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Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – Days 9, 10 and 11

For the past five minutes, I have been trying to work out what days this combined entry is meant to cover.

It doesn’t help that I write for the previous day and am pretty sure I’ve already messed it up. I think it should be days nine, ten and 11. Yeah, we’ll go with that.

This is an obvious sign that the Fringe has properly gotten to my mind. Time passes differently up here, it both goes very quickly but seems like to lasts for years. It’s similar to Narnia, just with fewer religious connotations.

With Megan’s scornful words fresh in my mind, I set about putting on the best show I could. I know this show is much better than she gave it credit for, my bucket takings are proof of this. People tend not to put very much money in for shows that aren’t very good. I should know, I’ve done plenty of these.

My faith/delusion was proved correct with a really lovely gig, with another full room and lots of nice comments afterwards. I made £78 in the bucket, so not a bad haul for a Monday. I’ve also had a really positive audience review added that is quite a contrast from Megan’s. Thanks to Ellis for this.

Wednesday marked the midway point for the Fringe. At the exact midway point last year, I had my worst show of the entire run. In 2014, there were 15 people in and the overwhelming theme was apathy. I made £8 in my bucket, with a few small packets of Refreshers someone had thrown in.

So it was quite a surprise yesterday when not only did I have a full to capacity room, but I also made my record bucket takings with £99. It was agonisingly close to the triple figure target I have set myself to achieve in at least one show before the end of the run, but I’ve still got time.

For both Mondays and Wednesdays gigs, I had some really vocal middle-aged people sitting at the front who wanted to get involved. I had a lot of fun and Wednesday’s sketch between two panto performers was both the weirdest and most enjoyable I have had so far.

This show does rest and fall on the audience I have in. If they want to get involved and give me something to riff off, then it tends to go amazingly. If they’re reluctant to engage, then things don’t go so well. And for the most part, I have been really lucky with my audiences. I’ve also covered my rent for my flat and am getting very close to being in the black for the first time ever at the Fringe. If the second half of my run goes as well as the first, then I will be delighted.

I am now officially on holiday from work, so can put more energy into my show. I am also going to make an effort to see as many shows as I can.


Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – Day 8

I have found my first audience review on the official Fringe site and I get the impression that Megan didn’t enjoy the show very much.

“This is a tedious hour peppered with weak jokes that are delivered charmlessly. If, like me, you come because you’re a pub quiz lover, then it fails to deliver (although it manages to retain the worst part, i.e. the waiting around while scores are added up). There are a few potentially interesting facts but not enough, and the quiz element itself has answers that are for laughs rather than knowledge. That would be acceptable if they were funny, but when we’re at the Bruce-Forsyth-is-old level, it’s clear this format isn’t going anywhere.”

I appreciate you taking the time to write your critique Megan, but I refer to Bruce as being biologically immortal. It’s totally different. I’ve been doing comedy long enough to know that not everyone is going to like what I do. But I’ll happily take one snotty review from a punter in return for eight full-houses in shows that have mostly been well-received, plus a potential corporate booking.

From eight shows so far, two have been flat and I’m guessing Megan was at one of those. Sometimes things just don’t work. The feedback I’ve had from many other punters has been overwhelmingly positive so far and it’s always nice to hear people talking amongst themselves afterwards saying how much they enjoyed it, as well as bumping into people around the Fringe who’ve been to see the show and stopped to talk to me about it.

Yesterday’s show was the first one to have no-one standing at the back, but all the seats were full. Maybe they’re starting to believe Megan’s hype, so I am at least grateful to her for possibly giving me less admin.

I also needed a quieter show after my adventures on Saturday night. It was more laidback and I did a lot more freewheeling than I have done previously this year, finding a couple of new lines that work in the process. Nevertheless, the show went very well and the audience were ideal. They were both receptive to the jokes and keen to get involved.

I have two days left of working remotely, before I am officially on holiday and can focus all my efforts on my show.


Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – Day 7

You know you’ve had a heavy night when you wake up fully clothed in a pile of washing on your bedroom floor.

I am feeling a little worse for wear today after a few too many pints both during and after my show yesterday. I was bought three by punters during the show itself, which was probably a bad idea but I can’t turn these things down.

The show was decent yesterday, but there were too many people trying to cram themselves in and this made some of them a bit restless. Well, that and their alcohol intake. Not all of the material worked and a few things fell a bit flatter than usual.

Despite it not going as well as previous shows, I still made £82 in the bucket plus three pints at £4 each, which I don’t really count in the haul.

