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Largest gig to date

You get used to travelling great distances to perform in front of handfuls of people in small pubs, which is what I was expecting at a gig I did this week in Hemel Hempstead.

But when I entered to venue, I was taken aback by the amount of people I saw. The place was absolutely packed and the promoter told me that 180 tickets had been sold. This was by far the largest audience I have performed in front of, excluding my two brief appearances at the 500-ish Comedy Store Gong show crowd this year and in 2006 for 3 minutes 30 seconds and 46 seconds respectively.

The demographic of audience boded well, as they can accurately be described as senior. The average of the room was probably mid-to-late 50s, which tend to be the best audiences. At least, they tend to the audiences who are most receptive to my material.

Although with so many people in quite a long room, I was concerned that the people sitting furthest away from the stage would feel a bit detached from it all and possibly talk amongst themselves.

As frequently happens, my concerns turned out to be unfounded and it was the people at the back who were actually the loudest laughers. It turned out to be a really nice gig and all the acts were warmly received.

And to prove that I live a glamorous, show-business lifestyle, this picture on the right was on what I like to call the ‘green table’. It wasn’t quite a green room. Yes, I am now officially an artist.

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Battling

In this past week, I have battled two very different but nonetheless challenging rooms.

The first gig was in Windsor, where I was opening. The audience were mostly middle-class and middle-aged, and they were hard work. It was difficult to get them going and there was an awkward atmosphere. They went for some of my stuff, but really didn’t go for other bits. Material that I can normally depend on didn’t raise much more than a chuckle or two, and I had to work really hard just to get that level of response.

The second gig was in Brixton on a Friday night, where there was a microphone and stage at one end of a very busy bar. Only about 15% of the people were initially listening to the comedy, but with persistence and no other real alternative, attention figures reached the dizzy heights of around 35%.

For my set, I decided the best tactic was to be as loud as possible, compromising any subtleties or nuances for brash volume. I like to call this the Langton Technique.

It was actually very enjoyable and in difficult circumstances I managed to extract a respectable level of laughs. It has actually made me think about using this approach in quieter gigs, because I think I perform better in this heightened state.

The reason I have taken almost an entire week to write this up is because my usual weekend writing spot was shunted in favour of a trip to Portsmouth. There was a small gathering of my group of friends I went to university with to mark the ten years since we started there.

On the train there, I passed through Havant, where this crazy comedy odyssey began.

The reunion was everything you would expect from a university reunion: lots of alcohol, then denying and accepting age.

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Paranoia

I am always a bit sceptical when I receive emails offering me gigs through my website when I have not previously had any contact with the promoter.

The level I am at, I get most of my gigs through either emailing promoters to ask for them, or I am offered spots by people I know.

Earlier this year, I received an email from the University of Hull’s Amnesty International Society asking if I would like to be one of the comedy acts on a bill with bands at their annual ball. Performing comedy on the same bill as bands is never a pleasant experience, but it is certainly far more pleasant than what the people have gone through who Amnesty help. I was up for it, as I do like to put myself through such adventures, but unfortunately it clashed with something else I was doing.

When I get an email from someone I’ve not previously contacted, I am always a bit paranoid that it could be some sort of elaborate trap. But why anyone would go to all that effort to kidnap me, I am not entirely sure. I am not a criminal psychologist.

I received an email a few months back offering me a gig in Peterborough that I was previously unaware of. I agreed to it and it took place this past Friday.

I am aware that the fact I am writing this is a spoiler that I probably wasn’t walking into a kidnapping scenario. Nevertheless, when I was waiting for a lift at the train station, the thought of being bundled into the back of a van was still in the back of my mind.

It turned out to be a real gig and a great one too, with a very friendly and receptive 70 people in. Perhaps that man is also legit who keeps emailing me offers about a particular brand of sports shoes named after a famous American basketball player.

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Selective ignorance

Here’s a philosophical question:  if there are no audience and the gig still goes ahead, is it a gig?

