Well, we’re off. It’s happening. 2024 is all go. People have started to frown and look disappointed when I say “Happy New Year”, and rebuke me by saying that I now need to come up with something else to say. We are passed the point of no return.
I’m having a nice one, so far. I think that might be directly connected to my uninstalling a game on my phone that was giving me a debilitating screen addiction and making me depressed, but it’s also probably to do with, I dunno, having a positive outlook and eating vegetables or something. I’m starting the year on a more confident and optimistic note than last year, that’s all I know.
Thanks to all the readers and friends who replied with updates on their Word Of The Year after last week’s Tape – some of the words people have opted for include Nurture; Commit; Emergence; Write; Strength, among others (the wonderful Charlie Vero-Martin has joined in the fun of documenting her Word on her Substack, and she makes wonderful comedy work, so pop over and give her a follow!) I hope all your Words bring you all you might wish for. As I explained last week, my Word for 2024 is Believe, so what is it I’ll be believing in this year? Well, this week I’m going to give a little run-down of what might be happening creatively in the year to come, so here goes:
Coming Up In 2024:
Reading back on the things I was forecasting for 2023 in my New Year post this time last year, I’m delighted to see that I included no fewer than three separate projects that ended up not happening (the commissioner at Radio 4 changed, so we didn’t get to make a second series of The Dream Factory, though we did then get to take it to Baby Cow and pitch it for TV, where it was also rejected); the company that made Can’t Keep A Secret didn’t have the money to produce a second series; and the film adaptation of Blink was turned down because the BBC were already working on a project about magic. Hey ho, what can you do? I enjoyed working on all of them, and they taught me loads. But I am mindful that I must go into this year with more pinches of salt and remind myself that all or none of these may end up happening, and that when I look back on this in a year’s time, I should take pride in any work I did succeed in doing on any of these, and also to reward myself for all the things I didn’t see coming.
But for the time being, here’s what I know is coming up, and what I hope might come up a little further down the line:
- Next week Miranda and I are releasing Dog House, the short film we made at the start of last year. We premiered it at Eggbox in December and got some really lovely feedback, and it’s currently in consideration at a handful of film festivals. I’m looking forward to sharing it with the world and hope you all enjoy it. Here’s a short trailer:
- Following on hopefully not too long after, the official recording of Joz Norris Is Dead. Long Live Mr Fruit Salad, my 2019 show which won the Comedians’ Choice Award for Best Show and was nominated for a Malcolm Hardee Award and a Chortle Award, will be released for free on Youtube in the next month or so. We filmed it last year with the amazing Go Faster Stripe, and I can’t wait to share it properly with a wider audience as it’s still probably my proudest work. Later in the year we’ll also be releasing the recording of my 2022 show Blink as a paid download on the Go Faster Stripe store (because you can’t give everything away for free). I love both these shows, and can’t wait for more people to discover them.
- I’m hoping to launch a bunch of audio projects this year. Alison Thea-Skot and I are hoping to start a new regular podcast after having such fun making Can’t Keep A Secret in 2022, so we’re working up a new format exploring a recent obsession of mine which Ali is justifiably sceptical of. We’re talking to a great podcast production company about it but nothing’s official yet, so I won’t say any more for now. I’m also working with Lead Mojo on a more unusual, laborious podcast project called The Happiness Chain which is a part-narrative, part-documentary comedy-philosophy podcast about the pursuit of happiness. I’ve been working on it for far too long and am waiting on some funding to help me finish it off, but with any luck that might come out in the summer. Miranda Holms and I are developing a sitcom idea called Flake as a potential scripted podcast for another great production company, and I’m working with the brilliant Elf Lyons and Matthew Highton on an audio horror project masterminded by Elf called Radio Summerisle, which I think is really innovative and bizarre and cool. Not sure when that’ll emerge, but hopefully sometime this year.
- I’ve learned there’s no point going into detail about writing/pitching/development projects because they are a law unto themselves, and impossible to set goals for. But, as with last year, making slow progress on various scripted projects is still very much a priority for me this year. I’ve got a few ideas circulating, and I’m most keen to find a proper home for my script The Happiness Chain, which got some really nice feedback at Eggbox in December. (It’s technically a separate project from the podcast of the same name, although they have similar themes and the podcast is a plot point in the script. I’m trying to make work that reflects itself a bit so that if one project does well, it might give the other a boost. Presumably at some point, if both projects actually become tangible things, I may be legally required to change the name of one of them, but for now I’m enjoying working on interconnected projects across different mediums like this).