I have yet to do a gig properly hungover so far in Edinburgh, as I don’t function very well in this state. I’m hoping my old friends of adrenaline and Lucozade will get me through it. Then again, I had one of my best shows ever last year after feeling groggy due to one of my flatmates leaving the gas on in my flat for about seven hours. However you feel before the show, you never really know how it’s going to pan out.

Seven shows in, seven full houses, I’ve made about £500 so far and had more than 100 people physically unable to get in. I think it’s fairly safe to say that my first week at the Fringe has been pretty successful, I just need to spend less of my takings on beer.


Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – Day 6

I’m aware that the blog this year probably isn’t particularly interesting, as things going well are never as much fun to read. This year is a stark contrast with my torment in 2011 and demoralisation in 2013, but I’m still grateful for those awful experiences as I learnt a lot from them.

In a sign of how different this year is, the other day when I was flyering it was very windy. There was a homeless man sitting on the corner of the street up the hill and when he got up to walk off, he left an unwanted old pair of jeans on the pavement that he’d just changed out of.

Suddenly, a gust of wind blew them straight at me. I saw them just in time and nimbly jumped out of their way. In previous years, these jeans would have probably blown straight into my face.

Onto show matters, six shows in and I am still turning people away as there is no room. The show went really well, with another excellent crowd.

A few things did go wrong and I was having a few issues with my MP3 player again. So I had to use my phone instead, which messed up the order with my music round. Despite these small hitches, I broke my bucket record with an unbelievable £93.

When I came up to the Fringe this year, I was thinking that the second How To Win A Pub Quiz would be the format’s last hurrah. But based on my experience here so far, I may well have a format on my hands that people really want to see and one that I don’t have to flyer for hours to get an audience. On the Fringe, this is not to be sniffed at. But as I keep saying, it’s still early days and I’m always bracing myself for something going wrong at some point.

In another ridiculous turn of events, I received an email yesterday asking me to do my show at a corporate gig in front of 200 people. Considering my show was only designed for hopefully 20 people in the Kilderkin, this is a pretty massive jump. I would need to make a few revisions for a crowd of 200, but I reckon it could work pretty nicely.


Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – Days 4 and 5

This is all getting a bit ridiculous and not how I expect my Fringes to go.

After five shows, I can report that I have had five full-houses and been turning people away at every one.

After having Tuesdays already booked off, I defied Black Wednesday with a great crowd that was probably my favourite show so far. The audience really wanted to get involved from the off and were throwing all sorts of weird curveballs at me, whether it be listing immortal creatures in fiction, or questioning my use of ‘who’ when it should be ‘what’ in the quiz. They were great.

Then again, Thursday’s wasn’t too shabby either. They also really wanted to take part. The material was probably better received on Wednesday, but there were still a lot of big laughs in the show and I did better in the bucket than the previous day.

Due to its location, I think that a full-house at the Kiderkin means a lot more than a full-house at a central venue. It is quite a trek from the main hub and people do make an effort to get there. I feel bad for the people who have made this trek on two separate days, but still not been able to get in.

The show has already surpassed my expectations by a long way. Still, I’m going to take each show as it comes and not take anything for granted. There’s always the possibility that I end up with no audience for the rest of my run, and I’m only ever one show away from a one-star review from ThreeWeeks. But so far, yeah, it’s been alright hasn’t it?


Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – Day 3

From three gigs, yesterday continued the trend and saw me get another full-house, with people crammed in at the back and others being turned away on the door. It’s still a very surreal experience.

Tomorrow is what is known as ‘Black Wednesday’, supposedly the quietest day of the Fringe. It will be interesting to see how many punters I get in the door then. I am going to bet myself some chocolate digestives that my record will fall.

The show yesterday was decent, but the crowd took a little while to get into gear. The material has gone much better before, and I hope it will again.

There are few technical things I need to sort out for my show. The first being problems with my cheap MP3 player that I bought to replace the cheap MP3 player I thought I’d lost but then found again.

A few parts of the show need music playing and the new MP3 player turns its volume down automatically, supposedly to protect eardrums. It’s difficult to time a joke when you know that the punchline rests on whether the sound will be loud enough when you press play. So I am going to replace the replacement MP3 player with the MP3 player that the replacement was bought to replace. I hope you’re following this.

Yesterday, I also couldn’t find the bucket and seven or eight people fled without putting any money in it at the end. The swines. I ended up with £49, which is still a fairly respectable amount compared with previous years but disappointing compared with how this Fringe has started. Still, as long as I have enough money for a pint and a pizza after the show then I’m happy.

