Tuesday 22 July 2008

If Tomorrow Never Comes...

Sometimes late at night,
I lie awake and watch her sleeping,
She's lost in peaceful dreams,
So I turn out the light and lay there in the dark,
And the thought crosses my mind....

If the hotel manager finds out about this I could lose my job!

Tuesday 15 July 2008

The Friday Album Cover #9 (Side B)

Maybe nobody recognised Friday's album cover - although realists that we are, we here at Ambassador Towers reckon it is far more likely that nobody actually cared.

It was 'Carry the Meek', the impressive debut album of Kells band Ham Sandwich. (I'm sure, if you ask nicely, red can give you the low down on them).

Here's the MSPaint version....

... and the original (which may actually have been done in MSPaint)...

Breaker 1.9, this here's the Rubber Duck

One of the great childhood summer traditions in our not-so-leafy Dublin suburb was standing beside the main road for hours on end, chewing like grizzled cowboys on the stems of long blades of grass, making the ubiquitous "Honk! Honk!" gestures at the trucks thundering to and from the roadstone quarry. Looking back, we derived a disproportionate amount of joy from the simple act of a driver tootling his* horn at us. (He wasn't tootling that horn - they were truck drivers, not priests).

Only once did we deviate from the standard practice. It was on a scorchio Sunday afternoon when a burst water main caused the tarmac to bubble, forming a large bump in the road. That day we waved at all passing vehicles. Some drivers waved back, some beeped - but we didn't care about those. No. Our interest lay with the ones we succeeded in distracting just enough to ensure they didn't see the newly formed bump. Heads collided with windows, drinks were spilled and at least 2 ice cream cones were upended (one into the passenger's lap and the second into their face). Oh how we laughed. The uproar drawing the girls (who were normally far too sophisticated for such childish pursuits) and some teenagers (who had long since left their honking days behind them) into our impromptu game.

Yet as much as I watched the trucks rolling past day after day, for as much as I cheered when a driver would cede to our immature requests I never once entertained the idea of wanting to be a truck driver when I grew up. By this stage I'd considered careers as a fireman, pilot and formula 1 driver - but truck driver never figured. This was probably due to the fact that me and long distance journeys just didn't mix. Each year when Mammy and Daddy Ambassador piled us and the medicine cabinet (Mammy Ambassador can never be too sure) into the car for our annual holiday to Cork/Kerry (it was the 80s, the country was mid recession and affordable air travel was some years off), we would have just passed Naas when I would enquire from the back seat if we were "nearly there yet?". If I couldn't bear a long distance journey twice a year (well we had to come back from holiday too), what chance did I have of doing one every day?

Maybe driving a truck long distance pays reasonably well - I've never checked - and I'm sure for some people driving a great big truck with just your thoughts and the radio for company is a dream job. As occupations go though, one has to imagine it can at times be a pretty lonely one. Lonely enough, I'd imagine, to warrant engaging in the odd ménage à un from time to time - which is probably why the cabs of trucks often have posters and images of women in varying states of undress.

This morning however, I passed a truck that had a picture of a naked woman painted on the outside of the truck, behind the cab. That baffled me - the driver can't see it when he's driving, he can't see it when he's chowing down on a hard earned breakfast roll and he can't see it when he pulls the covers up over him to get some shut eye at night. I'm not quite sure what the purpose of it is - but I had this image of the driver climbing from his cab onto the back of the truck to engage in a little self love.

An exhibitionist perhaps?

* I don't mean to appear sexist - but we never saw any female truckers. Plus the "tootling his horn" joke wouldn't have worked as well. (Maybe it didn't work at all - I don't know)

Monday 14 July 2008

I've got love for you if you were born in the 80s

Against my better judgement and because that's the type of altruistic gentleman I am, I have agreed to perform at a charity event in the Garda club on Harrington Street.

I have done a number of charity gigs in the past and, without fail, all have been hellish in nature. The audience, there for a few drinks and to "do their bit" for an undoubtedly worthy cause, are rarely interested and the size and layout of the room is generally not conducive to stand-up comedy.

While my other charity gigs have been comedy-only affairs, this particular event consists of a salsa dance lesson, a "comedian", some belly dancers and a latin band. In addition to contending with the usual factors which doom these gigs, I will be forced to go on cold before an audience which has spent the last 45 minutes treading on its own toes.

Trying to launch into 20 minutes of pre-prepared but completely unrelated material under these conditions would be nothing short of lunacy. Complete suicide! This leaves me with 2 options - make jokes loosely related to (a) the charity or (b) the venue.

As rule number 1 of comedy is 'Try not to alienate 100% of your audience- or if you absolutely must do it, don't do it within the first minute', obviously option (a) is a non-runner.

Instead, I have written a small piece about the gardaí which I can loosely link both to the venue and, more importantly, a piece of material I perform regularly. It will end something similar to the following:

People living where I grew up were so familiar with the Gardaí they knew them all by name. Anto would be getting arrested for joy-riding and he'd say "Ahhh howrya Tom. Jayziz I haven't seen you in ages - working nights were ye? How's the young lad? Is his cough cleared up yet?"

In fact, we knew the Gardaí so well we used to play Garda Top-Trumps.
"Number of arrests?"
"Damn! Only 127. Who had you got?"
"PJ - you should have asked 'Ability to correctly pronounce the word Vehice' so"

Unfortunately, rule 2 of comedy (or maybe its 3, I always get them mixed up) is: No matter how good you think something is, if nobody gets the reference nobody will find it funny and I'm not sure enough people know what Top Trumps is to allow that material to work.

I hate you so much right now

While I may not hate many people (preferring instead to adopt a 'live and let live' attitude), I harbour what may be considered an inordinate amount of hostility towards those I do. In most cases, it is impossible to determine the single biggest contributory factor behind this intense hatred - the mere existence of the hatee seems to be enough.

I despise TV3's Alan Hughes. Why? I can't say. (That's 'I can't say" in a I-have-no-idea way as opposed to a I-could-tell-you-but-then-I'd-have-to-kill-you way). All I know is the very sight of him is enough to send me into an apoplectic rage. It could be his voice. It might be his vacant laugh. It could even be the fact that despite being yet to reach middle age, he has a personality identical to any number of Granny Ambassador's 90-something, tea cosy wearing, tartan shopping-trolley dragging, "it's awful hard to get good turnips this weather" moaning friends. So this morning, sipping coffee over the Sunday papers, I sat trying to quantify the amount of stress I could relieve if, while in possession of a crowbar, I found myself in the company of Mr Hughes.

Of course I wouldn't want people thinking I was the perpetrator of a gay-hate crime. That just wouldn't do. So, on the basis that a man camper than a row of big pink fluffy tents can't really be accused of 'gay bashing', I decided that, if the opportunity ever presents itself, I'll have to camp things up a bit. I shall dress a bit sharper. I will moisturise regularly. And most importantly, crucial in fact, I will wield the crowbar in my left hand so I look a bit awkward and uncoordinated.

Of course all most of this is strictly theoretical.

Friday 11 July 2008

The Friday Album Cover #9

After a long absence it's back! (For today anyway)

Let me tell you, after a prolonged period devoid of regular MSPaint-ing, your "skills" really start to wane. Of course, the caffine induced shakes could have something to do with that too.

I think I'd struggle to beat Michael J. Fox at Jenga.

So, here we go...

If we're honest, we're not expecting Ambassador Towers to be flooded with replies. We've been away a long time and it wouldn't be fair to expect all 4 readers to come back to a mostly inactive blog all that regularly.

Anyway, see what you make of it.

Clues available on request.

Wednesday 9 July 2008

Handle With Care

Do you remember those schoolmates who excelled in academic, athletic and extra curricular pursuits? The ones who could try their hand at anything - from guitar playing to snake charming or brain surgery - and master it instantly. Yet somehow it seemed impossible to despise them because they were modest, charming and gracious.

Rhod Gilbert was probably such a child.

The following, is a perfectly crafted piece of material I had the pleasure of watching him perform some time ago. I haven't seen it since then (until today) - so it is included here as much for my benefit as that of anybody else. The idea is clever, his delivery and timing impeccable but, in my opinion, the most impressive aspect, is his understated use of a simple prop to augment the performance.


