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Archive for August, 2020

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Edinburgh Fringe Archives: 2017

Just before the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe, I was fairly close to chucking comedy in altogether. This was a recurring feeling throughout my time in Manchester. I wasn’t doing enough gigs, meaning that the gigs I performed didn’t go as well because of the lack of gigs in the first place. Did you follow that? It was a tough cycle to break.

Approaching the Fringe that year, I hadn’t done enough previews as I’d found them hard to book. Well, I could book them but wouldn’t know how I’d get an audience. When I ran gigs in London, my audiences consisted of largely friends and colleagues if it was central, or eccentric locals in Walthamstow who would normally attend if I put a poster a week or so beforehand. To demonstrate how difficult I was finding it to book previews around Manchester, I did one back at my local in Walthamstow in 2017. And 2016 for that matter.

Anyway, this meant that I arrived in Edinburgh with some new ideas that were mostly untested and didn’t really work. Early on, I had to change the music round as it wasn’t working. I thought it would be hilarious if one of the songs was the metal band formed by Paul from S Club 7. This didn’t end up getting any sort of reaction from the audience, so I had to instead rely on stuff I had found worked in previous years. If I’d done enough previews, I would have been able to weed this out earlier.

There were one or two new bits, but the show was essentially another ‘greatest hits’ version of the three previous fringes. This was an unforgivable lazy habit I had got into. I often think how much more material I would have if I’d taken new hour shows up to Edinburgh every year since 2015, but then I very much doubt if these would have achieved anywhere near the same level of success or been able use my shows to fund global travel. In the loss-making frenzy that is Edinburgh Fringe, once you’ve found something that works then it’s very difficult to let go of – especially if you know that you can get a two or three grand for it.

I was back in Stand 6 at The Place with my beloved terrace out the back. But the venue as a whole was far quieter than the previous year as the arseholes who own St Andrew’s Square had banned any show tents, bars or food stalls from being set up there. What they intended to be ‘an oasis of calm’ had turned the place into a soulless sterile dead zone. This meant that shows in the New Town really struggled to hang onto punters. This led to The Stand running fewer shows in 2018, which was a massive shame.

But all things considered, I had a good year in 2017 in spite of the difficulties. I achieved sold-out status for the second year in a row. And I also got two four-star reviews, which were my first ever.

Having come from the Free Fringe in 2016, The Stand felt like an arm-chair ride. It was such a luxury to have front of house staff, people on the box office, and a tech; whereas before, I was doing all those things myself.

One gnawing pang of regret is that I didn’t really use this platform for further career opportunities. Doing a sold-out run without any PR or flyering team behind me is pretty rare indeed. Each year that went well, I said to myself that I’d push it the next year with agents and production companies, but never got around to doing anything about it. I pride myself on being someone who doesn’t ‘play the game’; I hate to schmooze. I’ve always done the Fringe with the mentality – perhaps misguidedly – of doing what I want and not worrying about getting the attention of anyone in the ‘industry’. Ironically, I was actually going to use the 2020 Fringe to do just that. Alas.

In 2017, I was staying in a flat nice flat that was about a mile away from my venue and it had a designated parking space, which was invaluable. Although at £1,000 for the month, it was by far the most I’ve paid for Fringe accommodation and I can’t see myself ever paying so much again. Needing a parking space limited the options available. I was sharing with two other comedians, deploying the old trick of one sleeping on an air bed in the living room. I won’t name my flatmates as the overriding memory I have of that year was me cleaning the entire flat at the end of August on my own. One flatmate had wreaked havoc on the kitchen work surface by chopping up an onion on there with no chopping board, which I’d done my best to repair using cooking oil and some laminate coating used for car scratches. The other flatmate had left a load of beard and nail clippings in his room when he moved out of the flat. Amazingly, I still somehow got my deposit back.

After the Fringe, my HTWAPQ gigs were going infinitely better than my club sets. After a couple of poor showing at two big clubs, I went through my set and realised just how long I’d be using the same jokes and had become tired of them. I vowed to make up for that in 2018 and write a totally new Edinburgh show, with mixed results. No bag though.