The other technical thing I need to improve is the distributing of board rubbers to the back of the room. In the past two shows, I have thrown them and ended up hitting two women on the head.

These incidents were on different days and thankfully neither of them was hurt. I should make clear that it wasn’t my intention to hit them on the head. Nevertheless, this is not the sort of act I am aiming to be. Although I think that most of the problem comes with the aiming.


Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – Day 2

In a ridiculous turn of events, my show was again full to capacity yesterday and I had to turn an almost entire audience away.

This being my fourth year at the Kilderkin and having really struggled for audience at previous shows there, having people filling half the pub to queue before my show starts is something that is taking a bit of getting used to.

One of the downsides of having a full room is that the quiz is a lot more difficult to do as there are more people and a limited about of whiteboards and pens, but this is a problem I can live with. The quiz still needs work, but I think I’m just about getting there.

The show itself felt a bit flatter than the previous day, I didn’t feel quite as sharp and some of my audience interactions didn’t go quite so well. Sundays do tend to be a bit quieter than Saturdays, although I’ve done many gigs that disprove this. But saying that, I still made £75 in the bucket at the end, and people said some very nice things afterwards.

For the second day in a row, I was also bought a pint by an audience member. It wasn’t on stage this time, unfortunately. But it was still appreciated, especially as the bloke said he would be telling all his friends to come along.

It’s going to be interesting to see how audience numbers go over the next week. There will inevitably be a dip midweek, so I’m bracing myself for that. But you can never truly know with the Fringe being the Fringe.


Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – Day 1

For my first show of this year’s Fringe, something unprecedented happened. I had to turn at least 30 people away from my show as there wasn’t enough room.

I was astonished to get to the venue after flyering to find people already queuing the length of the bar. I had to fight my way through the crowds as I couldn’t get in.

When I did get into my room to set things up, who should I find in there clearing out the glasses? Only bloody Paul Langton, doing the donkey work he seems to crave. Luckily, he also stood on the door to turn people away.

The venue only seats around 45, with about another 15 people crammed in standing at the back and sides. One of the latecomers was asking someone in the front row what they wanted to drink. I told them fairly rudely to get me a pint. Amazingly, a few minutes later they reappeared with a pint for me. It was clear evidence that being an arsehole gets you things.

I had a record 12 teams in the pub quiz, with teams at the front having to write on pieces of paper as I only have ten whiteboards.

In my show last year, there were days when it took the audience a bit of time to adjust to the whimsicality. It also took me a few shows to find my feet with it all. But for the first show this time, I hit the ground running and the audience ‘got it’ almost straight away. They were a great crowd and the more involved the audience gets in the show, the more fun it is.

I’ve never had to turn people away from a show before and there’s a chance that it may not happen again, but it’s certainly something I can add to my list of comedy achievements. It goes on the list to join being flashed at and performing dressed as a giant inflatable penis.

I’m well aware of two factors causing this flood of people being the first Saturday of the Fringe and the opening show of the run. I am fairly certain that not every show will be this full.

I think being listed in the main Fringe brochure this year did make a difference, but I’ll know by how much at the end of the run.

I also know full well that the punters were there for the pub quiz and not to see me, but that’s fine. As long as they’re there, that’s the main thing at the moment. Once I have them, they are mine. All mine.

I made my second highest ever takings in the collection bucket of £82, which would have been far higher had I been able to fit everyone in who wanted to come.

So, it wasn’t a bad start for my 2015 Edinburgh Fringe at all. There were a few things that didn’t go as I hoped and areas I can improve, so I can potentially have even better shows when everything goes as intended. Then again, I also know that you’re only ever one gig away from dying on your arse.

  • How To Win A Pub Quiz II: Advanced Edition runs Aug 8-29 (except Tuesdays) at the Kilderkin, 18.15, venue 227.

Let the madness commence

The only things you can really guarantee in a month at Edinburgh Fringe is that it will rain some point and you’ll find yourself hating drama students, you’ll also get fatigued and probably get ill.

I am writing this on the eve of my fifth straight year doing the full-run. When I write it like it out like that, I tell myself that I should probably have an actual holiday instead of a gruelling August walking the cobbled streets of Auld Reekie (that’s a nickname for Edinburgh I am showing-off knowing).

I don’t know what the next three and a bit weeks are going to hold. Hopefully they will see lots of audience at my show and many laughs, but I know that both of these are far from certain.

Since I wrote my last entry, I have had another two previews. One was in Balham as part of the Free Fringe weekender. When I did it last year, I had a decent time-slot of 6.40pm and had six people in. This year, I was on about three hours earlier so I was expecting a quiet gig. But that’s fine, I’m perfectly happy to perform in front of crowds of two or three.

