MJ Hibbett & The Validators

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Writing A Thing
I am up to my EYEBALLS in the ADMIN at the moment, and a lot of it is to do with the London Screenwriters' Festival that I'm off to at the end of the week. It's a big three day event of talks and workshops and all sorts of things, and as it was Quite Expensive I feel that I should really make the most of it. To this end I've got a place on a comedy workshop on the Friday and a pitching session on Saturday, which means I need to do a lot of PREP - preparing "one-pagers" (a single page to sell a script) for the THREE things I've got on the go at the moment, working out which sessions I should/could go to, rejigging the CV, and working out and rehearsing my PITCHES.

On top of that there's the usual background admin which seems to be the main part of this Attempting To Be A Freelance Writer thing i.e. checking what jobs/opportunities/schemes/competitions are going on and then spending ages applying for them. I've also got various bits of ROCK admin to do, concerning our Christmas song, the new album stuff, the tour with Mr G Osborn in December, Totally Acoustic bookings and so on. It's all for FUN STUFF obviously, but it gets to the point where I feel like I'm doing ALL admin with none of the actual Writing Things that is meant to be at the heart of it all.

THUS I thought maybe I should sit down and start writing a new thing. So i did! One of the things I'm planning to PITCH at the weekend is a story called "Alpha Male", my HIGH CONCEPT sci-fi thriller. I've got all manner of background info, character studies, world building, backstory, loglines, taglines, treatments and A POSTER for it, but I haven't actually got a SCRIPT at all, so I sat down and started typing it. And guess what? It was a WHOLE HEAP of fun!

I'd forgotten quite how MCUH fun it can be, to be honest. Over the past few months I have done a TONNE of The Writing, but it's mostly been sketches, or re-writes, or applications, or indeed this here blog. Sitting down to write something NEW that was entirely MADE UP was brilliant fun. So much fun in fact that I'm going to keep doing it today, and tomorrow, and then on until it's finished.

At which point it'll be time to re-write it, pitch it, send it off for competitions etc etc but in the meantime: FUN AHOY!

posted 22/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Mr Ransome's Birthday
I was back in Sheffield on Saturday, to perform at Mr D Ransome's 40th Birthday party. It was GRATE to be back although when I first arrived at the Ibis (where I hoped to find My Usual Suite available) I did worry that things might go awry. The hotel was FULL and had run out of KEYCARDS, so I had to be escorted to my room, with a promise of a key when I got back ("he's gone to Chesterfield to get some", I was told - so that's where they keep them!). As I quickly unpacked and set off out again I worried that if it was full it might be ROWDY, but happily (spoilers) when I got back it was nothing of the sort. Indeed, me stumbling about bumping into things was probably as KRAZY as it got!

As I came out of the hotel I saw a tram coming, so RAN for it, which meant that when I was deposited at the University stop a few minutes later I was still a bit sweaty and out of breath. I soon calmed down when I entered the pub and was greeted by a whole heap of lovely chums, with whom I sat down for a good old chat. Ah, Sheffield, how I have missed you!

The next bit of the evening whizzed by in a whirl of beers and yacking, interrupted only by a quick soundcheck. The soundman for the evening was, shall we say, Something Of A Character, and if forced to guess his favourite kind of music I think the safest answer would be "Not this type". He certainly didn't look overjoyed when I was on anyway, during which time i done THIS:
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • I Want To Find Out How It Ends
  • That Guy
  • In The North Stand
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths

  • Happily for me everyone else did seem to enjoy it, and I had a LOVELY time. It felt like ages since I'd last done a proper normal GIG style gig and I rather indulged myself by sharing a lot of OPINIONS and THORTS. It turned out to be a good idea to do a load of new songs, as lots of people there had seen me MANY times and so had heard my usual repertoire a LOT, and it also meant that a) I could do I Want To Find Out How It Ends, which Mr K Foster had requested and b) during In The North Stand I realised that I was doing a song about my Grandad in the city that he'd come from. It was fun!

    Talking of that song, I think it is now pretty much a SHOE-IN for the album, as I was approached by SEVERAL gentleman of a certain throughout the rest of the evening, each confessing to a BIT OF AN OLD CRY during the song. Brilliantly, one of the aforesaid chaps told me that he'd ALSO been taken to the football aged 7, just after HIS parents' divorce, by a Grandad who came from Yorkshire!

    Next on the bill were Horowitz and, having seen them several times, I thought it wisest to go and stand at the back of the room so as not to be entirely deafened by their SONIC NOISE TERROR. However, the "characterful" soundman had made them turn everything down, so you could hear all the words. There were quite a few of us stood at the back for the same reasons as me, and we all agreed how WEIRD it was to be able to hear what they were playing AND what they were saying, and also how GOOD it was.

    Finally we had The Thyme Machine, the band featuring Kriss Foster (and friend), who'd gone down a STORM at Indietracks this year. I'd seen Kriss and Mr Ferris several times but never in the full band line-up, but I thought it would probably be pretty great. I was NOT WRONG - it was an AMAZING show full of GRATE songs, hilarious inbetween bits, and SHEER SHOWMANSHIP. A whole room of people stood with looks of GLEE on their faces, it was brilliant!

    Once they'd finished my BRANE suggested that I should maybe go home now. At the start of the evening I'd thought it would be a good idea to see if I could have a pint of ALL of the beers that were available on the pumps. This would have been fine in a normal pub, but at The University Arms they had about twice as many as usual, so I was a bit tiddly! I thus said farewell to my chums and staggered out, hopping onto a passing tram and then, as mentioned earlier, pretty much passing out when I got in.

    It was a LOVELY night out, and I'm already looking forward to going back there, hopefully in early December for the tour with Mr Gavin Osborn. Details to follow!

    posted 20/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Dracula Untold
    Thursday has become my Day In Town over the past few weeks as that's when I usually go and have lunch and a chat with Mr J Dredge then wander around doing other STUFF. This week, after an extremely productive discussion, I went for a haircut and then to the comic shop. I was then going to see Ms E Morgan for another chat and also CUPPA, but she'd had to cancel due to being poorly, so I found myself at a bit of a loose end. I was due to meet Mr C Lawson for PINTS later on (it is a busy, arduous schedule!) so I decided to go to the pictures.

    I thus ended up at the Odeon on Tottenham Court Road, where the film "Dracula Untold" was about to start. I'd seen the chap who plays Dracula on Graham Norton last week and, though it didn't look like it was a particularly brilliant film I thought it might be fun, and certainly better than the Hugh Grant romcom that was my alternate option. I got myself some popcorn and a BEER (I do like it when they let you have BEER at the pictures. BEER!) and settled in to watch it.

    Here is my short review: the special effects are GRATE but the rest of it is UTTERLY SILLY.

    Here is my slightly longer review: I liked the way they'd tried to think of a proper SECRET ORIGIN for Dracula, but GOODNESS ME it was SO PREDICTABLE I almost wondered if i'd seen it before. When Charles Dance (SPOILERS) says "Ooh, you'll have super-powers for three days, right, but if you drink any blood you'll get stuck like that forever!" they might as well have had a big sign flashing saying "WELL THAT WON'T HAPPEN WILL IT? WHY WOULD HE DO THAT EH?" before cutting to a picture of his wife and child with an ARROW pointing at them saying "Surely his wife, child and country would have to be at stake and THAT'S UNLIKELY RIGHT?"

    Shortly after that he turns into a swarm of bats which is PRETTY COOL, but then it gets stupider and stupider. His enemies, The Horrid Turks, realise they're fighting a vampire so decide to fight ONLY AT NIGHT because that's definitely the most sensible thing to do. Dracula goes out and kills hundreds of them all in one go (in a Really Cool Bit, featuring more swarms of bats and a Dead Good Camera Thing where you see the battle reflected on a sword, it's smashing) so they decide the main thing stopping them is being SCARED of what they SEE, so the army starts marching round BLINDFOLD. "You cannot be scared of what you can't see!" says Boss Baddy, incorrectly. Maybe it takes them until nightfall to get to Castle Dracula because they keep going the wrong way and/or falling over things?

    Anyway, some more silly things happen, also lots of cool effects, then the STUPIDEST THING OF ALL occurs when his wife says "Hey! Only 1 minute before you're doomed forever, so I think the best thing to do in this situation is to drink my blood and then be a horrible monster" and this leads to a whole heap of EVEN MORE SILLY things happening which, frankly, if Dracula is half the Prince, strategist, leader and GOOD GUY he has been built up to be he would not have done as he would have spent 0.0001 seconds thinking about it first. "Oh I know, I'll transform all my mates into HIDEOUS EVIL MONSTERS, that definitely won't go wrong."

