"It was the most offended I've ever been by a Killer Whale story." Mrs. Trellis of North Wales

"I liked the video bit, that was quite good." J. Stephenson of Tucson, Arizona.

"Nope, never heard of it." Business Secretary, Vince Cable MP

Friday, 17 June 2011

Failure is an Artform...

Right, last week I touched briefly upon the rejections you face as a writer. I may have described my one professional 'achievement' (although I hesitate to use that word), but I could spin many, many more yarns about my professional failures.

It's hard to put into words (but that won't stop me...) the gut-punch of someone turning down something you've spent hours/days/weeks/months/years on. 'How dare you do this to me!' you think, 'I've seen telly and things and I know that this is better than some of that'. You feel the rage of every embarrassment and failure swelling inside you until this tumescence of seething hatred bursts out like an alien life-form (or is filed for use at a later date).

In the initial stages you can harness that fury to fuel creativity, but rejection's a crafty bugger and it slowly wears you down to the point where, instead of rattling off a furious and hastily-crafted Phillipic aimed at your tormentors, you simply fall face down in your bed and think that perhaps spending all that time coming up with an awards acceptance speech may have been somewhat premature.

You never quite get used to it... well, until the point when you are dulled entirely to emotion by the sheer volume of rejections. You have to try and not take things personally, which is astonishingly difficult but I imagine you're untouchable if you can manage it. You can laugh about it (even though every laugh is like a stab on in the inside...) and satirise your own misery. However, my attention was drawn to a fairly novel way of conquering failure- By celebrating it.

Dazed and Refused showcases work rejected by the panel of the BP National Portrait Award (and on the website you can view a classic catch-all rejection letter, much like the ones I mentioned last week).

It's a tough point to argue, producing a showcase of failures. As much as rejection hurts, in some cases (many, in my own experience) they're sparing you the blushes of public embarrassment. And yet, something about it really appeals to me. There's a kind of downtrodden yet defiant chutzpah about it. Why shouldn't us failures be given an even break? Let the public judge for themselves instead of aloof, highfalutin successful types. Yet, this is tempered by a niggling little feeling of reservation. With the greatest of respect (and some of them are fantastic paintings), as I mentioned earlier, there is often a valid reason for any rejection and sometimes, just sometimes, judges know what they're doing and that, no matter the quality of the brushwork, no-one really wants to see a portrait of Brian Belo...

But good luck to 'em. Never say never. (Hey, it worked for Justin Bieber... even if the pre-pubescent scrote wouldn't know professional failure and hardship if it smacked him on the bonce with a euphonium...)

Now, some quick pieces of housekeeping...

Lifestyle Rule #1
If you're name is Weiner, at no point shall you do anything embarrassing involving your penis.

I feel I should come clean about something. I know you think I'm a 20 year old English writer, but I am, in fact, a Syrian lesbian.

Friday, 10 June 2011

That Was That Was The Week That Was...

The title doesn't really relate to the content. You're more than welcome to ignore it.

Last weekend was quite interesting. But permit me to take you back yet further than that, to May 6th. It's roughly 1.30 AM and I'm in bed, but unable to sleep. A repeat of Just A Minute from the early 90s is on. Paul Merton is rambling on with his easy, natural humour, Clement Freud is listing things and then just petering out before being challenged by Derek Nimmo and I'm rolling around. For a bit more context, I was having doubts about myself and my ability in my chosen field.

The most recent of a slew of rejections had come way back in March, but the long period where I realised that I had nothing out there was perhaps even worse. If you don't buy a ticket, you can't win the lottery (obviously, if you do buy a ticket you've still got a greater chance of being struck by lightning than winning, but at least it's not factually impossible). My initially prolific work rate (1 full-length play, 3 half-hour one acts and 2 15 minute shorts in 6 months or so ((not to mention a sitcom pilot and several unfinished bits and pieces)) - not necessarily good, but in existence, at least) had completely tailed off. I had no ideas and little inclination to write even if I'd had any.

I was at a very low ebb, both professionally and personally. I'd been undergoing counselling and was unable to shake myself out of the funk I was in. For the above reasons, I had not checked my Gmail inbox with the feverish regularity of old for some time. But, as I listened to Nicholas Parsons struggling to keep his panellists in check back in the 90s through the magic of radio, I thumbed the email icon on my phone and left it thinking, the arrow chasing its own tail round and round.

