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Blog Archive: July 2015

The Final Preview
I was in leafy Croydon on Thursday night, to do the LAST official preview of Hey Hey 16K at The Oval Tavern for The Croydon Comedy Festival. The festival's been organised by Mr T Eveleigh and it seems to have turned out GRATE - a great variety of ACTS, big and small, and several other venues attached around the HUB of The Oval. Being there in the inaugral year felt like being at the START of something proper!

I was joined by Mr S Hewitt who, much to my surprise, had never been to The Oval before. I thought everybody had! Shortly after we arrived we had a conflab with Tim about the stage set-up - usually the gigs for the Comedy Festival have taken place on a raised stage/dining area out in the beer garden, with a microphone and fairy lights. We agreed that, as we'd not be using amplification, we'd do our bit on ground level, so we moved the seating around accordingly and then Steve stood in various points to make sure he could be seen. He could!

Tim then introduced us to the bar staff so we could get my favourite kind of beer (FREE BEER) and we settled down for Danielle Ward, who did approx half of her Fringe Show "Dani Frankenstein" on the actual raised bit. She was singing along to backing tracks, which sounded GRATE through the pub's PA system, it really worked!

The interval found Tim back on stage reading out NUMBERS - people who'd ordered food from the barbecue got given a NUMBER which Tim then read out to let you know your food was ready. It was VERY exciting, in his words it was "like Bingo but everybody wins".

Then it was us, and it went Quite Well. I was a bit worried about keeping people's attention for the whole show, and this worry was borne out as some of the audience DID get a bit "lively" towards the end! It was about 3 or 4 hours LATER than we'd usually do the show, and as with last week in Balham I think people expected something a bit more Standard Comedy. However, it was still a LOT of fun to do and we got it almost entirely RIGHT, and also afterwards there were lots of smiling faces when we got out from under the stage lights, so all was well. Steve and I chatted to various lovely people who'd enjoyed it and i ended up having a lengthy discussion about The Sylvester McCoy era of Doctor Who, and thus it was a very happy MJ Hibbett (and Steve) who set off into the night shortly afterwards, bound for London town, safe in the knowledge that the show WORKS.

Now all we have to do is perform it 15 times in a row in Scotland. EEK!

posted 31/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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The ThreeWeeks Interview
It's AGES since I've done a radio/podcast interview - i really LIKE doing radio/podcast interviews (despite the fact that I hate talking about myself etc etc etc it is for the sake of THE PUBLIC that I do it) so I was very excited yesterday to set off for London's Fashionable Silicon Roundabout area of London to speak to Mr Chris Cooke for the inaugral Threeweeks Podcast of this year's Edinburgh Fringe.

It took me a while to find the building - it was at number 69 Wilson Street, and whoever was in charge of running the building had decided to BRAND it with a logo that, when you looked closely enough, vaguely resembled a 9 and 6 twisted round each other. From a distance, or even a couple of feet away, however, it looked like a CELTIC TATTOO, so I had to work out what number it was by going past SEVERAL times and counting backwards.

Upstairs an Annoyed Lady had never heard of anybody I'd come to see, but just as I was questioning my very sanity and/or whether that door number really DID say "69" (I keep saying 69 dudes!) someone else came in for the same purpose. PHEW. He was a very nice chap dressed in pink shoes, a powder blue suit and a bow tie. "I'm a magician", he said. That explained it!

We sat chatting and after a couple of minutes Chris turned up and WHISKED me away to a tiny studio where we got ourselves sat down and ready to CHAT. And OH but we had a good old yak, it was lovely - I told him about the show, about how PROPER it is that Steve does the flyering (preferably in the rain), how and why the show was written, my opinions about The Theatre, and much much more.

I staggered out of the building pretty much SPENT - I'm sure I COULD have managed to chat just a little bit more, but it may have done me in. I think it went all right, but you can judge for yourself later today when it goes LIVE!

posted 30/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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My Boss Was In Cardiff
On Tuesday night I went to Cardiff to see my sitcom script "My Boss Was In An Indie Band" performed as part of The Sitcom Trials.

A few weeks ago I'd been to BIRMINGHAM for the evening to see the same event there, but Cardiff is not quite so accessible from That London so this time I was staying overnight. I usually utilise the Ibis for such trips but this time I'd booked myself into the Ibis BUDGET as it was a) cheaper b) available and c) something I'd not tried before.

The Ibis Budget is a bit WEIRD. It's perfectly nice, but like sleeping in a SPACESHIP. The online booking said my room slept three people so I was expecting something VAST but it turns out that the room is only just big enough to hold a double bed and that there's an extra single BUNK BED above it! The toilet and shower are two seperate tiny PODS with the sink in the room - as I say, it's like a little SPACESHIP room, it was Quite Exciting!

