Thursday, November 30, 2006

It'll Come To Us All

Soooo from the beauty of Venice to the "beauty" of my ancestral home of Preston for my Dad's 80th birthday last weekend.

He had his first ever birthday party - better late than never I guess - and it was filled with friends and family, all of whom had a terrific time.

Pops and his pals

I was asked by my Dad to 'say a few words' and thank everyone for coming. Of course people were expecting me to do a turn, but with the amount of over 80's with dodgy tickers in the room I wasn't about to launch into a full on set. Plus its not like they were paying me!

Instead, I told a couple of amusing tales and praised him for being my Dad. Job done.

Then on Sunday night the pair of us were watching the Madonna concert on C4. He seemed a bit mesmerised by the sight of a woman pushing 50 simulating sex, but then of course when you're 80 she's a bit of young stuff I guess. Then he came out with the phrase I still cannot believe I heard, "didn't she adopt a baby panda?"

Once I'd stopped laughing enough to be able to reply, I patiently told him that she had in fact adopted a baby called David Banda. Apparently when he sits down to watch the 6 o'clock news he sometimes nods off and wakes up in the middle of a story... that's his excuse anyway!

Did a great little gig last night in Covent Garden called The Funny Side. I was on with Paul Sinha (who just gets better and better) and Rhys Darby who's about to embark on a massive adventure. He's doing a sit-com for HBO!!!!!!!! How amazing is that????? He will be moving to New York for six months early next year, and world wide fame is surely only moments away. I'm so excited for him...what an amazing break!

Off to Nottingham in a bit to do a last minute Xmas show at Jongleurs up there. They got me doing a set, its been a while since I did that, I usually compere Xmas shows for them, so here's hoping I don't upset the chairman of ICI, or whoever is there, too much.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

See Venice and Die....

The Rialto Bridge and some random bloke who walked into shot

So the saying goes.

Not sure if I'm ready to pop my clogs yet but I did have a wonderful time there.

The whole experience was a bit surreal, the entire city look like a movie set. Everything is soooo old and crumbling in a slightly too perfect way, like there was a set designer painting in the cracks on the facades.

I even overcame my fear of boats - didn't have a lot of choice really! - and was zipping around on the Tragetto's like they were the number 36 bus. My hastily learned Italian kept slipping into Spanish, but nobody seemed to mind too much, the people are really sweet and helpful.

I'd been warned it wasn't cheap to do anything much really in Venice, and that was certainly true, I paid £6 for a small latte today, but I have to say the view of the Basillica in St Mark's Square was well worth the price. They even threw in a floorshow of tourists being attacked by pidgeons for bits of bread. This is obviously a regular occurance as the birds here are the fattest I have ever seen!

The city is small enough to get about easily, I covered most of it in the two full days I had there. The boats are fast and frequent and with my Venice Card I could hop on and off at will. The coffee was fabulous everywhere, and it was soooooo good to see one big city in the world that hasn't been invaded by Starbucks! Sadly McDonalds has infiltrated, but it was empty when I went past it.

Jeff Koons' Balloon Dog outside the Palazzo Grassi

Best of all tho was the art. I spent several wonderful hours in the Palazzo Grassi and The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and saw some terrifically life-affirming pieces by Jeff Koons and Rene Magritte.

The Angel of the City outside the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

My hotel was in a brilliant location, right off St Mark's Square, with the city's biggest gondola terminus right outside my window. The room was small but beautifully furnished, with amazing Murano glass light fittings. Makes the Travel Inns I'm used to look even more shit now!

If you've never been, do yourself a favour and head out there as soon as you really is a place everyone should visit at least once.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Forza Italia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, I had a cracking trio of gigs in Leicester with what seemed to be an everchanging line-up of fellow acts. Over the weekend we had the fabulous Jason Wood, lovely Stephen Grant, Phil Walker, Quincy, the always excellent Tim Clark and my old mate Steve Gribben. All of us had a great time onstage and a few laughs offstage too.

The only downside as always in Leicester was the godawful Grand Hotel. The heating wasn't working all weekend, everytime I emptied my sink, the dirty water bubbled up through the shower drain, two of the lights were blown and the remote was knackered. Bizarrely no matter how many times I asked reception to fix it, they just never got around to it.

It was with great relief therefore, that Jason offered to give me a lift back to London last night. I'm always glad to get back early, but moreso to this weekend, my bits were starting to drop off from the cold!

I was even more keen to get back this weekend, cos tomorrow I am off on one of my little jaunts. This time to Venice.

I've never been before and other than what I can remember from my O-level studies of The Merchant of Venice, know very little about the place other than the obvious. I'm not very good with boats (vertigo) so I expect to be doing an awful lot of walking. Luckily I treated myself to a pair of fabulous black boots on Friday. They're sooooo comfy and really cute too.

The thing that prompted me to pick Venice was reading about the newly refurbished Palazzo Grassi, the gallery of modern art. The building itself looks incredible and they have the most amazing collection. Added bonus, there's a fabulous Picasso exhibition on at the moment. I also plan to visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and I'm so excited about that too.

Add to that a fabulous deal on a 4* hotel right off St Mark's Square, and just the sights of Venice itself, this promises to be a wonderful trip.

I've got my "Learn Italian" on the iPod, my guide book and my camera at the ready....ooooh I can't wait for the morning!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

No Stars, But a Few Good Friends

Sooooo the promised megastar didn't materialise at Lenny Beige's Messaround last night. The rumour was that it was going to be Prince who was in town for the Music Hall of Fame thing, and if it was meant to be him, it's no surprise he didn't show.

Instead we got Lenny on fine form after a six year break, plus the amazing David McAlmont who sang the best version of The Look of Love I've heard since Dusty's original. We also were treated to a tune from the wonderful Oliver Darley as well as a cracking turn from the lovely Phil Nichol.

The crowd were a strange bunch, I suspect most of them were tv industry people, but even if they were these all powerful meeja types, it was no excuse for the incredibly rude behaviour of a fair few of them.

I've never seen a drunker, more coked-up bunch of ignorant wankers in my life! They brayed at the top of their voices while the singers did their thing, they bored the rest of us stiff with their inane chatter while Lenny was chatting and singing, in fact the only one who silenced them briefly was Phil.

That aside, I had a lovely night, some good laughs with Steve and just really enjoyed making the effort to dress up and go out for no money!

Back to normal now tho, I spent the afternoon sitting in the local hospital having a hearing test. After the bout of labyrinthitis in the summer my Doc figured it would be a good idea to make sure there was no lasting damage. I received the great news that my hearing is as perfect as hearing can be...hurrah!

This is a miracle considering all those years of my misspent youth when I'd have one of my ears jammed up against a massive speaker stack at various gigs. Plus at an age when traditionally things start breaking down, its nice to hear one bit of me is working well.

The weekend brings the delight that is Jongleurs Leicester, doing a mixture of MC'ing and sets, it should be fun.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Is It Cos I Is......?

Sooooo, the weekend was spent in terrific company. At The Glee Club in Birmingham not only was the delicious Aladair in attendance, but the line-up was amazing. We had delightful Rob Deering, brilliant John Bishop and marvellous Andrew Maxwell. At the risk of sounding egotistical, it was perhaps one of the strongest bills of comedy anywhere in the country that weekend.

The gigs were great fun and we hung about afterwards chatting and catching up. It's been about three years since I saw John and nearly as long since I saw Andrew, and on Friday night after the show the lovely Andy Robinson turned up after he'd done a corporate somewhere in town.

I have to say most of the chat centred around Borat (for those who'd seen it) and the iPod Shuffle. Rob was so impressed with mine on Thursday night he dashed off to buy one on Friday morning!

Sunday night saw me MC'ing a night of black female comedy at The Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn. It was only my second 'black' gig so I was a bit aprehensive. Turned out there was no need at all, the audience were fantastic and the girls - Annette Fagon, Donna Spence, Angela Reed and Ava Vidal - were all funny as buggery.

There were about seven men in the entire room, and I'd say six of those had been dragged kicking and screaming by their partners. By the end of the show tho, they all said they'd had a good time and you can't ask for more than that.

I'm dead excited today as I'm off on a night out tonight. A proper night out. I'm going with my pal Stephen K Amos to see Lenny Beige's Messaround at The Pigalle Club in town.

Years ago, Lenny (aka Steve Furst) used to do a night at The Talk of London and it was at one of those nights I had my first 'date' with Robbie Williams, so needless to say I have high hopes for tonight! I have no idea who is going to be on, but there's a huge big megastar due to perform, so fingers crossed it's Daniel Craig - who'll be in the area as its the Bond premier tonight - and I will be swept off to a life of Hollywood luxury.

Knowing my luck it'll be Michael Ball and I'll be swept back onto the Bakerloo line at chucking out time!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Little Things Mean A Lot

A long, long time ago - well a couple of years to be exact - my life was a constant series of massive peaks and troughs. Everything was either brilliant or bollocks with nothing in between. Then I read The Art of Happiness by HH The Dalai Lama and everything changed.

I get pleasure from the simplest things, and when things don't work out the way I'd hoped, I shrug and move on.

Yesterday was one of those perfect days, when seemingly simple things went right. I had to collect a dvd of my performance for a forthcoming series on Paramount from one editing suite in Soho and deliver it to my mate Mickey Hutton in another one two streets away.

Now, on paper this should've been as easy as pie, but previous experience has taught me that isn't always (if ever) the case. Yesterday, however it was. The whole thing took less than 15 minutes...wonderful.

Later on I decided to chase up some work for this weekend, having found myself with a free weekend and nowt to do with it. I emailed my pal Danny and five minutes later he was on the phone telling me I was his 'light in shining armour'. Mixed metaphor I know but it's something I suspect he's inherited from his boss Addison Cresswell who's infamous for it. One of his best ones was 'Comedians? Cheap as houses'.

Anyway Danny tells me that someone has just dropped out of this weekend at The Glee Club in Birmingham, and as you will all know, this is my favourite club in the world ever, ever. I was so excited! I'm packed already.

Today I treated myself to a visit to the movies to see Borat's movie.

