Monday, 28 May 2012

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.... and

I'm just a boy who can't say "no".  This may come as no surprise to improvisers as improv is very much about saying "yes" to the reality that has been created in a scene.  Saying yes to an idea or suggestion can lead you to amazing places and get you into trouble in equal measure.  Danny Wallace's book "Yes Man" is a testament to that.

So where has saying "yes" got me?  Here are three examples:

1) When I was 17 I wrote a letter to the local paper.  I was that kind of nerd.  Off the back of that letter I was asked to meet a local organisation to talk about the United Nations.  I'll be honest - it sounded a bit dull.  I nearly declined.  However, I said "yes".  I met with them, wrote a letter about the UN to the paper, and off the back of it they sent me to Russia for a week on a conference.  I drank vodka with the Under Secretary General of the United Nations and made a speech on Soviet TV.

2) A former boss of mine was working at the BBC and asked if I wanted to go and see "Later with Jools Holland" being recorded.  I've been to quite a few tapings of TV shows and, although I like "Later" it was a long week, I was working away from home and I was going to have to co-ordinate transport with a friend.  It seemed like a hassle.  I decided to say "yes".  I hadn't bothered to look into who was playing that particular show.  Imagine my surprise when I turned up and saw Paul McCartney, Adele, Bjork and Editors playing on the same night.  Awesome!

3) I was browsing YouTube and saw Tina Fey doing an improvised monologue about ham.  I was wondering if anyone did any improv in Nottingham.  Turns out there was a group called "MissImp".  Their website said "Come along on Thursday" to their open jam.  The thought of turning up on my own and then making stuff up that was supposed to be "funny" in front of them was scary.  Nonetheless, I said "yes" to the invitation - and now I improvise on stage and even make money from teaching it.

Embracing a concept or an idea and seeing where it takes you is, for me, the most exciting and rewarding thing you can do with your life.

Here's some improv I got to do in March with one of my improv teachers from New York.  All we are really doing is saying "yes" do an idea and seeing where it takes us.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

My Most Pathetic Celeb Encounters

"Oh you work on the radio" said the lady in the bank yesterday.  "Which celebrities have you met?" she enquired, wide-eyed and excited for her vicarious celeb encounter.  I wheeled out the only good one I have.  Most of my friends know this one and have heard it a number of times.  That's because it's the only good one I have.

Don't get me wrong, I've met a few celebrities.  It's neither something of which I'm proud or ashamed.  Like any other group of people, there are lovely ones and ones who you could cheerfully see forever consigned to a locked cupboard under the stairs.  Most of my encounters have been decidedly lame, however.  Here are some of my most cringe-worthy moments.

Noel Edmunds:
For anyone in the UK, Noel is a broadcasting legend.  A number of years ago, my task was to do a live, 60 second, radio commercial with him for a brand of instant coffee.  I get all the glamourous jobs.  It was at a local hot air balloon fiesta, and I had just been offered a ride in a balloon.  I was, frankly, more excited about doing a commercial with Noel.  I was nervous.  I kept saying "Ok".  I was saying it way too much.  Noel noticed and picked me up on it (quite rightly).  What was the first word I said as we started the commercial?  You guessed it... "Ok, I'm here with Noel Edmunds..."  He just looked at me as if to say "Did you really just say that?"

Chris Martin from Coldplay:
I love Coldplay.  I've seen them live.  I've got at least seven of their songs on my iPhone.  Imagine my surprise when I see Chris Martin boarding the same plane that I've just got on.  I was right at the front of the Premium Economy section (thanks to my air miles) and Chris walked right past me.  "This is your moment" I thought to myself.  Our eyes met.  I smiled.  He smiled.  "Hello" he said.  "Oh, hi" I said.  He walked into Upper Class and I never saw him again all flight.  Total fail.

