Monday, December 21, 2009

Season's Greetings...

... To the literally half-dozens of you who are still reading my increasingly intermittent posts. Thank you for sticking around - your comments really do inspire me to continue, and I will try to do more in the New Year. I've just paid to upgrade Haloscan to Echo, and I am nothing if not tight-fisted, so I will be determined to get my £6.33-worth in the next 12 months. That is over 50p a month, so I am hoping for some cracking pedantry battles being fought out in the comments boxes to make it worth it. In fact, I can foresee a graph of cost-per-comment coming up...

My recent lack of posting is down to the usual busy-ness of work (two nice new commissions and a couple of things of my own in development) and small child (he is two! How did that happen?!), however these are both good things and not to be complained about. Not too much, anyway.

We did have some new windows installed recently. Unfortunately the company were professional and punctual which is great for the weatherproofness of our flat, but not so good as a source of comic inspiration. However, next year there is the possibility of a house move, with all the attendant minor disasters to blog about, plus the subsequent need to do loads of DIY which is always good for those "I Have Broken My House/Cut Off My Hand" posts.

I was looking through a cupboard last week and found something I'd made as a child, which would have made a brilliant series of festive posts, but that will have to wait until next Christmas now. So watch this space, and in the meantime have a good one.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Newsarse Book

Just a quick pre-Christmas plug for the Newsarse book, taken from the consistently funny Newsarse website, which Stephen Fry described as "good" following its Jan Moir article.

The editor is the person I found out went to the same school as me in the most amazing coincidence ever, but I would still be plugging it anyway. It would make a brilliant Christmas present. But only for people who already have two copies of Venn That Tune, obviously.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Venn It Again, Sam

About to start your Christmas shopping? Don't know what to buy for a friend or relative who likes music and/or Venn diagrams? Do not fear, because Venn That Tune is still available from Amazon and all good book shops.

And to kick your festive season off, Christmas cards are once again available from Moo. Or just email the ones below to your friends (click for bigger images).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Observational Humour

I pride myself on my powers of observation. For instance, I am very good at noticing when people are left-handed, either in real life, or on-screen. Obviously this is fairly easy if you are consciously trying to spot if someone is a leftie as you can just wait for them to pick up a pen. What I mean is that I notice without consciously looking. As soon as I see someone writing something with their left hand, the thought immediately pops into my head: “That person is left-handed”, but if they are using their right hand then I don’t immediately think anything at all. I have never found a use for this beyond annoying my girlfriend during films, or pointing things out to new acquaintances that they would have been aware for the majority of their lives, but who knows what crime I might witness where the conviction hinges on which hand the accused was using to plunge a bloody knife into someone’s body? Beyond reasonable doubt I would notice if they were using their left hand, but if they were just like 90-93% of the population I would probably not register the scene at all and carry on walking. So beware, all you sinistral stabbers. Though I actually have no statistics as to how many southpaws I am missing – I only have my intuition that I am spotting them all. What I need to do is team up with someone who only consciously notices when people are right-handed, spend a lot of time together, filming everyone we see whether on-screen or in real life, then play the video back and see if there is anyone we have missed. Perhaps those people will turn out to be ambidextrous. Who knows? It’s a crazy life I lead.

Anyway, I was sitting in a cafe in Brighton on Saturday with my girlfriend when I noticed a strange thing. There were two photos of Brighton Pier on the wall behind her, taken from different angles. But something was odd about them. As I looked more closely I realised that the right-hand one was not a different photo taken from the other side of the pier as I first though, but was the first photo, reprinted in reverse. All the detail, down to the last pebble, was just flipped around. It felt like a cheap trick. How much time and money had the photographer tried to save by doing this instead of just walking to the other side of the pier and taking another photo?

After some intense study and internal conjecture whilst my fry-up got cold, I pointed all this fascinating detail out to my girlfriend, who stopped eating, sighed, took one look over her shoulder and said, “There’s a mirror between them”.

