Happy New Year! (A 2018 Retrospective, By Joz Norris)
The New Year is upon us once again and, as usual at Joz Norris Industries, I dedicate a bit of time at the New Year to staring into my own belly button again. Here's Part 1 of my annual 2-stage blog, the first one looking back at last year's blog and the career goals I set for myself to see how well I achieved them, and the second looking ahead to 2019 and setting myself more goals to look back on in a year's time.
First, a note on 2018 - this was, on a personal level, the worst year of my life. I lost people, some because of circumstances outside of my control, and some because of decisions I made or things I did. I spent possibly about three months feeling constantly incredibly sad and anxious and, for a lot of it, almost unable to leave my flat. I sometimes responded to this by behaving selfishly and treating other people badly and endangering some of the most important friendships in my life. In the second half of the year, things got better and I remembered how to enjoy my life. One of the big things that helped me was remembering that your life is bigger than the things it gets snagged on. That my life is bigger than the things that were making me sad and anxious. That the things I cared about most weren't my career, it was going for a swim in the lido with my friends. It was going away with friends for Bank Holiday weekends. It was growing plants and watching films and playing games and reading books and going for walks and going to concerts. Those were the big things in my life, and they became the things I put my energy into, and it helped me get better.
So the stuff in this blog is, I'm aware, irrelevant and pointless. But I always find it helpful to organise my career-based thoughts as the year turns over, and other people have said they enjoy reading it in the past. So, here's how I did career-wise in 2018 based on my own previous goals, which you can read here:
1. 7 Assorted Development Projects. These days, I think of myself more as a writer-actor-performer and not as a live comedian, so I put most of my energy this year into several scripted film, TV and radio ideas. It was a bit of a risk giving the actual number of projects I was working on this time last year because, as anybody who's spent much time trying to get TV ideas away knows, the vast majority of ideas fall by the wayside so I find myself, of course, not in the position of being able to report positive movement on all seven of them. But I did specify that if there was some sort of concrete development on one or two of them then I'd be very happy with that, and there has been, so that's nice. My sitcom Please Be Normal got down to the last few candidates for a radio commission but they eventually passed, so we're thinking of other places to go with that, a few of the others are still being developed and pitched around to various places, and one of them I think is now definitely dormant/in a drawer unless anybody ever asks for it. But last year I was talking to BBC Three about contributing some stuff to their Quickies series and did end up getting to help co-author and perform in an idea by Maddy Anholt about the Royal Wedding, and more excitingly, a script me and Ed Aczel were developing and pitching was picked up by Tiger Aspect and filmed as a non-broadcast pilot, which this year we'll hopefully be using to pitch for proper commissions or full series. So, as I hoped, some proper movement/success on one or two of these ideas I was tinkering with behind closed doors, and all but one of the others remain things I'm still finding homes for, so I'm pretty happy with how this one turned out.
2. 60 Minutes After Feeling Sad. This was supposed to be my new live show for 2018, and aimed to be a sort of experimental hybrid piece somewhere between live comedy and theatre, having fun with the idea of a show that pretended the performer didn't know the audience was there. I was supposed to be trying to tour it towards the end of this year but I performed it once, in a sell-out show at VAULT Festival in February which happened to coincide almost exactly with the period of time this year that I found very difficult. I don't have enough insight to be able to say whether it was a cause of what happened - certainly I know I partially made it because I hoped changing the form of what I make might help me feel more certain about what I want to do, and it didn't, it just made me feel more confused. It was a good show with lots of potential in it and some amazing friends helped me hugely with it - Tanya Stephenson and John-Luke Roberts in particular. However, I ultimately found other ways of finding my way back into live performance which I now enjoy, and no longer have a desire to return to the project which I associate in my head with feeling bad about myself. A failure, then, this one. But, to quote some of my favourite audiences in the country, a noble failure.