The rational answer would be ‘no’. However, if I lived my life thinking rationally, I wouldn’t be doing stand-up comedy.

I was faced with such a scenario last week. There were about seven comics, in a small and dingy room that looked like one of the places you see on TV where reformed young offenders would share their stories with groups of teenagers to make them think about turning away from crime.

This analogy would have rang a little too true had any of us been a reformed comedians, telling our stories to others to make them think about what they’re doing with their lives. I would have ignored them regardless.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t much fun. Fortunately, towards the end of whatever it was, a man who said he was homeless poked his head around the corner of the door and thus became our one audience member. His one small action transformed what had become a  support group into a gig and all was saved.

Nope, rationality, I am not going to listen to you.

My next gig was one that I run in Walthamstow, which was back after taking August off. We normally do pretty well in our small and weird little room and we managed to get it at pretty much capacity of all 20 chairs, in what was a friendly little gig.

On the subject of gigs that I run, I can confirm that Ruby Tuesdays is no more. We are moving to Mondays in October, so will be known as Ruby Comedy Mondays. I am currently in the booking process and will reveal exciting news about headliners in due course.

See, it is possible to write a blog without mentioning Edinburgh. I am in Fringe remission.

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Back in action

After a full-run at Edinburgh Fringe, you probably need at least a week of doing as little as possible to recover due to how much energy the experience takes out of you.

I say ‘probably’ because I’ve never actually managed to have any time out after the Fringe as I’ve always needed to go straight back to work to try and repair my bank balance. This was the case again this year, when I arrived back in London on the Tuesday and was back at work on the Wednesday.

I had my first post-Fringe gig this past Thursday (if you’re struggling to work out the actual timeframe, this is the Thursday in the week that followed my return) and my energy levels still felt pretty flat as I’d not had a chance to properly recover.

It was an unexpectedly odd night. It was at a renowned gig in Crouch End (I try and avoid name-dropping where possible, but it is probably obvious where this is if you’re in the know), where you can expect an audience that is usually pretty friendly, middle-class and well-read. But three prominent pockets of audience on this particular night were almost the complete polar opposite of this. They weren’t nasty, just a bit mad and drunk. At one point, one woman who claimed to be a doctor offered to slap the MC with a flip-flop. She was at least nice enough to offer, but was prepared to see it through if it was accepted (it wasn’t). In another of the audience pockets, a woman said her job was selling fetish underwear.

Later on, the three pockets of audience all interacted with one another across the room when an act was on stage. There was a dispute about the type of tea the flip-flop lady was drinking, who then upped her threat ante and offered to hit another audience member with her tea cup. The fetish underwear woman then stood up and interrupted, to question if the flip-flop lady was really a doctor. I think her medical credentials are unlikely, because she later changed her profession to bin-man.

This would normally be the type of audience I would love to play around with. I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with similar audiences in the past and often revel in the weird. But this is a particular gig where you don’t want to deviate too far from your material and you only have a tight five-minutes, which makes playing around with an audience more difficult.

I didn’t do too badly; I managed to get some decent laughs and played around a bit, but felt I never really got out of second gear. Despite this, I had some really nice feedback from other acts and the promoter, which is of particular high value.

On Friday, I was doing another gig. This one was a one-off charity night in a venue that is opposite the Wimbledon tennis courts (the main ones). There were about 150 people in and it was quite a middle-class audience. I was initially planning to do less smutty material, but after the first few acts I realised that smut was exactly what they wanted. So I gave them some of my Dirty Laundry vintage. I got some good-sized laughs and had a decent gig, but still felt the lack of all cylinders being fired upon.

Nevertheless, when you have a decent gig and people say nice things when you’re not at the top of your game, it is never a bad thing.

I have now had a weekend of doing very little, other than recuperating. My energy levels should start to increase shortly.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2013 – Day 22 and post-Fringe thoughts

That’s it for Edinburgh Fringe for another 11 months and it is now time to reflect on what has taken place.

