Happy New Year! (Part 1)

Last year, I wrote an obligatory pair of blog posts, one looking back at what I'd achieved in 2013 and the other looking ahead to what I had planned for 2014. I thought I'd do it again this year, as it's rare you actually get an opportunity to try and codify and assess what you have been and will be working on. This year I also get the bonus of being able to read back my "2014" blog from last year and see which goals I achieved, which I didn't and which things came out of the blue and surprised me. So, here goes:

1. Awkward Prophet - This, my first solo stand-up show as myself, was naturally my biggest project of 2014, and I was really proud of all it achieved. For the first time I tried hard to talk about personal issues I felt strongly about, and to find a way of being myself onstage that felt totally comfortable. The show played at several small festivals across the country through the spring before playing at the Underbelly for the Edinburgh Fringe, promoted by the amazing team at Live Nation. I was really pleased with how the show did in Edinburgh, attracting good-sized and consistent audiences who all gave really lovely feedback, and getting some lovely reviews from the likes of Chortle and the Herald. Time Out also selected the show as their Critic's Choice for its London performance in October. Of course, like any project you spend such a long time working on, as soon as I was done with I felt like I could see certain creative elements within the show that I was less satisfied with in hindsight, and I've made those areas ones I want to prioritise in this year's show so that I always feel like I'm moving forwards and improving on what's come before. But overall I felt really proud of the show and all it achieved, and very grateful to all who helped it to do so.

2. Acting - Considering I spent a couple of years largely abandoning my acting roots and focusing solely on live stand-up, this year has seen a lot of developments in the acting world, and it's been my pleasure to be involved in a number of amazing projects for various people. For the brilliant people at Turtle Canyon Comedy I had roles in Incidents: The Gerry Howell Sketch Show and in Matthew Highton's Christmas horror comedy Santageddon. For Hoot Comedy and Channel 4 I played several roles in the sketch pilot of Jon Brittain's Hodge Podge, and I also took part in a number of smaller projects such as Steve Whiteley's sketch series Off Key World and Matt Silver and Jim Scannell's sitcom taster episode Film School. Finally, I was very humbled and honoured to be nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor at LA WebFest 2015 as my role of Steve in Bournemouth University's student webseries The Backbenchers.

3. Joz Norris & Friends Present... - This one basically sort of fizzled out fairly quickly, so I was surprised to read back and see that it was one of my major goals at the start of the year. I perhaps wanted it to turn into a regular night with a regular returning audience, but found my brain wasn't finely attuned to the business of being a promoter. It actually had really good and consistent audiences, and some amazing stuff from all the amazing guests, but as Edinburgh got nearer it felt like less of a priority and basically fell by the wayside. Still, I'm doing a preview in January with some special guests under the same title, so perhaps this is something that'll crop up every now and again.

4. Weirdos - It's been another great year for Weirdos, starting with the final performance of last year's Christmas show The Colonel at Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival in February. After that there was Blueprint, the monthly night where some amazing special guests were interspersed with sketches, plays, music and performance art from the Weirdos Players. I honestly think it was one of the most inventive, silly, friendly and brilliant comedy nights this year, and had some incredible highlights. Many of the Weirdos regulars had some amazing runs at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, and we were then all back together for our third annual Christmas show, our festive underwater story, A Christmas Tail. The show played in Bob Slayer's amazing Heroes Grotto of Comedy venue and broke our own personal record by raising over £5000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital, while also being easily the funniest and most accomplished show we've staged yet.

5. Wurst Kabaret - This is another one that didn't quite work out. It was to be a regular alternative comedy cabaret night run by myself, Laurence Owen, Lindsay Sharman and Laura Blundell, and the gigs we did run were great fun. However, it again proved tricky to get a regular returning audience so the decision was made after a few months to call it a day for now. But perhaps it'll make a return one of these days.

6. A Savant's Guide to Dating - This is a project I haven't mentioned on here for a while, but only as it's yet to reach any concrete form of fruition, not because it's gone away completely. The idea was a series of comedy shorts in which I tried to filter cynical dating advice through my own overly-literal brain and was an idea I enjoyed so much I was reluctant to just make it cheaply myself as opposed to trying to work on it with great collaborators and make it as good as it possibly can be. As such, an amazing production company has been helping me develop the idea this year and has been hugely helpful in getting the scripts to a really high quality. I don't yet know exactly what form this will eventually take, whether it'll be a series of shorts of perhaps part of a different, more long-form project, but it's in good hands and is closer than ever to actually getting made! Watch this space...

7. Things I Didn't Anticipate - Thus ends my list of things I was planning for at the start of 2014, but there's been plenty I didn't anticipate. I wrote a really awful Chortle Correspondence piece in February that made me into a hate figure for a large number of comics based in the north who I inadvertently slighted out of total ignorance. But at least the whole thing lent some publicity to the whole "Joz Norris is an idiot" running joke, which has since been gamely picked up on by the likes of Chortle and Time Out ("jerk," "exoskeletoned twat," etc - unless they just genuinely don't like me, which I think is unlikely). I was a guest on the excellent podcasts Gods of Comedy and Possibly of Interest; I got to be part of a live piece of performance art involving a cardboard car crash; I was featured in an article about David Bowie in an Italian fashion magazine; I made a webseries with Adam Larter called A Trip that's the best thing you'll ever see; I co-hosted a charity benefit at the Bloomsbury Theatre; and I got to go on holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia. Oh, and I saw Hall & Oates and Kate Bush live.

It's been a year of achievements I'm really very proud of, and I wish lots of love to all who made it such a good one. Next - looking ahead to 2015...