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Edinburgh Fringe Archives: 2016

Originally, I wasn’t going to perform at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe. It was the year I’d relocated with the day job from London to Manchester and I’d promised colleagues that I wouldn’t be disappearing for the entire month of August as well.

Within a week of moving up, I did a gig in Liverpool. Also in attendance that night was my old mate Stephanie Laing, who I’d gigged with multiple times back in London over the years. She’d also recently moved up to the North West. With most comedian conversations, Edinburgh is never too far away. I said I didn’t think I’d be going up, she said she was planning to and was waiting to hear back from The Stand. So I asked her for the contact.

I sent them an email asking to do a half-run and didn’t think I had any hope of getting in with them, so was already thinking of how I’d actually spend my summer instead. I didn’t apply to any other venues.

But I got a reply from The Stand, asking me for more information. I was still convinced it wouldn’t go anywhere. I sent them back details about the show, where it had been performed before, what sort of audiences it had drawn, and suggested it for their 40 or 50 seater rooms, as those were similar sized rooms to where the show had worked well before.

A week or so later, I was stunned when they got back to me with an offer. It would be a 60-seater room and a midday time-slot. I honestly didn’t think I could fill a room that size and that getting an audience at midday would be a struggle. Even if anyone did show up, they wouldn’t have had any alcohol and would be really subdued. It was also the first year I had done a ticketed show. I was convinced that I wouldn’t sell many and those people who had bought tickets would be queuing at the box office to demand refunds. I would later be proved wrong on all fronts.

I’d been sent link to check my ticket sales in the April, which I had been reluctant to click on I thought it would only confirm my suspicions. When I checked around mid-June, I was astonished to find that I had sold about 75 tickets.

These ticket sales links would become an obsession and I’d be checking multiple times a day. In later years, if there had been any new sales then I’d celebrate. If there hadn’t been any for 24 hours, I would despair and do some soul-searching about what went wrong.

It was the first year I drove up. It was a lot less stressful than getting the train, and I’d break the drive up by staying a night at a midway point. This year, it was Carlisle. The tradition of getting an early morning train was replaced by leaving the office late due to tying up loose ends, then normally not setting off from Manchester until 8.30pm or 9pm. The mad dash to get on my train was replaced by a mad dash to make sure I could actually check-in before the hotel reception closed.

A recurring issue of my time living in Manchester was that I simply wasn’t doing enough gigs. I’d found it hard to get as many as I needed, partly because I’d become lazy in booking them; but also because there weren’t as many that I could easily get to a few times a week after work. There was a lot more driving involved that really sapped the energy levels and clashed with a full time job. As well as the insufficient tally of gigs, a few people this year had told me that I spoke too quickly. This feedback ended up working counter-productively, as it made me more conscious when talking and I would end up swallowing words and being even more incoherent. All these things meant that I arrived in Edinburgh not in the best comedic shape.

2016 was the final year when there were things in St Andrew’s Square such as shows, bars, and food huts. It was a vital hub in New Town that made people hang around thee a bit longer and maybe see another show or two. Another thing that was really helpful was all The Stand’s show listings all around the outside. When such activities in St Andrew’s Square were banned by the square’s owners the following year, it made it so much more difficult to get audiences to stick around in New Town. They would come over for what they’d bought a ticket for, then leave.

On the show listings, it was bizarre seeing my name alongside the likes of Stewart Lee and Daniel Kitson. And it was equally surreal hearing the venue staff asking people if they were there to see me.

For the first couple of gigs, I felt like I shouldn’t really be there, let alone charging people to see a show that they could have watched free in the two previous years. The first show was a preview in front of 12 people. It was shaky and didn’t go particularly well. A reviewer who was in gave it three stars, which I felt was generous.

In the first show of the official run, I had 37 in. It was a bit better, but I was still being held back by the straightjacket of imposter syndrome. I went to the Kilderkin for a pint to mull over my set, cut what didn’t work, and see if there was any other stuff I could use.

But then on the first Saturday of the Fringe, something happened. I had sold-out my first ever show, although I still didn’t like I should be there. Then towards the start of the show, something seemed to click into place. There was a hen do sitting at the front who I started riffing with, and suddenly I started performing like I knew I could. And with that, my mindset changed completely to: “That’s right. I do deserve to be here.”

