The Unfortunate Bisexual at the Edinburgh Fringe!


The Unfortunate Bisexual is now at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe! Cerys Bradley and I are flyering our little socks off all around Edinburgh, and performing every night (unless it’s a Monday) in the basement of The Street on Picardy Place.

We’ve seen some incredible shows, and are thoroughly enjoying the experience. If you’re going to be in Edinburgh over the next few weeks, do come and check out the show!

Photo credit: Steve Cross

Poster design: Hannah Cameron

Level Up Human is going to Blue dot festival to celebrate the anniversary of the moon landing 🌕

Dflb4T_W4AEY9lXExcited to be heading to Jodrell Bank for Blue Dot Festival tomorrow to celebrate the anniversary of the moon landing. We’ll be recording Level Up Human on the Notes stage with Simon Watt, geomicrobiologist and comedian Sarah Jones and Dr. Holly Shiel.

How would you redesign the human body?

If you’ve not heard the podcast before, get involved here!

The Unfortunate Bisexual is going to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe!


The Unfortunate Bisexual show, which I have been building all year with Cerys Bradley, is going to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe!

Edinburgh Festival is the world’s biggest arts festival, and we’re absolutely delighted to be taking our show up there.

If you’re in Edinburgh during the month of August do come along and see it! We will be at The Street, 2b Picardy Place from 9pm until 10pm from the 4th to the 24th (not Mondays or the 17th.)

See you there!

Do creative projects have a life of their own?

“There are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up.

The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.” – George RR Martin

This gave me great hope when I read it a few weeks ago.

“Maybe I’m a gardener!” I thought to myself, watering some tomato plants. Maybe that’s why I’m rubbish at writing long stuff. I get scared by the bigness of a project and dive into a completely alien way of working.

Maybe, I think, if I work out what all the sections of this are, and plan it to the nth degree, then eventually I’ll just fill in the detail in all the little compartments I’ve created and the thing will be finished and beautifully structured.

But I just don’t work like that. Neil Gaiman explains his writing method:

“Your first draft can go way off the rails, your first draft can absolutely go up in flames, it can — you can change the age, gender, number of a character, you can bring somebody dead back to life. Nobody ever needs to know anything that happens in your first draft. It is you telling the story to yourself.

Then, I’ll sit down and type. I’ll put it onto a computer, and as far as I’m concerned, the second draft is where I try and make it look like I knew what I was doing all along.” – Neil Gaiman (The Tim Ferriss Show”)

Another gardener! Write it, allow anything at all to happen, and then pick out the bits that make up an elegant plot in draft 2. He even goes on to say he prefers hand-writing his first drafts because then he can pick out the bits he wants when typing up, rather than having to delete whole pages of work on the computer.

Then I listened to another interview today which suggests that we may not be in control of our creative projects at all.

A true creator knows that you follow the thing to where it’s going, not where you think it ought to go.” – Adam Savage (via Tim Ferriss, again.)

Now that’s really interesting.

Is it that a creative project has a life of its own, and we’re not the master of the thing we came up with at all?

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo

It’s all very well for people of extraordinary vision like Michelangelo, but not everything is captured inside a block of marble. And if it is, not everybody can see the statue. Some just see a very difficult and painful afternoon.

I guess if you look at it from outside your own skull and the point in time that you’re at, every creative project has a trajectory and a rate of ‘success’, but we can’t see all of it from the beginning.

So maybe the point is just to set off along the path, and see where we get to.

Level Up Human, live at the Barbican!

Life rewired

Level Up Human, the podcast that redesigns the human body, is back at the Barbican!

The Barbican’s Life Rewired season considers what it means to be human when technology is changing everything. Is it enhancing our lives, challenging our identities, or both?

Join evolutionary revolutionary Simon Watt, hormone champion Dr. Miles Levy and me to give the body an almighty overhaul in this brand new episode.

Join us!

The Unfortunate Bisexual


Cerys and I had so much fun previewing our new show, The Unfortunate Bisexual at Angel Comedy last night!

We were full to the rafters and had such a brilliant time trying out ideas. If you came along and want to keep in touch about the gig, join our facebook group for details of future events. We have a cabaret show on Friday at the Harrison in Kings Cross, and we’ll be putting more dates in the diary very soon.

How to Remember a Speech – Think Like a Drummer

I’ve written before about memory walks. But the problem is they can disconnect you slightly from the audience.

In your head you’re in a different place and I’m not sure on their own they’re enough.

Then I listened to an excellent podcast episode by Tim Ferriss. Tim was talking to one of the greatest drummers on the planet, Dave Elitch. If you haven’t heard of Dave, this video of him on tour with the Mars Volta is worth checking out if you don’t have a gig nearby!

Dave is one of those drummers that artists like Miley Cyrus call when their drummer suddenly breaks their arm or similar. Dave goes in for a rehearsal with a band, picks up their entire back catalogue in three weeks, and then goes on tour with them. Bearing in mind the drummer can make or break a gig all together, we need to learn from this man.

How does he do it?

