play in music

well. it has been an inordinately long time since i have posted. sorry.

during august, every day i was performing my show at the edinburgh festival. it was the first time a show was 100% mine: writing, performing, directing. it was just me and my excellent producer lucy. funnily enough, though, one of the things i was most excited about was being in charge of the music before and after the show. it's an important decision, and one that isn't always given the requisite amount of thought. it sets the tone for the audience as they are coming in and sends them out into the world in a very specific mood. for all the penny dreadfuls' shows we have had the brilliant neil hobbs picking the tunes. and he always got it right.

but, this time, it was all up to me. how exciting. i am a phenomenal bore when it comes to music. i love it, and will never stop banging on about what i am currently listening to, be it hall and oates, ethiopian jazz, ryan adams or wynonie harris. i am the kind of douche who will usurp the stereo at a party in seconds. i will probably play good music, but you'll resent the speed at which i have taken over.

so, because my show was quite odd, i knew i had to pick songs that were a little unusual. they had to be songs that no-one else would use at the start of their show. so, the song i went for was this:

it is from the prince movie purple rain. it is a phenomenal film for two reasons. one, the music. two, it's a semi-autobiographical film and prince has written himself as an total arsehole. it's hilarious. either he has an incredible amount of self-awareness or none.

but the reason i chose this song is because of the breakdown which comes about two thirds in. it really needs the buildup in the song and is really helped if you can see the video. he really means it, that prince, doe'n't he? well, basically, that would always be the final song that played before i did my show. it's pretty intense. and i would be backstage doing all the prince moves as little warmup, trying not to sing too loudly. it's an appropriate way to set the tone for a weird show about love, i think.

and the playout music was this.


slä-pē sɛkənds

as a thursday rolls around and i realise that i have not updated my blog for a while i recall that thursdays are the days i talk about games. and then i had a wee flashback. a couple of weeks ago i was interviewed by the lovely jay richardson for (scottish arts magazine) the list. he texted me to say that he was going to ring me slightly later than agreed because he was trying to get his head round "my insane card game post". oops.

i think one is supposed to use a blog for flagrant self-promotion but, while there will be a degree of that, i don't really see the point in not actually writing about anything but oneself. there is, of course, an argument that all writing is about oneself. my counter to this is "cat sat on mat". that's definitely about a cat. (he's on a mat in a sitting position). but, regardless of its stupefying effect on comedy journos, i will plough on regardless!

so, today i will be discussing another poker variant wot i made up. i made it up years ago (probably seven) with a friend called kerri. it's called sloppy seconds and it's monstrously silly. first of all you need to know how to play poker. if you don't, go away and come back after you are basically there. second, it is a five-card draw game. we all cool? ok... you look at your five cards and decide on which two cards (and only two) that you are going to pass to the left. then you reassess and swap two with the deck. twos are wild. can you see how mental this game is already? TWO mandatory swaps of TWO cards and TWO is wild. sloppy seconds.

on new year's eve, i made everybody play a hand of this for a fiver. bruce took home £35. brilliant. stupid, yet brilliant.

and on a shameless self-promotion front: my show in edinburgh.


m to the you [sic]

hullo the interwebs,

just a quick one, really, as i need to be doing some writing for my solo show (thom tuck goes straight-to-dvd). i've performed it a few times now (not enough, according to my agent). and it's gone well. it's still monster short, so i've got lots to do.

am experimenting with some structural changes!

during the meanwhilst here are me gigs in the next wee while (april 2011):
  • the fifth : will be the third meeting of the alternative comedy memorial societ (or, the captain planet repertory theatre company). it's fun, and kevin eldon is on. tickets http://bit.ly/gUtLZ5.
  • the sixth : a bit (possibly a new bit) at the ransom club at leicester square theatre.
  • the fifteenth : a gig in a bookshop (big green books in wood green).
  • the nineteenth (a) : tiernan's mighty fat tuesday, and...
  • the nineteenth (b) : the fourth meeting of the above #ACMS.
  • the twenty first : compering for robin and partridge at one of their crazy gigs, man.
  • the twenty second : colin hoult's new adventures was a lovely gig last time. the theme this time is very exciting (i'm not sure if i'm allowed to say or not, but i'm writing something especially for it).
  • the thirtieth : my solo show. in wales! http://bit.ly/eLs9LV.
ok. go away now.



thor's day! games day!

i'm very excited to blog this. i have played a new game. and it is excellent. you should get it. it is, almost inevitably, a rio grande game. a quick google reveals them to be an american company. and they specialise in importing german games. NB, the germans are far, far better at making board games than us. this, though is designed by the wonderfully monikered donald x. vaccarino, who is american. imagine! it won the big prize at the german game awards (that is a big thing) like the excellent carcassone before it.

the name of the game is dominion and it is a deck-building game. i've never seen this sort of game engine before, and it reminded me in a way of my all-time favourite game - magic: the gathering (previous blog here). yes, i am aware of how massive a dweeb i am. now, what this actually means is that you have a deck of cards each and there are all the rest of the cards in organised piles on the table. the card types are: money, victory and kingdom cards. you buy new victory and kingdom cards with the money cards (once a turn). you use kingdom cards to do stuff (once a turn). and you use victory cards to win (count up at the end). what is fun is that you keep adding to your deck and when it is done you shuffle and deal a new hand from the deck; it is recycled again and again as you add to it and you've got to keep the balance right between the types of cards in your deck.

why is this good, then? well... the key lies in a concept called card advantage, which is a concept in magic: the gathering theory. (seriously, you have no idea how massive a loser i am). basically, the idea is that if you get to use more cards than the opposition then you will win (ceteris parabus). how does this work in dominion? good question, team. what i've neglected to say so far is what "stuff" the kingdom cards let you do. with them you can throw a card out of your deck in exchange for a different one, or force an opponent to throw a card away, or steal one from them or (and here's the good bit) draw more cards. there is nothing as powerful as drawing more cards in these kind of games. in addition, some cards let you play an extra kingdom card on your turn. if you get to draw and play another card, you are laughing. if you manage to build up a string of manoeuvres (this program says that's a mis-spelt word; it can go fuck itself) where you draw card after card and do action after action you are giggling uncontrollably while the other players wait for their turn. well, i am.

this is probably really badly explained. go buy the game.


the ACMS (or, the CPRTC)

{plug} warning {/p}

dear interwebs. today is a wednesday. wednesday is about comedy. and i have been spending an inordinate amount of my time doing admin for a new comedy night what i am doing. it is going to be bonkers. the show itself has a long and off-putting name:
The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society
(or, The Captain Planet Repertory Theatre Company)
and this is deliberate. it's not going to be a straightforward evening's entertainment. we have gone through quite a few possible taglines for the show; we need something that really communicates that this isn't your usual comedy night. we did (well, i did) consider "fresh sisyphean comedy". but noone apart from me thinks that that is funny.

when (john-) luke roberts and i first decided to amalgamate the comedy nights we were both thinking of starting in order to halve the workload, it was way back in august. we had ideas a-plenty to shove into a night, comedian friends a-plenty to do the gig but, crucially, no venue. it has taken us over six months to find a venue that is interesting and, more importantly, interested in the gig. (when i was running tom:foolery in escape bar in soho, they couldn't give a fuck with wings). so, i'm delighted to announce our partnership with the new red lion theatre in angel. it's a delightful space, well kitted out and pretty easy to get to.
the venue, at least, will be accessible!
we've now started booked (read "herding") comedians for the shows up until may. we've got some exciting people lined up. and everyone who is coming is going to try out something risky or mental or noble or all three. we've also got some regular sections:
  • will andrews has a thing on his head
  • please welcome jesus christ
  • old joke new joke
  • captain planet interactive repertory theatre
  • the musical
  • the most hilarious taste in the world
well. that's probably enough tantalising info for now. the first one is on march the eighth. get yer tickets now.
A failure! A noble failure!


a music thing.

this is a thing i meant to do years ago. i think it's amusing. i may be wrong.
basically, it's meant to create a soundtrack to that biopic movie about your
life in which you're always supposed to know who to cast.
  1. open your music library
  2. put it on shuffle
  3. press play
  4. for every question, type the song that's playing
  5. when you go to a new question, press the next button
  6. don't lie and try to pretend you are cool...
here are my results as a playlist on spotify (just about, check below for notes).

opening credits: oh, well by professor longhair
one could do much worse. i can imagine an
eighties montage style start to a movie with
this tune. incidentally, professor longhair's
band is called the shuffling hungarians.

waking up: what good am i? by tom jones
amazing! a dylan cover from the welshman's
latest album that is all about self-loathing. this
is not going to be a happy movie. sample lyric:
"what good am i? / if i say foolish things / and
i laugh in the face / of what sorrow brings". i
think, perhaps, i'm waking up on a park bench.
that has actually happened.

first day at school: hot thing by prince
erm. a little bit filthy for my schooldays. perhaps
it is a flashback dream bit where i am cooler.

falling in love: yer so bad by tom petty
"oh, yer so bad / best i've ever had". a brilliant song.
i'll leave you to make your own conclusions. suffice it
to say that my show is sort of about heartbreak.

fight song: just the way you are by billy joel
beautiful song. is it really a fight song? i'm gonna have
to question the director's decision here. unless they've
done it all slo-mo and arty. ok. i take it back. that could
be very eloquent. i hope it's a good fight.

breaking up: let's pretend we're bunny rabbits by the magnetic fields
brilliant. ill-advised break up sex. lots of it. sample lyric:
"i can keep it up all night / i can keep it up all day / let's
pretend we're bunny rabbits / until we pass away".

school ball: guess the time by king creosote
this song's only 1:08! i guess i'm not there for long. too busy being
protagonistic, i guess. [NB song not on spotify].

