sneaking into their world

I’ve found myself in a few situations in the last week or two that I’ve somehow felt that a teacher’s kid from Northampton shouldn’t really be.

I suppose it started last Wednesday, when I went to Parliament. Yes, Parliament. It’s an odd place, the palace of Westminster: normally so closed off to the likes of me, despite its ostensible purpose to represent and include me in politics. Every time I’ve been there I can’t help but feel I’m intruding somehow, like I’ve scammed my way in.

I’d been invited by the Teacher Support Network, who were having a reception there which had been sponsored by Barry Sheerman MP (the Ofsted-baiting chair of the Children, Schools and Families select committee). I’m not entirely sure what capacity I was there in – there were hardly any other teachers around, and my official school responsibility for Student Voice was rescinded this year – but once I was through security it didn’t really seem to matter. They just kept topping up my wine glass, and I got on pretty well with the staff of TSN who were lovely and brilliant and invited me to the pub afterwards and everything.

There were only two disheartening things about it: the first was the painfully cheesy responses that people had put up on a board in response to the question, ‘What Makes Teachers Great?’ 

It was all ‘because they shape the future’ and ‘they enlighten the next generation’ etc. – basically the kinds of things that are said by people who don’t really know what it is teachers actually do. (If they’d had some comments from real teachers on the board, they’d say things like ‘we keep turning up every day and somehow don’t kill anyone’; or ‘we’ve lucked our way into a job that lets us actually see our friends/kids sometimes…’)

The second disheartening thing was meeting Sheerman himself – he’s been a bit of a hero of mine, especially with his recent positions on Ofsted’s role in various things, and he gave a very passionate speech about how wonderful teachers are. But then he didn’t seem at all interested in talking to me – an actual teacher – when I tried to chat to him afterwards. The only glimmer of interest he showed was trying to get me to sort him out and invite to the school, which seemed blatantly to be so that he could get some photo taken with some kids. Politicians are dicks

It’s his loss; he had, in his speech, opened with a joke about a news story about himself that hardly anybody there would have seen. It bombed. If he’d asked me first, I could have given him a few tips on how to pick your topical gags for the right audiences. As it is, perhaps he’ll never quite know why the rest of his speech didn’t get the response he wanted…

After that, I had to go and do my own jokes at Scurvy Wednesdays. Well…I did two jokes and some drunken rambling, because after the wine reception and the pub afterwards, I was a bit drunk.

The oddest thing about it is that my Dad was there, with my stepmum and my sister and her husband, and that was about half the audience. And I think I may have done some stuff about Oedepus, but for obvious reasons I don’t remember it so well.

I shouldn’t be allowed to drink wine. 

And then, of course, a few days later I was drinking wine again, except at Oxford University. My friend Steve had invited me up for a Friday evening college dinner. He’s a lecturer there now, which meant we were sat at the top table of a great old hall with lots of esteemed academics all wearing gowns and being incredibly formal and old-fashioned and, well, Hogwarts-y. We ate something which was delicious and may have been duck, but it was kind of dark so it was hard to tell. But they did keep bringing me wine.

But then I found myself talking to other people around the table, including some Professor of Maths or other, who was very polite and pleasant and asked what I do, so I said, “In the daytime I work part-time as a sixth-form Philosophy teacher…”

But then I paused. It all seemed too formal for me to say I was a comedian in the evenings: comedy seemed frivolous in comparison with their very serious academic vocations. So I just said, “…and at night I do – other stuff.”

At which point Steve pointed out that I should just be honest because what I’d said sounded more sordid than what I really do, at which point the comedy bit of my brain just snapped into gear like a reflex and I said, quite loudly, “how sordid could it really be though? It’s not like I’m going to say, ‘Hello! I’m Charlie and in the evenings I let wealthy men fuck me in the ass!'”

And then there was a pause and Steve was glaring at me as if to say, sssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!! And I suddenly snapped back into remembering where I was. And we both sat there for a few minutes wondering how many people had heard me. And not long after that, the provost at the head of the table stood, which meant that everyone else stood, and we filed out of the great hall, gowns billowing, and me with a very red face.

Honestly, sometimes I think I shouldn’t be allowed out, let alone into respectable society.


comedy is art 1: the problems of ideology

I think it’s time to put a proper argument together.

I’ve seen a few blogs in the last week or so that have taken positions against the ‘comedy is art’ campaign. The most notable have been from Andrew Watts and Harry Deansway; but there are a few other general anti-campaign comments flying around which probably need dealing with.

