As amazing as my half-run was, it doesn’t feel right to have returned to the real-world while the Fringe is still going on. My Fringe withdrawal symptoms have been intensified by returning to my day job and all the fun that comes with it.
Although my 2016 Fringe has finished, this feels like it could be the start of something much bigger and more exciting.
For one thing, there is the possibility of a tour. After one of my shows, I was approached by a booking agent for a small theatre, which by some freakish coincidence happens to be right next to the car park in the Lake District where the glass from my wing mirror got stolen in May. She also books other venues around the country, so we shall have to wait and see what happens with that.
Essentially, the pub quiz theme is a magical vehicle that allows me to perform to audiences who wouldn’t even be aware of me otherwise. I’ve always been well aware of that. But when no-one knows who you are, it’s down to you to think of an idea strong enough to get people to come and see your show. I have no media profile, no accolades, no agent, and no flyering team, all I have is that idea, combined with the experience and determination to make it work.
Selling out nine out of 11 shows and being part of the same venues programme as my comedy heroes Stewart Lee and Daniel Kitson are pretty cool things, considering this was originally meant to be my year-off. I never tired of seeing my name on the same listing boards.
And to think, I owe all of this to stupid joke I wrote about giant squid in an attempt to justify the many hours I’ve spent watching documentaries about them. This then led to me thinking about doing a show about interesting facts, which was initially rejected by one Fringe promotion, then I realised that a pub quiz brings all sorts of trivia together and you know what happened from there.
I’ve also finally read my two three-star reviews. They’re okay, nothing too scathing and certainly gives me motivation to improve further. I got a much nicer write-up from Den of Geek.
At the moment, my plan is to return next year to do a full-run with the pub quiz show with new material, which I’ve already started writing. I also want to do an hour’s stand-up at some point, but I’ve got time to think about this.
Being part of the shows at The Stand reaffirmed exactly where I want to be in comedy. Now I just need to work hard and get to a point where maybe one day, just maybe, people will want to come and see my show for me and not for my gimmick. This could take a while…
My final show was yesterday and it’s the first time I’ve actually felt sad about going home.
It’s partly because I usually do the full run and am exhausted by the end, but it’s also because I have enjoyed this run more than any other. I had no idea just how well everything would go.
It’s been a pleasure doing a show for The Stand. I’ve not had to worry about setting up the room, getting people to sit where they’re meant to, or doing my own tech. Instead, I’ve been able to focus all my energy on making the show as good as I can. Apart from the first two shows of the run where I was a bit jittery, the other nine have been great. Some audiences have taken a little while to get going, but they all got to where I wanted them eventually. If I could take these folk with me to whatever I do post-Pub Quiz, I will be very happy.
When my Fringe run usually ends, I wait a couple of weeks before I even think about the next year. But this year has proven that I have a show on my hands that can seriously shift some tickets and can be even more fun than I previously thought. Less than two hours after my final show had finished, I was already thinking about ideas for 2017.
I’ve got a couple of days left in Edinburgh to see some shows and relax a bit before I come back through the wardrobe into the real world, when I’ll write my post-Fringe thoughts.
I have done ridiculously well this year. I know full well that not every Fringe is like this, so I’m going savour it while I can.
If you’re wondering why I haven’t written an update for a while, it’s because the show is going really well and has sold-out every day from Saturday onwards. This continues until the end of my run on Sunday. To be honest, it is going much better than I ever expected.
I tend to write stuff on here when things are going badly as a way of coping with it. See the 2011 Fringe entries for this. Also, I know that my torment makes for a more interesting read.
The audiences I’ve had have been amazing. For a midday time-slot, I was worried they would be a little reserved. But things have been getting pretty rowdy during the quiz, with heated debates and chanting for teams to lose points. I’m having so much fun with this show. Even after performing the same format since 2014, I’m still finding new laughs in bits I’ve been doing for two years. Adding to this, every audience throws something unique at me.
This year, I’m made a conscious effort to avoid looking for reviews to just allow me to focus on the show and not be influenced by what commentators think, which may make me lose confidence in something. I’ve even been avoiding going on the EdFringe website to see if any audience reviews are up. This can wait until I’m back in the real world.
One lesser-known publication in particular has been tweeting the review at me several times to try and get me to retweet it. As it’s a three-star review, it would be pretty pointless to retweet. It also didn’t look especially flattering when I skim-read it, but I genuinely don’t care. The show is selling out and the audiences seem to enjoy it quite enthusiastically. That’s enough for me.
