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One for the scrap book

Tuesday night was definitely one for the scrap book. I performed my show in the little room at Leicester Square Theatre on the same night that Stewart Lee and then Bill Bailey were on in the big room.

It’s not quite as exclusive as it sounds, because anyone can perform in that space I was in as long as they’re prepared to cover the costs. I was originally planning on using it as an opportunity to get production companies in to see where else I could take it. Then when ticket sales were stubbornly slow, I chose to just concentrate on getting a full room and enjoy the night for what it was. I did at least manage to get it filmed for the first time ever.

The last two occasions I’d performed in the Lounge were part of the Leicester Square New Comedian of the Year heats, which both went pretty badly. In fact, one was so bad that Moz, who had come on audience duties, refused to vote for me. I am pleased to report that my gig this week went considerably better. Moz was on tech duties this time and had no voting rights. I’ve since worked out after my costs, he’s going to get £10 more for the gig than me.

The show itself was good fun; I had a full room that was very much like an old Ruby audience, consisting largely of old friends, colleagues, and housemates. I had to resort to nagging anyone and everyone I knew in London after sluggish ticket sales, which might not be the best sign of my show’s commercial viability outside of Edinburgh. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the show and it was a nice note to end it on for the year.

In related news, I’ve realised that I’ve have become too comfortable sticking with stuff that I know works. For the past three years, I’ve only really had to worry about 15-20 minutes of material in my Pub Quiz.

So, I have set myself a challenge next year to do an hour of stand-up in Edinbrugh. There will be no questions, facts bells or mentions of giant squid, but I can’t guarantee there won’t be at least one reference to The Darkness. Not only this, but I am forbidden from doing any pre-2016 material during the show and also at non-paid gigs. Both of these things should give me a kick up the arse to create and hone new stuff.

I’d be mad to drop Pub Quiz given how well it’s been received, so I will also be working on a new version of the show for next year’s Fringe. It’s looking like 2018 is going to be busy and push me further outside my comfort zone, which is very exciting.

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The ridiculous ride continues

The ridiculous ride that is How To Win A Pub Quiz is continuing to ever greater heights

The other week, I was asked if I would like to perform the show at The Stand in Newcastle. The venue capacity is for 300 people for a show that I originally hoped would get me at least double figures ever day at the Kilderkin on the Free Fringe. I was in two minds about accepting, as the show was never intend for that many people.

Whenever I’m mulling over being offered stuff I have doubts over, I always think back to one of the first people I interviewed when I was a reporter in 2008 called Stan Dibben. I don’t expect you to have heard of him, but he was a former world sidecar racing champion, had been a member of the team who worked on the Bluebird land speed record, and even redesigned the wheels of supermarket trolleys. He’d released an autobiography that and when I asked him about how he had come to experience such a diverse array of weird and wonderful things, something he said stuck with me: “You say ‘yes’, always.”

So I accepted the offer and will be performing in Newcastle on Friday 27 October.

As a precaution, I asked for them to cap the ticket sales at 120 just to be on the safe side as I don’t want to be held back by doing too much admin. I obviously don’t expect to sell this many tickets, although I wouldn’t bet against it considering how ridiculously far this show has taken me so far.

One of those Facebook memories things came up recently from 2007, in a conversation with a mate about some comedy scripts I’d written and how I was trying to book up some more gigs. Then I remembered that ten years ago, I was also washing up and working in various warehouses through a temp agency. A lot has happened in the past decade, but it reminded me that I really haven’t done too badly at all.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2017: a summary

When I woke up this morning, it felt a lot like that scene towards the end of Hook when Peter wakes up underneath a Pan statue to find himself back in the real-world and dressed in formal clothes. Thankfully, I didn’t find myself outside or have to climb a drainpipe to get back into my flat, but did have to go back to the day job.

I definitely felt like I had left something magical behind and wondered whether or not what I’d experienced in the last three and a bit weeks was real or just existed in a dream. I have since decided that it definitely was real, because no-one would dream something containing so many lifestyle choices that have such severe and detailed consequences on the bowels. If Narnia and Neverland had a child that liked to drink, it would be Edinburgh Fringe.

Admittedly, getting home was a lot easier for them in Hook as they just flew and I had to drive 4.5 hours. Fairy dust was seriously lacking in the equation and I had to make do with Lucozade and glucose tablets, because I’m sure I would have been able to generate the necessary level of happy thoughts from just thinking about my Fringe. This would also have saved a lot of money on petrol, depending what taxes fairy dust was subjected to.

