Feb 22nd - A rather belated Happy New Year everyone (!). Been a long while since I left a message I know and I don’t have a valid excuse unless lazy counts. I’ve had a lot on my plate but don’t we all? And although it was on my list of “things to do” , I always found something else to do. So very briefly (and I mention this publicly for the first time) 2008 was a bad year for me on a personal level and led me to scale down on various comedy commitments . My kid brother Peter died in March after a long courageous battle (more of a war) against a cancer that first struck him down over twenty years ago and returned in early 2007. I helped care for him during his last year and needed to be there for him when he needed me. It was hell for me never mind him as we saw every ray of hope cruelly extinguished time after time. Endless hospital admissions , new treatments , constant pain that grew and grew and yet he remained cheerful and optimistic until near the end , mainly for his children ,his loving partner Sue and for me and our mum. He was great supporter of me and my work and although life had dealt him one of its poorer hands in all sorts of ways , he was never jealous of my success and was fiercely loyal and proud of me until he died. Although I wanted to cancel he insisted that I carried on with my 2008 “Best Medicine” tour which I dedicated to him mainly because the one thing I will always , always, remember through the nightmare of his illness is his big, big laugh and amazing sense of humour which he retained under the most painful circumstances. I’ve incorporated many of his hospital experiences in the set and his withering sarcasm of the hospital beaurocracy and the staff who administered it whenever he was rushed into the Medical Assessment Unit for the nth time always get big laughs . He didn’t suffer fools gladly and we encountered a great many of them. He pushed the “Laughter is the Best Medicine” addage to the limit when , on November 8th 2007 , two days before his birthday , his consultant told him that there was nothing else he could do and that he could give him only two months to live. Peter stared into space for a beat as he took this information in and we sat with him , traumatised by the news and then he looked at the doctor and said “Fair enough . I’ll have November and December 2050. He defused the tension and heavy sadness for us all . He battled on for more than two months because he was determined to walk his daughter Zoe down the aisle at her marriage in Washignton , Tyne and Wear in March 2008 even though he spent most of his life in either his bed or his wheelchair. We all . even I , tried to dissuade him but he took no notice and he got out of that wheelchair , dressed in his morning suit and he did it. What a man.
So I’m taking the “Best Medicine” tour back out this year as a “Repeat Prescription” . I’m doing 30 dates in Spring and around the same in Autumn. Its my best tour to date . My first two tours where based largely around material I’d generated over the long years on the stand-up circuit but I wrote this one from scratch , drawing partly on my experience working in the NHS , attending appointments with Pete and visiting him in the various units and wards and my own experiences recently as an inpatient. This comprises about 20 minutes of the two hour show and the rest is dedicated to the fact that laughter can be an effective medicine. Laughter releases endorphins to make us feel better , it reduces blood pressure and boosts the immune system and , here’s the clincher , it burns calories so if you laugh for the full 2 hour show (which I would encourage you to do – whether you find parts funny or not) you will burn off 200 calories , and that’s a pint of lager. So I try to find comedy in everyday life . In relationships , on holiday , in the local paper , on television , in the supermarket …….well you get the gist.
I’ve recently performed two previews , at Bacup and at Skipton and they were great so if you came along ,thanks so much because both audiences were unbelievably enthusiastic and generous and now I’m looking forward to the tour kicking off on the 26th Feb at St Albans and taking in various Comedy Festivals along the way – Glasgow / Belfast / Bath and Canizzarro Festival - Wimbledon
I decided not to take it back to the venues I played in 2008 even though many requested it. Its essentially the same show as 2008 and although it constantly evolves and is probably 30% different at present (and this will increase as the tour progresses) I wouldn’t want people leaving the show saying , “I’ve seen chunks of that before”.
I’m writing two books at present. One is a comedy book for later in the year based on the local news stories I gathered and performed on the 2008 tour. Provisionally called “I gave him my kidney , then he stole my heart” which was a story from the tour where a wife donated her kidney to her husband and when he got better he buggered off with her best friend , which is odd because it’s usually the organ they reject isn’t it? Anyway there’s loads of true stories in the book which I report and then comment on.
The second book is a sort of autobiography . I say “sort of” because it does contain a degree of exaggeration and embellishment and is not entirely 100% accurate . It’s a Sortobiography and is written this way to get laughs and also because I can’t believe that anyone would be interested in my life as it was/is and also because there are things that I want to keep private .
I’m writing a sit-com with a friend , Terry Milligan . Its called “Bringing in The Sheep” and concerns a man called Frank who lives in a hut in the Himalayas . Its different and a bit odd but I still bet the TV Execs say “Its good but it’s a bit like “It aint half hot mum” “
I’ve also got “Footballers Lives” on my shelf at home . It’s a project I really believe in . I know it’s the best thing I’ve written but although everyone likes it , nobody will make it . (Follow the menu link to see 4 clips ) I need to re-write it as a screenplay and see if I can get funding for a film. I also love “Sour Grapes” , a comedy drama I wrote about a group of unemployed mates who buy a French Vineyard by mistake and decide to go and make a go of it. It’s a real feel-good piece and particularly relevant in these times of unemployment but you try convincing TV Execs.
So roll on the tour. If you can make it I’m pretty sure you’ll have a good laugh and we all need to laugh.