Your browser (Internet Explorer 6) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 – Days 18-23

Edinburgh Fringe has a way of warping time. At times, it feels like I’ve been here for years. At others, it feels like no time has passed at all. It is very easy to lose track of time and have no idea what day of the week it is, let alone the date.

What is consistent though is thinking that there’s enough time to see all the shows I was planning to, before getting to the final week and not having seen anything. Then there’s either the urge to see everything, or just choosing to admit defeat and see the shows when they’re on tour.

This year, there are shows I have been planning to see all month, but had made no efforts to actually do so. I have seen some of the shows I wanted to, but will have to let others pass me by. Then there’s always the vow to be more organised next year, but knowing that the same thing will likely also happen then.

One thing that is different this year is that my visits to the Kilderkin have so far been limited to the solitary pint. It’s another thing I kept meaning to do, but didn’t get around to much. Although the pub will always hold a special place in my heart, that sour taste of last year’s show there is still there in my palate.

I’ve actually barely been drinking this Fringe. This wasn’t a conscious decision; it has just turned out this way. Doing midday shows has been a handy incentive to go to bed at a reasonable hour. And another key factor is not having a bar there immediately after I finish performing where audience members either want to buy me pints or I need something to numb the pain.

The shows have been going well. I now have just two left then that’s me done for another Edinburgh.


Edinburgh Fringe 2019: Days 13-17

With just over one week left of the Fringe, I am approaching the final stretch.

After a slow first week, audience numbers have picked up for the midday slot and the past eight shows have pretty much all sold-out.

It might have something to do with the late shows no longer splintering my potential audience. But the possibility of gaining another official sold-out Jpeg probably went after the quiet first week and I have come to terms with not being able to add to my collection. It’s a Jpeg, nothing more, nothing less. That said, they can’t take my existing three away from me.

The midday audiences have all been great, but there’s that nagging feeling again that I need to do something else next. I need to have a think about this. Fortunately, I’m now unemployed so have plenty of time for pondering.

One thing I’ve not written about on here so far is the weather. It’s been perhaps the most extreme I’ve known in my nine years of coming to the Fringe. It’s been humid for pretty much the entire duration, but also raining a lot. And oh my, has it rained a lot.

Streams flowing down the streets have been a regular occurrence. For clothing options, I’ve gone for shorts and a rain coat, with a pair of jeans in my bag to perform in.

I’m staying down in Newhaven this year, which is right on the coast. So I’m making sure I get plenty of sea air in my lungs to ward off any lurgy. And I find that looking out across the waves is a great place to put in the pondering hours.


Edinburgh Fringe 2019 – Days 8-12

After a couple of nights off doing the late-night shows, I completed the remaining two of the run and performed to the second and third largest ever audiences the show has been performed to.

Sunday’s show was probably my favourite of the run. I had 64 in, which is almost the perfect number for the show. There are plenty of people in the room, but not too many so that score keeping and crowd control are tricky.

Traditionally, the second Monday of the Fringe is the day most comedians take off. And while I had a break from the midday show, I still had the final late one to perform.

Monday’s show had at least 70 in. I was concerned I wouldn’t have enough stationery if a lot more people showed up on the door. Admittedly, this is not a concern you hear from too many comics.

The two audiences were just the right side of lively, without ever straying into dickhead territory.

And just to clarify, my record show audience remains Newcastle Stand, where I had 76 people.

Out of seven late Edinburgh shows, six went really well. It was only Tuesday’s show that was a struggle, which isn’t a bad return for a late-night Edinburgh slot. Although I’ve enjoyed doing these six shows, I always felt much more pressure to perform in the late-night slot than midday. This is partly because Stand 1 is such a legendary comedy venue, but there was also the knowledge that I may well have drunken people to deal with. I’m fine with this during the show, it’s just the mental preparation for it. Until the show starts, you never really know what you’ll have to deal with. And you can’t deal with anything until it begins.

I’m pleased to have completed the late run and no longer have to perform the first show of the day and the last one. It would be tough to do this for an entire Fringe. I can now start going to see other shows without having to worry about getting my early evening nap in.

The midday show is still proving to be consistently good fun. The past four days have all sold-out, which is nice in what’s been a quieter than average year. The show is nearly where I want it and I now have the time to rework bits to get it fully there. Today, I had  front-row that was mostly aged in their 80s. They provided a lot of laughs throughout the hour and their reactions to events in the quiz were a particular joy.




Edinburgh Fringe 2019 – Days 6-7

I have now completed my five late-night shows in a row, then duly hit the tiredness wall around 6pm just as I was about to go and watch a friend’s show.

Following from Tuesday’s struggle, the shows on Wednesday and Thursday had much better audiences. Although as it gets later, the show does start to lose its focus and the audience just want to sing to the tracks played in the music round.

I’ve been finishing the show around 1.10am. After I’ve packed up all my stuff, it’s not far off 1.30am when I leave the venue and have to get the night bus back to where I’m staying. I’ve been going to bed at around 3.30am, then getting up at 9am to head back into town for my midday show.

I’m thankful that I only have two late-night shows left, as I wouldn’t be able to keep up this routine for the better part of a month. Although four out of the five late shows have been good fun and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of doing the show in a later slot, it’ll be nice to start going to bed at a normal-ish time again.

As far as the midday shows go, I had my smallest audience of the run yesterday with 28. This year being as it is, this number isn’t actually too bad. The people that have been coming to see my show have all been good fun, even if they are a little less inclined to sing along as enthusiastically to the music round than their late-night counterparts.

The set for the midday show still needs work, as not everything in it is flying consistently every day. But I have time to rework bits, and chop and change things.

As I don’t have to perform this Friday night, I’m planning to go to bed before 11pm and become reacquainted with that thing known as a enough sleep. Comedy is still the new rock n roll.


Edinburgh Fringe 2019 – Day 5

Just before last night’s show started, my tech warned me about that three very lively Northern Irish ladies sitting at the front on stage-right could be the night’s troublemakers. It turned out that they had some competition, not just from their equally loud Scottish boyfriends.

However, it was another group that arrived slightly later ended up taking the arseholes of the night award.

While the group of six on stage-right were indeed disruptive and interjecting, they were crucially engaged in the show. Even if the three lads were often away at the bar, outside having a smoke, or going to the toilet.

The group at the back on stage-left were talking frequently throughout the first part of the show. I would pull them up on it a few times. This, combined with the lively Celts on stage-right, meant it was difficult to get into any sort of rhythm throughout the show.

Yet it was when the quiz began that the night’s true bellend emerged. He was sitting in the middle of the group on stage-left and was mostly quiet for the first part of the show. He would interrupt the quiz, disputing the validity of certain questions or the phrasing, and was generally being an unwelcome presence.

He said that he’d paid £11 to see the show, implying that he could do what he want. I told him I had his money. He tried to protest the questions and answers by claiming that we live in a democracy. I said that this show in fact operates as a dictatorship and I set the rules.

I deducted him two points for being a dick. He didn’t appreciate this, even if he deserved it.

In the end, we agreed that his team would get their two points that had been deducted back if he left.

Shortly after this, he got up and started walking towards the stage. I thought he was going to try and square up to me. Fortunately, he veered off towards the bar and his departure was cheered on by the rest of the audience.

I somehow dragged the show through three rounds. It was a hard slog. When he left and the rest of his team did shortly afterwards, the atmosphere improved immediately.

I’ve performed variants of the show now for five years, more than hundred times in front of thousands of people around the world. There’s never been a show quite like this one, which isn’t meant as a positive thing to say.

But then this is Edinburgh Fringe late at night. And if you combine dickheads and alcohol, it doesn’t always end well. I was just relieved that it did end.

I have two more late-night shows, before a two-night break and then the final two late ones of the Fringe. Tonight has to be better. If it’s not, then at least I’m now prepared for the worst.


Edinburgh Fringe 2019 – Day 3 and 4

I have been unable to write for the past couple of days, due to the new part of my Fringe routine that involves having a sleep for an hour and a bit before my late-night shows. Otherwise, trying to get by on a cool four hours of sleep out of 24 is a pretty effective way of burning out.

Sunday saw the first ever late-night How To Win A Pub Quiz and it was a really enjoyable show. I’d had about 30 people on presales, but another 20-odd showed up on the night. And although this was less than half the total capacity, it felt nicely filled with teams sitting around tables.

One key ingredient that set this show apart from the midday one is alcohol. While the audience haven’t been drunk, they have had a few more units of alcohol than their midday counterparts. This can lead to more chatting that requires some crowd control work, but it can also lead to the audience bursting into song during the music round. It’s always fun to get the entire audience clapping in time to I Believe in a Thing Called Love, which was one of the original cornerstones of the show. I never expected to be doing it five years later in front of a paying audience in one of the best comedy venues in the world.

Last night was quieter, with about 20 in. Nevertheless, it was a good show and the people who came enjoyed themselves.

It is quite a thrill to be doing shows at the Edinburgh Stand. Since I first came up in 2010, it has been the one venue I’ve always wanted to do shows. Although I may not currently be close to filling the room, the people who are coming to see it have so far been very enthusiastic in their appreciation. And you can only ever perform to the people who are in the room.

Also, not having 140 people means that I have a lot less admin to do in the quiz. You’ve got to take the positives where you can.

Tonight is looking quieter still, but there is still time for that to change and we shall just have to wait and see. Having done the show to such varying ranges of audience sizes, particularly in the earlier years, means that I can adapt it accordingly.

Meanwhile, the midday shows are mostly full and they have all been enjoyable.

It’s time now for that tactical nap.


Edinburgh Fringe 2019: Day 2

My second show of the Fringe ended up being two people short of officially selling-out.

However, when the room is full, some poor sucker needs to be wedged into a corner next to the air-conditioner unit. So it is probably just as well for that person.

The show was a good one, most of the material landed; although it is currently my bit about the film Bohemian Rhapsody that is furthest from where it needs to be. I will try and rework it over the next couple of shows.

My main regret of the show was being a little too mean to a family sitting at the front who were suffering from the heat of the room. At the moment, the main issue with the show is ventilation in the room. Two shows in and that’s not a bad place to be, albeit a sweaty place.

It is the first Edinburgh Fringe run I have done of the show that doesn’t feature any references to giant squid. Previous years’ shows have also regularly featured The Darkness and the Smurfs, but I have now also weaned myself off these staples. As fond as I am of giant squid and The Darkness, it’s nice for shows to go well that don’t rely heavily on the old guard.

I will admit to being indifferent to the Smurfs. Things have changed from my obsession of 1996.

My biggest concern at the moment is sales of the late-night show. The room is more than double the size of my midday show capacity, yet total sales are on average half that of my earlier show. As I’ve never done late-night shows before, I don’t know if this is normal or if people are more likely to wait to buy a ticket until shortly before show time.

I’ve been out doing some flyering. I will do another stint tomorrow and am going to pay to use the team available to hand out more of them. That way, if audience numbers are low, I’ll at least know that it wasn’t though lack of trying.

Apparently, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo has also sold significantly fewer tickets than in previous years. It appears to be a trend throughout Edinburgh this August. I will do some digging when I get a chance. I’m sensing a story. Although we are only two days in and this could yet change, this year certainly feels different to others.


Edinburgh Fringe 2019 – Day 1

As you may have guessed from the title, Edinburgh Fringe 2019 has now begun.

I had my first show of the run today and it was good fun. Not everything landed and the set is going to take some honing, but there’s a lot in there that is not far from where it needs to be. The show always develops throughout the run. Something that’s ad-libbed one day and gets a big laugh can end up staying for the whole run, or even years in certain cases.

I was about 16 short of selling-out, which is something I have stupidly become used to. The fact that I sold-out the whole run last year without handing out any flyers doesn’t help with this mindset.

But then selling-out was never part of the plan when I was developing the show. It’s something that I’ve been very lucky to have experienced almost by accident.

Nevertheless, I have a feeling that this year is going to be harder to get audience in.

This year in particular, the flat rental prices have rocketed way more than in any of the previous years I’ve been coming to the Fringe.

It’s not uncommon for acts to have forked out around £1,700 just for a flat to stay in for the month. Richard Herring has also spoken about spending £7,000 to rent a house for the month. These prices just aren’t really realistic to maintain at this level, something has to give somewhere.

It wouldn’t surprise me if hotel prices have also increased, in addition to the rise of AirBnBs that aren’t exactly cheap either.

Higher prices will inevitably put people off coming up to the Fringe, both for audience and particularly for performers.

Fortunately, I’ve managed to get a good deal on a flat through a wonderful site called Theatre Bookers. I’m paying £600 for the month, which is actually pretty cheap by normal Fringe standards, let alone for this year.

Although I have no control over rental prices (at least for the moment), what I can do is make every effort to get more punters in through the door and try to give the best show I can to the people who do come to see it.

I didn’t want another sold-out Jpeg anyway*.


*Okay, maybe I did was another Jpeg. But I’m over it. I’ll just have to wait and see what unfolds over the next three weeks.


So this is Fringemas…

In 24 hours time, I will have just finished my first Edinburgh Fringe show of 2019.

Ticket sales are currently ever so slightly down on this time last year. With last year’s theme being the 90s and this year’s being Britain, it suggests that people prefer that decade to this country. This is perfectly understandable, especially with all the mad things happening at the moment.

I’m also looking forward to seeing how the show works in a late-night setting. Ticket sales are much lower than for the midday show, but the later time slot does give much more time for flyering and for people to buy tickets throughout the day. I’m only doing the late-night shows for the first week and a bit, which shouldn’t cause any issues when my energy levels are likely flagging in the final week.

My main goal of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe is to just enjoy it. Although I greatly enjoyed my midday shows last year, the early evening show was often a struggle that I wasn’t having much fun with. Last year, I was trying to do too much and ended up being ill for most of the month.

Another thing that’s different this year is that for the first time since 2011, I won’t have a full-time job to return to afterwards.

I left my job of seven years and nearly nine months at the end of last week. I was with the company for seven years longer than I originally planned.

It worked out pretty well with previous Fringes, with me either working remotely in some years, or taking the whole time off as paid holiday in more recent Augusts. I could have quite easily stayed put, but I felt it was time for a new challenge.

At the moment, it hasn’t really sunk in that I’ve actually left. I’m half-expecting to go back to work after the Fringe. If I did, I’d probably get some strange looks and would find someone else sitting at my desk.

The main thing I will miss is having that salary at the end of month. I have to wait for my Fringe pay day until October. I’m going to be doing bits and pieces of freelance writing while I’m up here, so there should at least be some new funds coming into my bank account before then.

What I’ve done for the past three Fringes is finish work on the Wednesday, then drive up afterwards to stay a night in either Cumbria or Lockerbie, before heading up to Edinburgh the next day and nicely splitting up a 4.5 hour drive.

This year, I drove up on the Tuesday and arrived in Edinburgh a day earlier than usual. This has given me an extra day to relax in the calm before the Fringe storm.

Another thing that’s different is that I can go and see some of the rest of Scotland, which I never normally have time to do. Once my run finishes, I am heading up to the Highlands for a few nights and doing a show in Inverness.

I’ve always wanted to visit Loch Ness since I was a small boy who was obsessed with dinosaurs, so will be finally crossing that off my to-do list after 30+ years.

Throughout the Fringe, I will be writing significantly more entries on here than I do in every other month. This site is the best place to keep up with my physical and emotional wellbeing for the month of August. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.


Unemployment and other forthcoming adventures

I have handed in my notice in my day job. I don’t have another job to go to and am not earning anywhere near enough from comedy to make a living, which currently shows no signs of changing in the near future.

You are probably now wondering just I’m playing at. Well, I will explain.

The end of January was eventful, to say the least. A colleague who sat at the desk behind me had a stroke in the office on the Thursday night and then died a couple of days later. I was waiting with him until the ambulance arrived.

Then the next day, I had the funeral of a school friend. He’d been living out in Australia and had just bought some land in Tasmania. When they showed drone footage he’d taken of his land during the service, I suddenly realised that I need to see more of the world.

And I can’t do this if I’m stuck behind a desk for eight hours a day, while driving all over the place in the evenings in a vain attempt to pursue my comedy dreams and just generally feeling exhausted. There was no pressure on me to leave my job, I just felt the time was right to do something else.

After Edinburgh, I’m going to move out of my flat in Manchester, pack up my rucksack and go travelling for a few months. It’s time to have some more adventures. I’ve saved up enough over the years to keep me going for a while. And my trip to New Zealand showed that gigs can cover travel costs, so that’s what I’m looking to do more of.

I made some enquiries about some festivals in America, but they didn’t really go anywhere.

My next idea was to do a gig in each of the other 27 EU member states before the current Brexit deadline on 31 October. However, this is proving difficult. The itinerary and getting around on a budget looks tricky, but not impossible. I could cover much of it on trains or ferries.

What’s proving the biggest stumbling block in all of this is actually getting a response from promoters. At the moment, it seems easier to book gigs in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand than countries that are about an hour or two away on the plane.

I’ve just realised that getting frustrated with Europe and instead favouring Singapore, Australia and New Zealand is very similar to what those hardline Brexit types are always on about. Plus, I also opted to leave something with nothing to go to. They say you become what you hate, I just didn’t realise it was so easy.

I potentially have four gigs so far in the EU27, just 23 to go. What I may do instead is just try and do as many gigs as I can around Europe and see a bit more of the countries I’m visiting while I’m still an EU citizen.

Then in March to April, I plan on going back to New Zealand and then to Australia. I’ve never actually spent more than a night in Australia, despite passing through it a few times over the years. Also, festivals there are much easier to book than those in countries ruled by unelected bureaucrats. There it is, slipping out again.

Once I’m done with that, there’ll be Edinburgh 2020 on the horizon. So I may end up having a year out from any full-time employment. I’ll be doing bits of freelance writing, so I will see how much that brings in before I decide my next move.

Are you looking for copywriters? If so, get in touch. As it says at the top of the page, I’m a trained journalist. But obviously don’t get in touch if you want me to write for free. I save that exclusively for this site.

And also get in touch if you live in one of the EU27 countries and want to book How To Win A Pub Quiz. I need the money.

After Edinburgh 2020, I’ll be looking to move either back to London, where I was based for six years; or to move to Bristol, where I was based for the first eight weeks of my life.

Or I could just quit comedy, accept defeat, get a full-time job and a mortgage, and try to become a normal person. Actually, maybe not.

For many people, uncertainty is a scary thing. For me in this instance, it is all quite exciting. I’m looking forward to having more time available to write and think up ideas, but probably also do a fair amount of procrastination.

Anyway, I should probably go buy some gammon and fantasise about how great things were before I was born.