- I’m directing Edy Hust’s theatre/comedy show about witch trials and ADHD diagnosis, The Discoverie Of Witchcraft In The County Of Edy Hurst, which I think will be premiering at the Lowry this summer then hopefully going to the Fringe and then going on tour, as well as Cerys Bradley’s new non-linear choose-your-own-adventure show Queer Tales For Autistic Folk, which will launch properly next year but will appear in some work-in-progress forms this year. Keep an eye out for both of them!
- I’m tentatively returning to live performance a bit more, having mostly avoided it in 2023. I tried a few live ideas last year which felt like they had some potential, but were lacking the central spark that really made them feel like “a show.” Then recently I stumbled across a concept which felt like it would energise the ideas around it much better than what I had before, so now I’m cooking up something about achieving closure called You Wait. Time Passes. It’s about someone who’s finally about to complete their life’s work, and it’ll first be at Leicester in February then in Machynlleth in May, then I might try to do it in London somewhere. I probably won’t take it to the Fringe (certainly not this year, probably not next year either) because I’m quite disenchanted with that place these days and am waiting for something to change up there that makes it more realistic to ever go there again. But I’d like to try and work up to doing it at Soho or something like that. Watch this space…
- I’m turning Eggbox into a regular night to showcase the most exciting work coming out of the scripted comedy filmmaking scene, so it’ll launch either at 21 Soho or their new venue in the spring and run quarterly or thereabouts to screen great films and host live readings of great scripts by talented writers. I’m not only excited to turn this into a hub for the filmmaking community, which I hope will be a positive and nurturing space in the vein of nights like Mr Tibbs and the Paddock, but I’m also hoping to use it as an accountability tool to force myself to make more short scripted work so I’ve got something short to share at each one. I won’t be able to screen something as full-on as Dog House every time, as that ended up being quite a mammoth project, but if there are three more Eggboxes this year, I’d love to also come out of the year having made three more short, simple scripted projects.
And that’s it! I’m fully prepared to look back on it in a year’s time and think “Yep, that didn’t work out. I abandoned that show, Eggbox caused the venue to burn down, everyone involved in those podcasts disappeared in mysterious circumstances, and all my scripts were so bad that the TV commissioners chucked all their money into the sea.”
I’m well aware that things never pan out quite how we intend. But this time, at least a few of these are things I know will happen, and the others are things I’m just trying to hold positivity for without clinging to them too tightly. I’m excited to see where things go.
What about you guys? What are you all working on this year? I always love hearing about readers’ projects, and letting this newsletter be a bit of an accountability diary for all of us to check in over what we’re trying to make happen, so let me know what you’re up to, what you’re hoping for, what you’re excited about! I can’t wait to root for all of you! Here’s to a great year full of all the things you desire.
A Cool New Thing In Comedy – Well, my new show has just gone on sale at Machynlleth Comedy Festival, and alongside it are shows from such legends as Barry Ferns, Alison Spittle, Celya AB, Stuart Laws, Marcel Lucont and more. You can browse through all the newly added shows here, and you should check out the wider MachFest programme here – as usual, it’s already chock-a-block with absolute bangers.
What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – Yesterday was mine and Miranda’s four-year anniversary, so we went to see the Mrs Doubtfire musical, and it’s an absolute delight. The sight of Mrs Doubtfire breakdancing and then failing to keep up with the choreography of a slick dance number really got me.
Book Of The Week – Currently reading The Imagination Muscle by Albert Read, which is absolutely brilliant. It’s a kind of history of how we’ve approached the idea of the imagination, and a study of how we can harness it to produce the best results. There’s a wonderful thought on “observational closure” which I might explore here next week.
Album Of The Week – Pompeii by Cate Le Bon. Laurie Anderson has a natural successor! I’d heard good things about Cate Le Bon but not got round to listening to her yet, and I’ve never heard another artist whose work sits so closely to Anderson’s while still feeling distinct. This isn’t an album I’m really “into” yet, because I think it’s the kind of thing you need to sit with for a while as it reveals itself to you, but it’s fascinating.
Film Of The Week – One Life. This is fine. If you like generic films about heroic wartime deeds, you’ll love this. Big takeaway is that I can watch an entire film in which Anthony Hopkins does little more than shuffle round a room, look out a window, have lunch with a friend and tell a story, and still come away thinking “God, he’s good.” I could watch him read the back of a sandwich.
That’s all for this week! As ever, if you enjoyed the newsletter enough to recommend it to a friend or encourage others to subscribe, I’d hugely appreciate it. Take care of yourselves until next time, and all the best,
PS Here’s me and Miranda meeting a cardboard icon: