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Archive for August, 2011

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Entry 365: Project Daily 250 complete

Here it is, the final entry in my project that was originally named My Daily 250.

The plan was to see if I could write at least 250 words a day, or the equivalent, for a year to force me to write more in the hope that I would be get some comedy material out of it. As you can see this entry is number 365, so I have at least achieved the year thing. As it turns out, nothing I’ve actually written in this blog has found its way in my stand-up set but I have certainly written a lot more material as an indirect result from forcing myself to sit down and write something every day.

It started out on Tumblr and I didn’t expect anything to come from it, but a mate I was at school with noticed what I’d been doing and offered to set me up the website you see before you.

The reason why I’d previously avoided writing a regular blog was because you need to be doing interesting stuff in order to make it worth reading, and there were many days when entries consisted of little more than writing about going to the supermarket. In the hope to make it more of an interesting read, I’m going to now write three or four times a week to avoid so much daily barrel scraping. But I definitely think my Daily 250 project has been worthwhile, particularly in Edinburgh when it was often my therapy.

The new comedy year has now begun. You’ll be able to read all about my mishaps and experiences here, with probably not so much detail about my trips to the supermarket.

Word count: 281

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Entry 363-364: An Edinburgh summary

I am now back in London and Fringe-lag has hit me. With Edinburgh now at an end, I shall reflect on the past four weeks in this bumper edition due to missing yesterday’s entry because of tiredness.

A clue as to how our final show went can be found in our show’s name. Paul was on first and didn’t do himself too many favours by having six pints in two hours while watching his beloved Arsenal lose heavily before the gig. It was a shame his final set didn’t go as well as others because there have been many times this festival when he has been outstanding.

I was determined to have a good gig and go out on a high, but was struggling to find any energy until just before I arrived on stage and ended up really enjoying it.  I had to work hard to get the audience laughing consistently as they weren’t going for everything, so I had rescue a fair number of faltering punchlines with lots of adlibbing and it mostly worked.

For the final show we were wearing garments we had fashioned from the excess of remaining flyers. I made a waistcoat and Paul made a kilt, here he is wearing both:

Look how impressed the man next to him is.

To conclude on the Edinburgh experience, the reason I gave our show its name was that I knew it would exactly be that, a mixed bag. I was proved right. There were good days, some very good days, horrible days that were an utter struggle and days that were frustratingly mediocre. But despite our non-glowing sole review, there is a lot both myself and Paul can be proud of for the experience. We had a good run, the majority of people who saw the show enjoyed it and the fact that only once did I resort to my bad gig cure of a packed of biscuits and listening to Queen songs speaks for itself. Out of the 21 shows we did together, only three at the very most were stinkers, which is not a bad ratio at all considering we’ve both only been gigging on a regular basis for just under two years and our sets were at least ten minutes longer than we’d been used to doing. Plus every show went ahead, which is quite an achievement in itself when so many others were pulled.

My personal low point was the first Saturday when we had a full room due to the rain, but for the first 15 minutes or so of my set I was getting absolutely nothing out of the audience and several people walked out, which caused me to stumble over my words. I managed to recover, maintained my energy and eventually got some laughter. It wasn’t pleasant, but I’m proud to say that I didn’t buckle.

My personal high of the run was the second Saturday, we had a full room again but this time we were ready for them. Or so we thought, until a Hen Do appeared. This led to us both behind the curtain before the show, terrified about what we were about to endure. Hen Do’s are scary, so we knew we would really have to raise our game. And raise our game we did, it was our best gig of the run.

I was under no illusions before the Fringe about the challenge we faced, I knew it would test us both physically and mentally. But we dealt with everything thrown at us: hecklers, apathy, very drunk hecklers, no microphone, disruptions from other noise outside, ridiculously drunk hecklers, small crowds, big crowds, illnesses.

My objective at the start of the Fringe started was to simply become a better comic by the end of it. I think it’s safe to say I’ve achieved that. I still have a very long way to go before I even come close to getting anywhere in comedy, that will take a good few more years of grafting, but I’m sure that should I get anywhere then I’ll look back on the experience I’ve had this month as one that helped me on my way.

