Robert Garnham Delivers a Ted (Style) Talk

Welcome to my Ted Talk
(My clicker isn’t working)
Welcome to my Ted Talk
(My clicker isn’t working)

How are we going to solve
Various big big things?
Three golden rules!
(Shame about my clicker)

Coming in to the coffee shop
I’m the bastard looking for
A power socket
Charging up my laptop
Charging up my laptop
Charging power to power my
Power point presentation
I have the power!

If I do this
You’ve just witnessed me doing it
And that’s an example of
Three golden rules!

1. Achieve the continuous
2. Apply it like a haberdasher
3. Can be split into twenty four subheadings

(This clicker is not working!)

If I put my hand in my pocket
And wander around
It makes me look more relaxed!!!

You’ve got to understand
That people
Always make
The wrong decisions.

Welcome to my Ted Talk!
Life hacks!
(Fourteen different subheadings)

You can usually work out EXACTLY where
The bus will stop
And this will save you

There are eight different things I learned
When I lost my luggage while backpacking
(This clicker is just not working)

If I do this
It’s an example of sonic dissonance.

Madam, when did you last knowingly
Have spaghetti?

And I didn’t even get slightly wet
My life is charged with a new purpose
I learned twelve new things!
Twelve new LIFE HACKS

(This clicker is getting on my tits)

1. Technology
2. Murdering people is generally frowned on.
3. The power of positive thinking!
4. This clicker this clicker this clicker this clicker
5. I know six people called Ted and they all talk

Power point presentation validate it
Power point presentation validate jr
Let’s just validate if shall we?
This is an aha moment

Take on me!

You fiend!
You bastard!

It’s a unifies mental model, Mrs McGough
It’s visual interaction.

This clicker
Is not working.

Thank you.

My neighbour’s gone and bought some wind chimes, for goodness sake.

My neighbour’s for some wind chimes
Hanging in his tree
Perhaps he thinks they show the world
He’s a soul that’s wistful and free
But I don’t think he understands
The effect they have on me
They tinkle in the slightest breeze
It’s such a travesty.

Five in the morning
On a muggy muggy night
Five in the morning
The sky is getting bright
Five in the morning
The duvet’s all a tangle
Five in the morning
All I can hear is jingle jangle.

Oh so tinkly tinkly
Like an ideal garden scene
A moss covered rock and pond
In a flowing woodland stream
Oh so tinkly tinkly
They’re really quite obscene
Right next to my bedroom window
They make me want to scream

Perhaps he thinks they’re relaxing,
It helps the anger pass
In fact they’re just the opposite
It really is a farce
A rockery and vegetable patch
And the smell of fresh cut grass
And the bloody tinkle of the wind chimes
I’d like to shove them up his arse.

And he might think they’re relaxing
At the end of a summers day.
But round here we just get rain and wind
Yet they never blown away.
The sound of them is so annoying
And it fills me with dismay,
Tuneless like an orchestra
Who’ve forgotten how to play.

I’d like to reach in with long handled loppers
And cut the bloody things down
And then I’d hear the birds and nature
Which they normally just drown
Beneath a cacophony of tinkle tinkle
Tuneless crappy sound
Soundtrack to my insomnia,
That’s it, I’m going round!

A gig in New York

It’s a Friday night in October, 2016. The venue is a cabaret bar in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. For days the weather has been unseasonably hot, the sun a constant presence as it bounces back from the warm sidewalks. A Friday night, then, and I’ve never felt gayer. Well, obviously I have. I mean, the times I’ve been doing gay things, you know, the really gay things, but this was more symbolic. Because the gig was at the Duplex in Christopher Street, the gayest road in the world, quite possibly, next door to the Stonewall Inn itself and the gay rights memorial. And right outside the venue, with all of this gayness, was a poster with my face on it. And it’s been there for weeks!

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the sitcom Will and Grace, but it’s the venue where Jack performed his one man show. That’s how gay the place is.

But it also has a rich heritage as a comedy venue and most of the major names in US comedy have at one time performed at the Duplex.

I arrived and met up with Mark Wallis and his partner Bart Greenberg. I’d known Mark for a few years when he still lived in Cornwall, and even then he was performing as I Am Cereal Killer, a kind of camp punk spoken word artist with bright red hair and white and red face make up. His partner Bart is a playwright and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the New York cabaret and theatre scene. It’s a huge honour to be here headlining at their event, and I’m still not sure how it happened except that Mark is a fan of my work and I have always been a fan of his.

Also there are a couple of actors who Bart has hired to do a rehearsed reading of his new play, and then two very familiar and wonderfully flamboyant characters arrive. First is Margoh Channing, drag queen and cabaret artist with her giant hair, make-up and dress, her new show, Hung, about to be performed in New York, and then Dandy Darkly, the drag clown spoken word storyteller, with his pointed shoulder pads and sequinned one piece cat suit. I feel very plain in comparison.

