Back from Edinburgh Fringe

I’m back from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival having spent just over 3 weeks there.

What’s my summary you ask? Good question. My answer is: Strong.

Plenty of nice gigs with lovely audiences. Only disappointment was getting only one review but hey ‘that’s life’ as that famous singer would say.

I’m now back in my flat enjoying the fact that I know where all of the cutlery and various cooking utensils are. That is the sort of thing I enjoy knowing and I look forward to continuing to do so. Whenever I have to live somewhere else for a bit my first thought is always “Where is there a garlic crusher and why would anyone not own a cheese grater?”

I’m already thinking of ideas for next years show. It will be a one person spectacular called “Put a sock on it!” The show will be 1 hour long and will contain my popular catch-phrase “Put a sock on it!” I’ll spend the majority of the hour making bland observations about life but ending each little routine about egg cups or toilet brushes or something with the line “… and that’s when I…” By the end the audience and reviewers should be able to finish that line off for me by calling back to me “Put a sock on it!”

Can’t wait.

Edinburgh Blog 2013: 3 Guitar

Just over half way through now. It’s day 15 and H2BAM has been through 12 showings and I’ve slowly been adding in more bits into the show to wallpaper over cracks I’d previously ignored.

“What’d you get up to last night, Alex? Partying no doubt” Yeah, if by partying you means getting in at 7, eating dinner and then going to bed at 8, then it’s party central.

The show has been going from strength to strength and I haven’t seen another seagull killed so it’s really been going well.

The main downside so far is that there’s a man who plays guitar near where I flyer who is brilliant at playing guitar. This sounds great but he’s been playing it consistently since I’ve arrived, and it’s pretty much the same song over and over. I have nightmares about being followed around by that tune and terrified of waking in the middle of the night to discover he’s in my room soloing. Every day for the past 13 days that guitar is wailing on and on and on. I know exactly which part of the song he’ll introduce additional flourishes and I know exactly where he’ll revert back to the original verse. I get a faint sense of dread walking up the road to where I know he’ll be and sure enough I’ll hear the rising sound of a guitar widdlin’ and diddlin’ around in the near distance.
Yesterday I went up there to begin my day of annoying people to come and see the show when I noticed something was very wrong; He’d gone.

I miss him.

Edinburgh Blog 2013: 2 Seagulls ‘n’ Showtime

It’s day 5. That means I’ve been here 5 days.

How To Be A Man has had show #3. How great is it going? Too great. We may call it a day early.

What the fact that it’s day #3 also means is that I’ve had to flyer 3 days in a row. I am not good at flyering. My flyering technique is to shout “There is free comedy on at 1:10pm and it is down there and I am on and my friend is on and we will be doing stand-up comedy about being a man except we’re not men that is the joke would you like to come.”

First flyering day was pretty harrowing, not because of the fact that I had to drag myself out of my usually introverted shell and communicate with real people for an hour or two, but because I saw a seagull die right in front of my, and a large group of onlookers, faces.

Seagulls are pretty massive, I never really think about how massive they are until one is suddenly hounding me. This one in particular was no exception and was coming in a bit too low towards traffic on North bridge. You could see in it’s face that it knew it had made a terrible error and was attempting to gain altitude again. Horrendously it couldn’t do so quickly enough and slipped under the wheel of a car right there in front of everyone waiting to cross the road. We all stood in shock at what had happened and an American lady almost went out to try and retrieve its corpse but was stopped by here husband “Don’t, Jane, leave it”. Incredibly sad.

I thought it was a pretty good opportunity to get some flyering done whilst everyone was just stood there.

On a side note I also tried to flyer a car, just on autopilot. He didn’t come either.

Edinburgh Blog 2013 : 1 Arrival

I’m in Edinburgh.

There’s some sort of festival up here and, on a whim, myself and approximately 99.9% of the London comedy circuit have relocated here to see what we can get away with. Luckily for everyone who hasn’t been able to make it up here, everyone they know who has even the slightest connection to comedy/theatre is now incessantly talking/blogging/tweeting/facebooking/screaming about what’s going on at the fringe festival.

This is another one.