Baggage Handler Complaint

Friday 4 July 2008

Oh no, I've said too much

A post over at Fat Mammy Cat's fantabulous, award winning blog reminded me of this little story...

In April last year, I showed up for a gig determined to try out some new material I had written about a black man who had called to our door earlier in the week. Despite a self imposed rule that I would never post material here, for the sake of the story, here it is - pretty much word for word as told*.

The other week, I answered the door to a black gentleman standing in the drive. Before I could say anything he said “Oh...I’m terribly sorry to disturb you, I’m looking for my friends. They live on this road but I've got the wrong house”.

"No problem", I said "it's two doors down" - and off he went.

It was only when I’d shut the door that I realised what I’d done. He hadn't told me who his friends were. He didn’t say he was looking for the Conolly’s. I just assumed he was looking for the family of Kenyans who live 2 doors down from us.

I may as well have said “On this street we like to keep our black people in this house”. You wouldn't make that assumption with anybody else. If a woman with a tight haircut, wearing dungarees called to the door you wouldn’t say “Ahh you’ll want the lesbians… number 69”.

I think the only thing that made it event mildly acceptable was that for as much as I foolishly assumed he was looking for the Kenyan family down the road – he assumed I was right.

I like to think he walked away thinking “Well that could be construed as slightly racist…. but I suppose we do tend to keep to ourselves.”

Invariably before trying new material an internal battle of wills is waged between a desire to see if it works and a desire to avoid dying on my arse if at all possible. Without fail, I walk out the door knowing exactly where the new stuff will appear in the set, only to arrive at the venue and decide the situation merits reassessment.

It is not uncommon for me to have serious doubts about the material but on this occasion my concerns were not related to its quality or strength. Instead I was worried some people might find it offensive. I like to think my material and style of delivery are fairly affable and I didn't think this piece was any different - but you never know how sensitive some people will be.

There were only a few people there when I arrived -one of whom was a black lady sitting just to the right of the stage. Between the usual pre gig jitters and my concerns about the new story, I balked completely at the idea of including it in the set.

"But its not racist" I told myself, "it should be ok".

Just to be sure, I called the CPF who had read it over my shoulder** as I was typing it up.

"You know the stuff about the guy at the door this week? Well there's a black lady in the audience. I can still do it can't I?"

"Of course you can", she said. "Its not racist - you're making fun of yourself, not him".

Still racked with doubt, I rang GW (who knows about such things), told him the story, explained the situation and asked if he thought it ok.

"Yeah - you're taking the piss out of yourself. It's fine".

So, with my mind put at rest by the reassurances of the 2 people I trust most, I decided to give it a go. I started my set with 5 minutes of reliable, tried and tested material which almost always lifts the roof. It settled the nerves: I had proven that I could do funny and the audience knew I could make them laugh. A perfect opportunity to slip in the new story - if it didn't turn out as rib ticking as I had hoped, they would give me the benefit of the doubt on the basis of the strong start and I could close out with another strong 5 minutes to end on a high.

Well that was the plan.

As soon as I said the words "black gentleman" the audience, almost as a single person, leaned forward, gasped audibly and focused, with gaping gazes, on the black lady to my right. Some looked to their companions with horrified expressions that screamed "Can he not see her? Does he not know she's there?". I could see everybody mentally preparing themselves to be outraged on her behalf when I delivered what they clearly assumed was some horrendously racist joke.

"No problem", I thought, "its not racist or offensive it will be fine". But 5 seconds later the realisation dawned on me: "you know its not racist, CPF knows its not racist, GW knows its not racist.... but these people don't know its not racist".

It made no difference now, I was like Magnus Magnusson. I had started so I had to finish. I couldn't abandon a story I had just started without it delivering a single laugh. I had to continue... so I did.

I soldiered on through the story - with an audience alternating their unsmiling, dumbfounded stares between me and the black lady. The only person laughing - during the new story and an excruciating closing 5 minutes - was the black lady.

She thought it was hilarious.

(I used the same material the following night and on numerous occasions since and it is always received very well. Some nights are just strange).

*It's funnier than it reads - honest.

**She didn't laugh. She never does. It seems to be a good indicator that it will work in a gig.