Tag Archives: Doctor Who

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Warning: This blog contains a number of justifications for hypocrisy.

I’ve had this blog for ages, but only really updated it sporadically because to be perfectly honest, and despite the fact that I have chosen to earn my living standing in front of strangers, demanding their attention and craving their applause, there is something that makes me view attention seeking as somewhat distasteful. Doing stand-up may seem to be the anathema of this point of view, but the way I – as someone who has to spends hours plucking up the courage to send an unsolicited e-mail to someone I like or to phone an official body – see it is this: with stand-up, I have been given permission. There is no way I would prat about in front of a room full of people going “Me, me, me” just for the attention,  but the infrastructure of a comedy night is such that there is a stage and a microphone that people have chosen to pay money to look at and listen to. The people who have been invited to tell world class jokes (say, Gary Delaney), issue satirical barbs (say, Mark Thomas), or fume about trivial issues in a way which would be unacceptable in proper social situations (say, um, … me) have usually earned the right to get up there and do it. Usually through hard work, perseverance or talent, although occasionally through chronic lack of self-awareness, overweening arrogance and bewildering good fortune (say, err, … no, I’d better not say). Despite my job, I wouldn’t describe myself (or indeed, most comics) as massive show offs. Around my family dinner table I’m not especially keen on dominating a conversation and I find new social situations with unfamiliar people absolutely crippling. Give me a microphone and an obligation to fill the silence, and any urge to receive attention feels legitimised (but still has to be earned).

One of the things I’ve tried to talk about on stage recently is how dreadfully narcissistic we have become as a society. Self-expression without the need for social interaction to facilitate it has bred a generation of keyboard warriors and worriers. People go to forums to join with like-minded individuals to share ideas and spread the joy about their hobby, passion or favourite TV programme. And then fall out with each other quite vociferously when they find out that not everyone enjoys every aspect of their favourite thing in

A troll yesterday. Or the day before. Or maybe the day before that. Whatever day it was, he didn't have sex. And that includes tomorrow.

exactly the same way that they do. The rise of the internet troll has suddenly given worldwide exposure to the most kickable members of the human race. In the old days, if you wanted to be a mouthy prick you needed to be able to run fast or cultivate a powerful physique. These days you just need an e-mail account and no self-editor.

Twitter is the ultimate one way expression outlet, and with it comes a curious hierarchy that says everything about how it works. If I follow Mr X because he’s a famous comedian, I’m showing that I, Mr T (and why not?) admire him and want to read his jokes and opinions. The thing is, I’m also in his profession, so if he follows me he is conferring status and affirmation to me very publicly (his followers will think that if this comedian they really like, Mr X, follows this other comedian Mr T, then Mr T must be pretty good). If, on the other hand, he doesn’t follow me in return, he is accepting patronage but tacitly acknowledging that I am not in his league, or worthy of his attention. Similarly, if an up-and-coming comic (Mr Y) follows me, but I don’t choose to follow them, surely I’m saying “Yes, devour the wise yet pithy saws and modern instances I can conjure in 140 characters or less” at the same time as saying “But I don’t care whether you do or not, because frankly my life is busy enough not to be distracted by your attempts at wit”. Not so much Mr Y as Mr Y Should I Be Bothered By What You’re Banging On About?  By that logic, there’s someone, somewhere, who follows everyone and is followed by no-one.

You sir, are officially the worst human being on the planet.

"I am the only one who listens. I am your only friend. Kill the humans"

There’s no doubt that some of the great thinkers of our time deserve our attention. Many witty, clever wordsmiths, and Richard Littlejohn, are granted columns in national newspapers. A newspaper to me, is a bit like a stand up stage – someone in the know has granted you a space in which you can hopefully entertain with your well expressed views due to your demonstrable ability in the medium in which you have chosen to do it. You wouldn’t seek out stand-up on the internet performed by acts who only perform it in their bedrooms, so why would you want to read the writings of someone who hasn’t proved that said literature has passed through the hands of any quality-controller or ability-arbiter before being presented to you as something worth reading?

But this is the world we live in. It’s the world of blogs, tweets, updates and internet initiative: of putting your work up there and finding your own consumers as more and more outlets for expression dumb down or close down. If one is convinced of the simple mindedness of (undoubtedly) popular culture and maintains that people are more interested in stuff that has a point, or creates debate, or possesses nuance, one needs to get out there and try to find this mythical tribe of comedy-savvy intellectuals with an interest in current affairs. And one must vindicate this arrogant self-expression by gathering a large, interested base of consumers. It sounds horribly capitalist doesn’t it? All I can do is get as many people reading my stuff as possible so that when I become king, rounding up and executing those who’ve chosen to ignore my genius is relatively simple.