I love Pink.  I've seen her live.  I've got at least six of her songs on my iPhone.  There I am at a Dave Matthews gig, standing on the balcony, when who should stand next to me to watch the show?  Well, if you've not guessed then you've not read the header for this paragraph.  It was Pink.  I didn't want to strike up conversation during a gig, but half way through she turned to me... yes, SHE TURNED TO ME and said "Hey, honey, can you save my place.  I gotta use the bathroom".  Well, I did exactly that. I saved her place.  She came back and said "Thanks, sweetheart" and then the gig continued.  That was the extent of our conversation.

Susie Dent of Countdown....'s mum:
I love Countdown.  I play along live sometimes.  I use my iPhone to work out the maths round.  A few years back I was asked to sing at a concert in Wiltshire and who else was singing?  Susie Dent's mum.  Susie is famous for being in Dictionary Corner on Channel 4's long running quiz show.  Her mum is famous for having a daughter who sits in Dictionary Corner on Channel 4's long running quiz show.  We had tea and cake after the concert.  It was a simpler time.

So, as you can see, my life is incredibly glamourous and all of these celebrities are now close personal friends of mine.  So which is the only decent star-encrusted encounter about which I have bragging rights?  Well, I've played Twister with, and then gone for a Chinese meal with.... Justin Timberlake.  Not that he ever calls or emails anymore.  Actually, he never did but at least I have that one meal to look back on fondly.

If you ever see me in the pub, I'll probably mention the JT story and not any of the others above if that's ok.  And yes, the Justin story was the one I told to the lady from my bank yesterday.  She promptly offered me a discount on my mortgage.  I like to think the story helped.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Be Careful What You Put In Your Mouth

Some food products have names you should never say out loud for fear of being ridiculed.  Manufacturers sometimes make a deliberate effort to make their products sound rude, crude or downright dirty.  Here are the main ones to avoid saying out loud:

Do be careful what you ask for at the counter.  You're welcome!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Is It Wrong To Hit A Vicar?

The answer is, of course, yes.  You should never hit people, even if they are as obnoxious as one of the vicars I encountered this weekend.

Over the extended weekend I went to three different churches.  I know.  I'm pretty sure that, even if it  doesn't win me a place in heaven, then God will at least credit me with a few extra Tesco Clubcard points, right?

One of the three vicars I encountered was a disgrace to himself, his profession and to the church.  I'm not exactly a fundamentalist - I'm a liberal, open minded sort of bloke.  I do believe the church can be a force for good, whether there's a big man upstairs or not.  So why was I so worked up?

Maybe it's just me being over-sensitive, but when a man stands up at a wedding and makes such a big deal about marriage only being between men and women and how the church is under attack from secular society, I suspect he's trying to deny gay people the right to marry.  I mean, maybe I'm joining up the dots incorrectly, but I suspect not.

Let's compare him to another vicar I met, who told me about a young member of his congregation who had just come out to his parents as gay.  This young man approached the vicar and asked "Am I still allowed to come to church?"  Imagine that - fearing exclusion just because of who you happen to be attracted to.  Thankfully this other vicar embraces a diverse congregation!

Here's the thing - if you don't like the idea of gay marriage, I have amazing news for you.  YOU don't have to get one! Honest - they're not going to round up all the straights like cattle and insist they get a gay marriage.  If you really do hate the idea of men having sex with men or ladies doing the do with ladies, then why wouldn't you be in favour of gay marriage?  After all, look at what marriage does to the sex lives of straight people.  Besides, being against gay marriage is a bit like me being against people eating tomatoes.  I hate raw tomatoes and refuse to eat them.  I just don't like them.  If other people want to do it, much as it's not to my taste, why would I go all-out to ban it?

So did I want to hit the first vicar?  Very much indeed.  Will he be the first to complain that Christians are being marginalised by secular society without any hint of irony?  Absolutely.  Will I ever set foot in his church again?  There's more chance of me using my Tesco Clubcard points to buy cherry tomatoes.