I’ll play the song; I don’t know, like five or 10 times with my notes. And then I start, “Okay, I think I got it now.” Then I’ll put my notes away and just play. No, sorry. Then I’ll play with just the notes, no music. Then I’ll play –

Tim Ferriss: As you were saying. So you’re accompanying the music first with your notes.

Dave Elitch: Yes. And then when I get comfortable the next step –

Tim Ferriss: Turn off the music.

Dave Elitch: – and just play with the notes. And then the next step is music, no notes. And then the final step is just a click track, nothing else. So just a click track.

Tim Ferriss: Click track metronome.

Dave Elitch: Yeah. So I hear nothing, and I have to know it so well that I can get through the whole song in my head, hearing everything. That’s an insane amount of work. But the deal is when you get on stage, and there are 30,000 people screaming, and like with Miley (Cyrus), people throwing bras and underwear at me.

Tim Ferriss: Better than batteries and tomatoes, I guess. Or beer bottles.

Dave Elitch: Like at that moment, you have to know everything so well that that’s not going to faze you. It takes a long time. I’m in there for 10 or 12 hours at the beginning.

We’ve all been at one of those gigs where people are throwing batteries at us, right? No, me neither.

And then Ferriss goes explains how he goes about trying to learn a keynote:

Tim Ferriss: I want to note something for folks, and I’m so glad we got into this because that particular way that you laid out your progression for practicing a song is nearly identical to how a lot of the best public speakers also prepare their keynotes. They will take a keynote – and I learned to do this as well, but I was borrowing from other people – and instead of – let’s just say for the sake of simplicity, a 60-minute keynote – rather than trying to give the 60-minute keynote from start to finish, they’ll break it into four pieces.

Or what they’ll do – and this is something I started to model – is because the beginning and the ending is so important, actually breaking out the first five minutes and the last five minutes. Let’s make it simple. If it’s a 40-minute talk – this will make the math a little easier – first five minutes, then you have three 10-minute sections and then the last five minutes. And to practice each one of those individually, as opposed to in sequence. Initially, not paying attention to time, although having some rough idea of the total length. And then recording, listening to it, making these post-game analysis edits necessary.

So I’m going to try this. I have a 30 minute set to do on Wednesday night (come along if you’re around!) I’ve written 25 minutes worth of jokes, so I’m going to try to learn the first five, the last five, and then two chunks of about 7 in the middle.

The whole interview with Dave Elitch is here.

Do you have to learn stuff by heart? How do you go about it?

The 72 hour rule

Do you rush to Amazon to buy books and stationery and every single little thing that leaps into your brain? Yeah. Me too.

It’s too easy. Amazon Prime makes it simpler than ever to get stuff and there doesn’t seem to be a good reason not to once the dopamine is coursing round your brain.

The problem is, I’m not always 100% convinced it was a good idea afterwards.

Half way through last year I got strict with myself. If you really want it, I told myself, you’ll wait for three days. There’s nothing much in the world that you must have now.

So I adopted the 72 hour rule. I can’t remember where I got it from, I think I nicked it off somebody on a podcast.

Anyway, the 72 hour rule works like this. If you want something, you put it on a post-it note and stick it to the wall with reinforcing sellotape. Because otherwise you’ll find it under your desk three days later. Sometimes I put the date and time on it too.

If it survives three days, I’m allowed to buy it, and then if I don’t buy it within a week it has to go on the wall again. With around 6 out of 10 things, I look at it 24 hours later and think, ‘nah.’ Because I’m not full of dopamine anymore and I can see that whilst a skipping rope probably works for Dave Elitch, it’s not going to work for me.

I know, I’m absolutely no fun at all. Who doesn’t want a skipping rope?

But it has been useful. And I don’t just use it for stuff.

Now that we’re all connected to one another, it’s very easy for me to launch into a new project with certainty that it’s the best idea I’ve ever had. Then I get overwhelmed by the new project plus all the commitments I already have.

And that’s not good. Because if I keep launching projects and pulling out of them, people will get wary of working with me.

So I have to not do that.

Every project I want to launch or get involved with goes on the wall. I’ve avoided launching half a dozen new things I don’t have time to commit to this way.

If you want to apply a little more process to this, have a read of Benjamin Franklin’s decision making ‘way’.

“My way is to divide half a sheet of paper by a line into two columns; writing over the one Pro and over the other Con. Then during three or four days’ consideration, I put down under the different heads short hints of the different motives, that at different time occur to me, for or against the measure. When I have thus got them altogether in one view, I endeavour to estimate their respective weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out. If I judge some two reasons con equal to some three reasons pro, I strike out five; and thus proceeding, I find where the balance lies; and if after a day or two of further consideration, nothing new that is of importance occurs on either side, I come to a determination accordingly.” –Benjamin Franklin

If it’s good enough for Ben F, it’s good enough for me.

What do you use to keep yourself on track? Let me know!

Find Time to Write in 2019

A writer takes earnest measures to secure his solitude and then finds endless ways to squander it. – Don DeLillo

For the first half of last year, I was failing to write. I had the time, but I wasn’t taking the time. My diary was a mess of commitments all over the days and evenings, with no regular space to write. So despite having hours between school runs, I wasn’t doing it.