I rolled listlessly for half a minute or so, before being disturbed by the vibration of my phone indicating the recognition of a number of emails which I had already looked through on the laptop earlier and was preparing to simply check off one-by-one on my phone. However, up popped an email in my professional account from Mark, the organiser of the Bristol Folk House's Saturday Shorts competition for writers in the South West to which I had submitted one of the aforementioned 15 minute shorts (Chess with Vasily). My heart jumped with nervous anticipation (of yet another failure- I should add- not the good kind). I began to read the brief extract of the email afforded by the mail client "Dear Samuel, Thank you for your entry to Saturday Shorts. Sorry for the-"

I sighed. I'd heard of it all before- the platitudes, the 'we really enjoyed your play...', 'we felt your submission was very strong, but...'s. Nonetheless, I figured I should at least finish reading the email (they'd bothered to read 14-odd pages of my drivel, after all). I prodded the email and it filled the screen. I flicked my eyes back to the 'sorry', as painful as it always was. 'Sorry for the long delay. There were over 100 entries so it's been a hard job to decide.'. Don't be nice to me, Mark. It's always worse when they're nice to you. This is probably a lie, but in many ways as a writer you want to know that your piece wasn't picked because it was derivative shite rather than in a 'substantial amount of strong submissions'. I sighed and felt that familiar, horrible knotted weight in my stomach- I know it passes... eventually, but it's still utterly demoralising for that moment.

I eventually resolved to carry on. '... But we were very impressed with 'Chess with Vasily' and would like to put this on...' Yadayadaya- Hang on. What?! I read it again. And again. And still it hadn't sunk in. 'This can't be correct' I thought. The message asked for me to email back to confirm they had my permission to put on the play. I hurriedly tapped out a fawning, sycophantic email, as much to make sure that it was true- that the email wasn't meant for someone else, that it wasn't some kind of mistake- as to allow them to put it in the showcase. I was emailed back asking for any biographical details I wanted them to use in publicity. I hate writing bios. I can't write them without feeling like a cock, obsessed with his own achievement and thoroughly arrogant in his belief that he is of significance. To that end, I gratefully accepted the help of the quite staggeringly brilliant Dr. Simon Best, who was able to spare my blushes and turn a list of minor successes (swimming badges, deputy head boy etc.) into a professional sounding bio. [That's a joke. I never did the swimming badges...]

I hadn't revealed why exactly I'd needed the information. In fact, I sat on the news for most of the next day before telling even extremely close friends and family. I still felt as though it was ludicrous and that at some point Mark was going to turn up at my house with Mr. Blobby and reveal it had all been a Noel Edmonds Gotcha; that it was going to be taken away. Even when I did tell my family, I said that it's probably some subversive Eurotrash thing where they take the worst 6 entries and display them exclusively to cater to a select group of hipsters and their love of schadenfreude.

I read back through Chess with Vasily (or Chess as I now refer to it, purely for tax purposes), cringing at every typo or bit that didn't work as well as it could have done and seriously struggling to comprehend how what I'd written was capable of being in the top 100 of their entries, let alone the top 6. Around this point, I desperately sought assurance from people, which consequently led to me going public about the performance on Twitter. The cat was out of the bag, the only question was whether it was the kind of cat that purrs and curls up on your lap or the kind that scratches at your settee and pisses everywhere.

Details of rehearsals and suchlike were sketchy, but it was eventually revealed that on the Friday before the Saturday performance one would be taking place at the Folk House. So at 6:30 on Friday morning I got up, showered, donned my blue jumper (complete with geography teacher elbows) and hopped on the train for Bristol Temple Meads (on what turned out to be the hottest day since records began [that may not be true] - the jumper lasted all of the 22 minutes it took to walk to the venue from the station but no longer).

I'd had a brief phone exchange with my director, the very capable Duncan Bonner, but I would be meeting him in person and my two actors for the first time. They'd begun setting up (which predominantly involved rigging a game of KerPlunk), so I quietly took a seat at the back of the room and watched the words I'd written spoken by actual, real people who say other people's words for a living. I'd brought a notebook- best to at least look like you know what you're doing- into which I wrote the words 'Practical implications of KerPlunk?' and very little else over the course of two hours. I gave one directorial note, but otherwise let Duncan have free reign (and probably afforded him the only opportunity to say "the balls drop on page 9" of his directorial career. I'm not one of those writers who consider slight dialogue alterations personal attacks (or at least I can do a very good job of pretending that's the case...).

