Tuesday, October 25, 2005
I sometimes wonder if anyone reads this page or whether I bother typing in this nonsense and adding the pictures for no reason. And then I post something that sparks a number of e-mails and I realise that there are a few people out there reading this. My last entry was one of those.
It prompted three types of e-mail. The first came from angry residents of Fort Lauderdale and Miami, telling me that the hurricane wasn't going to strike until after the shows and accusing me of using the hurricane as an excuse to cancel shows because I had a sore throat. Believe me, if I was sneaky enough to do that, I also think I'd be clever enough to not mention the sore throat in the first place. It's like saying the dog ate my homework... which incidentally, I hadn't done.
The decision to cancel the shows was made on Wednesday before I'd done the final two shows in Gainesville - so I was in full voice at the time - and the decision wasn't taken by me. On Wednesday the media were predicting that Wilma would be in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday or Sunday. The venue and the show's producers couldn't really send us there knowing that a hurricane was predicted because they would have to be responsible for us being safely evacuated had it been necessary so they decided not to send us in there.
The second type of response also came from people in that area asking me if the shows were going to be rescheduled. The answer is that I don't know... but I doubt it. If it was in the UK - I'm sure it would be, because I live there, can work there whenever and can travel to wherever in a matter of hours. My time in the US is limited, my work-visa is limited and the costs of coming back to Florida just to stage three or four shows is probably prohibitive. If it can be rearranged while I'm here then I'd love it to be... Fort Lauderdale sounds like a great place and I'm sorry not to be spending some time there.
The third type of response I got was from people telling me about the naming of hurricanes and answering my question about what happened between Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Thanks for that.
As it happened the hurricane slowed down and lost a lot of strength - alhough it still did a lot of damage. It didn't hit the Fort Lauderdale area until Sunday night/Monday morning so the shows would have been unaffected but our travel out of the area would have been and I don't know how many people would have wanted to come and see the show when they had a weather channel to watch on the TV and then outside their window. Heigh ho.
In the meantime the tour is now on Plan B (or maybe it's C or D) and we've been put up in Chicago for a while. It's a great city but having spent the last chunk of time in Arizona and briefly Florida, the cold is definitely a shock to the system.
Meanwhile, Genius, the Radio 4 show that I recorded earlier this year, starts its run on Thursday... the guest in episode one is Paul Daniels. It feels a bit weird being out of the country while it happens although I'm not sure why. Anyway... I hope you can listen to it and I hope you enjoy it.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
In the UK it would be impossible for one of my shows to be arranged between a venue and a producer without me knowing about it and agreeing to it. You'd think that would be obvious wouldn't you ... after all, it's me that actually has to do it. Unfortunately that lesson has taken my American producers some time to learn.
Before this tour started I discovered that they had sold 8 shows a week to venues. It's nice to know that the demand was there but it's also not possible for me to perform this particular show that often. If you haven't seen it, it probably sounds like I'm moaning because, surely, it's just talking right? But it isn't really. It's a really physical show, it feels like going to the gym every night, and there are several sustained rants of blood, guts and fury that tear my throat apart each night.
I spend a lot of time between shows taking medicines to help my voice recover from the damage the last show did before then repeating, and worsening, the damage that night. For this reason I've never relished doing the show twice in one day and would want to avoid it whenever possible. Sadly my American producers had sold two-show-days several times to venues without bothering to ask me if it was okay. It must be tempting as a salesman to sell as much as you can to people... especially if you're not the person who's actually going to have to do it.
Most of these situations were resolved before the tour started but there were a few places where that wasn't really an option and Gainesville was one of those. Most of the venues on this tour are taking the show for a week or two which offers some flexibility... but Gainesville had booked 3 shows in 2 days. I did a 7.30 show on Tuesday while on Wednesday there was a 7.30 and a 10pm show... which gave me a 30 minute break before starting again. Twenty minutes in I was in pain and this morning I can't really talk much. If I had a show tonight I think I'd be forced to cancel it... but I haven't, more on that later.
