Wednesday 6th March 2013Exactly what I'm doing and how you can help
Here's where we're up to.
First of all, an exciting new aspect to the whole project: My author pal Lee "Budgie" Barnett, who some of you may know as the guy who does the Fast Fiction Challenges (give him a title and a spare word to include in the text and he writes a 200 word short story RIGHT THEN) has his own Comic Relief project; he's going to write 24 SHORT STORIES IN 24 HOURS.
We've decided to combine our efforts and so while I'm trying to write and record an album from scratch in one day, Budgie will be trying to write a short story anthology from scratch in one day IN THE SAME ROOM. I hope he has some decent headphones.
You can read up on (and contribute to) Budgie's project here, and feel free to boggle at some of the famous authors he's persuaded to come up with the story titles for him (name dropper).
The venue where all this lunacy will take place is: The Vineyard Community Centre, The Vineyard, Richmond TW10 6AQ.
We'll be starting at 12.30pm on Friday 15th and working through to 12.30 the next day - I know I originally said 9am, but on reflection it occurred to me that the bits people are actually going to want to WATCH are the start and finish line, and one way or another anyone who's up at 9am on a Friday generally has stuff to do...
The whole thing will be live streamed right here at mitchbenn.com.
NOW, there are some favours I'm going to need, and any help would be much appreciated.
SUPPORT CREW - I have a couple of friends and relatives who've already volunteered to pitch in but obviously nobody's available to help for the whole time - life goes on, etc. I'm going to need a couple of spare bodies around to keep an eye on things, make coffee, welcome such people as might turn up to watch, make coffee, make sure the video stream's working, make coffee...
If any of you are able and willing to get to Richmond for any part of that 24 hour period, please drop me an email at email@example.com and introduce yourselves.
BITS AND PIECES - I have pretty much everything I need technically but there are a few bits and bobs which would make life easier. I could really do with borrowing the following items:
One guitar stand (i've got two; gonna need three)
A sustain pedal for my MIDI keyboard (I'm such a ropey keyboard player I've never felt the need to get one, but if - as may come to pass - I get one of my Actual Keyboard Player friends to overdub my dreadful clonking in the later stages, I should at least have a sustain pedal handy for them to use).
and the big one:
A DECENT BASS GUITAR. The one I've got is pretty beat up and buzzes a bit - it's adequate for my usual needs but I feel I should at least use a noise-free bass for a recording I'm actually going to be selling. Anyone got one I could borrow for a day?
The album will, as previously announced, be available for download from my online music store as soon as possible on Saturday 16th, but you can sponsor me right now if you like.
Finally, as if I didn't have enough going on, I've become a TWITTER MILLION TEAM CAPTAIN. This is a combined Twitter-based effort to raise a million quid by getting celebrity Team Captains (and me) to rally people under their respective banners to raise at least £50 each. If you're doing something for Red Nose Day - or thinking about it - then please add your project to my Twitter Million team.
Friday 8th February 2013Making the biggest rod for my own back yet
MY PLAN FOR COMIC RELIEF IS AS FOLLOWS.
I'm going to ATTEMPT to write and record a whole album of comic songs in twenty-four hours, starting at 9am on Red Nose Day (March 15th) and working through the night, delivering the finished product at 9am on Saturday 16th. It should be available for download shortly thereafter.
That's about as far as I've got with the plan... I'm worklng on the logistical end of it right now and I'll update as soon as I have more details.
I'm going to be working in an open space so people can come and watch if they like - although it may be a rather disappointing spectacle, consisting as it will of me staring at my iMac, frowning and drinking coffee - and I'll find a way of live-streaming a webcam feed so the whole thing will be visible online (note to self; DON'T PICK YOUR NOSE).
I have a possible venue in mind already but it's not confirmed yet; meanwhile if you know of anywhere I could do this feel free to tell me about it. The stipulations would be: MUST have wifi, must be insured to have punters coming in and if at all possible should be somewhere within the Richmond/Kingston nexus (I'd like to be close to home if only so I don't have to get up at 6am in order to start at 9).
