Sometimes, you have to travel down the wrong road in order to realise that it is the wrong road. Fortunately, sometimes you don’t have to travel very far…
When I came away from Edinburgh in 2012, a return this year was very much on the cards, perhaps with a full show of my own. This is the case for 100% of open mic comedians who visit the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and as resolutions go it tends to be as unlikely to be seen through as it is ill-conceived in the first place. As autumn became winter and post-Fringe depression transitioned to actual regular depression, the financial and creative realities of the situation became obvious; doing an Edinburgh show in 2013 would be a silly idea, and I should probably skip the Festival entirely in order to save up for 2014.
I did then go on to audition for a package show; it seemed like the sort of thing I should be going for, rather than risking imposing a full hour of myself on an unsuspecting public and earning a solitary star and a misleading poster quote from wereviewanyfringe.blogspot.co.uk. I was up against some very talented individuals and didn’t make it through, but I was philosophical about it; this was, if nothing else, a sign that I really should save the money and stay at home this year after all. The decision was made.
It was a decision I made at 10:30 this morning. By midday, not only had I booked five nights in an Edinburgh hotel for August, but I’d persuaded several of my Twitter friends to do so as well. To quote Oscar Wilde, ‘The only thing worse than going to the Edinburgh Fringe is not going to the Edinburgh Fringe. And being locked up in Reading just because you had bum sex with a man. Seriously, dude, what was that about?”.
This will be my fourth Edinburgh Fringe in as many years; truthfully, I find it hard now to envisage an August where I don’t go up there for any length of time. But for me, it’s not about being a performer; I was a comedy devotee long before I started doing stand-up, and I hope I will be for a long time I inevitably give up. Although plenty of comedy happens in London, I rarely drag myself out to it, either because I’ve got a gig of my own with an inevitably less talented line-up of comics, because I can’t afford to go and see it, or simply because I can’t be bothered to traipse into Central London after a full day at work.
With the Edinburgh Fringe, there are no excuses; the comedy shows are on all day, every day (Apart from the one Monday I always seem to make part of my trip, when half the acts decide to have a little holiday). Some might say this is relentless; I say it is ideal. Although not for six days solid like last year; that was stupid and I slightly grew to resent comedians by the end of it. This year I am going for four full days and two less full days. This is probably still too much.
Of course, the big problem with going to Edinburgh as a low-level performer just going to watch shows is that I will inevitably have the following conversation four or five times a day with tired acts:
ACT: Hi, Pete! How’re you? I didn’t realise you were up here! Are you doing a show?
PETE: I’m good, thanks! No show – just seeing as many shows as I can cram in. How’s yours going?
ACT: Good, good… Some nights are better than others (Translation: I’m exhausted, this was a fucking terrible idea and I want to die).
PETE: Yes, I suppose so!
ACT (joking, but not actually joking): So, are you coming to see my show?
PETE: We’ll see! I’ve got a few spare slots later in the week, so I might well come along… (Translation: Not a chance, mate. You barely have five minutes of material I can sit through; for you to think you can stretch that to an hour is an arrogant and unpleasant notion, and you fully deserved your 140-character panning from @studentsreviewthefringe. You’re a pleasant enough person to chat to, but I would seriously rather stick pins in my eyes than watch you try to drag laughs out of an audience for an hour)
PETE: Well, good luck with it anyway! Might see you around!
ACT: You too!
I don’t know if I ever will come to Edinburgh as a fully-fledged act. Last year, I took part in the delightful Quiz in My Pants for a five-day run, and although I enjoyed myself immensely, it felt like a bit of a millstone around my neck; there were shows that I just couldn’t go and see because of my commitment to quizzing in my pants. If Comedian Pete decided to do a show every day of the Fringe (Except that Monday), would Comedy Fan Pete really be content to stand around and watch an hour of mediocre observations about geeks every day for a month, or would he punch Comedian Pete’s lights out and go off to watch Pappy’s instead?
Obviously it is the first one. But Pappy’s are pretty great too.
As it is, I don’t know what shows I’ll be seeing this year; at the time of writing, the Edinburgh Fringe website lists just 19 comedy shows, which is a little down from the 1,400+ shows there were last year and should make timetabling a lot easier. What can possibly go wrong?