What makes this all the more frustrating is that I don't think the late show should have gone ahead at all. I looked in the local listings papers and none of them mentioned that the late show even existed. The 7.30 show was there but not the 10pm. If one paper hadn't listed it, it would look like an error on their part but when all three of the local papers haven't listed a show it seems more likely that the venue haven't sent them the correct information. And it was reflected in the ticket sales.
On Tuesday we'd sold 4 tickets for the late show on Wednesday. By Wednesday that had doubled. Woo hoo. By show time it was around 18 people. It's as if a wealthy fool had booked that late show especially for him and his friends and insisted that information about its existence shouldn't leak out into the public domain.
Amazingly, it went well... although not as well as either of the two early shows had gone. But this morning I'm in pain, I can't talk and it hurts when I swallow and I have to wonder whether or not it was worth it. Of course the audience who turned up deserved a show... but shouldn't the venue have some responsibility in this situation also? Why buy a show into your venue and then not try to sell it to the public?
This afternoon I was supposed to be flying to Fort Lauderdale for shows tonight through Sunday but as Hurricane Wilma is also thinking of heading there this weekend, the venue and the producers have decided in their wisdom that it's unwise for us to go there and the shows have been cancelled. I've never had a show cancelled because of a hurricane before. How exciting. I hope it doesn't wreak too much havoc, mind.
Incidentally, if they name these things alphabetically, how did we get so quickly from Katrina, via Rita, to Wilma wihout hearing much about hurricanes L, M, N, O, P, Q, S, T, U and V?
We're staying put in Gainesville for another day while we work out a Plan B. I'll spend today being silent and sampling the various lozenges available in the various pharmacies in the hope that one of them can work magical restorative powers for my voice.
Monday, October 17, 2005
Yet again I was surprised by how responsive the audience were for the Sunday matinee show. In most of the cities we visit on this tour the run ends with a Sunday matinee which I expected to be a bit a damp squib but instead it is turning out to be a really enjoyable way to bid farewell to each venue.
Smirnoff make vodka don't they? When I see the Smirnoff brand on a bottle I think it's reasonable to assume that it probably contains vodka. I mean, that's what they do. I'm not much of an alcopop consumer but I was pretty sure that I knew that Smirnoff Ice was some kind of vodka drink because, well, because it has Smirnoff on the label.
Not in America it's not.
A friend had a bottle the other day and on tasting it remarked, "that's odd... it doesn't taste the same as it does in England." They took another swig, pulled a face and took a look at the label where they were surprised to see some small print declaring it to be a 'flavored beer drink.' We were slightly aghast at this... it made no mention of vodka being in there... in fact it didn't appear to contain anything that it should have done. Not even the 'u' in flavour.
If you don't believe me, check out their own F.A.Q. where, amongst the self serving questions, you'll discover that vodka isn't in Smirnoff Ice because it was "created as a beer alternative" ... unless you're buying it in Canada, Brazil, Ireland, South Africa or of course England when yes, it does actually contain vodka.
There's probably some law preventing Smirnoff (and other alcopop makers) from selling them with spirits in here in America but is it reasonable to sell two identical looking - but radically different - products in two different countries. It's like picking up a tube of Pringles and then discovering that, in America, they don't actually contain any potato. Or buying a jar of Marmite and discovering that, heaven forfend, it isn't a yeast extract.
It is better to have no Marmite here at all than it is to have some phoney not-Marmite-in-a-Marmite-jar confusing innocent consumers and it would surely be better to not have this weird non-vodka-Smirnoff drink too.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
One of the questions I hear regularly from people after the show - especially here in America - is "How many words do you actually say?" or "How can you say so much so fast?" I don't know the answer because there isn't a script - the words aren't on paper anywhere and so there's no way of counting them but I do know that it's a relatively long show and that I get through a lot of words-per-minute.
I mention this because yesterday I wasn't alone onstage as the show was being signed for the hard of hearing also. I should think this is one of the hardest shows going to sign for. Not only are there a lot of words happening very quickly but there are also several words for which there isn't a specific sign. There isn't really time for the signer to spell coelacanth and while a synonym might do for bamboozled, say, a synonym isn't quite right because it is the arcane nature of the words involved that made them googlewhacks.
