Do you know who I think I am?
First class storyteller and raconteur.
Over the last decade I’ve been a designer, a comedian, a writer, a storyteller, an animator, a broadcaster and even once a televised poker player. I spent eight years as a standup comedian gigging around the country and visiting the Edinburgh Fringe six times. I am now trying to be a writer and am writing a second (or maybe third) first novel.
I moved to London on 11th September 2001 (Yes, that day – the streets were quieter than I’d anticipated) to join the Soho Theatre’s Young Writers Programme. Back then I had the serious yearnings of being a serious playwright, but soon found out that all my colleagues wanted to write about rape and incest and so my two man play about someone needing a fag break wasn’t quite dark enough. In that time I did write a short play that was performed at a reading there, I have just unearthed it – it’s called Japan At Night and takes place in the half-time of a World Cup football match.
I saw some proper standup for the first time and got hooked, comedy was slowly starting to call and I tried to come up with an idea for a show that might go to Edinburgh about trying to become a celebrity. That morphed into a four-hander sketch show Insert Punchline Here, which, although hardly like anything that came after, got me to the fringe and the Gilded Balloon in 2003. I was well and truly infected by the comedy bug and when back in London booked my first standup gig at The Kings Head in Crouch End. It went ok and I schlepped on to the open mic comedy circuit, even getting to the final of the (impressive at the time) 2005 Laughing Horse New Act of the Year. I didn’t place.
ONE OF A GENERATION OF YOUNG, ARTICULATE POST LEE & HERRING COMICS.THE GUARDIAN
Gigging was fun, but I always thought that my type of comedy (along with a lot of my cohorts) never really fitted into the above a pub drunk late night mould of modern standup. I’d always wanted to emulate the New York anti-folk scene, after hearing about Jeffrey Lewis doing music gigs in a New York laundromat. My ideas often wither on the vine, but in Edinburgh 2006 I met Tom Searle and after a nice cup of tea laughterinoddplaces was born. We ran gigs in libraries, record shops, Hampstead Heaths, Bruce Dessau’s house and did three mega shows at the Museum of London before calling it a day. I wrote up a script for tv people of a weird meta standup show (this is back when standup was uncool and not on telly) and in an alternate universe somewhere this happened and Live at the Apollo didn’t.
In 2007 I was back in Edinburgh for my third solo show, Missed Connections, which got me nominations for the annual Chortle Awards in Breakthrough act, Best Show and Innovation in Comedy (for laughterinoddplaces).
As I’m prone to not make my life easy I illustrated these shows and animated segments to play out whilst I waffled on. And this is where my new path for design really began. I taught myself everything in a haze of needing it sorted for a deadline of a show and would just have to work out how to work it out.
SAUNDERS’ ALAN BENNETT-ESQUE TALENT FOR FINDING BEAUTY IN EVERYDAY LIFE…ENCOURAGES US TO ALSO LOOK AT OUR SURROUNDINGS WITH A NEW SENSE OF WONDERMENT.
In 2008 I had my own Radio 4 show, a one-off story called Dad Designs, in which I wished Kevin McCloud was my dad, and he agreed. I also appeared on 28 Acts in 28 Minutes, The Verb, Out To Lunch, have been on 6music and wrote for The Now Show a few times as well as (somewhat weirdly) children’s BBC coverage for Formula One. As it happens I’m a huge F1 fan (for an inexplicable reason I’ve never quite managed to fathom) and have used this geekery to work as a sometime pundit on BBC fivelive’s F1 coverage, sit in an actual F1 car and talke part in a mildly successful For F1’s Sake podcast.
I played “Two” in the Ministry Of Stories (a bloody excellent story workshop and Monster supply store in Hoxton that I implore you to check out) for a cbeebies podcast.
Also on the radio route me and Tom Bell used to be the “Indie Cops” on Resonance FM, it was a fun mostly made-up-on-the-spot-because-we-got-there-late show that involved indie music and crime fighting.
I’ve always wanted to write a novel, like proper actual people do. I tried to do one when I was about 19, but as you can probably imagine it was an embarrassing mess. I read an interview somewhere once where someone (forget who – fascinating anecdote this) said you can’t write a novel until you are thirty. So I held off and on my thirtieth birthday in January 2010 I started one. After four drafts and a lot of red penmanship I had an embarrassing mess of a 100,000 word manuscript. But the (often painful) process of writing it has led me study an MA in Creative Writing where I a wrote a second (maybe third) first novel. Hopefully this will be a space to watch and this second (third) novel will become my bona fide first novel and then I might go back to the first (second) and make it the second (second).
a great knack for elevating the mundane minutiae of life into something much lovelier.
I carried on doing standup at gigs, festivals, talks, little tours and my own shows but wound it all up at the Bloomsbury Theatre in November 2011 (I wish I could say it was a Terry Saunders testimonial/tribute – but it was actually a benefit for Resonance).
I milled about for a bit and even dipped my toe into doing extra work where I had two jobs, one of which was Skyfall and I’m actually in it and you can see my face acting shocked when Q gets hacked and everything.
And then somehow I found myself back in the ‘real’ world and by fluke or chance it seems I’d taught myself so much Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects that I’m now a designer doing actual work. The comedy background also helps with copywriting and generally being droll.
So, after years of introducing myself as a comedian I don’t know what I call myself, designer sometimes, animator on others. Maybe one day I’ll be able legitimately to say novelist at some point in the future, but until then I’m just some bloke that’s done stuff.
And that’ll do me nicely.