    It is IDIOTIC but, as I say, does look good and is amiable enough. There's also a bit at the end that is LIKE the ending of Battlestar Galactica but this time DOESN'T ruin what has gone before because a) what has gone before was just DAFT and b) even a tiny baby could have predicted that it was going to happen. It's meant to be a lead-in to the SEQUEL i guess, though I would be AMAZED if it happened.

    If it did though I would, OBVS, totally go and see it!

    posted 17/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Band Practice
    I was back on the train to Leicester yet AGANE last night, heading off for another band practice. Once in town I hopped into a taxi in order to get to The Foresters Arms for my traditional pre-practice pint. This time I was joined by Mr T Pattison, who told me several marvellous tales of his current life as an International Jet Setter. Apparently, these days when he gets on a plane they already know his drinks order: GLAMOUR!

    We nipped over to Stayfree where we were soon joined by Mr FA Machine. I'd already had a call from Mr T "The Tiger" McClure telling me he'd be a few minutes late, and I said "Don't worry - Frankie and Tim will still be talking about The Fall for the first ten minutes." Tom arrived 15 minutes into our timeslot, to find that that is EXACTLY what was going on!

    Once we were all sorted and settled (Mrs E Pattison being absent once again, almost as if she doesn't LOVE being trapped in a sweaty, mouldy room full of loud noises and men breaking wind) we got down to BUSINESS, with the aforesaid business being ROCK. We spent about 45 minutes working on That Guy again - as reported previously, there's LOTS of different parts to it, one of which we changed a bit, so it took a while to get right, but once we did it sounded ACE. We then had a few goes through Easy Christmas, which ended in some discussion about PRODUCTION. We're hoping to get it fully recorded and mixed next month, so that it can be added to Christmas Selection Box, but I'm keen to retain focus on the keyword "Easy" in the title. With this in mind Tim offered to recruit his daughters to record the video for us. It's certainly easier than me doing it!

    We then ROCKED through most of the other current "new album" songs - We Did It Anyway, (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock (twice, as the first time was distinctly lacking in VIM), and Burn It Down And Start Again with it's slightly confusingly simple New Middle Bit. We didn't bother doing 20 Things To Do Before You're 30 as we KNOW that one, so had some time left to do something ELSE.

    A few days previously Tim had reported that he'd had his iPod on SHUFFLE and Hibbett's Superstore had come on. He claimed not to have heard it before (which SURELY is impossible as I always thought he listened to nothing BUT my extensive solo OUVRE) and to have liked it, so the rest of the Validators had "reaquainted" themselves with it too, in case we had time to try it out.

    We did, so we did, and it sounded really really good! "You need to do some words then", said Frankie once we'd finished, and I realised that I already HAD some. Last week, during one of my regular ODYSSEYS around London town, I'd gone to have a look at the Leaping Hare in Bradgate Circle, in order to get some INSPIRATION for entering a competition. The idea of the competition was to write a MONOLOGUE for a statue (there were four to choose from, and this one looked the easiest to get to, also most fun) and I was duly inspired to write a POEM, called Leaping Hare In Broadgate. I still had the words in my NOTEBOOK which was with me and so I had a go at saying them along with the music, and it TOTALLY WORKED. Weirdly, I sort of knew it would, as The Gods Of ROCK had clearly decided it would all come together like this. When we'd finished The Validators ASKED me to read it out so they could hear the words (this happens RARELY!) and they all seemed in favour, so that's a surprise EXTRA song to add to the much mooted Album Of Hits.

    As we packed away we talked about possible titles and what other songs might be available - it feels like it's going to be Quite Good - and with that all done Tom gave me a lift to the station, stopping off over the road for a PINT and chat in The Hind. It was a delightful end to a really rather marvellous evening of ROCK!

    posted 15/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Totally Problematic
    It was Totally Acoustic last Thursday night. Usually these evenings flit by in a BREEZE of EASE, but this time there was a succession of ISSUES!

    There's already been a bit of a hiccup in the afternoon, when it turned out that Vinnie from The Mini-Skips wouldn't be able to come. This was a right shame, but Markie was still coming so I thought we'd be OK. The proper trouble began when I got to the pub... and almost nobody else did!

    I'd had a long day in town beforehand, seeing a couple of PALS, going to look at some STUFF, and generally mooching around, and thus had arrived at The King & Queen a bit earlier than usual, so to start with I thought it just FELT as if I'd been there for ages without anyone else arriving. However, once it got to 7pm with only about five of us there, including NO acts, I started to worry!

    I contacted our other act, Chris and Charlie, who said they were nearly there, and managed to email Vinnie, who'd heard from Mark that he was a couple of miles away. Mr S Hewitt and The Time Of My Appointment rolled up, then some more audience, and finally the acts so that by 8pm everybody was finally there and we could start. PHEW!

    I went on first and did TWO (2) songs what I'd never done live before, as you can see from the below setlist:
  • History's Re-written
  • Hibbett's Golden Rules Of Beer
  • I Want To Find Out How It Ends

  • Given that I'd been in the pub since just after 5pm i was AMAZED by the fact that I got all three songs almost entirely right, missing out just one word ("Autumn") in the second song. I did note that none of them were necessarily the TOP HITS of my live set, but then that's partly the point of doing new stuff, I guess, to see what IS!

    Next up was Winston Echo/Anguish Sandwich/Chris And Charlie doing a work in progress version of "Jurassic Park: The Musical". Apparently they'd started this five years ago, written three songs, then some other person had done ANOTHER indie-related musical concerning Dinosaurs. Can't think what that could have been. However, they had recenty dug it all up (paleontology gag!) and decided to continue the WORK, writing another song with more to follow. It was dead good - I'd thought it was just going to be some songs, but it was like a proper sung through musical, with lots of PARTS and TALKING and all sorts!

    We then had a break before Markie Mini-Skips came on and did some GRATE songs, largely, it turned out, written by women who'd since died, but also including whatever of their own songs he was able to do solo. My favourite was one called "Bristol" which I'd hoped to put into the podast but, ANNOYINGLY, when I got home I discovered one final problem - my four-track had filled up, so I'd only got his first song recorded!! Hopefully I'll be able to get some more material off him to put into the podcast, but it was a bit sad as his actual set had been ACE!

    At the time I didn't realise this had happened, otherwise I would have re-recordes some songs there and then, so instead we indulged in my FAVOURITE, and least problematic, aspect of Totally Acoustic: another beer and a CHAT. It was lovely!

    posted 13/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Lost City Writers
    On Wednesday night I was at the Old Red Lion pub in Angel for a MEETING with a bunch of chums formerly off the MA. A load of us wanted to keep meeting up, so we got together to work out how we were going to arrange it, and what we were going to do when we did so.

    It was a DEAD good meeting. Once we'd all got settled we agreed various things, including moving to a different venue (it was nice, but a bit NOISY there), planning some SHOWS, and sharing INFO. The best bit, I thought, was when we went round the whole group and each said what we'd been up to with The Writing. Pretty much everyone said "I've not really done anything" then REELED off a list of stuff and finished with "Oh right, maybe I have." It was lovely to know that everyone was DOING stuff and indeed GETTING somewhere, and it was also super-handy to find out about OTHER stuff that was going on that the rest of us could get into.

    Mr A Dawson took Proper Minutes so we've got various Action Points to be getting on with, and a whole heap of possibilities to look forward. This could have been just an excuse to get together and have some beers and a NATTER - which would have been fine with me - but it looks like it could be a way of getting exciting stuff DONE!

    posted 10/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Remix Morning
    I had a big list of things to get on with on Tuesday, so of course when I saw a tweet about Go Go Penguin offering parts of one of their tracks for a remix competition I thought "I certainly shan't be spending half the day messing around with THAT for heaven's sake!"

    And then, obviously, did, and had a LOVELY time doing it too. I took a very icy, stern, JAZZY dance song and... well, made it a bit more INDIE, with some acoustic guitars, casio keyboards, and a big bouncy bass. Also I noticed that they hadn't put the title of the song in it anywhere, so sorted that out for them. Here's what I did:



    You can hear all the other entries as they come in on their soundcloud page, and I expect most of them will be more in the vein of what the organisers were probably after i.e. Grown-Up Dance Music, rather than someone LARKING about, but still it was a very pleasant way to spend the morning. It was certainly more pleasant than the afternoon, which heavily featured THE DENTIST!

    posted 8/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    The First Readthrough
    On Sunday we had a little GATHERING at CHEZ NOUS, when The Hewitts came round to help us eat a pile of CRUDITES, drink a load of BOOZE, and also have the first readthrough of next year's show, "Hey Hey 16K".

