Yesterday, I thought I knew what today’s blog was going to be about.
This Friday, at the Outlaugh Festival/Hollywood Fringe, Mike is performing an improvised show as one of the three Angry Daddies: they are Mike (one of the Gay Mafia comedy group), Mark S.Barnett (from Second City) and Dave Fleischer (from iO West)
Oh, I thought, That might make an interesting blog: the difference between being a solo comic and being part of a comedy group. And Mike is now in at least two comedy groups.
“Does this mean you got bored with the Gay Mafia gents?” I asked him.
“No,” he told me. “It’s just like I’m just taking a lover on the side. It’s very French to do that. At least that’s what I was taught as a child.”
“But why would a straight audience watch three gay guys doing comedy?” I asked, trying to rile him.
“Well,” he replied, undermining my ruse, “only two of the Angry Daddies are gay. One is straight. Mark is an actual father of progeny. The Daddies are ‘post-gay’ where the gay thing doesn’t matter as much but is not shied away from. Dave and I play straight guys and Mark plays gay. We mix it up. There’s something for everyone, except dogs. And dogs don’t understand comedy.”
“Would it work in the UK too?” I asked.
“Well,” he replied, “Mark is from Bath, England, and has an English accent and everything. So we come fully equipped. In a commercial, Mark played a giant hotdog that runs through a park and explodes…twice. We have got it all covered.”
Still, I thought, there is something to be said about the difference between solo and group work.
“What’s it like to be in a group rather than being an individual performer?” I asked him. “Don’t all performers want to be the sole centre of attention?”
“I like groups,” Mike told me, “because you can react and do physical comedy in scene work. With good improv, there is collaboration which can be very exciting. Plus you can blame other people if the laughs aren’t big enough. I like to blame Dave and Dave always threatens legal action.”
I thought I would see if a couple of British comics thought the same.
“The major difference with doing group instead of solo for me,” he e-mailed me back a couple of hours later, “is that when a gig goes wrong I blame Matt and Jim and when it goes right I take all the credit. Doing solo work it’s different – obviously I take the credit when it goes well but when it goes wrong I blame the audience. Also the writing process is more fun with a group – I get to shout ‘Not funny!’ at Matt which is very therapeutic.”
My elfin comedy chum Laura Lexx, is appearing as part of Maff Brown’s Parade of This at this August’s Edinburgh Fringe. Yesterday, she told me: “The main thing is that with more than one person you simply have to rehearse, which is not something comedians really naturally do (for the most part). So it feels quite unnatural and hard to make yourself do it properly. We struggle to rehearse for more than about an hour without getting horrifically distracted and trying to go to the pub! It’s hard to rehearse and then it’s also hard not to ad lib once you’re on stage because that’s where you’d naturally go with stand up. I think they’re two completely different disciplines.”
So, late yesterday afternoon, strolling through Soho, I was content in my blog about the nature of doing group comedy. I can do something with all that, I thought.
Then, just six feet ahead of me, I saw Dan March and the other two Real MacGuffins standing round an unexplained black metal post, leaning on it, looking at me.
“I’ll take your picture for the blog,” I said.
And I did. And that was it. A perfectly rounded blog idea.
If it were not for the mouse.
Two nights ago, my eternally-un-named friend was staying at my home (we are an ex-couple). She was born and partly brought-up in the Mediterranean. I was brought up in Scotland. She leaves outside doors open because she thinks it’s hot outside. I shut everything because I think the cold outside air will make my penis drop off.
There was also the trauma of the mouse a few years ago. I have not yet written about this in my blog. But I will, dear reader. I will. Perhaps in a few days. It was about five years ago. I still bear the psychological scars.
Yesterday morning, my eternally-un-named friend confessed to me:
“I saw a mouse last night.”
“Where? There on the stair?” I asked.
“In the living room,” she said, worried at my reaction, given my previous rodent-induced trauma.
“I have built a trap,” she told me reassuringly.
