With the remnants of 2014 fast slipping away, I will now summarise the past 365 days. Also, I am still back home and am running out of things to do.
The past 12 months have seen me dress up as giant inflatable penis, be God, and do my first ever hour show for the full-run in Edinburgh. All of these relate to comedy. Obviously, I have done some other stuff in the real-world, but that shouldn’t be of any interest to you if you value my mystique.
As with most years, 2014 began with January. I fulfilled a long time ambition by performing at The Stand in Edinburgh. The gig also happened to be a belter.
Ruby went, then came back and then went again. I have a feeling it’ll be back every now and then, sooner rather than later.
The highlight of my year was my Edinburgh show. Doing a solo show was all new and I had no idea how it would all turn out. Although it could have been improved and the final show was an anticlimax, the whole run went much better than I can have ever hoped.
In other good news, I am now a matter of hours away from being rid of my #Joke365 curse. If I’d actually had the time to sit down and write every day, I would expect to have written a better standard of jokes. A lot of what I have churned out has been poor and they have often been written just before I am going to bed. I have been deprived of sleep for this stupid challenge, but probably have a handful of decent jokes that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
This year, I have learnt a lot and had some really great gigs. I have also done some horrendous gigs, but sheer belligerence and delusion usually has seen me find a way to enjoy most of them.
2014 has been a very good year for me. I intend to do all in my capabilities to make 2015 even better.
At the start of this year, I set myself three comedic targets and am only likely to meet two of them with the days of 2014 now dwindling.
As Meatloaf once said, two out of three ain’t bad. At least, I’ve been informed that it was Meatloaf who said this, but I have never heard this particular song. My knowledge of Meatloaf’s back-catalogue is fairly limited to the greatest hits of his greatest hits, and his brief cameo in Rocky Horror. And don’t blow this all out of proportion on social media and claim that I’m slagging off Meatloaf, because I’m not. I do not wish to enter a public feud with Meatloaf, it would just be unnecessary.
Out of the three targets, it is the one of doing 200 gigs that I look set to fail. Mathematically, this could still be achieved if I were to do five gigs a day for the rest of the year.
I am currently on about 130 gigs for the year, which is roughly my annual average. However, I am including gigs that range in length from my phenomenal 20 seconds at the Comedy Store gong show, to the hour-long Fringe shows in this tally.
I was pinning a great amount on being able to do a good chunk of these during Edinburgh Fringe. But when Edinburgh came around, I actively did fewer gigs than I had booked to avoid exhausting myself or feel an urge to drink.
But what is the point of having targets if you’re always going to hit them? I don’t know what sort of an excuse this is, but I like it.
The second of my targets was to write 30 minutes of new stand-up material, and I probably have done this, even if I have dropped large sections of it. I wrote a massive amount for my Edinburgh show and didn’t have time for about half of it. I have achieved this goal, so there. I also said nothing about the 30 minutes of new material actually needing to be any good.
My other target was to write one new joke every day and put it on Twitter under #Joke365. I was regretting doing this by the 2nd of January. Nevertheless, I have managed to keep it going even, if I have had to bend the rules slightly by letting me still eligible to write the previous day’s joke at 6am the next day before I properly wake-up.
The proportion of jokes that have actually made it into my set is probably much lower than the 10% that I thought would be decent.
The point behind all these targets, whether or not I actually achieved them, was to force me to improve as a comedian. I think I have done that over the past 12 months, but the year is not yet through and I may dramatically regress.
This week, I have gigged in Nottingham and dressed as a giant penis.
I should add that they were separate events and I was in my normal clothes when I gigged in Nottingham.
Why was I dressed as a giant penis, I hear you ask? Frankly, I don’t think you’re showing enough respect to Nottingham.
But I will address the reason for getting most of your search engine results. Of course, I donned the phallic attire for comedic purposes and not personal ones. It was to do the latest in my Q&A series at Siobhan Dodd’s variety show. As Siobhan is getting married early next year, there was a hen-do theme for this month’s show. And what hen-do would be complete without a novelty effigy of the male genitalia? I don’t know the answer to this. My hen-do knowledge is fairly limited.
The costume was a complex piece of engineering and was essentially a flesh-coloured cagoule with a fan inside to inflate it. Getting suited-up was a complicated process and I required assistance from two people. I was waiting back stage and shocked several bar staff who opened the door to find a giant cock on the other side. An amiable ‘Hi, alright?’ put them at total ease.
The gig itself was fun and it is refreshing to perform not only in a ridiculous outfit without having an material prepared. I will stop short of improv, because I shudder at the thought of that and I have the decency to admit that I have a few ideas in my head about what I want to say before I go on. I can’t pretend that performing as a giant penis was ever on my comedy to-do list, but I can definitely cross it off now if it ever finds its way on there.
