Better World was my one man show originally created for the 1999 Edinburgh Festival. The festival kind of has its own eco-system with Fringe-goers who don't seem to exist the rest of the year. You can feel very successful during the Fringe and then you try to do a show in Banbury and no one comes.
I was amazed by how much the run of Reasons To Be Cheerful had really achieved the year before. Having had a hard time taking it to small provincial arts-centres and playing to small crowds I then turned up in Edinburgh with this new show and sold a lot of tickets really quickly. It's a kind of word-of-mouth that hibernates between festivals and then suddenly comes to life again.
The press were on to it much sooner too ... it was as if they thought Reasons might have been a fluke but this proved that I was actually doing something. The run sold out and after the festival it went straight to a successful 3 week run at The Riverside Studios, London. Beyond that was a tour which was slightly easier work and with slightly fuller venues. And then another tour of bigger, fuller venues and then another tour of bigger and sold out venues. 2000 people came to see it in Wolverhampton one night. After doing it so many times, it's now nicely retired.
I suppose my shows fall into two categories... those that are based on stuff that's just happened and those that I deliberately start. Of all the things I've deliberately created, I think this was probably the best one.
You can see where the show was performed here.
What the leaflet said
The back of the leaflet featured a letter from my manager addressed to prospective audience members:
My name is Rob Aslett. I'm Dave Gorman's manager. Last year Dave's show was entirely based on the Ian Dury song "Reasons To Be Cheerful". I told him it was a stupid idea. I told him not to do it. But he did it anyway. It was a good show. It sold out. I admit it - I was wrong. I've apologised to Dave but he insists I take this opportunity to apologise to you, the public. I'm sorry.
Anyway, this year I'm pleased to say he's had a good, solid, sensible idea. Not stupid at all. No sir. He's written anonymous letters to over 2,000 local newspapers asking the public to suggest ways in which one man can make the world a better place. Then he's tried to carry out their suggestions. Now he wants to tell you about it.
Okay, it is a stupid idea. But it's a big, beautiful, stupid idea and it's a show unlike any other. What can I say: no-one else would do it but then no-one else could.
Thankyou for your time,
Dave Gorman, the double BAFTA winning writer of BBC1's Mrs Merton Show returns with an all new show. Don't miss this opportunity to catch an uplifting hour of comedy as one of the country's most talented storytellers takes on what is frankly a ludicrous for your enjoyment"
"This hugely innovative show is based on the idea of an anonymous letter writing campaign. This intriguing device unfolds into an absorbing, scary, touching, but most of all bizarre story. It's not stand up, it's not theatre, but it is most definitely funny "
"One of the finest ideas for an hour of comedy to have been brought to the festival. He wants to make the world a better place. And he's done it too with the beautiful gift of laughter. Brilliantly executed and conceived"
"The show is built out of the letters he received and his attempts to act on their advice. And it's a corker "
"This might be the best idea for a show I've ever seen"
"And you thought last years show was labour intensive. Comedy choice"
Independent On Sunday
"Almost alone on the Fringe, Gorman has had an Original Idea. His show is a masterpiece of investigative journalism: funny, uplifting and profound . Gorman's tone is perfect throughout - neither cynical nor naïve - and what he ends up with could easily have been turned into a book or a TV series. The fact that he chose to condense it into an hour long Edinburgh show should be a cause for celebration. If you're wondering what the point of the Fringe is, go and see this ."
"This postal portrait of Britain was hilarious, frightening, sad, strange, heart warming and as this show attests, completely absorbing . Let Mr Gorman instruct you. His lesson will improve your world"
"A thoroughly absorbing and massively entertaining new show. In one blissful hour Gorman matches a philosopher's desire to understand the world with a scientist's quest to explain it. It's a cracking idea for a show and the result is an absolute winner . When a Fringe show is described as "clever", that can often be translated as self indulgent. But Better World is quite simply a better class of show. 5 Stars "
The Edinburgh Evening News
"This amazing comic does it again"
"It is one of the best hours I've spent in any comedy venue"
The Sunday Herald
"Hilariously logical rigour - a sharp antidote to the kind of sub Izzard rambling that blights Fringe stand up"
"Dave Gorman's Better World started as an idea on the back of a beer mat. It ended up as one of the best and most original one man shows on the Fringe .
Gorman sent a letter to 2000 local newspapers (no, I didn't know there were that many either) inviting readers to submit ideas for making the world a better place.
As you might expect, many of the responses were pretty weird. He received everything from white supremacist manifestos to death threats. One woman sent a picture of herself naked, while a 14 year old boy sent him a dissertation on how to improve the efficiency of the postal service.
None of this sounds very funny, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it is. Partly it's the way Gorman tells them, of course. He plays the ordinary, decent bloke overwhelmed by the eccentricity and sheer menace of the world around him - and by his slide projector which keeps jamming.
But he doesn't just make fun of his correspondents or hold them up for contempt. He has genuine respect for many of these down trodden people trying to make some kind of moral sense of the chaos of ordinary life. It is his concern that saves the piece from degenerating into a freak show. It is comedy that cares - well, sort of.
It is the bathos that makes it all so funny. Such as the man who sent him a letter calling for more freight - on the canals, as if this were the secret of eternal happiness. Someone sent a pair of tacky shoe castanets for tap dancing, straight out of a joke shop. Fair enough. At least a positive response. When Gorman received the inevitable chain letter, obliging him to contact 20 people for cash, he wrote off instead calling for show castanets. And he got some back too. The audience cheered, without knowing quite why.
But I'm giving too much away. This show is really just a very long, illustrated anecdote, but Gorman is a masterful storyteller who manages to involve you in his own chaotic emotions as he devised and conducted this ironic opinion research. He has created a new kind of comedy journalism , in which the jokes are not the products of his own head, but of the hearts and minds of ordinary people.
And nothing is stranger than true life. Forget the self regarding performers, Dave Gorman's Better World is much more surreal just for being real. It is one of the best hours I've spent in any comedy venue this festival - and not a single jobby joke in the entire show.
5 STARS " - The Sunday Herald