Sadly, she was right. The end wall had an alcove entirely filled with a mirror. There was only one photo, and I had been looking at its mirror image. This also explained why for 15 minutes a man had been sitting on a chair looking straight down the stairs to the basement, which I had thought a bit odd, even for Brighton. He was merely a reflection of a man who was sitting perfectly normally on a chair in the cafe eating his lunch, oblivious to the idiot at the next table. I consoled myself with the knowledge that one of these two men would be left-handed.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Keep Taking the Tablets

As you can see, I have bought a graphics tablet. It was an impulse purchase so that I could try to be a bit more creative in different ways and just try out some new ideas. I thought that if it didn't work I could simply return it, or flog it on eBay.

I am not very good at drawing, so perhaps you think I am still using a mouse, with my left hand, which I have injured with a hammer, but I can assure you that I am using a graphics tablet with my uninjured right hand, which is my preferred hand for drawing. It is not my Lovely Son drawing these cartoons, and anyone who says it is is lying.

My Lovely Son does likes sitting on my lap and trying to use the graphics tablet though, doing some excellent scribbling and watching with glee how his actions are translated from the desk up on to the screen. Today he drew some circles and some steps. At this rate he will be complaining about the 50% tax rate before we know it. But soon he realised his artistic limitations and put the stylus in my hand and told me to draw a bus. "What colour is this?" I said, drawing a magnificent blue double-decker.

"Green", my Lovely Son replied.

I was a bit disappointed. We are not trying to get him into Mensa or anything, but I had thought we had got colours cracked several months ago.

"No, it's blue. What colour is it?"


"No, it's blue."


I looked down, and sure enough he was drawing directly on the graphics tablet with a green felt tip.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Help Wanted Please

Does anyone remember an 80s pop video where a still photo was taken of the artiste playing every note on a keyboard (in various poses) then these were sequenced together in jump cuts to match the melody?

I need to completely rip it off use it as a reference.

Extra points for direct linking to YouTube.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Life On Mars

My name is Sam Tyler. I had an accident and I woke up in 1973. Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time? Or did I just go on holiday to the Isle of Wight, where orange juice is still served as a starter?

(It was actually a lovely holiday, and I had a full-on three-and-a-half decade Proustian rush when for dessert I had some of that neon pink pre-Haagen-Dazs/Ben & Jerry's strawberry ice cream that has been nowhere near a strawberry and is probably full of chemicals that have been banned everywhere else in Europe since before Live Aid, but made me very happy indeed.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

You Know You're Getting Older When...

You see the headline "Pop star Stevens robbed at home" and your first thought is "Oh, no! Not Shaky!"

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dear Early Learning Centre...

Dear Early Learning Centre

My son loves playing with his Early Learning Centre Noah’s ark set. Well done on pursuing that religious angle in these increasingly secular days! He is only 19 months old, but I have already explained to him how this toy celebrates the death of everyone on earth bar one family. He loves it! I expect that in years to come there will be some awkward questions about how big the ark would have had to have been, how Noah could have stopped the carnivores eating the herbivores, and how he could have saved the humble woodworm at all without the Ark ending up looking like Swiss cheese. But for now we are just having fun playing!

I do have one question for you though: I am not David Attenborough or anything, but even I can see that in your ark Noah has quite clearly saved two male lions. Look – they both have manes:

The lion is perhaps the species in which it is easiest to differentiate between the male and the female. It’s not like it’s one of those penguins that even zookeepers can’t tell apart unless they’ve got one anaesthetised in an operating theatre. I thought perhaps that there had been a mistake at the factory and that somewhere else in the country another small child was playing with a Noah’s ark containing two lionesses. But no, the picture on the box clearly shows two male lions:

Are these lions gay? Because I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you what the Bible thinks about that. (It’s actually a bit contradictory – vacillating between loving everyone and stoning them to death with little middle ground along the lines of “I quite like Graham Norton in small doses and what they all do behind closed doors is up to them”.) But more importantly, how was Noah planning on continuing the world's population of lions with a couple of bummers? Was he going to try cloning them? Because I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you what the Bible thinks about that. (It actually doesn’t mention it, unless it’s buried amongst all those rules in Leviticus about not wearing clothes made from different materials or planting different crops next to each other. The closest I can find is “Do not mate different kinds of animals” (Leviticus 19:18), which is kind of the exact opposite of cloning, so maybe God is in favour of it? I don’t know, but it’s a moot point anyway, as it's doubtful the technology would have been available to Noah, whose main area of expertise was carpentry.)