We are shown upstairs to the green room, which is a fully functioning flat over the venue, and I fantasise about living here, and make small talk, and feel very nervous because I have no idea if there are any audience members yet. I go downstairs and do a mic test on stage with the actors, it all feels so professional and very real. And as always happens in these situations, a camaraderie emerges between the performers as we prepare ourselves in the apartment upstairs with its views down on to the small park where the gay rights statues attract tourists.

Everyone knows Margoh, she’s greeted warmly by the theatre staff. Dandy Darkly has other concerns, because the media has been full of stories about people dressing as clowns and scaring kids, he wonders if this might affect his act or the way that he is perceived. And I’m incredibly nervous, more so than I have been for a long time. I’d spent the days before in my hotel room on the Bowery, making subtle changes to my poems to take out references to English culture that then New Yorkers might not understand. Peter Andre, Top Gear, Richard Madeley.

We are ushered downstairs and given a table at the back of the room. I sit with Dandy and Margoh. The walls of the Duplex are filled with pictures of the famous people who have performed there, such as Bette Midler and Woody Allen. The audience is enthusiastic and warm and I start to relax. In fact, I couldn’t have asked for a better audience for my New York debut, and it felt a real privilege to headline with these acts. I’d seen Dandy before in Edinburgh and I have always been a huge fan, and I’d seen I Am Cereal Killer, but Margoh Channing was a revelation, hilarious and touching, tender, human and very funny. Nancy Stearns sang a fantastic song about being in love with a young gay man, and Bart’s wonderful play was about a gay relationship.

And then it was my turn. It all felt so normal, and once I started it just felt like a normal gig, the kind I’ve done countless times in the past. I think I purposefully downplayed my performance because there was no way I could compete with all of the others, but people were very kind and they laughed in all the right places, so much so that I had to change the set order on stage as I’d meant to do a couple of more serious poems. The audience was enthusiastic and seemed genuinely appreciative. They were up for laughter and a momentum had built up. The gig just flew past and then the show itself was finished.

I chatted afterwards with the audience. They were kind and generous and I sold out of the books that I’d brought with me. Some of them seemed genuinely surprised that my voice off stage also had an English accent, as if it had all been an act. ‘So you really are English’, a lovely lady said to me.

We went back to the green room apartment, where I felt guilty at just sitting on the sofa as the others showered and changed into their civilian clothes. But as I sat there I pondered on how amazing the gig had been. I chatted with Dandy, Mark, Bart and Margoh, feeling most relieved that my humour had translated well to an American audience, and that the crowd were very definitely on my side and intent on enjoying themselves.

But most of all it was the cabaret scene that affected me the most. It demonstrated that spoken word isn’t necessarily bound up with poetry, or that there are any barriers between a poetry gig, a comedy gig, a cabaret gig. Surrounded by actors, drag queens, cabaret acts, drag clowns and singers, I felt, for the first time, as the straight man in my shirt, tie and jacket, yet equally valid and comparable with the others. We were all doing our own thing.

And soon it was all over. We said our good byes and drifted off into the night. I walked with Mark and Bart to the subway and we went off on different lines, they went back to Queens, and myself the short distance to the Bowery, to the hotel where I was unable to sleep in the slightest.

It was only much later afterwards that I realised how amazing the night had been. It was spoken word that had got me there, and for a few brief minutes I’d been right at the epicentre of the international LGBT scene. My next gig after this night was a couple of weeks later, in Torquay, thousands of miles away and with a very different dynamic but equally exciting and with another great audience. Thanks to the marvel of social media, I’ve become friends with a lot of people that night, and personally inspired by them. The world may be getting smaller, but that’s no bad thing, we are all so very similar.


A show about going nowhere, a show about life, a show about growing up LGBTQ in a suburb of Surrey in the 1980s.

Performance poet Robert Garnham takes the audience on a journey from a time where everything seemed to stand still.

I’ll never be employee of the week

I’ll never be employee of the week

You see their face in photographs
So proud in shirt and tie.
It’s an accolade I’ve never had
And I often wonder why.

Of course I work the best I can
With all the skills that I have got
‘Hello there!’ I’m supposed to say to customers
Instead of my usual ‘What?’

I try to learn certain procedures
And apply them to my job.
Apparently the company frowns upon
Calling a customer a ‘jumped up nob’.

Explain where you’ve used initiative,
My boss said the other day.
I haven’t thumped anyone in weeks,
Was the only thing positive I could say.

Our health and safety policy
Ensures that risk is now no more
Though it doesn’t specifically mention
Racing office chairs across the shop floor.

