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.
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.
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.
I was invited to perform I Bought a Blue Car Today at the Sydney Opera House as part of the Mardi Gras Festival. I had previously played at the Opera House twenty years before with Victor and Barry!
I really enjoyed the shows here. I felt more relaxed and whereas the performances at the Lincoln Center in NYC were my concert debut, these were very definitley cabaret. The material was the same, but the atmosphere was different. I started to enjoy the interaction with the audiences and got more confident.
Whilst I was in Australia i went down to Melbourne to appear on Rove.
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 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...
The Tempest is a beautiful play, Julie Taymor has a truly unique aesthetic, and Helen Mirren taking the role of Prospera (normally played by a man as Prospero) was a combination I really wanted to be a part of. I also got to work with really amazing actors like Chris Cooper and David Strathairn, and did I mention that we shot for a couple of months in Hawaii?
I play Sebastian, one of the noblemen who is shipwrecked on Prospera's isle. Julie wanted to use Hawaii because of all the lavic landscapes, and indeed it felt like we shot on practically every piece of remote lava they had. But is is a stunning backdrop to the story, and Helen playing Prospero brings a more healing, Mother Earth sensibility to the character, making the story more about reconciliation than vengeance.
Tom Conti, Ben Wishaw, Reeve Carney, Felicity Jones, Djimon Hounsou, Alfred Molina and Russell Brand completed the cast, and what a rare old time we had. We moved islands a couple of times and each time we were given a blessing ceremony by one of the locals. My favourite time was when we were doing a shot coming out of the water, so we could only do it once, and the sun was going down fast. Julie and the 1st AD's faces were hilarious as they were looking at the ebbing light and willing the blessing man to get on with it.
We were indeed blessed to be a part of The Tempest.
In late October we did a CD launch party at Joe's Pub in NYC and it was such fun to see everyone again and to sing the songs with a great band. Dan Studney and Kevin Murphy, the writers of the show, fought really hard to get all the rights and permissions and money together to release the CD, so thanks to them we now have a record of not just the movie but the original LA stage productions too.
I went to LA to do a talk with the amazing photographer Amy Arbus about our work together and her books on photography.