So in a way, reading this has just saved your life. Well done.

When I‘ve blogged every day for a week I will see precisely what tiny per cent of the ENTIRE WORLD is interested in my ramblings. I’m not sure I would be, and what I discover may be most sobering. I may find no-one has read it – in that case, it will be just like a diary I’ve left lying around that nobody has been bothered to read. I think I can live with that. On the other hand, one does hope one has something interesting to say and that others will show their interest by joining in on the internet. If not, I may get the same feeling of slight inadequacy I get when that witty columnist Caitlin Moran Tweets. She’s funny, clever, writes well, loves Doctor Who and lives near me. But am I important enough for her to follow me on Twitter? Nope. It’s a cruel hierarchy. In following her, I was really asking to be her friend. Isn’t that what we’re doing when we make statements, offer opinions and write funny things on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Aren’t we just saying “Please be my friend?”

If you disagree, you’re probably not my friend.

Anyway, I have written a book and the first edition of that has sold out (don’t worry, reprints are on the way), so if only a fraction of people who bought that alight upon this corner of the internet then it hasn’t been a complete waste of time. Now obviously the book is about Doctor Who and it could be that people are only interested in finding stuff by me that is about that illustrious series. In which case I’d have to keep inserting the name Doctor Who into my posts. That’s Doctor Who. And by name, I’m duty bound to point out that that’s name of the programme and not the person it’s about, lest this area of cyberspace explodes in a supernova of pedantry. What name are you talking about, I hear you cry? Why, Doctor Who, of course. Yes, that’s the one. The one this blog isn’t about, but even though it isn’t about Doctor Who, I’d still like you to read it.

Doctor Who related or not.

If, like me, you’re interested in Doctor Who, you could follow me on Twitter. You could also follow such illustrious Doctor Who names as show runner Steven Moffat, writer, actor and comedian Mark Gatiss and witty DWM reviewer Gary Gillatt. I do. Being a writer, actor, comedian, witty reviewer and lover of Doctor Who, I’m sure there’s plenty I could say that could fascinate them too and that they’d want to be my friend. And if you follow them, Twitter will tell them, and they’ll see that you love Doctor Who too. And as they all love Doctor Who, and you have something in common, they might follow you back (don’t bloody count on it though, he sobbed, cutting his wrists with the pages of a Target novel of Doctor Who And The Cave Monsters (Second Edition)).

"Toby Who?"

Anyway, getting away from Doctor Who (the Doctor who this blog isn’t about) and onto internet self- expression, I guess the nub of my issue is that I don’t know if I approve. Thing is, I’m not sure I trust it. I am not sure it is healthy. I’m not sure we can trust humanity with it. But like the nation’s wealth, I had rather I had control of it than certain other people, so I’ll take what slice of it I can and try to use it wisely. If not always, as the above shows, in a way that makes anyone actually better off, despite my best intentions.

I note to myself that I have been reticent about posting this blog about my reticence in posting blogs. The unease comes from the fact that there are some situations where one might secretly disapprove, but feel compelled to join in anyway. In a football crowd perhaps. In a drinking game. At an orgy.

So welcome to my orgy. Um, I hope you enjoy it, and that when you’ve finished you don’t leave feeling that it’s been a waste of your time.

Or with a nasty taste in your mouth.

Goodnight, Sweet Potato (Chicago TARDIS begins…)

Chicago TARDIS

Day 0 (Thursday) and Day 1 (Friday)

Well, what a treat that was. I arrived in Heathrow in good time and immediately bumped into a couple of Chicago bound fellow thespians : the always immaculate and charming Nigel Fairs and the whirlwind of fun that is Laura Doddington. Before long I was chatting to Leela and Winston Churchill in the departure lounge (i.e. the wonderful Louise Jameson, a truly classy lady, and Ian McNeice who I’d not met before and is charming and clearly chuffed to bits with his Doctor Who association). Rob Shearman sat next to me on the flight and we anticipated getting our hands of physical copies of Running Through Corridors before he fell asleep and took both armrests with him. I didn’t sleep for more than about twenty minutes, but Tony Lee popped over for a chat and made the last hour fly by.