After utilising the SHOWER POD I headed into town and, as usual in Cardiff, got a bit lost. Have the council spent so much money on printing signs in two languages that they ran out before they could do the ones in the city centre? It's impossible to get around without EITHER having lived there for years OR asking people for directions - I was stopped TWICE in ten minutes by other lost people asking for directions, and had to ask around MYSELF to get to the St David's Hall, where it was all happening. Mind you, once I got there the fun didn't stop as there were NO signs saying where any of the rooms were or indeed what was going on in any of them so I had to ask for help again... THREE TIMES!!

Eventually I DID find the right room so got a beer, and sat down for the show itself, which was TOTALLY worth the effort, for LO! Kev F Sutherland hosted and was GRATE, managing to make hilarity from Hats In Sitcoms and then introducing each script. The actors were really good, reading from scripts but also acting out scenes with someone else ALSO reading out stage directions. I think this worked really well, as you could SEE what was supposed to be happening much more clearly without losing any of the momentum.

My script didn't win and, as before, this was MORE than fair enough. I think if I write an entry for NEXT year's shows (which I most probably will!) I'll write one set in a single location, with fewer characters, and less hesitant JOKES. It's interesting seeing your words read out by people you've never met, as they do it DIFFERENTLY to how you thought they would. BOTH times I've seen this script read I've thought "But that was meant to be a JOKE just then, and you missed it!" which I have to accept is probably more to do with the SCRIPT than the people reading it. For future versions I'll try and write a script FOR a live audience who HAVEN'T seen the characters before, rather than Episode 8 of Season 3 of a show that exists only in my mind!

The actual winner was a very worthy one and all the scripts were GRATE with an excellent cast - I had a lovely time independent of my own stuff being done! Afterwards I had a quick chat with the mighty Mr Sutherland and then headed out into Cardiff which appeared to be SHUT. Every time I've ever been to Cardiff this has happened - whatever pub I've been doing a gig in, I've emerged to find the entire rest of the city quiet and in DARKNESS. It's weird!

Thus I returned to the Ibis Budget and found myself back in my SPACEPOD by 10pm consuming pre-purchased BEER and CRISPS. This writing lark, it is ALL the glamour!

posted 29/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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I Was Going Down To Balham
On Friday night I undertook some field testing of a new method of prop transport for Hey Hey 16K i.e. I put all the props in a rucksack instead of our usual great big JJB Sports Bag. This worked well, with the only item unable to fit being my collapsible hula hoop, which I tied on using an old guitar strap. I thus looked rather fabulous, striding out of Balham Station with my pink and silver sparkly hoop lashed to my back with a rainbow strap.

For LO! I was down south for the Balham Free Fringe, a weekend-long fundraiser for the PBH Free Fringe, all happening at The Bedford pub. I arrived to find Mr S Hewitt already halfway through his first pint and, after joining him in that position, we went upstairs to find the organiser, Mr C Coltrane, very pleased to see us. For LO! part of the deal with doing the gig was that we agreed to help out with some of the WORK, which in our case meant dashing around setting up chairs then sitting in on shows to mind the door and hold the collection bucket at the end. I also got to ANNOUNCE the act for the show I was in - it's the sort of thing both Steve and I always seem to end up doing at gigs ANYWAY, so we were very happy to pitch in!

Some lovely PALS had told us they were coming and Steve and I had assumed that they would be the whole audience, as Mr R Herring was playing at the same time as us and we thought everyone would go to see him instead. As I went up to our room I saw a MASSIVE queue for his show, and said "Ho! Is that for us?" "No", came the reply, "Your queue's upstairs!"

And there WAS a queue - all right, not as long, but still, it was a LOT more than we expected. Steve and I said we were fine to let people come in while we were setting up, which led to PANIC as LOADS came in while I was unable to find a vital PROP. It turned out that it was in one of the many many pockets of the rucksack (the JJB sports bag has NO pockets), so all was well, and we were ready to begin.

It was a job of WORK to do the show, for LO! we couldn't get any windows open so it was VERY hot in the room even BEFORE it filled up with people and only became more so once we commenced hula hooping/dancing/titting around. I was VERY sweaty! Also we got a bit put off by the fact that a group of Very Drunk Men had come in - I know this is the sort of thing that Club Comedians have to deal with on Friday nights, but we are not club comedians so found it hard! ALSO I could see Richard Herring watching us from the room next door before going down to do his own set! EEK!

Happily things calmed down a bit - the drunk men (noisily) left after 15 minutes, as did a few other people who couldn't stand EITHER the heat OR us, and I think we lost about 10 stone between us with our Mighty Movements! However, it got more and more fun as it went along and when people left at the end there were many smiles, not least for us, and a LOT of CDs and badges got given away!

Chris The Organiser had suggested that Steve and I do ANOTHER show soon after finishing the first one, to drag in the people coming out of Richard Herring's show, but I had regretfully decline his offer in the grounds that it would KILL me. Sure enough a five minute walk around the corner to The Duke Of Devonshire to see the aforesaid PALS afterwards nearly DID ME IN, and it took a little bit of rehydration to get me talking again!

So, all was well that ended well and now there's just one more show to go - at The Croydon Comedy Festival on Thursday - and then it is full steam ahead for Edinburgh. YOINKS!

posted 27/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Bits And Pieces Session
I was in DERBY on Wednesday, back in the pleasant surroundings of Snug Recording Co to do a whole HEAP of overdubs on the ever-approaching new Validators album.

Myself and Mr R Collins had a VERY productive day. Here's what we did, in LIST format:

  • Added UKULELE to the middle section of That Guy and then put some LEAD GTR in the instrumental breaks to go along with the violin.

  • Added ukulele to History's Rewritten, got Rich to add some keyboards, and double-tracked the vocals. Here's a picture of Rich trying to cope with me going "Make it go da da DA! da DA da!"

  • Made it sound like Tom was duetting with HIMSELF on The Future Is Amazing on PICCOLO!! This sounded INCREDIBLE and may be the most BRILLIANT thing Rich has achieved with his technology EVER. I was impressed! Also I added the phrase "In the future" to the start of the song (VITAL) and put down a guide vocal for when Emma does her vocals, for LO! it is a DUET!

  • Double-tracked some vocals and added a GTR SOLO to Burn It Down And Start Again. Both of these took a while due to my RIGHTEOUS IRE and definitely not because vocals and gtr soloes are things I'm not very good at.

  • Got Rich to add a "keyboard pad" (STUDIO LINGO: it means "some keyboard sounds") to 20 Things To Do Before You're 30.

  • Did the vocals for In The North Stand. This song OFTEN gets to me, emotionally speaking, and this time was no exception as I suddenly remembered that one of my oldest PALS has a LAD whose Grandad was also a Posh fan and I managed to WELL UP a bit. Curse you, Emotional Song!

    Luckily Mr FA Machine had arrived by this time so was able to lighten the mood somewhat with a) COMEDY WHISTLES and b) taking over recording duties. He was there primarily to play a bit of trumpet, but I'd realised that I could also get HIM to record some parts that were too difficult for me, so this is what he did:

  • Recorded the trumpet solo for In The North Stand. "It's got a musical joke in it!" he declared proudly. He spoke truth!

  • Added guitar to Can We Be Friends? "Make it sound more indie!" I said, and he did exactly that. It's so much easier doing overdubs when you can get people in who can actually PLAY their instruments, rather than spend an hour failing to do it yourself. I am basically a 21st Century BRIAN WILSON in this regard.

  • Did a similar guitar overdub on (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock. The three of us spent a while debating what STYLE he should go for - Bon Jovi? Status Quo? Or Queen? In the end it was None Of The Above.

    With all THAT finished we had a quick check to see if he needed to add something to We Did It Anyway (he didn't) or if I needed to add something to Get Over It (I didn't) and then that was THAT. An extraordinarily succesful day's recording DONE!

    We said our farewells to the ever patient and delightful Mr Collins then headed out for a gentle stroll through some of the many many delightful pubs on the way to Derby Station, during which Frankie told me some EXCITING and REVOLUTIONARY news about HIS new album and we agreed on MANY issues, musical AND political. After finishing up at The Brunswick (it would be rude not to) we hugged our goodbyes and I set off back for London, happy in the knowledge that, though there's still a couple of things still to do, the new album is a) well on track and b) sounding GRATE!

    posted 23/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Who Needs A Glowing Review?
    As I'm sure you are aware, neither myself nor Mr S Hewitt care much for the opinions of so-called "critics". Reviews are as nothing to us, which is just as well because we hardly ever get them and, indeed, got pretty much NONE when we did Total Hero Team in Edinburgh.

    So you can imagine how little we have been moved by the fact that we've had a SLEW of reviews for Hey Hey 16K and the almost indefinably tiny amount we're even bothered about the fact that they have all pretty much LOVED the show. It's not something we're interested in, and we definitely haven't read them aloud to each other several times while squeaking excitedly.

    However, I know some people ARE interested in such things and i SUPPOSE we should get used to quoting them as a way of encouraging more people to come and see us, so despite hating all forms off self-promotion and against my better judgement as an ARTISTE, here ARE those reviews.