The hen do all wanted pictures with me afterwards, which felt like an out of body experience. Other people throughout the run also wanted pictures with me, and one or two even asked for my autograph. It was all a little odd, but I went with it.

I loved the Stand 6 room in The Place Hotel. It was perfectly set up for my show and I very much enjoyed having the terrace out the back where I could sit and relax after the show, as well as have a bar where people would buy me beers. For accommodation, I was staying down in Leith with a local.

I would end up selling out nine shows out of my official run of ten. All that worrying was a complete waste of time and energy.

I really wasn’t ready to go home when it felt I was just getting started. And I would be back at work in the second half of August, with Facebook and Twitter feeds full of friends still up there. I just wanted to go back immediately and carry on performing, but I would have to wait another year for this.

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Edinburgh Fringe Archives: 2015

With three days left of August, I still have five more years of Fringes to cover. August this year has actually been pretty busy, not by my usual standards; but busy enough so that I haven’t had enough time to do this. I’ve been getting a fair amount of freelance work, and am also doing a podcast that I’ve also not been able to devote the time that I thought I would. I will continue regardless.

The next five years brought much success, which is boring. So stay tuned for the 2018 one, as that featured some good old fashioned struggles. Anyway, onto Edinburgh Fringe 2015.

As a result of the unwanted promotion in the day job, I was approaching the 2015 Fringe having done very little writing of new material. This is a sad trend that has mostly continued to this day. I had a few scraps of ideas, but the show was essentially a refined version of the 2014 one.

What was different in 2015 was that I had paid the £295 to go in the official Edinburgh Fringe brochure for the first time since 2011. I was convinced that it wouldn’t have any significant effect on my audience numbers. The Kilderkin was too far away from everything else to get a big audience every day. Wasn’t it?

Well, no. I will never forget getting back to the Kilderkin after flyering on that first Saturday and seeing more than double the capacity of the room queuing out of the door to see my show. And it wasn’t just a one off. I was getting full rooms every day. It took a few shows to adjust to. And felt like I was living in a parallel universe. There was only one day out of the 18 shows where it wasn’t standing room only, where I was four people short of filling all the seats.

Not everyone enjoyed my show. A group of disengaged students fled through the fire escape during one performance, with one of them writing on Twitter that it was the worst show he’d ever seen. And who can forget my audience review on the Fringe site from Megan? She said: “This is a tedious hour, peppered with weak jokes that are delivered charmlessly.” I certainly haven’t forgotten. She also said it was clear that the show was going nowhere. Predictions weren’t her strong point – that much is clear.

And aside from a few flat days, the shows were great fun and a sign of things to come. I was getting the most out of my bribe rule, where audience members could win their team a point if they bought me a pint during the show. One Saturday, I was bought three pints within the hour. The drunkenness descended from there, leading to me heckling my friend Pete who was playing some acoustic song in the pub later on. He did open mics every night at the Kilderkin in 2012, but didn’t appreciate my alcohol-fuelled demands for Mrs Robinson and Rocket Man on this particular night. He asked me not to come back. The next morning, I woke up in a corner of my bedroom on a pile of washing.

I was staying in a nice if unconventional flat behind the Meadows. The shower was in a cupboard in the kitchen. I was sleeping in a double bed that I had to climb a fairly high ladder to get in, probably why I opted to sleep on the floor on a particular night. And the key to the front door from the street was temperamental; sometimes, it took what felt like 15 minutes to be able to open it. Alas, it would be my final Fringe sharing a flat with Deech. Jake Baker was also sharing the flat, along with at least three different people sleeping on the sofa bed at various times.

Another thing that felt significant with my show in 2015 was breaking the £100 barrier in the collection bucket at the end. It had eluded me for years, so was thrill to achieve that.

I clearly had something in the show that people not only wanted to see, but were willing to walk a considerable distance for in large numbers. And there was only ever only one paid venue provider that I wanted to perform at.

After my shows, I would count my money at the bar and chat to Les, the Kilderkin chef. He knew people who worked at The Stand, so I asked him to mention my show. I don’t know if he did, but I didn’t know how else to go about approaching them for shows.

As it happened, 2015 would be my final year before moving to the paid fringe. This would also be my last Edinburgh as a London resident, although that may very well change in the not too distant future.

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Edinburgh Fringe Archives: 2014

I originally didn’t want to return to the Kilderkin in 2014. After a tough 2013 and the struggle to get an audience due to it being a fair walk from anywhere, I was planning my next move.

While my show idea was still forming, I’d been looking at other options. This was the same year that Freestival had set itself up as a third free programme of shows in Edinburgh.

I sent them an email and asked if I could do a solo show with them, which at the time was going to be something about trivia and weird facts. I didn’t hear anything back for a while and wanted to start getting things organised, so applied to the Free Fringe. And sure enough, I was offered the same time-slot at the Kilderkin.

By the time I’d accepted the offer and had come up with the concept of How To Win A Pub Quiz, I received an email from Freestival to say that my application had been denied but they would reconsider another application if I applied for a two-hander. And that was fair enough. At the time, I’d not really done enough to justify a solo show for a promotion that really needed their first fringe to be a success. I hold no grudges about it and get on well with all those involved. And everything worked out for the best.

Well, for me that is. The new promotion would only last two Fringes, before vanishing completely after 2015. Fair play to them for giving it a go though; they were like a much more organised and competent version of the Rebel Fringe.

As I’ve no doubt written on here before, the concept of HTWAPQ all came together pretty ‘organically’, so to speak. My giant squid material made me want to do a show about trivia, and a pub quiz would allow me to bring everything together quite nicely.

What helped massively when planning the show was that I knew exactly what the Kilderkin room was like and the technical capabilities.

What also helped me develop the show was living in London. I could try bits out at the numerous open mic gigs, and then also knew the circuit there well enough to book previews. I honestly don’t think I would have been able to develop the show in the same way, if at all, if I’d moved to Manchester a couple of years earlier. London provided me with countless development opportunities that I didn’t have to drive for two hours to try out.

After my first preview I did at the Roadhouse in Birmingham, I knew I had something on my hands. And it wasn’t just my set list. Aah. I thank you.

Not all the material worked and I think I dropped a fair amount of it, but there was definitely something encouraging there.

My main goal of the 2014 Fringe was to just get an audience every day that was in double figures. I hadn’t gone in the Edinburgh Fringe brochure again during this year. Although I’d actually meant to, but hadn’t decided to until quite late; and if I recall correctly, the application system had changed and I didn’t have time to figure it out. This meant that I had to rely on flyering and the Free Fringe booklet for audience.

I was delighted that I achieved my goal of getting at least ten people in to see every show. And at the weekends, I sometimes I even had a full room. Not only that, but having a full room made the show operated on a different level entirely. There was one Sunday when everything seemed to click into place, with the material, the quiz and the riffing off an audience all coming together so amazingly well that it gave me a buzz that lasted for a good few hours afterwards.

But it was the smaller crowds that really gave me a chance to experiment and figure out exactly how everything worked without any pressure.

For accommodation, I was staying on a new build estate about half-way down Leith Walk. The flat was really nice, with two bedrooms with two bathrooms – one was an en suite. I was sharing a flat with Deech for the third year, with Paul Dance maintaining our tradition of having a flatmate called Paul. We were going to take it in turns to spend a week on an inflatable mattress in the living room, only Paul had a back injury; so me and Deech had to split it between us.

The other memory that springs to mind for the 2014 flat, is that Paul had decided to cook an egg after getting back late one night. I was woken up the next day by someone knocking on my door and said there’d been a gas leak in the block of flats. Anyway, it turns out that Paul had left the gas on for a mere seven hours or so. I was feeling a little groggy on my way to the venue, possibly psychologically, with visions of collapsing during my show. But it turned out to be possibly the very best of the run mentioned above.

It was a great Fringe and felt like a significant step in the right direction. I even got a nice review from Copstick at the Scotsman. What did put a dampener on things was in the final HTWAPQ of the run. I’d been battling the lurgy for much of the final week. And in my final show, my brain seemed to fail me, I was a bit all over the place, and it didn’t go so well. But this didn’t take away from all the other positives that the 2014 run had brought.