Ealing is a strange and often dangerous place to live, with many colourful characters lining the streets. By that, I mean there’s a tramp with an eyepatch who sometimes gets on the same bus as me. But this evening I was introduced to a new character in the lineup: Twiglets Man. I was in my local Sainsbury’s (Local), looking to buy something sweet to help take my mind off the fact that I return to work tomorrow, when I saw a man go up to one of the many roaming members of staff and enquire:
“Where do you keep the Twiglets now?”
I can sympathise; every six months or so, some well-paid business analyst attempts to justify their salary by suggesting that perhaps the supermarket would sell more custard cream biscuits if they moved them from the top of aisle 3 to the middle of aisle 4, thus prompting a store-wide reshuffle that leaves every customer who comes in for the next few weeks scratching their head and wandering up and down the aisles searching for that coveted pot of Nutella. And sales of custard creams remain steady, because the custard cream remains a fundamentally uninteresting biscuit.
The employee stared at Twiglets Man blankly, as though he had asked a difficult physics question. Twiglets Man tried to elaborate on the exotic product he was trying to locate, explaining that they were usually kept with the crisps, and come in a tin. “Ohh, you mean Pringles?” asked the employee, and Twiglets Man started to look irate, repeating his request for Twiglets. The employee called one of his colleagues over and asked him if he’d moved the Twiglets. Employee 2 also responded with a blank stare, although had one over on Employee 1 in that he at least wanted to learn; “Twiglets?”, he asked. It seems that Twiglets are yet to break Ealing in any major sort of way; perhaps they should take out an advert in the Ealing Gazette.
Twiglets Man, unafraid to be a trailblazer, tried a different tack with Employee 2, explaining that they were crispy sticks dipped in Marmite. I’ve always been a bit sceptical about this; I’m a big fan of Marmite, but I’m wildly indifferent towards Twiglets. Surely if it were as simple as dipping some sticks in Marmite I’d be equally enthusiastic about Twiglets? While I stood pondering this and attempting to remain inconspicuous, Employee 2 pointed at the breadsticks next to him and asked if those were Twiglets. Many points for an enquiring mind, but many more deducted for the follow-through. Having both tried to help Twiglets Man, the two powerless employees sort of shrugged each other’s shoulders and wandered off.
Twiglets Man was not going to let it lie, though; he went up to the big Staff Only door next to the crisps section, pushed it open and asked the first employee he laid eyes on about Twiglets:
“Do you know where the Twiglets are? I’ve been buying them in here every day and now they’ve moved.”
EVERY DAY. Hopefully this will have satisfied those of you reading this entry thinking ‘Why’s he calling him Twiglets Man? It’s just a man who happened to want to buy some Twiglets; it’s not his defining personality trait or anything’. This is a man with a 60-a-day Twiglet habit. Or perhaps his desperate need betrayed some more complex reason? What if he was building a sticky Twiglet sculpture? Or what if his wife only allowed him to sleep with her if it in some way involved licking Twiglets off of her naked body? Whatever the reason, Twiglets Man wasn’t telling.
He was insistent on getting his Twiglets, though; he’d already been round the crisps section several times – I’d watched him do so – and there were clearly no Twiglets to be found. But it didn’t seem like he was going to accept this until he’d asked every employee in the store and got someone from Sainsbury’s Head Office to investigate the Twiglets issue. Eventually a security guard, having noticed the discussion, wandered over and put an end to the whole sorry affair, telling Employee 3:
“We’ve stopped doing Twiglets now; I checked after he came in yesterday.”
At this, Twiglets man scowled off into the night, in search of those ever-elusive sour snacks. I hope one day he finds them again.
‘I know his journey ends never,
His Twiglet Trek will go on forever.’
- Gene Roddenberry
Today I, along with the rest of Twitter, wasted most of my final Saturday before going back to work on Monday watching CITV’s ‘Old Skool’ Weekend, which featured repeats of such once-popular shows as Mike and Angelo, Woof! and Knightmare. It was fun swapping observations with people and receiving the all-important ego-validating retweets, but what was interesting was the blinding effect that the nostalgia of it all seemed to have on a lot of people.