When I was writing the show in 2014, I listened to a lot of Pulp. There’s a line in the track Sylvia that I have adopted as my philosophy to Edinburgh Fringe: “Keep believing and do what you do.” I mean, the song’s about a woman who’s a recovering drug addict. But this line in particular is something that resonates with me, plus the guitar solo is amazing.
I now have just three shows left. At the moment, I don’t want this run to end.
For the first time ever, I can say that my show actually sold-out. As in all the tickets were sold, not that it was a full room at a free show. Not that I’m demeaning this achievement by any means, but I think that selling all the tickets means a bit more.
Three shows down, and they’ve all been fun. I had 11 in for Thursday’s show and 35 in for Friday’s. The first two took a little while to get going, as midday crowds can sometimes take a bit more warming up than those that have had a couple of pints a few hours later.
But yesterday’s show was definitely up there with some of the best I had last year. I could tell it would be a good show from the start, just from how they instantly started giving me stuff to work with. A hen do in the front-row provided ample opportunities for riffing.
There are a few things I still need to refine and my ad-libbing yesterday could have been a bit sharper in places, but I’m not far away from how I want the show to be. Regardless, if a hen do want to take your picture after the show and hard-drinking northern men who also had tickets then invite you to join them at their their table for a chat, then you know you’ve done well. The best thing is that I still don’t feel I’ve hit my stride yet and feel I can go up a few gears. I now have to do it all again today.
I am now starting to get used to the once-alien concept of people paying to see my Fringe show and being part of the same venue group as some of my comedy heroes. It still feels bizarre hearing the front of house staff asking punters if they’re there to see me and having a tech for my show. I’m used to doing everything myself.
After my show yesterday, I went back to the Kilderkin to help the people doing shows there set-up the room and show them the ropes. Although I have many fond memories of my four Fringes there, I’m glad I don’t have to do the set-up every day this year. The torch has now been passed and I wish them all a successful Fringe.
It’s that time of the year again, Edinburgh Fringe is upon us and I’ve barely recovered from the last one. It also means this website will be getting a lot busier for the next few weeks.
Since I last wrote, I have done two previews in places I have called home. One was in Walthamstow at the Rose and Crown and the other was this Saturday just gone in my actual hometown of Stroud.
Shout out to Lar (who set-up and then saved this website) and his crew for making up a significant chunk of my audience at my Stroud preview.
Both previews were friendly, but could have gone better and I didn’t feel like I hit my stride. But on the plus side, you always want previews to have a few flaws as it makes you think harder about how you can improve the show. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
It’s going to be a very different Fringe this year, perhaps more so than ever. For one thing, I won’t have that whinging old bag Demetris Deech following me around for a month.
For the first time ever, I won’t be getting the train there this year as I’m driving. This will mean I’ll be spared the ordeal of having to race against the clock to make it to my train while lugging several heavy bags, checking my watch obsessively throughout. Then dramatically boarding with barely a minute to spare before departure, drenched in sweat, with four and a half hours to try and catch my breath. I begin my journey to Scotland tomorrow evening and I’m staying a night in Cumbria on the way up to break the drive up a bit.
Another thing that’s different is that I already have a strong indication of what my audience numbers will be like from the presales. I’m close to selling-out at least three dates already, which is astonishing. Last year, I was caught completely off guard by the sheer number of people wanting to see my show. This year, I know what to expect, or will just keep pretending I do.
I had my first Edinburgh preview on Saturday night in Derby and it was a nice way to kick things off.
Before the show started, the promoter told me that only four tickets had been sold. Living and breathing the London open mic circuit for six years prepares you well for performing in front of such small audiences, so the show would go on. Much to my surprise, the audience number doubled and included my old friend Stevie Gray who now lives very close to the venue.
Despite there being eight people in a room set out for a lot more, they were good fun and exactly what I needed to get back into the swing of things. Everyone was keen to chip in, particularly a young lady in the front row who may have had a fair amount to drink. These sorts of audiences are more enjoyable than those that are a bit more reserved.
Having a smaller crowd also gave me a chance to try out the new marking method of letting the audience swap with each other instead of me marking it all from the stage. I’m still trying to think of a way I can still get to look at what people have written, as this has led to a lot of fun in previous shows and given the audience more of a chance to get a bit more involved.