Once the album's finished I'll upload it to my online music store and obviously all proceeds from download sales will go to Comic Relief. There'll be other ways of raising money with the project; I might get people to sponsor me by the hour and maybe also take cash pledges in return for people giving me ideas and suggestions to work from.
Which leads me to this:
The BIG question - and one which I'd love to hear your ideas on - is this: How do I prove that I'm doing it for real? How do I demonstrate that I'm not just recording stuff which I've "written" previously and memorised?
Those of you who've seen me live will probably have seen me do That Thing I Do where I get suggestions from the audience at the end of part one, write something quickly during the interval and play it at the start of part two. What we need is some way - some VERIFIABLE way - of opening that process up to the public. What I'll need is either enough suggestions for at least ten songs (the album has to come in at over 30 minutes - whether this means ten three minute songs or twelve two and a half minute songs I'll likely decide on the day) or maybe ten/twelve suggested song TITLES. I'll need some way of moderating this so that I can prove that I don't see those suggestions/titles UNTIL 9am ON THE DAY. Any thoughts you might have as to how I can achieve this, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org...
This isn't a BBC project - so far, they're welcome to jump on board if they like - it's just a ME thing so far. As regards musicians helping out; I'll be playing all the guitars and bass and programming the drums (nae offence Ives, it'll just be quicker that way) but may bring someone in to overdub my crappy keyboard playing in the later stages.
Unless of course there are musicians out there who fancy the idea of rocking up at about 5am to contribute a few licks... God knows there are enough rock stars knocking around in Richmond Upon Thames...
There's even a possibilty of extending the concept to include another challenge, involving something other than music, but I'll be announcing that a bit later...
So that's the plan. Best thing to do is follow me on Twitter (@MitchBenn) for updates, but since most of you will have followed the Twitter link to get here, you know that already...
Meanwhile, seeing as you're here...
MY TOUR'S UP AND RUNNING. Leicester tonight and Barton-On-Humber tomorrow. Since there aren't many midlands/northern gigs on this year's schedule (I know, I know, but as I've explained before it's NOT UP TO ME) I suggest if you're within range of either or both of those DO check 'em out as they may be the only gigs you ARE in range of.
Wednesday 13th June 2012
I'm addressing myself now principally to those of you within striking distance of Ham in SW London (where we live) and in particular those of you who are less than obsessed with football.
I myself, as many of you know, am broadly indifferent to football which in this instance is a bit of a bugger as were I NOT indifferent to football I might have known thought to consult the Euro 2012 schedule when programming THIS, the latest in our (heretofore) highly successful series of fundraising comedy gigs at (and in aid of) my kids' school here in Ham.
The night in question, next Tuesday (June 19th) is, I now discover, the night on which England will play their final group match of the Euros; that is to say, the final match they're guaranteed to play, and, if they play the way they usually do on such occasions, the match which will determine whether they get any more matches. It is, in other words, a Big Deal if you like that sort of thing, and a lot of people do.
The usual roster of friends and neighbours who have packed out every previous school comedy night are, as such, proving a little thinner on the ground on this occasion, and fair play to 'em, but it leaves me in a bit of a spot.
The school's worried that attendance will be so low it'll end up losing money on the show which is a bit of a bummer for a fundraising gig. There doesn't appear to be another night I could re-schedule it to (and I'd probably lose the acts in the process, of which more in a minute) so it's basically a question of do we pull it or don't we.
I REALLY DON'T WANT TO PULL IT. I know that football means a lot to people but I also know that there are MANY people who either ignore it when it's on or indeed seek refuge from it, and it's to these people I'm appealing. I'm know there are enough of you within range of this gig to pack it out and I also know you'll have a great time if you come along.
In particular the bill I've got lined up is truly spectacular; I'm MCing, but never mind that, we not only have the delightful Carly Smallman and the terrifyingly cool Nathan Caton, we also have the genuinely legendary BOOTHBY GRAFFOE. I'm SO pleased Boothby agreed to do this (I've been desperately trying to get him on The Distraction Club all year but we haven't managed to make it work yet). The word "genius" gets slung around a lot in comedy, generally without justification but in Boothby's case it barely covers it. He is one of the finest live comedians this country's ever produced and if you haven't heard of him that speaks more to the vagaries, caprices and tortured politics of the comedy business than to the man's talent. Ask any comedy nerd and they'll back me up on this. Boothby's one of the greats.