Now it is back to the London open mic circuit, where audiences are scarce and its mostly performing to other comics. I must now crack on and try to move up the comedy ladder. I know that long-term I need to move out of London, probably to the Midlands, where my driving skills can be utilised for more gigs and I can likely afford to run a car. But in the immediate future there is a lot of uncertainty as to what comes next.  In the real world, the edition of the paper I work on is closing at the start of October, so I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be doing after then. However, what I am certain of is that I will return to Edinburgh Fringe with another show next year. I’m looking forward to it already.

Word count: 834

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Entry 362 – Edinburgh – day 26

This is it, today is when our Edinburgh run for 2011 comes to an end.

I will save reflecting on all that has gone on for tomorrow once I am back in London; my train tomorrow is at the stupid time of 6.55am due to it being the cheapest ticket. Because of this early departure I have been cleaning the flat, packing stuff up, and throwing stuff out such as the pile of empty bottles of energy drinks which have been keeping me going for the past four weeks.

At yesterday’s penultimate show we had the room at full seating capacity. Paul was on first and normally one of us sits at the back of the room while the other one is on, but yesterday we thought we would sit behind the curtain instead. So I was behind the curtain when Paul started his set, but noticed the door at the back of the room was open so I went out of the fire escape to go downstairs  and loop around outside, close the door then return behind the curtain with no-one noticing. However, I couldn’t actually find the right way out and ended up in the refuse area; I went back up the stairs and found myself in a hotel corridor with just hotel rooms around me. I had a vision of missing the entire show. I eventually found my way out and reached the door to our venue, which I then closed. I thought about going back outside behind the curtain but then I knew I would definitely get lost again, so stayed put.

Paul did very well, the audience really went for all his stuff. I was hoping for a similar stormer but I wouldn’t rate how I did any better than set six out of ten. It was okay-ish, but with a full room I wanted to do better than okay. I got laughs, but not as loud or as regular as I wanted to and a few things received no reaction. I got slightly distracted by the front row talking and my interactions with them didn’t really go anywhere. But never mind, it was a decent gig and I’ve definitely had worse gigs up here, plus we broke our collection bucket record with £52. Now there is just one show left to go and I just need to find the energy for one last push. There will probably be another empty energy drink bottle to add to the pile by the end of the day.

Word count: 420

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Entry 361: Edinburgh – day 25

We have just two shows to go for Edinburgh Fringe 2011.

At times it has gone by very quickly, at others – such as getting drenched while flyering or performing to a non-responsive audience – it has gone by very slowly. I will save conclusions and the philosophy for

The final week has been very quiet, but we’ve still yet to pull a show yet because of no audience – which is quite an achievement in itself as many shows, including paid ones with higher profile acts, have been pulled some days. I don’t want to speak too soon as we do have two left, but as they’re on the weekend I’m fairly confident we should get at least a few people in.

Yesterday we started a few minutes late as we were desperately hoping to get more than four people in our audience. As it turned out, our patience paid off and we ended up with ten people. It was a pretty decent show. I still didn’t feel entirely there due to still shaking off an illness, but it wasn’t a bad effort. The audience enjoyed themselves and from ten people we made £22 in the collection at the end.

As it is a Saturday there is not so much need to flyer for hours before the show starts, as getting an audience shouldn’t be a problem. So far today I have cooked a fry-up for myself and Langtonm and due to the abundance of flyers we have left – and as we are edgy comics – we have been fashioning garments out of the remaining flyers to wear for our last show tomorrow. Rock n Roll. I won’t reveal what we have made, for that you shall have to come and see our show tomorrow. Failing that, I will probably be posting pictures on here at some point.

I am now off to see Nick Helm.

Word count: 313

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Entry 360: Edinburgh – day 24

Illness made me feel felt quite zombified and on auto-pilot during yesterday’s show, if it’s possible to be both zombified and on auto-pilot. I suppose it is possible if you’re ill.

It was a good show and although I didn’t feel totally right, it was a vast improvement on the previous day. We had exactly the same number of people in and performed exactly the same material but this time there was consistent laughter instead of blank stares. Edinburgh can be like that, I learnt this last year. And to show the improvement on the previous day, in our collection bucket at the end we made£20. I’m still not feeling 100% but there are only three shows left, so I will push through the illness barrier.

