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Archive for August, 2012

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The Edinburgh Fringe 2012 that was

Edinburgh Fringe is over for another year and I am now acclimatising to the real word.

In past experience, the end of the Fringe is always a bit of an anti-climax. I always want to go out and celebrate, but when the time comes I am exhausted and in need of sleep.

My final night in the Scottish capital consisted of helping someone worse off than me, in this case Paul Langton, drink beer and smoke for the night. We had a few drinks with the staff from the Kilderkin, during which I learned that I had gathered something of a cult following among the bar staff. Every night, they would hear me start my set by getting the audience to shout ‘D’, but had no idea why or what the joke was. They even had a picture of me from my flyer behind the bar, with a speech bubble saying: “Give me a ‘D’.”

At the staff party, I was asked to perform the joke impromptu, which I did and then it all became clear. I said they should have come and seen my show; and I will not reveal on here what the joke is, because to find that out you will also have to come and see me perform. The manager of the pub said it was his joke of the fringe, an accolade I will gladly accept.

Me and Langton then ventured on a tour of our old haunts, during which we had a Rocky-style race up the steep steps off Cowgate. Langton had a 4ft head-start, but I clawed it back and it was a photo-finish that I’m glad there were no photographers around to take a picture of. Why we did this I do not know.

I went to bed at 2am, successfully woke up a few hours later and made it on my 6.55am train back to London.

Overall, it was a much more enjoyable experience than last year and didn’t feel like I had been kicked in the face several times a day without the physical pain. We had a better venue, a better show, better audiences, better weather and I had a better diet. In short, it was better.

In the two previous years I have attended the Fringe, I have tried to do as many gigs as possible. This year, I only did one guest spot and I was poor at that. I had another one supposedly booked in, but it never materialised. In hindsight, booking hardly any guest spots was a good decision as I had to do at least two hours of flyering every night without fail in order to get an audience. Working remotely also limited the amount of time I could do additional gigs, but it has meant that I have received my monthly wage and I am not in any debt.

I enjoyed remaining off the radar and don’t think being in the main programme is that much of a bonus. Most of the people who came to see our show enjoyed it and had ventured down to the venue specifically to see it after speaking to us.

I was hoping to avoid getting a review, as at this stage in my comedy journey I see the festival not as a place to get noticed, but as a place to improve. But it turns out that I did get one after all:

“The Free Fringe hides the hidden gems… It is what Edinburgh Festival is all about and these people work very hard for very little. Paul & Alex’s show consists of shared stand up comedy tales of off key moments, relationships, wee and the odd wank. A right good giggle.”

Thank you, Susie.

I will return to the Fringe next year and have ideas for the show(s) already. One is another Love and Langton show, provisionally entitled ‘Rage’. The second is an idea for a possible solo show. Now, I am not going to pretend that I am anywhere near ready to do the full hour show. But I have an idea for a theme and between now and the end of the year, I will write as if I am preparing for an hour. Then, come January, I will see what I have created and assess whether or not it is actually any good.

In the meantime, I am going to be settling back into the real world and taking a week or so away from comedy as I recover from Edinburgh. When I am back performing, you shall read about it here.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2012: Day 23

Yesterday, I had two shows left of my 2012 Edinburgh Fringe, and after the first one I thought I would be heading home on a low and needing several packets of biscuits.

We had 15 people in for our 6.20pm show and it was another case of interaction with the audience being received better than material. In this case, it was quite a contrast. I started off pretty well and managed to get a decent level of laughs, but then I just seemed to lose the audience halfway through my set and then couldn’t quite get them back. I’m not entirely sure what went wrong, but even lines that always serve me well received little more than a mild chuckle after the midway point. This was disappointing and probably hurt more than any gig up here this year. Still, we did received £20 from them.

The contents of my kitchen cupboard

I was also relieved to have finished this particular show as I have found it difficult. As is it is a venue slightly out of the way, it has meant I have had to put in as much flyering as I have done for Dirty Laundry, and with my depleted energy levels at the end of the Fringe it has not been the easiest thing to do.

