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2021…

This year, I’m going to try and write something at least once a week and have Sunday as the designated day. I’m calling it a pledge at the start of a new year. There might be a better, more concise way of saying that.

Given that I’m not doing a massive amount at the moment due to Covid
restrictions, I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to write about
without it becoming repetitive. But that is where the challenge lies.

That said, this entire website began after a friend from school had spotted that I was writing 250 words a day on Tumblr, so offered to host it on his server. So writing a minimum of 250 words a week should be doable. Also, I hope you like reading details of dog walks.

It is a year filled with uncertainty and unknowns. I don’t know when
I’ll do another gig, I don’t know if Edinburgh Fringe will happen this
year, and I don’t know where I’ll be living at the end of the year.

It would be helpful to read some of the entries for later on the year now so I have an idea of what to expect. They all exist on this laptop, just not at this particular time.

But the future posts are not written yet, so I’d better make them good ones; or at least mildly entertaining.

The only thing I can say for certain is that I’m going to be doing a considerable amount of dog walking.

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2020 then…

It is fair to say that this year has been filled with things that I never envisaged 365 days ago. And I write this with a full-blown mullet, having today seen my credit in the local paper I last worked for in June 2009.

I will now attempt to summarise what has easily been the most ridiculous year in living memory. I have never known a year like it and hope I will never encounter such a year ever again.

For me, it started like almost any other with me waking up in my parents’ house with no hangover. My New Years Eves now consist entirely of staying in, comforting my dog who’s scared by the fireworks and desperately trying to avoid watching Jools Holland’s Hootananny.

In just under two weeks, I would be travelling to Australia to perform
shows in Perth for a couple of weeks. This was when the country was already besieged by bush fires, with the apocalyptic scenes very much
setting the tone for 2020.

Australia has always been on my list of places to travel to. But when I stopped watching Neighbours after a uni, a large part of the appeal for visiting the country had disappeared. I’d almost bypassed the country completely on my previous two trips to Australasia and gone straight to New Zealand. Anyway, 2020 would be the year I would finally go there.

I don’t know if I mentioned it much on here at the time, but it was really hot in Perth and I am unable to handle temperatures higher than about 30°C. A lot of people spend their time on the beach in Australia, whereas I was spending most of my time in the air-conditioned public library and the freezer aisle at the supermarkets.

I was also there to do shows and they weren’t quite as busy as I’d envisaged. My show was on at 9.30pm and I quickly learned that the centre of Perth pretty much empties of people before 9pm. Still, I managed to get an audience of at least 20 people every day and had larger audiences too. The shows were fun and covered the costs of my flights and accommodation.

The highlight of my time in Perth was a day trip to Rottnest Island. The sun was shining, the sands were white and the sea was clear. I rode it around on a bike probably would have got heat stroke had I not jumped fully clothed into the sea to cool off.

Next up, I went to Melbourne, which is a really cool city and somewhere I’d like to go back to at some point – probably in the Australian winter. From then, it was onto Sydney. I wasn’t a massive fan of the place. It was a bit too much of a generic city for me.

Then it was over to NZ. I did the Sky Jump off in Auckland again, 13 years after I did it the first time. When I did it in 2007, I’d never done anything like it before and got a massive buzz out of it. But having done several bungee jumps since then, being lowered from a platform 192m above the streets doesn’t get the blood pumping so much. Afterwards, I found a pub with numerous craft ales and proceeded to sample a number of them.

The main aim of my time in NZ was to visit places I’d not been to before. I went to Gisborne, which was okay but a bit boring apart from the local brewery. Next up, it was Napier. Apart from staying in a pretty horrible hostel, I really liked Napier. It’s got a totally different feel to any other place I’ve visited in NZ. The highlight was hiring a bike to ride to some vineyards.

Then it was off to Wellington to do shows at NZ Fringe. My hostel in
Wellington was horrendous. It stank, had no ventilation, and only three toilets for 30 rooms. Being hungover there was particularly torturous.

I had a great time at NZ Fringe with my two shows in 2019, so was back
for more of the same but doing four shows. They were great fun, but not quite as good as the previous year. I think people were starting to worry about the coronavirus, which ended up in the end of the festival being cancelled entirely.

I was also meant to be doing Dunedin Fringe, but my venue had fallen through in January and I couldn’t get a replacement sorted. As it turned out, the festival also ended up being pulled. Instead, I went down to Stewart Island and saw some kiwis in the wild.

By this point, the threat of Covid-19 was increasing by each day. Something that started out as a bit of a joke ended up turning into something that would take over the world. Amazingly, it didn’t really alter my trip. I would just fly home a day earlier than originally planned. But when I was in Christchurch, the flight board in my hostel just had multiple flights listed as cancelled. My flight went ahead and I got home without any problems or catching any viruses.

Since I arrived back home, my days have mostly been based around dog walking. I’ve watched all of Star Wars animation series Clone Wars and Rebels, as well as Umbrella Academy, Dark, The Boys, Watchmen, Better Call Saul, and most recently The Mandalorian.

For years, I had wanting to get into podcasting. Not because I really listened to many podcasts, but mainly as a potential revenue stream.

Anyway, I did it when I would have been performing in Edinburgh. I soon realised I didn’t like it. It was a lot of work for very little in return. I may do it again at some point, but only if I have a strong enough idea that excites me.

I’ve only done one gig since I finished my run in NZ. It was in October, I felt off the pace and didn’t really enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

Surprisingly, I haven’t really missed performing. It’s been a huge part of my life for ten years, yet I’ve actually enjoyed having a break from the stress of it all. I know the circuit will return at some point next year and I expect I’ll be performing again before too long, but some downtime has been welcome.

And next year, Ross Kemp: The Musical is coming. This has been the calm, that will be the the storm.

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Old stomping grounds

Of all the utterly bizarre things to happen in 2020, I would have said that a global pandemic was far more likely to happen than me helping to cover a news story for my old local paper.

As it turned out, both ended up happening this year. And for the first time since June 2009, I was reporting on a news story in the Cotswolds for the very same publication where I was once a trainee reporter.

It all happened on Sunday afternoon after I received a message from a mate who still works for the newsgroup. There had been some severe flooding in and around Cirencester and the paper needed some pictures from one of the villages badly hit.

With me being a freelance journalist, I can’t really afford to turn work down. And with them being a cash-strapped local paper, they don’t really have resources to employ more people to cover everything they need to.

So I jumped into action, via the supermarket as I’d run out of dog biscuits. It was a race against time to firstly get to the supermarket before it closed due to Sunday opening hours; and secondly to get to the village before the sun went down.

When I worked at the paper, I was often deployed as a deputy photographer when the actual photographer had another job on. I always much preferred taking pictures to writing stories, mainly because it was more fun and a lot easier.

But 11.5 years on, I was a little rusty with the practicalities of the job. I arrived on the scene to take some pictures of flooding, but was wearing trainers. I had to do some nifty hopping about to avoid getting too wet and managed to get some decent shots on my phone.

I got talking to village residents and found out more information that would make a great story. I passed on the details to the news desk, so hopefully something will come of it.

Despite the unfortunate circumstances of my deployment to cover the flooding, it reminded me how much I really used to enjoy getting out and reporting back in the day. There was just unfortunately a lot of other stuff that came with the job that I needed to leave behind.

Still, it’s always nice to remember the positive experiences instead of the negative ones.

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Standing up and locking down

The other week, I had my first comedy gig since 7 March. They say the secret to comedy is good timing. And I suppose it was, as England would be back in lockdown less than a week later.

It was the same venue in Bristol I performed at in May 2018, when I was in rich vein of form and had one of my best gigs from that year.

What a difference two and a bit years make. This time, the audience was socially distanced and there were no intervals, which is not ideal for a comedy gig due to the bladder needs of audiences. But such measures are necessary all the same.

The audience got very heckley towards the end of the opening act who had done 20 minutes. Not nasty heckles, just a bit weird and persistent. As a result, I arrived on stage and they were a little restless. I had to try and get things back on track and manage the people who were having their own private conversations.

I felt rusty and so did my throat, with it threatening to stop working at certain points due to the number of muscles I’ve neglected in the last eight months.

With so much going on, I wasn’t entirely happy with how my set went down. Certifiable gold fell flat in places. But the second half of my set went much better than the first half, which is always the better than the reverse.

It’s never a great feeling to return to the scene of a great gig and not doing as well the next time. Nevertheless, it was nice to be back on stage and it takes several gigs in over a number of weeks or months to return to form. I was expecting to feel the adrenaline again that you can get immune to if gigging regularly, although it never really kicked in.

I certainly hadn’t missed driving to gigs. In fact, the experience reminded me just how much I hate the driving side of things and the multiple stresses involved, not to mention motorway lane closures on the way home. And in all honesty, I haven’t missed the regular grind of the circuit in the slightest.

I don’t have anything else booked up and with the way things are going, it seems wise not to. As things stand, I have no idea when I’ll do another gig.

At the moment, my main priority in comedy is writing my Ross Kemp musical. That may seem like an absurd sentence because it is. The entire project is absurd, but I believe in the idea and have a good feeling about just where it might lead. The last show I had a similar feeling about ended up doing pretty well indeed.

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Edinburgh Fringe Archives: 2019

And now, our final stop in this series is 2019.

Last year was my first Fringe since 2011 where I was without a full-time job, as I left that at the end of July. Despite taking my Fringe runs as holiday for the three years preceding – and revelling in the freedom that brought – I still had to kind of be ‘on call’ if anything went wrong and couldn’t properly switch off. I didn’t miss that, but I did definitely miss the pay slip at the end of the month.

For accommodation, I was staying with a local down in Newhaven. It was right on the coast, so I would regularly go out and sit on the edge of the harbour and gaze out across the water to escape the Fringe madness. I paid £600 for the month and was only sharing with one other person. The website I used proved a great source for bargains. One of the things I am most disappointed in missing out on this year is that I’d already booked a room for about the same amount and it had an en suite. That would be an unheard of luxury.

After a turbulent Fringe in 2018, I just wanted to have some fun in 2019. My other aim was to get through the Fringe without any persistent bowel issues. I wasn’t going to be doing a new show, just HTWAPQ; although I would have a new theme and writing new material for it.

My original plan was to make it the European Edition, but I semi-bottled it. I thought people would be sick of hearing about Brexit after three years, plus I tried writing some material about Europe and it turned out that there was far too much to cover in an hour. But then far better educated people than me have also struggled to come up with anything on Europe in four years.

I also considered making it the Space Edition, but didn’t know if there was enough I could do with that – despite space being infinite. So I picked another option and went for the British Edition. It wasn’t the most inspiring choice, but most of the new material worked and it did give me a chance to finally use Queen in my music round.

This was for the midday show at Stand 2. I was also doing a late-night show at Stand 1. Nine years after first visiting The Stand to see Stewart Lee and thinking how much I’d love to do a show there one day, that’s just what I was doing. I may have used a cheat code with my gimmick, but it was still happening.

I initially asked if I could do one show in Stand 1, but was then offered seven shows there for the first week and a bit. I was in two minds about accepting, because I was concerned it could split my audience. In the end, I decided that it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. Very few get such an opportunity, especially with as low a profile as I have.

So for the first week and a bit, I was doing HTWAPQ shows at midday, then again at 11.40pm and finishing just after 1am. It was a ridiculous routine, but I’m definitely glad I did it as it was a totally new Edinburgh experience.

I wanted to test myself and see if I could scale the show up for a bigger room. And on the couple of nights when I was approaching 80, it was a wonderful thing. In fact, there was only one night that was a struggle with a few arseholes in attendance who kept chatting amongst themselves, but I got through it.

Unfortunately, my hunch about ticket sales was right. The midday show sold much stronger than the late night one.

For the late-night show, I didn’t go any lower than 20 people, which I would have been delighted with in the 2014 run. But when the room can seat 140, I really needed a few dozen more. I ended up losing about £100 from doing these late shows, which is still not a bad loss at a festival where many the losses made by many acts run comfortably into the thousands. And I made up for it with ticket sales from midday. Nevertheless, it still stings.

On the days I did double shows, there was a noticeable split in ticket sales. I had my lowest ever HTWAPQ midday audience in Edinburgh one day with 28. But if you added the 20 people who attended the late-night show, then I would have been close to selling out the 50 seater.

Once I’d finish the late-night run, ticket sales picked up noticeably for the remainder of the run. But that first week meant that I would miss out on another official sold-out Jpeg by 4%. It seems ridiculous to think of selling 91% of tickets as being a less successful Fringe, so I will now make a point of slapping myself in the face whenever I do this.

Apart from the odd flat day and arsey audience review (singular), the shows were good fun. I even managed to keep the show going during a power cut.

For me, Edinburgh Fringe was never meant to be about ticket sales. But I’ve just realised that it’s become that way. It was meant to be about trying out different ideas, experimenting, and creating something that’s hopefully fun and interesting. Success, and trying to cling onto that, kind of got in the way. Still, I consider myself incredibly lucky all the same.

If I was to never do another Edinburgh Fringe again, I could retire pretty satisfied with what I’ve achieved there. Three official sold-out runs isn’t a bad accomplishment at all.

I will return there, hopefully next year with a totally new show. I just need to write it first. And preview it multiple times. Oh, and the festival will need to be running too.

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Edinburgh Fringe Archives: 2018

Right, here it is: my account of the struggle that was the 2018 Fringe. I’ve given this enough hype.

I began 2018 with a renewed sense of purpose. If I was to get to where I wanted to be in comedy, I would need to write a lot more new material and do a lot more gigs. And so I did.