In case you were wondering, our final show did go ahead and we had our largest audience of the entire run; we were only about six people away from having a full-house. Unfortunately, they weren’t an audience who responded particularly well to material and were quite a talkative bunch. There was a lot of crowd control work going on, mainly to try and get certain audience members to stop chatting and focus on what we were talking about. It was a weird gig, but sort of fun and not too horrific.

In short, it has been a real struggle this year. I knew I’d miss Paul, but did more so than I expected to. He does the donkey work and seems to relish it, leaving me to focus on my material. Getting the room setup every day really cut into crucial flyering time.

I overestimated my flyering abilities and thought I could fill the room on my own. I adore the Kilderkin, but its location cannot be changed. You have to really put in the hours flyering and even then you’re not guaranteed an audience.

It is also worth bearing in mind that when Paul first dropped out, I was angling to do a solo show in the same venue in the same time-slot. I am grateful for this not materialising, because it would have likely been an even greater struggle.

I enjoyed Simon’s company, but his solo show left him understandably low on energy for much else. With my material developing and changing as the month went on, it almost felt like a month of previews. This is a good thing, because after previous Fringes, I felt that my material has been in need of sealing up and putting into storage. But with this one, I feel that there is much more mileage I can get out of it. Ideas are still evolving and it is exciting to see where they go.

Even so, for the most part, people who came enjoyed the show and said some very nice things.

It was a year when I did some things for the first time. I managed to avoid the Edinburgh lurgy, which is almost unprecedented. I saw more shows than I have previously and I also managed to make the hike up to Arthur’s Seat after putting it off for four years.

As a wise man once said, clouded the future is. I have just arrived back in London and am already getting itchy feet as to what to do next. I think that the London circuit can be stifling in terms of stage-time, so my future may lie further north where there is an improved chance of actually getting paid regularly.

You are a harsh mistress, Edinburgh. You cause me physical, emotional and financial pain. But I bloody love you. I will be back in 2014 and have ideas for shows already.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2013 – Day 21

It turns out that our penultimate Fear and Loathing show actually took place on the previous day, as what would have been our penultimate show yesterday had to be pulled.

I noticed when I began flyering that it seemed to be worryingly quiet for a Friday, which is normally one of the busiest days of the week. In theory, the last Friday of the Fringe should be particularly busy.

But when we were due to start our show, we had three people in for audience. This would normally be no problem and I would do it, but as both our energy levels are particularly low, it would not have been an enjoyable experience for any involved.

I tried in vain to convinced passersby to come in and boost numbers, delaying the start of the show by ten minutes, but it was to no avail. For me, a pulled Fringe show hurts more than dying on stage. At least with dying on stage, you can learn something from the experience. When you pull a show at the Fringe, nothing positive is gained.

Thank you to Billy for being one of our three audience at the show that never was; he discovered this blog after attending one of the slightly less dreadful A Mixed Bags in 2011.

Although this has been a tough Edinburgh, my biscuit consumption would suggest that it has been bearable. As a rule, the worse things are going, the more biscuits I eat. It was not until yesterday’s show was pulled that I felt the biscuit urge. Then I listened to some Queen songs. Biscuits and Queen make everything better.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2013 – Day 20

In 48 hours, my run at the Edinburgh Fringe 2013 will be at an end. Not that I’m counting down the hours or anything.

Well, I quite obviously am. In 48 hours, I am going to be extremely relieved that perhaps my toughest Fringe so far is at an end. But until that time, I have work to do.

We managed to get another decent crowd in for yesterday’s show, with 12 actual people and no Deech in sight. They were friendly and happy to be engaged with. There were three rather tipsy women swaying about a bit in the middle of the room and one of them did become distracted with astonishment at remembering she had hands.

The bucket collection was also good, with about £20. It might have been our largest collection so far, but I cannot confirm this as I have not been keeping track.

Last night, I went to watch two shows by Brendon Burns. The first one was his hour-long show, which I highly recommend but can’t go into detail about as I am bound by confidentiality. This has nothing to do with me feeling lazy and not wanting to write more.

