A day to kill in Salford before tonight’s gig. I wasn’t in the hotel that I had hoped to be, due to a mix up over there being two holiday Inns within a mile of each other. Though one is much nicer than the other - I had warned the tour manager about this, having come a cropper with this in the past, but alas the mistake was still made. As mistakes go it is a small one though. The hotel was full of football fans which created a bit of an intimidating atmosphere, especially as the man who checked us in had given us a little speech about what to do if there were any disturbances - which isn’t usual and suggested that disturbances were a regular feature (as it happened I had the best sleep I can remember having on tour last night, though someone loudly knocked on my door in the middle of the night after tonight’s gig and then ran away - I suspect children rather than hoodlums).
Although the room was not quite as comfortable as at the other Holiday Inn (I had hoped to get some work done during the day) and there was no gym in this hotel, I discovered that there was a Virgin Active very nearby and I headed off to work in a cafe. I ended up eating a baked potato and beans in the Lowry Outlet. I didn’t think my life could get any more showbiz. They didn’t even have orange cheese and mango chutney on offer, so I couldn’t have a Richard Herring. I have few ambitions left in my life. I want to sit in the hot tub at Wolverhampton Civic after having played the big room and I would like a baked potato with mango chutney and orange cheese to be universally available at every baked potato outlet wherever you are in the world and you only need to ask for a “Richard Herring” and the server will know what you want. And that still to be the case in a thousand years time. Is that really too much to ask?
I did a bit of work, but predictably mainly played Addams Family Pinball. After a couple of frustrating days where I did not seem to be getting any better at this game that I was once a master of, things leapt forwards today and I played well. I finally got to tour the mansion and got a high score of 559,084,890, still some way behind the 32,309,168,320 high score that someone has posted already on the app.
I was delighted to see a Nimoy based tweet from the excellent @listsofnote in which Bob Justman had suggested to Gene Roddenberry that every citizen of Vulcan should, like Spock, have a name that began with Sp and ended in K and had only 5 letters. He then listed 44 suggestions along the lines of Spook Spuck Spack Speek Spouk Spaak Spilk Spiak Spunk Spank Spink Spurk Sponk Spilk Spalk Spelk Spolk Spulk Spirk.. and so on.
Not only would I have given anything to play Spunk (and I would insist of course on being Doctor Spunk), but I loved the limitations that this rule would have given the writers. And the confusion it would have wrought on a planet of millions of people. “No, I was calling for Spauk, not Spock and I meant that Spauk there. I know that half a million people have that name, but given our names have to have 5 letters I am not able to give him a nickname to make him stand out from the others."
It made me wonder if there was a spin off TV series in all the characters who had nearly existed in popular fiction, but then been discounted. I’d love to see a show where Dr Spunk the Vulcan and Titsy the rejected dwarf from Snow White solved crimes together or just sat under a tree, Godot-like, decrying the fickle finger of fate that had stopped them existing. How different the world would have been if the creators had made just slightly different choices with names and actors. If they'd called Spock, Spork then imagine the crossover in advertising handy eating impliments.
A good-sized crowd at the Lowry, but down a couple of dozen on last year in what I consider to be one of my banker venues (I sold this largish room out a couple of times in the past), but it was still approaching 400 in, which is a bumper pay day on this tour. On average I seem to be just about holding steady on numbers with some venues slightly up and some slightly down. And whilst the insecurity of my profession makes even a slight downward turn a cause of minor concern, I am more than aware that these are still remarkable numbers for a non-TV comedian. And the gigs so far this year have been enormous fun, with this little run being particularly enjoyable for me. I messed around a bit more than usual tonight, occasionally to the point of self-indulgence (and my point of self-indulgence is a lot further along than most people’s as my comedy is already self-indulgent). But I think the crowd mainly enjoyed it. The worst that can happen with this kind of night is that a reviewer picks you up for the show not being tight enough, but those reviewers are idiots. The looseness (provided it’s part of a well-constructed show) is where the real comedy comes from and the audience get to watch a routine developing and changing, sometimes into something else. Sometimes the ad-libs will go awry (though that’s fun in itself) but sometimes, when the words flow before I really even know what I am going to say, a small new comedy galaxy forms in front of your eyes. The remark I am getting afterwards most often at the moment is that I seem to be happy and that it’s nice to see me enjoying myself so much (though some people don’t like that and yearn for the shows where I was depressed or seemingly bitter and sardonic). I wanted this show to be about joy and daftness and a response to the cynicism that has infected a lot of comedy (I think we’re coming out of that era, with TV shows like Parks and Rec and Catastrophe being about funny but nice people, rather than taking the piss out of caricatured monsters and mocking bad senses of humour). Cynicism is good in small doses and I think there’s still some bite in this show, but if you get to the stage where you’re cynical about everything, then you’re just as bad, if not worse, than someone who is gullible about everything. You’re protecting yourself from accidentally being seen to like the wrong thing or being fooled by someone by refusing to like anything or take anyone at face value. The skill of being a well-rounded human being is to be able to spot the things that you need to be cynical about. “All politicians are liars” - no they’re not. You have to spot the ones that are. And so on.
It actually takes more guts to say you like something or you trust someone. This show is the subtle journey of a man afraid to be happy and reticent and opposed to dancing, learning to accept joy and to cavort unselfconsciously on stage in front of hundreds of people. No one gets that, but it doesn’t matter. Because it works if you think this is just a load of random stupid stuff that’s happened to me (which it is as well). I’ve seen the show a lot and maybe you need to see it this many times to start understanding what it is. Or maybe like a galaxy made of gas and guff and random objects it is gradually coalescing into becoming something more solid.
Anyway, here I am, sitting in the Lowry Outlet again, blathering on, liking my life. My wife sends me pictures of my daughter that make me happy and sad simultaneously. She’s in the bath with the smuggest possible look on her face, more satisfied than any human being could ever be. It makes me laugh and cry simultaneously. In the past it would take Peter Baynham being delighted about my grandad dying to create such mixed emotions. But how lovely to know I have this tiny face-pulling idiot waiting for me at home. What a wrench to not be there to see the new faces she is pulling every day.
Ten tickets left for Chorley on Sunday night - Brighton selling well next week and a few other gigs very nearly sold out. Details here