The Other Way To Get A Laugh

Yesterday, I mentioned my old improv teacher told us there were only two ways to get a laugh. The first one was covered yesterday.

The second way to get a laugh (I was told) is reincorporation.

That could be as simple as a comedian harking back to a thing she introduced earlier in her routine. The second time she brings it up, the context has changed and this change makes us see the original thing in a new light, inducing laughter.

It doesn’t have to be a thing brought up in the routine. It could be a thing already in the consciousness of the audience.

If I parody a famous singer, as well as dropping the status of the famous person (satisfying, as mentioned yesterday) it’s also a type of reincorporation. You’ve heard it before, now I’m using it in a different way.

I’d say observational comedy falls into the reincorporation category. The comedian is making you see a thing that you’ve seen a million times before, but making you realise you hadn’t truly seen it until you saw it the way the comedian saw it.

I guess some musical comedy is a type of observational comedy. “Have you noticed (x) sounds like (y)?”

Maybe if you’re having trouble with a joke, it could be that you’re not lowering the status of someone or something (your target might not be one your audience can build hostility towards), or you’re not reincorporating, because you’re making an observation about a thing that’s not in your audience’s consciousness at the moment that it needs to be.

If you’ve been doing stand-up, this might be stuff you’ve already worked out, but hopefully I’m saying it in a way you may not have heard before.

Reincorporation without the laughs!

PS If anyone has anything to add to this, I would love to hear from you.


Maybe You Were Put On Earth To Muck About

In bits of my comedy act, I sing like a real singer would. Sometimes people say afterwards, “You should do music for real”.

I did and I do, but in my experience, if you show up in a place where they’re expecting a musician to show up, and you do music – all in tune and what-not – well, that’s just what they were expecting you to do.

Thank you, Music Guy, for doing exactly what we expect from music, you’re like a CD, but a person. Thanks, here’s some indifference.

Les Dawson had much more success – screwing up the notes and not worrying about a record deal.

In the Wordpress ebook about blogging, it features two writers, one with 60,000 readers, another with 24,000 readers. They both have a similar story. “I started off writing about (x) and then I tried writing about (y) and suddenly things took off”.

It’s a solid case for mucking about and putting yourself under a real deadline to do it. Without the pressure of a delivery date, these writers might have walked away from their experiments, missing out on their undiscovered passions and a tribe of thousands who care about the same thing.

They say if you’re a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Maybe we’re Swiss Army knives!

Back to screwing up the notes!

Have a great weekend! Muck about!

PS. Yes, I know someone will accuse me of being some kind of tool, before you start.


The Best And Rudest Advice Ever

Sometimes when you’re at work, there’s a tension between what you want and what others want.

For instance, I do musical comedy.

Early on, (not so much now), I’d get advised to stop with the guitar and the singing. Some folks don’t like it. In fact, I’ve found everybody hates musical comedy. Except audiences.

I’ll push on with it. I like it. Also, I’m hiding.

I’ll hide if I want. Who cares who any of us really are? Hey, Einstein! Stop hiding behind all that maths and stuff. Tell us about the real you.

This is why I love watching performers like Terry Alderton, Harry Hill, Tommy Cooper, John Hegley… (you finish the list).

“Hey Harry, hey Terry, hey Tommy, hey John – why not consider dropping all that “persona” stuff? The mad skills, the magic tricks, the dazzling and unique poetry… You’re actually quite funny without it.” Sound reasonable?

Like I’ve said before, listen to all the generous advice, but for God’s sake, try not to act on all of it. Take some chances. We don’t need another conformist. Every hit is a surprise hit.

There’s something to be said for being strong where you’re strong, as opposed to where others wish you were strong.

My favourite line about this comes from a performer and promoter who is way successful in both roles. I won’t say who, in case he/she’d prefer not to associate themselves with it.

It’s the best and rudest bit of advice you’ll ever hear. I’ve censored it for a family audience.

“You’ve got to ****1 with the ****2 you’ve got.”



1= make love

2= sexual organ)


Question Time. Football, But For Ideas?

UKIP deputy chairman Suzanne Evans was scheduled to appear on BBC’s Question Time tonight, but she’s been substituted. Never mind! George Galloway will still be appearing tonight. Galloway has a certain position on Israeli expansionism. The show is live from Finchley. Lots of Jewish people live there. Sparks will surely fly.

I know how I feel about a whole host of issues, including Israel/Palestine (here’s a song about that from me) and I’m sure you know how you feel, too. Your values were baked into your cake a while ago.

If you’re a Tottenham Hotspurs fan and you watch them play Arsenal, and Arsenal win, you don’t switch from being a Spurs fan to an Arsenal fan because they played better. (Sorry, I don’t know how likely this is, I don’t follow football).