So far I’ve arrived, had a look around and cooked a big chilli. In that order.
I brought far too many heavy bags, 2 in fact, which is well above my usual heavy bag carrying limit of ‘not carrying heavy bags’. Neither of these things had wheels either, so I was shuffling my way from the station with regular pausing stops to put the bags down which I disguised as ‘phone checking sessions’, thereby preventing passers-by from thinking ‘Ha, look at that wuss, can’t even carry 2 bags’ and instead thinking ‘oh, he’s had to stop because of an important phone text message/business call’.

Knightmare live was brilliant. Was going to go out later and do all of the parties but just felt tired from aforementioned bag dragging and instead cooked a chilli for rest of flat and then crawled into bed. It hardly needs mentioning but I ate a full 2 baked potatoes with a load of chilli. Take that beginning of Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Holland and Barker: How To Be A Man starts on Saturday so I’ve got two days until I have to be terrified of that.

 

Alex

Holland and Cowle episode 6

It’s episode 6 of Holland and Cowle.

Holland and Cowle S01E06

We answer all the questions: If you could ride anything into battle what would it be? What do pigeons do when they lose their lust for life? What do you buy Death for his birthday? What’s the next big monster film? And, what was that show someone put Tom Cruise in?

Behind the scenes: This episode was quite difficult to make because half way through Jay Cowle (The ‘Cowle’ of ‘Holland and Cowle’) became embroiled in a political scandal, and I had developed a severe case of time travel. Luckily it had all cleared up by the time we finished recording.

Serving suggestions

Have you seen these? Serving suggestions on the sides of packets of food? I’ve noticed them in passing a few times, usually it’s along the lines of ‘hey why not try putting this cheese in bread and then eating it’.

Some of them are slightly more fancy such as ‘tastes delicious drizzled with fresh olive oil next to an onion on a rustic wooden work surface’, but in general they’re potential ways you could make the food you’re eating better. So rather than just bursting into a tin of chopped tomatoes you think ‘oh I could put this with something to make a meal’.

That’s all fine.

However; the other day I bought a pack of bourbons (yeah I like a bourbon, what of it? Some people believe there are essentially two camps in the biscuit world, the bourbon aficionado and the custard cream connoisseur. Well I’m here to tell you that’s not true, I like both). So I’m there munching on some bourbons as I’m want to do of an evening, when I look down at the packet. On it is a picture of the bourbon biscuits spread haphazardly on a plate. Sure, I thought, why not. But what caught my attention was that it said ‘Serving suggestion’ underneath this.

That’s bourbons’ serving suggestion; Just bung it on a plate. Bung it on a plate! What?  Why does that need to be on there?

Is there a worry people will feel they have to obey that picture: “By the way this is just a ‘suggestion’, guys, you don’t HAVE to put them on a plate but it might be a good idea.”

Or is it that people think that’s genuinely quite a good idea? Who puts bourbons on a plate? And, if you’re the sort of person that spreads confectionary unnecessarily on crockery, then I don’t think that you need a serving suggestion, I think you need looking after because you probably decant a microwave lasagne before eating it, which is just weird.

It’s all ridiculous. Everyone knows the best way to eat bourbons is to chew on the corner of the plastic packaging until you create a hole big enough to allow the crushed biscuits inside to tumble into your open gullet.

Holland and Cowle

My esteemed friend and comedy brainbox Jay Cowle and I have begun a new podcast.

It’s a step up from our previous one and includes more spontaneously improvised sketches and SOUND EFFECTS. What’s more it was recommended by Chortle as their podcast of the week, a mantle which has remained for over 2 weeks now. That’s how good it is.

You can listen to episodes 1 and 2 (plus trailer for tomorrow episode) HERE.

Tomorrow is episode 3 which I think is my favourite most hilarious one.

Prediction for 2013

Welcome to 2013 where we now all live. Do you remember how naive and foolish we were back in 2012? It’s shudder inducing to even think of it.

And what about all the great predictions and high hopes we had last year, how accurate were you? Personally I was hoping it would be the year I’d finally drink one of those elusive Yakults that dancing mums have told me about, but alas it was not to be for who am I to push against the wheel of destiny, if fate had chosen that I was to drink yakult then it would have been so. Luckily I had one last week and they’re delicious.
On a similar vein some people thought the world would end. They were right of course and December 21st was a harrowing event for everyone.

Bearing this all in mind I’ve decided to make some predictions for 2013. They are listed below in order of importance.