3. Independent Film Ideas. As usual, not all the ideas I suggested last year as films or sketches I wanted to make during the year managed to materialise (me and Lucy are still trying to find time to make our horror film about sneezing, and we didn't get round to making any follow-ups to the Apoca Lips series), but a bunch of them did (I did make a sequel to World's Worst Ghost Walk in which Jonathan Spooky became a living statue, and am currently making a third in which he becomes a celebrity lookalike), me and Matthew Highton did make a second How To... sketch (How To Do Regional Accents) and I also managed to make a couple more short films and sketches I didn't foresee in January (Joz & Ed's Da Vinci Code Type Thing, an anti-adventure film collaboration with Ed Aczel; Searching For Mr Fruit Salad, a documentary about cryptids I collaborated with Elise Bramich on; and a couple of other solo sketches. Some of my film work even did quite well this year, with The Baby being an Official Selection at the London Short Film Festival, who are screening it at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in January.
4. Weirdos, ACMS and Comedians' Cinema Club. As usual, I continued collaborating with my three favourite collectives of daft idiots. Weirdos had a bit of a fallow year this year, with Adam Larter focusing mostly on his wonderful solo show Boogie Knights, so there weren't really many projects with that group in 2018, although the ridiculous extravaganza we staged last October, Tony Law & Friends On Ice: The Battle For Icetopia was named the Comedy Event of the Year by the Chortle Awards early on in 2018. With ACMS I continued to have a huge amount of fun and even got to co-host a bunch of them up at the Fringe this year, and performed in the DVD record which should be out this year; and I was a bit less of a regular presence with Cinema Club this year but still got to have fun with a few special one-off shows with them including doing all eight Harry Potter films at the Royal Albert Hall a few months ago.
5. Neil Young. This didn't happen at all, but at the start of the year was a nascent idea for a Fringe show. I'd realised after a gig at Depresstival Presents... that, while I was having a hard time performing at the time, I still enjoyed live performance if I could hide behind a pair of sunglasses and a grand piano, so was going to do a work-in-progress show at the Fringe where I pretended to be Neil Young for an hour. Anybody who's been keeping track of my stuff this year will be able to recognise that this metamorphosed fairly quickly into Mr Fruit Salad after I went to the Leicester Comedy Festival in disguise, and he became a replacement surrogate figure to channel my enjoyment of live performance into, and fake Neil Young was quietly retired. However, to everybody's immense annoyance, I've enjoyed Mr Fruit Salad so much that I've incorporated him into far too many projects this year, including a work-in-progress run at the Fringe, so in spirit this goal was achieved even if the shape it took changed slightly.
6. Acting?! I put this on the list every year because one day I want to get a nice big part in a proper TV sitcom. It didn't happen again this year (got close a couple of times though!) but I did actually manage to get myself cast in a few other projects that weren't my own, which felt like a nice step forwards as usually the only person who casts me in things is me. As I mentioned before, I got to perform in one of BBC Three's Quickies, and then played a bit-part in another one; I was cast as one of the leads in a comedy-drama play which played to lovely audiences at the Fringe and got really nice reviews; and I got to play a talking box of spaghetti in a sort-of comedy taster/pilot thing by John Kearns and Pat Cahill, which I loved. So not too bad.
7. Interesting Live Projects. Last year I continued my commitment to not really gigging, but being involved in interesting live projects that had fun with what an audience should expect a live comedy event to be. I kept that up this year, although recently I've done a few more conventional gigs which I genuinely enjoyed. I played the regular role of Adam's inept intern in the Tone of Voice series of gigs, which catered specifically to audiences who work in the advertising industry, and Mr Fruit Salad became an irritating semi-regular fixture at the daft knockabout gigs 110% John Kearns & Pat Cahill. I also helped John-Luke Roberts to stage three more Terrible Wonderful Adaptations - 2 at the Fringe in the form on the iTunes terms of conditions and a mashup of Ulysses and A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu; and one at the Soho in the form of the Book of Revelations. Loved all these very much.
8. Things I Didn't Expect. Oh, I forgot that I always include this section at the end and have already kind of mentioned all the things that happened that I didn't expect by creating tenuous links between them and the things I said were going to happen. So, yeah, not much to add here, really. Oh, I gave a talk at the British Library about my favourite power station, that was fun.
That's it I think! The next instalment will be my plans for next year.