What a Fringe it was, with 100% of my reviews being four-star. I may have only had two, but that’s not the point. I also gained the necessary ticket sale requirements for official sold-out status for my run and made a healthy profit that will unfortunately make me appear on HMRC’s radar.

Before the Fringe started, I was seriously thinking about jacking comedy in and becoming a grown-up with a career and a mortgage. Following the Fringe, I have realised that there is no way I can leave this behind. How To Win A Pub Quiz in particular has something magic that is going to ensure fun whenever it is performed, or at least for a large percentage of performances if I do material that actually works.

Now I just need to work out a way of ensuring that everything fits in around comedy, instead of trying to make comedy fit in around everything else. I’ve also got a few other potential projects in the pipeline that will be very exciting if they materialise. Hopefully I will have more details on these shortly.

I always say that next time I go back to Edinburgh will be to do solo hour without a quiz and have decided that this will happen in 2018, which I’m intending on doing alongside HTWAPQ. You now have this in writing, so please sue me if I don’t do it. My current idea has just been inspired by half a bottle of wine and features jetpacks; actual real jetpacks, live on stage. What could possibly go wrong? Stay tuned for more.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2017 – Day 21-22

Thursday 24 August turned out to be pretty good. Despite ticket sales being my second lowest of the run and having two empty rows due to people who bought tickets not showing up, it was a fun little show and crucially bumped me 20 seats closer to the magical 95% mark to achieve sold-out status.

And I am pleased to announce that today, ticket sales have gone up further and I have now crossed the official sold-out threshold with two shows to spare.

In spite of having done the pub quiz show format for four Fringes now, I am still really enjoying it and finding new laughs in bits of material I have done countless times.

In other news, the end of the Fringe is fast approaching and I am trying to muster enough energy to get me through it.

It could be that my Fringe stamina has decreased after I only did a half-run last year, or my tiredness could be the result of having to walk 3.5 miles every day, but I am feeling utterly exhausted in any case.

I now only have two shows left and in many ways I don’t want the Fringe to end. In an ideal world, the Fringe would last for 12 months of the year and then I really could do this full-time. However, many areas of my body are currently protesting at doing this for just one month a year and threatening to punish me if I continue this ridiculous diet and lifestyle.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2017 – Day 10-20

Before the Fringe began, I did not think I would realistically get sold-out status for the full-run. Now I am within touching distance of those damn sold-out laurels, I am determined to get them.

For those not in the know, you need to have sold 95% of your tickets for your show to achieve official sold-out status and receive your Fringe laurels. And at the moment, despite all expectations, no PR and a significantly reduced numbers of punters in the vicinity due to nothing happening in St Andrew’s Square this year, I am currently on 91%.

Not that I’m getting obsessed with it or anything, but I just need to sell 32 more tickets from my last four shows to reach the magic 95%.

In a year when many of my incredibly talented friends have struggled to fill their rooms, I have done ridiculously well and really shouldn’t be so fixated on what is only really a graphic I can use on promotional materials.

For someone who doesn’t get anywhere near enough paid gigs, I know I should just be grateful for having done as well as I have in what can only be described as the comedy equivalent of a personal Narnia. In a week’s time, I will have gone back through the wardrobe and into a totally different reality where I am much less successful.

And whether or not I get past the 95% threshold all really rests on Thursday 24 August. Ever since I have been checking the presale numbers thousands of times daily, this has been the one day that hasn’t been selling anywhere near as well as the others. Even when the Fringe started, this one day was stubbornly on six tickets. At the time of writing, the number of tickets sold has risen to a significant 32 as if to taunt me.

To stay on target, I just need to sell four more tickets for tomorrow, then sell-out the other three days and I will have just scraped through. I’ve done as much as I can; now it’s for the Fringe Gods to decide how many more people will come to see my show.

The important thing is that the response from people who have seen my show has been hugely positive. Whatever happens and however many people I end up getting through the door, I am just going to enjoy my four remaining shows of what has been a great Fringe.

Nevertheless, I am so close to getting those damn laurels that I can taste them. They taste laurelly.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2017 – Day 4-9

After the first three shows of trying to find my rhythm, I hit my stride on the fourth show and it has been fairly consistent since then. As a rule, the less I write here, then the better the shows are going.

A significant improvement came as a result of me cutting newer bits that weren’t working as well as I’d hoped, and using sections that I know work from previous runs.

