Happy New Year! (A 2015 Retrospective, by Joz Norris)

January 1, 2016

Earlier this year, when she turned 30, Hollie Ebdon wrote a sentimental Facebook post about reaching a milestone year, in which she implied that I, Joz Norris, write too many sentimental Facebook posts. Shocked at such an accusation, I quickly threatened to remove her from my annual New Year's retrospective posts, and she quickly changed her tune, I can tell you. It was in that moment that it really hit home just how much my annual New Year retrospective posts really mean to people - like Auld Lang Syne, the chimes of Big Ben, and the tradition of sitting on the edges of a New Year's Eve party opening up a bit too much about your emotional problems with somebody you don't know very well (sorry Delia), the Joz Norris New Year Retrospective has become a key part of a lot of people's end-of-year celebrations, so it's with great joy that I set about writing 2016's.

 

Anyway, onto the best bit, which is where I look back on my 2015 New Year post in which I outlined my targets for the coming year and analyse how well I managed to do on any of them. Here goes!

 

1. Hey Guys! - This was my 2015 Edinburgh show, which obviously happened so I 100% smashed that goal out of the park. In particular, I was really delighted to do an Edinburgh where I finally got to be part of Bob Slayer's awesome Heroes of Fringe programme at the Hive (I was potentially going to be going up with Heroes in 2014 but went to the Underbelly instead in the end, which was really exciting and loads of fun but I felt this year like Heroes was where I really belonged and it felt like coming home). I more than doubled my audience from previous years, and also made substantial profit on Edinburgh as a whole, which I've never done before. As I outlined in my New Year's post last year, the show ended up being a bit looser and sillier than Awkward Prophet in 2014, and the whole process reminded me how to do a show that really just plays off your enjoyment of performing it and has more kaleidoscopic fun rather than trying too hard to be rigid or fixed.

 

2. TV and Online Projects - This was quite a vague goal, but one I've worked a lot on this year. I've made a few silly little solo sketches during the year, but more significantly have had more involvement in professionally made online comedy content this year, which has been great. I played the role of inept intern Toby Tadpin in Wild Seed Comedy and Harry Deansway's Shambles webseries, which had a great response, and also wrote and starred in my own three-part webseries The Girl Whisperer, co-starring Ralf Little and produced by Little Rock Pictures. That series had an amazing response and was praised by major industry figures including Matt Lucas, Dara O'Briain and Ed Byrne, which is lovely. I'm also in Hoot Comedy's sketch pilot Hodge, a commission for Channel 4, which isn't available to the public yet but is out there on a private Vimeo link and is very funny and was great fun to be involved with.

 

3. Hello World! Joz Norris's 100% Unofficial ELO Musical - This was my one-off solo show for Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival 2015, an over-the-top staging of an ambitious ELO musical I wrote when I was 14. It was very silly and all over the place, but an awful lot of fun, and again doubled my audience from the previous Leicester. It helped me realise that, with little local comedy festivals like Leicester, it's loads more fun not just to go and do a work-in-progress show for Edinburgh but to do something tailor-made for that festival and do it as a stupid, audacious one-off. Geoff Rowe, who runs the festival, said he "Actually really enjoyed it, amazingly," and my Uncle John said it was "very enjoyable."

 

4. Weirdos - It's been a great year for Weirdos projects, and that gang is always my favourite group of people to clown around with. In the first half of the year Weirdos went a bit quiet although we did record the first two episodes of a podcast called Jalapeno High, which will hopefully emerge this year. In Edinburgh we headlined a big comedy gala in memory of Robin Williams where we recreated Jumanji. I'm reliably informed by the audience that we weren't very good and it kind of spoiled the gig, but at least it was memorable, which is often all we need aspire to be. Post-Edinburgh we've been very busy - we sold out a one-off show at the Museum of Comedy which was a performance art piece about Only Fools and Horses, and more impressively, sold out the 400-seat Leicester Square Theatre with a very silly Harry Potter spoof show in which I got to play Draco Malfoy and sing "Shake It Off" to 400 people. Finally, there was Weirdos For Christmas No. 1, the fourth annual Weirdos Panto at Bob's Heroes Grotto, which sold out every single night, raised around £5500 for Great Ormond Street, and was critic's choice comedy in the likes of the Times, the Guardian and the Independent.

 

5. Acting - As I mentioned on my TV and online projects bit, I got to do a fair bit of proper film acting this year, including my role in Shambles and The Girl Whisperer more besides. I also got to do a lovely job where I was flown out to South Africa to do an advert for Tuborg, which was lots of fun, very exotic and glamourous and it was lovely to feel able to make a living from performing, which I've never done before. I don't know why I put these as two separate bullet points last year. Basically, I did some acting, so yeah, tick.

 

6. Gigging - Last year I said I wanted to gig more as I felt I'd got good at doing proper club gigs. This year I feel the opposite, but not in a bad way. I did gig an awful lot this year, and had a lot of fun doing it, but I now feel on reflection that 2015 will be my last year of trying to be good at everything - acting, writing, gigging, doing shows, and so on. You always assume that as a stand-up you need to master every discipline, but I now feel in 2016 that it's time to focus on what I'm really good at, and I'm ultimately not at my strongest doing shorter club sets. I think I'm good at doing silly full shows, where I can really mess around, and at doing collaborative stuff with people like the Weirdos, but I'm hanging up my aspirations to try and become an in-demand club comic. So I sort of achieved this goal in that I did do lots of gigging, but am also now retiring it as an ongoing goal. It's just not my fight.

 

7. Things I Didn't Expect - As ever, there were plenty of surprises along the way that I didn't map out in my initial New Year's Day post. Most significantly, perhaps, is that I met Eleanor Morton, who has made the latter half of 2016 very lovely indeed by being an excellent person and a very lovely companion in both creative ways and just in day-to-day life. The other big things, as I've mentioned here already in other news posts, are that after this year's Edinburgh I got to join Comedian's Cinema Club, which is a huge amount of fun, and also became an official part of the gang at the Alternative Comedy Memorial Society, which has been one of my favourite gigs since 2012, so it was very humbling to be inducted in properly at their Christmas show at the Grotto. I also got to help out in a bit more of a hands-on way at the Grotto this year, helping Adam and Bob to set up and rig a few things (not much, admittedly), and also contributing to the Grotto launch as alter ego Jizz Nostrils and to lend a helping hand with the behind-the-scenes ghost tour.

 

Most of the goals I set last year were pretty vague, so it was quite easy for me to feel I achieved pretty much all of them to some extent, even if the varying degrees of success have informed how I feel about 2016. In my next post, I'll be doing my 2016 Future-Spective to lay out my plans for the year to come!

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