On Question Time, If a UKIP representative (somehow) makes a case for the repatriation of foreigners, or someone makes a compelling argument for the two-state solution, we’re all going to feel exactly how we already felt about these issues. I think we’re watching because we’re cheering on our idea. If our team loses, there’s always next week.

It’s nice when other people feel the way you feel, but to get the same effect, you could turn the sound off and listen to your favourite Rage Against The Machine or Skrewdriver album – whichever suits your politics.

I know what I’ve been doing so far (saying what I think) is biased reporting. Unbiased reporting is when you wait for someone else to say what you think and then report that they said it.

I knew someone who attended a Question Time taping once. They told me on that occasion, the panel actually got some tough questioning from the audience in the early minutes of the show. And then one of the production staff said, “Thank you, that’s the technical run-through out of the way, now we’re going to start taping…”

Nice editing tactic!


To Kill A Mockingbird, Twitter, Mumford And Sons

I was quite pleased with this tweet, even though it has a typo.

When it comes to creativity, I say better to make an imperfect thing than nothing at all. I’ve noticed that if you mess up a setntence, it probably commands more attention than if it was corrct!

Good old Twitter!

Joel Bakan wrote a (great) 240-page book (The Corporation) which played out this idea: If a corporation was a person (like many think), what type of person would it be? The book concluded that it wouldn’t be a very nice person, since it was, by law, incentivised to seek profit and turn the anti-social consequences of its actions into externalities. Even if a corporation were owned, directed and staffed entirely by cloned Dalai Lamas, it would still have to act this way.

@mooseallain summed up the difference between people and institutions in 13 words:

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 16.21.13

Obviously, I’m not saying one’s better than the other, just different ways to skin a cat!

Also, on a different topic, I really like this one by @ingmarbirdman – thought I’d throw it in…

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 16.22.11

In other news, I was really pleased with how this Mumford & Sons parody was received. Thanks to anyone who watched, shared, or enjoyed it! Just trying to save you time and money as ever…


“Money Is Created Out Of Thin Air!” – Red Hot Chili Peppernomics

Here’s me doing every single Red Hot Chili Peppers song in 30 seconds.

Now we need to get into economics. I’ll come back to the Red Hot Chili Peppers in a sec.

What if I told you money was created out of thin air?

In March last year, The Bank Of England fessed up that this was happening.

Which means that a country like the UK (or the US), with a non-convertible*, sovereign currency** can spend whatever it wants and never run out of money. Which throws the case for austerity out of the window. I’m serious. The Bank Of England is serious. Read up on it.

Back in the day, people used to say, “I don’t need to read, there’s only one book and the guy in church tells me what it says.” Easy to control people back then.

Well, now the new “I don’t need to read” is “I don’t need to understand economics.”

If you can learn to drive a car (which takes intense concentration and where one slip-up can have fatal consequences) after, say, 20 hours instruction – you can nail this. At least to the point where you can argue with this post. Most people learn to drive.

I wanted to do my part in changing the conversation, but unfortunately I found myself being a musical comedian rather than a college professor, or an FT journalist, so I thought I’d try and make musical comedy out of the issue. I thought it’d be funny to have the Red Hot Chili Peppers (who only have two things on their minds) tackle the subject. The song’s called “Spend Your Wad”.

I put the song into an Edinburgh Fringe show. So far the conversation on austerity hasn’t changed. I don’t know, maybe I’m doing something wrong. I’m not going to blame myself, though. When an institution like the Bank Of England says explicitly that money is created out of thin air and the news ends up on the back pages to make room for celebrity gossip… Well, it’s almost like the media has a vested interest in cultivating a bovine audience.

The world is full of clever people. The world is screwed. Something tells me the clever people are not pulling their weight. The rest of us need to clever up.

This three-minute video of Warren Mosler describing how to turn litter into money is a great place to start.

*Non-convertible currency means you can’t exchange it for gold. It’s not a promise to pay the bearer anything on demand, like in the old days.

**A sovereign currency means we create it, unlike say Greece. The Euro is a stateless currency, so the Eurozone member states have to ask the European Central Bank for Euros when they need some. Which is why the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain) have had so much economic pain.


The Super Bowl

I really missed out on American Football as a kid. My dad never took me to a game.

At school playtimes, while all the other kids were having fun, using jumpers for goalposts, putting on shoulder pads and crash helmets with walkie-talkies built into them, taking steroids and running into each other, I was getting sand kicked in my face, sitting in a corner, all alone with my guitar.

Then I had an idea. I talked the jocks into letting me do a half-time show.