    I must admit I was rather worried about how it was going to go. The only person who's SEEN the script or even HEARD the songs is Steve, as not even The Hits In My Back Catalogue has heard it. Mr Hewitt had said it was all OK, but what if it wasn't? What if THE WIVES said "No, this is rubbish, you need to start again"? What if, when saying it all out loud in front of other people for the first time, I realised it was BORING? And on top of all that, is IS A Bit Different to all the other shows - what if everyone RECOILED?

    With all this in mind we sat round the kitchen table, scripts to hand, and DONE it. It seemed to go OK - the Ada Lovelace RAP SECTION (oh yes) seemed to take quite a while, and I got confused in a few places where songs I've done a MILLION times suddenly START with a different BIT but otherwise it was fine, especially the section called "Dad Jokes" which Steve and i LARFED our way through, though if the audience at home was anything to go by I think that that may be dividing future audiences along gender lines.

    Once it was all done and everyone had ABLUTED I asked for reactions. Everyone said they liked it! There were some queries about the NATURE of the show (e.g. we probably need to signpost it more right at the start that it ISN'T going to be a history of home computers or an hour long version of the main song) and some surprise that it actually IS different from the other shows (not least because you can understand what's going on for most of it!), but the general reaction was GOOD. As you'll (hopefully) see if you (hopefully) come to a performance, it's a LOT more PERSONAL this time and a LOT less about superheroes/robots/dinosaurs, although it DOES have the usual amount of - possibly even more - TITTING ABOUT. And time travel, obvs.

    It's also much shorter than previous shows. This version was 40 minutes long which, when you add in LARFS and deduct NERVES is probably how long it'll be in performance, though there IS a Tap Dance Section (honest) which might take a while, and I'm hoping to do a MEDLEY at the end too, so it should all work out at the right length. Anwyay, it's much nicer to run SHORT than LONG on things like this, as you can mess around a bit more and people can get off to their next show/the bar sooner too.

    So it was all a bit of a RELIEF, though it has led to another slight worry. We spent MONTHS working on the script for Total Hero Team, moving things around, cutting scenes, changing characters, so I'd taken that onboard as part of the PROCESS. With this in mind I'd timetabled all of next WEEK to do the second draft - if it's going to be this straightforward, I'm going to have to find something else to do!

    posted 7/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Sitcom Workshop
    A few months ago I signed up an Associate Member of The Writers' Guild, which is basically the union for UK wrtiers. It's all jolly good and you get a delightful newletter each week, but it doesn't have Continuing Professional Development. This is something that the Points In My Score DOES have in her Sort-Of-Union, The Chartered Institute Of Public Relations. Every year she has to tot up all the learning she has done via events and courses, to make sure she's got enough to maintain her Chartered status. The reason I'd like that for MY Sort-Of-Union is that I reckon I would pass it PEASY!

    For LO! i went to yet ANOTHER event on Saturday, this time a sitcom workshop at the Chisenhale Gallery, which was part of a weekend-long series of events round this way commemorating the centenary of Joan Littlewood's birth by creating "Fun Palaces." There were all sorts of things going on, and when I got an email about THIS one, the night before, I thought "Why not?" so WENT.

    The way I went was via the 339 bus, which goes RIGHT past our flat but which I have only ever previously used as a means to get to and from Leytonstone. Going the other way was DEAD interesting, as we went through the Olympic Park and then on into Tower Hamlets/Bow/Roman Road/Hackney (it was a confusingly wriggly route) through a whole lot of Industrial Estates. Everyone's always (rightly) saying how expensive property is in London, yet here was a vast area covered with hundreds of the big SHEDS that fill industrial estates all over the country. "How dreary" i MUSED to myself, "that they're the same wherever you go," then realised it was EVER THUS, and that all of the remaining Victorian factories ALSO look pretty much identical. Maybe in a 100 years time Future Hipsters will be living in artfully converted corrugated iron warehouses?

    Anyway, I eventually got to the gallery where I almost immediately bumped into Ms E Harwood, also from off of my course. As I have said previously, one of the biggest BONUSES of doing that MA is that you're never alone at an EVENT! we were called in to a small room with about 20 other attendees and one very very nervous speaker, who soon introduced himself as Lucien Young, one of the writers of Siblings. I took an almost instant DISLIKE to him when he revealed that he had been a member of The C***bridge F***lights, but then I re-warmed to him as the day went on and he got a) slightly less terrified b) more and more excited by sitcoms. He was a delight to listen to, as he talked at length about how to define sitcoms, what makes them work, and especially the differences between American and UK sitcoms. He didn't say anything in particular that I'd not heard before, but he did put it together in interesting ways and raise Thought Provoking Ideas. And also he c) mentioned 'Cheers' and 'Frasier' a lot, which always makes me happy. It actually reminded me of seeing Statisticians at Statistics Conferences. They'd always look really pleased to listen to people droning on and on about The Most Boring Thing Ever (i.e. Statistics) because they really liked it, and that's how i always feel listening to people talk about sitcoms. It feels a bit NAUGHTY to be taking it all so seriously, as they're Just Sitcoms and, according to THE MAN, don't deserve cultural critiques, but i LOVE it!

    It was all dead good, especially at the end when the whole room did Group Work and created a vague idea for a show based on a cruise ship. It was only to demonstrate how sitcom creation works, but ideas and characters were soon FLYING about the room, so that it was disappointing to have to stop. It was a lovely couple of hours thinking about GRATE things - I still wish I could've got some CAREER POINTS for it though!

    posted 6/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Live At The BBC
    On Wednesday night I went to BBC Broadcasting House to see a recording of this week's edition of Newsjack. It's always very exciting going there because, well, it's BBC Broadcasting House isn't it? It's one of those places, like The House Of Commons or All Of New York, that you see on the telly SO MUCH that you can't believe it's actually real even when you're right in front of it or, indeed, INSIDE it.

    It was even more exciting this time because in the cafe they had THE TARDIS and also A DALEK. I was there with Ms E Morgan who suggested that it might not be a real dalek, but I reckon that it definitely was a real dalek i.e. a REAL DALEK, not one they use for filming in Doctor Who but an ACTUAL DALEK. It might not have been, but I kept my distance just in case. They also had one of the chairs from "The Voice", which always looks dead flashy in the trailers (I don't watch the show my dears of course, I am too busy watching BBC4 documentaries or something) but looked incredibly old fashioned in real life, especially the big clunky spaces for cup holders in each arm. Do they use cup holders in the show? Wouldn't their tea splash all over them when they spin round? As I say, I don't know, as I'm usually listening to whatever it is they have on Radio 3 instead.

    We swapped some IDEAS and that and soon got called in. As ever with this sort of thing we got talked at by the producers and then Romesh the host came on a chivvied us along/told us off a bit. The cast this week was ACE - Terry Mynott was in it, who i thought was GRATE in The Mimic, but the BEST person in the whole thing was Morgana Robinson, who was VERY funny. The whole thing was full of LARFS - I have said it before but it is ODD that when you go to SEE a radio or TV show recording you always end up LARFING like a LOON throughout, HOOTING with glee at things that, when you see/hear them at home later are not really very funny at all. Whatever, I had a WHALE of a time, and almost forgot to listen out for any of the GAGS and SKETCHES that Mr J Dredge and I had sent in earlier in the week. We didn't get any in at all this week, but due to all the aforesaid LARFS I didn't really mind. We do, however, need to buckle down and send some more in this week - it's a good show, I want us to be part of it!

    posted 3/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Cultural Impact
    I was having one last look at twitter before going to bed on Monday night when THIS popped up in my notifications:



    Gosh! Had a big proper famous author REALLY used a quote from one of my songs as a chapter heading? "We Bought It To Help With Your Homework" is one of the choruses for Hey Hey 16K but, I thought, maybe it's also a common phrase elsewhere too? I'd heard of Christopher Brookmyre but didn't know much about him, so looked him up on wikipedia and found that he was born very much at the right time to know the song (i.e. he's two years older than me and thus would have been in the PRIME SPOT for ZX Spectrum nostalgia when the song came out). Looking a little bit further I found an interview with him talking about his favourite old games, including Jet Set Willy, and ALSO discovered that the book "Bedlam" is partly about computer games.

    The whole thing was confirmed when I went and looked a bit more on twitter and saw THIS exchange:



    I think that makes it official!

