Thursday, May 13, 2010

Darwin Got It Going On

New York, New York, big city of dreams...

Well, the day before yesterday I returned from my first off-Broadway run, landed in Vancouver, and promptly came down with a wretched case of strep throat. My friend Dodd from NY wrote me a message to say "New York done broke you down!" and I wrote back to say "Yeah, well I stole the fire, so the NY gods had to punish me". Stole the fire? That's a little megalomaniacal isn't it? Judge for yourself.

The first show I did on Tuesday last week had an audience of 35 in a venue that seats 300, and although it was a good show, things weren't exactly looking good for making my mark. But like Perseus overcoming adversity with the help of Athena, a science demigoddess reached down from above to bestow a few gifts on me at just the right time (I didn't say I stole the fire unaided). The helper-spirit in this case was the biologist Olivia Judson, author of "Dr. Titania's Sex Advice to All Creation", who was the opening speaker at my show two weeks ago in Barnstaple, North Devon. Olivia also happens to be a columnist for the New York Times, and she went on to write the most gushingly positive review I have had yet, even going so far as to refer to me as "brilliant" and "burly" in consecutive paragraphs (evidently she was aiming to win me more than just an audience). Her review was soon at the top of the front page of, and was the number four most-emailed link of the day last Wednesday. Here's the link if you want to read it yourself: click here.

If you have time, take a moment to check out the comments, especially the hilarious debate about whether or not I've blown my credibility by claiming in my bio that I have personally planted over a million trees. Commentators with varying degrees of knowledge about the process of tree-planting weigh in as to whether it's possible (including myself, at the bottom of page one). The New York Times editorial staff also highlight their favorite comments, and here's one of the ones they selected (from Brazil, on page four): "It seems that every religion has the music it deserves. Christianity has Palestrina, Bach, Handel and Mozart; the new faith of evolutionism has Baba Brinkman rapping about Darwin." Ouch! I'd be offended if I weren't so tickled by the guy's wit, although I would add that every system of thought also has the intellectuals it deserves.

And the outcome? My website crashed from the traffic surge and I was glutted with an onslaught of approximately five hundred emails in three days, many of them from people downloading the CD or asking to join the mailing list (welcome aboard!) and many others from people inviting me to perform in sundry lands, my absolute favorite kind of onslaught. Other outcomes were that after Thursday we sold out the whole rest of the run, with capacity crowds on Friday and Saturday, and even the extra show we added on Sunday. Furthermore, I was invited to speak/perform at TEDxEast, the regional TED conference that took place in New York last weekend, where I got to meet Richard Saul Wurman, the founder of TED talks, as well as a score of other inspiring individuals. I even ended up on the main page of (the right-wing propaganda version of wikipedia) which accused me of "promoting evolutionary nonsense". There were other outcomes as well, even more tantalizing ones, but without inked agreements I will refrain from announcing anything prematurely. Suffice to say, I expect to be spending a lot more time in New York before too long.

So now I'm in Merritt, BC, where I'll be tree-planting with my brother's crew for the next few weeks, while also sorting through my email glut and working on new material for Edinburgh. Then in June I'm back in England for Glastonbury and other gigs, but the first order of business when I get to London, I'm sure you'll all agree, is to take Olivia Judson out to dinner to thank her. If you haven't read Dr. Titania yet I highly recommend it, and no, that isn't just reciprocal altruism talking. All the best from the Rocky Mountains,