life's ok: asmarina (my asmara) by mulatu astatke
of course everything's ok! there's ethiopian jazz playing! although, if
old mulatu is talking about asmara, he is presumably eritrean. either
way, it's a corking tune. and you should well listen to the rest of the
ethiopiques series of records. [NB this song isn't on spotify, so the play-
list i'm assembling will include an alternate mulatu astatke song].

mental breakdown: my wandering days are over by belle & sebastian
that makes sense. i didn't live anywhere for longer than 18 months
until i was eleven. and then i lived in bangladesh for six years. i imagine
that if i do suffer a catastrophic mental collapse it will have something
to do with a sense of dislocation. but... *sniff*... don't worry about men.

driving: perhaps vampires is a bit strong but... by arctic monkeys
this works. not much to say about that fact. it's an alright song.

flashback: she's the one by the beta band
only one of the best songs ever to soundtrack MY nostalgic flashback.
it already sounds like a hallucinogenic dream sequence. soft focus please,
mr director. let child actor me pout!

getting back together: dave the butcher by tom waits
i can't help thinking that this doesn't augur well for the reconvened
relationship. it's a strange organ instrumental with banging of pots.

wedding: i feel like the mother of world by smog
"god is a word / and the argument ends there". i expect it shan't be a
church service, then. it's a lovely, lilting song that isn't on spotify... so
you should buy it. the album is called 'a river ain't too much to love'.

birth of a child: buenos aires by andrew lloyd webber (from evita)

final battle: bitch by the rolling stones
amazzles. great stuff.

death scene: buddy bradley by adam green
some mid-tempo madness from ex-moldy peach. it's alright. but i'll
be dead so don't mind.

funeral song: if i am a stranger by ryan adams
"if i am a stranger now to you / i will always be". that works doesn't
it? i am a huge adams fan, but it seems to me that his best work is
behind him. at least while he stays happy. BORING.

end credits: cousins by vampire weekend
i think this is the opening credits for 'the kids are alright'. worst bit
of the movie. but not cos of this song. this song is swell.

while making the spotify playlist, i stumbled across this. i think i might
listen to this a lot. peru? really? brilliant.


abort and adopt (a card game)

a card game what i invented. with some help from my friend lewis and some refining from my friend evil. i invented it (with the above caveats) last summer when i was living in a warehouse (read "converted office") with eight or so people. so there was always someone with whom one could have a glass of wine with at night - and play cards.

the game itself is a sort of poker variant (i've invented one in the past - the inimitable (and very stupid) "sloppy seconds": five card draw, two swaps (one with the pack, one to the left), you must swap two cards both times, twos are wild). if the previous parenthetical text is confusing, i'm sorry. you might not get the rest of this. i'm not going to explain poker here. just this version.

the game can be played by two or three players - either has its merits - but no more as there are not enough cards in the deck. (i believe that lewis has played with two decks and five players). each player has a five column layout as above... so that's one card in the first column, two in the second etc. KEY POINT: everyone forgets this, even when i tell them that everyone forgets it. you must make a poker hand (five cards) from all five columns. that's one from EACH column.

play is as follows:
  • turn over the first card (column one). examine the state of play. if betting, round one of betting is now. betting is strictly unnecessary.
  • pick up the next two cards (column two). place them back down, one face up.
  • examine the second column of the player to your left (the only other player if playing heads-up). choose one of them to be discarded, i.e. aborted. next round of betting.
  • third column. two face up. abortion. betting.
  • fourth column. two face up. (this round is called the "victorian terrace" because it is two up, two down). abortion. betting.
  • fifth column. three face up. abortion... and then... adoption. examine the third, fourth and fifth columns of the player to your right (also the only other player if heads up). take one of these cards and add it to one of your columns.
  • final round of betting. see who is the winner.
now. that makes it sound a lot more complex than it is. once you've played a couple rounds you get it. but, crucially, it is very difficult to be good at. mainly because of the baffling proliferation of options as the rounds go on.

if you do try it, let me know.



{apol reason="not posting"} deeply sorry {/apol}

tuesdays are, i rediscover, to be concerned with language. i cannot think of much pertinent to write. i have resolved, therefore, in the interests of actually writing this damoclean thing before i go out to my meeting (which should result in news) to crowbar a plug for my preview shows via some tenuous discussion of language.

to this end, i am including, in the definition of language, punctuation. i am deeply interested in punctuation. i'm not sure why. i'm sure also that you will have noticed my dogged insistence on a lack of capitalisation. there is no clear reason for it in most cases, imho. punctuation, on the other hand, is indispensible if one wants to be clearly understood. it follows that i love e. e. cummings.

the actual corollary is in performance: the pauses and beats of delivering speech on stage (or camera) are as punctuation. that is, essential to the meaning and intention of the piece.

i invite you to come and judge the meaning and intention of my performance on the 18th of february if you are in london (facebook event, theatre website), or the 27th if you are in bristol (no link yet). other dates will happen, but that's all i know for sure.

it's a show where i discuss straight-to-dvd disney movies and heartbreak.