    I know it's not really a HUGE DEAL, but it does make me EXTREMELY HAPPY to know that a song I wrote 300,000 years ago still means something to people, and has slipped gently into a tiny corner of popular culture. I mean, I realise it's not quite Swedish Scientists Hiding Bob Dylan Lyrics in Scholarly Articles but it's still rather lovely. I guess this means I'd better buy the book now doesn't it? Authors take note! You can increase sales by at LEAST (also possibly at MOST) one copy simply by sticking one of my song titles in!

    posted 1/10/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Writing Workshop
    On Sunday I went to yet ANOTHER BBC writing thing, this time as part of the New Comedy Writing Awards. We'd been told to meet in the cafe area at the Hackney Empire, and when I arrived I happily gazed around spotting the people I thought would be going to the workshop - basically people who looked like younger, paler versions of me, nervously staring at their phones. I enjoy doing this entirely unselfconsciously, very much aware that others will be looking at me and thinking "he looks exactly the same as the rest of us EXCEPT PERHAPS SEXIER." That's definitely what's happening.

    After a bit there was an announcement that the workshop was about to begin round the corner and the ENTIRE ROOM rose as one and filed out. I felt sorry for the people working there who must have felt DESERTED. One of the people who rose was Mr N Brennan, from SCHOOL, so we had a chat as we wandered in. I tell you what, even if doing the MA hadn't given me all the 1,000,000 benefits that it did, it would still have been a lovely way of ensuring I always had someone to talk to at Writing Events!

    Once inside we had a panel discussion, featuring several of the same people as at the last one of these I went to, with some interesting talk of how they got Where They Are Today. The main Take Home Points were "it takes ages" and "you have to get to know people" but again it was nice to hear everyone saying that the Standard Route of working your way up through Newsjack submissions WORKS. It certainly made me keen to keep at it! The only disappointing thing was at the end when a bright young hope for the future (hem hem) asked for tips on how to get Producers (i.e. people like them) to come and see Edinburgh shows. "Just have a good show" was the answer, which is the WORST ADVICE and also THE MOST POPULAR. It drives me nuts when people say that - how on earth does anyone KNOW you have a good show if nobody has SEEN it? If I did THE MOST AMAZING SHOW EVER in my Mum's LOFT would people somehow find out about it and turn up?

    In the second half we did some group work, pitching ideas for a Radio One show. The idea of this, apparently, was to give experience of how group idea pitching works, and it sure did. On the one hand parts of it were ACE as several of us shared ideas, encouraged new thoughts, and were open to new suggestions. On the other hand... well, let's just say that not everybody is designed for this sort of thing and may - OR MAY NOT - have forced some people other to bite their tongue throughout instead of screaming "Stop writing all of you and your friend's rubbish, blindingly obvious, ideas down and ignoring everybody else's. Please." It was A Bit Annoying.

    In the first half of this section we had to come up with a bunch of ideas which the Producer Types would listen to then chose one from each group for them to work on further. I would like to report that I didn't take GRATE satisfaction when one of the ideas that the rest of us had forced our two "leaders" to write down was chosen over all of theirs, but alas I am NOT QUITE AN ANGEL. In the second half of this section the rest of us did all gang up a bit more and get some ideas out, but it was still a little frustrating - apparently though this is what GROUP PITCHING is like most of the time anyway, so I guess it was good practice!

    When it was finished i FLED - there was NETWORKING to be done afterwards in the cafeteria, but I had to get home and do a whole heap of Newsjack Submission Writing. Clearly the system works!

    posted 30/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Dowager Duchess Of Dole
    On Friday I went to SIGN ON for the DOLE. I've officially been off work for AGES but until recently I was technically a full-time student, so haven't really been eligible, but now that I AM I thought I'd give it a go.

    Several people have said to me "Ooh no, I couldn't do that again, it's horrible. They MAKE you go in for interviews and stuff." To this I reply in two ways: firstly, I spent twenty years working in Universities mostly in positions allied to IT departments, so am well versed in byzantine organisational structures, institutional incompetence, low quality customer relations bordering on madness, and sitting around doing nothing for huge swathes of time, so feel well prepared for the experience. Secondly, if they try to make me do anything TOO stupid and/or annoying I can always say "No thank you" and simply go back to the non-receipt of dole situation I was in before.

    With all this in mind I was well prepared for what was to follow. On Thursday, while in Peterborough for the Extravaganza, I'd had two text messages to remind me of my appointment time, 11:50am, followed by a telephone call to remind me again. So far so KEEN. At 10:00am on Friday I got a phone call asking me to go in at 11:00am instead and then ten minutes later ANOTHER phone call explaining that the original time had been a clerical error, and could I go in at 11 o'clock instead. I happily agreed, then the lady said "Great, so that's 11:50 then" and hung up the phone. Excellent!

    She'd told me that when I arrived I was to fill in some paperwork and then go to the first floor. I arrived at the ground floor at ten to eleven (EAGER, PROFESSIONAL) to find that they had done away with boring old fashioned things like a reception desk, and replaced it with a bunch of people lurking around trying to get the attention of the G4S security guy to see if he had any clue what was going on. Eventually he called over a "floor walker" who told me to go straight up to the first floor.

    When I arrived at the first floor there was again no reception, so I had to wait until another G4S security man took pity on me and found someone with a desk to talk to me. This person asked me a) where my paperwork was b) why wasn't I on the second floor and c) wasn't I a bit early for my appointment at noon?

    I went up to the second floor, went through the same non-reception confusion, and got waved at by a nice lady who eventually came over and apologised for keeping me waiting. "This is a rapid re-application isn't it?" she asked. My last application was in 1992 so I assumed there was a mistake, which indeed there was. She gave me a form to fill in and then made an appointment for me to go back in two weeks for a proper interview, at 8:30am. I BAULKED at the time, but realised that this was the end of my obligations to DWP for a fortnight, so smiled POLITELY and left.

    The POLITE SMILE was indicative of my whole DEMEANOUR, and whilst waiting I realised that this was something I ALWAYS do in these sort of situations i.e. I act like a MINOR ROYAL on a VISIT. It was the same a few weeks ago when I had to have a hospital check-up, I become like MAGGIE SMITH or someone, smiling benevolently at all the dear poor people around me, remarking whenever appropriate how jolly nice it all is and radiating calmness and tranquility. I basically become like the QUeen Mum visiting the old East End during the Blitz.

    On reflection I realised that this is an EXCELLENT way to get through such situations - after all, if it's good enough for our great nation's number one family of claimants, then surely it is good enough for me. Next week I plan to open a FETE!

    posted 29/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Extravaganza
    I was in Peterborough on Thursday to view the closing night of my first ever professionally commissioned piece of ART - The Anglian Water One Alliance Health And Safety Stand Down Day!

    CATCHY, right? I think it is going to set the West End alight... in a wet, also safe, way. This was something I was asked to do by Mr CM Smith of Barhale, and also of Being My Step-Dad. He was in charge of the whole event and was hiring some ACTORS to do a session at the end, so needed someone to write a SCRIPT. This is only the second time in my whole life that I have got work through family connections - this first was back in 1988 when I did a fortnight working on SITE, also for Chris. I lost a stone in weight that time, and was a bit disapppointed it didn't happen again!

    When I got to Peterborough my Mum collected me and we ZOOMED off to the East Of England Showground. When I was growing up this was the scene of the most exciting thing to happen in Peterborough all year - the East Of England Show, when everyone would go to look at some Large Pigs, try and collect as much Free Tat from the stalls (i.e. pens and those hats made from a sheet of card with a cut out spiral in it) and then look at the Red Arrows go overhead. I even worked there once (or twice?) helping with the parking in the car park - if you come from Peterborough it is pretty much a RULE that you have to do this at some point.

    The weren't any animals (though you could still SMELL them, mysteriously) and no red arrows, but other than that it didn't seem to have changed much. The event was happening in The Peterborough Arena, a big HANGAR style building which Anglian Water had hired out for the three days that this was all happening on. We walked in to the main auditorium which was VAST, with about 800 seats, three BIG SCREENS, and three stages - one for the main presentations, one for the BAND that had played during the morning session, and one for the DANCE TROUPE that Chris had got in from a local school to illustrate to his OPENING ADDRESS. When he told me about that i'd thought he was joking, which surprised him - of COURSE he'd have a live band and DANCERS as part of his talk, didn't everyone?

    The other half of the room was full of DISPLAYS and STANDS where, reassuringly, you could collect all sorts of free stuff, although I was sad not to see any Spiral Hats. We mooched around, said hello to Chris (who, in his third day, was FULLY in control of the ginormous SHEBANG he was running) and met various colleagues that I'd heard about for YEARS.