The second show was about an hour and a half later. It was Brendon providing commentary on bad wrestling matches with the pro-wrestler Colt Cabana. Professional wrestling will always have a place in my heart and it was the most I have laughed at any show this year, and possibly. Some of the clips were utterly ridiculous. It is a different show every night and I might be going along tonight as well.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2013 – Day 18 and 19

I was all set to denounce Bob Geldof for being wrong in his dislike of Mondays, when it should be Wednesdays that should be held with such contempt, at least during the Edinburgh Fringe.

Wednesday has been the most difficult day of the Fringe this year, positioned in the frustrating limbo between the two long weekends. No-one includes Wednesday as part of their long weekend; and if they do, then they are surely insane.

After having two quiet Wednesdays, with one show finishing with an audience of two and the other not going ahead at all, the Fringe surprises me yet again and we had our largest audience on this particular day of the week with 12 entire people. Okay, there were 11 entire people and one Deech. He doesn’t count as an entire person unless I’m clutching at straws for audience figures, and I have been doing that during this Edinburgh. In fact, to make the room seem fuller this year, I have been placing drinking straws on seats.

They were a friendly crowd, but it was quite hard work getting them all laughing together. Not everyone understood all the pop culture references as they were not from the UK, but we got through it.

I started the day being very excited for my show partner Simon Lilley, who I had been told by Deech was on the list of the Telegraph’s top 13 jokes of the Fringe. I quickly skim-read the story, then went down to the voting bit at the bottom and attempted to rig the poll to help out a friend who has had a tough time this Fringe.

After sending Simon a congratulatory text, I realised that these were the least funny jokes of the Fringe. Fortunately, my three fraudulent votes did little to dent his 250+ lead and the article also misquoted his joke, the inaccurate idiots.

On the plus-side, he is cruising to victory in achieving a comedy accolade from a national newspaper, which is something that Paul Langton has never done.

The moral of this story is to never help anyone, ever; at least when it comes to attempting to rig an online poll before you have properly read the article.

You know you have been at the Fringe too long when you forget what day it is and what you have been doing on the previous day. After writing this entry, I realised that I didn’t actually write one yesterday. We had a good show on Tuesday with a double-figure audience. I’m afraid that is all I am going to say about it now and you’ll just have to deal with it.

  • Love and Lilley: Fear and Loathing is on at 6pm from Saturday August 3 to Saturday August 24. At Kilderkin, 65 Canongate, EH8 8BT. It is part of the PBH Free Fringe, which means it’s free.
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Edinburgh Fringe 2013 – Day 16 and 17

On Sunday, Simon had another day off, so my plan was to draft in two replacements who would then flyer outside the venue for an hour before the show.

Unfortunately, comedians being comedians and Edinburgh being Edinburgh, the flaw in my plan was exposed when both Michael Mooney and Ian Lane were held up by half an hour. So their respective times for flyering were halved.

It was unusually quiet everywhere on Sunday, which is usually a day of the week you would expect to do well on. We managed to persuade five people into coming in for the show, with two stating before entering the room that they had tickets booked for another show that was starting at 6.45pm and would need to leave halfway through, so we were left with three after the first act.

It was quite a relaxed show and was not as awkward or uncomfortable for anyone in the room as it perhaps should have been.

Then yesterday, an old comedy partner (37-years-old, to be exact) filled in. It was of course Paul Langton, I don’t have any other comedy partners in that age bracket. In fact, I only have one person who could be considered a former comedy partner and he is the same age as me. Hello Ed.

We both put in an hour flyering on the Royal Mile, which resulted in no-one attended. We managed to get nine people in and they were mostly all dragged in off the street.

It was a good show and they were a good group of nine people. Paul was the most relaxed on stage I have seen him for some time and it was nice to see him do well in a venue that he was patchy in last year’s run.

The entity known as Love and Langton never really split up. In fact, we already have plans for next year.

This could also be one of our plans: