Crushing the whimsy

Worry not, no small china ornaments were harmed in the making of this post.

It must have been some four summers ago – back in the days when we still had summers – that I first saw Stuart Goldsmith.  It was my first year attending the Cambridge Comedy Festival and he came as part of a triple bill of comics trying out their material for Edinburgh (so three shows of an hour each) and which cost a tenner in total (or it may only have been a fiver).    At the time, I know almost nothing about him – but as the marginal cost of his gig was basically zero I figured it was worth a punt (and let’s face it, he does have excellent choice in first names).  The gig nearly didn’t happen, as until 5 minutes before it was due to start I was the audience, but luckily followers of kanban arrived just-in-time to swell the audience to something slightly more respectable.  He was my big discovery from that year’s festival and definitely the best thing I saw – though, so far as I know, he has never returned to Cambridge in a professional capacity since.  As a result, I have had to take in his two later Edinburgh shows at source (i.e. Auld Reekie).  All three shows have been really entertaining and, somehow, just a bit different from the norm.

However, possibly his greatest contribution to the sum total of human knowledge and happiness has been the Comedian’s Comedian podcast (follow @comcompod) – something I found through following him on Twitter (the acceptable face of stalking).  This has a simple premise: each time Stuart interviews another comedian about how they entered the business and their “process” and this is then edited down to around an hour for the edification of the listening millions.  These interviews are endlessly fascinating and absorbing, even with interviewees I don’t expect to like (and sometimes would probably find deeply irritating if I met them in person).  Whilst I have no huge interest in stand-up as a career – way too many late nights and far too much driving for my taste (it would seriously interfere with my theatre-going for a start) and at my advanced age standing for a whole hour would be a stretch – people’s explanations of their creative process have been amazingly interesting and frequently very funny.  Many of the issues stand-ups face creating material are the same one’s I faced writing essays for the OU or even the more prosaic writing I do in the day job – and some of their solutions are rather novel and I shall certainly be trying some of them in the future.  I have learnt a surprising amount about the human condition, creativity and even how to be happy from this series of podcasts (and quite a bit about the delicate mental state of the host – and I thought I was a worrier).  However, no warranty (express or implied) is offered that these insights will lead to any improvement in the quality of GofaDM.

In early February a live comcompod was staged in a modest room above a pub in a relatively glitter-free part of London’s famous West End.  Upstairs (or downstairs) at a pub is, for my money, where comedy should be staged; it just isn’t right for a stadium or huge theatre, it needs to have a degree of intimacy (and probably a slight excess of human perspiration).  I’d also say live comedy is, like live music, way better than the televised kind and so would encourage people to go out and see it for themselves – it is usually pretty cheap: comcompod was a mere £6 for a very full two hours of fun.  In exchange for our poorly cephalopod, we not only had compering from Mr Goldsmith but a set from Rob Sandling (who I’d not seen before, but would again) and one of new material from James Acaster before he was interviewed for the second half.  This was one of the best comedy gigs I’ve been to, with a lovely crowd – mostly listeners to the podcast (or those they’d dragged along for moral support) – and I shall certainly try and make any subsequent live performances.  It was a real great and novel way of consuming comedy.

It was James Acaster, in this interview, who provided the title for this post when describing how he writes new material.  As a phrase it was just too good not to use – and it could easily become the new strapline for GofaDM.


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