News

  • 01 Jul

    No Sex Please, We’re Creating: Gender and Equality in the Writers’ Room

    There was a bit of a hoo-ha recently when it was reported that ITV’s Head Of Comedy, Saskia Schuster has banned all-male comedy writing teams.

    Monty Python (L-R: Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, John Cleese)

    Monty Python (less Terry G) 1969: arguably the most famous comedy writing team ever. The Oxbridge graduates used to meet regularly upstairs at Soho’s famous Nellie Dean pub in Soho. Women need not apply.

    This lead to all sorts of misguided and unhelpful online outrage about men being marginalised so women could be fast-tracked into the British comedy industry, regardless of merit.

    Now, as anyone with even a Trump-sized brain knows, this is not discriminating against men. It’s a laudable attempt to redress the balance in what has historically been a male-dominated space.

    The Simpsons writers room

    The Simpsons writers’ room, early 90s. Note: the only female present is cardboard. And a baby.

    Writer and performer Brona C Titley offered this excellent response in The Guardian, which compelled me share my own experience of working in a comedy writers’ room.

    My sole experience is an odd one, and not much fun.

    I worked on a (thankfully) failed attempt to replicate a US late-night talk show for UK audiences. I spent several weeks trapped in a braying sausage fest, all white men, leftovers from Loaded magazine.

    My overriding memory is just how exhausting it was. All the banter about ‘fit birds’ and ‘’aving it large’ (whatever the fuck that means) turning to tedious white noise.

    Funny thing is, I was completely marginalised and ignored throughout the process even among ‘my own kind’, because I was the only one in the room who knew nothing about football and wasn’t a lad, thereby somehow invalidating my input.

    This wasn’t an awful experience because they were all white men, but because they were monstrous arseholes who happened to be white men. But the fact there was no diversity didn’t help.

    You gather together one type of ANYBODY in a room and the experience will nosedive pretty fast.

    I’ve had incredibly satisfying creative collaborations exclusively with white men, exclusively with white women, and with a diverse mix of talented people.

    Crucially, I’ve also had awful experiences working with all of the above.

    30 Rock starring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin

    Tina Fey‘s brilliant 30 Rock, based on her own experiences as Head Writer in SNL.

    Equality and diversity should be encouraged in every endeavour; Titley’s article is bang on. It’s tragic we still even have to say this. But what irks me is that such dialogue in the public space often rapidly descends into identity politics. Which is a cop out.

    Monty Python, a lot of whose output has dated horribly, will always be a profound influence. As is Peter Cook and Peter Sellers. As is Jerry Seinfeld and Robin Williams. But I don’t admire them because they are all white men. But because their comedic brains resonate with me. Still do.

    The greatest thing about the greatest comedy is that it transcends class, race and gender.

    Alternatively, Fleabag, the best comedy I’ve seen in a long time, isn’t superb because Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a woman, it’s because she’s a phenomenal writer, actor and director. But thank God we live in times where she was given the opportunities to gift the world her brilliantly warped mind.

    Because, as Titley correctly asserts, everyone who works in the creative industry does so because they were given an opportunity.

    Fleabag on BBC Comedy

    Fleabag. Created and written by a hugely talented human. Who happens to be a woman.

    There is no doubt that diversity tends to birth infinitely more interesting work – IF the chemistry is there. And I think that’s crucial for me. That’s how you create your best work and ultimately, it’s the work that counts.

    Bottom line, I don’t really give a shit who is in the room with me as long as they bring something to the table.

  • 25 May

    Excelsior! I’ve Signed a Deal to Write a Book About Stan Lee

    Hello world.

    I am thrilled to announce that I have been commissioned by Pen and Sword Books to write a shiny new book about Stan Lee.

    In case you didn’t know, Stan is one of the most important creative forces of the twentieth century. He helped shape pop culture as we know it. The cavalcade of flawed, multidimensional characters he co-created for Marvel Comics (including Spider-Man, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Hulk and Black Panther) still resonate with millions across the globe.

    His work helped spawn the most successful film franchise of all time; the Marvel Cinematic Universe has collectively grossed nearly $20 billion – and counting. Not too shabby.

    On a personal note, Stan’s iconic work has been a constant in my life. From being an excitable kid prancing around the house in a Spider-Man costume and the hundreds of Marvel comics still gathering dust in my mum’s attic, to bunking off work to catch a 9am screening of the first Avengers film (sorrynotsorry Comedy Central) and now sharing these film with my son, his vibrant imagination continues to excite me no end.

    This is a dream come true for a grumpy ageing fanboy such as myself and I can’t wait to get stuck into the next chapter of my career.

    I’d like to offer my heartfelt thanks to Hannah George, Marc Burrows, Dave Jackson, Matt McAllister and Kate Bohdanowicz for their help in making this happen. Now all I’ve got to do is write the damn thing. Because as the Man says, with a small amount of power, comes a small amount of responsibility. Or something.

    More updates on this, including release dates, to follow. Watch this space.

     

  • 12 Apr

    Death, Pride and Prejudice

    Hello world. Hope all is well in yours.

    The first part of 2018 has been a curious one for me. During the first week of January, my stepfather passed away the gloriously ripe old age of 91. He’d been battling Parkinson’s Disease for a long time, and my mother had also endured a great deal looking after him during his final years. It’s a grisly terminal illness and I was glad and thankful to see the end to both their suffering.

    The greatest trick death ever pulled is convincing you its all about you. Of course it’s not. Death doesn’t happen to you. Once you’re gone you’re gone – wherever that may be. Death happens to everyone else. The shock, the tears, the seemingly endless practicalities. The tedious minutae of planning. That’s the essence of death surely. Grief and logistics. Those left behind have to process so much. Even in this case when it’s expected and indeed welcome, death really is exhausting.

    So recent events ensured that start of my year was oddly timeless. At once fast yet slow. After an inevitable period of adjustment, I suddenly realised it was April. Running concurrently with family events, I’d taken a break from improv and stand up to take part in a theatrical adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. After last year’s Zoo Story, I was approached about playing Mr Bennet, the distant and sarcastic pater familias of the family at the heart of Jane Austen’s classic commentary of love, family and early 19th century social airs and graces.

    I readily accepted. I like being sarcastic and if I get to do it while wearing late Georgian fashion all the better. The production is being staged in Denmark by Copenhagen Theatre Circle and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some talented, lovely people. It’s rare in this game to meet people who are both talented AND lovely – they’ve always seemed to me hitherto mutually exclusive – and thanks to this vibrant cast, I have laughed and learned a lot along the way.

    Pride and Prejudice opens on April 18th and closes on 28th. It’s been an intense and intensive schedule during the build up and at times it’s been rather gruelling. I’ve been spoiled by improv I have to say. You just get up with nothing and create on the spot. I’m an impatient show off and I enjoy the instant gratification from winging it and discovering funny and extraordinary multiple characters in the moment. I find improv to be closer an experience to stand-up comedy than conventional theatre and I’d forgotten the more arduous aspects of the latter. Blocking, thrashing out character motivation, weeks of rehearsals and, of course, learning lines. Still, I was flattered to have been asked and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process of finding the character, trying to bring a little piece of myself into such an iconic literary figure. I am proud to be involved and look forward to taking the stage next week.

    That said, we haven’t even started the run and already I’m exhausted. But being exhausted seems to be defining quality of 2018. Family has been front and centre both on and off stage. Seems fitting to reflect on how one feeds into the other. As I pretend to be an emotionally absent father who struggled with his duties towards his wife and daughters, I can’t help but reflect on the role my stepdad played in my life. He too was a complicated man, but a good man. He was no stranger to stepping back from the more dramatic aspects of those around him and often indulged in considered bursts of wry sarcasm. I suspect he and Mr Bennet would have got on rather well.

    Pride and Prejudice 
    18-28 April 2018
    Weekdays at 19:00
    Saturdays at 14:00 and 19:00
    Sunday at 14:00
    Buy tickets here

    Krudttønden
    Serridslevvej 2
    2100 København Ø

  • 10 Nov

    The Zoo Story

    Have you heard the one about two Brits in Copenhagen pretending they’re in New York?

    Very excited to report that I have recently been asked to take the stage for a theatrical production of Edward Albee’s classic 1958 play The Zoo Story at Huset in the heart of Copenhagen. Already home to a thriving English-speaking theatre company House of International Theatre (HIT), I was thrilled to be asked by my fellow ICC performer Charlier Waller to form the remaining 50 per cent of the cast.

    If you don’t know about it (and to my shame I include myself in this), it’s a one-act, two-person play that has often been labelled Theatre of the Absurd, but I don’t feel it is. It deals with universal themes including failure to communicate, isolation, class, societal failure and male identity.

    While being quintessentially American at its heart, the ideas that Albee played with in his writing knows no country or nationality. This also explains why we chose to perform in our native British accents and not pretend to be American. As two ex pats living in a different country, we felt some affinity with the ideas of being out of time and place, strangers in a strange land, somewhat disconnected from the status quo. Again, all these themes run throughout every aspect of Albee’s writing.

    It’s only a three-night run and a short play but it has proved quite an intense experience, not least because both Charlie and I are on stage for the entire play. Even in a longer play it’s rare for an actor to have 100 per cent stage time so in accumulative terms, it’s quite an undertaking. I should also mention that this is the first time I’ve been on stage for scripted performance since I was at school. So there’s that.

    Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed treading the boards, I hope this won’t be my last. Time will tell…

     

     

    By admin News Performances
  • 20 Aug

    The Great British Sod Off

    Hello world,

    First post in a while but that may well change. For starters I’ve unchained the shackles of Comedy Central after several years and am back out there in the real world. Glad I dived right in; the water’s just fine.

    Secondly, I felt compelled to write because tonight marks the return of the adored Great British Bake Off. Now in its fourth series, that chunky, handsome man with the twinkly eyes (no, not me) and the woman who looks the evil pastor in Poltergeist 2 are back to reassure the nation that everything isn’t really that bad and we are in control; nothing calms the soul more than watching a group of people whose greatest struggle involves an inaccurately folded loaf of cholla or an overly-tart lemon drizzle cake.

    I have nothing against this sort of warm cardigan telly in principal, but what I do find rather sad is that this is a prime example of an increasingly depressing trend of major broadcasters of replacing quality, thought-provoking, original and, above all, entertaining programming with what is lazy, drawn-out, quick-win and ultimately empty daytime television.

    I should say, first off, that having worked in TV for a long time, I understand the squeeze programme makers currently endure. The digital revolution has diluted the water, the money is dwindling and the need to spread themselves across multi-platform outlets has seen reduced risk-taking by broadcasters in terms of the formats they commission. I understand all this; I used to see it every day.

    But. Shows like this gall me because historically they would be tucked away alongside Watercolour Challenge and My First Doily in the middle of the afternoon – gentle, passive shows that brought together the pensioner and the student alike, soothing them into a soporific but beatific stupor until they go out/go to bed at about 6pm. The Great British Bake Off should not be on 8pm. At the risk of sounding like a Daily Mail article, it’s a waste of the licence fee.

    Since they have made the jump to primetime, we are left with effectively 20 minutes of television cynically drawn out over an hour to fill the schedule. You just watch. Next time one of these shows is on keep an eye out for the insufferable levels of repetition in the voice over, talking heads, interviews and participants’ comments over 60 minutes. If I catch one more episode of Masterchef where we are reminded every six minutes that Gavin from Weybridge is out of his comfort zone with a fish dish I’ll build a van out of those desserts Greg Wallace loves so much and crash it through his kitchen.

    I’m not saying all primetime TV should be highbrow and elitist. We do have enough channels to spread the love and there’s more than enough room for comedy, drama and documentaries that are broad and mainstream; I welcome it. I just feel (rather sentimentally I admit) that major network broadcasters should be leading from the front as they used to. Also, I just miss the craft that goes into programme making. They say a show comes together in the edit suite but these daytime-turned-primetime shows really do feel like every single shred of footage has been cobbled together just to play for time and chase ratings at the expense of well-made, stimulating entertainment.

    I understand why these shows are popular. I get why people in their millions lap this stuff up. It’s gentle, it’s soothing, a balm after a hard day doing whatever it is people don’t enjoy doing on a daily basis. It’s aspirational. People doing what they love in England’s Green and Pleasant Land.

    That said, television is still (for now) one of the most powerful media in the world, and there’s no reason why prime time schedules shouldn’t be used optimally to benefit the greatest number of people. We need less frothy, forgettable fare that belongs on TV during the middle of the day, and more truly engrossing dramas, uplifting comedies and inspiring documentaries the BBC and Channel 4 used to pioneer so effectively. Lastly, I also believe people will watch whatever’s put in front of them, so there’s really no excuse NOT to make it well written, well structured, well acted (where relevant) and above all actively entertaining.

    Now if you excuse me, I’m off to check my Victoria Sponge hasn’t fallen over…

  • 01 Mar

    Bye-Bye Benny, no groping on the way out.

