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NZ Fringe 2020 – Show three

I’m writing this while I’m waiting for my washing in a laundrette.

My hostel does have a washing machine, but I wouldn’t trust it based on everything else in that place.

Although it’s probably going to cost me twice as much at this laundrette, it at means that I can avoid spending time in that awful hostel and my clothes hopefully won’t come out smelling like rotten flesh. Actually, mouldy peanut butter is a far worse smell. So I will go with that instead. Just two more nights, just two more nights…

Onto show-related matters, I think I had about 36 people in last night. So, just over half full. I’ve never known an instance where the Wednesday and Thursday shows are busier than the ones on Friday and Saturday. But this is the situation I find myself in.

Attendances have been down across all my shows. I’m obviously not going to blame my lack or promo when I can blame other factors.

They were another good audience who all seemed to really enjoy it, with many saying nice things afterwards.

It’s my final show of the run tonight. At the moment, it’s looking like it’ll be the quietest. But it is a Saturday and people are around. And as I often say on here, you never truly know how something is going to go until it actually begins. 

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NZ Fringe 2020 – Show two

It is definitely quieter this year in Wellington as far as audiences go. I think that there are a few reasons for this.

There are meant to be more shows on this year, meaning potential audience reserves are spread further. And the coronavirus could also be making people stay in slightly more, probably to guard their mountains of toilet roll they’ve panic-bought.

And there is another reason that a lot of people who would have wanted to see my show already saw it last year.

It is a new quiz apart from two questions, even if I am using some of the same material to set things up for later. But for the most part, it’s a different set. So one mistake I probably made was not giving the show a secondary title.

I was called out on using a few of the same jokes by a reviewer from Art Murmurs. She gave me a glowing review last year and it’s nice she enjoyed it so much that she wanted to see what I was doing for it this year. But she also said she was disappointed I’d rehashed some of the content from last year.

I’m fully aware of how complacent and lazy the show has made me in terms of writing material. And this is why I’ve made the decision to write a totally new hour for Edinburgh next year and am likely to put HTWAPQ into storage. After six years, I could do with a new challenge. So I expect this year’s Edinburgh Fringe to be my last full run with HTWAPQ.

Nevertheless, the reviewer gave me some amazing quotes. Such as this pearl:

“Love appears to be the epitome of those times you are in the shower thinking, ‘Oh, it would have been really cool if I had said THAT’, the Armando Iannucci-ian repartee a skill I greatly admire.” 

Being likened in any capacity to Armando Iannucci is perhaps one of the biggest compliments anyone could pay me. I’m not quite sure what she means here though. If it’s Armando himself, or the shows that he writes. Because Alan Partridge is certainly an influence on my quiz host twat persona.

The second show last night was also a good one, even if I could feel it dip slightly somewhere in the middle of my set. I had about 40 in, which is 20 tickets from being sold-out.

Afterwards, I met up with my friend Chloe for a drink. And I managed to magically turn one pint into five. It was the most I’ve drank in one evening on my trip. My 22 year old self would be horrified, and likely suffering from a much worse hangover.

There, I can make it through an entry on here without moaning about my accommodation. Although I did have to resort to my other token subject of Edinburgh Fringe. 

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NZ Fringe 2020 – Show one, plus more accommodation gripes

Having completely sold-out both my shows at last year’s NZ Fringe, it was an simple decision to come back this year.

Only this time, ticket sales are much slower and I can say fairly confidentially that I am unlikely to match last year. Bizarrely, the first show on Wednesday night had the most presales, when it’s usually the weekends that are busiest.

There were 46 people in out of 60 for my first show, which is a decent number for midweek. And they were a great audience, so I cannot complain about the people who were there.

Tonight and tomorrow are looking about half full, which should pick up a bit nearer showtime.

My main concern is for Saturday. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect to sell more tickets at the weekend. Only at the moment, I’m barely scraping double figures. I’ve since learned that this is probably because it clashes with Wellington Pride.

Hopefully it’ll pick up, but you never really can tell. In any case, I will try to put on the best show for whoever does buy a ticket.