One more question: what kind of animal are these? The box just lists the contents as a rather non-specific “12 x animal shapes”.

Like I said, I’m not David Attenborough or anything, but given that the other animals on what I am increasingly beginning to believe was just a floating fairy tale are lions, elephants, giraffes, camels and rhinoceroses, I was expecting something a 19-month old would be able to instantly recognise. We think they look like guinea pigs, but they’re the same size as the rhinos! Maybe if you made guinea pigs to scale they would represent a choking hazard, but at their current dimensions I think they will scare my son when it comes to choosing his first pet. If you’re looking for another animal with a distinctive silhouette, what about the kangaroo? (Though this might throw up a few awkward questions about Australia not having been discovered at the time of the Great Flood.)

Yours, for the time being, faithfully

Mr S Vincent

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Signs That Work May Be Taking Over My Life #1

Working from home in a job that I love in an industry in which most of my friends also work means that it can be difficult to switch off. Combine this with the mostly welcome freelancer’s dilemma of never wanting to turn work down and I have been busy. In particular I have been working weekends on one project which is about to start filming, bringing a flurry of phone calls about last-minute legal issues and cast and location changes, necessitating some very hurried rewrites.

In short, my work/life ratio has been as unbalanced as John Prescott on a see-saw, but I finally managed to take some time off at Easter and see my niece, who has learnt some jokes:

MY 4-YEAR-OLD NIECE: What do you get if you pour hot water down a rabbit hole?

ME: I don’t know. (Although I did, really.)

MY 4-YEAR-OLD NIECE: A hot cross bunny.

ME: (Laughs) Very good. (Pause) Though maybe you shouldn’t use the word ‘hot’ in the feedline as you repeat it in the punchline. I don’t know what you could use instead though. ‘Boiling’ would be too cruel to the rabbit, ‘warm’ isn’t hot enough and ‘heated’ is just too laborious. It’s a shame there isn’t an exact synonym for hot. Maybe it shouldn’t be water at all ...

MY 4-YEAR-OLD NIECE: I’m going to go and eat some chocolate now.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I am on my way to a meeting. For once I am driving as the studio I am visiting is some way from public transport. They know that I am driving and should have booked me a space.

It's for a show I've worked on before, but for this series there have been budget cuts which means a slight reduction in my pay. Not great, but it's fun work and at least they're going to pay me and not go into administration owing me money. I hope.

When I get there I go straight to the main car park. Unfortunately the man at the barrier knows nothing about my visit and suggests I try the main reception. At the front of the studio are a few spaces, but they are all reserved for bigwigs and head honchos so I just park at an awkward angle in a place that is obviously not meant to be parked in and nip into reception.

There I tell them that I should have a car parking space booked and the lovely lady confirms that that's correct and it should be right out the front with my name on it, ie one of the spaces I had driven past, assuming they were for the important people whilst us plebs had to go round the back and take our chances in a numbered spot.

I drive back round and there it is - a car parking space with my name on it. I am a head honcho! I am a bigwig! I have arrived! (albeit in a second-hand Ford Focus that smells a bit of sick). I park and go into my meeting where the first thing I am asked is whether I got my car parking space OK. I say yes, and relate the whole "driving past it thinking I wasn't important enough to get a car parking space with my name on it" story and we all have a laugh.

As the meeting progresses I realise what they are up to though: they think that they can get away with paying me less by giving me something that doesn't actually cost them anything - a car parking space with my name on it. And if they think they can get away with paying me less by giving me a car parking space with my name on it they are dead right. It is brilliant! A car parking space with my name on it!

I imagine it is like the first time you fly first class - once you have seen how the other half park you can never go back. I won't be able to drive to Tesco ever again unless next to the disabled and parent and baby spaces there is a special space just for me. With my name on it. I will settle for nothing less now.

