Network: My controller fits like a glove

My Technology: Simon Munnery and his Technical Comedy Props
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The Independent Culture
IT HAS been a long evolution. About four years ago my act involved a slide projector, and a microphone with buttons that worked the projector, and a box of three Walkmans that produced sounds - drumming, clapping and music. It suited the act and made a bit of a show. Why not?

My comic character was, and is, a megalomaniac, so the clapping and drumming was as if heralding in the big personality. And when I worked as Alan Parker - Urban Warrior, I would do skits with placards, with words and drawings. I like visual jokes. In comedy you are restricted visually, compared to theatre for instance. But these tricks of the trade were unsatisfactory; touting around a lot of props becomes a chore and even when I used a slide projector, it was particularly difficult. But with the computer you get thousands of images; they can be stored on the computer and manipulated with ease.

The images initially came out of a Psion3A, which is a tiny, hand-held computer. I got a circuit chip from Tandy that interprets and converts the dial tones emitted by the Psion. I have mastered electronics from reading books. The chip converts the dial tones into signals that operate relays. The Psion could operate the slide projector and Walkmans. It took lots of wires and I used it only once because it was completely unreliable - every time the Psion sent the beep somewhere in the chain it wouldn't work.

Now I basically control the computer with the Glove of Power. The glove was originally a radio-controlled car component from Woolworths. I took the car bits off and attached the electronics inside to a computer keyboard, so I could control it from my glove.

Using technology in a live comic skit doesn't come without mishaps. Two years ago, in Edinburgh, Sony lent me a projector, but when we connected it to the computer it crashed after about half an hour. We didn't know exactly when this would happen. More worryingly, we didn't know why, and you couldn't cover it up! The screen would flash with an error sign, there'd be a pause, then I'd try to cover with comedy.

I also use a self-filming camera. I basically stuck a camera to the back of a mirror and put together the video cable from the camera, the power supply and a switch so I can switch between the computer and the camera. "I am TV" is not my bid for the Eddie Izzard market. As far as I am concerned, no one has made television properly, and I will learn by making it live in front of an audience. I am going to film myself and cut between the film of myself projected on to a big screen, and the computer-generated images and graphics.

The audience can see me if they want, but it's a much bigger and brighter image of me on the screen. The crucial difference is that most comedians have got used to holding a microphone and using it, not a camera. They are like sheep. But with the camera, they can play stadiums; a microphone amplifies your voice; a camera amplifies a face.

The response is laughter on good nights, weeping on bad. But I have talked myself into this, and talked everyone else I know into it, as well. I am sure it will work.

Simon Munnery's `League Against Tedium' is at the ICA, The Mall, London SW1 on 9 & 16 December (0171-930 3647)

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