's no "sorry the graphics department have gone home" to deal with. And because we never lock in on a definitive it-must-be-like-this version of the show, we can make changes five minutes before the recording starts. It's much more exciting making TV like that. 

You'll notice I haven't said what it was that happened. That's because I don't want to post any spoilers for the series. I guarantee that when it's on the telly there'll be some people thinking, "I bet that didn't really happen on the day of the show" in part because people expect telly - not live telly, at any rate - to be planned out in advance and inflexible.  But it did. It really did.

2: As the series is nearing the end of production, that means I'm also nearing the end of this run of Screen Guild gigs - there's one more, next Friday at the Hackney Picture House - and three more dry runs for the series too. All of which are at Norden Farm, Maidenhead towards the end of the month.

3: I've been so busy on the series, I failed to notice that yesterday was publication day for the Too Much Information paperback. But it was.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tinder Night Garden

I've spent the last week or so wondering whether I should mention this or not. What the hell, here goes.

I received an email from someone who - for good reason - would rather not be identified here. She's in her 30s. She's single. She live in London. She uses Tinder.

If you don't know what Tinder is, well, according to Wikipedia it's a "location-based social discovery application that facilitates communication between mutually interested users." I'm not sure that's made it much clearer. It's a dating app. It shows you pictures of people you might be interested in on your phone. Because it's on your phone it knows where you are and so it sort of knows that they're close to you. You swipe the picture one way if you're interested in them and the other way if you're not and if a mutual attraction is discovered then it allows you to get in touch with one another.

At least I think that's what it is. I'm a married man. I got married in 2010. Tinder was born in 2012. I have no first hand understanding of what it is and how it works. The closest I've come to it before now was at a dinner party a year or two ago when a group of us crowded around a friend's phone as she showed us what it looked like and we all chuckled at quite how many men had chosen profile pictures that featured them and dolphins. A lot of men seem to choose dolphin pictures.

I imagine people put quite a lot of thought into choosing their profile picture. That picture is what people will judge you on. Will they swipe right (good) or will they swipe left (bad)? It all depends on whether they like the look of you or not. So you'd probably want it to be you-at-your-best, right? In any case, you'd certainly want it to be you.

Wouldn't you?

Well, apparently not. Because, as my anonymous correspondent reveals, someone somewhere is using a picture of me.
"Is this you?" asks anonymous, to which the answer is yes.
"And if it is you, is it, um, actually you?" To which the answer is no.


It really isn't.

I mean it is my face. But it's not me.

I suppose on some level I ought to be flattered by Ed's choices. (Of course, I know there's no reason to assume that a man who isn't using his own face would use his own name, but for ease, let's call him, Ed).

I'm not really sure what Ed hopes to gain by using my photo on Tinder.

I'm guessing he (or she) isn't trying to set up actual dates and that it's got more to do with sending spam or somesuch but even so, on some level, it ought to be flattering that someone thought it would make a passable profile picture.

Especially for someone listed as 32.

As I write this, I'm 44. I was, I think, 40 when that picture was taken.

As far as I'm aware the only place it's been used is in the Independent where it accompanied an interview I did while promoting the first series of Modern Life Is Goodish.  Even though someone is clearly up to no good, the fact that they're taking 8 years off me while they're at it makes me feel just a tiny bit happy.

Sort of.
But probably not so happy that I'm happy for Ed to continue with his lie. So I'm trying to track Ed down. (If I can do so, it might make its way into series three.)

If you're in London. On Tinder. And female. And you happen to find a man called Ed who looks suspiciously like me, could you please let me know? Please don't swipe right. I mean, obviously, you'll have a strong, natural urge to do so - who wouldn't - but without knowing what he's up to, I don't want to be responsible for anyone making contact with him in any way. Especially on a platform I have no real understanding of.

But if you do find him, could you let me know where you were and - if Tinder tells you this sort of stuff - how far away from you he was supposed to be? I promise I won't share your name and details with anyone. You can send me an email via my website, or find me on Twitter or on the slightly-harder-to-navigate, facebook.

But you can't contact me on Tinder. I'm not on Tinder.

Right. I'm going to post this. Cue the "yeah, yeah, we believe you!" replies!

Thursday, May 14, 2015