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Monday 17th April 2006

I was doing new material night at the Fortnight Club in Angel tonight (will be back there for the next two or three gigs, come along if can –it’s a lot of fun) and a bit too late around 5pm found myself getting quite inspired again and writing a lot of new stuff. Some of it was pretty rubbish, of course, but I didn’t mind that. The important thing was that ideas were spilling out which after such a long time without much inspiration is a nice feeling.
One of the probably rubbish bits, which I doubt I will do as it would be hard to make work was this:
“A stitch in time saves nine. But to be honest it takes practically the same amount of time and resources to do nine stitches as it does to do one. You’ve got to find your sewing kit, thread the needle and then it’s either (one stitch) or (nine stitches) – so you’re saving yourself maybe two seconds. But if you’re doing your stitches on a one by one basis then you are wasting a lot more time than that - finding your sewing kit, threading the needle every time. Plus you pretty much use the same amount of cotton for one stitch as for nine, so the stitch in time is a waste of the earth’s resources. Be like me. Just wait til something needs nine or ten stitches until you attempt to mend it. Or better still. Once something is ripped just throw it away and buy a new one. Which saves doing any stitching at all.”
Not quite right but maybe something in it.
I also did some work on the potarto/potato bit, which then spiraled into a new idea. I think this is an idea that I had back at school, but at the back of my mind I am thinking maybe someone else has done it before. I am sure one of you will be able to tell me if thatÂ’s the case. I mean, itÂ’s one of those things that someone will definitely have taken the piss out of at some point, in which case thatÂ’s OK. But if another comedian does the bit then thatÂ’s different, even though I am fairly confident itÂ’s something I have made up independently. This will probably be in my Edinburgh show in some form so if you donÂ’t want to spoil the surprise then look away now:
“So who is exactly who says “potarto”? Because someone should tell them that they are definitely pronouncing it wrong. It is not the correct response to try and avoid confrontation and maintain the status quo by calling the whole thing off. The person is saying potato entirely incorrectly and if no-one is brave enough to stand up to them and tell them this then it will only result in humiliation for them somewhere down the line. Perhaps out on an important date with someone he hopes to marry he will ask the waiter, “Does that come with potartoes?” and the waiter will be confused and the date will snigger and all will be lost.
Go up to them and say “What do you call this?” and they’ll say, “Why that is easy. It’s a potarto.” And then you say “No it isn’t. You’re the only person who calls it that. It’s a potato. Potato!”
They’ll probably say, “Well I say tomarto, you say tomato!”
But don’t be put off. Say “That’s a different circumstance . I do say tomato you’re right and that is the wrong way to say that word. But millions of other people also say tomato so it is an acceptable pronunciation. But only you say potarto. Just you! Everyone else agrees that it is potato. You can’t start making up your own pronunciations for words. You’re just being different for different’s sake It’s OK for the moment because people will understand what you mean, even though it makes you look stupid.. But if you don’t nip this desire to say words in a different way to everyone else then where will it end? I say banana, you say bananee. I say kumquat, you say pomengranate. You see where I’m going with this. You’re wrong. . It’s a potato Potato. Say it! Potato!
The only other person who says potarto is Inspector Clouseau – not the good Peter Sellars one, the evil Steve Martin pissing on the grave of a genius one. What kind of arrogance or greed or stupidity could lead a man to do such a dreadful thing. Do you want to be like him? Do you? Mr Potarto
Of course the French don’t say potato or potarto. They call this a pomme de terre. Which to be honest is much worse. I’d prefer it if they did say potarto. Pomme de terre literally means apple of the earth, which is wrong on so many levels. They are only very vaguely the same shape. A potato is a vegetable, an apple is a fruit, a potato is brown, an apple is normally green. An apple is only brown when it is rotten. But that doesn’t save the stupid French because a rotten potato is green. They’re like photographic negatives of each other. A raw apple tastes delicious, a raw potato tastes like a man’s semen – you know I imagine. I’ve never eaten a raw potato.
How did the French even come up with such a different word for it? It’s a relatively new discovery. Surely everyone should call it the same thing – everyone calls a television a television. The potato discoverers must have come back from the New World and said “Look at this new thing we’ve found, everyone else is calling it a potato – except for that one bloke who’s trying to popularize potarto – what do you French want to call it? Potato as well? It would be easier.”
But the French said “Non! Let us look at it. To we French it resembles an apple”
“No it doesn’t”
“The only difference we French can see between this and an apple is that it grows underground. So we French will call it an apple of the ground. Pomme de terre. Not potato.”
“Can’t we all just agree on potato. There seems enough to argue about in this world.”
“No pomme de terre. It is the perfect description. You say potato, we say pomme de terre.”
“Let’s call the whole thing off. Or have another hundred years war.”
I think the only way to get back at the French is to satirise them in our own language, make them look stupid, by stop calling an apple an apple and instead refer to it as a potato of the sky. Oooh what is this thing? It’s a potato of the sky. A sky potato. That’d jazz up Genesis wouldn’t it? The snake tempting eve to eat the sky potato – of course she’d eat it. Who wouldn’t? It’s like something they’d eat in Star Trek.
If we did that at the very least it would be fun seeing French kids being taught English. The teacher would explain that the English call an apple a potato of the sky or literally in French “la pomme de terre de ciel”
And a small French child would say, “So they call an apple, an apple of the ground of the sky. Isn’t that a bit ridiculous? Shouldn’t they just call it an apple?
At which point I would burst into the classroom and say “No, don’t you see. It is you small French child who is ridiculous for calling a potato an apple of the ground. We English have been satirising you. It’s a potato. A potato!”
It's the pomme de terre bit that I feel may have been done on some level before - but as long as the sky potato bit is new then I don't think that matters.

But as I sat on the tube trying to learn all this at the last minute I found myself distracted by a flow of thought about Steve Martin doing Inspector Clouseau and wondering how he changed from such a comedy genius into someone who is happy starring in remakes of Bilko and the Pink Panther and in rubbish (I presume, I haven’t seen it) like “Cheaper By the Dozen 2” (not a patch on “Cheaper by the Dozen”) I really would be fascinated to know what drives him. Is it just losing your sense of what’s funny as you get older and richer and more out of touch? Or is it greed or arrogance? How much money do these people need? Wouldn’t you think that making loads of money would make you pick and choose your jobs more carefully? How would the young good Steve Martin feel about the old rubbish one? How could the man who made “The Jerk” go on to do such rubbish.
The only way that I as a comedy fan could make sense of it and still retain my respect for Martin was this. It made me wonder whether at some point in his career (probably just before LA Story) some executives got to Steve Martin and asked him to do some rubbish film, but he refused saying he was too rigourous and cool for such a thing and then the executives told him that he had better do it or there would be trouble. They had too much money to make and Steve’s name would increase box office takings. But Steve stood up to them and said no. At which point the executives gave Steve a drugged drink and told him it didn’t matter he would be appearing in those films anyway. Just as Steve was passing out another man entered the room, a man who looked like Steve Martin in every detail. “You will be in these films Steve. At least that’s what everyone will think!”
So the real Steve Martin ends up imprisoned in a dungeon whilst the false Steve Martin does all the junk for the money. I began to think this would make a brilliant film about a comedy fan trying to find out why Steve Martin had sold out, and stumbles upon the truth. Ideally Steve Martin would be in it, playing both himself and the evil Steve Martin. I even came up with a title, “The Man With Two Brains in the Iron Mask”. The real Steve Martin would be in an iron mask. And yet maybe the imprisoned Steve Martin would be quite relieved that he had been imprisoned because the nature of reality is that he would have been forced to make those films anyway and at least he had been spared this. I think it could be brilliant, but it does rather rely on Steve Martin agreeing to satirise himself in a way that is very unlikely. Yet maybe he would. Because the false Steve Martin would be forced to justify himself and could use the justifications that the real (as in the actual real one, not the real one in the film) must make to himself every day. There are certainly some interesting themes in it and I might write it anyway, even though it will never get made. Though ironically if Steve Martin did appear in it, it would probably make him cool and funny again! (If any film producers reading this want to make this I can knock it off pretty quickly. I managed to plan quite a lot of it out in the 20 minutes I was on the tube. It might also work as a play in which case you wouldn’t necessarily have to have the real Steve Martin in it – though it would be better if you did)
So having these thoughts spiraling off I had completely failed to learn my new script. But was still feeling delighted, even though the ideas I was having were largely of no use to anyone.
As it happened I didn't really know the stuff well enough and didn't perform it very well and so it went down adequately at best. I didn't do the stitch in time stuff either which would have explained the muted reaction.
But it's a start. And when I am on top of the material I think it might start to fly. It had better happen soon. I am doing my first preview on Friday! Now that should be a fun experience for everyone.

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