One moment a young trainee starts
Months later in the ranks he supersedes’ ya
Calling him a spotty faced squirt
Only leads to a grievance procedure.

Apparently a stock count is essential
Though the store room is in such a mess
It saves so much time if you can
Just try and give an educated guess.

Asked if I’d cash up the till
It’s a chore that’s no longer in my range
After I told my line manager
That I’ve developed a fear of change.

A workshop in customer services
Is something I’ve been asked to join
Since someone came in for a refund
And left with a knee in the groin.

And then there’s a sudden malfunction
With the self service automated scanner
Apparently it’s not company policy
To repeatedly hit it with a spanner.

An employee of the week I’ll never be
Nor a candidate for an actual promotion
My home made sign in the window, ‘free shoulder rubs’
Caused something of an unwanted commotion.

It’s time for your annual review,
My line manager this morning said.
We looked at each other and just sighed
And then went to the pub instead.

In the Glare of the Neon Yak

In the Glare of the Neon Yak is a riproaring piece of spoken word storytelling set on a sleeper service in the middle of winter. A train full of circus performers are being stalked by a mysterious entity which seems to mean more than just its eerie manifestation. A portent, an omen, the Neon Yak symbolises dark times. Will our hero find love? Will Jacques, the tight rope walker, get back together again with his ex, the circus clown? Does the secret of the Neon Yak lie in the hands of a randy old lady? Has the buffet car run out of sausage rolls? Will Tony the Train Manager find where they’ve put Carriage F? An hour show combining poetry, storytelling and music, In the Glare of the Neon Yak is the sparkling new show from spoken word artist, Robert Garnham.

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I’ve never once been on a hovercraft

I’ve never once been on a hovercraft.
To be quite frank I’m shocked you even asked.
I’m not that bothered
I’ve never hovered
A friend went once
He’s never recovered
Though many people say it is a blast.

I’ve never once been on a hovercraft.
The sound of it really is quite daft.
It’s got a big skirt
It lets out a spurt
according to some
It makes your fillings hurt
And my buttocks too so that’s both the fore and aft.

I’ve never once been on a hovercraft.
And if I did I’d sit right next to the raft
I hesitate
To see if vibrate
I told my friend Sam
She couldn’t wait
Shall we do it? I asked, yes, she said, not half!

I’ve never once been on a hovercraft.
They’re expensive I’d need to go into my overdraft
The thrills I seek
They’re kind of meek
I hope it doesn’t
Spring a leak
And then my god there’d be an terrible drought.

I’ve never once been on a hovercraft.
It’s chilly I’ve heard I’d have to wear a scarf.
A sleepless night
It doesn’t seem right
Why the hell would I go
To the Isle of Wight
Just sit on the cliffs and point at it and laugh.

I wish I lived in a bungalow

I wish I lived in a bungalow

I wish I lived in a bungalow
One floor is enough for me.
Mooching round my bungalow
What shall I have for my tea?
People would call
They’d stand in the hall
They’d look around
And say is that all?
I wish I lived in a bungalow
One floor is enough for me.

I wish I lived in a bungalow
I’d go from room to room
I’d only need to use one plug
Whenever I use the vacuum.
It’s ever so static
The fridge automatic
And going upstairs
Only leads to the attic
I wish I lived in a bungalow
Or possibly a chalet.

I wish I lived in a bungalow
It’s like a home in half
Talking about my bungalow
Only makes people laugh
I ignore their glares
Or shout, who cares?
There is no cupboard
Under the stars
I wish I lived in a bungalow
Or perhaps a ground floor flat.

I wish I lived in a bungalow
With roses round the door.
When people visit my bungalow
I say, this is the ground floor.
My heart is empty
It’s easy to fight
The gravity
I wish I lived in a bungalow
I’d sleep closer to planet earth.

I wish I lived in a bungalow
I’d get right down to business
Living there in my bungalow
No fear of altitude sickness
I’d make my stamp
Buy a standard lamp
I must admit
It’s kind of camp
I wish I lived in a bungalow
One floor is enough for me.


This is the show that I was supposed to have toured the U.K. with this year. Alas, it was not to be.

Life can be so juicy at times. Juicy like a sweet apple, filled with goodness. It’s the small things that make it so ripe for exploration, for prodding and poking. Robert Garnham’s new show is an hour or so of performance poetry and spoken word, comedy rhymes and whimsy by the bucket full.

With poems about life, LGBT issues, being envious of beards and the pitfalls of fancying a surfer, Juicy culminates in an extended theatrical piece about love and lust set at an airport departure lounge.

Multiple slam champion and longlisted as Spoken Word Artist of the Year in 2016 and 2017, Robert has performed everywhere from the Womad Festival to London Gay Pride. He has recently featured in a tv advert campaign for a U.K. bank.