The signer - a really nice woman called Patti - was great and we spoke before the show about the best way of doing it as she'd been to see the show the day before. Fortunately there's a lot of visual information in the show as well, so in the brief interludes when the pace of the show really gets going the best way of Patti following the show was to just indicate towards the screen and let it speak for itself.
I'll be sorry to leave Scottsdale. It's been the most enjoyable stop on the tour so far and the audiences have been great - especially this last Friday. It's been like being on holiday with much more to occuppy a traveller than in our previous stops.
One more show to go and then a horrible overnight flight to Florida.
Friday, October 14, 2005
I took a drive out to the Grand Canyon on Wednesday. It was a 500 mile round trip but it was definitely worth it. The show has, in one way or another, now taken me to see The Grand Canyon, The Great Wall of China and Niagara Falls which I stupidly thought were all "7 Wonders of the World" © ®
It turns out that I'm completely wrong and my naive assumption that I'd now seen 3/7 of the world's wonders is incorrect. I was wondering what else qualifies as a "Wonder of the World" © ® so I had a quick look around the internet using some search engine or another (I can't remember which) and discovered that there are several different lists. The only seven that seem to enjoy a broad agreement are the seven ancient wonders of the world ... of which only the Great Pyramid of Giza is still standing so when it comes to viewing the "7 Ancient Wonders of the World" © ® it's only possible to see 1/7th of them and I haven't even done that.
Most people seem to have the Grand Canyon on a list of Natural Wonders though I'm surprised that Niagara Falls doesn't makes it on to that list and while The Great Wall of China is obviously not a natural wonder, I'm amazed that it rarely gets a mention on any of the lists because it's definitely one of the most wondrous things I've ever seen.
It seems that the original "7 Wonders of the World" © ® list was compiled by Greeks way back when and they didn't know that the Great Wall of China existed (or Stonehenge for that matter) and so it didn't make it on to the list. But why, as the collective knowledge of the world grew, people didn't promote the Great Wall of China and demote The Lighthouse of Alexandria, say (I don't know, I've never seen it) or why the world didn't decide that there were now 8 Wonders of the World doesn't make much sense to me.
Anyway... as far as Natural Wonders of the World go, I've now seen my first official Wonder © ® and the Canyon is something truly remarkable to behold. I took a light aircraft flight over it and loved every minute of it... even the minutes when I was tightly gripping the seat in front of me because of the turbulence. I'd recommend it to anyone.
Back in April I wrote about how it was impossible to capture Niagara Falls in a photograph but impossible not to try over and over again to do so. It was the same with the Grand Canyon - I took hundreds of photos but none of them convey the magnitude of it properly.
Here's one attempt:
and here's a picture of me dangling my feet over the edge of the most impressive hole I've ever dangled my feet over the edge of:
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Quite a backlog of e-mails had built up in the last week. As I made my way through it I learned that the episode of the retro-panel-game What's My Line? that I took part in back in August was broadcast a few days ago and, more surprisingly, that I was recently the answer to a question on The Weakest Link. How odd.
Friday, October 7, 2005
I'm enjoying Scottsdale much more than I enjoyed Aurora... but then that isn't difficult. This is a truly beautiful part of the world and I took the opportunity on Monday to drive out to a town called Sedona and to visit Slide Rock Creek. I've seen this landscape before, but only in a Roadrunner cartoon. It really is spectacular. And the 150 mile drive was better than a day of mini-golf.
The city of Scottsdale also offers plenty to see and do... and here's some love from me to you.
The shows are going well here also with a great venue that really fits the show and two great audiences so far. People had warned me about discussing Creationism here as it's perceived by others as being a place where Creationism is likely to be rife. But so far, that part of the show has gone over really well and without the awkwardness that I sometimes perceived in Cleveland, say.
Maybe I've subtly adjusted how I deliver this show over the last few weeks to account for the potential to offend or maybe the people of Scottsdale are just more comfortable with the subject being discussed. Maybe they're aware that other parts of America think they're more likely to be Creationists and so enjoy the opportunity to demonstrate with a chuckle that they're not. Or maybe tonight the audience will storm out in protest and I've just been lucky so far.
