Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Batty Man

Not sure how many of you managed to catch this documentary. It went out at 10.30 this morning on C4.

It was written and presented by Stephen K Amos and looked at homophobia within the black community, and was one of the most heart-wrenching things I have ever seen.

As you will know, Steve is a friend of mine - a great friend - but even if I didn't know him I would still have been moved to tears by the ignorance and hatred he uncovered.

I will never understand how any human being can blindly hate another human being for the colour of his skin, where he puts his penis, or which god he chooses to believe in. It just makes no sense at all to me...so much wasted energy.

I don't think this is exclusively a black thing either, I'm pretty sure there are tons of white guys out there who thing that a gay man is not a "real" man whatever that is!

It seems to me that if people concentrated on their own lives and building and sustaining their own moral codes, and stopped obsessing about those who are different from them, the world might be a much better place.

If you didn't see the programme this morning, keep an eye out in the C4 schedules, it is due for a late night repeat in the next couple of months. Better still, write to C4 and tell them to show it again!

Well done Stephen, I am sooooooo proud of you for standing up and being counted!

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Monday, February 26, 2007

What A Night!

Well this evening was a night of firsts!!!!

It started with me on my way to Kennington to support my bestest comedy pal Stephen K Amos. He was a guest on Richard and Judy and I invited myself along cos I'd never met the dynamic duo and wanted to. Stephen was on to plug his brilliant documentary "Batty Man" which goes out on Channel 4 tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 10.30.

Its about homophobia within the black community and is just amazingly well made. I am so proud of him for doing it.

After the show I got to meet them and introduced myself as Stephen's wife which made Richard laugh. I even got a chance for a quick chat with Judy who is just wonderul. One of the sweetest celebs I've ever met.

After that Stephen had to go and do some radio thing, but I had a prior engagement, and the next in my series of firsts, to go and see a play at the National Theatre. In 28 years of living in London I have never been inside the National. I met my pal Paul who had kindly bought me a ticket to see a play called Happy Days. Sadly Fonzie wasn't in it. It's a Samuel Beckett play, the first time I've seen anything he's written.

I dunno why I've left it so late to get into going to the theatre, I love watching live performances. This was pretty challenging to say the least, but I loved it. Once Paul explained that Beckett never told anyone what his plays were actually about, I was free to apply my own interpretation to it ... I loved it!

The weight loss in continuing apace, 20lbs gone now and it's only three weeks ago today since I had the op, so I am pretty chuffed as you can imagine. Mind you, tonight was the first time that not being able to eat solid foods yet bothered me, at R&J they had the most delicious looking canapes!

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Yaaaaaaaaaay!!!!!!! Comedy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So the first weekend back at work is over, and what a cracker it was.

After Thursday's warm up, I went to Oxford Jongleurs for Friday and Saturday night's gigs. The bill was blinding, Tony Hendricks, Paul Sinha and the wonderful Jo Caufield.

Friday's show was one of those really special nights when just everything was right, the bill, the crowd, my hair.... everything! From the minute I walked onstage you could feel the electricity. Paul kicked things off and the audience were with him from the minute he opened his mouth, Jo took the baton and ran with it, and Tony crossed the finishing line in triumph.

To round off the night perfectly, Tony gave me a ride home bless him.

Saturday, while not quite as perfect, was another corker. The break has definitely done me good, I love being a comedian!


Friday, February 23, 2007

Back To Work

Soooooo after two whole weekends off I went back to work last night.

I willingly admit I was more than a little nervous, during the day I tried to remember my set, tried to imagine what it was like to actually stand on a stage and have the audacity to expect people to find my ramblings amusing...it scared the hell out of me!

For the first time since my op two weeks ago, I felt pain in my (newly miniature) stomach. I knew is was butterflies and not something more serious. Obviously there were too many butterflies for such a tiny tummy!

My energy levels have been really low too, due to the fact I am living for a day on what I would've normally eaten in one meal, so I was also scared I would just be too lethargic. Added to that, the dramatic weight loss of the first 14 days seems to have affected my balance in some ways, oh my god what if I fell offstage?!?!?!?!?!?!?

It felt odd to be putting on my 'gig' clothes - new ones cos the stuff I was wearing 3 weeks ago in Cardiff were too big now, it felt even stranger to be slapping on the make-up! I have to say I was incredibly pleased with the results tho. My face seems to be half the size it was a month ago.

I walked into the venue in Chelmsford and it was tho I was having an out of body experience. I looked at the stage and the thought of being on there in 45 minutes' time seemed both extraordinary and perfectly natural at the same time.