I made the trip again on Saturday and, before I knew it, I was shuffling into the main hall of the Folk House to witness the showcase; to witness the maiden performance of Chess... Something struck me about the other plays in the showcase- they had messages or morals; they were plays about real issues, from a light-hearted look at a dystopian future in which the government has collapsed to a harrowing monologue delivered by an abusive immigration officer. Mine was ostensibly about two grown men playing KerPlunk.

But you know what? I made an entire hall complicit in watching two grown men playing KerPlunk and they enjoyed it. The two actors were brilliant and Duncan (who had a cameo appearance himself) had done a great job of bringing it to life. It got laughs in all the right places and a hearty round of applause, which I enjoyed (I got a second round of applause later when us playwright's were made to stand up, which I enjoyed less - goes back to the thing about the bios, I suppose). Later in the week I received an email from Mark thanking me and saying that he'd received some correspondence from someone citing 'the kerplunk one' as their favourite. My work here was done.

It was a crazy experience. In many ways, I still can't quite believe it- that someone actually put my play on and that in excess of one person actually enjoyed it. The hard bit, though, is to go back from having your work on to being just another failed writer. Unless there's something out there, someone breathing life into your words, then it's very hard to feel like you're making progress. I can't say I've been blessed with an embarrassment of riches in the ideas department since either. But what seeing my work up on stage, hearing people laughing at jokes that I'd written and seeing the projected sales figures of KerPlunk skyrocket (I can't corroborate this... this is all conjecture) has done is given me faith again; In myself, in my choices, in my ability to write something that will actually bring some degree of pleasure to other people. And for that, I cannot thank Mark and the Folk House enough.

(Right, that's very long. Well done if you made it this far. Sorry it all turned a bit Nikki Sixx Heroin Diaries for some reason, but, if you have been, thanks for reading).

Thursday, 2 June 2011

X-Men: First Class

I went to see this last night and the only broadsheet review I've read was what can best be termed as 'lazy' (not to mention that it spoiled one of the best moments of the film), so I've decided to run up a few paragraphs about it myself, but in the style of one of those reviews.

The Kick-Ass pairing of Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn attempt to breathe some much-needed life back into the X-Men franchise, but will it be a case of go to the top of the class and kiss the teacher or simply detention for the latest offering?
[This is what the sub-editor will put at the top of the review to make it seem like I came up with those cliches]

We've had three canon X-Men films of varying quality and an underwhelming origin story for Hugh Jackman's Wolverine and now we're presented with another origin of sorts, X-Men: First Class. The tale of a young Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr- how they became friends, how they became Professor X and Magneto respectively and how, eventually, they became enemies. [This is to make me sound knowledgeable. Trust me, I review films and have seen and understand all of the X-Men ones to date... Although I genuinely have]

You may remember, if you cast your mind back to the beginning of the millennium (and I mean 2000, not 2001, for the purposes of this piece... We've been through this, let's not discuss it again), how X-Men began with a young German Jew thrust into the horror of a Nazi concentration camp and who, upon seeing his family taken away from him, twists a metal gate as if by magic, before being clubbed by a rifle butt. This boy would become Magneto and it wasn't sorcery, it was a mutation, the manipulation of magnetism. Well, X-Men: First Class starts in exactly the same way. It is necessary, of course, to remind us (or even show us for the first time, if you're new to the series) of the terrible hardships young Erik Lensherr suffered as a boy, as they are so key to his politics and actions in later life, but these earlier scenes (along with a young Charles Xavier meeting Raven Darkholme) seem to lack something or perhaps could have been handled with greater subtlety. [You have to say something bad at some point. People want to get angry, either with what you're mocking or simply at you for mocking it, you big twonk]