    To start with, Alt Reading was a bit worried about everybody else being older than him (surely not?) but enjoyed himself and said it was " like watching your dad perform except that hes actually funny." Me and Steve? Like a pair of drunk Dads? Where DO they get their ideas from?

    Meanwhile Get Reading gave us five stars - not that that's something we even care about, obviously, five stars, it's just a number even if it is quite a big number for that sort of thing. She does make an interesting point about how it's even possible for someone to drop out of character when they ARE that character (the answer? About 3 pints) and there's a VIDEO if you're interested in looking at me (and Steve) which, of course, is not something that me (and Steve) ARE interested in.

    After all that in Reading we had ANOTHER pair of reviewers - not, as I say, that we care about that sort of thing either way - in Buxton. One came from The Buxton Fringe itself, who a) thinks I'm called Mike but b) used the phrase "hooting with laughter" which, if it was the sort of thing I took delight in, I would take delight in.

    However, as I say, I don't repeat these for my own pleasure - far from it - but because I know that such things can influence attendance, and so the final review, from Fringe Guru is probably the best example of that sort of thing. Not just because it says things like "a superbly constructed piece of musical theatre" (which I'm sure some people would be all chuffed about, flush slightly and say "golly") but also because it seems to get what it's all about. I especially like the fact that he links our bodged together enthusiasm over expertise with the way the ZX Spectrum itself was constructed and...

    CURSES! Caught like a TREEN in a disabled spaceship reading its own reviews! Yes all right then, I am maybe a BIT pleased that we've got reviews this time and that people seem to like the show. If that is a crime then I ask for 20 years of occasional other offences to be taken into consideration, but if you wish to charge me you'll have to come to the show, COPPER!

    More of this sort of thing please, THE MEDIA!

    posted 22/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Mountain, Not A Slope
    Mr S Hewitt and I met for breakfast in Buxton on Sunday, where we discovered that the advantage of staying in a Somewhat Old Fashioned Hotel is that you do get rather a nice fried breakfast.

    Suitably FILLED with FOOD we set off for a wander round town, enjoying the really rather LOVELY Pavilion Gardens, where we noticed that we were pretty much the ONLY people under 70 unaccompanied by small children. We continued our perambulations by walking up what Buxton casually calls "The Slope" but which I call "A Ruddy Great Mountain". Next morning I had EDINBURGH LEG i.e. the aching leg pain caused by constantly going up and down ridiculous inclines. It was HUGE!

    However, once at the top we found Buxton Museum And Art Gallery, which was BRILL. There was an exhibition of the Arto Fuduklian Collection (try saying that after a lunchtime pint) and a GRATE display about the history of the peaks. It was really really good, and we celebrated by going back into town for TEA and CAKE. We are nothing if not ROCK AND ROLL!

    After all that excitement we collected our stuff from the hotel and then headed back to the Hydro, which we found even MORE packed with people eating than the day before. Our "performance area" was taken up by a table FULL of a ten-person group considering whether to have dessert. Steve and I beamed MIND THORTS at them until they decided not to (our powers are immense) and while we waited for them to leave we had a chat with a lovely couple who turned out to be from PETERBOROUGH. I always get a bit excited when I meet fellow Peterbrugians out and about, and had a marvellous ten minutes saying "My Dad went to that school!"

    When the large group left we were presented with a "thank you for waiting" free pint each by The Hydro, which was very nice of them, and then we FLEW into action sorting out chairs, for LO! we had an audience, and quite a large (for the space) one at that! Everyone was in place by 13:50 so we ended up starting a couple of minutes early on a HUGELY enjoyable version of the show with slightly less mistakes than the day before but just as many LARFS and HI-JINKS. I was unable to hula hoop in the confined space, so at the end I went outside and did a brief display for the assemblage, which was a daft and delightful way to end an extremely daft and delightful hour.

    Thoroughly happy with how everything had gone we retired to The Buxton Tap for a well-earned pint and to discuss how much fun it had all been. We've been doing the show for MONTHS now, but it's only in these last three shows that it's really started to feel like it's HAPPENING - suddenly it's all falling into place, with new bits coming in and old jokes (they're mostly old jokes) being HONED.

    Back on the train home we both had a little bit of a nap, getting our strength back for the Balham Free Fringe this Friday and the Croydon Comedy Festival a week on Thursday before - YOINKS! - we head to Edinburgh!!

    posted 21/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Back In Buxton
    Nothing says "On The Road" like meeting Mr S Hewitt at 12:30pm for a cheeky pint in The Euston Tap before heading off to take our SHOWBUSINESS to another town. I know this because that's exactly what happened to me on Saturday lunchtime!