This was also the year of the seven-hour train delay on the journey home. It still remains one of my favourite train journeys, mainly due to Twitter interactions with all the other comedians also stuck on there.

When I returned to the day job, I received some awful news. My manager told me she was leaving and that I was being promoted to her position. This would consume so much of my time and energy over the next five years. It would also signal the end of this particular care-free era of my life that I’d enjoyed so much. I would be getting more money but with it came more responsibilities that I really could have done without.

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Edinburgh Fringe Archives: 2013

As far as my years performing comedy go, 2013 was quite possibly my favourite. I was doing lots of gigs, writing regularly, and experimenting with ideas. But it was running and often MCing two monthly gigs that really improved everything else.

Knowing that I had those opportunities to try stuff out and mess around, while watching top headliners in small rooms, gave everything else I did a massive boost. Comedy was a lot of fun. I even broke my competition hex and made it through to the final of the biggest competition… in the market town of Droitwich in Worcestershire. It’s Rik Mayall’s hometown, so is therefore the only comedy competition that matters. Or mattered, as I don’t think it runs anymore; thus making it all the more exclusive.

It wasn’t all glory. I had some stinkers too, although they would ricochet off me thanks to all the good stuff that was going on.

However, it was not one of my favourite Edinburghs. In fact, it was one of my toughest. I was adamant about returning to the Kilderkin. I adored the pub and liked the room, plus I’d heard from a reliable source that one of the barmaids had taken a shine to me in 2012. In fact, this latter reason might well have been my main motive for returning there. I’ll skip to the end here: when I arrived, I found out she no longer worked there and pretty much the entire bar staff I knew had gone. And my plans would start to unravel from there.

I’d been offered a shiny 6pm timeslot and the show would be called Love and Langton’s Fear and Loathing. Yet it didn’t quite work out this way.

In possibly February, Langton asked to meet up for a pint and a chat. As he’d recently got engaged, I was all set to tell him: “Yes, I will be your best man.” But he had something else to say: he would not be doing Edinburgh that year.

There was a last hurrah for Love and Langton though. We did two dates at Brighton Fringe that year and it was rubbish.

Anyway, after Langton dropped out, I spent the next couple of weeks trying to convince the Free Fringe organisers that I should be allowed to do a solo show in the same slot, despite the fact that I didn’t really have any ideas for it. This was denied. They obviously had no idea what was at stake.

I was given a few days to find a replacement for the two-hander slot I’d been allocated. And that came in the form of Simon Lilley. I’d done a couple of gigs with him and he was a funny man.

Simon was doing a solo show earlier in the afternoon, which was his main priority and that was totally fair enough. Five years later, I would come to appreciate just how draining it was to do two shows a day.

I’d seen that from the earlier shows at the Kilderkin that it was easier to get a crowd there at that time, as there are still people walking past there in the early evening. If we can get a crowd every night at 11pm, then a 6pm slot should be no problem. I didn’t think I’d even have to do much flyering. How mistaken I was.

It turned out to be a struggle to get people along even after flyering for a couple of hours. And we had to pull a few shows due to having no audience. Simon was having a tough run in his solo show and I could tell he was relieved some days when ours was pulled as it gave him a chance to rest a bit. I can relate to this much better after 2018.

Just as an example of how desperate things had become for wanting an audience, Simon had managed to persuade four Spanish students to come in and watch the show while they waited for their pizza. The one who spoke the best English was whispering translations to our material to bored looking faces. As soon as the pizzas were ready, they were off in a flash. This left a couple on the front row who may very well have been swingers judging from what they were saying. They invited me to one of their parties; but alas, we didn’t exchange contact details.

This is not to say that the run was a total disaster. We had some good shows and I was mostly enjoying performing when we had an audience. Nevertheless, I did find the the stop-startness of it all frustrating. I wanted to perform every day and wasn’t always able to. The bottom line to it all is: the theme of fear and loathing simply wasn’t strong enough. It made me start thinking harder about themes for the next year.

Two things that did feature in my 2013 set were The Darkness and giant squid, which would form the basis of How To Win A Pub Quiz.