Now it’s time for a moan about my accommodation. If I thought it couldn’t get any worse then I was very much mistaken.

The hostel I’m staying in is appalling. It actually feels more like a prison. There’s no ventilation in the rooms and the windows don’t open, so there’s no fresh air. There is a fan contraption thing in my room, which I have going on all the time to avoid suffocating.

My room also has a musty smell to it, much like the long-abandoned attic of an elderly relative.

There are three male toilets between 50 rooms.

The showers have has their tap outside the shower curtain. And I’m fairly sure the nozzle on the shower I used on my first night is from an actual garden hose.

The kitchen has flies buzzing everywhere, and this evening there was a mountain of washing up in the sink that had been abandoned, topped with a bowl that contained some watery tinned spaghetti.

There is a cleaner I see every day. But I have no idea exactly what he does, as the same stains and grey clumps of hair and miscellaneous other matter remain fixed. I’m starting to think he could also be a figment of my imagination.

It is completely my fault for booking the cheapest option on Expedia before doing any research into it.

There is a plus side to all of this. Before I arrived, I had been trying to extend my stay here by email. Fortunately, I wasn’t able to do so.

Within two minutes of arrival, I knew there was no way I’d be extending my stay. I booked somewhere else for the extra nights, but I’ve since found out that this new place also has a similarly poor reputation.

I’m now counting down the days I have left in this toilet bowl, before I’ll have somewhere else to complain about. Just four more nights, just four more nights…

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Napier

From having my own room and bathroom, I am now back to the world of hostels. Around me, I can see paint peeling off the ceilings, and tears in the wallpaper covered up with gaffer tape.

And it’s also back to questionable hygiene, with clumps of miscellaneous food clogging the kitchen sinks and dried poo smeared on the wall of toilet cubicles. In fairness, I’m glad it’s not the other way around.

Still, at least the owner doesn’t sit about four feet away to my right and talk at me as I’m trying eat the breakfast he’s cooked.

This is my first visit to Napier and it is now one of my favourite places in New Zealand.

The weather has been good and it’s right next to the beach, even if the currents are too dangerous to swim in most places. There are a couple of points where it is safe. Although Napier has pebble beaches, which I normally prefer to sand. But some of these pebbles are small and coarse and the rocks can be very sharp. I tried to go for a swim, cut my toe on a jagged rock, then had second thoughts.

It’s famous for its 1930s art deco architecture. But for me, there’s very much a 1950s feel about the place, with some cars from that era also driving around town.

If they wanted to remake Back to the Future, Napier would a make perfect Hill Valley. It’s even got two town squares to choose from.

Although they can’t remake Back to the Future as Bob Gale will stop anyone from doing so, and I think this is ultimately a good thing. That said, if Taika Waititi directed it and set it in Napier, I would certainly want to see it.

As for what I’ve been doing, I hired a bike on two occasions. One involved a 30km round trip down the coast to a couple of vineyards to try some red wine. As I was cycling, I handily sweat off the alcohol, so there were no safety issues with that at all.

The second bike ride involved going up the other side of the coast. I went through some wetlands, got slightly lost, then the chain on my bike fell off three times. I preferred the vineyard ride.

I have ridden a bike more in the last month than in the previous 15 years combined. I never intended to boycott bikes, let alone for this long. It wasn’t a case of forgetting how to ride one, more that I may have forgotten to ride one.

As I write this, I can also hear bagpipes being played. Because if they weren’t being played then I wouldn’t be able to hear them.

This is the fouth separate location on my trip I’ve heard the distinctive Scottish instrument. First in Perth then in Melbourne, next in Auckland, and now Napier. I’ve never managed to track down who’s playing them. I’m fairly sure they’re being played by different people, although it would both be funny and quite sinister if I was being stalked by a phantom bagpiper. Then there is also the possibility that – by doing Edinburgh Fringe so many times – when I’m tired, my brain makes me hear bagpipes. Sort of like a more pleasant form of tinnitus.

I’m getting a bus to Wellington in a couple of hours and my shows start again on Wednesday. 

