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Sunday 18th May 2014

4193/17112

The final Meaning of Life record tonight and the most interesting thing for me was how I've relaxed into this series. For the first one I'd been writing for weeks, done loads of previews and was still nervous on the night (not helped by the fact we didn't have time to do a run through beforehand). Evenso I didn't know the script and had to read it from cards or from bits of paper off the floor. There was a lot  riding on it and I wanted it to be as good as possible. Which made it feel more like all or nothing. But for this last one I'd only done a couple of gigs and even then not tried out most of the material, but felt calm and happy and enjoyed it. The addition of the autocue made a big difference to the series, meaning I could add stuff at the last minute, but also have a safety net so I could concentrate on delivering the material. We'd all learned a lot though and aside from the expense of doing it, I think we've worked out how to do a filmed monthly stand up show without the time and budget that a TV show would get. 

I was blase enough today to spend my morning at the swimming pool and my afternoon listening to some old cassette tapes I had found in a box. I had suspected there might be some treasure in there, as two of the tapes were marked "Norwich Part 1" or "Part 2" and I suspected that given the obsolescence of the tech and the unlikelihood of me taping my own show that this might be a Lee and Herring show. We used to do our tour try outs at the Norwich Arts Centre. It seemed feasible that we would have taped that show. Like idiots we pretty much failed to make any record of any of the Lee and Herring live stuff (I think an old bootleg might be knocking around on the internet somewhere - it's possibly on the Fist of Fun DVD). So it would be pretty amazing to have a recording. And the fact that it would be a loose one from the start of the tour, with stuff that would quickly get jettisoned, might be even better.

My wife had dug out her old cassette Walkman and I was delighted to discover that this was exactly what  the tape was. I didn't have time to listen to the whole thing, but there was a very, very protracted version of the Egghead Geddis routine that we maybe did twenty seconds of on TV. It shows our obsession with stretching an idea beyond its  natural life began as a Lee and Herring thing. It's much too long to be honest, but you can hear us giggling as we improvise new ideas and as Stew tries to pull apart my story. Alas the show was being taped directly onto this C60 and the side ends before the routine does and whoever was taping doesn't realise immediately, as side two of part one comes back in halfway through a sketch involving the teachers. But evenso I think there's probably a couple of hours of unheard Lee and Herring stuff there. The plan is, if it's of sufficient length and quality, to release this as a download for maybe a fiver and use the money raised to help fund the release of TMWRNJ on DVD. I will keep you posted.

Also in the box were some radio pilots that I don't think ever went to air, one about me being an immature man and another about me going to Cadbury's Chocolate Factory (that one might have been broadcast), plus a tape of a gameshow pilot called "Bob Says Who?" which Stew and me wrote some links for. That was hosted by Bob Mortimer (in about 1992 I am guessing) and was a slight precursor to Shooting Stars. Even more amusingly I found a tape of an early 1990s Stewart Lee singing some of his earnest, serious songs. I believe it also has Al Murray on the drums. That one will surely be worth a fortune, in blackmail alone. I thought about not telling anyone and leaving it in the attic to be discovered by my grandchildren who would be able to sell it for millions. But I feel I should reunite it with its owner (Stew isn't sure that he has a copy) so he can destroy it and save his reputation.

And that wasn't the only musical treat available. I found the backing track to the stage version of Ra-Ra Rasputin and the sound effects tape from "Richard Herring is Fat" which includes the song that was sung to me by various bars of chocolate and pizza boxes "Even though you're fucked up, we're still your friends". And the past part of a conversation that the ancient, fat 26 year old me had with the slim 21 year old me. With hindsight those ages seem so close together that it's ridiculous that I thought I was any different than the younger version. But it's an interesting (if rubbish) little curio from a time before we even thought of recording our stuff for posterity.

Sadly there was no sign of the topical sitcom pilot "That's Wiggin's Yard". I gave all the tapes to Chris Evans (not that one) at the Leicester Square Theatre tonight. Some of them might turn up as downloads or DVD extras or on the monthly subscribers secret channel.

The show went really well, with a great audience of around about 200 and an interesting interview about the future with Aleks Krotoski, who is five months pregnant and thus in the process of creating a probe that will be sent decades into the future, but alas is unable to come back to us and report about the things it has seen. Her husband was wearing a silver jacket that made him look like he might be from the future, but if he was he wasn't spilling any secrets.

I can't quite believe we've managed to make six of these, with all the other things that have been going on in our lives. It's flown by and whilst not without stress has been worh doing. And as I point out at the start of this show over the last six months I have lost 11kg which means that at the very least I have created an amusing and costly flick book of my diminishing mass. It will take at least six months for the team to get the remaining four shows out, but show three about love is not too far from completion. This bold experiment, as yet, has failed to excite any media interest, but maybe it's for the best and maybe the most important thing about RHMOL is that it exists at all. It's a bridge to exciting possibilities. But hopefully a bridge that is worth seeing in itself. Like Tower Bridge. We will keep plugging away regardless.

I was tired to my bones at the end of it, so it felt like a bit of an anticlimax as we just packed our stuff away and went home. But I am very proud with what we've achieved and though there were times that I wish I hadn't commited myself to this enterprise I am glad I pushed onwards. Now I have to concentrate on the similarly foolhardy decision to write a play for Edinburgh. Make your own mountains and you are forced to climb them.



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My new stand up show, Lord of the Dance Settee will be on at the George Sq Theatre at 10.45pm every night of the Edinburgh Fringe Buy tickets here.
My new play, I Killed Rasputin will on at the George Square Theatre at 3.35pm every day of the Edinburgh Fringe. Buy tickets here
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