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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 – Days 4 and 5

After a designated day off my show, it was back on it with Black Wednesday – a day that all performers dread at the Fringe.

It has this name because it is after the two-for-one ticket offer ends on the first Monday and Tuesday of the Fringe. Wednesdays are usually the most difficult days to find an audience, because every other day of the week can be assimilated into a long weekend.

However, this thinking was once again proved wrong and the two shows on either side of me at the Kilderkin had full rooms.

I didn’t fare quite so well, but still managed about 15 people. This is still a decent turnout on the Free Fringe, especially compared with the struggles I went through last year.

The show was really good fun, getting stronger laughs as it progressed. I still need to get the material at the start stronger, or possibly move it to the middle.

A married couple at the front proved particularly good value. The husband told me that he had won several pub quizzes, but his wife hadn’t won any as he wouldn’t let her on his team. I played around with this and put them in separate teams, helping her to win the overall quiz.

Someone also said that there was a squid dance that is performed in Japan, so I got him up on stage to show people how it went.

When I was walking home last night, I thought I saw some people I recognised going into a flat on the road I’m staying. They turned out to be three of my audience from my show, who then invited me in for an aftershow party. It was the first time I had ever been invited into an audience member’s house after a gig, so that is something I can add to the list.

Four days in, my Fringe has been wildly unpredictable and all the more enjoyable because of it.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 – Day 3

Yesterday’s show coincided with the start of me working remotely, meaning I had less time to flyer for my show; although I did spend slightly too long in the pound shop looking for quiz prizes.

I will be working remotely for the next week and a half, with most of it being half-days. But it is still not ideal when I want to devote all my energies to performing and promoting show.

Possibly as a result of the reduced flyering time, as well as the two-for-one days, my audience was half of what it had been the previous days. However, it was probably the most I have enjoyed a show so far.

I had 11 audience and they were all really up for getting involved. The interaction was a lot of fun.

The nice thing about having an hour to play with is that you can take your time with things. It doesn’t feel rushed in that a shorter set can, where you want to cram in as much as possible and then end up speeding through it without any time to breath.

I have not done the same show twice, including my previews. There has been something different in all of them, which has been refreshing. Yesterday, I even forgot to read out the quiz answers at the end and it didn’t suffer because of it.

At the moment, I cannot see myself getting bored with doing this show, and as long as I am enjoying it then there is a good chance that the audience also will.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 – Day 2

I had a feeling it would rain a lot this Fringe, and two days in it would appear that I am right.

I have been lucky with the weather in the last couple of years, so knew this couldn’t last. I am also saying this in the hope that the Fringe gods realise that I have correctly predicted what they will do, take exception to this and then make it stop raining.

Flyering in the rain isn’t much fun, especially with the wind making it difficult to hold an umbrella hasn’t been blown inside-out.

But once again, in spite of my conditions, I had a really good audience turn out. I must have had about 25 in, which is only around ten off full capacity. The audience were great and it was a better show than my first day. I didn’t have quite so much to worry about beforehand, so felt a bit more settled. There was also much more interaction, which was a lot of fun.

My first 15 minutes still needs to be tighter and isn’t going down quite as well as the rest. It is going down okay, but there have been some huge laughs later on. I suppose this is at least better than the opposite happening, where it starts off really strongly and then fades out as the show progresses.

Deech has now arrived at the flat and I have taken up residency on an inflatable mattress in the living room for a week as part of the bed rota.

I am now off to the pound shop to buy today’s mystery prizes. Yesterday’s quiz winners won some gardening gloves and a DVD of some British criminal I had never heard of. What will today’s winners win? I do not know yet.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 – day 1

I have now fulfilled a long-term ambition and performed a solo hour show at Edinburgh Fringe.

I wasn’t able to do too much flyering yesterday as I had some last-minute things to buy for my show. The weather was also particularly bad when I did try flyering, with the wind and rain making it particularly punishing conditions for umbrellas.

I doubt I even managed an hour. As a result, I didn’t think I would end up getting much of an audience.

But I have written numerous times about never trying to predict what the Fringe will do, because in spite of not doing anywhere near enough flyering I managed to get about 25 people in.

I am helped by having a fairly strong gimmick for my show this year and most of my audience had seen my listing in the Free Fringe brochure.

I’m not going to pretend the show went perfectly, because it didn’t. Several lines either fell flat or received a muted response, and it was a bit shambolic in places. I need to get the material tighter and rewrite bits, but there is time for that. I was pleased with how it went as a whole, it was by no means a disaster and the audience seemed to enjoy it. Now there’s a quote I wish I could use on my posters.

Not only was it the first time that I have ever done an Edinburgh solo show, but it was also the first time that I haven’t had to split the bucket collection afterwards. I made a grand total of £37.30, which is also the most I have ever received from a Fringe performance.

My 2014 Fringe has now begun, the hard work is all in front of me and Deech hasn’t even got here yet.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 – Day 0

As you may have guessed, I have arrived in Edinburgh.

You are probably wondering why I have used 0 for the day number when the Fringe has already started. Well, the reasoning behind that is because I have not yet started my show and the majority of this blog will be written about things that have taken place on the previous day. But worry not, I start my show today.

Past journeys to the Fringe have been frequently traumatic, with various things going wrong and me arriving at the train with minutes to spare and soaked in sweat. This year’s journey was surprisingly uneventful, although I did have to be at Kings Cross for 7am just to add an element of the ridiculous.

Once in Edinburgh, I collected the keys for my flat, which is astonishingly nice and makes up for probably about a week on the sofa as it is a two-bed flat and there are three of us.

Then I swang by the Kilderkin to check everything was ready to go and I discovered that my posters had not been delivered.

There was some trouble with my print order. Despite having checked that the delivery address was definitely the Kilderkin, the company had tried to deliver them to the house in Walthamstow I moved out of nearly six months ago. I got this corrected, but only my flyers been delivered to the correct address.

Contrary to popular belief, posters are not the most important thing for a promoting a show, much less those that contain little else than a large picture of the face of a performer you’re unlikely to be aware of. Posters do help, but flyers are much more effective at getting an audience.

Also, people can’t take posters away with them to read more about a show. Well, technically there is nothing stopping them from doing this, but it doesn’t happen regularly. Then there is always the possibility that this is what has happened to my posters.

But never mind, I have unleashed some hell (translation: sent a passive aggressive email) on the print company and hopefully the posters will materialise in the next few days.

I have show t-shirts. Yes, you are correctly reading plural there. This year, I have two. In previous years, I only bought one show t-shirt to last me for the full month. For my Dirty Laundry show, this seemed appropriate. For shows with other names, it has been more of a hygiene problem.

Coming up next time: how the first of my first ever Edinburgh solo show went.

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The last of the previews

And there we have it, my previews are at an end. Next stop: Edinburgh.

Well, it will be the next stop for the show, I will personally have other stops in between over the next few days. I was due to have another preview tonight, but it ended up being cancelled. In a way, I am sort of glad, because I will just get a chance to have a rest this week and Friday’s was a good way to sign off.

For what turned out to be my final preview, I returned to the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green. It was where I did my first ever Edinburgh preview for anything in 2011 with A Mixed Bag. Why I ever thought that was a good name for a show, I will never know. At the time, it also was the longest performance I had ever done. Clocking in at 23 minutes (if I remember correctly), it felt a shock then to be doing anything longer than ten minutes. That particular night went well enough to give both Langton and me a false sense of security in our show. Reality of how tough the Fringe is came crashing down on our naive heads later.

At my preview there on Friday, I once again did my longest ever performance, of one hour and nine minutes. This time, it didn’t feel like a shock to be doing so long. If anything, it didn’t feel long enough.

The show went very well, but can still be further improved and I need to do some ruthless editing. As much as it pains me, I probably won’t have time for my bit on assassin donkeys and information on the history of the adjustable spanner. This is probably just as well, because neither of these were going down particularly well.

