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Sunday 10th August 2014

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The realisation that my slightly dark mood this week has been mainly down to tiredness has helped lift me from my funk and today in spite of the rain and low audiences I felt a lot more positive about everything. And suddenly had some energy. I had intended to go swimming, but elected instead to stay in bed a bit longer and then went to Bar Napoli for a late lunch. My whole routine is out of whack, not only am I going to bed late and waking early, I haven’t quite worked out when I should be eating my meals and most days I have effectively missed lunch (or replaced it with chocolate) and so perhaps eating a big plate of spaghetti was the key to banishing the blues. Things certainly picked up from there. I appeared in the show Prompter in the afternoon, brought to you by the team behind Set List, but a very different challenge. You are given a character and a subject to talk about just as you get on to stage and have to give a Ted-style talk with a teleprompter that keeps on cutting out. There are weird graphs and pictures to incorporate into the talk and extra little challenges thrown in (at the end I had to operate a ventriloquist doll - did they not know of the trauma I have suffered with these in the past?). I was a Jehovah’s Witness who was furious about all the Knock Knock jokes he had to endure. I found it pretty difficult and I'm not sure how great a job I did, but what I love about shows like this is that you just have to plunge onwards and stay confident and hope that whatever comes out of your mouth will make sense. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re in town.
I then went back to the flat and caught up on some work and started signing and enveloping up the limited edition programmes for those of you kind enough to have given money to Scope. They will start being sent out tomorrow. I got about halfway through. You’re also getting a complete set of my Edinburgh promotion stickers for your kindness, the kind of rarity that would be worth lots of money if only I can become more successful in the future. I hope that one day you’ll all be able to pay off the investment you have made in me! I did a few more after the show as I waited for the adrenaline to subside. I wonder how many other comedians would be doing something like this at one in the morning during the Fringe. Does this make me a nice guy or a fucking idiot?
My Guardian article about the play came out online today  which might hopefully pique some interest and there was a nice 3 star review in Time Out  which started from the usual perspective of being wary of a comedian writing a play, but conceded that, on the whole, we have done a good job. I am still perturbed by this weird and patronising prejudice, especially as I can equally be described as a writer as I can be a comedian (I have written four other plays, about forty sitcom episodes, a produced TV comedy drama, hundreds of newspaper articles, two books and a dozen or so unproduced TV scripts as well as all manner of different live shows). I am not sure the idea that comedians are unable to write drama (especially comedy drama) really holds up in any case. Not many of them do, mainly because it’s a lot harder than doing stand-up, but there are more hits than misses that I can remember. Off the top of my head: Woody Allen, Stephen Fry, Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas, Arthur Smith, Tim Minchin - surely they’re not completely unbalanced by the work of Ben Elton and Patrick Marber. I wonder if it comes from a theatrical suspicion of comedy in general. It seems that if a play is “funny” then that makes it less worthy. That if the audience is laughing then they can’t be taking on board any serious dramatic point. And perhaps that stems back to a general feeling that many people hold that if you joke about something then you are not taking it seriously. This undermines the ability of comedy to be instructive and open minded and its massive contribution to free speech. In comedy we can examine ideas that we would never hold or that we don’t believe in order to examine them and consider whether we are right to think as we do. Also people are much more likely to take on board new ideas if they are laughing. And also to come to the theatre at all if it is entertaining rather than (or as well as) worthy.The Time Out reviewer makes some good points and is right that I have a lot to learn about this particular medium of expression. I think it’s a fair review (though would argue that the themes run throughout the show and don't need to be implicitly stated). But I find the general snootiness towards people who are funny daring to write plays (and it comes from both directions, comedy people are just as sceptical about the pretentiousness of doing this) is an odd prejudice, especially given that it’s very rare to find a comedian who is simply a comedian and doesn’t supplement their living through writing, acting or presenting.



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