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Archive for August, 2011

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Entry 353: Edinburgh – day 16

As I write this I have left Edinburgh behind, at least temporarily.

I travelled back home today in preparation for the wedding of Clack, one of my former university housemates, which takes place tomorrow. There was no way I could miss it and I’m pleased to have secured a floor to crash on afterwards.

Even as late as last week it was looking like I would either have to sleep in my car or not drink and drive home afterwards. I’m glad I’ve managed to avoid having to do either.

I’ve missed not performing today. At yesterday’s show we were battling against the elements again after our microphone failed us for the second time this festival just as we were about to go on stage. So we had to do the show without a mic, competing against the noise from the show next door as well as the football being shown in the courtyard outside. But we rose to the challenge and it was a good show. I was opening, but this time it didn’t take me as long to find my vocal range and I pretty much hit the ground running. Langton also did well, the audience laughed throughout the hour and gave generously in the bucket at the end.

When I return to Edinburgh on Monday things will be different. Moz will have unfortunately left and I will have the flat to myself for the remaining six days of the festival. He will be missed, our (often inappropriate) chats have been one of my highlights of this year’s Fringe. That and cartoon cocks on posters. Still, with Moz gone at least the washing-up will improve.

Word count: 277

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Entry 352: Edinburgh – day 15

I now only have seven shows left of the Fringe.

It’s going by really quickly. There are three more A Mixed Bags booked in but I have drafted in cover as tomorrow I am heading down south for three days for the wedding of an ex-uni housemate. I’m looking forward to it as it should be a great day, plus the four of us ex-uni housemates will be reunited in full for the first time in more than two years; these occasions are rarer these days with us all living in different parts of the country.

But part of me also wants to stay performing up here. Some people have taken planned days off for their shows but now I just want to keep going. Then again, even if I wanted to have a day off I’d say I wouldn’t to try and look cool.

For yesterday’s show we were once again done a massive favour by the rain getting people in, it’s much more effective than flyering.

I was on first and the opening five minutes of my set were tough, I got very little out of the audience but I persisted and they soon warmed up. We had about 20 people in and made £42 in the collection bucket at the end, which could very well be proportionally the best day’s takings yet if either of us had bothered to keep track of how much we were getting per person.

In other news, I saw Norman Lovett’s show last night, it was free and brilliant.

Word count: 257

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Entry 351: Edinburgh – day 14

The funniest thing I have seen so far at this year’s Fringe is the hundreds of cartoon penises being stuck on all the large show posters in and around the city.

In mouths, ears, crotches and up bums, these stickers have been put up everywhere and it’s brilliant. Thank you, Kunt and the Gang, for your efforts in promoting your show this way.

The fact that this is my current highlight probably says a lot about me but it also says something about this year’s Fringe. It is only my second Edinburgh and I’m not claiming to be an expert but something doesn’t feel quite right in the way that last year’s did. Speaking to other acts, who have been to more Fringes, I’m not alone in feeling this.

Although I’m enjoying the experience, the spirit of the Fringe is definitely lacking and has been nullified to an extent by the money-men taking over the city. The cartoon cocks have provided a welcome laugh in the face (often literally) of slick PR. The fact that some big name promoters have threatened those responsible for the cocks says it all – they are promoting comedy but don’t have a sense of humour.

Edinburgh City Council has now been out and removed most of the cartoon penises leaving obvious white shapes behind, which also makes me laugh.

14 days in and I’m still yet to see a paid show. There are a few things I want to see, but I don’t want to pay £11 for the experience. I will probably see something before I leave. But I definitely will be going to see Kunt and the Gang – which is a free show – and you should too.

Word count: 286

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Entry 350: Edinburgh – day 13

Each day presents a new comedic learning experience, from Saturday’s Hen Do to yesterday’s drunk girl who was continuously interrupting my set.

We only had eight people in yesterday and two girls at the back were talking throughout the beginning of my time on stage. With a larger audience I could have probably let this slide, but with so few people I felt I had to address it and try and get them to pay be quiet.

I just about managed to remain in control of the situation, but at one point something I said about drinking too much at a party, which I directed it at the drunk girl, almost tipped her over the edge and things could have turned ugly. Sensing an awkward tension I changed tact and moved on with my set, having gone off-piste for a good while, and things improved. By the end of my time on stage she was putting her hand up to heckle, a sign that I had won.