Having done free shows on the Fringe for so long makes the concept of presale tickets a bit alien to me. I’d been sent a link just over a month ago by the Stand where I could check to see how many I’d sold. I put off looking at it for weeks, as I was convinced I wouldn’t have sold many. Eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I was delighted to discover that I’d sold 85 tickets. This was out of a total of 660, I was still overjoyed nonetheless.
Checking the presale link has since become something of an obsession of mine in the days that have followed. I wasn’t concerned about performing to small audiences; I’m used to that as you may have noticed. I was more concerned about losing the venue money and have been anxiously waiting to see if I reach the point where I break even.
Well, I am very pleased to announce that I have now sold almost half of my tickets with more than two weeks before the show is due to begin. Now I know I’m in profit, I can stop worrying about losing the venue money and instead focus on making the show the best I can. What I thought was a stupid idea for a show two and a half years ago isn’t turning out too badly.
King Gong at the Comedy Store is known for being pretty brutal. The last time I did it in London, I was gonged off after 20 seconds before I could even get to my first punchline.
I’d put off doing it in Manchester for long enough, so finally took the plunge last night and was bracing myself for another ordeal. But it was a much more pleasant experience than my previous three attempts in London. For a start, the venue is about half the size and doesn’t feel as intimidating.
The crowd were mostly pretty nice. I can only assume that the usual ruffians you’d expect at these gigs were attending the Coldplay concert at the City of Manchester Stadium. In fact, the most hostile person in the audience was Shane from Boyzone. He was there watching one of his friends taking part, and took exception when another act pointed him out. He got quite aggressive, shouty and sweary. You wouldn’t expect this sort of behaviour from Ronan Keating.
I was on early in the second half, which I thought was a bad as you generally stand a better chance of lasting the distance if you go on earlier.
I started off well, but after about a minute I was heckled by someone who wasn’t Shane from Boyzone. The heckler was correcting my geography. I say my home town of Stroud is near Bristol, but someone shouted out that it’s actually nearer Gloucester. This is of course true, but I’m going with the assumption that more people know where Bristol is than Gloucester. The interaction got a big laugh and I went back to her later in the set, which got another good laugh. Later on, I was heckled by someone else and I said the geography heckler was still my favourite.
So then I thought I’d see what Shane from Boyzone had to throw at me. Just as he started shouting and swearing at me, the music played to say I’d gone the distance.
For the first time ever at a Comedy Store gong show, I lasted the full five minutes. Unlike my last gong show at the Frog and Bucket last month where I scraped through unjustifiably, none of the three card-holding audience members had one aloft. I think the key difference was that I was having fun last night, and wasn’t on the other occasion. I did well, but can do better.
At the end, the four of us who’d made the cut had to perform an extra minute. I did okay, but not as well as two of the others and knew even before then that I wasn’t going to win the audience vote. It didn’t matter; just lasting that elusive five minutes was enough for me.
But in hindsight, I really should have sung a Boyzone song in that extra minute. Still, I’ll be prepared for next time.
Since I last wrote, I have been on a road trip up to Scotland and north-east England. I had three gigs booked for Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle and thought I’d make a semi-holiday out of it as I now have a car and it would break the drive up a bit.
As the Lake District was en route, i made sense to spend a couple of nights there. For all the locations I was going to, a quaint little town in a car park near the Beatrix Potter museum wasn’t where I was expecting to have anything stolen from my car.
When I returned to it in the morning, I discovered that someone had stolen the glass from one of my wing-mirrors. I never had problems with anyone wanting to take anything from my 16 year old, battered Nissan Micra. It was annoying, but could have been worse. I got a cheap replacement as a temporary repair, which I’ll probably have for the next five years.
If only I could use some Ant-Man technology to make my car tiny to fit on my key-ring, then it would save a lot of hassle about parking and people stealing things. But then people would be able to run off numerous carrying cars at once, so it wouldn’t be without its problems.
I also ate some really nice meals, which I didn’t feel the need to take pictures of and post online. The exception to this was a vegetable and stilton crumble that had a layer of water in the middle. Consequently, there were repercussions that I also didn’t feel the need to take pictures of and post online. This was the same day that my wing-mirror was stolen, so it wasn’t one of my favourite days ever.
The gigs were with the Stand venues and I’d wanted to do all three in a week for a long time, but geography and holiday amounts set aside for the Fringe never allowed this.