For accommodation, I was staying at the same flat as 2011. Only, Moz was out and Deech was in. Probably the highlight was finding a pair of Deech’s in my bag after I left and for the next year, I would play a game where I would take them to various landmarks and Deech would have to guess where his pants where. If you’d like to see this, do a search on Twitter for #whereareDeechspants.

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Edinburgh Fringe Archives: 2012

I very nearly didn’t go to Edinburgh Fringe in 2012. I’d applied in plenty of time for a venue, but didn’t hear anything back until very late in the day. I was offered something ridiculous like two weeks in one room, and a week in another venue with a different timeslot. I replied straight after getting the email, only to be told that the slot had been taken. I think I was offered something else that wasn’t really workable.

For the next few weeks, I was actually looking into running my own Fringe venue. I’d found somewhere, it was sort of confirmed with the manager; I’d set up a Facebook group, recruited various other comedians, started putting together a rough plan for show timeslots, and even had a logo designed. But it didn’t quite work out. Alas, The Rebel Fringe was never meant to be.

By now, it was early April and the early bird deadline for a discount on the brochure fee was long gone. We were faced with the decision to either admit defeat and not do Edinburgh that year, or apply to the Free Fringe and hope that our very brief association with their bitter rivals wouldn’t count against us.

I’d heard from someone that it can help your application if you suggest a venue, so I suggested somewhere I’d done a ten-minute spot the previous year. I was offered a slot at 11pm for the full-run. And the venue was the Kilderkin, which would be my home for five Fringes and see my solo show reach heights that I didn’t think were possible. Plus lows, but more on them in a later entry.

Unlike in 2011, I had a full-time job. I’d planned to leave the company before the festival but was then told that I could work remotely. Unfortunately, as I had already been working on the basis that I was leaving before the festival, I did not have much holiday allowance left. This meant that I had to work full-time for the first two weeks of the Fringe. I’d finish my show just after midnight, take the room apart, have a pint of old man beer McEwan’s and sometimes a pizza. Then I’d walk back to the flat to get some sleep before waking up just before 9am, then commuting by switching on my laptop from my bed.

It was slightly frustrating being in Edinburgh, but being able to see very little of the Fringe until I’d finished work for the day. But having a full-time job is what made it possible to do Edinburgh Fringe every year. Plus I got my full salary at the end of the month. I would get better with my holiday rationing. And it wasn’t until before the Fringe last year that I finally left the company after 7.5 years, which was significantly longer than the original plan.

One of my highlights of the 2012 was going to a recording of Richard Herring’s podcast where he had the wrestler Mick Foley as a guest. It was two of my heroes from when I was a teenager, from totally different performance backgrounds and no obvious links, united on stage. That’s just one example of the weird and wonderful magic that Edinburgh Fringe can provide.

We had a nice flat about half-way down Leith Walk. Moz was meant to be sharing a flat with us, but dropped out a few months before as he decided not to do the festival. His replacement was Deech, who I’d originally met in 2005. Me and him would go on to be flatmates for four Fringes in total, annoying each other frequently and almost always deliberately.

My show this year was Love and Langton’s Dirty Laundry. Our posters and flyers had a picture of us hung on a washing line, which got people’s attention. We weren’t in the main brochure, just having to rely on the Free Fringe guide and flyering for a couple of hours to get an audience. But we got a crowd every night. And our smallest crowd was seven, which I’ve since got far lower in that room. Some nights, we even had a full room. The main lesson: if no-one knows your name, you need a strong theme to get your audience.

I’ve recently recorded a podcast with Langton about our Edinburgh Fringe runs in 2011 and 2012, to be published at an unknown date. Until he reminded me, I’d forgotten just how determined I was to perform to any kind of audience in those days. Whatever size the crowd was, I was resolute in giving them a show. If Paul was reluctant, then that just strengthened my resolve. It was quite a contrast from the jaded diva I’d become when I was doing a solo show in that same room in 2018. Some days, I was strongly hoping no-one to show up as I needed to have some time away from the show in order to work on it.