And WE'VE got him; he doesn't gig that much any more so he's not that easy to see live anywhere, let alone for the ticket price we're charging.
SO HERE'S WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO; if you're free next Tuesday and you fancy seeing a bill the Comedy Store would give its eye teeth to put on at about a third of what it costs to GO to the Comedy Store, then please click on the tickets link or call the school (0208 940 7911) to book tickets RIGHT AWAY. If I can get a big enough block of tickets shifted in the next day or so to allay their fears that this one's gonna be empty, then we can go ahead as planned.
Don't miss this opportunity to see a terrific bill in a friendly place and at a knock-down price - and help me out in the process...
BTW Ham is a bit out of the way but it's an early start (7.45; EXACTLY the same kick off as the football *facepalm*) so we'll be done easily in time to catch buses and tubes home. If you need any clues as to how to get to and from the venue mail me at email@example.com
Sunday 9th October 2011
Realise this blog isn't anything as like as busy as it used to be; I'm guessing the reason no-one's complaining much is that you're all following me on Twitter anyway. Thing is, occasionally I have something to say to you all (and indeed to y'all) which needs more than 140 characters or even one of those annoying sequences of 140 character bursts, and this is such an occasion so Your Attention Please...
Through no fault of anyone in particular, a bit of a crisis has arisen in my affairs - those of you who are now devotees of The Distraction Club (and scarcely have devotees been more devoté) will have figured out that its usual First Tuesday Of The Month pattern will bring the club back to The Phoenix on Tuesday November 1st.
The TROUBLE is that, just four days later on Saturday November 5th, we (that is to say the band and I) are doing our once-yearly Big Deal London show at the Bloomsbury.
I'm coming under a LOT of pressure to cancel the Distraction Club. I'd really rather not and besides which it isn't even entirely up to me. The Club is jointly organised by the three band members and our pal Matt Blair; the most I could do unilaterally would be to pull out of that Tuesday's D-Club show and leave them to muddle through without me. While I have no doubt that they COULD muddle through without me, I can't help feeling that this wouldn't help, as a Distraction Club sans me is every bit as likely or unlilkely to impinge upon the box office for the Bloomsbury gig as one WITH me (if nothing else because I'm not sure how clear we could make my non-involvement to prospective club-goers).
My own take on it is that I'm not convinced that The Distraction Club going ahead on the Tuesday WILL massively impact on attendance at the Bloomsbury on the Saturday, but obviously I can't prove this from here and hence the pressure being brought to bear upon me right now.
Which is where you guys come in.
The only way I can calm everybody down and proceed as normal will be if everyone who is CONTEMPLATING buying tickets for the Bloomsbury show does so AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Here's the link to the ticket site. Did you get that? Just in case, here it is again.
If I can get enough people to pre-book for the Bloomsbury show as to assuage the anxieties currently being rather forcefully expressed to me, then maybe I can go ahead with the Distraction Club as planned WITHOUT spending the next however many months having to avoid people.
There is an additional problemette; the date of the Bloomsbury show is not just November 5th, it's SATURDAY November 5th. As my limey readers will know (and I'm guessing that's most of you) the big November firework displays are always on either the 5th itself or on the Saturday nearest to the 5th and this is BOTH. I appreciate this might make that night a complete write-off for anyone with kids (or indeed anyone who like fireworks, and who doesn't). I reckon that if we DO get a poor turnout for the Bloomsbury show it'll be at least as much down to this factor as to anything else I'm doing that week, but human nature being what it is I know I'm going to have a hard time convincing anyone of this. So if you would have liked to come to the Bloomsbury show but can't because of firework commitments, could you do me a favour and email me to tell me so? I may need some testimonials. Only if that REALLY is the case, mind you. Don't make stuff up, I'll know...
Hey, that wasn't so hard. Maybe I'll try to blog on a more regular basis again. As you were...
Friday 18th February 2011
Two new projects!
Firstly, I've started a new podcast!
I'm quite pleased with how quickly I've managed to get this together; literally a few days ago I thought it might be fun to start a podcast showcasing the work of newish or jobbing comic songwriters; I put the word out on Twitter that i was lookng for submissions and within about 48 hours I had enough for two or three shows. Fantastic.
The podcast itself is up here and should turn up on iTunes in due course; meanwhile if you or someone you know have some funny songs you'd lie to me consider including, there are a couple of stipulations:
You MUST own the copyright in the song, or have the EXPRESS permission of whoever does own the copyright. And if the copyright is split between more than one person - if there are co-writers, or if the writer has a publishing deal - ALL interested parties must give their consent to my using the song. This also means I can't play any Weird Al-style reworded versions of other people's hits. Tune and words have to be original.
There's no minimum recording standard; if the song's good enough I'm happy to play it even if the sound quality's a bit ropey.
We're not on the radio now, so sweariness is not really an issue.
There's no money in this, for me or anyone else. The idea is for comic songwriters to get their work out there to (I hope) a decent online audience.
Send mp3s - or links to where I can get mp3s - to firstname.lastname@example.org
Good that's that. And now the other thing:
Starting on April 5 I and my pals The Distractions will be hosting a regular evening of music and comedy at The Phoenix in Cavendish Square, London. The club will be called Sing When You're Grinning and I'm just sorting out the line-up for the first show. I'll put details up here as & when. I'm really excited about this as it's something I've been contemplating for quite some time and it's great that it's going ahead.
Right, if I'm about to generate some traffic onto this site for the first time in months I'd better update my giglist...
Saturday 2nd October 2010Rallying the twoops
Ok, here's the plan.
Anyone who wants to help out with and/or be in the video for my new single PROUD OF THE BBC should turn up in front of BBC Broadcasting House tomorrow (Sunday 3rd) at 11am.
If you're not sure where that is, it's here. Nearest tubes are Oxford Circus and Regent's Park.
The plan is to shoot in front of BH for a couple of hours (or until they tell us to bugger off) and then move on to BBC TV in White City for some time after lunch (probably 2 or 3pm - sorry I can't be more precise but that's the nature of guerilla film-making).
I'm sorry but I can't pay anyone's transport costs or even buy you lunch (I could offer to do so if I knew for a fact that only three of you were coming but if I make that promise now and 200 of you turn up I'm going to look a bit stupid. And poor); this is strictly a for-laughs deal I'm afraid, but I'm hoping it'll be a fun day and produce something worthwhile.
There's no age-limit either way but if you are thinking of bringing kids along do bear in mind how much standing around doing nothing there is on a film shoot. Also it goes without saying that anyone who's normally your responsibility to look after is STILL your responsibility... MY kids will be there so who knows they may form a little gang...
We're hoping to create a cross-section-of-the-public effect so if you have any sort of work clothes or uniform it might help if you wore that (sorry if the idea of wearing your work clothes on a Sunday offends you). Similarly if you have a particular "look" (Goth, Metalhead, Hip-Hop etc.) feel free to give it full expression.
While I'm here I should give you a bit of background as to the song itself, so you know what you're getting involved with.
As most of you know, I've been doing work for the BBC for a decade or so, but I've been a staunch supporter and fan of the Corporation since long before I ever had any connection to it, and I get quite nervous - and more than a little angry - when the knives come out for the BBC, as they very much have been of late. It's particularly annoying since the Beeb, as a public service broadcaster which is (in effect if not strictly technically) more or less publically funded, is never in a position to defend itself, even against its most partisan critics.
So I thought I'd write something which expresses how I feel, and how I believe a fair majority of the British public feel, not that you'd ever know it from reading the papers (who, needless to say, have their own entirely selfish reasons for wanting rid of the BBC). I wrote this song, Proud Of The BBC, and we've been doing it on our current tour. The response the song's been getting has taken me completely by surprise (standing ovations, people wiping away tears) and I've realised I may actually have started a bit of a "movement" here, so we've decided the song has to come out as a single, and that means making a video.
I might add that all this has been decided in the space of the last week or so, hence the panic and disorganisation, but that's how I roll, generally speaking...
Just thought I'd better fill you in on all that; so if you feel how I feel, that the BBC, while imperfect, is one of the things that makes life in Britain bearable and occasionally wonderful, and that it needs to be celebrated and defended, then I'll see you tomorrow morning.
Oh yeah - bring brollies. Weather looks perfidious but that's ok; there's even a line in the song about lousy British weather.
Monday 19th April 2010
The kind of apology I ought to make for the extraordinary length of time that's elapsed since my last entry (no, don't scroll down and check the date, I'm so ashamed... oh too late) will frankly a. take all night and b. completely ruin the mood, so can we just take it as read that I'm sorry?
You want to hear me say it, don't you. Fine.
I'M SORRY. There. Happy now?
There are of course all sorts of reasons and excuses for why I've been away for so long, some more valid than others; I'm currently feeling Not Altogether Well for the second time in about six weeks, which truly sucks and is NOT like me.
I've also been beavering away at a composition job; it's a pitch, an audition if you will, for a project I may well not get but it was so interesting having to raise my game and take some actual TIME over something (I had six weeks to work with rather than my customary 36 hours and/or 15 minutes that it'll still have been worthwhile even if I don't. Not AS worthwhile, but worthwhile *crosses fingers, fdinds itg imopdssioble tyo tpyoe wiutyh foinghers croisdsed, uncxroisses tyhem. Phew*
Anyway, now I'm back and I promise I'll try to keep this place a bit more up to date (look! I updated the gigs page and everything!). iPhone-based blogging is intermittently successful, so whenever it is I'll try to hammer one out with those RIDICULOUS LITTLE PRETEND KEYS (the iPhone is a gorgeous piece of kit though; look at its little homescreen blinking away, aw honey I can't stay mad at you).
Be seeing you (did you see The Prisoner on Saturday? I liked it but I can see why people didn't. And leading into it with Britain's Got Talent was just plain cruel; any BGT viewer who stuck around for The Pris would have had a nosebleed in five minutes and an aneurysm in ten).
Monday 8th February 2010Rob the WebGenius to the rescue
I did post at some point last year that one reason I was going to get an iPhone if they ever became available on Orange (which they did in November) would be in order to gain the facility to update this blog from wherever I might happen to be and whenever inspiration struck, rather than waiting till I got home (by which time inspiration's generally buggered off again).
The more attentive among you will recall that I acquired the iPhone in December and may have been wondering therefore why the promised restoration of my blogging mojo has yet to kick in.
Well, as it transpired, even with the iPhone running proper full-size Safari (though I notice sites with "mobile" modes generally default to those settings) I couldn't get the phone to co-operate with my own site.
Some sort of Cookies-related issue, apparently, or perhaps a rare and unforseeable conflict between the phone's security systems and those of the site... In any event, Rob the Webgenius got on it, and after a couple of attempts he's got it up and running. Sort of.
I can now create and update entries on this page and the news page, but only by writing in basic HTML. The only real effect this has on me is that I can't just use the return key to create a new paragraph; I have to type... well I can't actually tell you what I type, 'cos if I type it you won't see it; we'll just start a new paragraph in the middle of a sentence for no apparent reason.
The only other factor mitigating against my use of the iPhone to post regular blog entries is the fiddliness of its virtual keyboard. I've been using it for a couple of months and I actually seem to be getting worse. What you've read do far in this blog entry has taken me about half an hour.
But, it's good to know that this facility is here if I ever have something immediate or urgent to tell you. Although if I ever have anything urgent and lengthy to tell you, I think I'll wait till I'm back with the iMac.
Friday 8th January 2010
Rrright, first of all, it turns out that as it stands I CAN'T blog with the new iPhone. Not yet anyway. Some sort of cookies-related issue; Rob the webgenius is investigating as we speak.
What this means in the immediate term is that far from it suddenly becoming possible to update this blog on the move, I'm still stuck with updating it from my home iMac, which is a bummer since the very fact of my BEING at home usually means there's a dozen other things need doing.
And as those of you who follow my adventures via Twitter or other means (whatever those might be; actually that's quite a disturbing thought... let's move on) will know. December DIDN'T turn out to be relaxing and laid-back after the lunacy of the ongoing tour/two or three concurrent PR campaigns/semi-regular TV spot scenario of the autumn. It was all pretty enjoyable stuff but by 'eck there were a lot of it.
Oh yeah. I've got an iPhone, as you may have noticed in the first paragraph. It's a hoot, quite frankly. I keep discovering more things it does. I think my favourite of its more obvious functions is its ability to be an on-line iPod, so while at home (or anywhere else I can get a WiFi signal) I can listen to all the BBC iPlayer's radio content.
I'm waffling, aren't I?
It's almost as if I'm avoiding a topic or something.
Bollocks; ok, I weighed myself for the first time in over two months and I've put on about a stone and a half. I'm now somewhere just under 23 stone (the digital scales vacillated between 23 dead on and 22 10-ish). While this is annoying it's nowhere near as bad as I'd feared it might have been; the main reason I'd been avoiding checking all this time is that I'd been afraid to look. I'm an utter moral coward where my weight problem is concerned which was, after all, the main reason for "going public" with it on this blog in the first place.
In any event I'm not going to let it get me down; I'm still about two stone less than when I started the weight blog 18 months ago and I'm re-committing myself to the project wholeheartedly. We've even got a Wii Fit. I'm still too heavy to USE it of course, but we've got the bloody thing, and if nothing else GETTING down within its tolerance limit (think I'm only a few pounds over) is a nicely concrete initial goal to set myself.
Friday 4th December 2009
It's that time again and so I thought I'd re-post the reading I made last year of the whole of Dickens's A Christmas Carol; it's in five "staves" (as in the book) - you can download 'em all at once or serialise it for yourself. It's on the podcasts page.
(While I'm here, many of you have been asking if I'm going to do any more podcasts; the answer is probably not in the same format as the ones I used to post, but I'm working on a whole new podcast format which I hope to kick off in the New Year - stay tuned etc.)
Sorry if it seems a bit cheeky of me to offer you last year's Christmas present all over again; I'm sure there are those among you who've only become aware of me in the last twelve months and won't have heard the reading yet, so it's "new" to you guys.
Meanwhile so the rest of you don't feel cheated here's just a little something I know none of you will have seen yet; it's a bit I wrote for The Now Show Book Of World Records which didn't make the final cut, for one reason or another. My money's on "another"; you'll see why when you read it.
MOST POPULAR BOOK
The most popular book ever written is THE BIBLE (God & various contributors, 6006BC-AD34). It has been translated into every known language and several unknown ones. It has been reprinted more times than any other published work and has outsold all other books put together. Despite all this, there is no record of God ever having claimed any royalty payments (although it is understood that the Vatican bank is holding onto all God's unpaid residuals “just in case”).
The Bible can, broadly speaking, be split into two distinct halves: The Old Testament and The New Testament. The Old Testament tells the story of how God subjects his chosen people the Jews to thousands of years of slavery, bondage, exile and misery in order to prove to them that he loves them best.
The New Testament (original title GOD II: THIS TIME HE'S CORPOREAL) tells of how God despatches his one true son Jesus to live among mortal men as a great moral teacher and spiritual leader before having him tortured to death and blaming the entire human race for this, even those yet unborn, in order to show how much he loves us all.
As is often the case with sequels, The New Testament was not as universally well received as its predecessor with many staunch fans of the original refusing to accept it as part of the “canon” and preferring to ignore it completely (see also Highlander II: The Quickening).
A rumoured third installment BIBLE III: REVENGE OF THE LIZARD PEOPLE has yet to materialise, although many Bible scholars regard the final section of The New Testament, Revelations, as a separate book in its own right. Revelations tells in vivid language how God will one day leave the world to suffer centuries of war, famine, anguish and torment and the thousand-year reign of the Anti-Christ, before returning to destroy the entire planet to show how he loves us so much.
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