I remembered to close the shutters as well as the curtains last night so I’m not woken by the daylight this morning. Instead I come round in my own time. For a while I lie in the gloom drifting in and out of a dream in which I’m the guest of a Paris Hilton type spoiled heiress on a gigantic luxury liner docked in Cannes or the like.
In the dream I’m in the sumptuous living room of the boat surrounded by friends of the heiress who are all variously stupid young model types, male and female, many of whom are undressed and fondling each other distractedly. I’m trying to be nonchalant about all the dirtiness and I start to flick through a big coffee table book of glossy black and white photographs featuring the young heiress. She’s naked in every one and some of them are completely pornographic! The goofy looking male model sprawled on the sofa next to me is also in the book, in fact his winky features prominently but he’s not happy about it. â€œThere’s no good shots of my faceâ€ he says through a thick Italian accent. â€œIt’s all about herâ€ he nods in the direction of the heiress who is making her way over to us. She’s naked. â€œYou should have stayed last nightâ€ she says to me. â€œIt ended up being a total orgy, everyone just swapping around, it was crazy! And I lost track of all the drugs we did!â€ At that moment I look out of the window and see several figures hopping onto the deck from the jetty. It’s the police! â€œQuick, dump everything!â€ cries the heiress. I make a run for it, even though I’ve got no drugs on me. I could have got away but then I think, ‘maybe I’ll look more guilty if I do that. If I just explain the situation to the police I should be able to still make my show tonight.’ So I give myself up and the cops cuff me along with all the naked models. ‘Typical,’ I think. ‘I was this close to a drug fuelled model orgy and now I’m just going to end up doing my show as usual, if I’m lucky.’
Hmm. What can the dream mean? Well, I’m here at the Edinburgh festival for the first time and my wife and children are back in London so perhaps some part of me is being tortured by the fact that I’m finally in the very middle of party central and I’m living like a monk. Not one of the filthy monks either, a proper abstemious one.
Take today. Once I’m finally out of dreamland I take an assortment of vitamin pills and nutritional supplements and have some breakfast. I seem to have been getting run down very easily of late so the pills are part of my attempt to make it through the festival without getting ill, which I hear is a common phenomenon for double ended candle burning performers. I’m trying to avoid wheat and dairy products so breakfast is a wild ride through half a melon, some pineapple and a piece of rye toast with organic honey.
Having practically bored myself back sleep with my breakfast I have a shower and clean up the flat a bit. The place I’m renting is pretty studenty, and every item in it is the cheapest possible version, including the vacuum cleaner. When I switch it on it emits an overpowering funk of wet dog and socks. Gah. Then I load the tiny washing machine with my bed sheets and my show costume, which after three nights of sweaty hilarity, needs attention. With the washing machine rattling the stack of plates and cups that, for want of cupboard space, sits on top of it, I get to work on my computer.
My director David has given me a sheet of notes about last night’s show. He’s pointed out certain jokes that aren’t working and need to be re-written or replaced and suggested areas where the videos could be tweaked to get the most out of them. Last night the audience laughed more than I expected in a couple of places and drowned out a few jokes in the videos, so I have the happy task of making the pauses longer on a couple of them to allow for the gales of mirth! Fiddling with video stuff is where I’m happiest. It was always the best part of doing The Adam & Joe Show for me and I’m fairly confident that I can usually produce something that will make people laugh in that medium.
As far as rewriting the stand up elements goes, that’s tougher. I’ve never been much good at writing gags. Graham Linehan (who co-wrote wrote Father Ted and Black Books amongst many others) gave me some great suggestions for things earlier this year, but when I try to come up with stuff along the same lines I start to struggle and my brain reverts to Christmas cracker joke mode. That said, most of the live bits have been going well over the last few nights but there’s still places that seem flat and the audience glazes over a little. I really want to finish the last couple of weeks of the festival with a show that works consistently well right through, so until then my afternoons will continue to be time to work.
Because of all this tweaking time, I’ve seen absolutely no other shows at all yet which is shameful. I’m figuring by the middle of this week I should be in better shape so I can have some more fun during the day and check out some good stuff. John Shuttleworth is here for a few days soon so I’m definitely up for that. Him and John Hegley are hard to beat in my book. In fact anyone called John I find very amusing indeed. I’m also keen to see Katy Brand’s show Celebrities are Gods and Steve Oram’s show, Denim. I met Katy and Steve at Ealing and thought, like the rest of the Ealing lot, they were great. Katy pretending to be Kate Winslet insisting that she’s ‘normal’ until she’s just shrieking dementedly is one of the best things I’ve seen in a while. I also want to see Stuart Lee and I think I might be on Simon Amstel’s review show in the last week so I guess I’ll see that too.
