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Friday 11th July 2014


I had my second slightly quiet audience in a row for my Lord of the Dance Settee preview, leaving me a bit shaky about how much work there is still to do. It might just be that the audiences were laughing internally (and I had positive tweets after both these shows), but it's not a bad thing to be a bit shitted up at this stage. Now Rasputin is more or less in the hands of the actors I have two and a half weeks to make my stand up show as good as it can possibly be. I have still not reached a level where I can cruise through the Fringe or take getting an audience for granted. After 27 years one might hope that I would be a definite Fringe sell-out, but I still rely on reviews and word of mouth. I am in a massive venue this year and not anticipating selling it out, but I got my presales through today and had my first mini panic about financial disaster. There's still time and I think my shows are good enough to create a buzz. But sometimes it's hard not to let your head drop a little bit. All these years of hard work and still I have to fight for it.

In a sense that's why I am lucky though. I can't tred water and assume people will come to me. I have to make my stuff good. Though the pre-Fringe jitters are that I will make my stuff good, but no one will be interested. Or of course that my stuff isn't any good. With the added frisson that if the play (in particular) fails to set the world alight then it will have quite a severe knock on effect for the rest of my career. I am proud of myself for taking this financial and artisitic risk and I have done my best. But it doesn't make it any less terrifying.

I am cool about all this, just trying to give you a glimpse into pre-Fringe paranoia (though is it paranoia if your fears are fairly justified?). On the plus side in a month and a half it will be over and I can relax. Maybe the strain and hard work will have all been worth it. Maybe I will be thinking it's time to reassess my priorities a little bit. Even if it all goes well I have a feeling that I have to reassess my priorities a little bit.

After my weird gig I dashed into central London to meet up with my wife and some friends to go and see "The Room". Perhaps rather aptly, this is a movie written, produced, directed by and starring a middle-aged man who has used his own money to fund a project that no one else would make. The film is absolutely terrible, but over the last decade has become a cult and attracted a "Rocky Horror" style audience of people who heckle the action, point out the flaws, throw spoons at the screen whenever a picture of a spoon on a table is in shot and throw footballs to each other from a short distance (a recurring piece of action in the film is men playing ball with each other, but from stupidly close). It has to be seen to be believed and whilst I am generally suspicious of "so bad, it's good" style entertainment, this film is so extraordinary in every sense that it completely hits the mark. Tommy Wisneau is  a terrible actor, a terrible writer and a terrible director and the "romantic" sex scenes are utterly horrific and bizarre. But somehow this all adds up to making the film about something different than intended. One suspects that Wisneau was drawing on some real life relationship in which he considers himself blameless and his girlfriend duplicitous and manipulative, but the movie is actually about his own ego, his own inadequacies and creepy philosophies and somehow he comes out of it all as a vulnerable and sympathetic character. Everyone tries their best, but no one is very good. Characters get introduced with no explanation, someone gets cancer but it's very much a trivial side plot and they seem to be under the misapprehension that they will just get better, a character tells Tommy a story in detail, that we have just seen play out about five minutes before. It was such a lot of fun to watch and the atmosphere was as celebratory as it was mocking. You really have to see this to believe it and try and see it with an audience.

Apparently Wisneau claims he was trying to create a cult "bad" film now, but the reason it works so well is that he obviously wasn't. Everyone is trying their best and thus it's a wonderful testament to human inadequacy.

And the disaster has turned into a triumph as the film now regularly sells out all over the world and Wisneau tours to do Q and As about it. Making something bad is better than making something good.

It cheered me up when it should have filled me with fear and I haven't enjoyed a film so much for a long time. I hopefully have too much self-awareness to be such a similar successful failure, but the parallels were not lost on me.

I also enjoyed the grumpy look on the face of the cinema staff member who was charged with clearing up the spoons. He looked properly angry. But that made him part of the art of it all. It was ridiculous that he had to do this, but if he didn't have to do this then the cinema would not be full. You'd think he might grit his teeth and accept this inevitable part of his job, but the fact that he didn't and that he hated everyone in his theatre was somehow the perfect response. The joy of the crowd and the despondency of this man were in perfect juxtaposition.

Outside the Prince Charles Cinema some students were throwing an American football at each other from a short distance. I contemplated that fact that all artistic endeavours are futile and ultimately doomed to failure. Somehow this made me feel happier.

Trying and failing is a lot better than not trying. Sometimes failing beats succeeding. Tommy Wisneau is an accidental genius.

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