And I will be telling my agent that the requirement of a car parking space with my name on it must be written into all my contracts from now on. Even the ones where I arrive by tube. In fact, especially the ones where I arrive by tube.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Every Little Helps


Two Employees glumly inspect their sales figures.

Have you noticed that sales of chocolate logs are a bit, well, seasonal?

Yes. Yes, I had noticed that. We seem to sell a lot in December, but then the rest of the year is empty and we end up having to throw quite a lot of chocolate logs away.

Perhaps we could diversify and make some other kind of cake or confectionary item?

But I only know how to make chocolate logs.

Really? They’re just chocolate Swiss rolls, covered in chocolate. Are you sure you can’t adapt the recipe and make something else?

No. It’s chocolate logs or nothing.

But we’re going to go out of business.

Maybe we can persuade people to buy chocolate logs at other times of the year?

How? They are a completely Christmassy item. They are as Christmassy as crackers, baubles and tinsel.

They sit in silence for a moment.

What about an Easter Chocolate Log?


Like most people I don’t have a clue where the chocolate rabbits fit into the crucifixion/resurrection scenario, but this is just a bit silly, isn’t it? However, I’m look forward to Father’s Day mince pies.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Venn That Tune Artwork Sale

Do you like music? Do you like Venn diagrams? Do you like bidding for big colour pictures in online auctions?

Then you’ll love the fact that some of the Venn That Tune artwork displayed at Foyles is still for sale on eBay. Two of the very limited edition (one of each!) colour images are still available and can be signed by the author if you wish. They are A3-size and mounted in plastic clip frames.

See here for more information.

Happy Bidding!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Supermarket Sleep

I am at the supermarket, doing shopping. Good shopping. Great shopping. Classic shopping. Got my clubcard, got my vouchers, 2-for-1s, 3-for-2s. Checking the list, checking costs per unit weight, checking use-by dates, checking own-brand alternatives. It’s one of the biggest Tescos in the country, but I know it like either side of my hand.

I get to the checkout and am putting my stuff on the conveyor belt when I realise there’s been a catastrophic system breakdown and I’ve forgotten to get a butternut squash. Five years ago, butternut squash was just something weird they ate on Friends, now we have one a week. And they say that globalisation is a bad thing.

I know exactly where they’ll be, and the customer in front of me is still having her items scanned so I should be able to make it there and back without causing a delay. The customer in front of me is also a woman, so will doubtlessly, on being told the total she has to pay, stare in total befuddlement about this unexpected development and spend a billion years looking through her handbag for some means of paying. (NB This is not sexist, it is based on empirical evidence of at least one previous supermarket visit.)

“I’ve just forgotten something”, I tell the checkout woman. “I’ve just forgotten something”, I tell everyone in the queue behind me, and run off to the fruit and veg section. The butternut squash is exactly where I knew it would be. I pick one of optimum size and quality, checking the use-by date for maximum freshness, and turn to go back.

Then I stop in horror as I realise I have no idea which checkout is mine. I look along the dozens of lines, but nothing seems familiar. I scout up and down looking for landmarks, but I may as well be on Mars. Is this my checkout woman? Is this her? Was it a woman? Are these the angry people waiting for me? Is this my shopping? Suddenly I’m four years old and I’ve lost my mum.

I’m about to ask customer services to make a tannoy announcement when on one particular conveyor belt I recognise a pairing of a pile of nappies and a pile of ready meals. This certainly looks like my shopping. And the line isn’t moving. And everyone is looking at me angrily. But it can’t be my shopping because there, sitting between the alcohol and some more alcohol, is a butternut squash.

“Do you have a clubcard?” asks the checkout woman as I stare at the fruit as though a talking serpent has just asked me to eat it. Either someone else with not very much time on his hands (ready meals), and a child the same age as mine (size 5 nappies, large quantities of alcohol), who also looks exactly like me because all these people are expecting me to start putting his stuff into bags, has temporarily left the queue to go and get an item he's forgotten and I've come back a couple of minutes later, or I have sleep-bought a butternut squash.

I thought it wouldn’t be a popular move to go and put the second butternut squash back, so I’m now looking for recipes involving two butternut squashes.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Venn That Tune Artwork Sale

Do you like music? Do you like Venn diagrams? Do you like bidding for big colour pictures in online auctions?

Then you’ll love the fact that some of the Venn That Tune artwork displayed at Foyles is now for sale on eBay. Seven very limited edition (one of each!) colour images are available and can be signed by the author if you wish. They are A3-size and mounted in plastic clip frames.

See here for more information.

Happy Bidding!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cradle of Filth's Rejected Band Names

As research for a script I found myself on YouTube listening to Heaven 17's Temptation. It's a fantastic song, and the experience was only slightly marred by the comments proclaiming that Cradle of Filth's version is better. Aside from the fact that it isn't, there is also the fact that Cradle of Filth have the worst, most pathetically obvious trying-to-shock name in the whole history of music. All they have done is taken something nice (cradle) and immediately juxtaposed it with something nasty (filth).

Here are some of the names they rejected:

Mug of Sewage

Kitten Basket of Snot

Cushion of Fishguts

Chocolate Box of Grime

Pram of Excrement

Fruitbowl of Dirtiness

Paddling Pool of Rubbish

Biscuit Barrel of Slime

Christmas Stocking of Industrial Effluence

Vase of Diarrhoea


Müller Fruit Corner of Vomit

any more?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Funny Things That I Have Said That Really Deserved a Wider Audience #4

Last night I was watching Newsnight. Gavin Esler was telling us about the risk of catching diseases from infected blood products.

GAVIN: "We speak to a man who has HIV, hepatitis C and fears he may also have vCJD."

ME: "That's a tough Scrabble rack."

Sadly, my only audience was two teddy bears and a puppet dog.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Neverending Neverending Story

I am hard at work trying to trim a script down to the required length. Altering margins and text size is not allowed, so I have to do it the old-fashioned way: shortening all the descriptions by a word at a time to make them a line shorter in the hope that the widow/orphan control will then shuffle the whole script up by half a page. OK, and actually cutting some bits.

It could be worse. I could be working on this:

(Yes, in the time it took me to make that I could have cut another page.)

(Previously available on b3ta.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bestest Song Ever

I don't usually post links to things I've found elsewhere as there are plenty of other sites that do that, but I've got a couple of deadlines this week so might not manage to write anything else. Plus this is a great response to anyone who moans that children's television isn't as good as it was in their day. I had no involvement in it so can give a totally impartial 100% guarantee that it will put a smile on your face.

Charlie and Lola - Bestest in the Barn
Thanks to b3ta for the tip-off.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


The combination of being freelance (not wanting to spend my fluctuating income on luxuries such as new clothes) working from home (where every day is a dressing-down day and some are even dressing-gown days), and having a small child (often no room to wash and dry my own unfashionable clothes, necessitating wearing even older garments from the back of the wardrobe which then also invariably get smeared with food/snot, sometimes not even mine) means that normal standards of dress have been slipping for a while.

To save time in the morning, this look is often combined with my face being in the follicular hinterland between “hasn’t shaved” and “has grown a beard”. This state isn’t helped by the fact that although I have reasonably hirsute sideburns, moustache and chin area, my cheeks always look like they’ve been defoliated with Agent Orange, sporting as they do more bald patches than a monastery.

It was in this state that I went to the corner shop to buy some bread.

On the way I passed a hunched old man looking even scruffier and more stained than I was, shuffling along in flip-flops despite the cold weather. I asked him if he was OK, and he asked me the way to the corner shop. I told him he was going the wrong way and pointed the way he should be going. He looked confused. I pointed again. He looked more confused. After several more points/confused looks I realised that he was blind.

I offered him my arm as I was going that way, and we shuffled along together. He told me that he needed to pop into the greengrocer’s first as he needed to borrow some money from him, so we manoeuvred our way in through the crates of fruit and veg.

Unfortunately, only the greengrocer’s wife was in and she wasn’t going to be lending money to anyone. The blind man pleaded, but she was adamant. He told her that her husband often lent him a few pounds, but she was having none of it.

As the conversation wore on I looked up at the convex mirror that the greengrocer uses to monitor his shop instead of CCTV. In it I saw, to my horror, exactly what we looked like: two tramps begging for money.

I was in yet another socially awkward situation. I wished to help the man, and I didn’t mind being known as artistically, perhaps even eccentrically dressed by my near neighbours. But there is a fine line between “shabby chic” and “hobo” and I had to concede that this line was so far in the rear-view mirror as to be hidden by the curvature of the earth.

So, as the blind man continued his pleas I started trying to convey to the woman, using only facial expressions and my left hand, that I was in fact a middle-class, well-educated professional who was just having a bit of a bad beard day, and that I was not actually with this man. This was despite the fact that we had come in together and he was still holding on to my arm.

Neither of us were successful and we found ourselves back on the pavement, empty-handed. So I offered to buy the man’s groceries for him, and then we began the slow shuffle back to his house. I resisted the urge to casually mention that I was clean-shaven and wearing a pin-striped suit. Instead I listened to his sad story – about the wife in long-term care, the drug-addict son, the loss of his sight. I promised to phone social services on his behalf and tell them exactly about the help that he needed as soon as I got home.

I did, but first I shaved and went and explained a few things to the greengrocer’s wife.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Things That Are Great About Being a Writer #1

I have been hooked on Million Dollar Traders - the BBC2 show where eight novices are thrown into the deep end of trading for a hedge fund, with the added bonus (for us) that the world's financial system is collapsing around them. This would be like making a documentary about trainee firefighters in New York City on the day that... Oh, someone did, didn't they?

The thing I am most amazed/appalled by however is that these people have to arrive at work before 7am every day. The horror of this idea is brought home to me when I have a phone conversation with the producer of a show I'm working on. We don't get to go through the entire script, so agree to carry on the next day.

"I'll give you a call first thing tomorrow", says the producer. "Say about 10:30?"

"First thing" = 10:30? He's clearly worked with writers before.

EDIT: If that sounds insufferably smug then Things That Are Not Great About Being a Writer* #1: Companies going into administration owing you money. Grr.

(* Or indeed any freelancer)

And these days I am generally woken before those City-bound commuters anyway.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dear Ikea

Re: Patrull drawer/cabinet locks

Congratulations! Not only do these prevent a young child from opening a kitchen cupboard and harming him or herself with a knife or bleach, they also prevent the child's parents from opening the cupboard to cook the child some food, thus stemming the childhood obesity epidemic and, eventually, global overpopulation.

Well done!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wunch of Bankers

I believe that I have worked out why the financial system is in such a mess. Last night I logged into my internet banking account and tried to move some money into another account. I typed in the amount and it then asked me when I would like to make the payment. As it was about quarter past eight in the evening and it usually complains about having to do anything after about three in the afternoon I selected the next day. I was surprised when it then reported:

Your adhoc payment could not be created: It's too late to setup a payment to leave your account for the next working day. However, you can send this payment now by changing the date to today's date.

Huh? What kind of bizarre logic is that? "Sorry, it's too late to do it tomorrow. Would you like me to do it now?" It's like the Queen of Hearts telling Alice "You can't have jam in three working days' time, you've got to eat the whole jar this instant until you're sick."

Surely with just a small modification to this system the banks can lend each other money yesterday and everything will be fine again.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Stain Game

Now that the weather is cold and we don't want to open the windows much, space to dry clothes is at a premium in our tiny flat. With our LOVELY SON producing more than his fair share of laundry there is a strict pecking order of what gets washed first: faeces, vomit, urine, food, other dirt, then stuff that's merely been worn. (And that's just my girlfriend's clothes haha.)

So I was very happy yesterday morning when I put my jumper on and checked my reflection as I had thought there was a stain on the front of it, but it turned out there wasn't. Hurrah - that meant I could get another six weeks' wear out of it.

I wore it to my meeting. I wore it to the shops. I wore it at home when friends came round. It was only when I came to take it off last night that I realised that something about it had been annoying me all day - something scratching me at the front of my neck. Turns out it was the label. Not only was I wearing it back-to-front, but there was a lovely stain down what was now the back.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Yorkshire eBay

(Click for bigger. Previously available on b3ta.)