    Post-pint we toddled off to get our train and arrived in BUXTON three hours later, where we were due to perform the latest preview of Hey Hey 16K for The Buxton Fringe. Laden down with GEAR we stomped across town to our hotel, which turned out to be Shall We Say A Little Old Fashioned. Steve pointed out that the bar only lacked a MAJOR to be sitting in it, though over the course of the weekend we did see several candidates for the job. There was a PLAQUE stating that it had been opened in 1987, and INDEED the accomodation only lacked a ZX Spectrum to make them mirrors of my own teenage bedroom.

    We unloaded, watched a bit of telly (TOUR Tradition) then headed back across town to The Hydro, our venue. We booked it MONTHS ago (just before New Year, in fact) and I'd been a bit worried about whether they'd REMEMBER us, so had been relieved to see we were definitely in the Fringe programme. However, when we arrived we found that though they knew we were coming they weren't entirely sure what to do with us. The Hydro is a CAFE which, at this time of day, was pretty much FULL of people having their tea. It was suggested that we set up in the corner but a) I didn't really want to disturb people whilst they were eating and b) couldn't see how we'd charge on the door if DINERS were still coming in. It was a bit worrying, to be honest, but after some thought we decided to do the show in the small side area next to the bar. It wasn't IDEAL - we were between the bar, the kitchens and the LOOS so there was a lot of traffic and noise - but it was at least its own area.

    The trouble is, as I later discussed with my colleague, that THIS is exactly how gigs GET you. Every time I end up in a situation like this I think "Hey! This probably means that the gig'll turn out to be AMAZING!" and usually they're NOT, but every now and again it DOES happen like that and you end up spending another DECADE doing gigs and THIS was one of those - for LO! it was BLOODY GRATE!

    The audience all fitted nice and snugly into the room, including (we discovered) two reviewers, who therefore made up 20% of the audience. In Reading the level of reviewers was 10% - this must have been what it was like being in a ROMO band. Anyway, the audience were WELL up for it and LARFED and sang along and were generally a DELIGHT throughout. This was handy as the show was not without mistakes, but they took that as All Part Of The Fun and together we had a FANTASTIC time.

    After all THAT excitement all that was left to do was pack up and go for an ACTUAL CURRY (DELICIOUS) and a couple of beers at The Buxton Tap. A rather lovely end to a very lovely day - with still a day to go!

    posted 20/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    On The Road Again
    Yesterday evening I met Mr S Hewitt at Paddington Station to take Hey Hey 16K back out on the road again. For LO! we were heading for READING and The Reading Fringe, where we were due to perform as part of its second day.

    We found our way through Reading very easily (thank heavens for Streetview - how did EXIST before we could have a pre-wander through new places?) to find TWO surprising things about our venue, The Purple Turtle. Firstly, it had a range of ALES (i was expecting NONE) and secondly it was EMPTY! We sat around for a while and then one of the Fringe organisers came and said hello. Like everyone else we were to meet she was very enthusiastic and friendly and very much knew what she was doing, which was ACE. She also took our picture for The Record. Naturally Steve and I were very shy and did not in any way POSE like MAD.

    We dropped our stuff off downstairs in the Performance Area, said hello to a TONNE more lovely people, and then popped outside ... where we discovered that the front of the pub was empty but the back was PACKED! We had a pint and went back in to find an actual AUDIENCE had arrived - it was showtime!

    And lo! The show was GOOD! As ever it was a good job I did the "There will be mistakes" speech at the start because CRIKEY there totally were but it made the whole thing ROLL along, and I realised that the lack of an incredibly complicated plot this time meant that it was MUCH easier to mess around more and make REMARKS to the audience - I feel that this may become more and more of a THING as the show goes on!

    Afterwards everyone appeared very happy, grinning while accepting badges and Dinosaur Planet CDs - indeed, a couple of people said they already HAD a copy! We thanked the organisers THOROUGHLY (they really were EXTREMELY good) and headed back to Reading Station (NOTE to Reading Station: you are not an airport, BEHAVE) where we had a pasty each before our train arrived. As we sat there it really felt like this was the final big run up to Edinburgh, and I found myself EXCITED at the prospect of larking about doing this show every day. It's going to be GRATE!

    posted 17/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Shoe Shop Guys
    It's Neil Tennant's birthday today, and that's pretty much all the excuse Mr J Dredge and I needed to finally unleash The Shoe Shop Guys upon the world, THUS:

    We filmed this a few weeks ago and had planned to wait until OCTOBER to release it, once John's new podcast series is over and I'm back from Edinburgh, but it's been difficult to STICK to that plan because I LOVE The Shoe Shop Guys - so much so that we've done two more videos with them, and I suspect we'll be doing MORE in the future.

