Drawing: Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson

My wife Frankie is a big fan of Bill Bryson’s books. She casually mentioned to me sometime ago that if our paths ever crossed, a signed sketch would be nice. Her first request. I did this drawing and filed it away in case our paths crossed.

A casual text this week let me know that the paths could cross yesterday – 5 November – when the UK’s highest selling author of non-fiction would be signing copies of the sequel to his hugely popular book Notes From Small Island.I did not acknowledge the text, but did hatch a plan. A quick search confirmed that indeed Bill would be signing at Stanfords in Central London. The 5th of November also happens to be our wedding anniversary, a good reason to fulfil Frankie’s request.

Born in the US, Bill has spent a large amount of his life living in the UK and was eligible to become a British Citizen many years ago but didn’t sit the citizenship exam because he “was too cowardly to take it.” He eventually plucked up enough courage and recently passed to become a dual-citizen. He even wrote about it in his latest publication The Road To Little Dribbling: More Notes from A Small Island, the very book he was signing and the very reason I went to the famous Long Acre Street bookstore for our paths to meet.

Besides we now had something in common, writing wise. We both wrote enough right answers in our citizenship tests. That’s where the similarity and writing comparison ends. I’ll stick to sketching… oh and reading Bill Bryson.

Bill looks like a really nice fellow, and I’m pleased to say he’s even better in real life. He loved the sketch, which I said was part of my anniversary celebrations, and signed for the both of us. Frankie knew something was up, because I never acknowledged her text so she thought I was on a secret mission to surprise her. There’s no fooling Frankie, but there are ways to remember, remember the 5th of November.

Drawing: Bill Bailey

bill bailey

English comedian, musician, actor, TV and radio presenter and author and the latest person to ‘graph one of my sketches, Bill Bailey has just finished doing some work in progress shows at London’s Leicester Square Theatre.

Listed in 2003 by The Observer as one of the 50 Funniest Acts in British Comedy, Bill was also voted the 7th greatest standup comic on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand Ups. As patron of International Animal Rescue, his pet project was the campaign to rescue dancing bears. For his conservation work he received an honorary doctorate from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia. He also has a a plant named after him – Nepenthes X Bill Bailey.

Due to the usual number of diversions and delays associated with multiple stage door stalking, on his final night I missed Bill. It would have also helped if I had got the time right. Those 24 hour clock times always get me… So I thought I’d just send it to him.

It said on his website to allow a month for a reply. I think I got home from posting it and the item was sitting in my post box! Slight exaggeration for comic effect, but he was quick.

Sketch: Matt Tedford as Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho

Matt Tedford

The Huffington Post said, “Matthew Tedford gives a five star performance as the late Prime Minister,” in its review of the award winning actor, comedian and writer’s Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho which played the Leicester Square Theatre in London earlier this year.

Co-written with Jon Brittain, the camp comic cabaret is a re-imagining of the events leading up to the passing of the controversial Section 28 in 1988 that banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools. Matt’s ‘Maggie’ takes a wrong turn in Soho and ends up as an unlikely drag diva. Yes… the Iron Lady becomes a gay rights championing cabaret superstar!

Margaret Thatcher still remains the United Kingdom’s longest running and only female Prime Minister (1979-1990). Before running the country, she was a research chemist and actually invented the chemical that makes soft serve ice cream…

The show played to full houses around the UK and Ireland, culminating in a total sell out season at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year. Not only did Matt sign, but his alter ego did as well, bonus!

Drawing: Holly Walsh

holly walsh

Acclaimed English comedian, comedy writer and Chortle Award winner Holly Walsh performed her new show Never Had It this week at London’s Soho Theatre after a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe last year.

“It” in the show’s title refers to the “je ne sais quoi” – that elusive combination of charisma and insouciance possessed by people who make life look easy. Holly’s self confessed ‘lack of cool’ has, however, become an advantage, turning it into a successful comedy career which began in 2005 when she took an evening class in standup to escape being an art gallery assistant.

The rest, as they say, is ‘herstory’. Within a year she found an agent, made the final of several nationwide new act competitions and began writing for comedy shows, including Radio 4. Since then she has appeared on Mock the Week, Would I Lie to You, and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. As the blurb on the Soho Theatre site says “Some people have got ‘it’. Holly most definitely does not. But who needs ‘it’ when you’ve got a Gold Duke Of Edinburgh Award and nearly two thousand Nectar points?”

‘Graphing at the Soho requires a bit of strategic management i.e. purchase a pilsner and position oneself at the ideal interception point. At the Soho that’s usually at the table adjacent to the door between the foyer and the hospitality area. This is usually a bottleneck akin to the Northern Line at 8am. Mind the Gap.

On Thursday evening I got lucky. There was a gap between shows so the flow of pedestrians was manageable for me to identify the target… I mean talent.

The norm – and I use the term very lightly – is that the performers appear after the audience and this duly happened. This sequence can be crucial, and avoids one asking a number of look-alikes and impostors to sign your sketch before you stop the real one. I speak from experience here, they don’t have their name stamped on their foreheads.

Holy conformed to the norm and moments later appeared from the downstairs stage in clear view. I immediately recognised her distinctive big, bright eyes and smile and she recognised herself in the sketch (always a bonus) and happily signed it.

I still had time to finish my ale in a relaxed fashion and no longer looking like a stalker before assuming the position at a West End stage door later in the evening.