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.
X

Archive for July, 2012

Post

An Olympics advertising opportunity

It has come to my attention that there is a totalitarian regime operating in the Olympic park, with a zero tolerance policy on any form of branding that has not been permitted by the sponsors.

When I see a system of oppression, I get an urge to rise up and fight it. I have to say that I don’t often give in to such urges and what makes me rise up to fight the power tends to be for the small victories, such as getting money off on rail fares.

But this has given me an idea, and that’s where you and your money come in. Any by ‘you’, I don’t mean my average reader, I mean ‘companies with money and wanting some publicity’.

Now, normally I am deadly opposed to endorsing any kind of brand, although I can’t say I have ever been asked. But in this case, I am willing to fight fire with fire. And just for clarification, I don’t literally mean fire, I mean advertising. I also need money for Edinburgh Fringe.

So, here is my idea. If any company is willing to pay me enough, I will walk around the Olympic Park in east London, decorated in the paraphernalia of a brand of your choosing. I will not be breaking any criminal law, but it will be of great irritation to the moneymen and corporate whores.

I will start the bidding at £500 and haven’t thought it through particularly well, so don’t know if it is actually doable. But as I leave London on the 3rd of August for three weeks, there isn’t much time.

Anyway, resuming usual business, I had my penultimate gig before Edinburgh last night. There were 20 comics performing and three audience members; I was on towards the end of the night when the audience were tired, at the end of a sweltering day. I also wasn’t very good, so it obviously didn’t go very well.

The highlight was an audience member called Messy Steve from Brighton, who had clearly consumed a lot alcohol and a load of other substances. He got up on stage at one point to promote his art website. And for £500, Messy Steve, I will dress in promotional materials and promote your website in the Olympic Park.

Post

Standing-room only

The final preview for Love and Langton’s Dirty Laundry was performed to a room that was standing-room only.

This wasn’t because of a lack of chairs, it was because there were about 50 people watching, which is the biggest audience we have had for our previews.

Heading into our final pre-Fringe show, I was 5-0 up on Langton and he is adamant that he pulled one back yesterday. I am less than convinced, but it was nice to see him doing much better.

That said, he may be onto something, because I didn’t really enjoy my time on stage. This was partly because the items consumed the previous night at Luke Thompson’s flat were still in my system and I didn’t feel especially sharp. Adding to this is that it is a venue I never feel entirely at ease in. I can’t really explain why, as it has everything going for it and is very popular with my open mic contemporaries. It is in a room separate from the rest of the pub, has full stage lighting and a good PA, but there is a certain psychological barrier I have with it that prevents me from ever feeling comfortable whenever I perform there.

Then again, I am a firm believer in performing in venues that do make me uncomfortable, especially with Edinburgh previews. Because there will surely be days at the Fringe when I have such feelings and it is good preparation.

My set went okay; there were laughs, but it has gone much better at other shows. So it’s disappointing to have a final preview I am unsatisfied with, but that should give me motivation up my game when the Fringe starts.

Although my colleagues who attended did seem impressed and I had some positive feedback from other audience members, and people didn’t avoid making eye contact with me afterwards, so perhaps I’m being slightly hard on myself.

Nevertheless, I said to Paul afterwards that we have had a number of well-received previews without ever actually finding our top form. When we do that, I think this show could fly.*

*Note to self: read this again at the end of August and you may regret writing it.

Post

The penultimate preview

On Thursday, for what is likely to be the penultimate preview for Love and Langton’s Dirty Laundry, we had our largest audience yet.

We had around 20 in what can be quite a tough venue to perform in. It is quite a long room and narrow room, with the audience spread out. At the furthest point from the stage, by the entrance is the bar. There were people sitting there who were more interested in talking loudly than listening to the comedy.

The fact that the room presents challenges is why I chose it for an Edinburgh preview. At the Fringe, there are going to be days that are a real struggle, so it’s best to be prepared and perform previews in challenging environments to get toughened up.

Opening the show was Gwilum doing 20 minutes and did very well. I am doing another show with him for the final week of the Fringe and he wanted to rehearse our sketch again, which we debuted on Tuesday to tiredness and apathy. The sketch actually went down pretty well in its latest airing and got some big laughs. I am warming to the idea now.

A few colleagues and friends were in the audience, so I wanted to impress to avoid them not wanting to make eye contact with me in the future. I did rattle through my set somewhat and wasn’t enunciating particularly well; I must remember to slow down. But my set was fairly well received on the whole, although sections that normally get big laughs only received titters, which was disappointing.

But what did please me was the last part of my set I have been honing on stage for the past month, and writing for the previous six months, went down better than it ever has before, with some genuinely big laughs. It is all coming together now.

Langton was on second and probably had his best gig in the venue, but his previous two performances hadn’t been warmly received. His set is getting there and is improving with every preview, but I know he can do much better and I will continue to pester him to do so.

Post

The value of an audience

Audiences are absolutely vital for a comedy gig to go ahead; but as with most natural of the world’s natural resources there is a shortage, particularly on the London open mic circuit.

It certainly makes you appreciate a larger audience all the more when you do get one; it is something to be grateful for and not take for granted. Unfortunately, I can’t say that last night’s gig had a big audience, because if I did then I would be lying.

It was supposed to be an Edinburgh preview for the second show I am doing with Gwilum Argos, which will run for the final week of the Fringe. But it ended up being an express version of the show.

The night was supposed to have six or so acts doing 5-10 spots in the first half and then our preview would follow the interval.

However, it was looking almost definite that had we called an interval, then the five audience members would leave and there would be no second half. So we ran straight through and compressed our show into two ten minute sets with a brief interlude in between.

This brief interlude took the form of a sketch Gwilum has been intent on trying, which I have been vehemently opposing, as I think there is very little more excruciating for an audience to sit through than a bad comedy sketch, apart from perhaps bad improv. But luckily for Gwilum, when we had a read through before the gig, it didn’t actually make me want to kill myself and was actually better than I thought. So we tried it, and it went okay. Or as okay as something can go in front of an audience of five tired and hot people, which isn’t really the best gauge for material.

Tomorrow I have another Dirty Laundry preview, with Gwilum opening the show and giving a chance to give his sketch another go. I’m hoping there will be an audience.

Post

One way ticket to Thetford… and back on the National Express

I am going break the traditional structure of this blog of starting with something about comedy and then throwing in some real-life at the end, because that would then put my weekend out of context due to my real-life event being on the Saturday and my comedy gig being on the Sunday.

On Saturday, I travelled to Thetford in Norfolk to see one of my favourite bands ever, The Darkness, perform in a forest. When I booked the ticket up a few months back, I didn’t think how I would get there and back. At the time, I wasn’t even sure if I would still be living in London when the gig came around.

However many months later, and I booked a single train ticket to Thetford, with the intention of getting the National Express back and returning to London for 3.30am; and realistically not getting back to my house until 5am.

The only other band I would make such a ridiculous journey for is Queen, with its original line-up. But unfortunately, this will never happen unless they invent time-travel in my lifetime. This could theoretically also be invented outside my lifetime and they could travel backwards in time to find me, obviously as a result of stumbling across this historically credible source of words.

As with most of my adventures, I expected there to be some sort of hitch. And this hitch was found when I underestimated how far away the train station was from the venue. On Google Maps, it looked about a kilometre, but it was probably closer to two a miles. I found myself walking along the grass verge next a busy B-road with cars whizzing past me, while trying to navigate my way around tree branches and drainage trenches. As I was in Norfolk, I felt more than slightly Alan Partridge-esque and as no-one was around I did sing a few lines from Goldfinger.

With no sign of the forest coming up any time soon, I was starting to realise just how bad my map estimating skills were. Or re-realise this.

And then, out of nowhere a red van stopped behind me and offered me a lift. I don’t know who this man was, perhaps he was the time traveller who had read this blog in the future and realised that he had to be there on the B1107 near Thetford golf club at 7.53pm on 14 July 2012 to help me on my way in order to stop the universe from imploding. There, I have just created a time paradox.

And once I had reached the forest, there was another very long walk to get to where the stage was. I was in luck when another kind motorist, also going to the gig, helped me on my way. I just got there in time to see the last two songs of Black Stone Cherry. They looked very good, so I was slightly disappointed to have missed the majority of their set. But never mind; I was in Norfolk for one reason, so see a band I discovered almost ten years ago and for a few years, I didn’t know if I’d see again.