Dirty Laundry was much better than A Mixed Bag. We were a year more experienced, had figured out how to do shows better and the material was stronger. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we were better comics at the end of it and that was always the main aim for both of us.

Sadly, it was the end of the road for Love and Langton. Paul got Yoko’d and that was the last run of shows he would do in Edinburgh, although I still haven’t entirely given up persuading him to do one more.

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Edinburgh Fringe Archives: 2011

Having gone to Edinburgh Fringe got a couple of weeks in 2010 to do various five minute spots, I thought I knew what to expect for when I returned in 2011. Oh, how sorely mistaken I was. It was a brutal experience.

Things got off to a bad start when I ordered 10,000 flyers that were delivered to my address in London, instead of direct to Edinburgh. The most stupid thing though is that was actually intentional. Me and Paul split them between us and each took up 5,000 separately.

I left early in the morning to catch the train, carrying my flyers in an Asda bag for life. Only, the bag split at the end of my road. I was also carrying the rest of my luggage. I somehow managed to just about hold everything together, although I seem to recall needing a luggage trolley for assistance at King’s Cross. Whether or not I used one, I can’t remember.

I boarded the train stressed and sweating profusely, in what would become an annual tradition of getting on the train to Edinburgh.
The show I was doing with Paul was called A Mixed Bag. I thought this would be a good name as a way to deflect criticism and lower expectations. “Well, what did you expect when the show had a title like that?”

I was keen to get the experience of doing a full-run at Edinburgh Fringe without appearing on anyone’s radar. I think it’s fair to say I achieved this, and have done so consistently in my other years at the festival.

We were each going doing around 25 minutes on stage. In fairness, neither of us had a solid ten minutes then. Some would argue that I still don’t after ten years of doing this thing, but then these people haven’t done three official sold-out runs at Edinburgh Fringe. So they can shove it.

My set involved a lot angst about working in a charity call centre, while Paul was ranting about the royal wedding and the Chilean miners.

And our venue was The Three Sisters. I shudder whenever I think of that place. It was stag do and hen do central. It’s loud, busy and often smells of vomit or disinfectant, depending on what time of the day you go there.

We could usually fill the room at weekends, but they wouldn’t always hang around. One particular memory will haunt me forever with this. It was the first Saturday of the Fringe and we had a full room. But they were mainly rugby fans who’d come in to get out of the rain. I was on first and died on my arse. At the 20 minute mark of my set, about half of the audience got up and walked out, leaving me floundering on the stage. There was nowhere to hide. I wrote this entry here where I tried to put a positive spin on it, probably to convince myself that it wasn’t so bad when I was eating biscuits.

And then there’s the small matter of our one-star review from ThreeWeeks. Paul called me up to tell me about it and read it out to me over the phone. I could only laugh. But then I later had my revenge on ThreeWeeks when I started doing paid shows at The Stand. Performers are asked if there are any publications they don’t want to receive comps, and I always say: “Actually, there is one publication…”

Another prominent memory of the 2011 when Paul had been watching the Man United V Arsenal game in the courtyard at The Three Sisters. Paul is an Arsenal fan and they lost 8-2. He’d already had two pints, but a Man United fan bought him another pint for every goal that went in. Ten pints later, he had a show to do. Unsurprisingly, he was a mess and didn’t do very well. And he was performing wearing a kilt made of leftover flyers, complete with a sporran. I had made a waistcoat. I had to go on after him and attempt to salvage our final gig. I think I just mocked Paul for much of it and it seemed to work.

Nevertheless, we learned a lot that year and had some fun. And people occasionally enjoyed the show, said nice things and put some money in our bucket. It also didn’t break us and we went back for more the next year.

Accommodation was pretty good in 2011. I was sharing a flat with Moz that was fairly central. He was great company, but appalling at washing up – as I felt the need to make a note of.

I will be talking with Paul on a forthcoming episode of my podcast Edinburgh Fringe: The Year Off. Moz is so far refusing to appear. I can’t think why.

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Edinburgh Fringe Archives: 2010

It’s August and for the first year since 2009, I won’t be in Edinburgh for the Fringe. What I’m going to write about instead on here is the memories of each year I have been in Auld Reekie.