    It's Chris Lowe's birthday in October, so we MIGHT wait until then for the next one... but it'll be difficult!

    posted 10/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Afternoon Of Art
    Yesterday The Picture In My Frame and I left the cosy confines of The Olympical Village (have I mentioned that that's where I live?) to head into London Actual for an afternoon of ART.

    Our first stop was The Serpentine Gallery to see their PAVILION. Every year they get an architect who's never designed anything in the UK before to build them a temporary cafe-type place, and they are always INTERESTING to go and look at. This year's one looks more exciting in pictures than it does in real life - it looks glowy and funky in images, but when you go it looks, as The Pegs On My Tent put it, like something you'd see in a field in Glastonbury. In parts it looked like something you'd see in a CAMPING field several days in, lashed together and likely to fall over. It was OK, but they've had MUCH more fun ones. More importantly the cafe was run by Fortnum & Mason again who charge A LOT for a small bottle of water!

    As we were there we nipped into the gallery itself to see their current exhibition which turned out to be a lot of rather bland paintings of Not Much Happening. We were there with our friend Ms M Murray who reported that it looked like "the sort of paintings you buy for hotels", which it did. I was as yet Not Hugely Impressed by our afternoon of ART, but this was about to change.

    For LO! Our next stop was The Sackler Gallery, a new bit of The Serpentine Galleries just down the road, where we saw a Duane Hanson exhibition. It was GRATE! It was all very lifelike sculptures of ordinary people doing ordinary things and it was A Bit Creepy. As you came round a corner you got a JOLT when you saw people standing there, not sure if they were REAL or not. They were all JUST slightly not right - usually the hair looked mildly fake - which was SPOOKY in an Uncanny Valley sort of way. As we went round everyone was leaning super close to LOOK right at them, all slightly wary in case they suddenly sprang to life, and I noticed that as we were STARING much more than usual WE were being stared at by the many many gallery staff who were making sure we didn't actually touch anything.

    With that done we got one of those new routemaster buses (i know they're not THAT new but I'd not been on one before), a TOOB and then STROLLED round to the National Portrait Gallery to see The BP Portrait Award. By this time I was OFFICIALLY FLAGGING so was intending to have a Bit Of An Old Sit Down with a cup of tea while The Pictures In My Portfolio went for a look round. However, we rolled up just as the cafe had closed so I ended up going for a look after all and CRIKEY I was so glad I did because it was ACE.

    I've been to a few of these before and usually they are All Right but this one had a TONNE of brilliant stuff in it - this was the first year they'd accepted online submissions, so maybe the fact that it was open to more people made it better, because it was PACKED with good stuff. My favourite was A Portrait Of Ben The Masseur by Lee Myles Simmonds as it GLOWED out at me, while The Winner Of My Prizes's favourite was The History Men by Milan Ivanic, but there was LOADS of really good stuff. INTERESTINGLY a huge amount of it was extremely detailed and photorealistic, which i guess is The Thing at the moment. Years ago when I was first forced into art galleries on school trips everything looked WEIRD and ABSTRACT but now it all seems to be about super realisticalness. FEAR ME! I have made An Observation About Art!

    Anyway, it was brilliant and I would HIGHLY recommend a look if you're about in That London between now and September. Also, like all the ART what we saw, it was FREE - HOORAH!

    posted 8/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Sitcom Trials
    On Friday evening I headed up to distant BIRMINGHAM for a flying visit to the Old Joint Stock pub, where Foghorn Improv were performing part of my sitcom pilot "My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once" for The Sitcom Trials.

    It felt very strange to be heading out of town for the evening WITHOUT my guitar, but I used the train time wisely to edit ANOTHER script what I'm writing at the moment - SO professional. When I arrived in Brum I was amazed to see that Birmingham New Street Station is STILL awful. I had worried that the recent refurbishment might have changed it to somewhere vaguely habitable by human beings, so was relieved to find that they had DUG UP half of the passageways and retained the classic GLOOMY, DAMP and DREAD that has always made it such a unique transport destination.

    Once out of that HECKHOLE I stomped up the road to the Old Joint Stock - I'd been there once before many years ago after a Hibbettfest, but hadn't realised how VAST it is. I got lost traipsing round the various floors and had to ask for help getting to the theatre bit!

    I did find it eventually, had a drink in the dinky bar, then filed in with a pretty much sell-out crowd to the theatre room itself. It was a long thin room set out mostly in The Cabaret Style with other seats round the edges and the "stage" along one long side. It was a HOT day outside but very pleasantly cool inside which helped make it a DELIGHTFUL evening.

    The first half contained ten minute extracts of three sitcoms with two more in the second half, so it all flew by at high speed, helped along by the compering of the cast. All the scripts were really good, though over the course of the evening it became clear which ones worked best in this sort of environment. Scripts like mine, with lots of characters and scene changes, were difficult to get into when it kept chopping and changing, while slower-paced scripts where it was character comedy rather than gags tended to feel a bit QUIET in The Live Setting. The one that won - "The Cleaners" by Richard Constable & Roger Sanders - was a very straightforward single location set-up featuring (mostly) just two characters, which worked brilliantly, helped by a TONNE of great gags. It was perfect and pretty clear that it would be the winner, so I was very happy that it was - losing is FINE when something that very definitely SHOULD be the winner IS!

    It also helped, to be honest, when I found out at half-time that I'm also in the finals of the CARDIFF Sitcom Trials, which are happening at St David's Hall on July 28th - HOORAH!

    When it was all done I said a quick cheerio and thanks to whichever cast members I could find and then DASHED back to the station, where I managed to get a slightly earlier train which got me back to London JUST in time to catch the high speed home. Hey, I might not have won at WRITING, but I definitely did at TRANES!

    posted 6/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Totally Acoustic Presentation
    As per usual for the first Thursday of the month, I was in The King & Queen last night, though NOT for a Totally Acoustic. When I booked the dates for the recently completed series I added an extra one on a the end so that we could do a Hey Hey 16K preview, and so THAT was the reason for the attendance.

    It was an attendance LATE in beginning as we got WAYLAID beforehand, but I took it all Surprisingly Calmly. I usually get in a right old lather, as there's other acts arriving, but there WERE no other acts this time so it didn't matter so much. After a hefty STOMP across London Town The Steps In My Journey and I arrived to find Mr S Hewitt holding the fort by HOSTING our audience downstairs. I went upstairs to drop off GEAR and discovered a very odd sight - somebody had set the room up in THEATRE style. The Seats In My Auditorium and I looked at it ASKANCE - had Steve done this on purpose? Was it meant to be a practice for Edinburgh-style room set-ups? What was his plan? After WORRYING about it for AGES The Steps On My Stair suggested I could just ASK, so I did. Amazingly, this KRAZY PLAN worked - turns out that's how it had been left by the last lot, so we put it into OUR configuration and all was WELL.

    All continued well as we guided a sizeable crowd of people upstairs and then Steve and I entered a DRAMA HUDDLE - we'd received NOTES when we'd played at Isabelle's house last week, so discussed what new sections we'd be doing to answer those suggestions. One of the new innovations was to have SONG SHEETS (suggested by my in-house dramaturge) for the chorus of Hey Hey 16K which we handed out beforehand. In addition, we agreed to try out The Bucket Speech (the bit you have to do for Free Fringe shows where you ask for CA$H!). How would it all go?

    It went quite well! As usual there were heaps of wonky bits but we are SO USED to these that they bother us little. We did the usual speech about how it's a PREVIEW so bits going wrong is All Part Of The Fun which sets the tone nicely - INDEED I think we'll still do a version of it when we're NOT previewing - and the new adjustments fitted in nicely. We're very much in the TWEAKING section of the run, with notes afterwards providing MORE tweaks for next time, and it seems to be shaping up nicely... I think.

    It's a bit odd with this show - maybe it's because I'm mostly just playing ME, and there's more LOOSENESS to it overall, but it all feels a lot more CASUAL. At the end when people SMILE at the OUTCOME I always think "Oh yes, there WAS a story wasn't there? I thought it was just us NATTERING." Or maybe it's the fact that it makes SENSE this time that makes it all feel easier?

    Whatever it was, everyone seemed happy, and after tucking into a much needed PINT (it was HOT) afterwards so was I. Next stop: READING!

    posted 3/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Sweating For My Art
    Yesterday was The Hottest Day Of The Year: OFFICIAL and CRIKEY but it really was. With temperatures in the mid to high thirties (i.e. so warm it defies understanding - i know 25 degrees centigrade is HOT, but what on earth is ten more!?) it was of course the perfect time to spend two hours in a small room wearing COATS.

    For LO! that is exactly what I was scheduled to do, having booked myself and Mr J Dredge into Theatre Delicatessen for some more FILMING. It's great, Theatre Delicatessen - not only does it feature really big rooms for rehearsing in that ALSO double as Actual Offices for filming things, it's ALSO dead easy to get to. Hoorah!

    We had a number of tasks to complete, and complete them we DID. The first job was recording John doing a THING for a THING which was PEASY as it didn't involve putting on COATS or JUMPERS. The rest of the session was, however, somewhat different, as we filmed things involving BOTH. I mean, look at us:

    The picture above is for something called "The History of The World in 2,786,402 Items" which we'd had a first attempt at on Hampstead Heath a few weeks ago. That version didn't really work out, but this one DID, even though I was basically MELTING by the end of it.