And they were very good. They played a fair amount of new stuff, some of which is very good, other bits will take a few more listens. It certainly made the old classics from their Permission to Land album stand out all the more. I didn’t expect them to play Hazel Eyes or Planning Permission, or Justin to walk through the crowd on the shoulders of a roadie in the finale. And all three happened.  I had visions of it being a mud bath because of all the rain there has been, but fortunately it held off until about three songs before the end and even that shower wasn’t that bad.

Eight years ago, I made another long journey to see this same band in Paris. And similar to Saturday, I was wondering during my trip exactly why I was doing this. Then the band came on stage and fired up their guitars it all made sense. It was all rock n roll… and lycra.

Following the gig, I had to work out a way to get back into Thetford in order to catch my National Express. Looking at the time, I had about 45 minutes to get there. On foot, there would have been no way I could have made it. So I resorted to using my outstretched left thumb on the passing cars of Darkness fans leaving the forest. Several dozen ignored me, and my feet were getting wetter. Just as I was thinking about what I would do if I missed by bus, a car stopped and offered me another lift. I surely used up several years of luck on this night.

I got to the station in time and boarded my bus and four hours later, I was back in London. It took another night-bus journey for me to arrive home and I went to bed shortly after 5am.

The next day, I had to be in Brighton for 1pm and I woke up in a panic, thinking I’d turned my alarm off and saw it was 11.38am and I only had 40 minutes to get to London Bridge for my train. I then grabbed my watch, only to see that it was actually 7.38am and my eyes had just been playing tricks on me.

A few hours later, I properly woke up and headed for Brighton. When I was approaching my destination, I received a call from Paul to say that some clown had called our preview venue a few days previously and said that we wanted to change the date to Wednesday. We don’t know who this person is and can’t rule out an evil traveller in time, or just an arse-candle with too much time on their hands. Possibly both. Either way, if someone does feel the need to try and sabotage our comedy careers, then we obviously mean something to someone. We appreciate your dedication.

There were only two posters up in the venue with the date scribbled out, so the sabotage attempt had little effect.

We did about three hours of flyering and our efforts were rewarded with seven audience. Then in the collection bucket, we made a grand total of £5.06 and 2 euros.

This might seem slightly demoralising for so much effort, but this is what can be expected in Edinburgh, so it’s good preparation. Even so, it was a decent show and the audience all seemed to enjoy themselves, with one punter coming up afterwards and asking where our venue was in Edinburgh as she would like to come and see it again up there.

So it was a busy weekend and I am still in need of sleep.

Post

The third airing

Love and Langton’s Dirty Laundry had its third airing last night and was another solid outing.

I had gone to the trouble of promoting it as heavily as I could to colleagues who have expressed an interest in seeing me perform. I had a few friends coming along too.

However, when you’ve been doing comedy for even a short space of time, you learn that invariably, colleagues and friends will let you down when you need them for audience. Usually the gigs they do turn up for are the ones you don’t want them to, causing them to stay away from future nights.

So, of the ten people I had expected would come along after they actually seemed keen, a grand total of zero actually made it.

Some did send their apologies on the day, others didn’t. But this is something I am used to; it’s not their fault that they have actual lives and/or illnesses.

Paul’s friends did a similar trick and he doesn’t have colleagues because he’s unemployed. But

Thankfully, there were eight people who had made the effort to come along and it would appear that they enjoyed the show quite a lot.

I was relatively pleased with how my set went, I managed to get some hearty laughs out of the eight people. There are still a few bits that need ironing out, which is appropriate for a show with ‘laundry’ in the title. But the signs are encouraging.

Paul’s set is also coming along too. My hassling seems to be paying off, or maybe it is just wearing him down.

Our next preview is on Sunday (15 July) at the Temple Bar in Brighton. Then there’s another in Stoke Newington on Thursday 19 July at Mascara Bar. Please come to one and prove that you are better than my colleagues and friends.

Post

28-years-old I am. Aah.

I left the last entry on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I think you should know that I am still alive and didn’t join the 27 Club.

