I’m sometimes asked what’s a typical week for me. There is no such thing. Last week for example, an atypical week…
A charity gig for The Gravel Road Trust. It’s a small and noble cause that does great things, helping people through the toughest times. It’s the brainchild of Nick Battle, recording industry supremo and thoroughly nice chap, so he compered and sang some songs, including a beautiful country-style song: ‘She’s A Better Man Than Me’. Also on hand: Kipper, who records with Sting, and David Grant, from off of Fame Academy and CBeebies’ Popbox. I was the only comedian. So I chose, instead, to sing a song. Cos I like a challenge.
To Leicester, for BBC1’s The Big Questions. It’s Question Time for a Sunday morning religious programming slot. It’s Nicky Campbell with aggressive questioning for nuns. It’s quite a melting-pot: so our show, as well as tackling humour about religion, also threw together some Catholic journalists with some believing there was more to be exposed from the abuse scandal, plus some fervent anti-hunting campaigners were put head-to-head with the man who runs The Hunting Channel. He was incredibly rah, and I think most people fancied letting him loose on a game reserve, while the rest of us stalked him with a spudgun. It was fun. I wasn’t going to do any jokes on it, but comic Jeff Mirza was on and told a few. So I couldn’t be the only comedian not to tell jokes… It probably came across like laughter-hungry comedians, but then that’s us.
I sought a church that evening for a Sunday service, and by chance was flyered on the way on… with a picture of my own face. Turns out I’m doing a gig there in a month’s time. Didn’t even realise. They thought I was a month early. I was confused, they were confused.
Leicester Comedy Festival sits first in the Comedy Festival calendar. Resultantly, whether they know it or not, they generally get comedians’ first attempts at knocking a show together. The shows then develop and go on to other festivals, culminating in Edinburgh in August, before maybe a tour for the lucky few. My show this year was different: I had no plans for it after Leicester. That meant this hour of work-in-progress was in fact work-that-had-entirely-progressed. That said, I’ll put it in the back pocket for a future year. The show went nicely so my Leicester 2014 show may yet live on.
I’m doing a charity gig in the summer for Gatwick Detainees’ Welfare Group: an organisation who visit detainees being held in what’s basically a prison on a parking lot backing onto Gatwick runway. It’s for, in theory, illegal immigrants, which sounds great in the papers, but in reality is anyone ranging from asylum seekers running away from war and torture, to those applying for Visas but whose time ran out before the paperwork could get filed. This was the case for the guy I visited, a beaming twentysomething Nepalese student called Bishal. Charming yet bewildered fellow, he was. He’s behind bars because he paid the wrong lawyer to file his Visa application, and the lawyer ran off with his money instead of filing the paperwork. The Home Office don’t allow leeway though, so the poor lad’s unable to study until the legal process has gone through, which could take… Well, the only difference between real prison and this detention centre is that actual prisoners know roughly how long they’re in for. Some of these detainees at Gatwick have been there for years. Still, looks good in the rightwing papers, doesn’t it Cameron? Spare a thought for them.
Not Going Out returns for its last series, so we’re busy writing and rewriting it over the next few months. This was a day doing just that. My role is relatively little: the script’s written up by the time I get it, just ready for some gags and alternate lines to be thrown at it.
I’m working on a radio sitcom pitch, a TV sitcom pitch, a third book, a fourth book and a fifth book. This was a day spent writing on all five of those, which is why all five are progressing incredibly slowly. Especially since you can add ‘Words With Friends’ to this mix too.
Some days I wake up and I’m a writer. Other days I wake up and I’m a comedian. Today? Both. Proofreading my forthcoming second book by day (a collection of lighthearted retellings of the book of Genesis, available for preorder, of course, on Amazon and elsewhere), and a gig by night. The gig was the first night of a new club near Andover. A few people in, but it was Valentine’s night, so they were all couples, so they all don’t laugh as much as big groups do. A great chance to work with lively master of ceremonies Simon Feilder and a US comic who’s appeared on Letterman and the like, Al Lubel. A scary drive home dodging the UK’s biggest storm for 20 years, reminiscent of scenes from 1995’s Helen Hunt movie Twister, and then home. Ready to start another, probably equally unusual week.