I chatted with the lovely Ian whose company The Comedy Club, run this and many other gigs, haven't seen him for a while so it was good to catch up. Mark Walker and new (to me) Canadian comic Vince Fluke turned up within minutes of each other, so it was a mix of introductions and Mark and I winding each other up.

He was wearing a very shiny purple Ozwald Boateng suit, I asked if he got it on eBay and he totally bit...I do love teasing him!

Ian told me it was time to go and I was excited and numb at the same time, next thing I knew I was onstage and blethering away, getting to know the audience and having a laugh with certain members. I surprised myself at how quick I was, the witty repartee was flying outta my mouth! I was having fun and people were laughing! Phew. A massive relief I can tell you!

Mark and Vince did the business, and after the break we did the joke competition. I have to say I am not a fan at all of these things, but my new found honesty made it great fun for all of us. Then it was time to bring on my favourite comic in the world, the excellent Paul Tonkinson.

He's doing six shows a week now on XFM in London which means we get to see him gig a bit more, having spent the last year doing their Manchester breakfast show. Live is where Tonks really shines (in my opinion) and he just blew the room away. Sadly, the public transport system meant I had to leave before the end of his set to get my train back to London, but what I saw was fabulous!

So there you have it, doubts laid to rest, a great night of comedy, and I am back in business!

Off to Oxford Jongleurs tonight and tomorrow....I can't wait!


Monday, February 19, 2007

An Incredible Night

So last night I went on my first night out since the op, and what a way to celebrate my first two week's loss of a whole STONE, than by getting glammed up and heading off to The Palladium.

I went with my pal Paul to see the amazing Rufus Wainwright. He was doing this special concert re-creating Judy Garland's Carnegie Hall performance from the 60's. As you might imagine it was the gayest night in London! Old Compton Street was like a ghost town.

Standing outside having a smoke before we went into our seats waaaaaaaay up in the gods, I was looking around at the audience and my god, some of the most handsome men in London were out in force...with their boyfriends. Honestly it was like being given the keys to the best sweetshop in the world and finding out you're diabetic!

We began the long climb to the cheap(!) seats, a mere £75 each. In the bar, I did a bit of spotting and clocked Paul Morley and Robbie's old songwriting partner Guy Chambers, other faces I spotted through the night were Tom from Keane and Mighty Boosh boy Julian Barratt who I haven't seen for ages.

We took our seats and I was grateful we didn't have to walk down the steep steps too far, I suffer from vertigo at the best of times and had visions of tripping up and landing somewhere in the stalls!

There was 40 or 50 piece orchestra onstage and soon Rufus himself came out in a sparkly gold suit. From where I was sitting and with my dodgy eyesight he looked like a young Elvis. He began singing and my god! My heart was soaring. He followed the framework of Judy's show but made the songs his own.

After the interval he brought his sister Martha on, boy she sure scrubs up well! Her voice was wonderful too. Later he introduced Lorna Luft - the slightly saner daughter - and for one song it was really sweet to see her singing on the same stage as her mum once performed.

However, when she came back out again and started belting out another number, it was too much. She was honking like bloody Ethel Merman and doing all that wavering with the lines. I whispered to Paul 'Has she got Parkinson's" and that was all it took to set the pair of us off giggling for the rest of the show really. It was like being in church, everyone was so reverential that we felt we had to supress our laughter, so the pair of us just sat there shaking with giggles.

All too soon it was over, but it was a real event and worth every penny. I'm looking forward to seeing Rufus back over here doing his own stuff sometime soon...what a great performer he is.

On the tube home I bumped into my comedy chum Andy Smart, who I haven't seen in ages. He'd been at the Comedy Store doing their impro night. When I told him where I'd been and mentioned Lorna Luft, he told me that she'd once done a gig with Malcolm Hardee in Croydon or somewhere... no wonder she was wobbling onstage at the Palladium after that experience!

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Watch this!

Following on from my blog about Dreamgirls, I found this clip on YouTube of Jennifer Holliday singing the original version of "And I Am Telling You". Check it out!

Either click on the heading above, or cut and paste the one below and enjoy


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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Gettin Better

There's a track by The Neptunes called 'Gettin' Better' that's on my little iPod shuffle. Those of you that have one will know that it's not all that random, some songs you never hear, some you hear every bloody time you switch it on. Anyway, this tune is stuck in my current "random" loop and its incredibly appropriate right now.