“You built a mouse trap overnight?” I asked.
“It’s a piece of newspaper,” she explained, “put across the top of a bowl which is half-full of water. The newspaper has a cross cut in it in the middle with bait on top of it, balanced on the cross cut. The weight of the mouse, as it goes across the paper to reach the bait will make the paper cave-in and the mouse will fall into the water below. Hopefully I’ve done it so it’s deep enough that the mouse will drown.”
“Where is the bowl?” I asked.
“Under the dinner table,” she told me.
“Rats swim, don’t they?” I asked, searching my memory for movie references.
“They’re more intelligent,” she said. “and it’s a very small mouse.”
“What’s the bait?” I asked.
“Half a Mars bar,” she replied.
“You won’t let ME eat Mars bars!” I almost shouted.
“They would make you fatter,” she replied rather too smugly.
“Why do you want to kill it?” I asked. “A poor little baby mouse.”
“Don’t be stupid!” she said. “You’re going to turn this into a ridiculous blog because you’re stupid.”
“You like Tom & Jerry cartoons,” I pointed out, ”but now you are trying to kill Jerry.”
“You kill flies,” my eternally-un-named friend riposted.
“They’re insects,” I replied.
“So?” she asked.
“A mouse is a mammal,” I said.
“You eat chicken,” she said.
“That’s a bird” I said.
“Lamb,” she countered.
“Sheep are stupid and deserve to die,” I parried.
“Stupidity doesn’t enter into it,” she said. “You don’t deserve to die. Well, not for that… It is a small mouse. I have put a ruler resting on the side of the bowl, so it can climb up from the carpet to get to the bait on the newspaper over the water.”
“It’s like you are making it walk the plank!” I pointed out.
“Precisely,” she said, I thought unecessarily triumphantly.
I was out in central London all day yesterday. When I got home late last night, I asked her: “Why do you want to kill the mouse? We should trap it alive and take it out into a field and release it into the wild.”
“You’re turning into a Buddhist,” my eternally un-named friend said. “Why don’t we just open the front and back door and let all the mice come in? Then you could have a little family of cute mice and any time you wanted to kill one it would be easy. There would be a whole festering mass of them crossing the bloomin’ floor.”
“Bloomin?” I queried.
“Bloomin,” she insisted.
“Let the mammal live…” I pleaded. “Or I could buy a cat.”
“You could rent a cat,” she said. “That’s what people did in days-gone-by.”
“We should try to take a picture of it for the blog,” I suggested.
“The mouse… I suppose it moves too fast…”
“I saw it twice today,” my eternally-un-named friend told me. “It just sauntered across the floor from under the bureau to under the sofa. Then, a little later, it sauntered back again. It was in no hurry.”
“You saw it?”
“I looked at it…It looked at me…We were both surprised… What can I say?”
“Perhaps it doesn’t like Mars bars,” I suggested.
“I was going to drop a file of papers on it,” she said. “but my file was in the kitchen. I have added peanut butter to the Mars bar. I Googled how to trap mice and people were saying mice like peanut butter. Cheese has no effect.”
“I’m sure I tried honey when I had the previous mouse,” I said.
“But, when that happened, did…” she started.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I interrupted. “It was traumatic.”
Then, half an hour later, my eyes got itchy and I started sneezing. A lot.
“I think I may be allergic to mice,” I said.
“And I have a sty in my eye,” she said. “It started about two hours ago. I didn’t like to tell you.”
“We have to out-think it,” I said. “We have to think like a mouse.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” my eternally-un-named friend said. ”I don’t want to have to keep shutting the living room door to keep it trapped in here. I’ll let it go upstairs. I’ll help it upstairs. It can get into your bed.”
“Don’t remind me,” I said. “I don’t even want to think about that.”
We left my home and drove late-night to Greenwich where we stayed overnight.
I am still there.
I will have to face the mouse again later today.
“It is very small, but seems to have inner confidence,” my eternally-un-named friend tells me.