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Joz Norris

  • Tape 132: New Comedy Special

Hello! I hope you’re all well. May God bless you and keep you (what? What am I on about? I dunno.)

I’m going to get right to it this week, because I’m doing a lot of scurrying around plugging stuff, and am scribbling this down on the back of a napkin in between bouts of promo (“Get back here!” bellows the algorithm down the stairs, “we need you to tweet about this thing again or nobody’s going to see it! Don’t make me come down there!”)

So yes, it’s true, my award-winning 2019 show Joz Norris Is Dead. Long Live Mr Fruit Salad. has finally made its belated arrival on the internet as a comedy special filmed by the wonderful folks at indie production label Go Faster Stripe. We filmed it at Moth Club last summer and I was so thrilled to revisit it one last time. If you missed it back in the day (or even if you saw it and loved it and want to watch it again!), you can see the whole thing here:

I’ll be honest, guys, I’d absolutely love it if you showed your appreciation for this show by sharing it far and wide. Only if you want to and don’t feel it would jeopardise your standing with your cool friends, of course, but if you saw this show once upon a time and liked it, or if you watch it now and like it, I’d love you to share it around and encourage other people to see it. It remains one of the best things I’ve made (and is still probably the most successful thing, in terms of tangible accolades), and I’d love to feel like it found a genuine appreciative audience in its final resting place as a Youtube video, so any help spreading the word to other fans of weird, disintegrating comedy would be much appreciated.

For those who missed the show back in the day, perhaps a brief primer is in order (although I’m working with Chris Evans at Go Faster Stripe on a little bonus thing we’ll be selling on his online store to coincide with the release which will fill in all the background info on the show, so watch this space for that…)

I made this show back in 2019 with help from comedy legends Ben Target (who co-performs it during a couple of crucial sequences, and fed in a bunch of really brilliant ideas) and Alex Hardy, who directed it. It was the first time a show of mine had any real impact on the wider comedy world, and I think it’s because it’s the first show I really worked at. The ones up to then were decent, veering towards good in places, but I made all of them simply because “it was what I did” – every year I’d take the thoughts and skits and daft ideas I’d had over the year and parcel them up together as a “show” and go up to Edinburgh and use it as an excuse to show off, and that was pretty much it.

When I went through some personal difficulties that made me stop enjoying live performance, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do this thing that I loved any more. That scared me, because I knew it was the thing I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I hadn’t been putting enough effort in – it had been enough for me to just do daft stuff and then shrug it off if people didn’t get it. “Oh well,” I’d say to myself, “it’s all good fun.” That didn’t feel like enough any more – I wanted to make something really good, to prove to myself that I could do this. I wanted to find my way back towards finding some joy onstage, to prove to myself that I could overcome the things in my life I was finding challenging.

I think it ended up deciding the trajectory of my life ever since, weirdly. I’d spent a few years scrabbling around trying to make shows, but the world had never really paid much attention to them. I wonder whether in some way I was beginning to toy with the idea that maybe I should be doing something else. Then that show caught fire, and it led to radio work, and acting work, and writing work. And while my efforts to keep telling more stories and making more nonsense are an ongoing project to this day, I think that show proved to me, and to others, that I could do it. It’s still the thing I look back on and think “Thank God I figured out how to do this properly at just the exact moment where I really needed to.” I suppose, by definition, those end up being the moments where you do just that.

These days, I forget quite where it all came from. The central conceit – of me being removed from my life and replaced with a “character” that everyone can clearly tell is just me in a fake beard and hat, despite his insistence that he is a different person – definitely owed a certain amount to Toni Erdmann, and I remember watching a lot of Laurel & Hardy at the time that I think found its way into some of the show’s loose physicality and cartoon physics. I was also listening to a lot of ambient music built on repetition and disintegration – the Caretaker, William Basinski, Steve Reich, and I guess the form of the latter got applied to the content of the former, and created this weird show that still feels kind of like an anxiety fever dream to me.

Underneath all these grand influences and intentions, though, I think what people really liked about it was that it was just really stupid – there was a dumb joke about a cow that went on much longer than it needed to, a silly skit about burritos, a bunch of silly clown games with elevator muzak, a sort of vaudeville-style physical routine about teleporting from one door to another. It was my pride and pleasure to make this show, and to revisit it one last time and package it up as a show. I remain very proud of it to this day, and I hope you do too. Please let me know your thoughts, I’d love to hear how it connects with people five years (Christ…) down the line!

A Cool New Thing In Comedy – Fans of weird, over-the-top nonsense comedy are truly spoiled with riches this week, because not only have I put Mr Fruit Salad out, but John-Luke Roberts has just released the first episode of a second series of Sound Heapthe BBC Audio Drama Award-winning podcast-of-too-many-podcasts. As with Series 1, I’ll be popping up throughout playing various stupid roles, and this first episode also boasts such legends as Sooz Kempner, Bilal Zafar, Isy Suttie and more.

What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – Ok, this won’t translate, but it was a conversation about Jeremy Brett with weird sketch duo superstars The Mayor & His Daughter in which Kieran inadvertently implied that Jeremy Brett was a fascist. You had to be there, really, but the long and the short of it is that The Mayor & His Daughter are incredibly funny and you should go see them as soon as you can. I think they’re previewing their debut show later in the summer.

Book Of The Week – Less by Andrew Sean Greer. This is one of those great things, the sad comic novel. It’s about a failing middle-aged writer who decides to accept all the invitations to international literary events he’s turned down so that he can avoid having to go to the wedding of his ex-partner. Really enjoying it so far. It reminds me of Kilgore Trout’s pilgrimage in Breakfast Of Champions, to go to the literary awards dinner he’s been invited to by accident, so that he can show them what a failure looks like.

Album Of The Week – Weather Alive by Beth Orton. I kept hearing people talk about this as one of the best albums of recent years, but didn’t know Beth Orton, so went back and listened to her landmark album Central Reservation first so I could put this new one in context. For my money, Weather Alive is better. It’s woozy and dreamlike and sad and haunting and really lovely.

Film Of The Week – Not watched any films this week, but if I’m allowed to include shorts in here, I really enjoyed Crab Daya BAFTA-winning animation by Ross Stringer.

That’s all for this week! Let me know your thoughts and, as ever, if you’ve enjoyed the newsletter then please do send it to a friend or encourage others to subscribe. Take care of yourselves until next time, and all the best,

Joz xx

PS I’m never going to actually charge for this newsletter or put it behind a paywall, but I do write it for free and the comedy and media industries are in a perilous state right now, especially for freelancers. If you value the Therapy Tapes and enjoy what they give to you, and want to support my work and enable me to keep writing and creating, you can make a one-off donation to my Ko-Fi account, and it’s very gratefully appreciated.

PPS Here is a photo of Michael Brunstrom’s hat in a pub, which we thought looked like the cover of an Agatha Christie or something

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