But this is one of very few criticisms I can make of 'First Class', a bold tale of politics, eugenics and the inception of the X-Men told with great confidence by Vaughn. The action picks up very quickly as we follow the older Erik (played with enormous presence by the terrific Michael Fassbender) on a Boys From Brazil-style hunt for the Nazi scientist that made his life a misery, which ultimately leads him to meeting brilliant young professor of Genetics, Charles Xavier (portrayed with a compelling nervous charm by James McAvoy), who himself has been enlisted on a hunt for the same man- now known as Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), leader of the mysterious Hellfire Club- by CIA agent Moira McTaggert- in somewhat of a departure from her role in the graphic novels. [Always try and slip in as long a sentence as possible]

The two are tasked with recruiting a crack team of young mutants (in a montage which contains several neat references and a stellar, perfectly-pitched cameo [note how I haven't ruined this bit, like Peter Bradshaw did (it was hurriedly retracted)]) and training them to hunt down Shaw. We are privy to an engaging bromance between Xavier and Lensherr, who put their highly different approaches aside to avert the greatest threat the world has ever faced (this is the 60s, remember. Well before everything starts going a bit mental in 'Last Stand').

From then on it's full-steam ahead. There are occasional lulls (to be expected in a film 2 hours plus), often where the young mutants are involved (the same scenes have a small dip in the quality of the writing too), but the film never has you checking your watch. The 60s setting works perfectly and imparts a sort of stylish kitsch on the whole thing and Henry Jackman's thunderous score drives everything on to a tense final standoff. But perhaps the film's greatest achievement is the character development of the two leads. It's a credit to both Fassbender and McAvoy that you can see exactly how they become Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart [see, I've done this in a slightly flippant, funny way]. You're aware, in no uncertain terms, of how bumbling, would-be womaniser Xavier becomes hardened to Cuban Missile Crisis-era America and humanity's tolerance (or otherwise) of mutants; And of how tortured Erik, consumed by hatred and rage for his creator Shaw, ultimately becomes the very thing he seeks to destroy and takes on the mantle (actually literally, along with the legendary helmet) of Magneto. More importantly both characters are understandable. Magneto is undoubtedly a product of the cruelty he endured and of the knowledge that that is the case. In many ways he can be classed as an anti-hero and, for the most part, this is how 'First Class' chooses to portray him.

It spins a tale that has great historical significance and parallel and even though you know going in how things will turn out (if you've seen the other films), it still packs a not inconsiderable [everyone loves litotes] emotional punch. It is what all great fantasy/sci-fi/comic book tales should be - symbolic of and reconcilable with real world issues.

There are plenty of nods for the hardcore fans and, dare I say, a fair amount of fan service, most notably arising [double entendre ahoy!] from the presence of Emma Frost, played here by January Jones, though I can't help but feel Alice Eve (who was originally announced for the role) would have brought a greater wit and air of intellect to the role. The performances are strong all-round, although it certainly hinges on its two terrific leads. Jennifer Lawrence (playing shapeshifter Mystique) and Nicholas Hoult playing shy intellectual Hank McCoy (yes, he of Skins and About a Boy fame, playing Beast - I mentioned that one could easily see Fassbender and McAvoy turning into their older counterparts, but I found it a little harder to see Hoult becoming Kelsey Grammer) find a touching emotional depth (even if the latter's accent can be a little suspect). [Lots of brackets is the secret to good writing... ahem...] Speaking of suspect accents, Fassbender (a German Irishman) admirably deals with lines in English, German (something Kevin Bacon handles with considerably less success, but a bold effort nonetheless) and South American Spanish, although as the action ratchets up German via Poland Lensherr seems to bark orders with an Irish lilt. But this is a very minor hitch indeed in what is a brilliantly compelling central performance from Fassbender.

I'll come clean, I loved X-Men as a kid (and I still do). I watched hours of the 90s cartoon series and have stacks of comics in a plastic crate in my house and I've been waiting for an X-Men film that delivers [this is to make me sound cool in a geeky way... but is also true] and boy oh boy does 'First Class' deliver. ['cause it's a joke about stamps, see? ... OK, so I earned that sub-editor's strapline...]

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Apprentice Preview...

Right, there hasn't been one of these for a while (busy, busy, busy etc.), but I shall attempt to provide a brief look ahead to tonight's Apprentice (BBC One, 9 o'clock).