Edinburgh was first. When I last did it in 2014, it was the stuff of comedy dreams. This time, it was decent, but not as good as when I last did it. On the plus side, I was staying in someone’s house and not in a cheap hostel with nine very loud Brazilian men.
The Glasgow gig was the best of the trilogy. The crowd were amazing and although a couple of my line lines sank without a trace, this was made up for by bigger laughs for other stuff and crowd interaction. What made this gig even more of a thrill was that it was the very same stage where Stewart Lee filmed a couple of DVDs, including his first one with the Ang Lee routine.
As with most trilogies, the third never quite tops the second and the Newcastle gig was the hardest work. The crowd were great for the first section, but by the time I got on stage following what can only be described as an art experiment that went wrong, I could tell they’d had enough and were dire in need of an interval. By this point, the energy in the room was pretty flat. Even so, I still managed to get them some decent laughs out of them and people came up to me said some nice things to me afterwards, but I would have preferred performing in easier circumstances. Never mind, I will return and do better.
In other news, I’ve finally figured out a way I can write on my laptop and transfer it to my phone for upload. I am still without an internet connection in my flat as I don’t want to pay £20 a month for something I’m only going to use on the few evenings and weekends when I’m actually around. So this should mean I’ll be able to write more regularly.
It may seem obvious, but five minutes can seem like a hell of a long time if it’s not going well. At a comedy gig, space-time can actually bend around the stage and five minutes can last for several days. Conversely, if it’s going well then space-time speeds up and it’s over in a nanosecond.
This week, I have performed two five minute sets at two of the bigger clubs in the UK. One didn’t go well, but I beat the gong so was still technically a success. The other one went much better, mainly because I could relax due to the lack of the sword of Gongocles hanging over my head.
On Monday, I managed to last the distance at Beat the Frog despite being on last and much of the audience not liking my set. Two out of the three audience with cards were holding them up. Fortunately, my safe passage was ensured by the third card holder really enjoying my act. From the largely flat audience reaction, I didn’t really feel like I’d earned it when the music hit to confirm I’d beaten the gong. Still, it’s an improvement on when I last did it and I can mark it as W on my personal gong record. I hate gong shows, but it is one way of getting seen by the bigger clubs so is a necessary evil.
The second gig was at Glee in Birmingham, as part of the try-out section. I was instantly more at ease than Monday due to it being a gong-free zone, and also that I nearly always have nice gigs in Brum. It went well, I got some big laughs and enjoyed it much more than Monday. I also got a free pint and chocolate brownie, so I’m definitely marking this as a win.
I’m currently writing this from a cafe 30 seconds from my flat that I heard was interested in running a comedy night, which would be ideal for me. First impressions aren’t good. The beer is expensive, I hate the music and would probably actively avoid most of the clientele. It would be hard to run a gig somewhere I wouldn’t want to go through choice. Fortunately, I am scouting incognito, so they’ll never know I was here. If I do start running a night soon, then I must have been talking about a different place.
I have now been living in Manchester for a month and am still adjusting to my new comedic surroundings.
I have been a bit frustrated by not being able to gig as regularly as I’m used to, but it’s going to take at least couple more months to suss out the circuit and get myself known by promoters. I’ve had some decent gigs, some bad ones, and a very weird but enjoyable one in a social media office that looked like the set of Nathan Barley.
I still have yet to do a gig where I feel I’ve fully hit my stride. Manchester ain’t seen the best of me yet. I also need to work out a way to address my obvious southern accent, as it’s not something I’ve ever had to do before. I might be over thinking it and it might not even really be something people particularly care about. Nevertheless, it’s going to do me good to be out of my comfort zone. I’ve written more new stuff in the past month than I have in the past couple of years. Not all of it is comedy gold, mind, but the important thing is I am creating stuff.
In news that excites me greatly, I will be performing at Edinburgh Fringe this year after all. How To Win A Pub Quiz has been accepted by The Stand. I’m only doing a half-run, as it is supposed to be my year off, but I am thrilled at being part of the same set of venues as so many of my comedy heroes.
What started out as a bit of fun in the hope of getting an audience of double figures every day to a free show has grown into a show that was full for an entire run and is now in a venue where people will have to pay to see it.
The slot is at midday in the 60-capacity Stand 5, so I’m well aware of the challenges I face, but my excitement remains undiminished.