It is often said that children’s television today isn’t as good as it used to be. The only problem is that this is said by pretty much everyone once they get into their mid-20s. The Transformers fans (OG, of course) pour scorn on the 80s Ninja Turtles cartoon, the Ninja Turtles fans pour scorn on Pokemon, the Pokemon fans pour scorn on Digimon, the Digimon fans pour scorn on Ben 10 or some shit, and until a year or two ago just about everyone poured scorn on My Little Pony.
I’ve spent much of this evening watching The Channel 4 Mash-Up, in which a number of Channel 4 shows I’ve never watched cross over with one another in some nominal way in a series of misjudged segments. It’s a bit like Comic Relief, but none of the skits stop after ten minutes and no money is being raised for charity. In fact, it’s hard to see who’s benefiting from this one; certainly I don’t feel like my life has been enriched, even if I can’t look away as Nick Hewer and David Hasselhoff rub shoulders with the cast of Made in Chelsea, presumably contracting communicable diseases in the process.
It’s easy to be scornful of these ‘structured reality’ programmes, as I think I deftly proved above. But according to Wikipedia, which never lies, The Only Way is Essex star Amy Childs earned a little under three million pounds in 2011. I could buy a lot of comics for a little under three million pounds; I’d probably even be able to afford a couple of those ridiculously oversized hardback ones which look even more beautiful than Carol Vorderman in her prime.
I don’t know how much a typical circuit comedian earns in a year, but I’m going to put myself out on a limb and guess that it’s certainly not over £2 million; I reckon £1.5 million, tops. So my suggestion is that ITV or Channel 4 (I’m not going to Five with this) commission a ‘structured reality’ series about a group of sci-fi nerds. I can provide the nerds if you can provide the cameras and the soft-focus lenses. Naturally in this series I will be the funny one. I will also be the sexy one, for no extra cost; I am willing to get my breasts out in a magazine, but only one of the classy ones like FHM or Maxim. Cheg on, Zoo.
It would, if nothing else, be a money-saving exercise when compared to the likes of Chelsea or TOWIE; we geeks* tend to be much more insular and less prone to picking up baggage like partners, so you’ll be saving on the number of contributors you have to pay. We’ll also be saving you a fortune on makeup – it costs less to make five of us look like Klingons than it does to make Amy Childs feel ready for a night out on the town, and that’s a fact probably.
Of course, the best thing about The Only Way is Trekkie would be that, although the public would still be able to laugh at the cast and feel good about themselves in the same way that they do when they watch TOWIE or Made in Chelsea, the characters in the show would also be in some small way charming and likable, and marginally less prone to making people despair for humanity. This would lead to a slight reduction in the number of TV-induced suicides, and somehow make the world a better place.
It would also mean I was likely to get laid more often, which really is what all this has been about. Television commissioners, I look forward to hearing from you.
*Let’s face it – I mean ‘me geek’.
“Today is Wednesday. No, don’t write that. What if you accidentally push enter now, and that’s your blog? You’re going to look really silly. You’re still going! (disgruntled noise) I can’t be quiet, this is too hard! And now you’re going to write it in the box… You’d better have some sort of disclaimer at the end of this if you are going to press enter, or else people are going to think you’ve gone loopy. You’re just showing off how fast you can type. Are you having fun? You’re wasting your finger strength.”
All of which is why I’m not able to write a proper blog entry today, despite saying I would write one every day until the end of time.
“That doesn’t make sense. Poor readers.”
It’s very easy to resolve (Not to be confused with making a resolution) to write a blog every day when you’re sitting around in your pants eating dry roasted peanuts that your mum sent back with you after Christmas because it was either that or let the cats – or worse, grandad – have them, but when a friend contacts you to say “WAA WAA THE TRAINS ARE RUBBISH CAN I STOP OVER” you just have to do your duty. Of course, I have a long-standing arrangement with this friend that I’m not to write about her in my blog or talk about her in my standup, so I can’t go into any more detail about the wacky hijinks this day has held.