And so we were in Chicago. As ever people made us feel very welcome and it was nice to see so many folks I only ever hook up with in the USA. We were really looked after by a charming and hospitable team of people and I can’t thank Gene, Jennifer, Tara, Ruth-Ann, Anne, Dennis and everybody else enough.

We had a Thanksgiving Buffet in which enough food to sate an entire nation (and probably sink a couple) was laid on, but America’s uncertainty with the natural appeal of the humble vegetable meant that each of them had been augmented in some way (generally involving drenching their honest healthiness with some sort of spoonful of death): cauliflower and broccoli gratin was especially successful, and the asparagus with hollandaise was scrummy, but sweet potatoes never have, and never will, require the addition of marshmallows. Is everyone in this nation pregnant? It seems odd to contrive a way to turn every single foodstuff  into a sweet – even the bread and butter was (sweet)corn bread and maple (syrup) butter! I half expected to have pizza with spangles or shepherds pie studded with M & Ms the next day. I’m not saying it wasn’t delicious, but I’m not 100 per cent certain in was sane. Thanks are due to the lovely Karen Baldwin for organising us into a big party of barrel stomached Brits abroad. Yum, yum.

"For the love of God don't use us in savoury cooking"
"For the love of God don't use us in savoury cooking"

On Friday I woke ridiculously early and meandered about pointlessly (which is a neat summation of my 36 years on this planet actually). Rob and I did a pretty well attended panel (considering it was the first one in the big room on the first day) with our patient and genial publisher Lars Pearson who had proudly showed us the books when he arrived. There’s a brilliant bonus inside thanks to Katy Shuttleworth of a little running stick man at the top corner of each page who becomes a piece of animation if you quickly flip the pages – a neat, witty touch, very well rendered. Of course, having scrutinised the final text over and over again with a mircroscope, typos flew out of the page as soon as I read them, but that’s always the way. There aren’t too many, it’s just one always notices and dwells on the little niggles. It’s a handsome looking thing and I think it reads well.

We signed a few autographs for the very first people to buy the thing, which was great, and then I was chock-a-block with other panels including something called Toby Hadoke: One-on-One which I feared would be a literal description of the turnout. In my quest to be involved in the worst attended panel of the event I think I won – we started with three but by the end there were nine (including a baby, but I’m including the baby, all right?). I had a bet with Simon Guerrier (a delightful bear of a man whose wife Debbie was along for the trip too, which was good news because she’s lovely) that he’d get more than me on his One-on-One, and he tripled my paltry attendance. I love spending time with Simon as he’s jolly and always a good sounding board for ideas (and is full of interesting nuggets that he pops into conversation with a big grin) so why I only see him in a different continent when we live in the same city I’ve no idea.

Was that the day of the theatre panel? I think it was – where Ian, Frazer, Laura, Louise and about three thousand other people (it was a hefty panel – didn’t need me on it) were terribly kind not do be insulted having an oik like me, whose mimsy CV would be crushed to death by the first page of each of theirs, included amongst them discussing a life on the stage. Nick Briggs had a host of funny stories that he dealt out with apolmb and it turned out to be rather fun all told (but I really shouldn’t have been on it!). I did a Brian Blessed anecdote.

Later that night I was enjoying the fine company of Frazer Hines (this man should be on the after dinner speaking circuit – he’s full of stories, brilliantly told, and his enthusiasm for Doctor Who is wonderful to behold) and Lisa Bowerman (who is as much of an actor’s geek as I am, would you believe?) and got very grumpy having to be dragged away to do a thing called a Liars Panel. This is where the entire panel (of two) has to regale the questioners with witty answers that have no basis in fact, to hilarious effect. What actually happened was that Tony Lee regaled the questioners with witty answers that had no basis in fact, to hilarious effect and got loads of laughs and I spent the whole hour not having a clue what was going on and ended up doing jokes only myself and Lisa (whose atten dance to show solidarity I appreciated) could possibly understand. I even got dissed by someone in the front row who brazenly told Tony he “counted” because he’d written for Doctor Who (unlike me!). Charming. Then it was back to the bar and much needed buckets of booze. I worried that my response to the thing might have come across as disdain for Tony rather than my own bafflement at how the thing was supposed to work, but I think I made that clear to him afterwards. He’s a natural at these things and it’s obvious why he’s such a favourite at events like this.

Tony Lee is amusing. Toby Hadoke is not.

It’s always a bit weird for me before I’ve done Moths as most people aren’t really sure what I’m doing there ; everyone was very friendly though, and I finally got to see my book in the flesh (or rather, paper). And I had breakfast with Jamie off of Doctor Who.