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Gisborne

In many of the entries this year, I’ve complained about how hot it’s been. That all changed in Gisborne.

I had to get a taxi when I arrived because there are no airport buses in Gisborne. The driver said there hadn’t been any rain for two weeks. Well, never fear. Because when I turn up and I’m wearing my shorts, rain usually isn’t too far behind.

And sure enough, it started raining within hours of my arrival and has been doing so a fair amount since. At times, it was torrential.

This week marks the first time since my first day in Perth on 14 January that I’ve not had to apply layers of sun-cream before venturing outside. It also marks the first time in about six weeks that I’ve worn any trousers. I should add that I have been wearing shorts.

If it’s warm enough to wear shorts and not get sunburnt without wearing sun cream, then those are perfect conditions for me.

I’d never been to Gisborne before and I liked it more every day I spent there. When I walked through the town centre on Saturday afternoon, most places were closed and everything looked fairly dead.

I then explored a bit further and there’s a lot of stuff to like there such as the scenery along the coastline and local brewery.

I was hoping to go surfing, but conditions weren’t really suitable for it. The sea was a bit too choppy. And considering I haven’t surfed in almost 24 years, I can hardly claim to be at the the peak of my surfing abilities.

For three out of the last four days in Gisborne, I ate fish and chips. This wae mostly out of convenience as I didn’t have access to a kitchen. As much as I like eating it, I could do with a bit of variety. Fortunately, I was getting all the other necessary dietary nutrients from the hefty breakfast at the B&B I was staying in. It’s back to hostels now, and likely sardines and pasta.

Next week, I’ll be performing again in Wellington. 

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Auckland

When I arrived in Auckland in 2007, life felt full of fun, adventure and possibilities.

It was my first time on my own in another country, thousands of miles away from home.

I can’t remember exactly how I spent my days then. I do recall that there was a lot of walking around looking for places to get a fry-up from cafes recommended in Lonely Planet.

I do remember going to the backpacker bar in the basement of my hostel most nights, so a good chunk of my days were likely taken up with hangovers. This also explains the meed for fry-ups. Sadly, the backpacker bar has now closed. But I’ll always have the memories, or lack of them.

In February 2007, I even managed to do three standup gigs in Auckland. A tally I have thus far been unable to top in this city as it’s now pretty much impossible to get a response to emails. But maybe after that poor third gig I’ve been forever blacklisted.

One thing I have been able to do after 13 years was the jump off Auckland Sky Tower.

The Sky Jump is not really a bungee.  You’re just lowered really quickly to the ground with a harness. It is 192 metres though.

In 2007, this was the first thing like this I’d ever done. I have a vivid memory of stepping off the platform with nothing beneath my feet, which is a good metaphor for a couple of decisions I’ve made in life.

Thirteen years later, it was still fun but a little tame compared with the Nevis bungee out of a cable car in Queenstown.

I was originally hoping to bring my show to Auckland Fringe, but was unable to get one of those pesky venues sorted by the registration deadline.

Other than the Sky Jump, I haven’t done a massive amount in my four days here. Although yesterday, I found a craft ale bar and had to sample three pints with my fish and chips. And today, I walked up to Mt Eden today to see the volcano and views of the city.

Tomorrow, I head to Gisborne. I’ve not been there before, so can tick off another part of NZ I’ve been to. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do some surfing for the first time since 1996.

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Sydney

Wherever possible, I try and avoid staying in hostel dorm rooms. This is mainly for the sake of my sanity and to avoid getting woken up at stupid hours by total strangers. Although I found this much less of a problem when I was normally drunk and aged 22.

To save a bit of money in Sydney, I stayed in a capsule/pod hostel. I’ve stayed in them in Singapore and Christchurch and that curtain and three walls provide some much-needed privacy.

It doesn’t necessarily stop you being woken up though. On one night in Sydney, the lady in the pod above mine was shouting several times. I expect she was having a nightmare and it had nothing to do with me being in the bunk below.