Surprisingly, finishing the quiz with the final question involving a track from Paul from S Club 7’s metal band didn’t prove very popular. I have since reworked the show and dropped this track entirely, reverting to stuff that I know works for the paying punter.

I have always been really lucky with the audience I get for this show, and the last few gigs have been no exception. It is both bizarre and amazing just what an extreme reaction answering a question correctly provokes in people. Every audience has been really competitive, determined to win, and arguing passionately that they deserve a point for their answer.

In review news, I have received my first ever four-star review for anything. This is nice, but I’m firmly of the belief that reviews in Edinburgh don’t matter quite as much as people expect, and usually fade away once August has ended. Nevertheless, there’s part of me that wants to better this still. On the best days, it feels like a five-star show. So, even though many reviews are fairly meaningless, it would be nice to get some text and characters to prove that I’m not completely delusional in my belief in the show.

When I started the run and wasn’t enjoying it so much, I was counting down the days for how many performances I have left. Now things have picked up, I want to be up here longer.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2017 – Day 1-3

Three shows into Edinburgh Fringe 2017 and I’m exhausted already. Things have been going pretty well, with definite room for improvement.

The best show so far was the first one on the Friday, with an audience that was both competitive and argumentative. Saturday’s and Sunday’s were surprisingly reserved by this show’s standards.

I’ve added a few new bits to the show this year, some of these are working nicely, but others either need honing or dropping. My preparations this year were far from ideal. I had three previews in the diary, one was awful, one ended up booking me for a different day to the one that we’d confirmed, and the other was rescheduled and then booked me as the same night they’d already scheduled a band. Nevertheless, the pub quiz structure is a solid one that works nicely and it’s only a few bits that need fine-tuning.

I know I should stop being so fixated on audience numbers, as the rooms have been nearly full every day. But when you’re doing essentially the same show in the same venue and time-slot as the previous year when it sold-out, you do start to worry when there are still tickets left over even if it is only a handful. I didn’t expect every day to sell-out this year, but I did hope that the weekends would at least.

I really can’t complain though, as I’ve already covered all my costs and made a bit of money. This is obviously amazing and shouldn’t be sniffed at. Although the show have been nice, I’ve not been fully satisfied with one yet and want to feel like I’ve earned anything I make.

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Cliffhanger resolution and Doctor casting

I have realised that I left the last entry on something of a cliffhanger. Just what was happening with my ticket sales?

As cliffhangers go, it’s not up there with Who Shot Mr Burns?, the best series of Dexter, or even that episode of Neighbours with the massive fire at the coffee shop that was so spectacular that it made me miss a lecture when I was a student as it required a second viewing.

Even so, I don’t think I can put up with much more of this suspense. This suspense that I am creating here.

Right here.

This suspense.

Look, it’s my website and I will do what I want here. Although going by the frequency of new entries, this admittedly isn’t very much.

I can confirm that tickets have been continuing to sell for my Edinburgh show. Nearly a third of tickets have been shifted with almost two and a half weeks to go, which puts me in a decent position. Although the first weekend of the Fringe is currently looking a little quieter than I expected. I am also pleased to report that I have covered the show running costs of the venue already, so I no longer have to worry about losing the nice people at The Stand any money.

I’ve written quite a bit of new stuff for the show this year and was considering replacing a scene from a film I’ve not actually written, with a scene from a Doctor Who episode I’ve not actually written. However, what was intended to give me an opportunity to use it as an audition to be the new Doctor was thrown off slightly by yesterday’s news. And it wouldn’t be the internet if I didn’t comment on the casting of the new Doctor.

In case this is the only website you visit, I can tell you that the new Doctor is indeed a woman in the form of Jodie Whittaker. I can’t claim to be overly familiar with her work, but she was very good in Attack the Block.

My biggest concern was that the rumours were true and Kris Marshall had been cast, which would have been one of the blandest and most uninspiring castings of all time. And for a moment, in that introductory video of a hooded figure talking through some woods and there was that the low-angle shot from behind, I started to fear the worst.

I was pleasantly surprised when the hood came down and her identity was revealed. I am fine with the Doctor being a woman, as that immediately excludes Kris Marshall, who I will always associate with those stupid BT adverts that ran for decades.

Inevitably, there has been a backlash from the internet against this casting because of the gender. However, the essence of Doctor Who has always been about seeing things you haven’t seen before, or seeing familiar things in a different light. So having the first female Doctor epitomises this, and I am genuinely intrigued to watch the new series.

