In the spring we did a reading of Excavating Rita at a theatre in the West End with the hope of getting it put on in London. Julia Sawalha read one of the parts (I had sent her the script years ago, when there was talk of making it into a film). The play didn't end up getting put on, but I did end up dating Julia for 15 months, which is a constant source of enjoyment for anyone who saw Fist of Fun.
The whole year apart from that was spent writing what turned out to be 22 episodes of Time Gentlemen Please,which was broadcast on Sky towards the end of the year. Although Al and Stewart did work on the scripts I think they would both agree that I did the lion's share of the writing. It was one of the most difficult and arduous things I have ever done. The extra 9 episode were sprung on us and I pretty much had to write them all in about 12 weeks. Personally I think the show gets better as it goes along, but it was very wearing to actually do. I also played a sarcastic bean-faced postman in the series. I am very proud of the scripts, though it seems to divide the few people who have seen it right down the middle. We sold the show to Australia too.
My only other performing was in "The 99p Challenge" for Radio 4. I recorded two shows on one night and was meant to return the following week to do another two, but was told that I hadn't fitted in to the tone of the night and was asked not to return. I was a little over-excited perhaps, but it seemed a shame.
Sky delayed a decision on the second series of TGP which gave me time to do other work.
I wrote a sit-com based on the characters from "It's Not The End of the World" provisionally for Frank Skinner, called "Jammy Bugger".ITV commissioned a pilot. I was to play Frank's younger half-brother. But Frank decided he didn't want to do it. The show may well be made at some point in the future with a different leading actor.
I also took a step back to solo stand-up, by writing and performing Christ on a Bike. It was a very last minute decision, with about 24 hours left on the fringe deadline before I even suggested the idea. I found an empty slot at the Pleasance Dome and came up with the title and that meant I had to do it.
It was very weird going back to a solo show and for a long while I wasn't sure I was going to pull it off. Some of the previews were pretty dodgy, both in performance and in lack of preparation. Basically the idea was that I was 33, the same age as Jesus when he died and I wondered had I achieved as much. I also speculated that I might be Christ returned to earth. I managed to get my two hours of material squeezed into the hour slot and in a gig in Nottingham about two days before Edinburgh began I felt I had finally cracked it. I played at a stand-up venue and it went down a storm. I felt I had defeated some of my demons.
The show was a big success in Edinburgh, especially a 20 minute section all about the genealogy at the start of the New Testament. The Gospel according to me can be viewed here. I got pretty good reviews, but a fantastic response from the audience. It was an amazing feeling to be doing stand-up (ish) material and having the crowd in tears of laughter. I wished that I had done it years before. But maybe I was a bit older now and had found my own voice. I had something to say, which I certainly didn't in 1992.
I reprised the show in London at the Arts Theatre in October. It was harder to get an audience, but I got some good reviews and by the end of the three and a half week run the word was spreading. The last night was quite full and the show went very well. Even after 60 odd performances I was finding new ideas, new places to go. I had taken a leap forward as a performer.
I was sharing the theatre with the Vagina Monologues. A lot of people suggested that I do a male version of the show. I told them it was a rubbish and obvious idea.
The rest of the year was spent writing the second series of TGP, only 15 episodes this time and it was a lot easier this time round. Again I think the scripts and performances were much better in this series. Again alas the second series was to be the last (though in this case after 37 episodes, which isn't a bad run) The series has been largely ignored in the media, probably because it is on satellite and thus can't be seen by most people. I hope one day it gets a terrestrial showing. I like it very much.
As well as finishing off the second series of TGP I was doing a few gigs of Christ on a Bike at various arts centres.
In March I headed out to Melbourne to perform at the Comedy Festival. Again, Australia was a wonderful experience, though my venue was a little out of the way and I was a new-comer to the city so audiences were slow to begin with. I got a bad review in the one paper that matters which didn't help. But slowly it built up and there was a lot of positive feedback. Plus I was in Australia!
In March Stew and me were asked to appearin an on-line Dr Who adventure called Real Time. We could hardly refuse that could we? Colin Baker was the doctor and we played space electricians who get set upon by cybermen. I had my head crushed by one, Stew became one. The CD is now available in slightly weird shops and may also be on-line still at the BBC website.