  • I will buy a shelf
  • Films will go out of business because of piracy (high-seas not copyright)
  • Justin Bieber will cease to be a pop-culture reference
  • The economy will disappear and, after a moment of genuine blind panic, we’ll realise that we never really needed the economy, it was inside us all along
  • A big event will occur
  • Hovering boards will be invented (n.b. these are not the same as ‘hoverboards’ and are unsafe for use as transport. By August they will be found in fancy coffee shops as unreliable tables)
  • A hound will be near me and I’ll wink at it and it will woof happily and wag it’s tail. Then we get our own sitcom.
  • Everyone will agree that yo-yos never went out of fashion
  • My nickname for David Cameron – David Blamotron – will finally stick and come into popular use. At a high point I’ll hear Dara O’Briein say it on a panel show.
  • The second Hobbit film will be released
  • I’ll discover a secret

December 2013 I’ll check back on this and we can see how many (probably all of them) I got right.

Until then I will post nothing else on here.

Bye

Radio Silence

How’s it going everyone?

I have not updated this thing in a while because I have been just busy enough to justify not having time to do that sort of thing, whilst simultaneously being not-busy enough to allow me to spend a day trying to build a great paper aeroplane whilst watching Star Trek.

So, here are some updates on what I’ve been up to.

Podlosophising is still going strong, the latest episode is up and you can look through the archive for any you’ve missed or especially catch your attention. Jay Cowle and I are continuing to perfect the art of talking nonsense for prolonged periods of time and hope to one day reach a point where we can simply use one word in a variety of different tones and still produce 1 hour of solid, entertaining podcasting.

I am also gigging irregularly. In other words I’m doing gigs every now and then as opposed to being irregular at the gigs which I’m doing. How are they going? Too well, if anything. The other day I performed at a gig so well that the audience were too stunned to even laugh. They just watched with the kind of awe-struck respect usually reserved for monarchs or people who look like they might be monarchs and should be watched with awe-struck respect just to be on the safe side.
At the end they didn’t even clap, simply bowed their heads humbly as I left the stage. If only all gigs could be like that.

Other than that I’m working at my job of being handsome and strong all the time which can be pretty tiring.

What awaits me for the next month? Only time and a sneaky look over my shoulder on the train at my phone diary will tell.

Brit Zombers

Recently I actively stopped reading a book about Zombies called World War Z.

There’s a lot of these books about at the moment because zombies have become increasingly popular over the years. I’m not sure why this has happened but it just has and we all have to deal with it. If you think about what it was like 5 or 6 years ago the chances of the topic of discussion turning to “what would you do now if a LOAD of Zomboes burst in here?” were negligible. Now, however it’s almost an every day occurrence. Usually because it’s me asking the question. If/when a zombie apocalypse does occur then I’ll still be asking people “Yeah, but what would you do though if one of these guys had a chainsaw or something?” regardless of a decomposing shop assistant gnawing on the stump where my hand used to be.

With that in mind you’d think World War Z would be pretty well suited to me. It’s written in the format of a series of interviews with people who survived the massive zombo apocalypse, so it’s not really possible to spoil it by anything I write here. When I started reading it I found it very entertaining. It’s interesting learning about the history of a fictional world apocalypse by piecing together bits of information gleaned from characters’ personal stories, and it’s clear that the author has thought A LOT about the impact a whole load of Zombs would have on the world. There are some incredibly well considered descriptions of how economies, armies, tactics, have to adapt to survive, making it a more fascinating and in depth read than just an action book about some ‘dude’ fighting the living dead. Admittedly a lot of the more detailed stuff is set in the US and the majority of interviewees are American but so what? The author’s American, give him a break alright. It’s not too America-centric and for the most part it’s an even handed account of the effect on the whole of the modern world.

For the most part.

What caused me to actively put the book down was the chapter in which we encounter what I think is the first European character. It’s around 2/3rds of the way through the book and an interview with a writer and“Englishman” called David Allen Forbes who is immediately described as “painfully nervous”. He bumbles a lot, changes topic, gets confused, apologises, and It becomes clear early on that we’re expected to imagine Hugh Grant from the Four Weddings era has survived World War Z and will now give us his run down of the events. We also get the sort of slang you’d expect for a British character allowing avid slang spotters to tick off all the classics within a few pages: ‘bloody‘, ‘chaps‘, ‘sods‘, ‘cracking‘ and ‘wankers‘ all get an airing. Naturally I find this (and I can’t be the only person) stereotyped ‘English’ character circa 1950 incredibly annoying, but I can forgive this, they’re just a few lazy shortcuts to remind the reader that we are definitely reading about a soddin’ Brit. His story is about people being forced to use castles and the medieval weapons contained in them to defend themselves from those annoying Zombers, specifically referencing a lot of the population holing up in Windsor castle. He also describes how some castles were so adapted to tourists that they no longer offered any defensive value whatsoever and got a lot of people killed. Fair enough, that’s interesting.