What I was doing was soaking up every spare minute on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And a bunch of other things. I felt I was being productive and staying on top of stuff. I was drinking from a fire hose of information.

In the end I had to carve out the time to write. I had to protect that time. And I had to get over the fear of failure that meant I was allowing myself to drift.

I haven’t entirely got this thing licked, but here’s a four part guide to what I’ve done so far:

1 – Identify the best time to write

Work out when you write best. Personally it’s mid morning. Your mileage may vary.

There’s a fair chance that this time won’t be available to you. You’ll be at work, studying or looking after your kids, parents, or dog.

So now you have two choices.

Work out the second best time to write, or move your life to create a chunk of time for yourself every day.

2 – Protect the time

Once you’ve found and cleared time to write, protect it fiercely. Don’t schedule things in or around it. You will fail, you will schedule a haircut over it by mistake, or be hungover and miss it, but don’t give up.

Keep making that commitment to protect the time, and eventually you’ll get there if you want it enough. Eventually it will seem insane to you to arrange something during this time, this is your writing time. Every day.

3 – Look after yourself

You’re not going to do your best writing if you’re tired or stressed. Make another commitment to yourself, to sleep properly. To drink water. To eat meals at the proper times. To exercise. To fill the creative well by reading and watching films and looking out of the window and being in the world so that when you come to write, you have ideas.

When you come to write, you’ll likely find your brain is full of nonsense. So your first task when you sit down to write is to empty your mind as much as possible.

Journal (write about how you feel and what you’re doing that day) for as long as it takes to get all this bilge out of your system. Interesting off shoots can be saved for the beginnings of creative ideas later.

Then finally, write. Not in a vaguely committed way, but in a 100% committed way. There will be days when this doesn’t work. But go back to it, day in, day out, and use these strategies to make it easier for yourself:

The red carpet

Anything that makes it easier to sit down and write is a red carpet. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Find a space that you’ll write in. Keep it clear and comfortable.
  2. Put your writing stuff out so that it’s easy to start.
  3. Use timers. Set an alarm to remind you that it’s writing time. Use a timer to keep focus. Either a pomodoro timer, or an app like Be Focused or Flora.
  4. Make a playlist that you’re only ‘allowed’ to listen to while you’re writing. No coffee until your writing time! Be strict with yourself.
  5. If you’re stuck for ideas, remember that writing is a 3 bucket problem.

The velvet rope

Anything that dissuades you from procrastinating is a velvet rope.

  1. The hours you’ve set aside for writing are sacred. No coffees with friends or phone calls or meetings during this time.
  2. If you’re at home, you’re not in ‘home’ mode. You’re in ‘work’ mode. No doing housework because you’ve got writing to do. (That’s my excuse for not doing the ironing and I’m sticking to it.)
  3. Log out of apps every time you use them. Remove any that aren’t essential. Turn notifications off. Recently I’ve used Apple’s ‘Screen Time’ feature to lock my apps down between 9 and 3. Airplane mode is your friend.
  4. Consider how many social networks you need. I deleted LinkedIn and Instagram last year, and I don’t miss them much. Consider also whether reading 100 tweets on 100 different subjects is good for your focus. I find it scattering. I’m trying to avoid reading my Twitter feed even outside of my writing time.
  5. Consider deleting good but addictive apps. If DuoLingo is what gets you back into a phone based spiral, it might need to go, no matter how good your Mandarin is getting.

4 – Publish/perform

There’s nothing like putting your work into the world to make you actually finish it. And what you have to do to achieve this, if you’ve not already, is embrace failure.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. – Samuel Beckett

Stop aiming for perfect and get your stuff out there. There is no other way to get proper feedback on what you’re doing. If it stinks, it stinks. You will know by the big, fat bundle of tumbleweed that rolls in gleeful donuts around your work. And then what do you do? You make a fresh cup of tea and write something new.

I’ve found it enormously helpful to book hard deadlines for myself in the form of comedy gigs. Nothing gets me writing more than the thought of standing on stage with nothing to say. There’s no need to choose something this terrifying, but whatever works for you.

My friend Lynda sent me another tip – “At the end of the day/writing slot finish halfway through a paragraph. Or even a sentence. That way you don’t have to come up with a fresh idea from the start. You just pick up the last one and then you’re off.  That’s the theory anyway.”

I like this ide…



Amélie for the British Film Institute!


On Wednesday 12th December I’ll be presenting Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s fabulous Amélie, the classic comic fantasy that launched Audrey Tautou to stardom.

Tautou stars as the lonely waitress who finds ways to bring others the happiness (or comeuppance) they deserve, and eventually finds her own happy ending. It’s an imaginative, sassy romp through a Parisian dreamworld, filmed and acted with joyous flair.

This screening is part of Comedy Genius, a nationwide celebration of comedy on screen led by BFI, the Independent Cinema Office and BFI Film Audience network, supported by funds from the National Lottery. For more screenings go to #bficomedy