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Saturday 30th January 2010

Rather a full day, but still a good one. A day where it really felt that maybe things are coming together for me. Perhaps this is a false impression and I've certainly felt like this before, but it was the culmination of a lot of expended effort in different disciplines.
Firstly our almost exactly two years of podcasting finally paid off as Andrew Collins (not Collings, this was us, rather than our broadly similar alter-egos) and I started our 5 week stint sitting in for Adam and Joe on 6Music. This is the perfect gig for us and we have our fingers and our gorgeous feet crossed that this might lead to more of the same. Partly because it's nice to get paid for once, but it also will widen our audience. It won't be something that will put an end to the filthy and disgraceful Collings and Herrin partnership (though our many commitments might mean we take a short break from that).
We had to pass George Lamb as he left his show and we started ours and were a little nervous that he might be aware of some possibly derogatory comments that we (but mainly I) had made about him. But he didn't seem to be aware of this, or was professional enough to ignore it (that's the first time he's been professional - I just can't help myself). All he said to me was "Nice moustache."
The show whizzed by and was all sorts of fun. We were a lot better behaved than usual and Collins was inhabiting his "I Love 1983" proper and polite broadcaster persona. I snuck in a few sly references that were tame enough for live radio but which regular listeners might recognise as naughtiness - mainly about a Herring inside a Lamb being what I wanted to happen. But it was great to be interactive with our audience and all sorts of unexpected avenues were explored (now you're making up your own jokes). We were a little restrained perhaps, but we started to loosen up a little and I am confident that we'll just have more and more fun with this as the weeks go by. You can listen again here for the rest of the week or subscribe to the podcast. Let's see if we can get into the iTunes charts again!
Then I dashed home to pack up the car to drive to Nottingham and the Playhouse where about 600 people were going to be watching my show. This is the largest audience I have ever played to with a solo show (and I think we only surpassed that figure once with the Lee and Herring tours) and was another indication that hopefully something has started to go right. And with that many people the show was just a delight to perform. The audience were engaged from the start and the laughs were big and I was able to ride them and create new ones by taking my time and adding extra comments or looks that would not be possible with a smaller crowd (or at least would look insane if I attempted them). I was constantly thinking how comparatively easy a gig is when you have this many people in the audience and it made me hungry for more. Much as I enjoy playing the arts centres and comedy clubs, things move up to a different level when you have the time and the space to enjoy a performance like this. I think it was actually the most enjoyable gig I have ever done in my life. It made me hope that in the future I might have more big gigs like this (I don't think I will have the opportunity to play to so many again on this tour), but I was also aware that there was the chance that that wouldn't happen. As I walked off-stage, tired, but delighted with how things had gone, a part of me realised that there was a chance that I might never have a gig as good as that again. I was not trying to be pessimistic and there is every chance that my career will move onwards and upwards, but it is by no means a certainty.
And it wasn't even a negative thought. Perhaps tonight in Nottingham would be the peak for me, both in terms of nailing a show and getting numbers in, but I was very glad to have experienced this evening. Especially given the slog I have gone through over the last ten years to build up an audience and to work out what I wanted to do and to be on stage. It meant a whole lot more to me having been through the tiny gigs and the half full auditoriums (I can't remember exactly, but I am pretty sure that when I played the theatre at Nottingham Uni with Christ on a Bike and Talking Cock there were maybe 100 people in). It is a good feeling to know that I have built this audience up through persistence and word of mouth and I hope they will all come again next year and bring a friend each with them. I suppose that is what has happened each year I've been coming to this town (or any of the others like it).
It's very hard to be funny when there's 30 people in a room. But when there's 600 it becomes pretty easy. Yet it's hard to get the chance to play that many and prove that you can do it. I am lucky to have the opportunity, even if it is for just one night. But also fortunate to have the perspective. Not to have just been an overnight sensation who doesn't really appreciate how incredible a night like tonight is.
And I am also delighted that the show is this strong right at the start of a tour. I am having a lot of fun already playing around with it and adding new bits and for once I don't have way too much material so can have a bit of a play with what is there.
You've been with me through enough bad nights and crappy performances to know that I am not the kind of Peter Kay person who likes to show off about how brilliant I am or believes that I always have the audience pissing themselves in their seats, but tonight the show worked on pretty much every level and the response fed the performance and it felt sensational.
I am hopeful that it will be just as good with smaller crowds and more modest venues, but if you've read this thing from the start I think you'll understand why this was a special night.
And if it's the high point of my solo career then that wouldn't be such a bad thing. There's a good chance that there is better to come. I hope I get the opportunity.
But back to the reality of touring as I headed to the pretty awful Hilton Hotel (I'd stayed there before but forgotten that it is a lot shitter than it sounds). My pokey room had a heater that made a strange clicking noise all through the night and an inexplicably hot (but empty) kettle and walls so thin that when my drunk neighbours came in at 4am I was able to hear every word of their crapulous (and not all that loud) conversation. Thankfully they were so drunk they fell asleep pretty fast so I didn't have to listen to them rutting like inebriated hogs, but I was tired to my bones and aware that I had two shows to get through in York tomorrow. I had forgotten all about bringing ear plugs as well, though finally I got a little sleep.
At least there was no nasal detritus on the shower curtain.
I must remember to make a list of the hotels I stay in and mark down which ones are good and which ones are shit. I always mean to and I always forget.
If you have an iPhone you can now purchase a Collings and Herrin profanity app complete with our voices swearing (mine more than Andrew's, but then Apple also censored some of the content). You will need an internet connection to download the speech part of the app after you've bought it. Hopefully it should be obvious how you do that.

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