    At half past three it was SHOWTIME, so nearly FIVE HUNDRED of us filed into the main auditorium to watch the presentation. I'd been asked to write something suitable for this size of room, based around a courtroom scene. It was to have joining in, an EXPLOSION, a cage descending from the ceiling, space for a real site inspector to talk to the audience, and a GRAPHIC video showing somebody being very badly hurt in a real accident. It was quite a lot to get in, but I think I did all right, thought I must say I found the experience of watching it MORTIFYING. Partly this was due to the interactive/PANTO nature of it. Right at the start when the actors got everyone to stand up and raise their hands i turned to my Mum and said "Ugh! I hate this sort of thing!" then remembered that i had WROTE it! I was also VERY aware that the audience was TRAPPED there and would probably have preferred it to be over in five minutes so that they could go home!

    The best bit was the bit I didn't do, when the Inspector came on to talk to the audience. He did some proper classy Corporate Comedy ("Anybody here from Balfour Beatty?") and then got people out of the audience to ask them questions about Health & Safety. Whilst doing my research I had become incredibly PROUD of the construction industry's attitude to this - some people (twats) go "ooh, health and safety, it is all red tape that stops sensible people making money", but if you work in construction it SAVES ACTUAL LIVES. They had people from all sorts of different ROLES on stage, who didn't know they'd be picked out, but they were all COMPLETELY on top of it, reeling out lists of all the precautions, procedures and GUIDANCE that was designed to stop accidents. It was inspiring!

    So it was all fine, except from at the end when I was told to stand up and be thanked, and almost a THOUSAND eyes turned and looked accusingly at me, and it was really rather exciting to think that something I had written will have been seen by 1,500 people over the course of the three days. That probably means more people saw it over the run than ANY of our Fringe shows!

    Like the Fringe shows, however, there was some tidying up to do afterwards, so the whole family of us joined in with taking down tables, moving signage, folding up tablecloths and generally trying not to get in the way, before going off for a BEER. Please note, CORPORATE EVENTS MANAGERS - if you hire me, I not only write the show, I clear up afterwards as well!

    posted 26/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Department
    I've got an IDEA on the go at the moment that is making me all EXCITED, so much so in fact that last night I had to retreat into a different room and do a SMALL DANCE. That's Quite Excited!

    The idea EMERGED last week when I SWANNED into London Town for a couple of MEETINGS. The first of these was with Mr J Dredge, during which we worked up some THORTS for sketches to send into Newsjack, which is starting again this week - the first episode is on TONITE in fact, so fingers are very much crossed for getting something IN. After that I wandered into Soho and met Ms E Morgan, late of SCHOOL, for a talk about SITCOMS. We'd spoken about an idea of hers a couple of weeks ago, and I was VERY pleased to have another chance to talk about it some more, as it is a GRATE IDEA - it's basically about a BAND, which is something I know about, and we had a delightful time talking IDEAS. The only thing about it that made me slightly sad was that it was SO MUCH BETTER than the vague idea I'd had to write a sitcom about bands. It made mine, in fact, look a bit rubbish.

    This was especially disheartening a I sort of NEED to write some sort of original sitcom script. Since Hollywood got CANCELLED I've been very much back on the BBC Radio PLAN to become a Proper Professional Writer. The idea is that you start by submitting sketches to Newsjack, then gradually work your way up until you get to have a meeting with a producer and PITCH your own sitcom idea at the them... and I don't have one, not least because I spent such a HUGE part of this year writing TWO scripts for other people's sitcoms which are now not really any use to me. I said this out loud and Emma said "Well why don't we think of one then? What are your PRECINCTS?"

    I sat and had a thought and came out with the usual first ideas I have - comics, being in a band, science fiction etc etc, then at the end said, "And, obviously, I worked in University departments for 22 years." Even as I said it LIGHTS started going on in my brain. "There you go", said Emma and there indeed i DID go. My BRANE had cleary been WAITING for this idea because all the way home it kept saying "And what about THIS story? And this Unusual Character?" Working in University departments for 22 years involved meeting a LOT of VERY Unusual Characters!!

    I let these THORTS stew in my mind over the weekend, and then on Wednesday sat down for a proper THINK. I wanted there to be a character a bit like ME in it (i.e. someone who'd worked there for DECADES pretending they were only there temporarily), but every time I tried to think of it I pictured Roy from The IT Crowd. I also had an idea for someone based on Marjorie who I used to work with, but could get no further. I had a look at the webpages of a couple of my old departments and was AMUSED to find that although NONE of the admin staff were still there nearly ALL of the academics were, and that half of them were now PROFESSORS! The only one that wasn't was a woman who appeared to STILL be doing the same PhD she'd been doing when I worked in the office next door to her, 20 years ago, and ALL OF A SUDDEN the whole thing fell into place.

    I LEAPT into action* (*sat down on the sofa with a pad and pen) and started drawing out a COMEDY DIAMOND. This is something we were taught on the course by guest lecturer Mr Keith Lindsay, and ISN'T a precious gem that remembers Wagon Wheels, but rather a way of describing and devising Sitcom characters. I won't go into it in HUGE detail because, well, he does it better and also CHARGES people to be taught it, but the basic idea is that any sitcom can be described by putting the main four characters into a diamond where each side both opposes and reflects the other. For instance, in Dad's Army you've got Captain Mainwaring and Sergeant Wilson as opposites (in terms of class) and alike (they're both officers) while Pike and Jones are opposites (young and old) and alike (not officers). You go into a lot - a LOT - more detail than that, making opposites and similarities between all of them and then GETTING PSYCHOLOGICAL about it in the various further steps, but that's the general idea. He proposes it as a TOOL for working out which characters you NEED.

    It is a GOOD TOOL, so good in fact that I did it as a DOUBLE DIAMOND for my show, which is obviously called "The Department". Here is how it looks so far:



    It may not look like much at the moment, but it was the start of my BRANE going into OVERDRIVE. You know when Famous Celebrity Authors say "Oh yes, it is always fascinating when the characters start talking to you"? Well it was sort of like that except they started DOING things and ARGUING with each other and BEING IN STORIES. It was amazing! All of a sudden this whole world of STUFF appeared, LO! as if to say unto me "Mark! Here is the thing you're going to be thinking about for the next few months!" and I did get A BIT EXCITED and have to go off to do the DANCE that I mentioned at the top.

    It reminded me of the rare occasions over the years when I've written a Good Song* and KNOWN it (*"Good Song" on this occasion basically means "a song that I will be playing at pretty much every gig for the next ten years, knowing it'll usually go down OK). Examples of this are Easily Impressed, The Lesson Of The Smiths and It Only Works Because You're Here, all of which I have done a MILLION times safe in the knowledge that they'd be OK. With each of them I knew that they were KEEPERS as soon as I'd written them (NB if this sounds big headed please be aware that it has happened about SIX times in 20 years of ROCK!) and I got the same sensation with "The Department". I could be wrong - it's a whole new AREA after all - but it felt GOOD.

    Now all I need to do is think of three HILARIOUS stories for the first episode, write it, get it commissioned, and then RAKE IN THE CA$H! What could be easier, right?

    posted 25/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Art Moves
    At the weekend we went to see some ART that we liked so much we went back again to see it SOME MORE!

    The first time of viewing was on Saturday as part of an extended day out in Queen Elizabeth Olympical Park, which was PACKED with stuff to see. We kicked off with a trip round the "Village Fair" round the corner from our house, then saw the "Art-Moves" exhibition (more of which to follow), bumped into Dr N Brown (who wasn't officially part of the ART, but was certainly a highlight) then went on to the "Vintage Car Boot Sale" which wasn't a boot sale at all but was in fact a bunch of very nice old cars next to some stalls selling rather expensive clothes that, a few years ago, would have cost 5p in a charity shop.

    It was all JOLLY interesting and fun but also BUSY, so on Sunday we went back to "Art Moves" to have another PROPER look. It was GRATE - a whole bunch of different art-related VEHICLES, including a mobile cinema, and electrically powered moving FOOT, a huge seagull-shaped caravan/information point, a portable music hall theatre, and the boat made of different wooden items that we last saw during the Olympics. To be honest I suspect that The Art In My Gallery MAINLY wanted to go back so she could try and look at the Several Nearly Naked Men who had been powering a big wooden traction engine, and though she was to be DISAPPOINTED, it was a GRATE exhibition to go and see. DETAILS of it are on their website but ALAS it does not feature the best bit of the whole thing: I HAD AN ICE CREAM!

    posted 23/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    It Begins
    In theory we've had a year out of the FRINGE CYCLE, but actually it's only four months since we last performed Total Hero Team and now here I am booking the dates for the new show at next year's Leicester Comedy Festival. It comes round quick!

    To me it feels a bit weird to be writing a BLURB for a show which we haven't even had a readthrough of yet, but I also know that a lot of comedians won't be thinking about THEIR shows until at least next summer, six MONTHS after they made up a title, so I guess we're a BIT ahead of the curve!