With a poor penultimate show, my hopes for finishing my run with a flourish rested with Dirty Laundry. I was determined to give it everything to go out on a high. We had 30 people in, but for a variety of reasons we lost eight, including two women in the front row who remembered five minutes into my set that they had a flight to catch. I know, I’m always forgetting when I’m meant to be on a plane too.

Our deserters didn’t matter at all, as the 22 people we had left were really up for it. They were a really receptive audience and one of the very best we have had. They were certainly our best large crowd.

It was really good fun, I managed to find some energy from somewhere. We both did well and got some big laughs. And we also had our largest collection, with a massive £70 in our bucket.

Time to wash this after wearing it for three weeks

So there we have it. Against all sorts of factors and obstacles, such as venue locations and a widely quieter Fringe than usual, I have reached the end of the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe. Out of 27 shows I was due to do, 26 went ahead and I only had to pull one. This is an achievement I am proud of. I have had to work harder than I have ever worked at any festival I have been to. I have had some great shows and received some really positive feedback from audience members who have come out of their way to say nice things.

Tomorrow, I have to get on the train back to London at 6.55am tomorrow. This isn’t ideal but it was the cheapest ticket available.

I will write a review of my Fringe experience as a whole in the next day or so, as well as what I have in the works for next year.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2012: Day 22

The finishing line is in sight and my Edinburgh 2012 run is nearly at an end. I am now just trying to find the will and the energy to get me through one more day of this Fringe malarkey.

My legs have been trying to desert me already after having enough of the relentless walking everywhere, mostly up hill. Worryingly, I originate from a land full of hills and should have a resistance to them.

For my 6.20pm show yesterday, we started with an audience of five and although the numbers were small, there was a good energy in the room. Gwilum was opening the show and after about five minutes into his set, another five people walked in and sat at back. This seemed to change the dynamic of the room and it the show was harder work from then on.

I started off pretty well with my set. When you have a small audience, the best tactic is to usually engage them as much as possible and I didn’t do this after my initial few minutes. As a result, the reactions dropped off a bit. It was an okay-ish gig, but I can’t put it up there with my best shows of the run and it way off the previous day. But I know that this is how Edinburgh works, some days you have an audience looking at you blankly and other days they laugh. We made £14 in our collection bucket at the end, which wasn’t a bad amount

With Dirty Laundry, we had our second largest audience with 25 people. It was quite hard work and lines that normally get big laughs just received chuckles and smiles. Probably the biggest laughs of the night were from audience interaction. I had some fun with a girl in the front row, who was nudged by her friend when I mentioned soiling myself. From then on, she was known as the girl who had trouble controlling her bowels, which I made reference to a few more times in my set. But another of the group she was with was staring at me, looking unimpressed for much of the gig.

Bizarrely, for a gig that cannot be rated any higher than 7/10, we made our largest collection of the run with £56 in our bucket.

I have two shows left, I am nearly there.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2012: Day 21

Yesterday was a good day for both shows, particularly my earlier show.

We had seven people in, but it was a wonderful anomaly of a gig. I was on first and it went ridiculously well, the audience were really friendly and loud with their laughter. I would happily take an audience of seven friendly people over a stony-faced crowd of 50 any day. And then in our collection bucket at the end we made £31.

More ego boosting came from one of the three people in the front row saying it was better than a paid show she had been to, and the man she was with bought both me and Gwilum a drink.

Experiences like this gig make all the hours of flyering and apathy encountered seem worth enduring.

Later on, after a break of a few days, I was back to dropping my Dirty Laundry flyers on the Royal Mile pavement again. Despite this, I felt it had been a productive couple of hours and I had done enough to get a few people along. I predicted we would get 15 people in. I was wrong and we had 11.