I am really looking forward to Edinburgh this year. I will be on my own for the first time and it will all be new and exciting again. I wonder how this optimistic entry will compare with what I write at the end of the Fringe.

I’m aware that I could be utterly delusional, but I feel I’m well prepared. I’ve tested my show in various conditions: on a canal boat, in front of three people, in a bookshop, and for a tired and sweaty audience.

I know what I’m letting myself in for and although it will be tough, I feel ready.

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A preview and a half

My weekend of previews continued with shows booked for Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday, I had an audience of three people. This is what happens when you have Paul Langton responsible for promoting, but he wasn’t entirely to blame and the weather should also take responsibility. If you ask people to choose between either sitting in a darkened room to watch some comedy or sitting out in the sun, the solar menace tends to win. But the joke is on them, because we had air-conditioning.

Nevertheless, an audience of three people is still an audience. I have performed to smaller audiences before and I expect I will in the future. I have said multiple times over the years, those three people are there to see a show. It’s not their fault that they are surrounded by empty chairs.

So I gave them a show.  It went as well as you could expect a show to go in front of three people, I enjoyed it and felt there was a good rhythm to my set.

For Sunday’s preview, it was off to Winchester to the exact same pub where I had something of an ordeal at a music open mic night in November 2005. Back then, I believe it was my seventh gig and I was the only one doing stand-up in a packed room that was mostly full of apathy. The first eight minutes was people talking amongst themselves, with a few people shouting rude things at me. Everyone eventually quietened down and I managed to get at least one laugh. I considered this to be a good gig back then.

Back in 2014, I was originally going to be on about 8.30pm, which would have allowed me to get on the 10.23pm train back to London, get the last tube and probably get five hours sleep before work.

But then this was bumped back to 9.45pm. As the trains only run hourly, if I had done my full hour then I wouldn’t have arrived back in London until 12.30am. Being a Sunday, the tubes would have stopped, forcing me to get a night bus home and I likely wouldn’t get any more than three hours sleep before work.

So to avoid this horror, I asked if I could only do half my show and then run to get my train. I think I ended up doing closer to 20 minutes in the end, but it was well received. I then got my train and my reward of five hours sleep.

I have two previews left before I head up to Scotland. My show is not quite there yet, but is definitely coming together.

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Humidity

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year, it was also when I had my fourth Edinburgh preview.

It was in the second half of the night I run in Walthamstow and I could feel that the audience were hot and tired within about ten minutes.

Gigging in shorts is something that doesn’t feel entirely right and I had planned to change into my jeans before my set. But due to the sweltering conditions, I opted to leave my legs exposed. I explained to the audience that if it was going badly, I would blame it on the shorts and change into my jeans. When a couple of punchlines fell flat, I changed my attire while still on stage.

They were a nice crowd, but a fair number of things in my set didn’t get a laugh where I hoped. This is particularly useful for an Edinburgh preview, because it then makes you look more closely at your material and how you can improve it. So I am grateful for the clammy conditions.

I have another preview in a couple of hours in Stockwell, then another one tomorrow in Winchester. By then end of Sunday, I should have a better idea of how much more work I need to do to improve my show.

It was also Ruby’s this week, which saw the return of Luke Thompson from his two-year Parisian exile. We managed to get the room the fullest so far in our new venue, largely because of Luke’s friends. I had intended to do a set, but Luke forgot to introduce me and called an interval instead. It worked out for the best, because we were running late anyway so this allowed us to get back on time and finish early. It was a great night with Sara Pascoe headlining and thankfully Luke didn’t do a repeat of his infamous Robert De Niro improv meltdown from Brighton in 2012.

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Two previews and a canal boat

This week, I have had two Edinburgh previews and both have been ideal preparation. By this, I mean I had small audiences.

First up, I was in Balham as part of a weekend of previews. I was expecting a modest-sized crowd as my show overlapped with Phill Juptius, but any previewing time is worthwhile and I managed to get six people along to beat the Fringe average of five.