    As we were finishing some people stood GLARING in at the door. John answered to see what they were after. "What time are you in until?" they asked. It was 6:50pm and they'd booked the room from 7pm. What time did they *think* we had it until? People being ODD and slightly RUDE is one of the many things that are the same in ALL rehearsal rooms, theatrical or ROCK, but at least this time nobody came in and stole all our chairs!

    On the way out John once AGANE bumped into somebody he knew, then as he was chatting to them some MORE people he knew, doing an entirely different thing, came in too - it was like hanging around with a CELEBRITY! With that done we popped over the road for a quick drink and to plot STRATEGY. The vague idea is to get some stuff in the CAN (so far we have the aforesaid History thing begun, plus "The Shoe Shop Guys" and "Dave The Actor") and then release it in September/October time, once John's podcast series is finished and Stave and I have returned from Edinburgh. That's the PLAN, anyway - it depends on us NOT getting over-excited and launching it all early!

    posted 2/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Doctor Hibbett (pending)
    Years and years and years ago, when I worked at The University Of Leicester, I had the chance to do a PhD. I worked in Medical Statistics at the time so the idea was I'd be researching THAT. I was excited about the idea of being called DOCTOR Hibbett, so investigated what it would actually involve. "It's a lot of work", everyone said, "it takes over your life, so make sure it's something you're really interested in."

    Now, I spent over 20 years working in the field of Medical Statistics and, with the best will in the world, "Interested in" is not how I would describe my relationship with it. "Catatonically bored by" would be nearer the mark, even back then, so I decided that perhaps that wasn't the best idea in the world. It was a decision I have always been VERY happy with.

    However, flash forward a decade and a half and I find myself in possession of a DISTINCTION for my post-graduate degree. I only mention my DISTINCTION because it is important for the rest of the story, I don't like to go on about my DISTINCTION. After all, it's just a DISTINCTION isn't it? A DISTINCTION is good for two things: 1) showing off and 2) getting accepted to do a PhD and as I'd already done a lot of the former I thought I'd try the latter (not least because eventually being called Doctor Hibbett would lead to a LOT of showing off). Thus I had a think about what I'd be really interested in doing. My first thought - as it is on a daily basis - was THE BEATLES, but I soon realised that this would lead me to becoming, basically, a music critic i.e. the lowest form of human life imaginable, so I turned to the SECOND thing I usually think about: COMICS!

    This turned out to be a Pretty Good Idea - comics is a BURGEONING topic in The Arts and there are several Actual Courses you can do. There are also several PROFESSORS of it, including a very nice chap at St Martins College who not only met me for a cup of tea and a LENGTHY and EXCITED chat but then also got me into an Art Exhibition for some FREE BOOZE. This is my kind of Professor! I then wrote up a proposal which he suggested some amendments to, sent it in, and got invited to an INTERVIEW!!

    I was told to prepare a Presentation so I did for this by having A Good Old Think. When I got in they asked if I needed a computer so I said "Oh no, I prefer to do it verbally" and they all looked IMPRESSED. This was GRATE news as I was expecting them to say "Come off it, you haven't prepared at all have you?" to which I fear the answer "I've had A Good Old Think!" would have been inadequate. Anyway, it all went really really well and I was THOROUGHLY enjoying talking about COMICS until I came to the fateful question: "What research methodology theory will be using?"

    URK! PANIC! I had absolutely NO IDEA what to say. I went "UMMMMM" for a bit then realised that honesty was probably the best policy so FESSED UP that I hadn't a clue. The interviewers tried to help me out by suggesting I might have covered some things in my course. "OH yes!" I said. "Plato's ideas of theatre and 'Save The Cat'" What we ACTUALLY covered were SOCRATES' ideas of theatre and 'Save The DOG' but they were too polite to mention it.

    Weeks passed and a couple of days ago I got an email to say I had been offered a place! HOORAH! I then got another very lovely email of congratulations from the Professor saying well done, even though I'd messed the methodology question up. HOORAH AGAIN!

    The only slight fly in the research ointment is that I don't think I'm going to be able to start it this year. In September I'm going to have to start looking for an Actual Proper Job again (unless Holywood calls, OBVS, or Hey Hey 16K gets a TV deal) so will probably be a bit BUSY. Also, because it all happened so quickly, I missed all the chances to apply for funding, so deferring until 2016 would give me more chance at that. Also also if I start a PhD AND a job this year there won't be time for much writing.

    All very sensible reasons to defer, which grapple daily with the compelling counter argument i.e. "A PhD in COMICS! Doctor Hibbett! WHOOOO! Come ON!!!" I'll have to see what happens but let the world know this: some day, somehow, DOCTOR HIBBETT will stalk this land!

    posted 1/7/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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