Either that or I am typing this from beyond the grave and I’m not aware I’m a ghost, akin to Bruce Willis circa Sixth Sense.

But if I know anything from watching supernatural apparitions in popular culture, it’s that they can’t actually touch anything and I’m successfully managing to use a keyboard. But then I’m basing this knowledge mostly on Casper the Friendly Ghost and the bits of the film Ghost I’ve seen, which isn’t very much.

So, for arguments sake, we will just agree that I am currently alive.

Anyway, down to business. What have I been doing in my first near-48 hours as a 28-year old, I hear you ask? Well, if you’d read the last entry then that was pretty pointless question you just asked; because on my birthday, I had a gig.

It was a gig I was booked for by a promoter who was in the audience during my set at quite a high-profile London venue a couple of weeks ago.

It was a comedy and music night. Now, I know from past experience that these nights don’t tend to work very well. Yeah, get me with all the links. I’ve finally worked out how to do it; it’s only taken me nearly a year.

So, I knew what I was getting myself into and prepared myself for my birthday also being my death-day. I really should stop mention me dying.

Nevertheless, at some point if I do enough comedy and music gigs, then I will surely buck the trend. Whether or not my soul will be fully functional by that point is another matter entirely.

And in all fairness, last night was the best comedy and music night I have done. It wasn’t as bad as I’d braced myself for. My set wasn’t too badly received at all. I got a couple of applause breaks, but there were people at the bar talking loudly and very little I could do.

There was also a heckling idiot, who after my opening joke – which went down pretty well – said he wanted to kill himself. Another reference to death there, and I said he should feel free to carry on. He wasn’t really heckling after that, most just annoying muttering and I wasn’t entirely sure how to deal with it as it was not a normal comedy gig.

Thankfully, I had back-up in the form of my heavies Moz and Langton. Moz threw an out of date condom at the heckling idiot and it just skimmed his head. Then on his next attempt, with a piece of saliva-drenched paper, he got the imbecile right in his eye. And that was the end of the heckler, he left shortly after then. I was completely oblivious to this conflict due to the lighting, but I am most proud.

Following the gig, we went to a pub to continue the celebrations as I had yet to start drinking. However, Moz and Langton had been on the booze for a good few hours and it was quite apparent. After finishing the first round, Paul said he needed to go home to go to bed. So me and Moz had another pint, then the last orders rang.

So, all in all, it wasn’t much of a night of celebrations, but the important thing is that I survived.

Post

The 27 Club

As I look at the time left before the 28th year of my existence begins, I am facing the prospect of being denied admission to the 27 Club.

That said, I do still have to go to bed tonight and there is an outside chance that I may die of an unknown medical condition in my sleep. Although, I think that a term for joining the 27 Club is that you have to create something of artistic merit, because they never talk about the people who joined but didn’t actually create anything worthwhile. And I don’t somehow think this blog is going to be a respectable body of work.

But should I not wake up tomorrow, I hope that these cobbled together words will inspire other naive idiots to pursue a ridiculous dream of performing things they hope are funny in front of blank faces several times a month and then write about it in a repetitive, self-deprecating manner.

Still, in the likely event that I do wake up 28-years of age tomorrow, I can rest safe in the knowledge that I was a member of the other age-related club when I was just 18, which was Club 18-30. I can’t say that my body of work in that period is high in artistic worth, it was just a rubbish holiday in Benidorm with some friends from school I have mostly lost touch with.

The age of 27 has been a good year for me and has been my best year of comedy so far, not that there is much competition with the other two and a half years and the sporadic blotches of my early-20s. But if I am writing this entry on the eve of the penultimate year of my 20s next year and 28 has been even better, then I will be satisfied that I am making decent progress.

To see out the good comedy age, I had a gig tonight and I was woeful. It was a hot room and I just wasn’t very good. I was again trying to road-test the remaining five minutes of my Edinburgh set, which is probably at least six minutes long and rushing it doesn’t help matters, but then neither do the bits that don’t get laughs. I got a few chuckles, but nothing I could feel pleased with. I need to carry out a brutal editing session on it.

Tomorrow night, I have a gig on my birthday. I hope it will be better.