    We're going to advertise the show as "Hey Hey 16K (work in progress)" for this one so as to a) reduce the pressure on us to have it perfect by then and also b) to ALERT people to the fact it won't be. Here's what I've written:
    A new show from the Leicester Comedy Festival veterans who brought you 'Dinosaur Planet', 'Moon Horse' and 'Total Hero Team'. This one features the usual songs, Dad jokes and titting about, plus time travel, ZX Spectrums, advice on beer, Ada Lovelace, tap dancing (probably) and Steve taking on the role of a lifetime: MJ Hibbett!

    I think that's fairly to the point! Now all we have to do is... well, do it!

    posted 22/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Podcast time
    After a week of interning and then another last day at work I'd planned to have Tuesday as a DAY OFF. This may sound weird when i am generally OFF anyway, but I usually tend to fill my days with DOING stuff so every now and again it's nice to set aside a full day to sit on the sofa and watch TELLY.

    ALAS Tuesday wasn't to be that day, as I had a TONNE of things to do, not least of which was to finish off the Totally Acoustic podcast. I always forget how LONG this takes to do, though a lot of this is because I keep forgetting I'm meant to be listening critically and just enjoy it. I SHOULD be writing down all the songs performed and considering which to include, and how to edit them together, but I usually end up LARFING and/or thinking "Who is making THAT noise in the background?"

    Anyway, it is DONE now and ready for you enjoy over on its webpage, where Mr T Eveleigh, Mr D Leach and MYSELF are waiting to entertain you. I can't stick around to talk about it though, I've got a PILE of things to do today so I can try and have TOMORROW off - there's four episodes of Doctor Who to re-watch, and the longer I leave it the MORE there will be to catch up on!

    posted 17/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Networking For The Terrified
    I seem to have finished work several times this year, and did it AGANE on Monday. I finished getting paid in May but stopped going in full-time in April, having agreed with my boss that I'd pop back and do the days I owed him as and when it was needed, so as to make sure the project we were working on got finished properly. Hence on Monday I did the LAST of these days, and made it official with a Manly Handshake and proper goodbye. I've got to go back IN to take back my keys at some point, but I think this counts as the LAST last time I'm there!

    I'd spent most of the day being reminded why I LOATHED SPSS so much (for those who don't know, it's a Stats package designed by statisticians to be INCREDIBLY PAINFUL TO USE) so I thought I deserved a Relaxing Pint afterwards. Luckily I was popping into The King & Queen because I'd forgotten to pay them for the room for Totally Acoustic last week and, even though they hadn't realised, thought I ought. I thus got to sit in one of my favourite pubs in London and ponder a) what had just FINALLY finished and b) where I was off to next.

    For LO! after a bit of a MONTH of endings - work, the MA, the internship, and DREAMS of HOLLYWOOD - I was heading on to something NEW. As one of the (many) people who'd sold sketches and/or gags to the last series of Newsjack I'd been invited to the Writers' Briefing, where they tell everyone what the NEXT series is going to be like. It was being held downstairs in the Albany, and when I arrived I spent a happy five minutes identifying the Lonely Writer Types there for the meeting - mostly men, mostly pale, mostly middle-aged (or at least middle-aged looking), nursing a pint on their own and looking at their phones. How I chortled as I sat there alone with my pint and phone!

    I was soon joined by Mr J Dredge, so we went downstairs and were ALSO joined by Mr H Carr. My WORST FEAR of this sort of thing is being the ONLY PERSON stood on their own with no-one to talk to, so sat between these two, and with them chatting to others too, I felt like a PLAYA!

    The first half of the talk was about slight changes to the format of the show, and what sort of thing they'd be looking for, while the second half was a Q&A with some writers. It was VERY interesting, especially the fact that not only was there a CLEAR ROUTE from sending in sketches, to SELLING sketches, to getting invited to the writers room, to getting COMMISSIONED, and then to (i surmise) HOLLYWOOD, but they happily talked about it as a THING. This is more career planning than I ever had in 20 years of ROCK, or indeed of 20 years of a Proper Career!

    Afterwards we went upstairs for further chat but before long the other two had gone home and so I was left alone. I'd only really spoken to Harry and John and thus had done NO NETWORKING. I knew that this is pretty much the POINT of this sort of thing but it TERRIFIES me. I decided to seek advice, so texted home to ask The People In My Gathering whether I should a) network b) just come home. I rather hoped she'd say "come home!" and give me an excuse to do so, but instead she said "Network! But come home if it's horrible."

    I gritted my teeth, threw myself back in... and it was FINE. I spotted someone else lurking at the edge looking TERRIFIED and purely by BEING NEXT TO HIM encouraged him to... well, get away from me and go and talk to someone more important. I got a beer and tried again, this time standing next to a conversation and gently merging into it. I believe this is how confident people do it, and it seemed to work, and soon I had had a PERFECTLY PLEASANT CHAT and been introduced to both the Producers of the show. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED!

    It was all going swimmingly at this point so I thought the best thing to do was GET OUTTA THERE before I said something dreadful OR got horribly drunk OR broke something. Thus I got to leave with my head held high, feeling I'd made a decent start on this next bit. Now all I need to do is write some Hilarious And Topical Sketches!

    posted 16/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Totally Heroic
    Last week's Totally Acoustic was an HEROIC VICTORY in the face of overwhelming odds, for LO! several things went slightly wrong, but still we overcame them. HEROICALLY!

    The first issue was with people turning up - I think I was SPOILED last time because everybody was pretty much THERE by just after 6pm and we even ended up starting a bit early, but this time it was well past 7pm before we had the full compliment of ACTS, and had several audience-members rolling in LATE, falling foul of the common assumption that when we say "It starts at 7:30" we mean "It starts at 8:30" when, of course, what we really mean is "It starts about 7:45ish, depending on when everyone can have a wee and get a drink."

    Once that heinous obstacle was overcome another problem arose, in that Mr D Ransome, booked to play that evening, was unable to do so due to a VIRUS what had destroyed his vocal chords. He still BRAVELY came anyway but was unable to perform, so I GRABBED Mr T Eveleigh who had fortuitiously turned up WITH A GUITAR. He protested that he doesn't carry one round with him at all times just in case a possible gig appears, but had been given it earlier in the day. I, kindly, decided to believe him.

    The gig kicked off with ME, feeling a bit nervous because I'd not really had much time to practice in the week due to doing my INTERNSHIP. I felt even MORE nervous when, 2 seconds into the start of an attempt on The Perfect Love Song I broke a STRING. Unable to do anything PICKY, and not having a spare string, I was thus forced to start my set with a DIFFERENT song, which wasn't ideal as it was one of the STERNEST ones I have. Here's what I did:

  • Burn It Down And Start Again
  • In The North Stand
  • Another Man's Laundry (hanging on your line)
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30

  • I've not done Burn It Down And Start Again on my own before, and I'm not HUGELY sure that it worked - it does lack any kind of HUMOUR, which makes it a bit difficult to start off the whole set with, and without the band it's pretty much the same all the way through. A song that DID seem to work, however, was In The North Stand, getting its first ever public airing. I think it was all right - I can always check when I do the podcast!

    With that all done Tim came on and did a couple of songs, ALSO rising heroically above challenges when he realised that he might have a guitar but he DIDN'T have a plectrum OR a capo, two things that he ALWAYS uses. He powered on regardless though and, as you'll hear when the podcast is done, sounded LOVELY.

    Having fought bravely through all these TRIALS we had a quick break and then Mr David Leach came on. He too lacked a capo, but his greatest CHALLENGE was a group of Quite Chatty People in the corner. This doesn't happen very often at Totally Acoustic, which always surprises me as people are SO used to talking at gigs these days, but David dealt with it MASTERFULLY, pausing a song to say "SHH in the corner!" and then interacting with them in a friendly, yet FIRM way. It is always good to see someone do a gig who is REALLY GOOD at doing gigs, and he continued very much in this way, doing an HILARIOUS and also TOUCHING set. I've wanted to get him on at Totally Acoustic for AGES, because every time I've seen him I've thought "I bet The Songs In My Set would LOVE him" and indeed she did. Actually, the whole audience did, he was ACE!

    Happy with our evening we relaxed into several BEERS and CHAT and all the good things that accrue when you start a gig at a sensible time in a room full of delightful people. Despite all the ALMOST INSURMOUNTABLE PROBLEMS (hem hem) we had faced, I'm extremely glad that Totally Acoustic is back, it's GRATE!

    posted 15/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Visit To Westminster
    On Tuesday I went to WESTMINSTER for a special DO celebrating the completion of the EPPSE project. This was long running longitudinal study which my old boss had been one of the people in charge of, so I'd done bits and bobs for it over the years and INDEED had had the last 18 months or so of my final contract paid for by, so I thought I ought to go!