Actually it was mostly eating pizza and watching Power Rangers, which I don’t think are technically ‘wacky’ or ‘hijinks’, but we lead very sheltered lives so it’s the closest we’re likely to come to either.
What she doesn’t know is that I’ve got a secret Word document on my computer of all the batshit crazy stuff she’s done over the years, and one day after we’ve stopped being friends I’m going to turn it into an Edinburgh show.
“Yeah, well I’ve got a picture of your willy in a drawer, so be nice.”
Coming 2014. The show, that is; not the willy.
I’ve never been much of a believer in the whole New Year’s thing. After all, the Chinese don’t celebrate it, and there’s over a billion of them; why should we be so sure that we’ve got it right? The majority of people thought the world was flat until 500-odd years ago; now it’s just Terry Pratchett and a handful of people in the rainforest for whom global circumnavigation is unlikely to be on their list of priorities. New Year’s Eve/Day is an arbitrary marker of time, designed to keep Calendar Club in business and give Clinton Cards an extra revenue stream every December, which is traditionally a pretty quiet month for them.
And I resent having to buy a new calendar each year. At least, I would if my mum didn’t always give me a Doctor Who calendar for Christmas each year. But she shouldn’t have to; just look at the Mayans*. They started their calendar over 7,000 years ago, and it’s ONLY JUST RUN OUT. Granted, it brought with it that whole fake apocalypse thing, but you’ve got to admit it – that’s nothing if not cost-effective.
It’s very easy for me to be scornful of the whole New Year’s system, given that I’ve spent this evening in my bedroom eating curry and watching DVDs. This is probably why I’ve chosen to do so, rather than picking a more ‘edgy’ target such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Facebook (‘Poking’? What’s up with that??). I did have invitations to go out this evening (Well, an invitation. But it was a good invitation), but decided against it due to my wholly rational and intense dislike of crowds of people. Come midnight, however, it seemed that, as with the Olympics, everybody in London had decided to stay indoors and snark about it on Twitter instead. I wonder if, when Bill Gates invented Twitter, he ever realised that it might be part of the solution to London’s overcrowded public transport network? Probably not.
I’m not going to do a ‘review of the year’, because I have had nothing but scorn and ridicule for those noble bloggers churning out their annual reviews as if they held any sort of weight, importance or interest whatsoever, and the last thing I want to do is give me another piece of ammunition for the day when I finally go insane and end up talking to myself, Gollum-style.
I’m also not going to be making any New Year’s resolutions, because even if I accept the basic premise that a new year is beginning (I do not), experience has taught me that they are not worth the brain cell they are written on. Last year I made some facile resolutions for a podcast, and these included losing weight and being better with money. I’m just as heavy as I was this time last year, if not more so; and an impulse buy of a Google Nexus just before Christmas, conveniently coupled with a further extension on my overdraft, suggest that I’m worse than ever with my money.
I also said that I was really going to make an effort with my stand-up comedy in 2012; this, too, was a lie. I was lucky enough to reach the heats of the BBC New Comedy Competition, the final of the Up the Creek One to Watch competition and to win outright the Comedy Cafe New Act of the Year competition, but all of these were largely through booking occasional regular gigs there and things just sort of snowballing; my gig calendar certainly wasn’t full in the run-up to any of these. Imagine how well I could have done this year if I’d actually made an effort.
One thing I do want to do, though, and this is not a resolution, is get back to daily blogging – or as near as – for a while. My memory is terrible, and as such a lot of the goings-on in my life are quickly forgotten. In most cases this is probably a blessing rather than a curse, but
when they find my body sometime in March it would be nice for people to be able to look back and piece together where it all went wrong I’d quite like some record of things that I can look back on. Those of you who have read my previous blogs will know that it’ll be a bumpy ride and that some days will be a lot more interesting and have more jokes in than others, but what could possibly go wrong?
Quite a lot, hopefully; it’ll give me something to write about.
*I was going to make a brilliant joke about how you can’t look at the Mayans as they’re all dead, but a quick Google showed that there’s actually around seven million of them. Me announcing their deaths on here would probably have come as a bit of a shock to their families.
I like films well enough, but as a geek there’s an expectation on me from my fellow geeks that I will have seen certain films. I don’t want this blog to read like a list of things I haven’t done, but here’s just a few of the films I’m ‘supposed’ to have seen but haven’t:
Of IMDB’s Top 250 movies, I’ve seen just 45. Until two years ago, I had never seen Blade Runner. Then I joined a sci-fi group, and some of them were genuinely outraged that I hadn’t watched it, in the way that some of you will be having read the list above. There was actually a Facebook page set up dedicated to forcing me to watch Blade Runner; that was how strongly some of them felt about it. I began to feel like Wesley Crusher in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode ‘The Game’, in which he returns to the Enterprise to find the entire crew addicted to an alien videogame, and they end up holding him down and forcing it on him.
In the end, I caved in and watched it; partly because there were some of them I really didn’t want to hold me down and force anything on me, and partly because Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation is not a character you should ever find yourself sympathising with. And in the end… I found it to be a very average film. Bits of it are very impressive and well done, but bits of it are utterly terrible and Harrison Ford just looks bored throughout the whole thing. It also caused me to realise just how much of Red Dwarf: Back to Earth was just ripped off from Blade Runner, and I really didn’t need any more reasons not to like that thing.
I disagree with the notion that you’re ‘supposed’ to have seen things. It’s one thing saying to someone “Hey, I think you’d really enjoy this”, but people were actually telling me that I was less of a geek for not having seen Blade Runner. But I still know the production codes of most Doctor Who stories, I still end up talking mostly in quotes whenever I have to comfort an emotional woman, and I still cry myself to sleep at night in my lonely, lonely bed.
And that’s what I’m going to do right now.
It may surprise you to learn that I’ve never been particularly cool when it comes to musical taste; the first album I ever bought was the South Park album ‘Chef Aid’ in 1998. It contained a mixture of tracks sung by South Park characters and tracks performed by hip and happening artists like Elton John and Wyclef Jean. I almost always skipped past most of the latter set of tracks. The most recent album I bought was ‘Now That’s What I Call Disney’; clearly very little has changed.
‘Chef Aid’ wasn’t the first album I wanted to buy, though; that honour went to 1994′s ‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: A Rock Adventure’, performed by ‘Aaron Waters and the Mighty RAW’ (or, more accurately, performed by a bloke called Ron in his garage). My parents wouldn’t buy me the album, one of many crushing disappointments which made me the man I am today. Perhaps they were worried about the lyrics, every one of which carried with them a deep and powerful message:
‘They think they’re tough, but you have got a secret weapon
They don’t know about, your Ultrazord protection’
It’s enough to drive a child to a life of hard drugs and shoplifting.
Most of the music I’ve bought or downloaded illegally over the years, I’ve discovered through either television or film. Doctor Who and Star Wars soundtracks remain among the most played items on my iPod, but even that’s mostly full of podcasts and audiobooks. Any favourite actual songs I have, I probably like because I heard them on the telly at some point, and it’s hard to pinpoint why that is. It’s possible that, in order to be included in the sort of things I like to watch, songs have to have a particular quality about them. However, I think it’s probably more likely that, when it comes to songs, familiarity certainly doesn’t breed contempt for me; the songs become comforting through my increased exposure to them. Not that this works for all songs; I seem to have heard Jedward more than I’d like, and I still think they’re a couple of insufferable twats.
I’m writing this blog entry as part of a seven-day blogging challenge that my friend Tom Mayhew started and I decided to piggyback on like a properly cool person, and in their initial entries both Tom and his friend Amy have listed some of their favourite albums. I can’t do that, though, because in the limited number of non-soundtrack albums I’ve bought over the years, I’ve never found one that I like more than about half the songs on, and it probably won’t surprise you to know that those are usually mainly the singles.
Whenever I’m filling in a dating site profile (Which is most weeks at the moment), there’s always a section asking me what music I like. And I’ll always write that ’I tend to like older artists, like Queen, Abba and Elton John’. This is an embarrassing enough admission to begin with, and I suspect it may be why on some sites I receive more messages from men than women, but it’s not even true. I don’t like ‘Queen, Abba and Elton John’; I like ‘Queen’s Greatest Hits (vols 1 and 2; after that it’s too obscure)’, ‘Abba’s Greatest Hits’ and ‘Elton John’s Greatest Hits’. A year or two ago, I went to a Monkees concert at the Royal Albert Hall, and I spent most of the second half sat patiently waiting for them to do one of the songs with ‘Believer’ in the title.