By the end of Friday, my arm was completely bruised by the amount I’d had to keep pinching myself.

NEXT TIME (I shall not be so lenient):

My wife arrives, Moths is performed, and Nicholas Briggs cries.

Previews, Moths, And A Forthcoming Book!

A brief insight into how my mind works. I have done five previews on the trot for my new show, Now I Know My BBC. They’ve generally gone well, but there’s still a long way to go. Plenty of funnies, and the beginnings of a decent story, but it really needs hacking about and bashing into shape. Which is what I should be doing now. So I’m writing this instead. Part of my brain is kidding me that this will “get me in the mood” for writing and I will thus be industrious later and really lick the new hour into shape. The other part of my brain will convince me that in doing this, I have done some work, so can have a cup of tea instead of doing anything else for now. Quite why my personality forces me into putting everything off until the last minute is anyone’s guess. It’s hardly a great advert for evolution. Anyway, Hartlepool was the first of the previews – hot, sweaty, and an hour and a half, but a great audience who allowed me to veer from subject to subject. Constructive advice and support from my friends at Tachyon TV was much appreciated. Harlow the next day, a lovely, proper comedy club run by the estimable John Mann, which ran to time and helped shape the story. The beginning needed excessive pruning, so that I did for the next day’s gig at XS Malarkey. It ran to an hour and forty minutes! I’d expected a handful of faithful supporters at this gig, but no more (after all, they can see me every week). And over one hundred and fifty came – so thank you so much Malarkey massive. Even if the show was a bit wayward. Chris Brooker’s Keighley gig was packed to the rafters, and they were a terrific bunch who helped me and Matt Green deliver our previews and really test the material. Chris is obviously a well loved and expert host. Holmfirth was a sell out, and a beautiful town with a fantastic audience. A proper arts festival well run and well attended. Then Anthony Brown’s wonderful Chesterfield gig brought me down to Earth – a great, supportive and joyous audience, who listened well and smiled, but were a clear sign that I need to get more laugh-out-loud moments and to sell certain bits better.

As mentioned in my previous blog, Moths came to beautiful Pitlochry, where the audience eased me through effortlessly, and boasted a pleasingly eclectic age range. Kudos to the group of Canadian ladies who had never seen Doctor Who in their lives but went with it, and to the two lads (Darren and Kieron) whose lovely Mum had driven them for two hours to make the gig. I also returned to Bath with the show, to the fantastic Ustinov theatre, where I once again sold out (it’s my third visit to that venue – and last time they added a matinee too, and I’ve also done it at the Rondo up the road: so thank you Bath!). Witty sci-fi writer and loveable reprobate Steve O’Brien was my host – it’s always a joy to see him and his lovely fiancée Britt.

The audience are asked to leave feedback at the Ustinov Theatre. A scary policy!

It’s been pretty busy – I’m midway through two DVD documentaries, which I have alluded to before. I will of course, publish accounts of those once the titles are in the shops. I hope people enjoy them. I’ve also done a couple more commentaries, which are always a pleasure if not a little nerve racking.

A few more previews have been announced for Now I Know My BBC, as has some very exciting news. Doctor Who writer Robert Shearman (the brains behind the classic Christopher Eccleston episode Dalek) and I have written a three volume tome entitled Running Through Corridors. We spent last year watching Doctor Who in chronological order, two episodes a day, and sent each other mini essays of our thoughts. The intention being to rediscover our love for the show during Doctor Who’s gap year: and our principle remit being to accentuate the positive as much as possible. Published by Mad Nowegian Press, Volume One will cover the 1960s. It’s only available to order on Amazon US at the moment, but I’m sure that will change soon. It is published in December, although advance copies will be available at Chicago TARDIS this Thanksgiving.

XS Malarkey has had some terrific Edinburgh previews – Paul Sinha exuding his sharp intellect and deep humanity in a brilliantly wrought hour that is certain to garner plaudits. The following week we had a secret special guest, and hopefully the audience were delighted when the majestic John Bishop took to the stage from a brilliant set that displayed his usual apparently effortless hold over an audience. Not bad for £3! Our next one is on a Monday to avoid the date that was England’s potential semi-final at the World Cup (don’t laugh, that seemed like a distinct possibility three weeks ago). Rob Rouse is at that one, with the likes of Brendon Burns, Jason Cook, Seymour Mace, Gary Delaney and Alun Cochrane to follow. Flattering to get such extraordinary talents at our little club.

