Monday 30 December 2013

30th December 2013: Chester Comedian + 2014 Comedian

So, yeah.

I am currently in Chester. I know, didn't expect that either. I had planned to go to Brighton over Christmas with a friend I met at Sussex. That fell through, so I put out a status on facebook about not having anywhere to go for the holidays. I got an invitation from my friend Gareth, so on a whim I booked a coach to Chester on the 24th. Now I'm here. You haven't had a blog in nearly a month, so this is going to be a lengthy one again. It's going to be story in two parts. Firstly, how I spent the last 5 days. Secondly, what I intend to do in 2014.

I arrived here on Christmas eve. Luckily, the coaches weren't affected by the previous day's bad weather as the trains and air travel were. This meant that I got on my coach with 10 minutes to spare. Obviously I had been in a Pret near Victoria station for HOURS before, because I know myself now, and if I CAN somehow get lost somewhere, trust me that I will.

I had planned to entertain myself by tweeting about the journey in the voice of an 18th Century gentleman. I know, the fun I have with myself. The lack of functioning wifi kept me from doing so.

As I arrived in Chester, nearly an hour before we were scheduled to arrive (there was NO-ONE on the road), I was picked up by Gareth and his dad. They chauffeured me to their bungalow, on the edge of Chester and the known world.

The next day and a half, we spent in a cloud of Christmas, great food, bad TV and passive aggression. Very English.

On Boxing Day, as we managed to move away from the sofa, Gareth showed me Chester. What was there was thousands of people shopping incessantly to get away from their lives. Which is the same everywhere I guess. We walked the Roman walls all along the city and I saw the horse racing track. Betting is a weird thing I've never been able to understand. My mother always warned me about how dangerous betting can be, that you'll get swept up in the excitement. Gareth's father used to run a betting shop. Gareth told me which horses I should bet on, because the guy who raised them does quality work and they were nearly always good. I told him that I would never do that. My loss.

The dilapidated church was beautiful. In its walls, a medieval sarcophagus was built into the masonry. It said something close to 'memento mori'. More than that, the person that would have been in there would have been positively tiny. It may have been a child, or an incredibly small person. I do know that people were smaller in the early middle ages but christ, was this one small.

Chester doesn't have a fulltime comedy club (anymore) nor does it have a home grown theatre company. It's a weird place. There's culture everywhere but it's not as consistently presented as it is in, say, Brighton - a city of similar size and population.

We had a great night out in Chester with Gareth's friend Mel. Not drinking alcohol, I got quite unpleasant looks from people for drinking Cranberry juice. I may have been imagining those looks. In the end, we ended up doing a pub crawl with Mel and especially Gareth getting progressively drunk. He went from full Patrick Monahan cuddling to pretending to stab me over and over, and then getting faux angry at me for dirtying his knife- back to cuddles again. But I got more cuddles than stabbings. That will have to be my epitaph. We ended up meeting Gareth's old drama teacher, who is moving to Lagos to teach drama there. We ended up having a protracted discussion about theatre and artistic control. Then we went dancing in a pub where there was karaoke in a corner. The dancing was vigorous. That will sometimes happen. If I get a little sugar into my system and I don't take my night meds until later, I suddenly feel OK about dancing. I know how to do it, I have limbs, I have ok motor skills (I do now) and I'm a good mover. But the awkwardness never really leaves me. What I used to do was dance 'ironically', which seems to be a thing young, Middle Class English men do. They don't dance, they comment on the act of dancing, which is beneath them anyway. I was always scared I would be inevitably found out and escorted out of the building. Now, no more.

Gareth was belting out Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Mel and I danced like Uma Thurman and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. We ended up singing Kate Bush songs in the cab and, when we got in, dancing vigorously to Janelle Monae. We went to bed VERY late.

The day after was one of being fed and sleeping. I was exhausted. I didn't even log any memories worthy of note. But I did do some admin. I did, happily, do some vital admin for a couple of hours every day I've been in Chester. I will be locking myself up in the UCL library from tomorrow though.

On Saturday, we went to Liverpool. We did 3 museums in 2 hours, which is an achievement in itself. I wasn't really engaged for much of it, my brain having settled into TV mode. TV is weird. Especially on ITV, there are SO MANY ADVERTS. Since I haven't owned a tv for 3 and a half years, I had forgotten how pernicious adverts are. I only use iPlayer for things on BBC four, so even now I don't really engage. I was surprised by the way adverts in England try very hard to be funny. In the same way that Boris Johnson hides behind a clown's mask, adverts are opium for the people and it made me think that I'd much rather live in a benign communist dictatorship, that doesn't make a secret of what Golden Calf we're supposed to pray to. I'd rather have that than the pernicious Chinese Water Torture that is advertising nowadays. I bought Naomi Klein's No Logo. Let's see what she has to say.

Anyway, we did the touristy things in Liverpool. I now have a picture of myself and John Lennon. We had a seriously good lunch at 'spoons. We went up 138 metres in the Liverpool radio tower. Like in Pokémon Gold and Silver, the radio programmes are actually made at the top of that tower. Liverpool from above was beautiful, the sun slowly setting behind the Welsh mountains. We had a coffee there and were mostly silent, unless I saw a child's balloon floating over the city.

Liverpool is a city that knows how to sell itself. We went into the law courts, which were dark, so we felt like we were trespassing. We ended up looking at some kind of ball room with a massive, beautiful organ. It didn't take much imagination to impose a nineteenth century ball, a 1920s party with everyone radiant.

We ended our tour in the library. The main hall didn't look too imposing, v British 2000s architecture, wood panelling, carpets, whitewashed and green. But the reading room was incredible. It was a smaller version of the Library of Congress. In the round. Amazing.

In the end, I did what I probably wouldn't have done if I'd stayed in London: I got to chill the fuck out. Which is important too. Very important, in all honesty. It's what people keep on saying to me. And I know. I'm a disgusting workaholic who needs to chill the fuck out. But I'm in Britain NOW, so I want to get stuff done. That means I can never just have a sit down or get a big old Catholic guilt trip. It takes other people to kick me out of that self-imposed crap.

So today (30th) I am finishing this blog in a traffic jam on the way to Stoke-on-Trent. My laptop is wedged between my tummy, my thighs and the chair in front of me. I am listening to The National and pondering the passing of time and, oddly, the childhood I left behind. A conversation I had with Gareth's father reminded me of the childhood I had. I was actually quite quick in identifying as different from the other boys and was picked on because of that. I liked books, not cars. I will never own a car, because I know I am an idiot. I am like my granddad, I'm not supposed to drive. He had 17 goes at his license and failed, badly, every single time.

I'm reminded of all the lonely car journeys where I followed the paths of raindrops on the windows. Sometimes they would melt together and travel at about double the speed it had been travelling so far. I now know that my childhood is dead. Many of the people who worked in the library in Waalre will now be retired or dead. I used to do painting and activities in what was called 'the monastery', in the attic room, which my brain chose as the setting for when I was reading the school chapter in Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks.

I think all 26 year-olds will have to go through something like that. Most of the people my age will have been presented with the inevitable possibly of dying a number of times. It hits you like a tonne of bricks. Having had the childhood I've had, I've always thought about death. I used to listen to 'Memory' from Cats over and over because I knew it was about death. Memories of a life lived and inevitably over sting like that. I am not saying that Andrew Lloyd Webber is good or anything, just that Tim Rice and T.S. Eliot are. Just remember that death IS the end. I, then, won't really get that 26-27 year old moment of mortality hitting me across the mouth, I assume. I will be as obsessed with death as I ever was. Most of my friends in the UK are younger than me anyway (I've got a lot of friends who were born in 1990, interestingly), so I've got a couple of years until we'll have those conversations and I can come across all grown up and shit. Or just listen to Vampire Weekend's new record. Do it. It's a good one.

So the second part will be a blog about the past three months and my plans for the next twelve.

In the past 3 months my life has changed beyond recognition. Despite all of my moaning, I am currently living the life that I have worked for these past five years. I am reminded of the final days of 2010, where I felt I had only 8 months to make my mark after 3 months of fighting to establish myself, after which waited the dark emptiness of Holland. I'll write about those months when the time is right.

The past 3 months have been about trying to establish myself on the London scene, putting myself out there. I've tried to do everything at the same time. Some things paid off, some did not. I am still disappointed that the tutoring has not worked out yet. There seem to be even less jobs than there were in 2010-11. Apart from the ever-present market research callcentres, which suicidally depressing.

2014 will be different. Very different. I feel that the past 3 months, intense as they were, were only warming up to the kind of life I will be leading starting in January.

On the level of Academia: within the first week of 2014 I will have finished 2 essays and applied for a PhD spot at UCL and, hopefully, other universities as well. I will be auditing several courses (such as Novel and Therapy and Literary Responses to the First World War) and following courses in Cultural Studies, Science, Art and Philosophy and the History of Science. I will still be working with the Theatre Translation Forum ( and I will be working with Bright Club at UCL, the comedy night that mixes Academia and stand-up.

Also, I will be working with Arts Emergency (, a charity that fights the current political turn against arts and humanities subjects in favour of subjects with a more clearly delineated career paths, if you're Tory and entrepreneurship is a fundamentally benign concept. Let's keep on fighting these dickheads. If enough of us join together, we'll be able to do things about them. I also intend to join Mind and inform more people about mental health.

Additionally, I am also still looking for paid teaching/tutoring work. Because money is also important, unfortunately.

On the level of stand-up: I will be keeping on gigging 3-5 times a week. Hopefully the work I have been doing will be paying off and I will be getting more alternative-y gigs and -fingers crossed- paid spots. That would be nice. I will also be doing competitions. Even though they are fundamentally vile. I will be working with UCLU Comedy Club doing Stand-up Workshops and Compèring gigs for them.

Edinburgh plans are currently in the works. More news as and when.

Also, I will be (co-) running a night in Shoreditch called The Comedian's Bookshelf. It's comedians talking about their favourite authors and books. If there ever was a comedy night designed for me, it's this one. And I'm going to compère at least the first one. More news on facebook twitter: @TCBookshelf and tumblr: .

I have several writing projects on the go, I will let you know about those when they get anywhere beyond the stage of sketches.

I would also like to get back to the gym. Even though I hate it with a passion, it's a place to listen to podcasts, isn't it? I will be trying yoga. Until I get a panic attack, that is. For longtime fans: as long as awkwardness is a thing, Gym Stories WILL BE BACK!

As many have said, I am insane for doing so many things. But I only have this one chance, where I am quite secure in where I live and I have the safety of postgraduate studies to work on things I care about. The best possible outcome will be that I: will get the PhD spot, with teaching work, which will mean I will have a secure income for 5-6 years. Which would be nice. Secondly,  that I'll get somewhere in competitions. Getting representation will mean a lot less comedy admin and a regular income for doing what I am now doing for free. Thirdly, that I will get teaching and tutoring work. Fourthly: that I will be able to do awesome workshops through Arts Emergency for people and kids who care. Fifthly: that I keep on getting better at the things I'm doing. Sixthly: I hope to get a distinction or higher in my MA. I also hope to get to 90 kg, incl. muscle weight. But that, realistically, probably won't happen. To be honest, realistically, none of these things are likely to happen, apart from numbers 5 and maybe 6. I'll do my best to see to that.

Thank you very much for keeping on keeping on with me. We'll speak in the new year. Peace out!



P.S. My top eleven for 2013:
1. Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle
2. James Blake - Overgrown
3. The National - Trouble Will Find Me
4. Kanyé West - Yeezus
5. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
6. Arctic Monkeys - AM
7. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
8. Lorde - Pure Heroine
9. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away
10. Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest
11. Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady

Wednesday 4 December 2013

4th December 2013: International Comedian


I've been away for a while, being offensively busy. I've been working, reading, doing gigs. Also, last week, after having tried to reset the saddle of my bike to a more manageable height, I had an accident. When cycling around Hackney, suddenly, the saddle gave way and swung backwards, I, then, crashed onto the asphalt. I've got the bruise to prove it. I was so incredibly lucky, because if that had happened on, say, Mile End Road or Euston, I would be dead now. So that's a fun idea, isn't it? Probably. I only got my bike fixed a week later, if only to give me a bit of respite. My blog about cycling, I now concede, was cheap and uninteresting. Now, though, I got it properly looked after, so I am a lot safer (and faster) then I was before.

Also, here's a link to John Fleming's interview with me last week. I talk bollocks about Kafka in it. Subsidise his obsessions with young comedians by following this link:

I just have to say, I love dogs. I miss mine and I'm looking forward to the gig immensely :-). So there.

Right. So I'm here in the Comedy Café. I've got a gig here tonight (3-12) for the International Comedy Club. In French. I'm terrified. I'm also very early. These things are not unrelated. I've written about 4 minutes of new stuff, in French, especially for tonight. I have also translated 3 bits from my English set into the French, so I will have that as a back-up. I've been trying it out here in the upstairs bar (the actual comedy café theatre), trying to find my way around the rhythms of a language that is not my own or English. I've written out the entire set in longhand and on my laptop. I've done my homework, I've done the groundwork, I've written, I've had showers I didn't need just to write (I often write in the shower. Sexy enough for you?). I know what I'm doing, up to a point. I've even come up with a heckle put-down:
"Ne m'interrompez pas s'il vous plâit, parce-que je VRAIMENT sait pas comment répondre"
Let's hope I don't need to use it.

After going through the set a number of times, I thought: OK, time to relax now. I'll read a book. Only, the book I'm reading right now is Malina, by Ingeborg Bachmann. In German. Let's not confuse my linguistic brainspace anymore. Hence this blog.

I'm scared. I feel like the first time I did stand-up in Edinburgh, the first time I did stand-up in Brighton, the first time I ever did something like stand-up, eight years ago. It's completely new and I'm really interested, on an academic level, at what will come out.

Last July, myself and mr. Gareth Ellis (of this parish) did a gig in Ghent to a lovely audience of nerds and hackers via hackerspace and sofasurfing websites. When on the bus to London, he proposed doing more gigs like this. We'd be travelling Europe, doing comedy where they would have us, paying for the trip and a small fee whilst sleeping on sofas. I'd love to do that, still.

I'd love to do an Izzard, and do comedy in French and English AND German. I could. The obvious lack of success would be a problem there, though. And, through the rules of averages, the notion that I'll ever become successful at anything is unlikely to say the least and practically impossible if we're being realistic. Ah well. If I get anywhere in Academia, though, I'd love to do seminars in German and French (training as a foreign language teacher is plan D. Like Maria Bamford's bit: ''So, you're a comedian! So what's plan B?' ... This is plan B. After the whole supermodel/rockstar thing didn't work out.'
I'd love to do comedy in German, too. I'd love to get better at Spanish and to learn Italian, Japanese, Russian, Greek, Serbo-Croatian and Icelandic. But that will most likely never happen. We're all going to die some day.

If ever a comedian's thought process before a gig was captured, it's that last sentence.

Right, it's half 6. I'm going out for some food.


That's it! There we are. We did a sound check, then the other comics came in. Yacine, Noman and Abdelkrim had all come from Paris on the Eurostar that day. The other English act on the bill was, as I found out when he came in: Richard Vranch! My friend Jennifer is a good friend of his and of all of the other Comedy Store Players. That was a way in. I had to remind myself that this was just a gig and the fact that I had seen him do improv on youtube when watching all series of Whose Line and on stage at Carré, Amsterdam, in 2010 - shouldn't matter in the slightest. I didn't say that I think he's amazing to his face. But if he reads this blog, there. I do think that.

Yacine, I found out, is trying to improve his English to do Edinburgh next year. That's really cool. Also, he'd been the opening act for Eddie Izzard in Paris (the ghost of Izzard is starting to haunt me!). WHICH IS ALSO REALLY COOL! Hosni was going to compère, Abdelkrim would open, then a break, then Richard and myself (follow that, kid, I thought) and Yacine would close. The gig ended up starting quite late, but it was full to the brim. And everyone was French. That day I had tried to watch a Jamel Debbouze registration to find comedy rhythms in French. Only thing was, he went way too quickly. That was the primary note I got from Abdelkrim and Yacine, who were so good to check my set for grammar and understandability. I spoke too fast and I needed to speak slower. That was interesting, because I speak very quickly in English, so I had to approach the gig in French differently. Completely differently.

When the gig started, I tried to focus on Noman's compèring and Abdelkrim's set. I got some gags, but both of them spoke too fast for me. And my head was very much on my script and the last minute alterations to it. Abdelkrim killed (in the good, comedy way) and Noman was wonderfully fast on his feet. The break seemed to take centuries, then Richard did his bit, which, him being an improviser, was largely made up on the hoof. He took the roof off for five minutes. Then it was me.

It was sort of a blur. I got on stage, said hello and did my first gag, adjusting to the rhythms of the language and the persona I suddenly seemed to have. The first five minutes went by in a flash, there were great laughs, I could improvise and be bitchy and get away with it. Then, the English stuff. To say that bit didn't go so well is to over-estimate it. Oddly, my specially written material went down amazingly and the translated material didn't. I was slower, I had to constantly adjust and try not to improvise in English, because everything within me turned back to my faster Anglophone persona. I did massively enjoy it though.

After that, another break and Yacine took the roof off. The gig was une succès fous. I thank Guy Stevens, Noel, the Comedy Café Theatre, Abdelkrim Bichkou, Noman Hosni, Richard Vranch and Yacine Belhouse for the great support they gave a -way- less experienced comic. It's definitely something I'd like to write about in the future. And if there's any French language gigs around, I'd love to do my French set there and develop it.

Interestingly, after the gig, Yacine and I started to discuss our respective set and we hit on the issue of culture and comedy. I've spent the past five years researching everything I could on British and Anglophone culture. Name it, I've googled and clocked it. I can now converse with British culture in the way a stand-up comedian should. If I would want to do something similar with French culture, that would be another five years I might not have. But we'll see what the future brings.

Also: take a look at my revised gig list. Tonight I'm doing Rudy's Revenge in Hoxton, tomorrow a charity gig for dogs in Romania in Streatham, Friday Way Out West in Brentford (wherever that may be) and Sunday the Late Train Comedy Night in Winchester. Also, I'm turning 26 on the 19th. All blog readers are invited for drinks and watching Nine Lessons And Carols for Godless People with me at the Bloomsbury Theatre. You even get to touch my face.

Saturday 16 November 2013

16th November 2013 - I Cycle Better Than You Drive

So. There's got to be a first time for everything. In this blog I'm taking the position of a Dutchman.

This is actually quite a serious problem. In this country, cyclists are generally seen as morons with a death wish.

Near Bow, three cyclists have met their deaths in the past week. I sort of know the area, as friends of mine live nearby. One of them had a collision with a car on Wednesday as he was cycling to Queen Mary, University of London. He got off lightly, with some bruises and a coat less waterproof than it was before.

As a cyclist in London - I've had a bike since the Tuesday before last - I do not agree with the view that all cyclist are out to disrupt traffic or chase an early death. Although the day after I bought my bike, I was cycling on Oxford Rd and I saw the cyclist in front of me slam into a pedestrian. AND THEN HE JUST FUCKED OFF!!! This was completely out of order. I stayed behind to make sure the lady was OK. Partly because that's just what you're supposed to do, secondly out of a sense of guilt for cyclists in general. The girl was shaken but would be able to go on without further medical attention.

Being able - after a week and a half - to slice my travelling time from 3 hrs to 1 to and from uni, has been completely worth it. Being able to move around, not pay massive amounts of money for tube fares to and from gigs and sing loudly whilst on the move is all worth it. It is also great physical exercise that picks you up, especially in the morning and at night, after gigs. 45 minutes of cycling is a great way to get rid of the adrenaline after killing the living daylights out of a gig. But, I have to admit, it's a bit scary. It's like 150cc in Mario Kart, where Holland is the Mushroom cup. I avoid rush hour, so I don't tend to leave until at least 9 am and leave for gigs (from uni or from home) around four. If that means I will have to do some work in the pub where the gig will take place, then so be it. Euston station at 6 is a nightmare.

Ridiculing cyclists has become the topic du jour, it seems. I saw a very good sketch group called Making Faces (follow them on facebook or twitter or wherever they are) do a song about how silly and suicidal cyclists are. Now, I'm not taking their song on its face (and a very funny face it is. Go and see them) value. But the general opinion of cyclists by motorists is generally not far away from the opinion of Clint Eastwood of Japanese Kamikaze pilots.

Here's one thing. Cyclists have NO interest in a. dying, b. obstructing you, c. running over pedestrians (apart from that total c*** on Oxford Road I told you about), d. subverting the rules of traffic to our own will, and e. dying. I have had truck drivers shout at me that I was "GOING TO GET YOURSELF KILLED YOU STUPID C***!". What I had done was to go past a red sign, on the left, leaving plenty of space for drivers coming from the other side. Which there weren't any. I know I've gained some weight over the past month (cycling helps getting rid of that, thank you very much) but I'm not as wide as you. I can slip in and out of traffic. If I take a left turn and there are no pedestrians, I'm allowed to ignore the red signal. But mostly, I am Dutch. I have been cycling for nearly 23 years. I know how to do it. Properly. I probably have more experience cycling than you have driving. I'm not going to go around and tell people that, waving the flag of the 1688 Glorious Revolution (look it up). I just expect you to be a bit less of a dick toward everything cycley.

Another issue is clothing. Why, for the love of god, do you need SO MUCH protective clothing? OK, I have had a period in my life when I thought bike helmets were cool (I was 8. Anything you can put on your head is cool then, am I right fellas?), but surely no longer. Lights should suffice.

The main problem is, as a wise green thing in a film once opined, not hatred, but fear. Drivers in London have NO idea how to deal with cyclists. We bamboozle them. Look at this bit out of one of the articles above:

Johnson and Gilligan's proposed model, outlined earlier this year, is a Dutch-style system of mainly segregated lanes and cycle-safe junctions. However, the Dutch warn that there is a long way to go. Weijer Losecaat Vermeer from the Dutch embassy admits that he has abandoned a traditional upright bike for a lightweight machine and specialist clothing. "If you come from the Netherlands and find yourself in a London traffic situation, the first thing you notice is that cyclists don't seem to be an equal road user," he said. "They don't seem to be thought of. The other thing is, in the Netherlands, every motorist is a cyclist as well. This thing you have in London of motorists versus cyclists doesn't exist."
Despite his profoundly silly name, the guy form the embassy is right. Cyclists never get right of way, even when we deserve it. London drivers are, on the whole, very good, sociable and not afraid to improvise. Cyclists, though, are quite literally a blind spot. I do not wish to die in traffic. Therefore, if I feel like I'm in danger, I will take to the pavement. If I feel like I'm in danger, I will get off and start walking. I will use walking crossings if I need to. I don't want to get in your way. Just be realistic about how big I am (which is, I suppose, big enough to total your stupid car) and take that into account. Let's all be friends, eh? And don't kill me.

P.S. I do realise that drunken and unsociable cyclists exist. I don't drink or take any medication before going anywhere. I need my wherewithal in order to keep myself safe. If you're a cyclist: please, do the same.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

6th November 2013 - I Saw the Ghost of Michael Gove Today - Political/Angry

When I was thinking of writing this blog, I felt weak and broken. I felt like a sad loser and profoundly on the wrong side of the track, rhetorically. But it didn't let me go and the article below made me sure that I not only was right, but that I needed to speak out. I will not divulge where the company I was a guest of today is, nor name any of their employees. But I do have a story to tell about what happened to me today and I think it's worth getting out of the comedy mould for what Greg Proops would call "the boring preaching part". I did not have to sign a secrecy agreement nor any other documents. This also means that my opinions are my own and nor blogger, nor the company has the right to remove it. Fundamentally, this story is about my disappointment in what the British educational system is about to become. It's genuinely upset me. I know that in context, my behaviour was not appropriate and I might have reacted differently if the first part of the seminar had gone better. This is not the reason I am a teacher or why I want to become an academic. God, it was like hell to me and I need to get it off my chest. First, read this:

Read it? I read it after the event. I don't think it would have influenced me and what I did and said today.

I had found a job advert on my university's website. It was for a teacher/tutor position. It looked good, interesting and a great way to keep on going being a teacher. Last year, I worked as a tutor and teacher with children of secondary school age. I enjoyed it a lot, I loved the sense of communality that occurs when some genuinely learns something. Be it something as ostensibly harmless as irregular French verbs and you sometimes find that what you have communicated -and this specifically pertains to history, English and Philosophy- genuinely changes the way a young person thinks. The words: "Oh, I'd never thought about this from that perspective!" are great ones for anyone passionate about education.

I was called back on the basis of my cover letter and CV and after a short chat, I was invited to come for a training day. Not for Modern Foreign Languages, in which I have most experience, but in English and Public Speaking. As I have a degree in English Language and Literature and experience as a performer, this would fit beautifully. This training day, oddly, would not be paid for, nor would travel costs be reimbursed. I was surprised, but I still came out today, in my suit, looking forward to the training day.

I arrived in plenty of time, there were oddly only men, who had found the same advert and replied. They were mostly from the science-end of the spectrum and were nice and friendly. We had a coffee and then moved to the meeting room. The man leading the training looked and sounded nice and well-intentioned. And I am sure that he was. Throughout the session, he dropped that he did motivational speaking work. I was not surprised. The style of his speech was full of the cadences of HR and positivity coaches I have encountered in my many, many years on this planet. This year, however, I was not so patient as I perhaps should have been.

The first task we were all set was to tell the group about an inspirational teacher. I chose dr. Gene Moore. I told about how his class on Borges' The Library of Babel freed up my mind to the manifold possibilities of literary studies and the freedom Gene gave to our interpretations. He taught me that if I could argue my point well enough, I could never be wrong, but that my voice would be valuable. Eventually, everyone did this in turn. I put my hand up to go first. I told the story, I thought I connected to the rest of the group. I have done this for a long time, so I was confident I could at least talk to people. 

After everyone had had their turn, the man who lead the seminar took me outside told me he was very disappointed in me and had given me a 4 out of ten. I was surprised. Apparently I spoke too quickly (I did not) and I said 'er' too often. I did not know how to react. I am willing to accept that I might be completely psychotic and that all of the teaching I have done was disgracefully bad, that all public speaking I have ever done was worthless and that I was constantly 'er'-ing throughout my life. I couldn't understand and I felt like they dropped me before they tried. I asked whether it was because I was Dutch, or whether I'd done anything that had upset them. No, apparently it was all fine. If I just spoke slightly slower and 'er'-ed a bit less I would get that 4/10 up to a 8/10. I was quite sceptical of this, since my teaching qualities would hang on my speed of speech and my proclivity to use the stopgap 'er'. And I did try to accommodate them. I lowered my voice and spoke slower in every single sentence I spoke afterwards. I did feel deflated and worthless. I was shocked that I was marked down so much just because I spoke slightly too fast for an imaginary audience of 12 year-olds (which we hadn't been told to write for). All others, speech issues galore, got higher marks than I did. But their focus in their short talks was on correctness. They were -apart from one- science and maths people, for whom correctness is more relevant.

Despite my disappointment and the now obvious distrust I got from the men who lead the seminar, I chose to stay. I did want the job. Sorry, I still did want the job then. It must have been a momentary lapse in concentration, surely. I was going to make up for it later. 

We started going through the book of rules for every class. Constant and repetitive attention was paid to the disciplinarian aspects of teaching with special attention to punishing disruptive students. What would students do to actively disrupt class? Because that's what students do, right? They do not want to learn, they want to be outside, playing football. And they certainly felt too good for school. This was new to me, never having had issues with this kind of motivational difficulties from students. The leader of the seminar continued sketching what all children essentially were: they were disruptive, lazy, disinterested and were going to be supermodels and professional footballers anyway. Really? Students I have worked with have always known the difference between dreams and reality. Dreams are a great thing, but the future is more complicated than that. Anyone but the most delusional ten year old knows that dreams are dreams and that they serve a purpose, but that most people don't end up becoming Hollywood actresses.

I wasn't sure. What I have seen as a tutor is a lot of children who have profound difficulty in coping with the stresses of increasingly heavy workloads in school and the high expectations placed upon them. These children are not aspirational, just in the wrong field. No, they were defeated. This was irrelevant, apparently.

Before every lesson, then, the tutors would have to outline that the students would never be popstars, but that they had to work hard to become valued members of society. Nothing wrong with that, a bit negativistic maybe, but still. What then was said shocked me: that as members of society, these children would especially make their marks within the entrepreneurial world. WHAT? Yes, you want to build those bridges, be successful (not my words) and earn a lot of money. 99% of success stories are about people working hard to attain those goals. WELL... it depends what your idea of success is.

I thought I saw a laughing Michael Gove flit past the room and back into the sky.*

I had to question this. Why were we supposed to provide these ideologically questionable ideas to children? Children are impressionable. As violent and harmful television can be, to be told, multiple times a week, that you can only ever be successful (what a word) in the world of business and entrepreneurship is more violent and repressive than that. I would not want to live in a world like that. This is where the ideological harm that Gove is doing to the next generation of children comes in. Michael Gove wants to create a populace that a. votes Tory because they value money above the wellbeing of their fellow citizens, b. does not care about art, culture or the possibility of people having a different perspective than they do, and c. unimaginative, unfeeling and apathetic. To damage children (CHILDREN!) with this is beyond me. I had to question it. 

Obviously, I was treated as a disruptive influence, had to pack my bags and leave. The leader of the seminar was disappointed, so was I. He gave me one of the least convincing wellwishes I have ever received. Lost for words, I just looked at him. I couldn't believe that he meant what he had been saying. God, it'd be worse if he did. Then, if this was his genuine notion of being well-intentioned, is exactly what scares me.

I know I should respect people with a different ideology to mine. I know my views might easily be misconstrued as being petty and that I am a bad loser because I didn't get the job. To that criticism I say: a. you're being essentially fascist, you prick, b. I care too much about children's lives to let this go without saying something about this and I genuinely believe your views are harming children's lives and c. I think independent thought is to be applauded and this company clearly did not believe in individual expression but in the depressing neo-liberal world that I fight tooth and nail to become reality.

And to Polly Toynbee I say: if you're on a demo somewhere, let me know. I'll come and support you. Also dr. William McEvoy. If you ever need me on a demo, I will be very happy to help out.

I will leave you with a video of Caroline Lucas MP, addressing the 'Say No To Privatisation' occupation at the University Sussex, earlier this year. She memorably addresses the values of the humanities, values that clearly do not chime with this company. I am very happy to say I will never work for them. Much love, J‎ 

*I didn't really, that was obviously a metaphor you literalist douchebag.

Sunday 27 October 2013

27th October 2013: Admitting Defeat - NO NOT THAT

On Thursday, I had to admit defeat.

Against my better judgement, against my intentions, I broke down. Like a car in the desert.

After my last blog I felt strengthened, confident even. All of the nonsense had been dealt with. I got it out there, some people even read it. But I was still broken.

So I put on facebook: I admit defeat.

My mum, and Jane, asked me what I'd admitted defeat to, worried about me. I told the truth. I couldn't go on anymore, so my body had broken down. I could hardly move that day. I spent most of it in a semi-conscious, self-recriminating state. Yeah, lots of fun there. Hardcore comedy.

I was supposed to have finished reading Das Schloss by Kafka and write a 3000 word essay on the horror of school in Buddenbrooks and Fruhlings Erwachen (don't come bitching at me about umlauts. I'm borrowing this laptop, which has got a UK keyboard, therefore being unable to do any language other than English. That's why I chose a US keyboard for my new laptop, with French/German/Spanish possibilities. But I digress). It wasn't mandatory, but something I chose to do. You know. Low stress. I could write that on Thursday if I went to school early and just bang it out. But there was no banging to be done on Thursday. Far from it.

So I sent an apologetic email to the lecturer of the German Lit course and typed the status into facebook when I could slightly move again.


I had to check, is he just being his horrific self, or was something more ugly -uglier than that- afoot. There wasn't anything. He was just being his horrific self. Fine. Go and see his stupid show if you're in the Manchester area. It's called House of Nostril, it's produced by the Lowry, it's got people in it who are good, there's a musician in it who's great, there's unity of time, place and action blablablabla reviews, blablabla Malcolm Hardee blabla Copstick bla.

You know the drill. Voyez-les-mecs!

So for two days I was basically immobile, watching Zelda videos on Youtube. Not fun.

Before that, I had a very enjoyable Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The Tuesday Stand-up Club was a lot of fun, but I had somehow overprepared and we ended up not being able to have everyone do a spot. I am very sorry about this. I, however, stayed too long, chatting and catching up with the comclub people and, after another overlong busride home, it was after midnight. The day after I kicked myself out of bed, I met up with a friend from Sussex, who’s now doing an MA at King’s. We had a wander and we had omelettes at a restaurant in Soho and drinks in King’s student union bar. I liked it, because there weren’t as many students there as there are constantly around UCL. He, unfortunately, couldn’t make the gig I was doing later. And good on him. I was tired. Just broken. And I forgot rule number one: Take Care Of Yourself. As I was coming back from the gig, I was thinking about why I died on my arse. It wasn’t about not caring about the gig, but about being too tired to care about the gig. I wasn’t even slightly nervous. Now, after doing comedy and theatre for YONKS, I’m never nervous to the degree I used to be. I used to be a barfer. I think, but only until I was 20. Now, I have a nice fidgety sense of nervousness throughout the day. When I’m walking about, thinking about the gig, I’m never happier. I get my best ideas when I’m in that nice state of self-consciousness and the awareness that everything was possible. Wednesday night, however, I was just tired. I wasn’t looking forward to the gig (which never happens either) and not feeling well AT ALL. Then I did the gig and hey presto! I was rubbish. I made the decision that night that I’m either going to do stand-up WELL or NOT AT ALL. Option 2 doesn’t work. Because. You know. I’ll be stuck. Stuck, being. Being me, I suppose. I love stand-up too much for that. And I dislike the idea of ‘just being a person’ too much. Well, not dislike. But it frightens me. I can never NOT do comedy, NOT take that back seat view and reflect on how life seems to work. Other comics have any idea about that? The comments box is yours.

Then Thursday happened. And, again. I need to learn how to take care of myself.

Yesterday, I was out in a Turkish coffee shop, where they specialised in Shisha. I like the smell, but I’m not a big fan of the tobacco-element. I would do petrol though. I love the smell of petrol. Don’t know what that means.
I finished listening to the BBC audiobook version of Ulysses, reading along on Project Gutenberg. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

For the first time in my life, I think, I wasn’t aware that the clocks were going to change. So I awoke pretty pleased with myself.Today, I set out doing the same thing I did yesterday: go out and read 61 pages of Kafka in German, whilst moving my mouth slightly and sometimes reading aloud the German so the rhythms would make sense. I found a place, but I only stayed there for a bit. Then moved on to what I think might be the poshest caff in Clapton, all white, the cash register was an iPad. Yeah, that kind of place. I found myself, very unhelpfully, working on a writing project that I am not going to tell you about yet. Because I’m coy like that.

I just wanted to find a place to read Kafka in where they wouldn’t think I was a mental.

Then, as I decided to go back home, I found a bookshop. Not just a bookshop. A proper one, with seats downstairs and a dog (who wasn’t there today but will be there in the future). This will be a hangout. If nothing else. I bought some books. I tried to argue back to myself how that would be a good thing, not a bad thing, since these were books I needed for my course anyway. Also, I smell books. Deal with it. MORE INFO: and especially: Somehow, old Penguin Pockets, the weather-beaten paperback ones, smell wonderfully. I picked up Lady Chatterley’s Lover, thought of Larkin, and inhaled.

I’m going to leave you with that image. Much love,

Saturday 19 October 2013

19th October 2013 - Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Life, like all things in life, is a balancing act.

No, wait. I got that wrong.

Life, like all balancing acts, is really difficult.

There, that's what I basically mean to say. Now, if you care to read on, I'll be saying fundamentally the same thing. Be warned. I might remove this later on. It's a bit honest, and I don't want to endanger my position within UCL, UCLU or the comedy community by moaning about being... well, just read it.

The last time I blogged properly, I was in the Induction week. I went to a couple of induction events- for Master's students, for my own MA, gatecrashed one in the Dutch department. It's a blessing I don't drink, otherwise I might have been constantly -slightly sozzled-. It's difficult enough for me not to make a knob of myself when I'm sober.

On the level of Student Union things, I was successful to a degree that I didn't expected. I got into a Fresher's Play called Love and Money (reviewed for the UCL Union paper here:, I started working with UCLU Comedy Club, doing improv and, just once so far, Sketch. Auditions for the Fresher's Plays were on the Friday. I was at UCL anyway, so I chose to rock up. The recalls were on the Sunday. I spent a long time there, auditioning for different roles, with different people. But, having just moved into my more long-term accommodation (in Hackney. It's very nice, thank you very much), I wanted to spend as much time as I could actually doing stuff.

For the next bit of information to work, I have to explain something first. My laptop, trusty since January 2010, is at death's door. I can't use it for 5 minutes without it suddenly freezing, usually necessitating a reboot. This meant I was at a disadvantage with regards to choosing optional modules. I could only do it on Uni computers. I could only access those when I was there and I'd usually have to wait AGES for one to be free. This also meant convening with the MA conveners frequently. For instance, I found a course I really wanted to do. I went to the people involved and got it sorted. Then, the next day, I found out that the first seminar had been and gone on Monday afternoon. I don't know about you, but doing an 8000 pound MA, I refuse to miss a single session. So that one went. Additionally, I found out that the seminar I'd chosen for the second term was actually being taught in the first, luckily, on Friday. I was moved into the course, but only got a tentative OK, because I was actually one student too much for the course, officially. This had then also be taken care of, by me. Also, I had successfully auditioned for Love and Money. Myself and Annie Hawkins had a difficult duologue to do. My brain, unfortunately, was slightly buzzing with everything, so I lost quite some sleep over it, by learning, relearning and relearning it again when I messed up. Also, I had to register with a GP and a bank. The bank was all right, but despite repeated visits to the GP, they have refused to register me. I cannot register at the UCL GP, because I live too far out of the way. I initially couldn't register because I didn't have my NHS number to hand. I phoned the Sussex University Health Centre (where I was registered in 2010) who refused to give me my number unless I went to Brighton and show up with my passport otherwise they wouldn't give it. Now, I am yet to register proper after 3 visits and finding the practised closed on two separate occasions. I also had promised my friend Alexander Bennett that I'd come to see the first night of This Is Not A Cult, the new comedy night he's doing at the Camden Head. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but I was on edge and couldn't get to sleep afterwards. My first stand-up gig, at Pearshaped in Fitzrovia was scheduled the day after. I was inordinately stressed out over it. Even though I enjoyed it thoroughly, again, I barely slept. Also, the registering at UCL kept on throwing me curve balls, like the message that I was supposed to pay half of my tuition fees before the end of the month. Because my MA is funded by the Dutch government, I only get my tuition fee loan on a monthly basis. Result: all out panic. The next day I had a chat with someone from the Registry, we made an appointment about the paying of the tuition fee. The Dutch government itself, was being difficult and I needed to write them asap. The first week of term, therefore, was slightly manic. And when I say 'slightly', I mean massively. I was already tired from moving country, which is an intense thing in itself. I hadn't really recovered from Edinburgh, nor from the 3 weeks in Holland I spent trying to move country. Sigh.

And that was only the first week.

I enjoyed doing Love and Money, but I was stressed out to a ridiculous degree and it might have been better not to do it in the end. But I couldn't have foreseen this. I still have to buy a bicycle, because I spent 2 pounds 80 a day travelling by bus to and back from UCL, which is about 2,5 hrs on the whole. Usually there are problems with the bus or on the route, which means longer waiting times and additional walking to UCL from the middle of Camden or home from the middle of Stamford Hill. I can't relax on the bus, due to too many people crowding in and me being in general stressed out and therefore anxious of others. Which isn't fun.

The weeks after weren't much less stressful. In the second week of term I did a gig in Brighton with Nigel Lovell and Alex Kealy. The trip was fun, the gig was hard work. I met some friends who saw I was as stressed out as I was and rightly told me this was not the reason I moved to this country. It wasn't. Tuesday to Thursday I spent reading Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann. I thought by just reading a novel and staying inside, I'd be able to chill out a bit. No such luck. Although I did really enjoy the book, it was a weight on my shoulders. If I had known I'd be doing this module in the summer I could have read it then. Now I had 3 full days to read all 600 pages in one massive Mann-based binge. Good as it was, I got slight cabin fever, my brain fizzing constantly with the things I still needed to take care of.

On the whole, whenever I managed to take care of an issue, this didn't manage to reduce my stress levels about that issue. Everything that made me anxious and I couldn't deal with just became a heavier weight on my shoulders. I didn't feel relieved after those stressful aspects of life had been taken away. It just became worse.

What I then do, is knuckle down and do more. The only way to escape feeling anxious and stressed out is, essentially, doing more and finding more specific rest-moments. For instance, I learnt from the Love and Money-experience and didn't do the recall for a production of Woyzeck for this reason. On the Sunday, I met up with friends from Sussex in Soho. We had a nice chat over coffee and cake, after finding with difficulty the place where they were, after taking care of more uni-business at UCL. I felt anxious, and disappointed in the way I acted. I wasn't a dick to them, but I just didn't really feel like myself. That I'm sorry about. The day after, I had another gig, which was inordinately stressful. I tried to hide in the performance space before the lights were on and people came in. I was politely shown the door, until I could go back to do the gig. This was another comic-heavy gig, so people didn't really listen. Understandably, they had their own material to think of. The audience that was there preferred homophobic, racist and misogynist stuff anyway. So I didn't succeed, really.

The day after that, there was a change. I didn't have a 600-page novel to read, so the only way I could rage at myself is for sleeping too late, because I can't get to sleep at night, or for not eating enough. I am currently involved in running a stand-up comedy workshop with UCLU Comedy Club. It's a friendly, no-stress environment where students can come and try material out on a nice crowd. I enjoyed this a great deal and I'm looking forward to the next one. And every one in the near future. I find it difficult to try material in circuit gigs, since they tend to require punchy, jokey stuff straightaway. And I'm rambly at the best of times. When I'm tired it's even worse.

Thursday, my friend Jane, who had come down from Scotland, was in London. We met up at Goodge st. Station, in the middle of a teacher demonstration. I find it difficult when I really want to support something but can't -or won't. I'm not good with crowds. What I do is pat someone on the shoulder and tell them I support their cause. Yeah, I know. What a dick.

Then Jane came out of the station. We spent an hour sitting in an inner city garden talking about our lives since the Edinburgh Festival. We've both had a pretty rough time. She then proceeded to take me around London. In Soho, I somehow managed to get us really cheap tickets for Matilda, that night. We had a great lunch, a great dinner (all vegan. I feel bad about eating meat per sé, it's worse when I'm anxious like I am now) and some high quality convo. We've known each other for more than 4 years now, and we've remained friends ever since. After the show (which. Was. A. Mazing) we said our goodbyes and promised one another to take life at a more leisurely pace from now on.

Jane has a Poetry Pamphlet out. It's called Short Term Parking. Buy it. Watch her here:

After an enjoyable seminar, I attempted to buy a phone. I didn't succeed. This will be turned into a bit, because it's beyond Kafka.

In short: Life has been ultra-eventful. I, for my part, am broken. I need to find a way in which I don't hate myself for being lazy but also one in which I don't hate myself for doing to much (and failing). There is also the notion of not burning out, which I need to take seriously. As a result, I've taken today off. Tomorrow, I'm reading a book on Translation studies and doing a gig at Brand Spanking Comedy in Chelsea. I'll also try to add to the Gig list. I'm still looking for gigs. Preferably nice ones. In the next week, I will try to sort myself out, as my life (hopefully) becomes more and more sorted out too.

Life is a balancing act. The past three weeks have been among the most stressful I've had over the past couple of years. But I hope to one day find a golden median where I don't hate myself (as much) and I actually have the energy to enjoy a full life. I don't at the moment, but any kind of compromise feels like failure. Ah well. As Jane always says: Keep on keeping on. That's what I'll do then.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

28th September 2013 - HACKNEY - Done or suitable for doing by a drudge - UPDATED GIG LIST!


This is just to let you know that the gig list is updated. JUST LOOK AT IT! That's pretty healthy. If you want me to do your gig, let me know asap. Also: I'm in a play over the weekend called Love and Money. It's good. Come.
Now, I'm off to the library for some French literature and tonight I'll be seeing Alexander Bennett's THIS IS NOT A CULT- show. Please come too.

More info on the last couple of days when I have time and energy. x