My first year at the Fringe was in 2010. I was very much aware of the Fringe growing up, as a result of stories from Lee and Herring and reading about it in The Sunday Times Culture magazine.

But I’d never been before. I wasn’t involved in any student comedy at university and my group of friends needed some serious persuasion to go to watch a gig five minutes walk down the road, so my chances of persuading them to go to Scotland weren’t very positive.

When I did some abysmal sketches for Stroud FM in 2006, someone there said me and my mate Edd should go to Edinburgh Fringe; although it would be another four years before I did this.

What was pivotal to me going up there was the friends I met from a comedy workshop in 2009. If you’ve read this blog over the years, you may be familiar with the likes of Moz, Luke, and of course, Langton.

Moz had already been up to do a show at the Fringe in 2009, so was able to be our guide and dispense advice. A group of about ten of us all went up to Edinburgh for the same couple of weeks.

For accommodation, I also had no clue. My mum’s cousin told me that my gran had a cousin who lived in house in Musselburgh with plenty of rooms. I’d never met this lady before, so I got her address from my gran and posted her an old fashioned letter to introduce myself and ask if it would be okay if I could stay. She wrote back and said that it would be fine. And I ended up sleeping on a camp bed in the attic room she used for painting for the two weeks, where I would often wake up hungover. After taking a considerable time to find a bus to Musselburgh, I met my gran’s cousin and it felt like we’d known each other for years. I grabbed a Subway for my tea, before getting a couple of hours’ sleep; because I had my first ever gig in Edinburgh that night.

Moz was running a gang show at the Counting House at about 11.30pm. It was in the ballroom, which seats about 150 people. And I was hosting it. From what I remember, the room wasn’t full but it was a decent turn out.

Things started off pretty well. The first thing I said was: “Hello Edinburgh.” Very original. There was a lot of energy in the room and the acts were doing well. But I soon learned that there’s a moment at almost every late night gig in Edinburgh where the energy dips. And despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get it back.

I spent a lot of time that year in the Counting House bar, drinking pints of Tennent’s until the early hours with Moz and Langton. But I had to make sure I didn’t miss my night bus back to Musselburgh to sleep on the camp bed.

That first night, it was raining really heavily – as it often does in Edinburgh. I put my umbrella up, but my left arm ended up getting soaked as my coat wasn’t waterproof. I clearly hadn’t done my research. I arrived back to the house with a soaking wet arm. I took off my coat, put it on a chair next to the radiator and sat down thinking: “I’ve finally done a gig at Edinburgh Fringe.”

I’d also managed to get regular spots at a daily gang show. There was an afternoon one at Espionage and one in the evening at The Jekyll and Hyde. Some of these shows were really tough and I remember dying on my arse heavily while trying to get the audience to laugh at me pulling stupid faces to Let’s Get Ready to Rumble. I can’t think why.

Doing another late-night showcase for Moz, it was going badly and my throat suddenly got really dry. My overwhelming memory of that gig is just seeing three broad Scottish lads sitting at the front with their arms crossed. They also didn’t go for the PJ and Duncan bit. Some gigs were better though.

It was this year that I learned just how extreme Edinburgh Fringe can be. One night you’re up, the next you’re in the gutter.

I went to go and see Stewart Lee at The Stand. He was handing out flyers to people in the queue as we went in. He was standing right next to me and asked me about my Brutal Legend t-shirt. He wanted to know if it was a band or computer game, as he couldn’t really tell any more. I said: “It’s a computer game, actually written by the same man who did Monkey Island.” He looked blankly at me and just shrugged. And I had to stand there for a few more minutes in awkward silence next to the man who had been my comedy hero since I was 13. He’s a 90s comedian, he’s meant to know about such things.

Aside from learning not to try and impress my comedy heroes with my knowledge of adventure games, what 2010 also taught me was that I would have to do much more writing. I set myself a target of writing 250 words a day about anything just to force me to write more. In less than a year, what started off on Tumblr moved to this site you see before you thanks to my school mate Lar. Who I’ve just remember haven’t paid him for hosting this site in about three years. I’ll have to do a bucket collection.

I’m also working on another Edinburgh Fringe project this year. Stay tuned.