The big problem, however, comes at the end of his interview. The interviewer is about to leave but is stopped by David: “There’s… more”. David is described as “clearly uncomfortable” as he tells the last bit of his tale. At one point he “clears his throat, his upper lip quivers for a second” so he’s obviously on the verge of crying, “this is going to be one impressive emotional end to his story” I thought. Then he tells his impressive emotional end to his story, and the book is completely ruined for me.

How does he do it? He talks about the fucking Queen. The Queen! It’s all just about how honourable the Queen is because she refused to leave Windsor Castle and escape to safety like the rest of her family even though she was begged to. Begged to! As though during an apocalypse anyone would actually care what happens to the Queen. “Their task [the monarchy], their mandate, is to personify all that is great in our national spirit.” Says David, at this point probably (although it’s not described) crying into a delicate and ornate teacup with Diana’s face on it, They must forever be an example to the rest of us, the strongest, and bravest, and absolute best of us”. Disgusting. After reading it I had to put the book down and text a friend in detail how annoyed I was (That gives you a pretty good idea of how annoyed I got. Ultra-annoyed). I’m sure that to some readers the concept of a brave and honourable ruling monarchy who sacrifice themselves for their people will be lapped up, but personally it makes me feel mentally unwell. It would be useful to write a guidebook for American authors thinking of including a character from the UK titled “no-one gives a shit about the queen” with the opening chapter called “Hugh Grant is weird”.

If I was in a castle fighting off zombies do you know who I’d expect to lean over and say “Isn’t it great that the Queen hasn’t left us”? No-one. Not even extreme royalists could be pleased about an old lady hanging around, uselessly diminishing resources whilst making everyone feel they should be grateful they’ve got such a bravely altruistic monarchy that’s willing to risk it’s life to personify our national spirit. Get lost. As soon as one of her corgis shits in the water supply she’d be flung off the ramparts. Can she swing a mace? No? Then she should do us a favour, go outside and not come back in again.

If I’m honest, after having to put the book down for a couple of days, I tried to overlook that chapter and read on. However all the while I now felt as though my senses were attuned to spotting ridiculous stereotypes, no longer really reading it but just scouring it for slip-ups. The following chapter was about a guy from Sri Lanka who worked as part of a team broadcasting survival information to everyone from a big radio boat (It’s written more descriptively than that but you get the idea). I noted happily that at no point does he offer to lift everyone’s spirits by cooking them a fantastic curry and so continued reading. Then I get to an interview with two Japanese survivors. To answer your questions, yes, one of them is a Sensei and the other his student, yes the student used to be a computer game loving ‘Otaku’, yes, a samurai sword is involved, and yes, the Sensei is blind. Of course he is. He’s like one of them cool blind samurai you get in films. Sweet. Does he chop a zombies head clean off or slice one so effectively down the centre of their body that they don’t notice until they actually begin to fall into two pieces? No, but I think it’s basically implied. I of course don’t find this as annoying as David Forbe’s interview purely due to the fact that Japanese stereotypes are much cooler than ours, however the damage was already done and this further diminished my waning enthusiasm the book.

It’s a shame because, to reiterate, I was genuinely enjoying the book up until the point a Brit was introduced. After that I just felt incredibly disappointed and patronised. If you’re thinking about reading it all I’d suggest is to avoid David’s story altogether, pages 187 to 194, and it will be fine. However if you do happen to glimpse it, then make special effort to ignore the last line of the chapter:

“They were viewed very much like castles [the monarchy]…crumbling obsolete relics with no real modern function other than as tourist attractions. But when the skies darkened and the nation called, both reawoke to the meaning of their existence. One shielded out bodies, the other, our souls”

Yuck.

Stick with the Japanese though, who doesn’t like Samurai?