I have to say that my 'period of recovery' is actually more active than my normal weeks! My little outing with Jason on Wednesday was followed by a trip to the movies on Thursday to see Dreamgirls. Even I am too young to have seen the original stage version, but the standout track "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Leaving" sung by Jennifer Holliday has been one of my favourite songs for years. If you've seen the gorgeous and wonderful Julia Morris gigging recently you'll know the song I mean.

The reviews for the movie weren't great, but I went along just to see that song performed. If you don't know the story basically its a cleaned up version of The Supremes' story, with Beyonce as the Diana Ross character and Jamie Foxx as Berry Gordy. Playing Cindy Birdsong's part of the orignal lead singer, was a woman called Jennifer Hudson. She was a runner up in American Idol, I'm guessing she didn't win cos she wasn't skinny and white. It can't have been her singing ability that's for sure!

From the minute she opens her mouth to sing you are set alight! She's the closest thing to Aretha Franklin I've ever heard. I knew the song was coming and when it did, boy! I had shivers all over my body, not just up and down my spine. The tears spilled down my cheeks, and I was mesmerised by her performance. Goddam this girl can sing!

On the whole, the movie has a dated feel, not in a good way, Eddie Murphy is pretty good, Beyonce is bland, Jamie Foxx is hateful, but Jennifer Hudson makes the whole thing worthwhile. Go and see it just for her performance.

Yesterday saw me indulging in a pleasure I've not enjoyed for many years, Saturday afternoon trolling down the Portobello Road. Since I've been doing comedy I've maybe be able to do this about 4 times, cos I'm usually out of town at the weekends. I'd forgotten how packed it gets! Still I had a wonderful time, even tho the place is becoming more and more homogenised. The Westbourne Grove end with its designer boutiques held a little more interest for me now that I can see the possibility of actually fitting into some of the clothes in the near future. I got a gorgeous Diptique candle from their little shop and drooled over the Mulberry handbags, then it was onto the market itself.

There's still one or two practical shops, I got my 5 lighters for a quid and some cheap tupperware, some fruit and veg, and even got chatted up by an old rastaman! This is what we want on a Saturday afternoon! There was a stall selling reproductions of Banksy's works and I treated myself to one of those...maybe one day I'll own the real thing.

The weight loss is nothing short of phenomenal. I've lost a stone in less than two weeks!!!! How amazing is that????? I get to move up to pureed foods this week, so have spent the weekend concocting various soup and stew recipies to see me through the next stage of my recovery.

My dad asked me if I'd missed gigging the last two weekends, and the answer is yes, kinda. I haven't missed the travelling at all, its been great having this time to just potter and do stuff, but yeah I've missed the guys I work with, I've missed that buzz of being onstage, and I've definitely missed hearing people laugh at the rubbish I talk. I'm at Oxford Jongleurs next weekend, and yeah, I cannot wait!

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gilbert and George

A few years ago now I discovered art, I was going through a pretty bleak time in my life and in order to distract myself from the misery I went down to the Saatchi Gallery in County Hall. For a couple of hours I forgot about everything that was bad in my life at the time. The humour in the works of the YBA's especially took me out of the black funk I was in.

Since then I've travelled around Europe checking out various galleries and finding less famous pieces that make my heart soar when I look at them.

I became a member of the Tate Galleries cos it was cheaper than paying to see the individual exhibitions and saved queuing up, still a practical northerner after all these years in the smoke! The last time I renewed my membership I upgraded to one that gave me invites to private views of their big shows.

Yesterday I made use of my first invite and went to see their massive Gilbert and George retrospective. The invite admitted two so I called my pal Jason Wood and asked if he fancied accompanying me. He did and bless him, he insisted on picking me up and driving me down there. I hadn't seen him for a couple of months and as always he was excellent company.

We went in, and while I was impatient to see the later, more well known stuff, it was interesting to see their early work. It seems to me that as an artist you have to prove you can draw first, then you can start pickling sharks and people will take you seriously.

To you or I they look like drawings of the pair of them in the countryside, but of course G&G describe them as 'charcoal-on-paper sculpture". This was followed by some amazing black and white photos from the mid-70's that were really moody and atmosopheric. By Room 5 the G&G we all know and love is beginning to take shape.

The Dirty Words Pictures which feature photos of graffitti they found in and around their East End home in 1977 really bring back the heady days of early punk.

They call themselves "Living Sculptures" and in 1975 in Tokyo, they painted themselves red and performed a show called The Red Sculpture funnily enough. How amazing it would've been to see that!

By Room 8 we are into classic Gilbert and George with a series of pieces with titles like England and Mullah...wonderful. By 1982 they're bringing in colour with pieces like Winter Flowers and Finding God.

Pieces like City Fairies and Christs are like some kind of bizarre cartoons, the bright cheerful colours belie the rather graphic images of the pair of them bent over displaying their arses like a couple of over excited baboons. That view of a man is never attractive and painting your cock and scrotal sack lime green or flourescent pink doesn't enhance it any, believe me!

Room 13 features the notorious Naked Shit Pictures from the mid-90's, they're perhaps the most uncomfortable ones in the show, all the others I could imagine hanging in my living room, but not these. Having said that, they are incredible.

Room 17 features the pieces they produced for the Venis Biennale in 2005, called Ginko which are simply breathtaking.

The work goes right through to the present with a series of six Bomb Pictures to 'represent London in a new age of terror'. Using Evening Standard advertising boards it really brings home what its like to be living in our our capital city at this point in history.

Jason is an admitted art virgin, he knew nothing of G&G, and it was great to see his reaction to these enormous works.

Carston Holler's big slides are still in the Turbine Hall, and while I am losing weight at a rapid rate, I didn't feel brave enough to have a go. The thought of getting my fat ass stuck in one of those massive glass tubes was too horrible to contemplate! Jason wanted to, but all the tickets for the day had gone sadly. They do look great fun, like the ones at a waterpark but in the middle of a massive art gallery.

So folks, I'm no Brian Sewell, but I can say that no matter how great or small your interest in art is, a trip to the Tate Modern is a must for everyone!

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I've taken a couple of weeks off work to recover from my surgery, and initally I thought I'd be bed ridden for at least a week of that.

It's not happened tho. I was out getting my nails done the day after I was discharged, been out doing little errands every day, and am even back excercising every morning! Not doing my crunches for obvious reasons, but squats, bicep and tricep curls, lots of stretching and even my tai chi.

I am amazed at how quickly I'm getting over it, as are all my pals who've called over the weekend with more than a note of trepidation in their voices. They're all expecting me to be bundled up in bed feeling sorry for myself, just like I was.

I think being active is aiding the recovery, its as much a mental process as a physical one, and getting showered and dressed every day, then heading out makes me feel better, as a result I am better. The scars from the keyhole surgery are negligible, thank god. I'll be in a bikini by summer! On stage.

Well maybe not, but the weight is melting off at a rather alarming rate, in 8 days I have lost 4.5 kilos which is 9.9lbs in old money....pretty phenomenal by anyone's standards. I've spent the morning going through my wardrobe and clothes that I haven't been able to fit in for 2 years fit me already!

The best thing about this wardrobe clearout is that I know I can chuck the fat clothes out for good this time. The weight aint coming back, thank god.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Helluva Week!!!!!!!!

Sooooooo I've been strangely absent from the world for a week and this is the reason why.

On Monday 5th Feb I found myself in a cab at 6am hurtling towards Tooting. Sound glamourous doesn't it?

The reason for this dawn journey was the culmination of two years' of tenacity, apprehension and frustration. I was going to St George's Hospital to have a gastric bypass operation.

Those of you that have seen me live over the years will have noticed my weight tends to veer to extremes. Anyone out there who's known me longer will know that this has been a lifetime thing.

I have been on a diet since I was 8 years old. I'm 45 now. That's 37 years. I think I can safely say that diets don't work for me.

For me, being fat is not about being greedy or lazy, its a million and one emotional traumas and coping strategies. The same things that probably led me to becomming a stand-up comedian to be honest.

Four years ago I lost 10 stones and dropped from a size 28 to a size 12. I was in love, I felt safe and happy and the world was a brilliant place. I was exercising, eating pretty healthily, doing it all right. Then came the crash. The love affair ended and for a time I couldn't actually eat anything. Then, slowly but surely I started putting my protective cloak of fat back on. Hiding the real me away from the world.

Two years ago I was in the depths of depression, not just from the weight gain, my mother was dying with lung cancer and various other issues had all come to a head. I found Buddhism, and that started making sense of things. I began to retake control of my life, but I couldn't halt the weight gain. In desperation I went to my doctor and admitted this was the one thing I couldn't take control of myself. It wasn't the greatest moment of my life, believe me.

It took a full year for me to get the first appointment with the surgeon, and when he asked me what I expected to get from this op, my answer was simple - smaller clothes. I've been thin enough times in my life before to know that its not the answer to all life's ills. Whatever was good about my life before would still be good, and whatever was shit would still be shit. I'd just have a lower number in the back of my jeans. Not to mention a lot more money in the bank - big birds clothes are incredibly over-priced!

So last Monday was the culmination of a year of assessments and tests. The op is a very serious one, it was done via laproscopic surgery so at least I won't have a huge scar down my belly. Two-thirds of my stomach have been decomissioned via a series of staples, and my small intestine was re-attached to the new tiny 'baby stomach'.

I was in agony for the first couple of days afterwards, but was discharged by Thursday. Boy was I glad to get out! I can safely say I experienced the best and worst the NHS has to offer, the doctor's and nurses were fabulous, some of the admin staff's attitudes left a lot to be desired. The confusion within the system no doubt accounts for the massive waste of money that occurs.

I'm adjusting to my new eating plan - nothing but liquids for the next two weeks - which isn't that easy believe me. Sadly there's no real hands on information out there giving you a diet plan to follow. That's about to change tho as this has inspired me to write the ultimate survivor's guide to this type of surgery. Within a month I shall be able to introduce 'normal' foods back into my diet. Believe it or not, the hardest part is remembering to eat - you just never feel hungry! I'm using a protien suppliment cos one of the side effects is having your hair fall out! No point in being a size 10 and bald now is there. I keep thinking that I picked the wrong time to be single. If I had a man in my life I'd have a regular supply of liquid protein to feast on!

The best bit of all is i got weighed this morning and I've lost 2.5kg since Monday, added to the 7kg I lost in the month before I went in, means I am well on my way to achieving my target of shopping in Primark! Yayyyyyyyy.

On a sadder note, the death of Anna Nicole Smith, served to illustrate my point that no matter how we look, there's no guarantee of happiness in this life. I hope she's at peace now.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

I'm On The Telly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Regular readers might recall that last October I filmed a telly show called Comedy Blue down in Brighton.

Hosted by Mike Wilmot it's billed as a 'celebration of filth', and after much wrangling with lawyers and compliance people it's been given a transmission date finally.

It starts tomorrow night (Monday 5 Feb) on the Paramount Comedy Channel at 11.40 pm. It runs Monday-Friday for two weeks, and to be honest I have no idea when my bit will be on, so the best thing to do is watch the whole thing I guess.

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.. Was terrific fun this weekend.

It was my first 3-day-away weekend of 2007 and it felt like I'd been away forever. Not that that's a bad thing particularly.

I was doing the Glee Club down on the Bay, staying in a pretty decent hotel - The Future Inn - which despite its name is not from the future but clean and modern and very spacious... I had two huge double beds in my room! The sun shone the whole weekend and I got a chance to get all kinds of bits and pieces I'd needed for ages in the various shops in the city centre.

The guys at the Glee, especially Lee and Clint, are like family and its always a joy to see them. The line-up was me as MC, with Steve Hughes, Ron Vaudry aka Uncle Chuckles, and Hal Cruttenden. Its been ages since I worked with any of these guys, and all of them were on cracking form, but if I had to give an award for the 'Blew Me Away The Most' comic this weekend it would be Hal. He was on f**king fire! Its been about a year since I worked with him last and I was just sooooo impressed with him this weekend, he was fantastic!

Good work fellas.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Leaving On A Jet Plane

Sooooo Tuesday night saw me heading off to The Comedy pub next door to The Comedy Store to toast Rhys Darby and his gorgeous missus Rosie as they fly off to NYC to begin a new chapter in their lives. It was a cracking turn out.

The antipodean mob were out in force - Jim Jeffries, Al Pitcher, Jared Christmas - but the Irish and UK contingent was well represented by the likes of Andre Vincent, Mickey Hutton, Stephen K Amos, Ed Byrne, Adam Bloom and Dara O'Briain and a ton more. They'll be much missed.

I had to leave early to do a gig at The Comedy Camp up the road, and I have to say I wasn't overly excited. I still have a fear of offending when I do gay gigs. I really should stop worrying. I had a fantastic gig, ad-libbing all over the shop and teasing the lesbians...great fun.

On the front row was Josh from Big Brother 2 (the year Brian Dowling won). I remember when he was one of the 3 people voted into the house halfway through, I thought how cute he was. I can report that he is even more gorgeous now! Honestly, doing these gigs is like staring into a sweet shop window that's covered with barbed wire! No entry for me sadly.

Anyway, today I am off to Cardiff to do The Glee Club for the weekend and I am really looking forward to it, great line-up and lots of old friends...perfect.

Whatever you're up to, have a good one folks xx