I had the opportunity to be exposed to a lot more music when I went to university, and got involved with the radio station there. Unfortunately, my new friendship group also contained at least one person who was incredibly knowledgeable about music, and manifested this knowledge in that kind of patronising arrogance and disdain that is usually reserved only for hipsters. And so I did the best thing I could do in the circumstances, and completely dug my heels in; my music tastes may not have been deemed cool by my peers, but they were my music tastes and I was sticking to them. And in a way, wasn’t that the coolest thing of all?
No, clearly not; I received ‘BeSt: S Club 7′s Greatest Hits’ as a birthday present from my sister one year. I was genuinely grateful for a very thoughtful gift that I happily told her I was planning to buy at some point. She looked surprised and crestfallen as she revealed that it was meant to be a joke present, before presenting me with a gift voucher.
I regret not being more musically literate. I don’t regret not being able to name any of the current Top 40 acts in the pop charts or anything (Top 40, is that still a thing?) but I bet that there’s literally ‘a lot’ of music out there that I would love. There’s probably even a song or two that speak directly to my strange and diseased brain. And I’ll never know; I don’t listen to the radio unless it’s Just a Minute or something, because most radio DJs seem to be right proper Jedwards, and because the songs I find boring tend to vastly outweigh the ones I like.
Still, while looking up Aaron Waters and the Mighty RAW on Wikipedia, I’ve discovered that Ron Wasserman has released ‘Power Rangers Redux‘, a modern re-working of many of the songs he wrote for ‘A Rock Adventure’. So don’t you go worrying about me; I’m off to revisit my missed childhood. Yet again.
If you know me, it should come as little surprise to you when I say I’m not a big fan of confrontation. And if you don’t know me, your presence on my blog is welcome but baffling. It certainly isn’t the kind of thing I’d read if I had a say in the matter.
When I was a nubile 19-year-old, I met a girl. This wasn’t much of an achievement in itself; I was at university at the time, and there were literally thousands of them. I won’t give her name, as I’m likely to make some unflattering remarks about her in three or four paragraphs’ time, but it’s reasonable to say that I had a bit of a crush on her. By this, I mean I wanted to tear her clothes off (in a respectful fashion, neatly piling them up beside the bed), do all the things I’d spent the last seven years watching in videos, wash her face with Wet Wipes and go off and get married.
You always remember that last card or sticker. Usually it’s the one that you spend weeks opening packet after packet in the hopes of finding, until eventually either you find it or they stop going on sale and you’re forced to give up.
I found myself in that situation once, with the first Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers sticker set from Merlin. there was a double page spread containing stickers of all six Rangers’ helmets and, try as I might, I never found the black one. The stickers went off sale, and I was a little bit distraught.
There was a phase, maybe a year later, when my local Gulf garage started selling Goody Bags, which cost far more than the 25p that the sticker packs possibly cost back then. They were filled with cheap plastic toys, cheap plastic sweets… And random packets of Merlin stickers. And any time I could, I would buy myself a Goody Bag, specifically in the hopes of getting that Black Ranger helmet. It wasn’t to be.
I finally got my Black Ranger helmet, one day long after my parents had weaned me off my Goody Bag addiction. I was round my friend Karl’s house when I realised that he had a Power Ranger sticker album buried in among a pile of stuff. I idly had a look in between video games and bouts of mutual masturbation or whatever it was we did back then, and when he wasn’t looking I peeled the Black Ranger sticker out of the book. I say ‘peeled’, I basically mean ‘ripped’.
I put it back in the pile where he possibly would never find it, went home, stuck it in my book with Pritt Stick, and then a month later moved out of the county. Sucker.
Of course, at some point shortly after that I had one of my “I’m too grown up for Power Rangers” phases, none of which ever really stuck, and threw it – and the rest of my collection – out. Gone but not forgotten.