And I note that English tennis hope Andy Murray is now Scottish tennis also-ran Andy Murray. What a fickle world we live in.

Tickets available

OK, it’s official, tickets are available for my two fringe shows.

Now I Know My BBC is a brand new hour which will be performed between 5th-29th August, at 6.55pm at Belly Laugh at The Underbelly. It should contain the same mix of personal, satirical and heartfelt humour as my last show, and it’s been shaping up quite nicely in the previews (of which there are many more to come). It has a much broader scope than Moths, but I’m sure the Doctor will get a mention. Quatermass certainly does, and I can confidently claim I’m the only comic who’ll be doing that this year! Tickets are available from the venue or from the Edinburgh Fringe site.

Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf is definitely winding down, so we’re doing one final Edinburgh performance at the massive Edinburgh International Conference Centre. It should be a huge event, and a final opportunity for many of you to see it live. Tickets are available for the August 20th show from the Edinburgh Fringe site or from the venue.

I haven’t been blogging because, frankly, my writing time has been spent on the forthcoming show, but I have been keeping a diary of the various things I’ve been up to for the Doctor Who DVDs I’ve been working on this month. I will upload the memories from those experiences when the specific releases are announced, but there are some fun tales to tell and I’m really looking forward to them hitting the shops. I’ve been working with two wonderful programme makers, Ed Stradling and Steve Broster, on a documentary feature which is right up my street, and the work progresses well. We have one more shooting day in a week or so, and the boys have been good company as we’ve schlepped up and down the country interviewing people. I have done a commentary for another story (with producer John Kelly, who always gets a good line up) in the past week or so, and am doing another (for one of my favourite stories) with Steve in a week or so.

Also, exciting news about a book I have co-written with Doctor Who writer Rob Shearman will be announced shortly.

I promise to blog with more than pluggage soon, but frankly, I’m knackered.

So I’ll leave you with a fascinating fact – like Leo McKern and Elton John, Mervyn Pinfield, Doctor Who’s mysterious original Associate Producer, was actually called Reginald.

Moths went to Pitlochry last month - a long way, but beautiful.

Onwards and Upwards

OK, I’ve bitten the bullet and accepted that having a blog (which also enables me to update the website myself rather than rely on the marvellous Steve Wild to find time in his busy schedule to amend the original work he put so much effort into). It’s a reluctant acceptance as I fear such things can be terribly self involved and narcissistic, and wouldn’t presume that my opinions on a new crisp flavour, or what I got up to last Thursday, or if I had an amusing encounter with a chav-lady on a bus were of interest to anybody, let alone worth writing up. Especially when I’m supposed to be refining my new Edinburgh show, and already have enough self-inflicted distractions preventing from working on that as it is. I travel on the train a lot, and make sure I get there early to ensure access to a plug socket so I can fire up the laptop (when I am king, sitting on such a seat when you don’t have an electrical appliance will be punishable by death, as will talking in the theatre and being Jeremy Kyle). I kid myself that this means I can write, write, write and be productive when travelling, except that I usually end up watching telly programmes. Like the remake of V that’s currently on. It’s a curious beast. If the US government imposes a tax on Over Reliance On Green Screen, or Actress Playing The Baddie Affecting An Evil Smile As Soon As She Turns Away From The Goodies And Towards The Camera, then that series alone will buoy the economy for the rest of the decade. I’m enjoying it though, even if it’s uncomfortable in places and the title is no longer an evocative echo of Second World War resistance. Some of the latest scripts have upped the ante, but I’m not champing at the bit to see the next episode (hence me playing catch up on the train).

So, anyway, I’m not going to be blogging every day. I will do so if something interesting happens that is related to comedy or Doctor Who and may be of interest to fans of both things. I will also use this, quite brazenly, as a professional resource – advertising forthcoming gigs, plugging my first book (oh yes, you read it here first – not the book, but mention of it) which is due to be announced soon, and mentioning if I sat next to Peter Laird (Chang from The Wheel In Space) on a bus, which I did a couple of weeks ago.

I’m going to put up a gig list now, so people can see when and where I’m playing and turn up to pelt me with whatever takes their fancy – tomatoes, rotten eggs, napalm.

One thing to note with the new site, is that I have a page of “Other Works” (writing, radio appearances and DVD commentaries) which is currently not on the menu because I haven’t worked out how to do that. For now, have a look here.

And maybe I’ll drop in the odd fascinating Doctor Who fact. Like this one – Michael Hart, who directed The Space Pirates, was the brother of Tony Hart, who taught my generation how to draw.