I had a phone call this lunchtime from Frank Blunt, the documentary film-maker. He’s back in Glossop, Derbyshire, and he sounded breathless and excited – or maybe just pissed. He said he’d been viewing some of the footage this morning of his ‘no-nonsense Frankumentary’ on stand-up comedy together with his producers, and they’re now commissioning him to make a series of episodes on the subject. Or at least that’s what he hopes. He’d gone to the meeting with other ideas, ‘in case the footage was shit’ (his words) – and he was about to suggest a documentary on ‘the world of belly-dancing’ instead (apparently because his neighbour’s a belly-dancer and he’s videoed her), or ‘the world of binge drinking’ (ditto), but the producers loved all his comedy interviews and want to extend it. He then said something about it being the happiest day of his career, matched only by winning ‘Derbyshire’s Amateur Podcaster of the Year Award’ in 2011, or something. There was a lot of background noise, so I didn’t catch it all. It sounded like he was in a Glossop pub.
He then asked how my 30 minute ‘show’ was coming along.
‘What show?’ I said.
‘Your show for the Edinburgh Fringe, lad,’ he said.
‘Mr.Blunt … ’ I said. ‘Frank … are you serious?’
‘Of course I am, lad,’ came the reply. ‘We need to film you rehearsing it and then performing it at the Fringe and all.’
And all? All what? He went on to remind me that I’d suggested my ‘one man, 30 minute show’ would be called ‘The Speedy Boarding Tour’ and that’s exactly what he’d ‘sold’ to his producers, and so ‘don’t let me down, lad’.
‘But I haven’t started writing it,’ I said.
‘Then get on with it, lad!’ he cried. ‘New material, too. We don’t want any more of your piss-poor stories about bee-stings, phobias, or Marmite-stained pants. Try to write something fucking funny! At least tell some jokes!’
Charming. And with that, he hung up – after telling me that he’d show me some of the footage ‘soon’, but it wasn’t clear if I’d have to go to Glossop or London for that, or if he’s coming back over here.
‘Piss-poor stories about bee-stings and phobias’ … that hurt, Frank … but he’s probably right. And it’s true that I’d said I would aim for a 30-minute ‘Speedy Boarding’ show for Edinburgh or something, but I didn’t think Frank had been listening. He was getting loud and plastered on Pale Ale at the bar of The Comedy Store in London at the time, but I guess he’s seen and heard it all again on the footage …
It had been his idea for me to focus on phobias and then immediately go in to the bee-sting story whilst following me around the open-mics in London – but after listening to it all more than 10 times, he was probably looking forward to a bit of belly-dancing and binge-drinking instead. So he’s right – we’ll need some new material.
So … Frank has now got me thinking and analysing everything to see if there’s anything I have done that he hasn’t seen, and that could be used in a ‘Speedy Boarding’ tour. Probably not. Or maybe there is …
In my last blog-post on stand-up, I was recounting the night of the Barcelona International Comedy Festival’s ‘newcomers’ final – last Friday 19th October. It was only my fifth time at trying stand-up – and no, I didn’t win. I remember the MC, Stephen Garland, announcing that Josep Catala had won with the words, ‘Josep has just 2 or 3 guests in this 200-strong audience, but he had you all in the palm of his hand’. It was true. He was brilliant. He should go on to great things. I will always remember my 18 or so friends there to support me – the jokes and drinks we shared afterwards – and I hope I didn’t let anyone down. I managed to get laughs and applause during my 7-minute act, but there’s nothing I can take to Edinburgh. (And by the way, Mr.Blunt, I don’t even know how we do Edinburgh. I have never even been to the Fringe. I will find out if we still have time to register.)
The whole experience of taking part in the comedy competition in Barcelona had been positive. It had spurred me on to do the Logan Murray weekend course in the first place, to overcome every possible fear and participate in two open-mic nights in New York – and I genuinely felt wiser and less ‘shy’ for having done it all. I’d also met some great new friends. At the time, I thought it would all end there. A great experience, but thanks very much and goodnight. But as we were all saying our ‘adioses’ at gone midnight in the foyer of the Auditori de L’Orfeó Gracienc in the heart of the Gràcia district of Barcelona, a guy called Chris Groves came up to me and handed me a flyer. Chris is a fun, talented guy and had been on the Logan Murray course with us – and I’d heard Josep Catala thanking him for all his encouragement during his short yet hilarious ‘acceptance speech’. I knew that Chris was in some way involved with a comedy club in Barcelona, but I didn’t know much else.
I looked at the flyer and it said, “Stand Up Comedy Kills. SUCK is a Barcelona-based stand up comedy collective, performing in different venues around town on a monthly basis. Our next show is on November 3rd at 9.30pm, Las Cuevas del Sorte, c/Gignàs, 2 (Gòtic).”
‘Will you perform?’ asked Chris.
I nodded and thanked him.
I would have to come up with some new material … some of which Frank hasn’t seen … (to be continued).