I can honestly say that its the funniest movie I have ever, ever, ever seen in my life. I thought I'd puke I was laughing so hard! If you haven't seen it yet, get yourself down to the local flea pit and prepare for the best laugh of your life.

Needless to say, in my role as the Zelig of not only the rock and roll world, but also the comedy world, I was reminded of the first time I ever met Sacha. It was about 10 years ago, and I was doing my ITV show Funny Business and he was hosting this mad cable chat show. I was asked to be a guest on it and as I wasn't getting much publicity anywhere else I said ok.

He was soooo sweet and we had a good laugh on the show. I remember feeling slightly smug that I was on terrestrial, network telly and he was doing this cable thing. That'll teach me eh?
Proof, if any was needed that karma does indeed exist.

I saw him a few years later at the Stephen Wright gig at The Dominion, and by this time he was making huge waves as Ali G. I didn't think he'd remember me, but he did and made a point of coming up and saying hello, and thanking me for doing that show all those years before. Top geezer!

Monday, November 06, 2006

What Kind of F**kery Is This?

Soooooo once again I braved the insanity and pettiness that is the security at our airports for my weekend in Glasgow.

I flew from Gatwick this time, I'd forgotten how crappy that airport is! Anyway there's the usual no liquids, no lighters rubbish. Someone is onto a good deal here and I suspect its the manufacturers of disposable lighters!

I saw one guy being told to deposit his obviously very expensive gold lighter into the bin and refusing, he's probably still there trying to get some sense out of one of the security droids that run tings these days.

At most other airports now they're not doing the 'take off the shoes' bit and there were no signs at Gatwick telling us to do so, do instead they told you just as you were about to go through the metal detector, making sure that queues stayed nice and long. Of course, once you're through you can buy as much liquid or as many lighters as you like.

Now call me suspicious, but surely if you were determined to blow up a plane you'd have some kind of network whereby you could pick up your Toothpaste of Mass Destruction on the other side of security? Therefore taking our bits of toiletries off us serves no purpose at all.

From today they've decided to allow us 100 mls of toothpaste, I guess that's not enough to blow up a whole plane, how fucking ridiculous. Blair and his band of merry wankers are using some very real tragedies to abuse the most minute of our personal freedoms and we are all just taking it.

I did think of protesting a couple of months back that my Rose's Apothecary LipBalm did indeed smell of roses and not Semtex, but the fucker in the kevlar jacket with the primed machine gun, made me think twice.

If we were reading about this happening to inhabitants of some dictatorship, we'd be up in arms about personal freedom being curtailed, but we just take it. I can't see a way out, we are already the most watched nation in the world, and once the identity cards are introduced, everything about us will be known to this bunch of people who are meant to work for us, not the other way round.

Anyway the gigs were fab, the bill was me as MC, Neil Delamare, Dougie Dunlop and my brother from another mother Smug Roberts. We all had a cracking time both nights, and I didn't go mad in the shops, so success all round.

Now that I've got the rant out of the way, I also wanna take this opportunity to big up Amy Winehouse's incredible new album Back to Black, if you love the Phil Spector sound you will think you've died and gone to heaven.

The best thing of all about the weekend tho was the return to our screens of the magnificent Planet Earth. Lots of cute baby Polar bears, Humpback whales, and best of all billions of penguins and baby penguins!!!!!

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Week So Far....And The Weekend Ahead

After last week's gig marathon, this week has been slower thank god!

Done a bit of shopping, treated myself to the minute new iPod Shuffle. Its about the size of a Christmas postage stamp! With enough songs to last for 12 hours. Sadly, the charger connection is USB instead of the usual Apple firewire, which means the old iPod charger is no use. The only way you can charge it is via the computer, unless you wanna shell out almost another £50 for the Apple charger and Worldtraveler plug set.

I did a bit of a search and found one that does the job for under £14. Naughty Apple!

I went to the movies to see Marie Antoinette, which definitely has the Sophia Coppola stamp on it. For such a fascinating and eventful life, she manages to make it all feel very languid and like nothing much is going on really apart from eating delicious cakes and buying even more delicious shoes. Lost in Versailles it seems.

Having said that, I did enjoy it was a lovely way to pass the afternoon, like staring in the window of Patisserie Valerie. Much was made of the 'punk' rock soundtrack, but there was no punk in it! There was the Gang of Four and lots of Bow Wow Wow, which certainly added life to the events on screen, I Want Candy especially.

I also tackled a job I'd been putting off for aaaaaaages. I cleared out my storage cupboard, tho for storage read junk and shit I haven't been bothered to deal with. There was all kinds of rubbish, including receipts going back years, old TV treatments I'd written when I was young and fresh and desperate to be a star, and a letter I'd written to an old lover and never sent.

As I re-read the words that had such poignancy all those years ago I realised just how far I have travelled. It was like reading a letter written by a stranger. Interesting how we move on, sometimes without even realising it, until we come across things from the past.

So that was my week, and now I am heading off to Gatwick for my flight to Glasgow. I'm doing two nights at Jongleurs there, so that's two nights of running up and down stairs to the street if I want a fag. When the ban comes in here in England I will be fit as a flea!

Have a great one people xx