I was driving all over the place like never before. I did gigs all around Yorkshire, to Bristol, and down to my old uni stomping grounds of Portsmouth. I was even part of the world record for the longest continuous gig, which took place in Banbury. I was exhausted due to all the driving after work, but I was happier than I’d been in years with all the gigs.

For the first eight months of the year, I was probably doing the same amount of gigs per week that I regularly did in London. And barring one the odd duffer – one that comes to mind is getting stares of disdain from ‘established’ acts for doing new material at a gig that was for… new material and unpaid – the gigs were mostly going really well. Highlights include XS Malarkey in Manchester, Comedy Depot in Bristol, and a wood workshop in Nailsworth. Sadly, it wouldn’t last and something broke.

I was trying to write a new hour show. It was sort of coming together. However, I didn’t do enough previews. I did eight that were spaced out over five months. If all those eight had been in one month, it would have made a dramatic difference to the show.

I was doing two solo shows a day in Edinburgh. And for the new one, I was back at the Kilderkin and wasn’t worried about low audience numbers. After all, I had reigned supreme there in 2015. The Kilderkin conqueror was returning. I thought that if flyered my midday audience, I would be sure to get a healthy percentage to attend my later show. And I don’t know if I already mentioned it, but I did alright there in 2015.

The other show I was doing was a double-whammy of gimmicks. How To Win A Pub Quiz: 90s Edition. I was hoping to be back in Stand 6 for 2018, but a combination of factors meant that The Stand wasn’t running anything at The Place. And due to the decreased footfall caused by the empty void at St Andrew’s Square, it was running a considerably smaller number of shows. I was given a midday slot at Stand 2, which is a great room, albeit a 50-seater. And it was very sweaty. I would stink a lot in my 2018 shows; one from perspiration, and the other from the show more generally.

I’d added some new bits to HTWAPQ, but not done many previews as my focus had been on the new show. Despite this, HTWAPQ was going arguably better than ever. The shows were great fun and were packed every day. I ended up selling 99% of my tickets without handing out a single flyer or doing any promo. Such is the power of the double gimmick.

Yet all was not going so well in my other show over at the Kilderkin. In fact, this is an understatement. Some days were downright torturous. The show needed work, but I didn’t really have the time to sit down and figure it out. Although I would continue with the flyering, my heart wasn’t in it and some days I’d be hoping that no audience would show up so I wouldn’t have to do the show.

To give you an idea of my state of mind, this is something I wrote on my computer at the time but didn’t publish on here until the end of that year: “I don’t want to perform this show any longer. It is not fun. I am not getting anything out of it and it feels like I am banging my head against a brick wall a lot of the time. I hope that I’ll come out the other side.”

That is not to say that every show was dreadful. In fact, some days were actually pretty good when I had an audience and had done some rewriting. But with such number fluctuations, it was almost impossible to build any momentum with the show. I quickly lost faith in it and it often felt like a chore.

A particular low point was the total arse man incident. I call it this as the man involved was a total arse. There were seven people in on this particular day. He kept interrupting, then gesturing for me to get to the point in what I was saying. This was a lot harder to do when someone kept interrupting. He also left three times during the show to go to the bar; and refused to put any money in my bucket at the end. It’s a reminder of just how exposed you are to everything on the free fringes.

Talking of arses, another unpleasant association I have with the 2018 Fringe is that something was wreaking havoc on my bowels. This lasted for pretty much the entire duration of the Fringe. I’m still not entirely sure what caused it, as I wasn’t drinking much that year. In fact, I couldn’t really drink alcohol at all as it would cause unfortunate consequences; normally in the early hours of the morning.

The heat may have partly been to blame, because there was about six weeks before Edinburgh when the temperatures were unbearably hot and I would be driving for hundreds of miles to gigs. And at the Fringe, I was doing two shows most days, meaning a double shot of adrenaline that lasted an hour.

Some days, I would still be on the toilet mere minutes before I was due to go on stage. I honestly don’t know how I got through the month without pooing myself. I suppose that’s another success I can take from 2018, though.

As for accommodation, I was staying at a mate’s flat and paying £200 for the month, which was £800 less than I paid in 2017. He’s since stopped replying to my messages, which I can only assume is to avoid me asking to stay there again with my dodgy bowels. Seriously though, they’re fine now. Mostly.

I needed September off to recover, as the 2018 Fringe had left drained both physically and mentally. For October, November and December, I doubt I even I did 20 gigs. And for a year that had started off with such energy and determination ended at a gig in December to apathy in Audenshaw.

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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.