Saturday, November 28, 2015

Backstage in Cardiff / llwyfan yng Nghaerdydd

I bet you wonder what it's like to be a comedian on tour. That's what people wonder, I bet. It's what I would wonder, if I were a person.

It's one of the unspoken facts about stand-up comedy that it involves more ironing than you'd think. It doesn't involve much ironing, but assuming you'd think it didn't involve any, it involves more than you'd think. Basically, you're away from home, your clothes have to go in a bag, and to avoid everyone on the bill looking like they were pulled out of a skip before the show, most venues have an iron and ironing board. The irons are of varying quality, and the ironing boards are almost universally filthy - the sort of filthy that raises more questions than it answers. You know how if a two-year-old has jam all over their face, it answers the question of how that face got dirty? But if there are also runes and sheep's hoofprints on the child's face, it makes the dirtiness more mysterious? Like that. Most of the ironing boards I've seen on this tour are the sort of dirty that would make sense if you were given them with the words, "Here you go - it was used last week as a surfboard in a daring escape from an island prison in the middle of a lake of dogshit."

At the moment I'm on tour with Dave Gorman. The venues are of varying sizes, between about 600 and 3000 capacity, and usually within the 900-1200 range. I'm writing this backstage at Cardiff's St David's Hall, which seats about 1500. And it has no iron.

You heard that right*.

I had to go onstage 2 hours ago, in front of 1500 people, in an un-ironed shirt, because St David's Hall doesn't have an iron. And why doesn't have an iron?

Because the Waterboys stole it.

The fucking Waterboys. Yet again, they dog my every move. You might not know this, but they're called the Waterboys because they steal anything that contains water. Their audiences, being about 60% water themselves, don't know the danger they're in.

Now, maybe you're thinking, "You don't know for sure that the Waterboys stole the iron. You were just frustrated that the iron was missing and noticed the Waterboys had been on there recently. At best, your evidence is circumstantial."

Well, maybe you're right. So I say this: if the Waterboys are innocent, let them prove it. Let me go through all their houses, and if there is no iron, ironing board or ironing accoutements (little plastic jugs, etc) to be found, then fine - I will downgrade my assessment of their guilt to merely 'unproven'.

The ball's in your pool, Waterboys. Your move.

I better go. Dave's got to the Found Poem.

*Or read it right. I'm assuming someone else is reading this out loud to you**.

**If you are the person reading this out loud to someone else, please ignore this bit, or at least don't read it out loud.

By the way, I have no idea if the Welsh bit of the title above is correct. I don't speak Welsh. I just guessed by extrapolating from the dual-language fire alarm instructions, etc.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Gerald Doody - a life in headwear

My father's 60th birthday was last Saturday, and along with the predictable sides of the family celebration (heroic quantities of red wine (REALLY heroic - one of the cards was from the Bordeaux region of France. It read, simply, "Thank you."), sister trying to relieve herself on a radiator - you get the idea),
there were photographs around the place of my dad, from childhood, through excited new father, through more jaded, experienced father, to the patriarch we all know and fear today.

One running theme that you couldn't help but notice from the pictures was that every now and again, my father seems to feel the need to experiment with non-traditional headwear. I draw no conclusions, but leave the pictures to tell their own story.

It may look odd, but Dad is now worshipped as a god in some parts of Tibet.I'm a midnight toker...No, I haven't seen the bin.
Luckily, Lucy had her camera.  Otherwise, no one would have believed her story about the fairies.
And just for good measure, here's one of him as a serial killer. A serial killer on holiday.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Who The Hell Tested The First Parachute?

According to Wikipedia:

"A few medieval documents record the use of parachute-like devices to allow a person to fall (somewhat) safely from a height. In 852, an Andalusian daredevil named Armen Firman jumped from a tower in Cordoba using a loose cloak stiffened with wooden struts to arrest his fall, sustaining only minor injuries. In 1178, another Muslim attempted a similar feat in Constantinople, but he broke several bones and later died of his injuries. According to Joseph Needham there were working parachutes in China as early as the twelfth century.

Leonardo da Vinci sketched a parachute while he was living in Milan around 1485. However, the idea of the parachute may not have originated with him: the historian Lynn White has discovered an anonymous Italian manuscript from about 1470 that depicts two designs for a parachute, one of which is very similar to da Vinci's. The first known test of such a parachute was made in 1617 in Venice by the Croatian inventor Faust Vrančić."

Two things leap out here - the word "injuries" turning up shortly after the first couple of goes, and the fact that, although Leonardo da Vinci may have sketched a parachute, there is no record of him strapping on a makeshift prototype and hurling himself off the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This is why he is still remembered as a genius, while history does not record the name of our unfortunate Constantinople wannabe. I like to think of him as Jumpy McDoomed.

Actually, this started as a straight stand-up rhetorical question. I had visions of some mad inventor embarrassing himself and his wife: "Is that your husband on the roof, Mrs Parachute?" "Oh, no, not again - Bob! Come down! And what have you done the curtains?" Wheeeeeeeeeeee! THUMP.

Looking it up, though, was rather fun. Jean-Pierre Blanchard demonstrated it as a way of 'disembarking' (seems a rather downbeat term for defying the laws of God, but there you go) from a hot air balloon. I thought I had my man, until I read on to discover that he used his dog in the demonstrations. No fool he. He didn't actually use one himself until his balloon ruptured one day 8 years later and he needed it to escape. That, to me, is key: needing to escape from something. That's when a parachute should be considered an option, not when you're wondering if there might be some way of getting down from the top of a lighthouse that's faster and more dangerous than the stairs, or when you want to send kids with leukaemia to Disneyland but have become bored of sponsored runs.

Anyway, it seems that, whoever the first human was to test a parachute, the first dog was almost certainly Jean-Pierre Blanchard's hapless hound. Wikipedia doesn't give his or her name, but 1785 is a lot of dog years ago so we can be fairly sure he or she is no longer with us. Still, our thoughts are with you, proud predecessor to Laika - you paved the way for dozens of animals to break barriers in aeronautics. Whether they wanted to or not.