I can deal with drunken male hecklers pretty well, you can be harsher and they are easier to put down, but with girls you have to tread more carefully and you can’t be so rude. I could have probably handled the situation better but it’s a new experience I have learned something from.

The show turned out to be a good one, the rest of the audience were friendly and from the eight people we made £11.

I then had another gig at 10.30pm, which turned out to be a belter. It was at the same venue I did several shows at last year and died a good few of those times, so it was nice to lay those comedic ghosts to rest.

In other news, regular readers (all four of you) will know that for the past few months I’ve been having problems getting woken up by builders making loud banging noises near my bedroom. You’ll be pleased to know that just across the road from me there is scaffolding around the flats and today those considerate builders started hammering things just after 8am today. There’s nothing like home comforts.

Word count: 358

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Entry 349: Edinburgh – day 12

We had our second smallest audience in our show yesterday, with 11 people attending after a pretty slack day of flyering.

Doing the show is not the most tiring thing about Edinburgh, the most tiring thing is handing out flyers for three hours often in the cold and wet. You can get away with minimal flyering on Saturdays but while it can be easier to get bigger audience on Sunday you still need to put in as much effort as you would on week day, I have now learnt this lesson.

But an audience of 11 people is fine by me, they had taken the time to come and see us so we gave them a show which was a enjoyable. I find dealing with smaller audiences more fun than Paul does, in many ways you have to engage with them more than the larger ones and make them part of the show to succeed. We made £22 in the collection bucket at the end, which was proportionally much more than the audience of 50-ish left us on Saturday, and no-one left during the show.

Following a few pints and a curry with Moz and Gwilum, I ended up in Loft Bar. It used to be the place where all the big name comics and promoters hung out, I went there last year and it was rammed full of air-kissing PR flunkies and industry types; I find these schmoozing environments uncomfortable. It was the first time I’d been there this year and thankfully it was much quieter, with comics I knew to chat to and not an air-kiss in sight.

Word count: 269

 

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Entry 348 – Edinburgh – day 11

With a Hen Do in taking up the front two rows at yesterday’s show, Paul and me agreed before we were about to go on that we had one simple objective: survival.

We knew that the gig would all hinge on winning the approval of the group; we had concerns about constant drunken interruptions and knew we would both have to raise our game.

As I’ve previously mentioned, before the show begins I listen out for what the audience is doing – such as laughing or any conversations they’re having – to try and gauge what they are going to be like. Just as we are about to arrive on stage we have I Believe in a Thing Called Love playing on the PA and yesterday several of the Hen Do began singing along to it. This hadn’t happened before so we didn’t know what we were about to endure.

Thankfully the Hen Do turned out to be brilliant, they were a lot of fun and some of the biggest laughs of the show were references we made to them or riffing on things they had said.

Paul was on first and did very well, I thought they’d like him but was concerned that they wouldn’t go for my stuff. I was wrong again and I actually really enjoyed it.

We were very lucky again with the audience, we had 50 friendly people in. Plus the football was being shown when we were on, so that filtered out a lot of the people I saw downstairs who I didn’t want in for our show.

In blast from the past news, this week, in close proximity to our venue, I have bumped into someone I was at primary school with, someone I was at secondary school with – who came to watch the show – and yesterday I bumped into someone I was at university with who I’d not seen in five years. I wonder what will be next, presumably it will be people from the future but I’ll not know it.

Word count: 337

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Entry 347: Edinburgh – day 10

We were really lucky with our audience yesterday, they were amazing.

Me and Paul knew from our on-mic exchange from behind the curtains at the start that they would be good as they were laughing already.

We had about 25 people in and we made £43 in the bucket at the end, which shows the audience enjoyed themselves. Three older ladies sitting near the front had a great time, well, two of them did and the third was asleep. Even a couple who left shortly after I’d finished my set, when and Paul was on, came up to me at the back of the room and said they had another show to go to but gave me £6.