As you may remember, last night saw accountant (but don't let that sway you) Edward- a sort of squashed Jamie Lester from last series, but with the approach to the head/facial hair ratio of South African opening batsman Hashim Amla, who talks exclusively in bullshit-based riddles (that's Edward, not Amla. I've never seen Hashim do a presser)- unceremoniously sacked for clearly not having seen any of the past 6 series of The Apprentice and putting himself up for the role of project manager... Or perhaps it was just because when teammate Vincent (a sort of poor man's George Lamb, if you can imagine such a thing...) asked whether the fruit he was holding was an orange, poor old Edward was unable to pass judgment to the affirmative or negative. Or effectively juice oranges. Or answer very simple questions without trotting out footballer-level cliches.

But at the end of the day, it's a game of two halves (probably) and tonight's second episode of the week sees the sorry fools take a step into new media and design a smartphone application. Being an appalling business tosser? There's an app for that... apparently...

From the brief sneak peak at the end of last night's offering, it looks promising, with one industry panelist effectively and almost certainly unwittingly summing up the entire Apprentice equation in one pithy, throwaway observation - "There's just a basic issue of taste here."

Friday, 8 April 2011

Dont Shade Your Eyes...

In Tom Lehrer's tale of a student of the great Russian mathematician Lobachevsky, he explains 'the secret of success in field of mathematics... PLAGIARISE'! And that's sort of what today's blog is about (plus some stuff about a stupid advert I heard on the radio and perhaps some things I saw on telly or something like that).

Essentially I was tasked with writing a short story. It was more a vanity project than anything, trying to get me out of an inspiration slump and I was aware that, in part, the idea owed a debt to a German short story called 'Dr. Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen', however during my research I inadvertently discovered that my idea was also very similar to yet another, English short story from a collection published only last year and long-listed for the Orange Prize. Now, I've never read Jennifer Egan's 'A Visit From the Goon Squad' (has anyone here? Any good?) and yet presumably someone who had would recognise certain elements of one of its short stories in mine. So, where do I stand?

Now, obviously this doesn't really matter as the story was just for my personal use. But say I'd submitted it to something or posted it somewhere (might have been worth a go, it was described by its only other reader as 'somewhere between Mark Watson and Bunny and the Bull). Would people flock to accuse me of stealing intellectual property? Despite the fact I've never read the original source? The similarities are few and any that do exist are superficial. My understanding is that similar themes and references are used but in completely different narratives- Egan's plays out like a Wes Anderson film and mine like an episode of the Twilight Zone- but are there still grounds to accuse me of plagiarism?

Reading back through it, Patrick Sueskind might want a piece of the action too for a couple of moments that bring to mind his 1985 novel Perfume (with its hilarious/ridiculous finale) and the subsequent film. Again, I've never read the novel (though I have seen the film - I think it's on iPlayer at the moment if anyone's interested. It's a very interesting idea and wilfully strange ((in a good way)) but the novel doesn't seem to lend itself to film particularly well. A flawed but nonetheless very worthy effort, mind) but is that a barrier these days? Has every idea been done already anyway? And if so, isn't everything plagiarised? Will we prosecute everyone? How many questions am I going to ask in this blog?

Well, that's it really, now onto the other gripes. I heard an advert on the radio earlier (I generally try and avoid commercial radio - this was in a cafe, I'm not going to demand them to change stations...) for a certain Carvery chain. It essentially consisted of James Corden doing his best Henry V over Elgar's 'Nimrod'. I hate these faux-patriotic adverts- You're a chain pub not a fucking Lord Kitchener recruitment poster! Honest to God, Corden(!) doing a Crispian's Day speech about carved meats over one of the most moving and powerful compositions of the 20th century, if not any century. Don't you dare! Don't you dare do this to that piece of music! How dare y-! Actually how dare you! ACTUALLY how dare you!

Also, a quick anecdote. Word reached Or So I Thought... HQ of a parent coming into the local Primary School to query their children being given the day off school for the Royal Wedding. Now, I'm not exactly a fervent Royalist but come on! They're just kids! They don't assign meaning to not having to go into school. It's just a jamboree of sunshine and running around in circles until you feel sick. Actually, no, you know what? Fine. Just your kids can come in and we'll draft in a Republican supply teacher so they can explain to a pair of crying 5 year olds why they're in school while everyone else is outside having fun. Giving them a NATIONAL HOLIDAY off school is not the same as indoctrinating them into supporting the Royal family.