I take a break from the computer to unload the washing machine and hang my sheets and costume on the line in the little garden out front. The sun’s out and it’s actually quite warm. I should be sitting outside a pub somewhere with the naked models from my dream but instead I head back to the computer and try to think of better experimental animator jokes. After a fruitless hour I look out of the window and see that it’s started to rain. Heavily. I get my clothes in but they are of course sodden. With no dryer and no clue whether there might be a Laundromat nearby I’m faced with a problem. My costume is soaked and I have to leave for the venue to get my stuff ready in an hour. Hmm.
I decide the only thing for it is to turn on all four rings on the electric cooker to FULL. Then using the rickety metal clothes horse balanced precariously above, I drape my costume over the glowing rings. It looks like a reconstruction from ‘World’s Stupidest Accidents’ but at that moment I honestly can’t think of an alternative. Steam begins to rise from the sopping garments but then the rings themselves, which are caked with years of student food, begin to smoke alarmingly. Sure enough, moments later all 5 smoke alarms in the tiny flat go off simultaneously. Why is there never an obvious ‘off’ button on smoke alarms for those toast burning moments? Instead I end up just smashing them to pieces with a broom handle to shut the fucking things up.
My ears are still ringing as I shut the most badly smoking rings off and finish the drying job. By the time my costume has become merely bit damp, I have to leave. Thankfully it’s stopped raining so I get on my bike and begin the punishing climb up the huge hill towards The Pleasance. It’s the weekend so there are a lot of people out. Some drunk guys shout something at me but I don’t hear because I’ve got my headphones in. I get quite a few odd looks these days. My beard is now so huge I look more or less insane. I was in a clothes store in London the other day and I became aware that the shop assistant was following me about a bit. Finally he said to me â€œit’s a bit warm to be wearing that jacket isn’t it?â€ I really think he thought I was going to blow up his fucking tee shirt shop. It’s a great beard for the character though. Unfortunately it’s so very massive that a lot of people assume it’s fake, although why they think I would keep wearing a fake beard even when I wasn’t doing my show is baffling. I can’t win.
Once I’m at the Pleasance I find the manager of the Cavern (my venue) and get the keys for the big lock up storage container that houses all the gear used by me and all the other Cavern acts. Then I spend about an hour and a half setting up my projection screen and getting all my props ready so that as soon as the previous act is finished I can get my stuff on stage as quickly as possible. The turnaround between acts is only about 10 minutes so you’ve got to be slick or the manager starts getting arsey and threatening to let people in whether you’re set up or not. Luckily Maddy, who runs The Cavern is great so she gives me a little leeway, but not much. This is the worst part of the day.
The show goes well. In fact tonight I’m sold out. The changes I’ve made seem to work, but every night there’s always a few more bits that need the tweak. I find it hard to tell how much the audience is enjoying themselves though. Jo Caulfield is on before me and I listen to her audience while I’m setting up. They’re really howling with laughter! What’s more it’s regular bursts, every few seconds. The laughs I get are far more dispersed and never so hysterical. Oh Jesus, I’ve become a laugh scientist! This was the whole reason I never wanted to do live stuff; you get obsessed with keeping them laughing at any cost. With the TV stuff I’ve done, you just spend ages crafting it until you like it and then put it out with no conception of how people will respond. I must admit though, a big laugh from an audience here means more to me now than any good reviews I’ve had for my TV stuff. Maybe that’s bollocks. I don’t know.
When the show’s over I hide under the seating area as the audience file out. I put my fingers in my ears in case I hear anyone saying they hated it. Constructive criticism I can handle but I don’t like hearing from people who just don’t like me. I need to toughen up I guess. I pack my gear back into the lock up and head into the courtyard for a glass of Leffe blond before I leave. It’s the only blond action I’m getting tonight. The place is heaving with the kind of girls that were in my dream, except they’re fully clothed. I bump into lovely Ewan Macintosh (the big guy from The Office) and we talk briefly while I finish my drink. He asks if I want to come and read a Ghost Story for his show in a couple of days and I say I’d be delighted. Sadly that’s the extent of my whirlwind of drugs and celebrity. At 12:30am I get back on my bike and return to my smoke filled monastery. I pour a glass of wine and switch on the TV. Species II has just started. Bugger. Now I’m going to have to sit through the whole thing until Natasha Henstridge gets her phenomenal alien boobies out at the end. No wonder my dreams are a mess.
I wonder if Bill Hicks’ diary was like this. I reckon it definitely was.