The next night, I was in Nottingham to audition for a fairly respected Edinburgh showcase. I did okay in my set, but it felt a bit rushed as by the time I got on, I had about ten minutes before I needed to leave to get the last train.
So I am fairly confident I won’t get selected. And that’s fine. I don’t know if I’ll be able to commit to two shows a day in Edinburgh next year anyway, as I expect I’ll be working remotely for almost half of it. So there. But seriously, we can negotiate.
This week, we said goodbye to Ruby Tuesdays. Well, we said goodbye to the ‘Tuesday’ part in October 2013. This week, we said farewell to the rest of it.
We decided that with ever-growing commitments elsewhere, the night’s fifth birthday would be a good time to end it.
To keep a monthly club in central London going for five years without relying on other comics to fill the room is quite an achievement. There have been times when we have had extremely low audiences, but we never pulled a show when perhaps we should have done in hindsight.
There have also been times when we have had full rooms, and Monday’s show was perhaps our largest ever audience with more than 40 people crammed into a room that seats about 35.
I was co-hosting the night with Paul, in possibly the final ever outing as Love and Langton. We thought we’d put all the years performing together to use by attempting hosting duties as a double-act. This ended up going very badly and our ill-thought out opening of the show got next to no response from the audience. It wasn’t hard to see how we got a one-star review together.
We probably should have planned what we were going to say better, but I doubt this would have made a great deal of difference. I take some comfort from the fact that I now know that I work best on my own and that there is no future in the Love and Langton entity.
I then hosted most of the rest of the night on my own, with Paul chipping in bits here and there. It felt much more comfortable this way. The other acts we had on all did much better than their hosts and I think everyone who came to watch will remember the night for reasons best left undisclosed. If you want to know why, then you should really have come and only have yourself to blame for not attending.
The night was initially set-up in 2009 to give a bunch of us a regular gig once a month. It evolved in order to survive and we went on to have some of the best comedians on the circuit perform on our small stage.
We may bring it back a few times a year, but Ruby’s as a monthly club is no more. I will miss it, but everything has its time and it’s nice to go out on a high.
I have made a return to regular gigging after taking it easy in September to recover from the Fringe and settle back to working full-time in the real world. Fortunately for you, I already have a gig tales to tell.
Last week, I performed where most performers dread: in the main area of a pub. Worse still, it was a free gig, with many of the punters not there to see comedy, there was nowhere at the front of the stage for the audience to sit and there were a disproportionate amount of bar staff working who were talking very loudly.
Fortunately, this is exactly the type of gig I enjoy doing. I went up and started berating the bar staff to get them to be quiet and then I demanded I be given a shot. Incredibly, the manager obliged and I received some vodka.
I managed to get some decent laughs out of the room and towards the end of my set, I demanded another free shot from the bar. Amazingly, this worked a second time. When they asked for money, I told them to put it on my imaginary slate. I genuinely don’t know I got away with this, especially as there was a bouncer around, but I did exactly that. If I didn’t have a microphone and wasn’t on stage, I expect I would have been thrown out.
To make things even more ridiculous, someone came up to me afterwards and wanted to book me a paid gig. I don’t know if this will ever amount to anything, but I am still willing to take it as a gig win.
In other ridiculous news, I played the part of God in Q&A at the same variety night where I portrayed the physical embodiment of the 1990s back in February. I used a bed sheet as a toga, used white face paint on my beard and eyebrows, and had a bath mat on my head.
They were quite a rowdy crowd; so I just played it shouty and sweary, very similar to my 1990s persona. I also made threats to strike people down with arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome, then told someone dressed as Jesus that he was a disappointment to me. It was all very stupid and a lot of fun, proving for the second time in under a week just how much enjoyment can be had from berating people on stage.
I have put this off long enough, so almost two weeks after returning from Edinburgh it is time to give my review of my 2014 Fringe.
It is safe to say that it was my favourite Fringe to date. I had so much fun doing the show and the feedback I had from my audiences was overwhelmingly positive. It went much better than ever thought it would. My show certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was a blast nonetheless.
At the start of the Fringe, if you’d told me that I would have audiences in double figures every day then I would have been delighted regardless of how well the shows went. The fact that the vast majority of the shows went well is massively pleasing. Out of 19 shows, there was only one show I would consider to be a total dud. It was also a shame that my final show was a letdown, but I had nothing left to give after using up all my energy reserves. And from a run of 19, to have two dodgy shows and 17 decent, good or great ones isn’t such a bad return.
What made the run all the sweeter was because I was in exactly the same venue and an almost identical time-slot as last year, when it was a real struggle to get people along. Some days in 2013 really hurt, although not as badly as 2011.
I still have much to learn and a long way to go, but I have now performed a solo hour show. I also know the level I can perform at and need to make that my standard. Because if I can, then I believe that’s when things will start taking off.