So I’m going to spend next few blogs discussing these points, first by addressing them and then expanding that into an argument for the campaign. (Strap in folks, it’s going to get debate-y…)

As far as I can tell, three arguments have been made from within the comedy world in opposition to the campaign:

1) that Arts Council funding would make comedians stop being funny because they would be looking for money not from audiences, but from the state – as claimed by Andrew and Harry;

2) that taking money from the state would mean compromising our freedom as comedic artists to say and joke about whatever we like (I’ll take this one on tomorrow);

3) that stand-up and sketch comedy aren’t really art at all, just entertainment; and we should proud to call ourselves entertainers without wanting to be artists as well (I’m saving that for Thursday).

So, let’s start today with Andrew and Harry. I’m glad Andrew weighed in on this, partly because both his blog and his act (which you can see at the next Scurvy Wednesdays on 18th November…) are genuinely brilliant; and partly because even though I know he puts himself on the ‘conservative’ side of that spurious nonsensical divide we call ‘political ideology’, when I read his blog I often think he’s on the good side of a far more important divide: namely the divide between good thinking/lazy-minded idiocy. (I don’t know Harry well enough to know what side of that divide he’s on, but I did once share a taxi with him and he seemed nice at the time; plus, Nick Helm seems to like him which is a good enough endorsement for me.)

Both Andrew and Harry acknowledge that comedy is, or can be, an ‘art’, but oppose the campaign on based on the economic/political consequences of comedy being given state funding. (Though it should be said that Andrew does make a beautifully incisive psychoanalytic point that wanting ‘official’ state validation of your art smacks of insecurity, which he may be right about. But then, nobody ever said comedians were emotionally secure people; and ultimately this is an ad hominem point which I’m sure he’d accept adds little to the practical side of the debate.)

Anyway, the claim they both make is essentially that state funding of stand-up and sketch comedy would be bad for the ‘comedy industry’ as a whole. Harry points out that the good comedy nights don’t need it but that state funding would lead to rubbish comedy, which I can only assume comes from a rather dogmatic belief that everything which receives public funds is inevitably worse than things which are privately funded. He doesn’t use the phrases ‘free-market’, ‘competition’, or ‘survival of the fittest’ but that’s what he’s basically referring to: in short, he argues that Arts Council funding would lead to a lazy, bloated comedy industry where enterprise isn’t rewarded. Andrew argues this too, but goes further and deeper, arguing also that the need for experts to decide who gets the funds means that the judgments of critics will end up being taken as a better measure of ‘value’ than whether something actually gets laughs; and that this will, in turn, lead to a widening of the gap between ‘art’ comedy (which would need to be funded based on criteria other than how funny it is) and ‘popular’ comedy (which might not be clever but does at least get laughs, and that, he quite rightly says, is the main thing).

In short, they’re both making a ‘free-markets good, state funding bad’ kind of argument which is based more, I think, on ideology than it is on practice.

To demonstrate, I’ve written two sentences below.

1: Governments ought to fund artistic projects that enrich people’s lives by making them feel and think better;

2: Governments ought to provide so much funding for a given field that a bloated and lazy industry emerges around it, thus destroying the value of projects that people would actually be prepared to pay for.

Only one of which (the first one, obviously) is being made by our campaign. The problem is that Andrew and Harry both seem to be saying, with varying degrees of sophistication, that making the first claim inevitably implies the second, and that the first therefore shouldn’t be made. This kind of assumed jump from one claim to another often happens when an ideology (in this case, the ideology of free-market capitalism) isn’t applied critically or pragmatically enough.

Now firstly, this ideological point is slightly irrelevant: even friendly ‘anarchists’ (and I use the term loosely) like me are on board with the campaign because we accept that in practical terms, we are currently living in a mixed economy where the state funds some things (In an anarchist utopia that wouldn’t happen of course, but we’re a long way from that yet; so I’m happy for the time being that we as a society we do fund certain things collectively, and when public funds are cut back it should be from the authoritarian, rather than the educational and artistic, side of the state first). Anyway, sometimes this state funding thing works out well and sometimes it doesn’t – but it has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with the specifics of who’s running the thing and how well they do it. (Radio 4, for example, is a national treasure; the railways shouldn’t have been privatised as clumsily and hamfistedly as they were; but I’d rather sit in a cafe that was an independent business and thrives by being great rather than because it gets money from the government). Anyway, the point is that in such a mixed economy, state funding is not necessarily good or bad and applying free-market ideologies to it misses the point because we’re not concerned with economic ideology of state funding for the time being; we’re more concerned that if art is to be publicly funded at all, then we should be consistent about how we do it – if it’s going to fund art then it shouldn’t unreasonably discriminate against any particular artforms.

But even if we take the ideology as being relevant, it’s wrong: the fact is that it’s not inevitable that public funding for things of value ruins the industry around it. Andrew points out quite reasonably that Arts Council funding ruined poetry, but ignores that it makes a lot of artforms much more accessible to many people: on my salary, for example, I could never afford go to the opera unless it got some funding, or drop in at the National Gallery like I did last week. Public Libraries, too, could be called a successful result of a social consensus on the first claim, but you rarely hear people going, ‘oh, the Public Library industry is so lazy and bloated – if people really wanted books they’d be prepared to pay for them’ or say that their quality or value is diminished because of state funding. (Which is not to say that libraries are without their problems, as anyone who has read the good library blog will know. But you get the point.)

Equally, it would be hard to claim that the availability of free, communally-funded books for the last 100 years has damaged the bookselling trade; if anything it’s helped it – if books are more accessible then people read more books, and then they buy more books.

Nobody is saying all comedy should get government money any more than anybody is saying that just because libraries are good, we should turn all the bookshops into public libraries. We’re also not saying we’d want stand-up to get so much funding that, like libraries, people can just get it for free. That would be ridiculous.

But we are saying that good comedy is currently not as accessible and available to all as it could be. It’s hard to set up quality, affordable, sustainable comedy nights outside London (or even in London) without a huge initial outlay – both in money and in time – on marketing, booking quality acts, transporting them to the show, etc. Scurvy Wednesdays has been a moderate success because Tony, Loz and myself pumped in loads of our own money at the start to buy a PA, posters, book quality headline acts, going to gigs every other night looking for the absolute best new acts to basically exploit, asking a lot of them to work for nothing at our show so that we could break even. Not all promoters can do that, certainly not outside London, and the losers in the end are the public.

Andrew has one very good point: that there is a problem of who will make the choice of what to fund. But it’s not true that ‘critics’ would do it: firstly because that’s not how the Arts Council work any more (they’re in the middle of a drive at the moment to recruit a much broader range of ‘assessors’), and secondly because comedy simply couldn’t work like that. We would need, admittedly, a proper discussion about what is artistic about comedy, and on Thursday I’ll hopefully be going some way towards doing that. But nobody, either comedy acts or audiences, would accept that it should be allowed to become less funny.

However: there is, I think, a consensus that some comedy gets laughs but is not artistic at all. Comedy needs to get laughs but it’s not as simple a formula as big laughs=good comedy. Horrible, thoughtless, moronic comedy often gets big laughs too. (Little Britain, which was often the TV equivalent of a schoolboy pointing at a person with Downs Syndrome and calling them ‘spazz’ while all their friends roll around in fits) is a case in point. So I think our campaign would have to accept that both we and the Arts Council should think carefully to find criteria that ensured tired old pub gags with no sense of irony or creativity would qualify. (We wouldn’t want to find ourselves facing the same problem of public libraries which are full of Sophie Kinsella and Dan Brown novels because people want to read them. I don’t like to see my taxes going to Sophie Kinsella any more than you do).

But the fact that stand-up does have to be judged, at least in part, on whether it’s actually making people laugh, means that that would have to be part of the criteria (as well as the other things that the masters of the artform can accomplish, like making us cry or think or want to scream).

It may even be – and I’ll say it quietly – that incorporating comedy into its remit might be part of the kind of re-evaluation that the Arts Council is going to have to do in order to avoid the general widening of the gulf between ‘arty’ art and ‘popular’ art that Andrew analyses so well.

It’s easy to be pessimistic, but I think this is possible; moreover, I think it’s desirable. We’re not asking for comedy to become bloated or crippled or unfunny and the objections that claim this are based on a fairly cynical anti-statist ideology rather than hope and the promise of hard work. I think it’s possible, though – if we’re careful – for the state to provide positive support for projects of real value without such unintended consequences, and to provide, instead, the same help in being more accessible that is afforded to other artforms.

I’ll take on the next point, about whether Arts Council funding would mean giving up our freedom, tomorrow. Well done for getting this far…

storytelling, with cheese

Last night’s Scurvy Wednesdays show was interesting and strange. We had a big crowd in (in part courtesy of our friend Carrie, who did a great little open spot) and everybody performed well, but for some reason there were very few big laughs and the whole thing never quite went off the way it often does.

This makes it very difficult to tell whether what I did was actually any good or not; it only got a few really good laughs, but then so did all the other acts and they were all doing good stuff. 

But it’s particularly annoying because I was trying something totally different:  I’d had quite an interesting few days last week that led to a genuinely surreal and funny conclusion where I ended up in a strange part of Coventry with a santa outfit and a reblochon cheese. So I thought it might be fun to just tell the story – with a few made-up details, obviously – in a very rough, unwritten (but not un-thought-about) kind of way. But I was conscious that for the story to work, I’d have to put in a few narrative bits that weren’t funny, or at least that I hadn’t yet had the writing time to make funny. So the narrative was fine but the punchlines were deliberately a little more sparse than they usually would be.

The trouble is, the usual way of judging whether a piece of stand-up has worked is the number and size of the laughs it gets. And what I did got some laughs, but it felt like they weren’t quite as loud or as frequent as they ought to have been, and there’s no way of knowing whether that was because of the act or because of the room. Basically, there were too many variables for it to be a fair test…

(I possibly didn’t help matters by starting out saying that what I was about to say was true, which explains why some of it wouldn’t be funny. That was intended to be a kind of ironic self-deprecating joke in itself, but I didn’t quite pull off the delivery and the audience, many of whom were friends of Carrie and had never been to a comedy night before, took it at face value, expected not to laugh, and then often didn’t. Even at some of the things I’d thought were pretty funny.)

Still, when I watched the video back this morning I realised that I didn’t bore the audience at any point – they were intently following the story all the way through; and there were even a few big-ish laughs for some bits which I may try and appropriate for my normal stand-up set, if I can get them to work out of context.

So it wasn’t a complete waste of time. But whether it was worth bringing the cheese along to demonstrate how smelly it was – and thus going round carrying a bag which smelled of cheese all night – I’m not sure I’d do that again…

I like big rants and I cannot lie

Something happened tonight.

I was onstage at Scurvy Wednesdays and something happened, and I don’t know who else in the room noticed it but there was a moment, just a moment, when I thought I might just have found a voice.

It all happened like this: I realised a few days ago that there is something funny in the idea of a comedian who had a real love of silly jokes but recognized the silliness of the jokes, referenced it, explained it. Tim Vine does it incredibly well, though that’s not the point of his act. To an extent, it IS the point of Stewart Lee‘s act but in many ways he’s almost too clever to put that on the surface of the text because he wants the audience to laugh at his actual material as well…

Anyway, when I was at the Comedy Cafe last Wednesday, my silly jokes were, for the first time, not getting the laughs they had been getting the previous night. I had this idea of pretending to get angry, ironically taking it on the audience for the stupidness of the material. And I did a little bit along the lines of, “I’ve been doing stand-up for three years and until now I was doing hard-hitting topical comedy,” and they laughed. And afterwards, Joel Dommett – an act I really rate – said, “you’re really funny when you get angry.”

And I remembered, then, about a really interesting gig I did a few years ago, at the Bedford in Balham. While I was onstage, someone laughed at an odd time. A girl with her boyfriend. And I asked them what they’d laughed at, and they said, the way a beer mat had stuck to the bottom of the glass. And I good-naturedly and mock-hysterically abandoned my material and got angry, went off on a rant about how that was the most damning heckle ever because they were implying that a sticky beer mat was funnier than the comedian, and perhaps we should all just play with beer mats, and then I thought ‘fuck it’, and I ran with it and got a beer mat up on stage and put it behind the microphone and went, ‘is THIS what you want? IS IT? IS IT?’ And the audience laughed.

I don’t think everyone felt entirely comfortable that night, but it got very good laughs from most of the room, and I finished my set to a generally very good response. Afterwards, a very good and wise comedian called James Cann – who then went up and did a flawless set of brilliant prepared material – said to me, ‘you picked on someone who was laughing. That’s dangerous.’ It was a night where audience judges decided the best act of the night by marking them out of ten; I got a few 9/10s, but the couple I’d picked on, even though they told me afterwards they thought it was brilliant, had ‘ironically’ given me a 1/10. James had got solid 8/10s from pretty much all the judges, so – perhaps deservedly – got the highest average score and won the night. (He does mostly improv now. I like to think that’s because he got tired of doing the same consistently great stuff every night…)

Anyway, I had learned that night that not everyone likes an angry comedian, and I didn’t do it again for a while. But I had really enjoyed doing it.

So after Joel had reminded me about this, I thought to myself: I wonder what would happen if the act was a comedian who not only recognises the silliness of his silly jokes but is actually really angry at himself for doing them. Is there potentially something funny in that pathetic self-and-audience-loathing of a comic who thinks he’s somehow better than his material, even though really he isn’t? I suggested this idea to Loz over a lunchtime beer last week, and he seemed to think it was worth a try.

And it occurred to me that actually, there is an extent to which I can honestly identify with that idea; I did spend an incredibly long time at University studying philosophy for the end product to be nothing more than a serious of puns based around the phrase ‘I like big butts and I cannot lie’.

So when I was deciding what to do tonight, and I realised that hardly anyone there had seen this ‘big butts’ bit, I thought, I’ll do it but then I’ll play this anger at my own silliness up. I’ll go onstage and I’ll get really angry. And I’ll rant and shout and I’ll be pathetic and self-loathing.

And that’s what I did. At the start of the set there were not so many laughs for the actual joke. But then, the more shouty and pathetic I got, the bigger the laughs got, and there was one point when I almost lost my flow because I had to wait for at least one particularly big laugh to fade. And for a very brief moment, I genuinely lost myself in what I was doing, got lost in the moment, in trying to channel the raw emotion, of how painful and frustrating stand-up can be, of how much I want to be good at it…that so rarely happens…

Then, after about 5 or 6 minutes, the tide of the rant had peaked and dipped, and the room was left in a state of slightly awkward tension. What was needed then was to have written a really good punchline to break that tension and make it all okay.

I didn’t have that punchline. Instead, I tried to do a new bit about pie charts. It didn’t really work and the set fell flat towards the end. Which was probably a bit of a let-down (the bit about pie charts is quite good, but it wasn’t the place for it).

But I will find that punchline, and I will destroy rooms with it…

And besides, I felt pretty satisfied when I left the stage. I felt like I was getting close to something, that there was a glimpse of an act, a voice, there. 

At no point do I think that everybody in the room really enjoyed it. I know Tony didn’t. The phrase he used after the show was ‘car crash’, which hurt a bit because he’s such a good act and I value his opinion a lot. But I do know that I tried something new, that there was a section in the middle where I was getting good laughs from a fair chunk of the audience, plus Loz seemed to really enjoy it (at least before I did the pie charts), and the other acts smiled and shook my hand in a way that they don’t do when I actually do badly. (I know what that’s like, I’ve done it enough times now.) 

So perhaps it’s not to everyone’s taste, and I have no doubt at all that there will be nights where this new idea goes horribly, horribly wrong.

But I do think I may have found a kernel of an act to believe in and work at; and that is more than I’ve ever had since I started doing this whole ridiculous stand-up thing. More importantly, it’s a reason to look forward to the next gig.

the justice of paying to play

There’s a popular conception of ‘justice’ as meaning ‘people getting what they deserve’.

Political philosophers like to call this idea ‘Justice as desert‘, though I’ve often thought this might be because they like making bad puns about getting the after-dinner sweet you deserve (it’s a badly kept secret that philosophers love puns; the fact that Jacques Derrida based most of his philosophy on puns didn’t make him rare, it was just rare that he didn’t mind admitting it).

Anyway, the thing about justice being the idea that people get what they deserve means a few things: firstly, it means that anyone who argues that income tax should be low on the grounds that people deserve to keep the earnings they worked hard for, while also arguing against high rates of inheritance tax, is an idiot: either the condition of deserving wealth is a person’s own hard work (ie not that of their parents) or it isn’t.

Secondly, and of more relevance to this weblog, it means that there is a remarkable amount of justice in stand-up comedy. You can call it instant karma, you can call it survival of the whatever, but it really does seem that those people who work hard at their act while making the effort to be polite and nice to people are very often rewarded, and those who don’t are, in a sense, punished (for example, I know of one act who has offended so many other acts that his gig request emails now contain a list of people he’d rather not be on a bill with. I don’t personally dislike him but he’s upset so many people that perhaps it’s not entirely by chance that he struggles to get gigs, and then struggles for laughs when he does get booked).

Anyway, I’ve noticed this phenomenon even more recently.

The day of my gig in Eastbourne on Sunday, for example, I really wanted to have a good gig, so I worked really hard on planning my act, I got to the gig early, I did my absolute best to be polite to everybody, and then in the evening I had a really lovely gig (and a pretty good night out afterwards, largely thanks to the excellent company of Bobby Carroll). On the other hand, at last week’s Scurvy Wednesday, I was fucking dire. I mean, really reeeeally bad. I wasn’t prepared properly and then I stupidly picked on a lovely and well-meaning guy in the front row; his girlfriend was offended, I got a garbled apology all wrong, headbutted the microphone and that came up in a massive infected lump which took six days to clear up.

Anyway, you get out what you put in; you get what you deserve.

But then there is the question of where that leaves pay-to-play gigs like the Lion’s Den ‘Comedy Car Crash’. Does paying to go on earn you a better gig? Of course not. But I had a stormer there on Tuesday. Obviously the concept of the night is pure evil, and Andrew O’Neill, (another act who I really admire and whose hard work and professionalism and general loveliness seem to be reaping rewards for him) rightly pointed out to me through facebook that I shouldn’t be doing any gigs like that because promoters should never under any circumstances be charging acts to put on a show for them.

But as I mentioned in my last blog, the Lion’s Den is an anomaly; it’s a great club despite its relentlessly evil business model; its a great place to try out new or risky material because they almost always have a great audience in (often bigger and smarter and more receptive than most of the clubs I’ve done for free/flyered for next to nothing). I can only guess that it’s because Tim and co. are so hardworking and so nice and so respectful of the audience and the acts (with the exception of charging them four quid, obviously) that they get what they deserve.

I think if they genuinely were just being dicks and taking the money off acts because they couldn’t be bothered to promote the night properly then I hope nobody would go and the night would fail. I certainly wouldn’t go. That would be justice.

But Tuesday’s gig was – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – it was worth paying the £4 to do, given that the other options I had for that night would have cost me more than that to get to and would usually (at this time of year) have audiences in single figures, because they can’t afford to properly publicise; and the reason I’m paying £4 at the Lion’s Den (which cost me nothing to get to) is to make sure the night is well publicised…

The question I’m wrestling with is, is it just to do a gig which is unjust in principle, if it’s for people who (with the exception of that one awful principle) deserve to be putting on good nights? Does doing the gig mean I don’t deserve to have a good gig? Agh…

I don’t think paying to play makes you deserve a good gig; that would be nonsense. But maybe having to deal with the problem of justice every time you do it…Ah, I don’t know.

I’ve confused myself altogether, now.

Perhaps that’s what I deserve.

writing with loz

It’s Sunday afternoon and I just met up with my friend Lawrence in Finsbury Park to have a go at writing some new material.

We met up later than intended, largely because the clocks went forward last night (which, incidentally, always fills me with a great sense of injustice at being robbed of an hour of my weekend. I know I’ll get it back in October, but when that happens I’ll only sleep through it. I want it now)…

Anyway, Loz is one of the acts I’ll be doing the Edinburgh shows with. He also co-runs (with myself and another act) ‘Scurvy Wednesdays’, the comedy club night in Islington that we’ve been running since last autumn. We sat in the World’s End pub, I told him about how I’ve starting a blog, and he seemed appropriately nonplussed.

We mostly chatted about how he’ll be structuring his new set, which I think will be good. I won’t say too much about it here – not because I think anyone will ever read this, but because it would be generally rude. But I think it’s safe to say that he’d like his act to take a more narrative format with the story providing a structure for the funny bits to hang on. Loz is a particularly talented musician, and I think his strongest material will always be in his songs, so the challenge for him will be in coming up with a narrative that can include those songs. It also felt good to help him come up with some funny ideas. Part of the reason comedy writing is so much fun is that it’s just a process of having funny thoughts and laughing about them, and then seeing how funny they can get…

He suggested two things that my help my own act – one was that I slow down (I like this as advice; it’s very hard to know what my own pace is like, but if people aren’t laughing at stuff I thought was hilarious when I wrote it, then it would be nice to think that it’s because they just didn’t hear it properly); and also that I adopt a more narrative style myself.

I’m not sure what to make of this; if I tell a story then I’m not entirely sure where to fit the jokes in; also, it’s hard to tell what to start writing about, and there are no instant events which spring to mind. None that I’m quite ready to share yet, anyway.

I had to leave at four-thirty – My teaching is being observed tomorrow by a Deputy Head of the school I teach at, plus my Line Manager, so I ought to prepare something good. I’ve already had to turn down a possible gig at The Comedy Manifesto tonight, which I really enjoy doing and would have been a good way of getting back on the horse after the competition knockout. If I want to keep the day job, though, I need to put some time into that too. Which is especially galling, since I’ve had an hour stolen off me already.

I told Loz all this and he said, “Yes, but you won’t do that, will you? You’ll just go home and write a blog that nobody will ever read.”