Despite having my first preview at the start of May, the one in Balham was only my second in total. I should have been more organised and booked another one or two in those six weeks.

As a result of the gap between previews, it felt a bit of a shambles at the time, which is a slight underestimate after listening back to my recording. A lot of the material fell flat and many of the laughs were from audience interaction. This can cause you to get disheartened and then deliver your material to the floor. But what I am pleased with is that I didn’t let my energy dip and ploughed on regardless.

Another thing I am pleased with is that I had to cut my material in order to reduce the show time after starting ten minutes late in the hope that more people would find their way to my show. I ended up finishing just about on time as well, which is crucial for the Fringe. There are numerous irritants when performing in Edinburgh, but one of my biggest gripes is with shows that overrun and cut into other people’s timeslots. If you start late, you have to cut your show down accordingly to avoid other performers hating you.

My second preview this week, and third in total, was in the more unusual setting of a canal boat. It is where a friend and colleague called Dan currently calls home. When a few of us visited there after work a few months back for a couple of cans of lager, Dan suggested running a comedy night on-board. I had a look at the layout and said that it could work.

Various other things got in the way between then and now, so it never happened. But as I was in desperate need of previews, I took Dan up on his offer.

At most comedy venues in London, you would hope to at least reach double figures for audience. However, on a small canal boat a crowd in double figures could be a hazard. Eight people was more than enough to fill the boat and for it to remain afloat.

I recruited Hatty Ashdown to preview her show. She did her show first, with the thinking behind this being that the audience would have more energy at the start of the evening and the boat wouldn’t be quite so hot. I figured that as the second half of my show is a quiz, I would only need half an hour of their energy and the quiz would be easier for flagging audience energy.

I had also been told by Moz (who now also lives on a canal boat) that the people who live up on the water in that area have been known to call the police if people cause too much noise. So if the police were to be called, it would be probably be my show that was affected and I wouldn’t then feel guilty for Hatty.

Hatty’s show went well. But I didn’t start mine until 9.40pm, so I planned to cut material and do a show that was 50 minutes. However, it didn’t quite work according to plan and I ended up doing an hour as I had a very vocal audience who were disputing some of my facts. I had to employ some crowd control skills. I am used to getting these types in Edinburgh, so thinking on my feet and adapting my show accordingly was highly useful experience.

The material went better on the canal boat, but I feel there is still more work to do on this.

The quiz went very well at both previews, but it is difficult to predict how long it is going to last. It is much easier to estimate material length, whereas the quiz is an unknown quantity and its time can vary as it is so interactive. This should make each show unique and I think I will have a lot of fun with it, but I am going to work out how best to control it.

One final thing, I know I left the last entry on a bit of a cliffhanger with my Edinburgh accommodation. I have something all sorted and will be able to save myself about £130 from the previous place I was looking at. So you don’t need to worry any more.

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Something had to go wrong somewhere

My Edinburgh Fringe preparations were all going just a little too well and I had a feeling that something would go wrong at some point.

It happened this week, when I discovered that the flat I’d booked at the start of April had been cancelled about a month ago without me knowing. The website I’d booked it through had sent me an email to say that I needed to re-enter my card details within 24 hours or my booking would be cancelled, then there was a second email to say that my order had been cancelled. I don’t know how these emails were missed, but they were missed nonetheless and I now had to deal with it.

This wasn’t what I needed to hear as it is less than two months to go until the Fringe starts. This could have potentially been a disaster, as everywhere that’s a decent price is likely to be have been booked up months in advanced.

I put the feelers out there almost instantly and had something lined up less than a day later. It will cost about £100 more each for the month and there are three bedrooms between the four of us, so we’ll have to rotate sleeping on the sofa bed.

But I think it has all probably worked out for the best. It turns out that I’d also missed another email from the website I’d booked the first flat with, to tell me that the four of us would be sleeping in one room. Mental note: open emails. Fortunately, I also hadn’t parted with any money.

If you enjoyed this blog, you are welcome to email me, but I can’t guarantee I’ll actually open it.