This week Sam watched...
The Crimson Petal and the White, which was, well, weird. Sort of simultaneously a bit sexy and entirely the opposite. A bit like one of those dreams where everyone's naked but when you try and run your legs melt.
Campus - There's potential there but it needs a bit of work. I've a list but I won't bore you with it (unless you work on it and fancy listening to suggestions)

Hell in a Handcart Watch
I read a story from the Press Association titled thusly: 'Camerons fly to Spain for mini-break in Spain'. I won't bother to list the myriad faults with this, I'm sure you're all smart enough to recognise them without me.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

An Open Letter to the Makers of Lynx...

Customer Care
Unilever UK
Admail 1000

Dear sir/madam,
I recently undertook to purchase what one may well term a 'can' of your Lynx Excite product - I, a congenital imbecile, found your flashy advert with its Italian setting, bellicose operatic score and attractive, winged woman falling from the very skies utterly impossible to resist. Lynx Excite: Even Angels Will Fall. What on earth could possibly be more exciting, I ask you? A look at the can assures me in diagramatic form that should I combine the corresponding shower gel with my recently purchased spray, I will receive bikini clad women to the power of two. I'm no mathematician, but even I can well see that this represents a frankly unbelievable exponential return. Fibernace would indeed be proud.

So, what, you may be wondering is the problem with said body spray? Now, I have always been taught not to take adverts too literally, so you can well imagine my surprise when, after a liberal application of your fragrant chemicals, in fact an angel did tumble from the heavens. So far, so good, you may be thinking, but you can imagination my current consternation when I go on to explain that the previously mentioned celestial being landed square on top of me, having reached something approaching terminal velocity. She made no attempt whatsoever to utilise the wings that were gifted to her by God, presumably to avoid exactly this kind of eventuality.

I have sustained what my lawyers have asked me to refer to as 'not inconsiderable bruising', 'minor lacerations' and 'a nearly slipped disc'. Even writing this letter of complaint results in a shooting pain around the knuckle (is it a knuckle?) of my right thumb, which was badly sprained as a result of your celestial tomfoolery. Needless to say, I shall be commencing legal proceedings but felt compelled to provide a letter, in addition to my solicitor serving you court summons, allowing me to express some suggestions for a new marketing and indeed product creation direction.

I ask that you immediately rethink your advertising campaign. Perhaps have a single figure with a white backdrop simply explain to the audience that the humble act of spraying a mixture of potent hydrocarbons onto one's sallow flesh will not make one irresistable to women and may even result in what my solicitor and medical practitioners have termed 'intermediate discomfort'. Spraying something not entirely removed from simple natural gas onto oneself will not transport one to Italy and while it may well cause a phenomenon not dissimilar from your 'angels will fall' scenario, it is certainly a far less attractive proposition. Furthermore, I suggest that your lab produces a new product - perhaps call it 'Lynx Chemical Spray'- that in no way makes an immediate connection between spraying said concoction and dozens of models literally sprinting from far and wide to service your every sexual need. Nor shall you imply that the inocuous act of applying the spray will result in any women in the direct vicinity losing their clothes.

A bizarre mixture of false and some slightly (unpredictably, in fact) less false advertising have conspired to cause me not un-serious medical harm and I urge you to take steps to prevent further tragedy.

See you in court,
Outraged (and limping) of Marston Bigot

Friday, 25 March 2011

Still Got the Blues...

Allow me, if I may, to discuss somewhat of a passion of mine. I can't quite pinpoint the first moment that I realised I loved this genre. Whether it was Clapton's uptempo interpretations or that first thundering riff of Muddy Waters' 'Mannish Boy' or the folky, bellowing sound of Lead Belly belting out 'Midnight Special' or perhaps even the exoticism of the idea of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at a lonely crossroads in return from becoming the greatest bluesman in history, I'm still uncertain. What I do know however is that the blues never fails to sweep me up in its fervour and power. To hear Blind Willie Johnson humming in unison with his Open D-tuned acoustic on 'Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground' is to hear the very 'soul of a man' (another of his compositions, incidentally). That moment of intense spiritual torment met with raw bottleneck slide guitar cuts a fine line between blues and gospel but the blues is all the better for its versatility. From throaty anti-recession shouts on Jimmy Witherspoon's 'Times Gettin' Tougher Than Tough' to the wailing, aching guitar licks of the late Gary Moore to the innuendo and raucous comedy of Wynonie Harris' 'Quiet Whiskey', the blues covers the full gamut of human emotion. Many see the blues as a music of pain or tragedy, but, at its heart, the blues is about having the last laugh over adversity.