I also had another very good gig last night. However, despite the run of good gigs, today is a Saturday and I’m expecting it to be hard work. Our show last week was my toughest gig of the festival so far. We had a full room, but I found it a real struggle to get much out of the audience. At least I know what to expect this time; but adding to this is the English premier league football season starting today, so there is a strong possibility that several football fans will find their way into our show, full of the awful combination of alcohol and testosterone. I often find that when I brace myself for the worst in a stand-up gig then it’s normally not as bad as I anticipated, I hope that will be the case this evening.

When today is done I’ll only have one Saturday left of the Fringe as next week I will be missing the weekend as I’ll be back down south for a wedding, before returning on the Monday for the final six days of the festival.

Word count: 303

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Entry 346: Edinburgh – day 9

Yesterday’s show was just the pick-me-up we needed following our dismal review.

I could go into a detailed analysis about how the review is factually flawed, reads poorly and makes little coherent sense, but it really isn’t worth it. If I can’t take criticism then I’m not going to last very long in comedy. And I think the Pixar quote I used in the previous entry covered everything.

The best way to respond to a negative review is to get back on stage determined to prove them wrong and that’s what we did. The audience we had were brilliant and enjoyed themselves as did me and Paul. How much we make in the bucket at the end of the show is generally a good indicator of how the show has gone, if it is a pound or more per person then it has been a good show and yesterday we made £17.50 out of 13 people. We split this and although it is well below the minimum wage for the three hours we do flyering, it’s nice to have at least something to show for all our efforts.

I had another gig prior to A Mixed Bag, which was in the lobby of a backpackers and it went very well. I was down to do Moz’s late show too but had to pull out after feeling slightly ill from getting too cold and wet flyering.

In other news, I rescued a toad after slightly stepping on it while flyering in the Grassmarket. It then hid under a flower-pot and there were some council workers from environmental health walking past, so I got them to move it somewhere safe as it would have been doomed otherwise because there was nowhere else for it to go other than the road. I like to think I made a difference.

Word count: 306

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Entry 345: Edinburgh – day 8

We have received our first review of the Fringe and it’s not a good one.

Three Weeks gave us 1/5. It was Friday, the Bog Salmon day, when there were actually a lot of laughs and it was a fun gig. But according to the reviewer there weren’t and it wasn’t.

But never mind, of course I’d like a good review with quotes I can use but a bad one really isn’t the end of the world. When you put yourself out there to perform in public, people will inevitably criticise you. And in many ways it is a relief, there is nothing that can be nothing worse than a one-star review and the only way is up.

I was hoping to avoid getting any reviews this year; I just wanted to do my show, make it as good as can be, learn a lot and go home a better comic. Nevertheless, either you let criticism get to you or you take it on the chin and vow to improve. I shall be doing the latter.

The festival is all a massive, and often brutal, learning curve. There is no greater test in comedy than putting on a successful show at the Edinburgh Fringe. As Langton said, we have three weeks to prove Three Weeks wrong, and prove them wrong we shall.

And now to quote an appropriate line from the restaurant critic in Ratatouille: “In many ways the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer their work and selves for judgement. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

Thank you, Pixar.

Word count: 309

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Entry 344: Edinburgh – day 7

My set at my show yesterday was largely derailed almost single-handedly by a very drunk Scottish man called Chris.

He and a group of about six of his mates came in about five minutes into my set, meaning I had to explain what I was talking about otherwise none of the rest of it would have made sense – it doesn’t make a lot of sense anyway to be fair. I already knew the big call back at the end of my charity set would fail on Chris and his mates, but I ploughed on.

It wasn’t long before Chris was chipping in, but it was actually quite a relief to be given something to work with as up until that point the audience were quite subdued. As it turned out, my exchanges with Chris received the biggest laughs of the gig and I enjoyed dealing with what he gave me.

But I knew that in a couple of hours Chris would be beyond the point of being a fun heckler and would be an absolute nightmare to have in the audience. Unfortunately I was proved right and heard he completely wrecked another show at the same venue later on.

Today I have three gigs, the first one is at 5.30pm and as that is a slight clash with flyering preparations for A Mixed Bag I will have to go out half an hour or so earlier than I usually do. I will also be getting wet as it is raining, audience numbers could be down today but as long as we have at least one person then the show will go on. Just as long as that one person isn’t Chris, who is probably now waking up under a curtain in a corner of the venue.

Word count: 296