But before that, Edinburgh Fringe is looming.

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Presales

Another Edinburgh Fringe is fast approaching and bringing with it such strong feelings of excitement and dread that shouldn’t be possible to go together.

I don’t think I’ve announced what I’m doing for the Fringe yet, on here anyway. Although this site does tend to be the last place I share things, and I don’t think I’m alone in often forgetting that this website exists. That’s how seriously I take my web presence.

I am taking How To Win A Pub Quiz to the Fringe for the fourth year in a row. At some point, I’ll think of another show idea. But while HTWAPQ remains fun and people want to see it, I’ll continue to do it. I am returning with The Stand at the same venue and time-slot as last year.

Whenever I receive the ticket presale link, I tell myself that I won’t keep on checking it. I then end up checking it multiple times a day. Whenever tickets are sold, even if it’s just a couple, I can’t stop myself from celebrating internally. Sometimes it’s even accompanied by a quiet ‘yessss…’ and Henman-style fist pump.

However, something has gone wrong somewhere over the past few days in ticket presale land and the total sold has remained unchanged. Considering I’ve been selling at least a few every day for the past month, this is very unusual. So, either there’s something wrong with the presale link, possibly caused by my incessant checking, or I haven’t sold any tickets in five days. I’m avoiding emailing the support address, because it could only confirm my worst fears that tickets haven’t been selling. The ambiguity helps.

Then again, no-one bought a single ticket for my show when I was on the Free Fringe and those, particularly the later ones, went pretty well. It also gave me one less source of distraction.

If you’d like to help me out, here’s the ticket link. Go and buy some, then let me know and I’ll check if the presale numbers update. Oh, and come and see the show as well. That would also help.

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We’ve done alright

This weekend just gone, I was making a guest appearance in London. Since I moved from there last year, there has been a drop in London house prices. Alongside this, Manchester has experienced the highest rising property prices in the UK during the past 12 months. Obviously, these figures are entirely down to me and my general aura.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t equate to me being able to afford to buy anywhere. But I might start approaching estate agents around the country, explain the effect I have and then see if they’ll give me a discount on a house in return for my presence significantly boosting business elsewhere in their area.

I wasn’t just there to cause a temporal shift in respective house prices; I had business to attend to. I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of the content management systems used by the business-to-business publishing sector, as I’m not allowed to under my contract. What a shame for you all that is.

For the night, I crashed at my mum’s cousin’s house in Tottenham. It was the same place I stayed pretty regularly in 2009 before I moved to London, when I was coming up for gigs and newspaper shifts. It was also the same place that I was house-sitting in 2011 that was then infested with fleas, when I took a call the morning after a night-shift from my current company to tell me that I was successful in my application. And at this exact time, I was sleeping in a bin bag to try and keep the fleas off me.

I did a gig for Gwilum on the Friday, but was really staying over as I had the opportunity for a meet-up with Parisian podcaster, Luke Thompson. Not only that, my old friend Moz was also there.

The three of us originally a met in a basement that smelt like toilets doing a comedy workshop in 2009, and I realised that we’ve actually done alright for ourselves through comedy and performing from those humble beginnings. Hopefully this won’t be the respective pinnacle for each of us, but it’s pretty good so far.  Moz is doing a successful walking tour of Soho, Luke has an international audience for his award-winning podcast and is making a bit of money from it; and I don’t know if you’re aware, but I’ve done a sold-out run at Edinburgh Fringe. I’ll admit, most people aren’t aware of this and don’t seem to react well when I berate them for not giving me the respect I deserve, no matter how weak the new material I’m testing may be.

The missing member of the crew is Paul Langton, who was characteristically absent. But as regular readers will know, he has achieved nothing in comedy. If only he’d stuck with the mediocre Love and Langton sort-of-double-act, who knows which small venue we would now be struggling to fill?

It was a brief counter, as Luke had to go off to band rehearsals in preparation for his 40th birthday gig and I had to travel back up north as I had tickets the following night to see another band in Birmingham. As much as I’m a fan of Luke and all his creative endeavours, his band will probably never quite match Iron Maiden.

In Edinburgh news, I can announce that I will be doing How To Win A Pub Quiz with The Stand again this year, but am doing the full-run. I am very much looking forward to this. Tickets should be available now. Probably, I haven’t looked.