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Monday 29th August 2016

Monday 29th August 2016


The banks may holiday, but I don’t holiday. Not with less that two weeks to AIOTM. We’re hopelessly disorganised of course and naturally there will be some last minute stuff going on, but I managed to steady the ship a bit and make some plans and work out what I need to do.

There is going to be way too much material. I mean just tonnes too much. I promised six half hour shows, but I can’t see any of them coming in at under 45 minutes and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s at least another 45 minutes of stuff per episode for the secret channel for AIOTM kickstarter supporters.

Because we’re lovely guys and don’t hold a grudge against you for not donating when you had the chance we are going to be offering a subscription to that channel for just £15. In return you’ll get some behind the scenes stuff, previews of some of the upcoming sketches (the shows themselves won’t be released until 2017), out takes and interviews and also all the stuff we couldn’t fit into the official shows. It’s going to be loads of extra stuff and the beautiful thing is that any money you give us will just be ploughed back in to making even more sketches, like a massive comedy furnace, burning up your cash and bringing laughter (and occasional disappointment). If you are a monthly badge subscriber we’re not coming after you again: all the stuff will appear on your secret channel too (along with all the extras you’ve been getting already). 

For starters today I spent the afternoon editing together my footage of the Warsaw Indiana statues. It was lots of fun turning it into an incredulous and sarcastic travelogue and there’s a seven+ minute item for you to enjoy. Although I am going to mention the statues in episode one and probably use some of the footage I shot, the only way to see me discuss all 20 statues will be to view the online extras. I was really pleased with the way it came out and how, in the end, I remembered how to edit stuff together. We shot the footage very quickly and my thoughts were improvised, but mostly I had quite good cover and though the sound isn’t perfect and some of the edits are a little jumpy I think it gives you an accurate first view of one of the sweeter aspects of Warsaw life. When I was filming it I thought it would take a week to edit it together, or I’d have to pass it over to someone else, (which wouldn’t work because I’d just have to explain to them what to keep and what to cut), so I am delighted to have got something half decent in just three hours. And more importantly, I’ve learned some lessons about both filming and editing and I think it means I will be able to shoot and edit a bit of footage without a crew (and thus without expense). I always wanted this show to be a patchwork quilt of different styles and quality of material, the only linking factor being it has come out of my brain, so I don’t mind if an occasional bit has weird sound or if I cross the line, or if the bit of video I choose to cover an edit doesn’t quite fit. And some improvisational stuff is very much in the spirit of the show (even if editing isn’t). The full shows could literally be five hours long.

Of course I’ve got loads for the first one, partly because of America and partly because I haven’t done an AIOTM for five years. But this time it’s more about stuff that’s happened or occurred to me, than having happened or occurred to me THAT week (though of course a lot of it will have) as it’s not going out at the time it’s recorded so can’t be too topical (though of course some of it still might be).

Anyway, it’s nice to look up at the board in my office and know I have way too much stuff (even though hardly any of it is written yet) and that I am going to write a lot more than that.

Over the last two days I’ve watched the entire series of Fleabag, which I highly recommend. It’s funny, true and tragic and sad and Phoebe Waller-Bridge is incredible. All the time I was wondering why it was called Fleabag and only now I have realised. She’s called Phoebe. And I constantly, with affection, call my Phoebe, fleabag (and feebles - hope she won’t get a complex, but it’s best to toughen her up for school). I assume Phoebe must have the same nickname. It’s easy to see TV comedy looking backwards and having run out of ideas, but there’s some genuinely fantastic new UK based stuff. Shows like this and Catastrophe feel modern and exciting and aren’t afraid to be serious, but also aren’t afraid to be crude, silly and funny (in some ways Fleabag feels like a cross between Catastrophe and a very much ruder Miranda). But it’s actually very much it’s own thing and having originated in theatre, it avoids a lot of the rubbish that sitcoms indulge in (I loved that often it looked like something would end in slapstick disaster - a surprise sex game gone wrong, or an item hidden in a bin going out to the bin lorry, but it avoided going for the obvious every time and I am sure was playing with us a bit in that regard). It sets the bar high for my own family sitcom and though I don’t plan to go quite as dark, there is some darkness and seriousness planned for that. As there was in the 2007 TV version that I did that largely went unnoticed. Anyway, highly recommended. It’s no Goodnight Sweetheart obviously.

I also risked watching the Porridge remake today, which I thought stood up pretty well on the whole. A bit new and a bit nostalgic, a little bit old-fashioned, but actually amazingly up to date and sharp given the writers are 78 and 80. There’s still a little bit of why bother in it, but there’s also a little bit of, “hey that’s pretty good for a mainstream sitcom, I’d quite like to see some more”. 

All of these things, my own stuff and other people’s, is making me want to get out of my mainly self-imposed semi-writer’s block and get writing stuff that people actually see. But it feels like things might be nudging in that direction. And if La Frenais can still do it at 80 then there’s hope for me yet. 

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My new stand up show, Happy Now? will be touring from September 2015 to June 2016 All details here.
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