However, when I got to the venue, the show before me was absolutely packed and I heard that numbers had been strong for everyone else.

I ended up getting around 40 or 50 people in, which was a phenomenal turn-out for mid-afternoon on a Sunday. Top marks to Chris Coltrane for running the weekend and not only getting in masses of punters, but also working himself flat-out over three days to make sure that everything ran amazingly.

My preview itself started very slowly, with material that has served me well for the past few months getting either a muted response, or no response at all. As things went on, the audience got louder in their laughter the more I got them involves.

It was useful having a largely sober crowd, as it makes you work harder and think more carefully about how you can improve the material.

My final preview was at the venue where we ran Ruby’s, with the audience mostly consisting of the same people who used to attend those shows. The show was a bit of a shambles, with my mind being all over the place but it was good fun and the material mostly worked nicely.

The quiz is the main thing that needs the most work. I spent Saturday night back home and went down to collect some thoughts over a pint at Stroud Brewery. This one pint magically turned into five and talking to the bar staff about The Darkness and having to describe who East 17 were. I think I have something resembling a decent quiz now, but haven’t looked at the scrap of paper since leaving the brewery.

I am definitely to most disorganised I have been going into a Fringe, but this is a good thing. Over-polished comedy shows lack soul. Uncertainty is exciting and where magic can happen. It can also lead to horrendous things, but I’m choosing to be optimistic.


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far way… in zone 2

This weekend, I had the Star Wars Secret Cinema to look forward to.

Unlike the Back to the Future one, I was actually going to get dressed up in a suitable outfit. And after spending an afternoon traipsing around various fabric and charity shops in Walthamstow, I had got my costume together costing about a tenner.

So my plan for the weekend was to have a quiet night on Friday, get some writing done during the day on Saturday and go to Secret Cinema, then do an Edinburgh preview in Balham on Sunday afternoon.

Just as I was about to leave the office on Friday, I remembered that I needed to print my ticket. However, when I saw the date on my ticket I realised that I hadn’t booked for Saturday at all. I had actually booked for Friday. I haven’t had much luck with this event, first I booked a child’s ticket in my excitement, and then I forget exactly when I’m meant to be there.

The problem with getting everything organised for my Edinburgh show and now having more responsibilities at work is that anything that doesn’t fall into one of those categories can get overlooked.

I thought about heading back to my house to get my outfit, but this would probably delay me by about an hour and a half. So I had to head straight there in my civilian clothes. Well, I say ‘civilian clothes’, but I was actually wearing a niche Star Wars reference t-shirt for Tosche Station power converters. And to think, I’d spent all that time perfecting my Jar Jar Binks look for nothing.

The event was talking place at an old printing works in Canada Water. The organisers had impressively recreated a wretched hive of scum and villainy in the place where they used to print the Daily Mail. I don’t know if this was intentional, but it certainly gives the whole thing a satirical slant.

The scope of the event is huge, taking in space travel, Tatooine and a space station, not a moon. They’ve done a great job recreating the look and feel of the Star Wars universe, looking around you know exactly the world you’re meant to be in.

Actors in costumes were walking around throughout proceedings, re-enacting certain points in the films. It’s always a thrill to see Stormtroopers, Boba Fett and Darth Vader, even if they aren’t the real ones.

The most impressive moment is when [spoiler alert] they re-enact the attack on the first Death Star, with the trench run featuring a full-sized X-wing suspended from the ceiling and moving around as if it’s actually flying.

In many ways, it was a lot easier for the Back to the Future event they did. The film was set on Earth, with clothes, technology and vehicles having really existed in the 1980s or 1950s, apart from the time-travelling ones. Star Wars is almost the exact opposite, with everything having been created specifically for that universe.

It was always going to take a lot to top Back to the Future and I applaud the Secret Cinema team for their ambition in realising such a massive project.

There is no getting away from the cost for a ticket. It is £80. And the more money you spend on things, the higher your expectations are. I enjoyed Back to the Future more, mainly because it was a bit more laid back. You had a chance to explore and take in the surroundings. Although you can spend a fair amount of time exploring Mos Eisley with this event, it did feel a bit like you were being ushered around. I can understand that though, it was inevitable with such a gargantuan undertaking.

But if you’re a Star Wars fan, you will find a lot of stuff to enjoy. If I could go again at a discounted rate, I definitely would. If I can also get my voided child ticket upgraded and pay another £20, then I would also go again. I’ll make sure I wear my costume, even if it involves wearing it to work.