On my return I began work on my new show,Talking Cock. I had finally relented and thought that maybe there was a way to do the idea without it being obvious or rubbish. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that men needed a show like this, just as much as (and possibly more than) women.
Thanks to the badgering of the wonderful Rob Sedgebeer I set up a web-site at www.talkingcock.co.uk with two anonymous questionnaires about the spam javelin (they are still running, please take part if you haven't already) and was swamped with responses. They formed the basis of the show.
I previewed extensively and again it wasn't until the beginning of Edinburgh that it all seemed to come together.
Critically it was my most successful Edinburgh show I have ever done and very quickly it became a hot ticket.
I did another three and a half week run, this time at the Soho theatre and again, it was a little slow to start in audience terms, but by the last couple of weeks was selling very well.I got a deal to write a book on the subject and the show is also being translated and performed in ten or more European countries. For more info, please visit the web-site.
Coincidentally I have also been commissioned to write a film about a man who gets a mystery sexually transmitted disease, based on an idea by comedian Glen Wool, called "I Don't Know Who I Did Last Summer."
In October I did a cameo comedy acting role in a new BBC drama called "Servants". I play Percy the shepherd and the series should be broadcast in the Spring of 2003.
In the last couple of months of the year I began work on the Talking Cock book and also did an occasional gig. Most notable of these was probably an appearance at the Theo Fennel Christmas party. See Warming Up, December 20th for details.
Stew and me also did a signing for our Doctor Who appearance and met Graeme Garden. See Warming Up, Sat 14th December.
I also set up the website that you are reading now, which went on line in the early weeks of 2003.
For the first five months of the year I spent most of my time either gigging with Talking Cock or writing the book version.
I toured the UK between January and March and again in May. During these dates I appeared at the Battersea Arts Centre in a short season called "Tickle Your Head". The fact that three of my favourite comics (Stewart Lee, Simon Munnery and John Hegley) were the other participants in the mini-festival meant I was amongst good company.The second gig at Battersea was one of the best on the tour. You can read about some of my experiences on the road in Warming Up.
In February "Time Gentlemen Please" was nominated for a Broadcast Award for Best Multichannel Programme. Unfortunately we didn't win, but look I got given this nice certificate, which more than makes up for the two years of hard work I put into the series! The Paramount Channel bought the repeat rights to TGP and so those of you who missed it can catch it on weekdays on that Channel. Apparently the ratings have been pretty good.
In March I flew out to Melbourne to appear at the Comedy Festival for the second year running. I was booked into the Capitol Theatre, which is a great venue, but it has 600 seats. Unfortunately I never got more than a couple of hundred people in and so although the press was good the run felt like a bit of a disappointment. I worked out that I failed to sell over 10,000 tickets which must be some kind of Festival record. Had I been in a 150 seater venue like last year I think it would have felt like a success. I had great fun in Australia though and am glad I went. See Warming Up March-April for more details.
While I was in Australia I appeared on "Enough Rope" hosted by Andrew Denton. A transcript of the interview can be seen here.
While I was in Australia, Servants was broadcast in the UK. I didn't see it, but I did get mentioned in a few of the reviews. The series did not do very well in the ratings due to being up against "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here" and has not been recommissioned.
I was asked to take part in the News Quiz on Radio 4 in May, but did not acquit myself very well. See Warming up for the 22nd May.
Although they had said before that there was a possibility of me coming on again in July, no-one mentioned that again after the performance!
In June I continued writing my film "I Don't Know Who I Did Last Summer". Although I was meant to finish it by the end of the month, I got nowhere near and am over a year behind the original deadline for the completion of the project.
At the end of July I decided that I would stop working on my film script. It wasn't getting anywhere and it was making me unhappy and I needed some time off.
I did not anticipate that I would take the rest of the year off, though I practically did.
In the autumn I attended the premieres of four European versions of Talking Cock in Norway, Finland, Italy and Belgium. My thoughts on these shows are well documented in Warming Up and there are some pictures and publicity materials in the download section. There was also a production in Germany which I was unable to attend.
In October, I played the part of a strange doctor in a short film called "The Last 7 Days of Quont". I have no details about where or when this might get shown.
My book, "Talking Cock" also came out in October, to little media interest. It was very gratifying to see it on the shelves (though there seemed to be confusion amongst booksellers about which section to put it in) and I have had a lot of positive feedback from people who have read it.
I also did a few gigs around the country, which were all enjoyable. Even Carlisle.
This year was dominated by my Herculean adventures... and also seemed to feature quite a bit of Emma Kennedy.
In January and February I took part in a BBC Reality TV show called "The Other Boat Race" in which a team of "celebrities" (Grub Smith, anyone?) who went to Oxford or Cambridge University were trained to row by Olympic athletes and then had to race against each other. I had initially been very dubious about the idea as I hate reality TV, don't see myself as a celebrity (which is lucky cos no-one else does either) and have always hated rowing and all rowers. However, Emma was taking part too and persuaded me to give it a go and I am delighted I did as it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. You can read about it in some detail in Warming Up, but suffice to say that the Oxford crew who I was rowing for had an unexpected and beautiful victory.
Much of the rest of the early part of the year was taken up with performing the other 11 tasks that would go to make up my new Edinburgh show "The Twelve Tasks of Hercules Terrace". I ran a Marathon (again Emma Kennedy tagged along), tried to kill the Loch Ness Monster, dated 50 women in 50 consecutive days (including Emma Kennedy), did a parachute jump, cleaned out an elephant enclosure, ran through the streets of Pamplona in a pair of back to front women's underpants, walked on fire, attempted to steal the bra of renowned feminist Germaine Greer, tried to get a task from the Manager of Argos, had a go at beating my nephew at tennis and completed the tedious game CNPS. See Warming Up and CNPS rules for more details.
I was writing the show right up to the last minute and after some sloppy previews in the south, headed to Edinburgh in August for the official premiere. I had a slightly disappointing time with the show, mainly because the venue I was at was failing to bring in the crowds and the hour slot was not long enough to tell the story in sufficient detail, but I got good reviews and a lot of positive feedback (see downloads). The 90 minute shows I did in the second half of the year were a lot more satisfying. I have begun to write a book of my adventures, though as of the end of 2004 I do not have a publisher for it.
The early part of the year also saw me touring for the last few performances of "Talking Cock". I was surprised to find when it was all over that I was not sick of doing it. In fact I might consider doing it again at some point. But the foreign productions of the show continued to be put on. In January I popped over to Paris to see Michel Leeb perform "Qu'est-ce que sexe?" This was a highly enjoyable and professional production and went on to sell out a 600 seater venue for several months, which was lucky for me as it meant I got a few nice royalty cheques to tide me over! The Finnish production which I had also enjoyed continued to play this year as well. In September I headed out to Copenhagen to see Gordon Kennedy performing the Danish version of the show. An Icelandic translation is also in production.
In February I recorded a pilot radio show called "That Was Then, This Is Now", which also featured Emma Kennedy.It was essentially a sketch show which looked at events that happened that week in history. It also featured Dan Tetsell, Danny Robbins, Christian Riley and a pop band (Simon Greenall was in the pilot too). This went to series in October on Radio 2 and despite some problems with the Radio 2 censors and the usual stresses of writing at the last minute, turned out to be a lot of fun. Again, no news on a second series by the end of 2004.
This year also saw guest appearances on Radio 4's "We've Been Here Before" (see Warming Up 17th June) BBC4's "Mind Games" (see Warming Up 30th September) and I also recorded links for Radio 7's Comedy Controller (see Warming Up 14th December), though this won't be broadcast until the Spring of 2005. I also had a small acting role in a film called "Manilla Envelopes" (see Warming Up November 5th) and auditions for Channel 4's "Peep Show" and ITV's "The Brief", but I didn't get either of those jobs!
On 10th July I ran a mile (twice) for Sports Relief with Emma Kennedy (see Warming Up).
Warming Up celebrated its second birthday (I still haven't missed a day since it started) and is read by about 1000 people a day. I wrote a radio script based on the early entries, but am waiting to find out if Radio 4 want to produce it. I also had a meeting with Armando Iannucci and may be working on a sit-com in 2005 with him.
After a few successful ten minute spots in Edinburgh I decided I would give stand-up comedy in clubs another whirl (after a 13 year lay off). I had a handful of gigs, both good and not so good, the first and best was at Happy Mondays in New Cross (see Warming Up 18th October) and the most noteworthy of which took place in Zagreb in Croatia (see Warming Up 9th/13th December). I plan to do significantly more in the New Year.