    The event was taking place in Portcullis House, a new-ish extension to the Houses Of Parliament (it's over the road, but still counts). I'd been forewarned by those in the know that it could take a while to get in through the airport-style security. People in the know KNEW, for it took AGES, and the wait was not helped by the two posh women behind me who complained NON-STOP about how it was going to make them LATE. It turned out that they'd been told to get there at least fifteen minutes early but had turned up ten minutes later than their event STARTED, but no, apparently it was the fault of the people who dared to be in front of them. "There should be a seperate queue" they said, like people who'd clearly been in a seperate queue their whole life.

    There was quite a lot of this sort of thing going on, especially when we got near the front and people tried to brush past. In front of me were more posh types (it's part of Parliament, i was probably one of the least posh people there), including a VERY stern man who protected the queue integrity. "We have an engagement to get to!" protested one interloper. "WE ALL DO" said the man ahead, STERNLY. He brooked no dissent, it was ACE.

    Inside it was all very pleasant, although I soon realised that pretty much the only people I knew there were my old boss and my OTHER old boss, both of whom were GLADHANDING, so I got myself a glass of wine and went and looked at the ART insteadd. All around the building were specially commissioned or purchased portraits of famous politicians, which was DEAD interesting. Some of the artworks were ACE, some were RUBBISH: ART REVIEWS. There were also Actual Politicians swanning around between rooms that they'd booked. One very familiar face strode past me, leaving a meeting. "Who IS that?" I thought, then turned and saw a room booking display which said "PETER HAIN." If only such displays were provided in everyday life, it would solve me a lot of BRANE STRAIN!

    The DO itself was very pleasant - I said hello to various people, had some vegetable samosas, and watched a whole bunch of speeches. The first was from THE MINISTER, who seemed TINY and YOUNG, though this may have been because he was AFEARED talking to a room FULL of gristled, street tough ACADEMICS. His name was Sam Gyimah and he was a TORY, but it was still All Very Pleasant - Early Years Policy Making (for such it was) does encourage Consensus and Agreement as it seems to rely on this KRAZY IDEA called EVIDENCE BASED POLICY MAKING. Imagine that!

    After some more speeches by the various BOSSES and some more BOOZE it was time to go. As I left I was texting home and almost fell over the out-stretched legs of someone lolling in the corridor. I turned to see which OAF had almost tripped me up and realised that it was a jolly, slightly drunk looking, Ken Clarke! Talk about GLAMOUR!

    posted 11/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Hollywood Postponed
    After worrying all last week and JUMPING every time my phone went PING with an email message (which was invariably from LinkedIn or Twitter) I finally decided on Monday to EMAIL Nickelodeon to ask if there was any news about the Writers' Program, which I'd got into the final of last month. I got an Out Of Office reply saying the nice chap I'd been speaking to wasn't in until Wednesday, which at least meant I didn't have to leap around for the next 24 hours!

    That evening The Messages In My Inbox suggested that, as I knew who the other finalists were, I could have a bit of a NOSEY round and see if they'd mentioned anything on social media, in case they knew more than me. CUNNING! Thus I sat down and had a SNOOP, and eventually discovered an update from Nickelodeon themselves, last week on their Facebook page, announcing the two FINALISTS for the Program... neither of whom were me.

    Ah. In one fell swoop my thoughts of HOLLYWOOD were denied. In many ways it was a relief, as it means I can now plan a whole HEAP of things for the rest of this year, but in lots of other ways it was a HUGE disappointment. The program sounds AMAZING, and it would have been an INCREDIBLE way to suddenly have an entire career in The Writing. Now I'm back to the long way round!

    I've been cheering myself up about it today by making a BIG LIST of all the aforesaid things that I now will have plenty of time for, like going on Actual Holiday, recording the new Validators album, doing the new SHOW, writing new SCRIPTS and, who knows, maybe even SIGNING ON! I have had time to have a little bit of a MOPE about it but, as everyone says, getting ON the shortlist in the first place was pretty cool in itself. Now I just have to find the next cool thing and do THAT!

    posted 9/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Walking Without Dinosaurs
    Friday was a LONG day full of ACTION and, mostly, WALKING.

    It started at lunchtime when, after meeting Mr J Dredge for one of our regular CONFLABS/Sketch Thinking Meetings, i WALKED to the King & Queen to drop off posters for next week's Totally Acoustic (Thursday 11th 7.30pm, feat. Daniel & Norbert Dentrassangle and David Leach) then into Soho to Gosh! for comics, and then all the way back to St Pancras to catch a train to Leicester.

    For LO! I was back in town for a PRACTICE with The Validators, although the practice wouldn't be starting for a good TWO HOURS after I'd arrive in Leicester - as per I'd had to roll up super early to avoid paying a MILLION POUNDS for a train ticket. Rather than just go and sit in a pub I thought I'd go for a bit of an old wander, so went off WALKING around FOUR of the SEVEN places I lived in during my 14 year stay in that marvellous city. THUS I strode across Nelson Mandela Park and to Brazil Street, marvelled at how much the whole Filbert Street/Upperton Road area has changed (a whole FOOTBALL GROUND has gone, as has a BRIDGE!), and visited Walton Street (home to many of the glory years of VOON), Eastleigh Road (where I lived in a bedsit) and then Paton Street (where I first shared with Dr N Brown). It was a lovely trip, during which I was continually and simultaneously AMAZED by a) how much had changed and b) how much had stayed the same. This was all summed up by my final stop-off in The Western, a pub that has ALWAYS been at the corner of Leicester's West End, but is VERY different to how it used to be. It's about three times as big now, having knocked through into another building, and has a THEATRE on top of it too!

    After a refreshing and well-deserved PINT it was time to head over to Frog Island for practice, and I realised that, as Stayfree's rehearsal rooms are by the side of the canal, then surely I could just FOLLOW the canal from Western Boulevard to get there? I thus got to have a DELIGHTFUL walk beside the canal, only getting slightly confused for approx 2 minutes due to a JUNCTION, and arrived just in time to have my Canal Navigating SKILLZ witnessed by Mr T "The Tiger" McClure, who'd turned up in the car park at the same time.

    Shortly thereafter 80% of The Validators were gathered in the rehearsal room - Mrs E Pattison was not attending, which was probably just as well for her as POO GOSH but it didn't half WHIFF in there. As I say, Stayfree is right next to the canal and you can certainly detect a HINT of DAMP in the rooms, and also the ingrained SWEAT of hundreds of (mostly) young gentlemen rocking out within them without ventilation.

    We slightly less young but still VIGOROUS gentlemen warmed up our ROCKING MUSCLES with a go through of 20 Things To Do Before You're 30 then launched into "An Easy Christmas", which is going to be this year's addition to the Christmas Selection Box. In line with the sentiment of the song we decided to do it as easily as possible, and so it remained in "Full Hibbett Skiffle" mode. NB this is the style that pretty much ALL my songs start out in which is usually IRONED OUT by The Validators so they sound at least a LITTLE bit different for each other, but this time we went FULL ON into it. It felt GOOD, and so NATURAL that when I did a whole ENDING bit at the END everyone just went with it, ALMOST as if they had done exactly this kind of song a hundred times before!

    Our next task, however, was not so simple. Last time we'd tried to work out a band arrangement for That Guy but had got comprehensively STUCK on the chorus. This had been caused by everyone focusing on the vocal medley in the chorus, which VARIES SLIGHTLY, and the fact that the third and fourth line are slightly different from the first and second and also each other. We're not used to that kind of complexity! This time we started afresh and went round and round and round, playing the chrous again and again and again until Tim found the right way to play it. One has to feel for Mr Pattison in these circumstances - the rest of us can get our INSTRUMENTS out at any time at home to try stuff, he can only WHACK drums in the rehearsal room - but eventually we got there. It took so long that Tom had time to pop home and get his Recording Device, and returned to find the rest of us having a lengthy, complicated, discussion about drum patterns. "Play the verse part in the chorus!" said Frankie, "and the riff bit in the verse, the jaggedy jaggedy one", I added. It all got a bit confusing, but eventually we got through two verses and two choruses (largely through Frankie saying reassuring things like "It sounds like Madness, honest!" whenever Tim questioned our direction) after which I pointed out that there was a WHOLE OTHER BIT to do now, and also that the adjoining RIFF bit was DIFFERENT the third time round.

    Eventually we worked out that there were eight - EIGHT - different parts to the song! EIGHT!!! I didn't realise it was PROG ROCK when I wrote at it, but we worked and worked at it for over an HOUR so that when we eventually played the whole thing through from start to finish it felt like we had been on an OUTDOORS ACTIVITY BONDING WEEKEND together!