It is frustrating when you engage with people when flyering, you talk to them about the show, they show interest and they say they will come. But then they don’t.  Although there is nothing you can do for the people who don’t come to see the show, all you can deal with is who has come to see it.

It was a fairly solid show, we both got some good laughs. But once you reach a level of how well you know the material can do and it falls short of that, it is a bit annoying. We made just over £18 in our collection bucket, and afterwards and audience member bought me four pints. It was a good day for getting drinks bought for me.

It is Friday today and I am hoping for big audiences at both gigs. Although if I go on record of saying that I expect a small turn-out, I will be pleasantly surprised. So there we are, I am expecting small audiences for both shows.

  • Love and Langton’s Dirty Laundry is on at 11pm every day until August 25 at the Kilderkin, 67 Canongate, EdinburghEH8 8BS, as part of PBH’s Free Fringe. The 6.20pm Amuse Bulletin takes place at GHQ, 4 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, from August 20-25.
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Edinburgh Fringe 2012: Day 20

Both of my shows went ahead yesterday.

For the 6.20pm show with Gwilum, we managed to get six people. At one point, we reached the dizzy heights of eight people after a young couple walked in about ten minutes into Gwilum’s set. A few minutes later, they got up to leave and said they had walked into the wrong show.

It was a weird gig, but those are the ones I tend to revel in. There was a young Scottish couple at the front and the man had consumed a fair amount of alcohol. He was heckling during the sound check when they were the only two in the room, so I thought he was going to be trouble.

During my set, I just decided to have some fun with him and let him talk; but due to his slurred speech and strong accent, it was difficult to understand a word he said. He then asked me what I could understand, I said: “Mainly words and sentences.” This got a big laugh from the small crowd and I will take it as a victory.

For Dirty Laundry, I had booked a ticket to go to a paid show some time ago, which fell into my peak flyering time. As I seem to be the most successful flyerer out of me and Paul, I was concerned that if I just left the flyering to Paul then he would scare people aware and we would have no audience. I am glad that I turned out to be wrong this time, as we managed to get a healthy 16 people in and made our largest amount in the bucket with nearly £35.

My set went pretty well on the whole, but there were a few moments when my throat was starting to fail on me and a few words were swallowed, which resulted in a few lines not doing as well as they normally do. Langton had a good gig too.

At both gigs, I did a lot more audience interaction than I have been doing at the Fringe as my set has been mostly story-based this year. Interacting with the audience is something I did a lot last year and didn’t realise quite how much I’d missed.

There are three more days left of my 2012 Fringe, with six shows scheduled to take place. But it could be less depending on audience turnouts, so I will be working as hard as I can to make sure that all six go ahead.

Then on Sunday morning, when it is all over for another year, I expect to experience a feeling overwhelming relief. I also expect a hangover as my reward.

  • Love and Langton’s Dirty Laundry is on at 11pm every day until August 25 at the Kilderkin, 67 Canongate, EdinburghEH8 8BS, as part of PBH’s Free Fringe. The 6.20pm Amuse Bulletin takes place at GHQ, 4 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, from August 20-25.
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Edinburgh Fringe 2012: Day 19

Well, it had to happen at some point. At an Edinburgh Fringe with widespread low audience turnouts this year, my 6.20pm show succumbed to this trend and had to be pulled as, despite flyering for more than an hour and a half, we had no-one turn up to watch.

I was even in negotiations with a street fundraiser from Greenpeace to come and see the show. She agreed to, but only if I signed up for £8 a month. As you can probably guess, I am not a new member.

Pulling a show wasn’t quite as demoralising as I thought it might be. Up until yesterday, I was proud of my record of having never pulled an Edinburgh show in the two years I have been doing shows up here. But if there is absolutely no audience, then the show can’t go on.

Although one person did stick their head around the corner of the room we were due to be performing in, which was my Edinburgh flatmate Deech. The three of us then decided to sing some rock n roll with Gwilum on guitar in the empty room.