So what, you may be wondering, does an Oxbridge-educated English comedian who went on to become the highest paid actor on American television have in common with a Depression-era preacher blinded by a handful of lye flung in anger or a Chicago Blues innovator dogged by alcoholism until dying penniless some 50 years after recording his first hits or the ex-con with the booming voice who died of Lou Gehrig's Disease before he ever saw the fruits of his extensive influence or the Texas boy who brought the blues kicking and screaming into the 1980s and was just free of his crippling drug addiction when he was killed tragically in a helicopter crash? Well, our very own Hugh Laurie has recorded a blues album and on Wednesday afternoon he performed several tracks from 'Let Them Talk' for a live-stream on the Guardian website.

Yes, Hugh Laurie out of Jeeves and Wooster and 'A Bit of Fry and Laurie'. He's done a blues album. Of blues songs. Yes, out of Blackadder and the... ahem... Stuart Little films. He's done an album.

Now, if you're expecting me to rant and complain about why a successful English actor and comedian shouldn't be recording a blues album, you're actually going to be disappointed. There's no doubt that Laurie is a talented musician, a multi-instumentalist in fact. Anyone who's seen 'A Bit of Fry and Laurie' will remember his brilliant parody and comic songs...

Actually, permit me to go off on somewhat of a tangent. It worries me that there will soon, or perhaps already is a generation of people who only know Stephen Fry as the convivial and intensely knowledgable host of QI and a foremost tweeter and technophile and Hugh Laurie as an American diagnostician. For my money, 'A Bit of Fry and Laurie' contains some of the greatest sketches ever committed to celluloid. From the louche critics running the rule over their own work to the brilliant piece of high concept comedy resulting in a magnificent topper about the comic timing of Paul Eddington, the four series are all packed with absolutely stunning pieces of wit and silliness. Ooh, Peter and John, how could I have ommitted them... and the voxpops! Ah, basically just buy the DVD boxset...

Anyway, back to the subject. Naturally Laurie has come in for some criticism for his latest venture. A quick glance at the comments made during the live streamed gig reveal that his latest career turn could best be described as... divisive. Many take the Onion-style 'affluent white man enjoys blues' angle, but the wonderful thing about blues is it's an ownerless concept. If you can hear anyone from Skip James to Stevie Ray Vaughn to Joe Bonamassa or Joanne Shaw Taylor and have that music resonate within you, it's achieved its aim. The blues will be there for you at your lowest to help you conquer that grief.

But the blues isn't afraid of challenging major socio-political issues too. J.B. Lenoir's 'Eisenhower Blues' album covers issues including but not limited to the Vietnam War and Civil and Women's Rights. And while we cannot all directly relate to songs like the heartbreaking 'Strange Fruit' by the unparallelled Billie Holliday they remain as tangible cultural edifices representative of the outpouring of grief at the time. Naturally for someone like Hugh Laurie to claim to be able relate to that literally would seem crass but he's not doing that. He's in the fortunate position of being able to record music in a style that he loves without having to worry about the figures. Very few Bluesmen have lived to see their records make money, but finance was not chief among their motivations. They had something to say or they wanted to move people or even just wanted to spin a good old yarn.

Laurie openly acknowledges his 'trespassing on the music and myth of the American South' but to criticise a blues musician for being a white, middle-class Englishman is utterly ridiculous. Are we to brand Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page 'shameless thieves of African American culture'? Blues is infectious- it makes your feet tap, your hands clap and brings a smile to your face if it wants to and that effect does not discriminate. Laurie isn't asking us to lie down and proclaim him the new Mississippi John Hurt. The blues survives thanks to new blood, new interpretations of classics, new songs entered into the great tome of the Delta but most of all it survives through being played. By anyone. From a poor Alabama slave boy to a fat, middle-aged axe-man in a working men's club in Bolton. Laurie wants to use his influence to keep the blues alive and disseminate its power to as many people as possible. And what, I ask you, is wrong with that?