    With that finally sorted we just had time left to try out the new Middle Section for Burn It Down And Start Again. The songs as it stood had been going well in practices previously, but I'd felt that it wasn't quite ENOUGH - with all the historic establishment EVIL coming out in the news recently I thought the song needed a bit more STUFF in it. I was right - if you heard the very foundations of the aforesaid establishment QUAKING at about 8:20pm last week, this will have been the cause.

    With all that done it was time to pack up. Frankie was heading home and Tim to READING for an early morning meeting, so it was just Tiger and me who headed across town to see exactly HOW much The Hind had changed under new management. During my time in The Western I'd read an article about the changeover in "The Leicester Drinker" and was very happy to read that it now had FIVE of its five beer pumps working, as opposed to the previous NONE. I was less pleased to find when we arrived that they had an Open Mic night on, which mostly featured the WORST SINGER IN THE WORLD singing along to a karaoke machine at ENORMOUS VOLUME and dedicating songs to members of the bizarrely appreciative audience. You know that bit in talent shows when they get the over-confident LOONIES on to HOWL at Simon Cowell? It was like THAT!

    Mind you, I guess anyone overhearing could have said the same for us, as The Tiger and I chatted excitedly about how the Album Of Hits is shaping up to be just that. As I've said before, the plan this time is to do a SHORT album where EVERY song is a HIT (where "HIT" translates as "a song that I can happily play at solo gigs and people will like it"). We ALWAYS have this as our plan but it never seems to come about - this time, hopefully, will be different.

    And so it was a very jolly, very KNACKERED, very SWEATY Hibbett who got his tea in Tesco Metro before hopping on the train to Leicester. It had been a long day, but a VERY productive one!

    posted 8/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Unemployment At Last
    Now that my degree is OVER I am, I guess, technically UNEMPLOYED! Or, as I like to say "A Freelance Writer". Who is unemployed.

    I only realised that this situation had finally come about towards the end of Tuesday, as I had decided to award myself the day OFF. Lucky for me I'm not signing on as yet (I thought I'd wait and see how things go for a few weeks before putting myself through all that) otherwise THE DOLE OFFICE would doubtless have been knocking on the door, demanding to know why I wasn't out ON MY BIKE looking for work.

    The day off was meant to feature a lot of watching TELLY, and I did manage to watch a bit, including the first episode of season two of "Under The Dome", the SILLIEST programme that has ever been on TV and yet strangely COMPELLING watching. I kept thinking "Is this a clue to the mystery? Or just appalling acting and horrendous writing?" The first episode was even more RIDICULOUS that the first series had been, and yet it was written by Steven King. Is it MEANT to be like this terrible? WOT is going ON? I shall have to watch Episode 2 to find out - CURSES!

    As it happened I didn't get to watch episode two because I became busy RECORDING. As stated previously, I've done a fair bit of demo recording recently - INDEED, on Monday I'd added to the demo tally with versions of "Back For Good" (for a thing) and our NEW CHRISTMAS SONG which we'll hopefully be recording in a couple of months - but that had been done using the Live Recording function, wich is PEASY. On Tuesday I had to do some "proper" recording with the actual four-track.

    The reason for this activity was that John The Publisher had asked if I had some cheesy instrumentals he could send off for a BRIEF for a TV programme. I suggested a couple of tunes from a while back when I'd done LOADS of such things (mostly collected on Hibbett's Superstore) but had had an idea for ANOTHER. I thought it would be a fun way to spend an hour or so, but it ended up taking AGES, largely because I'd written it in a DIFFERENT KEY to usual. My songs are almost always in G or C or occasionally A, but this one turned out to be in D#! I'd WHISTLED it into this new app I've got which tells you what NOTES you're playing, which I thought was TERRIBLY clever, until I had to sit down at the keyboard and work out how on earth to play it. Those black notes are CONFUSING! It took me SO LONG to work it out, and even LONGER to be able to play the bloody thing, that it did make me wonder if it might have saved me time, overall, to have actually sat down and LEARNED THE PIANO at some point. I mean, I only spend a few hours a YEAR trying to play keyboards, but surely by now it must have added up to at LEAST the length of a week long intensive piano BOOTCAMP?

    Once the keyboards were FINALLY done it was a blessed relief to sit down and record the guitar part, as a CAPO makes ALL chords into easy chords, regardless of KEY. However, I was a little distressed when I'd finished to find out that this had made the KEYBOARD part WRONG, and I had to go and do it ALL OVER AGAIN. In the long run this was GOOD, as the final version of the tune was MUCH better, but GOOD LORD it was frustrating! And THEN, after that, I had to do a really difficult BASS LINE and THEN work out some difficult keyboard CHORDS. If you ever wonder why people still form bands these days when they can easily record everything alone, THIS IS WHY!

    Once it was all done I did a mix, which sounded AWFUL, so I went off to the shops in DISGUST. Once I'd returned, lunched, and got some more vital telly watching done, I returned to the track and remembered the first rule of home mixing: "if everything sounds awful, take all of the effects off and try again". I took all the effects off and it sounded MUCH MUCH BETTER already. PHEW! The second rule is "once you've made it sound nice you probably don't need the fifteen extra tracks of nonsense you stuck on top to try and make it sound better the first time" and this too proved to be true. The only thing the song still needed was some kind of vocal hook - John The Publisher had asked for an INSTRUMENTAL, but it sounded like SOMETHING needed to be there.

    The song has a bit in it that goes "Da-da da DA" at the end of every verse, and I'd thought I could call it "Alam Kazam" as that kind of fitted, but the more I thought about it the more it sounded like "Alan Alan". I VERY BRIEFLY considered calling it "Local Area Network" (A LAN, a LAN) but even I didn't think it was very funny, so thought I'd try and see if I could find a sample of people shouting "Alan!" I guessed a good place to start would be to see if I could find any evidence of people calling for someone called Alan, and thought a festival might be somewhere that this happened, but little did I know that Shouting Alan At Festivals is totally a REAL THING! Hoorah! It's got facebook pages and everything!

    Sampling done I finished off the track and sent it to John The Publisher, just in time for The Not Just The Bands At My Festival to come home so we could head off to HULA HOOPING CLASS, what we do every week. I thus spent my first day UNEMPLOYED writing a song called "Alan!" and dancing around with a hula hoop. What do you say to THAT, Norman Tebbit? HA!

    posted 5/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Back To School
    This week is Back To School week all over the country, and still, over SEVERAL years since I left school (SEVERAL) it is a wonderful feeling to know I don't have to go at ALL, EVER! It felt even better this year as I didn't even have to go to work, and was able to sit at home as all the "first day at school" pictures flooded Facebook from proud parents. I say proud parents, but a part of me does wonder whether all of those photographs are actually the parents' way of saying "HAHA! Revenge at LAST! I have looked after you long enough, now feel the WRATH of EDUCATION!" Actually, this makes sense of a LOT of things - I'm sure I remember my own parents LARFING in my face after I started school and saying "HA! Being forced to go outside and play instead of watching TV all day doesn't seem quite so oppressive NOW, does it?"

    As it turned out though I did SORT OF have to go back to school, as we were having our post hand-in day get-together for the MA, as 4pm on Monday was the FINAL deadline for handing in our Big Scripts and thus our final final piece of work. I handed mine in AGES ago but lots of people were doing it on the day itself and, whatever way you looked at it, this was a BIG MOMENT. It's a whole two years since I sat in The Parcel Yard PANICKING about starting the course, and now suddenly it's all finished. Where did the time go?

    We'd decided to have a big MEET UP to celebrate the fact we'd finished, and also to talk about what we'd do next. We thus had a Formal Discussion about an hour into the evening, when we agreed to sort out a monthly date when we could all meet up - probably a Monday or a Wednesday as those were always the days we were in school anyway - to read scripts, talk about ideas, and maybe organise some SHOWCASE nights. I'm collecting dates from everybody to work out when we can all meet, but that's about all the ADMIN we need, for LO! we had leapt straight into all the Talking with a VENGEANCE. I've always said that the BEST bit of the course was going to the pub afterwards and throwing THORTS at each other, and this continued to be the case as everyone sat around PITCHING ideas, DISCUSSING ideas, and variously HAVING ideas! It's lovely to be able to sit in a room with people and say things like "Ah! But what is the inciting incident?" without feeling like a COLOSSAL WALLY!

    It was also nice to have a few BEERS and a NATTER! Once I'd wobbled home I did think I should probably feel something a bit MORE about the course finally finishing but I realised that only the OFFICIAL bit was over. The good bit's still going on!

    posted 3/9/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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