2009

The Real Cabaret

I presented another documentary for BBC4 entitled The Real Cabaret.  In it I interviewed some of the people who'd been involved with the movie and original musical (Liza, John Kander, Joe Masteroff) but also went to Berlin to find out about the real cabaret artistes of the time, and what fates befell them. I also visit the actual flat Christopher Isherwood lived which was where he had the inspiration to write Goodbye to Berlin, the book that Cabaret is based on.



Leviathan

 

I read the audio book of Scott Westerfield's novel for Simon and Shuster.  It's a really fascinating revision of the origins of the first world war, and the opposing sides' war machines - which they either oil, or feed!. You can listen to an excerpt of it here

 



Ecstacy the Musical!

My friend Ned Stresen-Reuter and I were approached by Trojan comdoms to make another film for them, this time about a new condom called, wait for it, Ecstacy! In the meeting we had about it, I mentioned that the shape of the condom was somewhat curious, and Dan from the adverising agency said 'Yes, it's shaped like a baseball bat!'.  That was the beginning of a germ of an idea...

I thought something as ecstatic needed a theme with pizzazz so we wrote a 50s style musical.  Lance Horne helped us write the music and the lovely Ricki Lake came along and played with me.  We shot it at the Box in NYC and we all had a hoot.



Into the Night

Into the Night is a German/French TV interview show which is in the format of a documentary about two artists meeting and going out on the town together.  I did this one with the novelist Ian Rankin in Edinburgh



Scotland On Screen

I was asked by the BBC to host a documentary that goes to various parts of Scotland where movies have been shot, and examines how they have represented the areas and also how the locals feel about the films today.

We went to Mull for I Know Where I'm Going, to Glencoe for Braveheart, Cumbernauld for Gregory's Girl (where I toured round the locations with director Bill Forsyth), to Kircudbrightshire for Wicker Man and to Edinburgh for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

 



My Brilliant Britain

I was asked to make a half hour documentary for the UK channel Blighty about the thing I thought was most briliiant about Britain. I chose Scottish humour, and so went on a madcap journey round my homeland interviewing people (including my mum) about what are the ingredients of Scottish humour, how we use it and how it defines us in the world.  Below is the actual film that was broadcast, but first here's a little film I made with my flip video during the shoot.



Real Time with Bill Maher

I was a guest on Bill Maher's show in LA in late February. I had just returned from Austalia and was a little woozy and so a little nervous because you need to be on top of it on that show, but I had a great time.  My fellow guests were the lovely mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom - surely set to become the next governor of California - and the very nice and chatty P.J. O'Rourke.  Bill was on great form as ever. I really like him.  I love how ballsy he is and, unlike his right wing peers, his opinions are backed up by research, fact and wit.



Web Therapy

Last Christmas I discovered Web Therapy, the internet series about an online therapist starring Lisa Kudrow, and I watched the whole season in one hilarious, satisfying gulp.  I love Lisa. She is a total genius, a really innovative and fearless performer.

We worked together on Romy and Michele's High School Reunion back in 1996 and have kept in touch so I emailed her to tell her how amazing I thought Web Therapy was.  She wrote back and said they were doing a second season and would I like to be in it? 

So about 6 weeks later I was in LA looking into a camera with Lisa's face projected onto it, trying my best to remain in character as her hilarious creation, Fiona Wallace, made me want to crack up, not to mention having to listen to Don Roos and Dan Bucatinsky, her co-creators, crack up in my earpiece.  It was a great day. 

Victor Garber and Dan Bucatinsky also appear in the episodes, in which I play a Scottish mogul, Austen Clarke, who becomes smitten with Dr Wallace.

 



Masterpiece Mystery

I did my second tour of duty as the host of Masterpiece Mystery for PBS in February 2009.  This time I got the train down to Boston and shot the introductions for the new season of shows there.

This first video is taken in my dressing room and in the studio during a stills shoot for the series, and the second is me talking about the response i got to the first season.



I Bought A Blue Car Today

I Bought A Blue Car Today was my concert debut.  I had been asked by the Lincoln Center to come up with a show for their American Songbook series, and although (or maybe because) I had a irrational but overwhelming fear of singing in public as just plain old me, I decided to say yes.

 And I am really glad I did.  It's amazing to imagine hwo something wil go and then it not only goes that way and then some, but in the doing of it you overcome big fears. And you also sort of get a new career!

I had toyed with the idea of doing a one man show where I would sing and tell stories for a long time, but because of the fear I mention above I had always found an excuse to avoid it whenever it nearly became a possibilty. But I always really enjoyed the connection i got with an audience when I did sing at a gala or benefit, and was always curious if I could sustain that through a whole show.

All the songs in I Bought A Blue Car Today were songs I could act.  each one was a new character, a new little play almost, and I threw myself deep into each song, but partly because of the format of telling a funny story one minute and then immediatley going to another place emotionally the next as soon as the music started, I felt that the audience came with me in a way that really excited me and I found actually really addictive.  It is very exposing. You have to make yourself incredibly vulnerable.  Before the first performance in NYC  I was more nervous than I think I have ever been in my life, and could cheerfully have killed my manager Dannielle, whose had persuaded me to do the show. Nut it was worth it. I have found a new form of performing that I really enjoy and find incredibly fulfilling and best of all a way of connecting with people that I never thought I would have be able to achieve or have the balls to attempt. I actually can't wait until I do it again.

Lance Horne was the musical director/arranger/composer/therapist and I couldn't have done it without him.

I Bought A Blue Car Today had its premiere at the Allen Room of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City on February 7th.

Click here to listen to a podcast about the show

and here's a pirate video of my encore...