Not only this, but my bed was right next to the six lockers, meaning that I was regularly disturbed by the sound of doors closing. Earplugs only get you so far.

Another thing was that the kitchen only had two saucepans and two frying pans. This dramatically limits the number of people that can be cooking at any one time.

And they also had the genius rota of closing both bathrooms for cleaning at around 10pm, at the exact time when many wanting an early night need to use them.

I’ll be honest, I probably won’t return there.

In terms of a city, Sydney is fine. Albeit very touristy. And I added to the tally by doing the standard tourist things of visiting the Sydney Opera House and the Habour Bridge.

My travels so far have has mainly been confined to cities, which is all well and good but are not really the best place for adventures. This is partly due to me having to scrap my drive along the south Australian coast. Although I’m sure I’d find something to moan about wherever I was, especially with a car involved. And these annoyances have a habit of occurring when you’re trying to do it on the cheap.

A perfect example is that I’m now staying in a cheap hotel in Auckland and have a group of noisy twats staying on the same corridor.

I think it’s safe to say that I like the idea of travelling more than the reality. It’s always better in my head. Cheaper too, but still with the gripes. 

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Melbourne

The temperature in Melbourne has been thankfully much cooler than Perth.

I’ve been here for a week as a tourist. As it turns out, there was a comedy club two minutes walk from my hotel. I was planning on turning up on the new material night to see if I could do a spot. Then I decided to go for a curry instead. This pretty much sums up where my head is at with comedy at the moment.

I did the classic tourist things of the zoo and botanic gardens. I also went to the beach at St Kilda’s and went in the sea for slightly longer than Rottnest, but not by much.

I did think about going on the Neighbours tour, having watched it for almost 20 years. During my late teens and early 20s, it was an ambition of mine to live in Australia and write episodes of Neighbours for a living. The show was a huge part of my time at uni, with it sometimes taking priority over lectures. Sadly, once it moved to Channel 5, I stopped watching and the dream died.

This week was also the 20th anniversary of my school production of Return to the Forbidden Planet.

I was happy to let this anniversary pass me by, only to randomly walk into a gift shop in a Melbourne mall and for the song Young Girl by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap to start playing. Although the lyrics to the song are unquestionably dodgy and these days would likely result in Mr Puckett and his union receiving a visit from the police as a precaution, the song is synonymous with Return to the Forbidden Planet. For some reason, it is that one song above all the others in it that transports me back to my fondest time at secondary school as I had never heard it before I did RTTFP. When the unremarkable quiet boy in the corner somehow ended up getting the lead role in a school production, mainly by being one of about four or five boys willing to act.

I’m now on the bus heading to Sydney next for more touristy things. I’m already looking forward to visiting the aquarium, paying close attention to the cephalopods.

In other news, I have now officially dropped out of Dunedin Fringe. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a replacement venue sorted in time. It’s a shame, but I’m going to make the most of the extra time I have in NZ. I also have another plan to make up for some of the other lost earnings with something journalistic, but it hasn’t been commissioned just yet.

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Rottnest Island

Yesterday, I went to Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth. I probably wouldn’t have gone there if my sister hadn’t have bought me a voucher for the ferry for Christmans. But I’m glad I did as it made a refreshing change from my normal routine. I use the word ‘refreshing’ here in a limited sense as it was about 35°C, with no cloud cover and I was on riding around the island on a bike.

After cycling for about 4km, the heat got too much. I stopped for a rest, only to find a deserted white sands beach. I took off my shorts and my socks and jumped into the sea, still with my cycle helmet on. My t-shirt and pants were soaked, but it was exactly what I needed and cooled my body temperature down instantly. I timed it just right, as a group of eight people arrived just as I was about to set off again, albeit with a prominent damp patch seeping through my shorts.

When I stopped at a cafe for lunch, the 8km of cycling started in the heat to make me feel a bit light-headed. Fortunately, a couple of carbonated drinks and some fish and chips sorted me out.

I’m happy to say that there was no repeat of the debacle in Madeira. And I didn’t fall off my bike or have glares of contempt from the rest of the group who I was holding back with my ineptness at mountain biking.

Rottnest Island is famous for the quokka, which are like tiny kangaroos. They’re about the same size as house cats.

Unfortunately, Tourism Western Australia is actively encouraging visitors to find one and have their picture taken with it. Visitors are not allowed to touch or feed quokkas, but it doesn’t stop people bothering them.

I saw one tourist practically straddling the poor animal to try and take a picture with it. He didn’t touch it, I might add. But it made me feel very uncomfortable. Pictures of animals are always made infinitely worse when a human insists on also having their face in the shot.

I refuse to use the s-word for this practice as it I detest it and it is never appearing in anything I write. I was taking these sorts of pictures with disposable cameras more than 15 years ago. I didn’t take an inane picture, take a look at it, then take another one of exactly the same thing, then repeat this multiple times. Admittedly, my picture may have been inane. But I at least had the decency to not repeat the same thing over and over.

The practice is manufacturing moments in time that used to be captured so much more authentically in one shot. I love photography, but hate how it’s been bastardised by social media for sake of likes. That’s enough of that rant for now.

Another thing from yesterday is that I now know my factor 50 sun-cream definitely works. The only thing is that I didn’t put enough of it on around the base of my neck, where today there is a prominent red line.

Thankfully, this red line is not joined by a cricket ball sized, raw lump of the same colour on my inner thigh from all the cycling that I had the day after my Madeira ride.

Today, it’s 42°C outside. So I’m back to my normal routine of writing in the air-conditioned library. Next, I’ll be going to the supermarket, before returning to the hostel to eat some sardines and pasta. I’ve only got another two days left in Perth, but can’t say I’ll be sad to end this routine.

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Perth Fringe 2020 – Shows eight and nine

Back to the shows, I had about 33 in for the penultimate night. And it was good, even if I didn’t feel entirely on top of my ad-libbing game.

The final show was the busiest by some way, almost doubling my largest audience with 68 people booking tickets in advance in a room that seats 70, although four people didn’t show up. I was expecting to sell at least a few on the door given the previous few days. Alas, it was not to be and that elusive sold-out status was agonisingly just out of reach.

I put the whiteboards and pens for the quiz under the seats before the show, as I do in Edinburgh. It was the first time in the run I’ve done this as I knew where people would be sitting due to the full room. Previously, I’d asked the show runner to hand them out during the show. However, this extra pre-show admin meant I had forgotten to put my essential prop of my facts bell on the stage, meaning I had to go off stage during the show to get it out of my bag.

This was after there was a cock-up with the radio mic, so the audience couldn’t hear my announcement to welcome me to the stage. I decided to go off stage and do it again. Admittedly, I’ve done slicker shows.

The audience were a lively bunch, bordering on rowdy at times. There was a persistent heckler in the second row who I had to take down and also deduct points from.

All in all, it’s been a decent run. The shows have all been fun and the people who came all seemed to enjoy it. But there’s been the nagging frustration of it being quieter than I’ve become used to.

That said, I shouldn’t complain too much. Many other shows have struggled this year and many of these have had to cancel performance due to no audience. I also didn’t really do as much to promote the show as I would normally do at a festival, mainly due to the heat and to avoid getting ill. I think ticket sales should have covered my flights and accommodation and should have a bit left after that.

I was planning on using the shows to come up with some new bits. However, life events got in the way, and I mostly ended up sticking with the tried and tested.

I’ve been asked a couple of times if I’d do the Perth festival again. And at the moment, I’m undecided. It’s a decent festival in a really nice city. If I’d sold-out every night and made a huge profit, I expect I would definitely come back. I’d also consider doing it if I was working through a new show for Edinburgh, so that by the start of February I would already have about ten previews under my belt.

Another factor is that I don’t actually know what I’m going to be doing or where I’m going to be post-Edinburgh. I am still expecting to have to start applying for full-time jobs again then.

I have another four nights in Perth. Tomorrow, I’m getting the ferry over to Rottnest to do some exploring, and possibly even some bike riding. I just hope it’s not as traumatic as what happened in Madeira.