    That’s it. Pope Benedict is out of there. He’s gone. Split. Further proof the job-for-life mentality is outdated and redundant, even for those elected by God. Still, I don’t blame him. That gig’s a poison chalice.

    For starters there’s the ambiguous job description. He’s not just the Pope; he is also Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the state of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God and Primate of Italy. Primate? I know job titles tend to be pretty vague, but it must be demeaning to have your role compared to a chimp.

    But that’s only the start of it. The Pope is boss of all Roman Catholics. Think of the logistics. You can’t micromanage a headcount of one and a half billion. The cost of stationary and desk space alone doesn’t bear thinking about. And let’s not forget this is a high-profile, international set up so maintaining positive pr must be a nightmare. All you need to happen is a rogue bishop doing something he shouldn’t with a bonobo in the Congo and it’s all over the papers quicker than you can say ‘ridiculous cliché’.

    Then there’s the company car. Sitting inside a bulletproof glass case isn’t exactly going to put you in the best of moods on the way to work. Sure, it’ll keep you safe but it also serves as a daily reminder that someone may want to kill you. No, sounds like old Benny was wise to get out when he did. Still, if he’d hung on till the end he’d probably have got a decent retirement package, like a set of cufflinks or the holy grail, which he could flog online for a small fortune. Wonder if he’s allowed to keep the hat?

    In other news, a private investor has revealed he would like to send an older couple to Mars. He feels that his contribution to the space race is to add a little experience to proceedings. After all, youth is wasted on the young, right? Why should the kids have all the fun? Well if this chap gets his way we’ll soon be seeing a pair of astronauts of mature years blasted off on a once-in-a-lifetime mission to the red planet.

    Apparently the plan to choose an older couple is because their health and fertility would be less affected by the radiation they would be exposed to during such a long space mission. Makes sense. Their radiators are always turned on full blast even in the height of summer. On the downside it could prove more expensive having them pilot the shuttle. After all, have you ever tried to get the elderly insured on a car? Your premium goes through the roof.

    It doesn’t sound like a good idea. It’s a lot colder there than Earth so they’ll have to equip this adventurous pair of pensioners with extra tartan blankets. Presumably their shuttle will travel at about thirty miles an hour, even when there are no other space shuttles around, and with the indicator still flashing from when they turned left just after the moon.

    These are, of course, cynical generalisations. Still, it’s got to be factored in, as is the potential that these senior space cadets might get all the way to Mars, wander around for a bit, then complain it wasn’t worth the effort. After all, it’s so expensive nowadays, the shuttle was so loud and ultimately the whole trip was a bit of a disappointment because they don’t build planets like they used to.

    Finally, following those allegations made against a certain enormous, sweaty politician who shall remain nameless, there’s a lot of talk in the press about correct conduct in the workplace. What is appropriate office behaviour, what is not. A wink here, a grope there. Apparently there is a sliding scale of what is acceptable. For instance, it is permissible to touch a colleague’s arm to get their attention. It is less permissible to drop your trousers and rub yourself up against someone’s leg. Who knew?

    Seriously, there tends to be a rule of thumb in this situation. If in doubt, don’t. Now, I’m not being a prude here. You can’t move where I currently work for irritating, flirty banter. Not a day goes by without several members of the finance department stealing away into the stationary cupboard to re-enact the last days of Rome, but they are consenting adults so it’s fine.

    On the whole, if you need to be told that you shouldn’t behave in a certain way then you need to have a long, hard look at yourself. Seriously, does anyone really need to be told that it’s inappropriate to pat a co-worker on the bottom? Clearly they do.

    Here’s a thought. You do not need to be fondling anyone at work. At all. Really the only profession where it is acceptable to touch someone as much as you like is professional boxing – and even they have that rule about hugging for too long. No, the rules for society were laid down some time ago and it’s for the best we all just follow them, otherwise it’s a strict disciplinary, which should really involve the offending party being locked in that stationary cupboard, where they’ll get the most terrifying dose of their own medicine ever imaginable…

  • 07 Feb

    A Wizard in the Workplace

    Hello you,

    Right, first entry in a while; indeed first post of 2013 and it’s already got off to an excellent start.

    I’ll start off with a brief celebratory nod to the recent passing of the equal marriage bill. Now anyone can get married. Good. Another victory for emancipating progress and objective equality, another defeat for damaging prejudice and subjective paranoia.

    It really is a non-debate. If you love someone with all your heart, you should be allowed to express this love, publicly, formally and legally through the institution of marriage, whoever you are. It’s only fair, right?

    Ironic that people who bang on about how marriage is on the decline are usually the same folk who don’t want equal marriage. So they moan that fewer people want to join the club then turn away those who want in. They can’t have it both ways. Does this bill represent an erosion of traditional family values? Of course not. Historically marriage was not about the family anyway, it was about property. In fact, marriage has been constantly redefined over time so there’s no correct answer to what it actually means or why we do it.

    Bottom line, this decision represents the time we currently live in – one that aspires to compassion, freedom, respect and tolerance – all of which, by the way, lie at the heart of all religious traditions. Anyway, here’s hoping religious wedding ceremonies will now be forced by law to resemble scenes from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Might make them slightly less tedious.

    In other news, another collaboration with the amazing Guerrier Brothers is on the way. Here’s a BTS photo (courtesy of the fabulous Lisa Bowerman) of the shoot, in which I was fortunate to act opposite veteran actor David Warner. The film is still being edited, so watch this space for more news as and when it breaks…

     

     

     

  • 04 Nov

    EDIT: The Plotters finally embeddable

    Hello world,

    Right, on the eve of the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot it seem fitting I am finally able to embed my latest short film, The Plotters, onto my site.

    As you may or may not know we made the final thirteen films in the Virgin Media Shorts competition, and are eligible for the grand final, on Thursday November 8th. Hopefully the verisimilitude of the date for the final falling so near to Bonfire Night may work in our favour, but then I’ve always been a silly, sentimental sort. Anyway, enjoy.

  • 29 Jul

    Remember, Remember…

    Hello world.

    Finally got round to uploading this. Based on an idea conceived by myself and award-winning wrter comedian Hannah George, The Plotters is the latest comedy short I’ve made in collaboration with a fabulously talented bunch of writers, performers and crew members.

    I co-wrote the script with Simon Guerrier, and the end result was directed by his brother Tom. I had the priviledge of working with the Guerrier Brothers on Revealing Diary, and was thrilled to get a chance to collaborate with them once more. Full credits can be seen here.

    Anyway, we’ve entered it into a short film competition, so click below to watch and see what you think. We’re really proud of the finished result, filmed over one humid Saturday in olde London town on a VERY small budget but an awful lot of beards.

    The Plotters – Virgin Media Shorts.

  • 14 May

    New short film, nature and pigeons.

    Hello world.

    Not much to report, largely because I’ve been very busy. Working two full-time jobs into the time it takes to do one is not to be advised.

    Did notice that new nature programme on the telly. Planet Earth Live. It’s the most ambitious wildlife experience ever made apparently.  It’s presented by that tiny moron from the car show who nearly incinerated himself strapped to a rocket on wheels and that woman who wanders around fields so it must be important.

    And it’s live. A live nature show. Not sure they’ve thought this through. What are we going to get, half an hour in an empty field? A sleeping pig? A bewildered chaffinch? Animals don’t handle direction very well. Even if they use exciting ones like a lion, they might not be in the mood. What are they going to do then, send in some terrified assistant to poke it? They’re going to need a very long stick.

    Thing is, there’s never been a live nature show for a reason. Ever been to a zoo? It’s boring. Imagine that, but without the gift shop. That’s your live nature show right there. In fact, you want a live nature show? Open a window.

    Talking of nature, I read recently that pigeons have GPS brain cells. Whichever research team has been paid to investigate this area, this is the earth shattering conclusion they have reached. Pigeons are living, breathing, feathered sat navs. And there we were thinking they were just rats with wings, indifferent to vehicles. Turns out they could develop a symbiotic relationship.

    If we could harness this power, we could have one in every car.  Actually that might be a terrible idea. A bird trapped in a combined space? Can you imagine the humanity? Thousands of lives put at risk as cars spin off roads, lorries jack-knife into central reservations and vans collide into each other, twisting into macabre, mangled of sculptures of metal and fibreglass, just because the sat nav decided it wanted to get out.

    No, we must stop meddling in affairs that do not concern us. Leave the pigeons alone. Let them do what they do best. Spreading disease and upsetting statues.

    Lastly,  I was asked to take part in a short film by the supremely talented Guerrier brothers. We made it from scratch in two days.  To find out more click here, but here it is. Enjoy.

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