Which brings about this question: if three comedians are performing poorly sung songs to an empty room, did it really happen?

Yes, it did happen, philosophers. And it was good fun. So there.

With one show pulled, I still have a 100% record of Dirty Laundry going ahead. We started with an audience of seven, but ended the show with 18 people. I don’t know where they all came from or why they couldn’t all make the start, but performing in a room where there are more full chairs than empty ones does wonders for the soul.

It was a decent show and we both got laughs; but I found it quite hard work, especially as I had to do the admin of showing latecomers to their seats and explain exactly what I was talking about. But we got there and made about £24 in our collection at the end, so not a bad night at all.

  • Love and Langton’s Dirty Laundry is on at 11pm every day until August 25 at the Kilderkin, 67 Canongate, EdinburghEH8 8BS, as part of PBH’s Free Fringe. The 6.20pm Amuse Bulletin takes place at GHQ, 4 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, from August 20-25.
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Edinburgh Fringe 2012: Day 18

Yesterday saw the start of my side project show with Gwilum Argos, the 6.20pm Amuse Bulletin and it almost didn’t happen as we had to delay the start of the show by nearly 15 minutes to ensure we had people there to watch it.

So it was more the 6.35pm Amused Bulletin in the end and it wasn’t the most conventional of audiences either. Minutes before we were about to pull the show, nine people from Belgium were asked to leave one of shows at the venue next door after a couple of members of the group could not produce ID for their age.

We had to act quickly in order to get an audience and I should state that for legal reasons, they were definitely all 18, even if one particular member of the group gave the impression that he was half that age. I’m sure it was all due to a good diet and plenty of moisturising.

So we ended up with 11 people, as they were joined by two girls from Edinburgh, and a bloke with an impressive beard from Hackney, who was the outstanding audience member for his regular laughs. I can’t say that it was the best show I have ever been involved in, but it got us off to ‘a’ start at least and I have had far worst gigs.

With Dirty Laundry at 11pm, we managed to reach double figures in our audience for the first time in a few days with 14 people. We had to work really hard to get laughs as they were an audience of mostly smilers, with a few blank starers. But laughs were heard and I felt much better with the gig than I did the previous night. They all must have enjoyed the show, because we made £25 in our collection bucket. And experience dictates that if and audience do not enjoy the show, then they will not be as generous with their cash.

When I agreed to doing these two shows four months ago, I had no idea just how hard we would have to work to get audience. I was all braced for a lot of hard draft, as I know from experience just how much effort it takes to put on a show in Edinburgh, but my expectations have been exceeded. In hindsight, if I’d known this four months ago, then I probably would have chosen not to do my second show and focused all my efforts on Dirty Laundry.

Nevertheless, I am here now to do the shows and fully intend to make them as successful as I possibly can.

  • Love and Langton’s Dirty Laundry is on at 11pm every day until August 25 at the Kilderkin, 67 Canongate, EdinburghEH8 8BS, as part of PBH’s Free Fringe. The 6.20pm Amuse Bulletin takes place at GHQ, 4 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, from August 20-25.
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Edinburgh Fringe 2012: Day 17

Along with the inevitable lows of the Edinburgh Fringe, there is also a wall you will hit at some point when all the energy you have been using and ridiculous lifestyle collide with your immune system.

Last night I hit that wall, on stage and during my set. I was lethargic and there was nothing I could really do other plan plough on with my material. I consider it to be my worst performance of the run. I didn’t die; I got laughs, but a fair number of lines fell flat.

We had eight people in, including Gwilum. There wasn’t a great deal of energy in the room, but as a comic you have to take responsibility and try to rectify that. I didn’t, and when I finished my set, I was sitting at the back of the room and struggling to stay awake.

Paul did much better than me for a change, despite having been working all day. We made £8.60 in the collection bucket at the end, so perhaps the show wasn’t quite as bad as it was in my own head.