In other comedy news, while searching the internet to see if our show had received any more reviews I stumbled across this very bizarre listing:

 

 

 

 

 

Apparently, unbeknown to both of us, we were booked in to do a preview at Barrow Hill Roundhouse Railway Centre in Leicestershire on May 19. I have absolutely no idea how this occurred as neither of us had any knowledge of it and had no contact from anyone from this venue. However, in the name of comedy I will be contacting the railway centre to apologise for our no-show and offer to rearrange the gig for the next couple of months. A gig in a railway centre would be quite the experience; it would probably be quite weird so I think I’d enjoy it more than Paul.

Word count: 258

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Entryt 359: Edinburgh – day 23

There was always going to be an out and out low point of the run of A Mixed Bag and yesterday provided it.

It was raining all day, so we thought we’d get a good number of people in as we generally do when it’s raining. Then an hour before our show was due to start it stopped raining.

We ended up getting 11 people in, which is not the smallest audience we’ve had, but it was tough going. They weren’t an unpleasant crowd and none of them were drunk, but large proportions of both our respective sets were met with blank stares.

But if the audience aren’t laughing regularly then the comedian has to take responsibility. And although there were laughs they were fairly spread out. I extracted the most laughter when I went off-piste and engaged the audience. I normally revel in the small, weird gigs and although I still managed to get a degree of enjoyment from it, it was a hard slog. Despite this, I inexplicably ended up doing my second longest set of the entire run. Paul enjoyed the gig even less than me and did the shortest set either of us has done so far. And just in case we needed confirmation about it being our worst gig of the run, in the collection bucket at the end from 11 people we made £7.22. I couldn’t help but laugh when I was counting our pathetic takings.

In health news, illness is starting to take its hold on myself and Mr Langton. The Edinburgh Lurgie has found me. I think it is my hectic few days has catching up with me at the end of what has been a long month in Scotland.

In other Edinburgh news, saw Tony Law’s show yesterday and he was very good. Tonight I am off to see Stephen Carlin.

Word count: 310

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Entry 358: Edinburgh – day 22

When you ask an audience a general question which often gets a reaction and you get no response then you know the gig is going to be hard work.

This was proved again yesterday when it took a while to get the audience going. Things that have been getting laughs at nearly every show in the run fell flat but I carried on and managed to get the audience of 15 people laughing, albeit not as loud or quite as regularly as previous shows.

I was heckled for the first time ever by a lyric from the Sound of Music, after I explained how much of my set was held together with the word ‘so’ and then after I said ‘so’ again someone from the back shouted: “A needle pulling thread”. It’s possibly my favourite heckle I’ve had in Edinburgh and I don’t even like the Sound of Music.

I am pleased to report that the microphone is working again in our venue and the dripping from the ceiling has stopped.

I saw a couple of shows yesterday. Musical duo Horse and Louis were brilliant; then I saw Doctor Brown’s show last night. It was recommend to me by other comics and is all a bit mad; it involved a lot of mime and physical comedy and for the first 30 minutes of the hour long show he didn’t speak a word. There were moments of bizarre brilliance, but when you are told repeatedly how good something is your expectations are always going to be hard to meet. I did enjoy it though and would recommend checking it out.

Shortly I am heading off to see Tony Law, I have a ticket for Nick Helm on Saturday but unfortunately Adam Riches is completely sold out. I’ve been up here for four weeks; I really have no excuse for missing shows I wanted to see.

Word count: 314

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Entry 357: Edinburgh – day 21

I have a massive pile of flyers I need to get rid of before the end of the festival.

There is no way I want to take them all back to London with me again. We probably had too many printed but the deal was so cheap it makes wasting some not seem so bad. The weight of the 5,000 flyers I brought up with me was largely responsible for the arm injury I sustained while travelling up here for the start of the Fringe. If I fail to get rid of them before the end of our show run then I will put the remaining flyers in the recycling bin. This is also a clever marketing strategy for next year, as I’m sure the people who sort out the recycling materials will be so impressed with my environmental credentials that they’ll vow to see my show in 2012. I could then write some recycling-based jokes just for them. I’ve thought this through.

This week I am also going to try and see as many shows as I can, or at least seeing as many shows as I want to see. As I’ve previously said, there aren’t that many paid shows I do want to see this year but since I have been paid this changes matters.

Today I’m seeing a couple of word of mouth shows, which I find is always the best recommendation for a show. It beats marketing strategies hands down, but I think my recycling worker marketing strategy could even top word of mouth. Or perhaps not.

Word count: 261

 

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Entry 356: Edinburgh return

I am back in Edinburgh and into the final furlong of the Fringe.

When I woke up at 5.30am this morning, and after my hectic weekend, I didn’t think I would be feeling this buoyant some 14 hours later, but that’s what a good gig can do for the system. The three-day break has reinvigorated me.

My train didn’t arrive back in until about 4.20pm and after I dropped off my bags back at the flat it wasn’t until after 5pm when I started flyering, so the chances of getting an audience were not in our favour.

We managed to get 12 people in, lower than our average, but they were a very receptive crowd. The gig gave me another comedy first – having an eight-year-old boy in the audience. We warned his dad before the show about what to expect, but he insisted on bringing him in. I don’t know if he still stands by this decision but the boy looked like he was enjoying it.

I also did my longest set ever – 28 minutes, which seemed to fly by. Paul didn’t enjoy his set as much, he is looking tired. But we made £22 out of 12 people, not bad going at all.

Once again we were without a microphone after it stopped working just before we were on. Worryingly there is also a big leak starting to form in the ceiling where our show is, if it collapses when I’m stage at least I can say I brought the house down. I thank you.

There are now only six shows left for A Mixed Bag. I am determined to go out on a high and force reviewer James Hampson’s to eat his poorly written words; I’m willing to get them deep-fried for him especially.

Word count: 296

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Entry 354-5: the wedding mission

There was always going to be some sort of hitch with me getting to the wedding yesterday, there pretty much is whenever I have to be anywhere on time.

The plan was to drive to Witney to get a lift from there to the wedding venue with Charlie, whose floor I was crashing on after the festivities. But just as I was waking up my dad shouted up to me that my car’s MOT had expired at the end of July so they were taking it down to have it done. My car arrived back pretty quickly for an MOT but it had no petrol. So my dad filled it up slightly from a petrol can he had lying around but it wouldn’t get me very far and I would need some more, which was another delay.

When I arrived in Witney I got lost looking for Charlie’s house and was there 25 minutes later than I needed to be. Within two minutes of arrival I had changed into my suit and we headed off. We picked up Andy, who I also made late, and the wedding venue turned out to be half an hour further away than we anticipated which wasn’t helped by getting stuck behind a slow moving car for a large proportion of the journey.

The ceremony started at bang on time at 1pm. These things are supposed to start late, everyone knows that. We arrived about three minutes before the end of the ceremony and I got a disapproving look from Ollie, who had just signed the register.  We did get there just in time to see him and Faye officially announced as husband and wife. So for one of the most important moments in the life of one of my best friends, which I had travelled hundreds of miles for, I missed ultimately because of my ineptitude with time. I’m sure there’s some comedy material I can get out of this.

I apologised to the newlyweds when I got the chance, explaining about the MOT but then won points back for mentioning how I had travelled all the way down from Edinburgh especially for the day.

It did turn out to be a great day, though, after my shaky start. It was excellent to see so many of my uni friends together again; many memories from our ridiculous student days were brought up which led to many laughs. It’s nice to see so many of them happy and settling down, in contrast with the absurd life direction I have chosen. I didn’t end up drinking much more than six pints and what I did drink was nullified by stuffing my face with food and sweating profusely.

At one point later on when I took my suit jacket and rolled the sleeves of my shirt, I caught a glimpse of myself in my shirt and tie in a mirror and I looked how I did when I was a reporter for a local paper. That was the life I left behind two years ago to pursue comedy, it wasn’t a life I enjoyed too much.

Tomorrow I head back to Edinburgh for the remaining six days of the Fringe.

Word count: 533