On Tuesday, I did something I haven’t done in a good few years.
No, it wasn’t that. I performed the latest incarnation of HTWAPQ in front of an audience who had no idea what show it was they were about to watch. It was at a weekly open mic night in Leeds in a small room that is reliably full.
The look of bewilderment on people’s faces when I handed out the stationary was something to behold.
Nevertheless, it was nice to do the show without any expectations and have the freedom to try stuff out. Although I never tire of performing HTWAPQ to packed rooms of paying punters, I sometimes miss the room to experiment where there is no pressure.
After all, trial and error were a massive part of how the show came to be in the first place. It’s just as well I still have open mic gigs then.
Having done variations of the show so many times in numerous venues, I have a good idea of what will work within the format. However, what I thought was about 15 minutes of material was actually closer to ten minutes, so I need to get some more writing done. The new stuff received a mostly positive response. But then again, it was the same venue in Leeds last year in my preview for Stop the Press where one particular bit got a massive laugh that was never anywhere close to being replicated in any of the other shows.
In spite of the set coming in shorter than expected, I know I can always rely on riffing and audience interaction to get me through this particular show. The quiz itself needs work, but I have plenty of time.
This Edinburgh, I just want to enjoy myself. Last year hit me hard both physically and mentally. I was spreading myself too thin and didn’t have enough time or energy to devote to making the best of my new show.
What is particularly exciting for me this year is that not only am I returning to the midday slot at Stand 2, but I am also doing several late-night shows in the 140-seater Stand 1 downstairs.
I don’t expect the sell this out. Then again, I never expected any of my other shows to sell-out when I first moved to the paid Fringe. I honestly had visions of people queuing up at the box office demanding refunds. Things didn’t quite work out like this.
Edinburgh Stand is a special place for me. When I first went up to the Fringe in 2010, I saw Stewart Lee in the same venue and said to a friend that my aim was one day do a show there. I may have achieved this via a gimmick, but I’m counting it as a colossal win nonetheless.