People were sceptical. The first show was a real baptism of fire. My music wasn’t really connecting with anyone, but then in a blinding flash of inspiration, I got the idea of letting my clothes slip down during the gig.

Soon it was all over the school newspaper, and audiences to the game skyrocketed. Some said my half-time shows were more of an event than the games themselves. It got to the point where there was a lot of lunch money riding on what colour outfit I would wear, and at what minute of the performance my clothes would slip down.

These were good times. I got special treatment at the school tuck shop. The kids who were good at needlework all wanted me to wear their clothes. The kids running the lemonade stand wanted me to encourage the other kids to drink lemonade. Sure, I had my battles with weight, there was a lot of pressure, but it was pretty sweet.

Unfortunately, by the the time I got to secondary school, they only played soccer, cricket and rugby, and I looked like a right idiot trying to interrupt the games with my half-time shows. I couldn’t fit in. No matter how many times I “accidentally” let my nipple slip out.

I lost all my sponsorship deals. I don’t want your pity, so I won’t bore you with my struggle with chocolate. Suffice it to say, I’m down to two bars a day and I go to Chocoholics Anonymous meetings regularly.

In the interests of furthering Anglo-American relations, here’s me doing Jon Bon Jovi singing “My Old Man’s A Dustman”

PS. I would love it if you came to my show at the Leicester Comedy Festival on Valentine’s Day. I promise to keep my clothes on!


Whatever You Do, Don’t Look At This Thing I Made.

To mark the rebirth of of Pirate Bay and Justin Timberlake’s impending parenthood, I went to Pirate Bay and searched “Justin Timberlake”. Then I searched on “Total Recall (2012)”. Pages of torrents, seeders and leechers. Oodles of people unwilling to help Justin and Jessica Biel support their new baby!

…That’s the old fashioned view of “piracy”. The new model, as described by many a business guru is that the mp3, the mp4, the ebook, etc. are ideas, and the DVD, the CD, the paperback, etc. are the souvenir of the idea. Ideas that spread win. Free ideas spread the best. Illicit free ideas? Well, just look at “The Interview”. It was actually hard not to.

It all reminds me of being a parent. When you can’t get your kid to eat their greens, just dangle a forkful in front of them and say, “Whatever you do, don’t eat this piece of broccoli, because I’m just about to eat it…” Look away. Look back. Hey presto. Broccoli eaten. If you want experience the real joy of parenthood, act frustrated that your broccoli has been stolen. This results in a giggling child. Repeat until your child is brimming with nutrition. Priceless. You’ve made them do something they didn’t want to do, and made them happy about it! For more Machiavellian parenting/governing tips see here.

So with that said, I would certainly hate it if you went to this link and downloaded my latest album for free.

PS. I’d only ever use BitTorrent for educational purposes.

PPS. I would hate it if my stuff ended up on Pirate Bay. So whatever you do…


How To Run a Country… In Seconds!

You get quite a few ideas from being a parent.

When you can’t get your kids to get dressed, you turn it into a race. “Let’s see who can get dressed the quickest… Go!”

Or you give them a choice. “Do you want to wear the red top, or the blue top?”

Both of these tactics will result in the kids doing what you want, not what they want. You’ve taken the option of not getting dressed off the table with competition and choice.

Food for thought in an election year!

Here’s a song I wrote about this topic. It’s the history of civilisation in two and a half minutes.

P.S. I’m staying with old friends this weekend. The guitar and the picture were created by the genius Keira (aged 10), who amazingly made them because that’s what kids do when we’re not bugging them!



Bruce Springsteen And Extreme Weather!

Here’s every single Bruce Springsteen song in 50 seconds. Sorry I could’t boil it down any further, but he has quite a body of work. I love Bruce Springsteen, by the way – it’s just there’s a lot of it, and I figured you might be busy.

I’m all about saving you time.

Hopefully, you’ve been following my time-saving tips and haven’t bothered looking at any mainstream climate change coverage, so I’ve put a little reference to it in the Springsteen clip.

If you watch environmental stories through the news, you will see the opinion of 99.99% of climate scientists (that climate change is real, human-made and perhaps should be mitigated through policy) given the same air time as the opposing view (that climate change is a leftist hoax). It’s all in the name of balance, but the back and forth of it is time-consuming!

Better to not to get bogged down in the whole debate. To save time, let’s act as if climate change isn’t real. Then when Al Gore finally jumps out from behind the scenes and goes, “AHAHAHAH! You should’ve seen your face!”, we’ll be able to hold our heads high.

I’m kidding of course. There’s no such thing as Bruce Springsteen (B.S.? Wake up, people!). Springsteen was dreamt up by an ad agency to stimulate tourism in New Jersey.

Better book a trip, before it gets wiped out by extreme weather!