I am also fairly certain we had a reviewer in. He was a Scottish man, probably in his 40s and on his own. He came into the pub just as the show was about to start and left as soon as the show finished. He also had the demeanour of a man who had watched too much comedy in the past couple of weeks. But he did laugh, so that will surely count for something. But if he was a reviewer and I do get slated, I at least know I was on the worst form of the run.

I think I have the Edinburgh lurgy good and proper now. It has been threatening to take grip since I arrived here, but it has upped its game and added a wheeze and sleep prevention to its powers.

Today, I start my show with Gwilum.  So I will be putting my faith in energy drinks, adrenaline and flu medicine. I just have to hang on in there for six more days.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2012: Day 16

Following the downer that was Friday, we had a much-needed pick-me-up last night in the form of arguably our best audience of the run so far.

This wasn’t in terms of numbers, because we had just nine people, but it was arguably our best in terms of audible laughter per person. The laughs we received last night were much bigger than the ones we have had from audiences twice the size. They were very loud and frequent.

After spending the past week going on second, I was back to opening the show and had one of my best gigs up here. I think me going on first and Paul second works better. I slowed right down and it was most enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed describing Gillian McKeith to a fairly senior American couple, who were unaware of her body of work.

Paul was very good; he was even adlibbing and riffing off the audience, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do. The fairly senior American couple were particularly good fun to interact with.

We made £23 in the collection bucket after the show, which is an impressive haul from nine people. Although it was a well-received show, I also put our takings down to me doing the pitch at the end where were ask for money. I use the professional begging skills I acquired when I was working as a fundraiser in one of those annoying charity call centres, which calls people up and asks for donations. Large proportions of the takings from both the call centre and our show end up in the same place, behind the bar.

We have less than one week left of the Fringe now and I am definitely feeling Fringified, which can essentially be described as being fatigued.

The strange thing about doing a show for the full-run up here is how time works. Sometimes it feels like I have been up here for years, and other times only a matter of days. So there is an argument that time is working in exactly the same way as it normally does and there is no evidence to suggest that Edinburgh has a different time zone or its orbit of the sun is separate from the rest of the planet.

Yes, sentences like the latter are proof of my Fringified state.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2012: Day 15

My penultimate Friday of this year’s Fringe can only be described as disappointing.

I turned in a mediocre guest spot at another show. It started off well, was patchy in the middle and finished relatively strongly. So ‘mediocre’ accurately covers it.

When I booked up the spot, I didn’t realise that it would cut into my vital flyering time to get people along to my own show. Adding to this, Paul was working for much of the day. So at the peak time when we need to be flyering, neither of us was there.

As a result, compared with the nearly full house we had on the previous Friday, we got about half of that with 15 people. To make things more interesting, four of the audience were locals who had been drinking for a good few hours and were very vocal.

Paul was on first and he’d be the first to admit that he doesn’t like dealing with hecklers and weird gigs, but he handled it very well and had a sterling gig. But with people who are rather intoxicated, there is always a chance that they will leave before the end of the show. Sometimes this works out well and you get rid of the drunks who have been disrupting the gig, but last night it took a significant chunk out of our crowd when we lost three just as I was about to take to the mic. I was disappointed, because they had been good fun  and I do like playing with drunk hecklers.

My set went relatively well and I had some decent sized laughs. But just as I said I was going into my last story, two young couples who came in together late also walked out. They had been laughing, so I suspect that they had either somewhere else to go or, as they had been to a few Free Fringe shows, they knew they were about to be asked to put some money in our bucket and decided to save their cash.

So I finished the show performing to eight people and we made £9 in our collection bucket at the end. There is no way this can be considered successful after all the work that has gone into the show.

But the Edinburgh Fringe is a minefield of disappointments and soul destruction. As I’ve said previously, you pick yourself up and do it all again the next day and hope it will be better. This festival has broken many a performer, many much more talented than me. I am determined I won’t be another comedy carcass on the pile.