I had a surprise waiting for me after the show last night in the shape of yet another Dave Gorman. He's the 109th namesake that I've now met. It seems so odd to me that so many years after I stopped looking for them they continue to come and find me. I was originally trying to find 54 (one for every card in the deck, including the jokers) and once I'd achieved that, naturally, I stopped looking. I completed a second deck's worth back in April in Toronto, and now, I guess a third deck has been started. It was a pleasure to meet him and here we are.
Tuesday, October 4, 2005
Monday, October 3, 2005
Relations between me and the venue turned a little sour on the final day - not that they were ever wonderful. The contract we have with the venue stipulates that publicity for the show will be posted in front of the theatre which I would have thought was an unnecessary stipulation until I visited Aurora where the fact that they were a theatre wasn't even on the front of the building.
This led to a situation where we decided to threaten to cancel the show unless they put up signs telling people that the show existed and finally, on the last day, they relented. While every other show had seen 20 paying customers fail to appear with the magic addition of signs to help people that number was cut down to one. As if by magic! Tadaaa! Oh no... it's not magic is it... it's common sense. What followed was a really enjoyable show too.
I was really sceptical about the Sunday matinees being on the schedule before the tour started but they've been consistently good shows so far so, while I don't understand why someone would want to spend their Sunday afternoon in a theatre, it seems that those who do have been great audiences.
It's a shame that things had to get so unpleasant between the venue and us - especially as the technical crew and the ushers and front of house staff were so friendly and easy to work with.
Heigh ho. We're in Scottsdale, Arizona now. It's 1am. It's hot out.
Sunday, October 2, 2005
Last night I did the best and worst shows of my time in Aurora back to back. There was a 7 o'clock show that had a good number of people in, a nice atmosphere and went really smoothly. Probably the best show I've done so far this tour. That was followed by a really small house and a slightly late-night drunken atmosphere and a lot of kind smiles from people who were tired. Very frustrating.
What makes it all the more frustrating is that for three nights running there have been around 20 people missing from each audience. These are people who've bought tickets and then failed to turn up. There are always likely to be a few no-shows for one reason or another but when it's a significant number and it's a regular occurence it's obvious that something isn't right. Every night after the show when I chat to the audience there are always a few stories from people who tell me that they struggled to find the theatre and nearly gave up so that seems as good an explanation as any as to why there are so many people failing to show.
This really shouldn't be possible because theatres are normally, by their nature, showy places. They like to advertise that they exist and they like to advertise the shows they are currently presenting. That doesn't seem to be the case here in Aurora where the front of the venue looks like this. It looks more like a building you'd have to visit to pay a parking fine than a theatre. There isn't one sign on the building to tell people what it is let alone anything advertising the show.
Trying to explain to the venue that people are telling me they can hardly find the place and that some kind of signage might help seems to be met with blank stares and when some of the ticket-buying public fail to turn up they scratch their heads and seem confused by it all. Oh well. The technicians here have been really friendly and easy to work with, the audiences have by and large been great, the reviews have been good... but unfortunately I can't pretend that I'll be unhappy to leave Aurora tonight.
Saturday, October 1, 2005
There's a good review in the Chicago Tribune today which makes the theatre's unhelpful attitude all the more frustrating.
He says, "If there's a funnier, smarter piece of comedy about the Internet - then I haven't seen it" which is very nice of him, although to be fair I'm not sure that "Comedy About The Internet" is really a big genre. Then again, I don't really think the show is about the internet. However, he does add other kind words and the show is, apparently, "uproariously funny" which seems to me to be one of the best ways one's funny can be described.
I'm constantly amused, amazed and flattered by the people reviewers compare me to with this show. I know it's an attempt to explain things to an audience that doesn't know of me... but one day I'll have to compile a list because I think it makes for odd reading. This time I get "a cross of Michael Palin, Eddie Izzard, Dave Eggers and Steve Jobs", yesterday I was compared to Bill Cosby and the New York Times review way back when namechecked David Sedaris, Steve Martin, Salvador Dali and Mussolini! As usual, I've added this latest review to the reviews page.
This is Simon Napier Bell's scurrilous, gossipy memoir of swinging 60s London and beyond. But he was definitely there. Surely anyone who's been rescued from a brothel by Keith Moon is worth hearing from.
See all the books I've recommended so far here.