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Manchester calling

It has been some time since I’ve written anything on here and I have some news: I am moving to Manchester in January after six years in London.

When I moved to London at the start of 2010, I knew it would never be permanent; but it has been much longer than I originally planned. Every time I kept trying to leave, something kept making me stay.

I’ve wanted to move up north for some time, as it’s a lot easier to progress to paid gigs. In London, you can do multiple try-out spots at the bigger clubs. Even if you do well every time, there’s no guarantee you’ll end up getting booked for a paid spot. This is partly because there are so many people pushing for a finite amount of gigs.

I’d been looking at the possibility of finally making the break this year, even setting aside five days holiday after Edinburgh specifically for job interviews. Then it turned out that my current company has bought an office in Manchester and wanted to send me there anyway. Thus my ridiculous run of luck in 2015 extends further. I have since ended up using the five days for my first holiday since 2007, with a week in Malta.

Another positive is that my six years of house shares is coming to an end, with some downright bizarre and uncomfortable experiences. Although my current place is my favourite house-share I’ve had, I‘ll be able to rent my own flat in Manchester for what I pay at the moment to live with four other people. I’ve also worked out I’ll be saving around £150 a month on travel, as a monthly pass in Manchester costs the same as a week’s in London. I also plan on buying a car to drive around to more gigs.

I barely know anyone in Manchester and have never been there, which is in line with being a Man United fan when I was growing up. Everyone I’ve spoken to has been hugely positive about the place, and I have some flat viewings booked for next week. This is the start of an exciting new adventure.


Back to reality

I had a couple of weeks off from gigging after Edinburgh in an attempt to recover, although I still don’t feel I fully have.

After performing to packed rooms for three weeks in August, I’ve had a lot of trouble adjusting back to the opposite of this on the London open mic circuit. I’ve done about ten gigs so far and audience numbers have mainly been scarce. On the rare occasion that they have been larger, I’ve not done very well. Perhaps I really was in a parallel universe for a month.

It has been mainly the lows of previous Fringes that have given me motivation to improve when returning to the normal circuit afterwards. But having a good Edinburgh has perhaps increased my expectations unrealistically.

This week, I died on my arse doing five minutes in front of about 15 comedians and one civilian called James. I was trying out some new material that I’d half-written before Edinburgh and had already lost faith in, but I felt the need to try something new out anyway. It was a friendly room, but my half-baked ramblings received indifference.

I needed this. I think it was my subconscious trying to slap me very hard in the face to snap me out of whatever this coma of complacency is that I’m in danger of falling into. I need to get back into the habit of writing regularly again, which I’ve not done for some months. And in a warped kind of way, a bad gig such as this is exactly what I needed.

Failure is healthy in comedy and makes you think harder about improving. Success is not without its downsides, or so I’m told.


My 2015 Edinburgh Fringe

I am now adjusting back to normality after the amazing, draining and utterly ridiculous experience that this year’s Fringe has been.

It still doesn’t seem entirely real and I never thought that it would ever go as well. It was a year when almost everything seemed to go right, give or take a few flat shows. I will savour it for as long as I can, because I know that good Fringes can be few and far between.

From 19 shows, 18 were standing-room only. The other one had about six empty chairs.

As I’ve said previously, I am acutely aware that the hundreds of people who came to see the show did not come to see me; they came for the pub quiz element. And I’m fine with that, when no-one knows who you are then you have to come up with a concept for a show that will get people along to see it. Once you have an audience then it’s down to you to win them over, and for the most part I did just that.

Many people loved the show, but there were those who really hated it. And that’s good, I want that. If comedy is not provoking at least some reaction, then it is not doing what it’s meant to do.

I’ve not been used to having full rooms over consecutive days stretching into weeks. It took some adjusting to and used a lot of energy. In previous Fringes, I’ve had full rooms during the run, but these days have been balanced out with quieter ones. It would be stupid to complain about something such as this, but it was a new experience.

I am comfortable with failure and know how to deal with it, mainly through the medium of biscuits. Although success is something I’ve found another challenge entirely, even if it has been on a fairly modest scale.

In the day or two after my run ended, I was adamant that I would take a year off from doing the Fringe. I was utterly shattered and even thinking about 2016 was using too much energy. Yet in the couple of days that followed, my mind started wandering with ideas for what I could do and things have escalated. I expect now that I will probably be doing a show next year.

In How To Win A Pub Quiz, what I have is a concept that requires very little flyering to get a full-room in a venue that’s a fair trek from anywhere. I’m not going to pretend that the show is perfect, but it is a format that works and is usually good fun. Not only that, it can cover its costs. It would be foolish for me to drop it. At the same time, I also want to write an hour of stand-up at some point. Two shows next year is a possibility, even if the very thought is exhausting at the moment.

If I do a show, I don’t know if it’ll be as good as this year, and I don’t know if I’ll ever top this one. I do know that I’ll give it everything and hope for the best. I’ll also stock up on biscuits.


Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – Day 21

My final show ensured I ended my Fringe on a high in what has been one hell of a run.

The room was packed and about 20 people were turned away. Some of them were interested in coming back for the 8.45pm show.

The crowd wanted to get involved from the start. It has turned into a show where heckling is not only encouraged, but also feels lacking without it. I managed to atone for my implosion in my final show last year and sustained my energy throughout. I even set a new collection record with £108.

I was happy to leave it there and hoping I wouldn’t have to do it all again at 8.45pm. Fortunately, only two people showed up for the second show and were also ten minutes late. I was being a bit overoptimistic with the four people I was expecting.

Since the show finished, I have felt as a great sense of relief. This Fringe has been amazing and gone far better than I ever thought possible at this stage in my comedy life, but I have had to work really hard for it and it has been exhausting.

In other news, I have managed to avoid the Edinblurghy for the first time ever. Even taunting it didn’t make it appear. If it wants to strike now, it is welcome to but should know that it will just be ordinary lurgy.

I will write a post-Fringe analysis of the ridiculousness that this August has been when I am a bit more with it. For now, it is time to have a rest and return to the real-world where I am not a full-time comic. This Fringe may have just given me a glimpse into a possible future, it’s certainly felt like another reality.


Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – Day 20

I am trying to fool my body into believing that I have two shows left, when I know that just the one is much more likely in reality. Last year, my body gave up on me in my final show, with my mind already heading back to London and I ended the Fringe on a bum note.

In my sprinting days, which admittedly peaked about 20 years ago, I was always taught to run 105 metres instead of 100 to avoid slowly down when reaching the finishing line.

So if I tell myself that I still have another show to do, then I’m hoping my body will prepare itself to shut down towards the end of the second performance. I just hope that it doesn’t find out my plan and sabotage it out of spite.

I started yesterday’s show with four empty seats, which was previously unheard of for a Friday in this run. Fortunately, five people came in late and my standing-room only tally was able to go up.

From the off, I could tell they were going to be a good crowd, with Friday proving to be my best day throughout the Fringe. No-one walked out, everyone laughed in the right places and I rebounded with £98 in my bucket at the end, which is currently my third highest in takings at any Fringe.

In previous Fringes, the last show has usually been a bit of an anti-climax. Then again, this has been a year that I have bucked many trends, so I’m not going to try and predict it what’s about to unfold. I’ve had a great run; I’ve already made a profit for the first time at the Fringe, and I’ve had a lot of fun. Anything else is going to be a bonus.


Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – Day 19

It has happened, my standing-room only streak has come to an end.

I knew it was inevitable at some point during the run and never thought it would last as long as it did. As time went on, I did wonder if it could last for the whole run, only for the Fringe Gods to snatch it from me at the last minute.

But it doesn’t matter, the fact that it lasted for 18 shows is pretty remarkable given the Kilderkin’s location. Taking into account the 100+ people that have tried to see the show and I’ve not had room for, I would statistically have enough people for at least an extra two gigs.

However, my philosophy that I try and stick to for all gigs is that it doesn’t matter how many people are in the room, they’re there to see a show and I’ll always try and give them all I can.

I had about 25 people in yesterday, which is still a great turnout for a free show in a year that many of my more talented peers have really struggled for audience.

Most of the audience enjoyed the show, but I had five people walk out. This included a group of four that I knew wouldn’t enjoy it before it even began. You get a Spidey sense about particular punters.

I had my lowest takings of the Fringe, with £32. It didn’t feel as bad as Sunday, where I had a full room but made only £4 more. I really can’t complain, I’ve been very lucky this year. Plus £32 and 25 people was more than double both my lowest audience and takings from last year.

The advantage of having a smaller crowd was that it gave me a chance to see if handing out the whiteboards and pens before the show kept things flowing better. I think it worked well enough to warrant me trying it again today. I have two shows left, with the possibility of a third. At the moment, finding the energy for two seems enough of a challenge.


Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – Days 17 and 18

I have received my first proper review this Fringe and it’s a decent write-up.

I got three-stars from Broadway Baby, and there was me saying how the show had really polarised opinions. I can’t really use three stars on future posters, but I can take quite a lot from the nice stuff that they’ve written about me.

This is one of the lines is: “His engagement with the crowd is quick and charming.”

I have now spanned the entire charm spectrum this Fringe, being called both charming and charmless. There’s some other stuff that I can plunder from there as was well.

From the review, it looks like they came in on Monday. Although it was probably the most fun I’ve had at a show, I did mess up a few things and know I can do better.

They do pick-up on me taking too much time handing out stationary, which isn’t something that comes up in many reviews. They also referenced me swallowing words around a few punchlines, which is something that can be traced right back to my time in plays at school and is much more prominent when I’m tired.

It would be nice to have at least four-stars, but I’m not overly fussed about it. Ultimately, how well I do in comedy is going to be down to me rather than the words, however nice, of someone I’ll probably never know.

Yesterday’s show was good fun. It was a little quieter than other days, but still ended up being standing-room only as a few people came in late and my streak was thus maintained. They were a nice crowd, but not quite as loud as Monday. I made £76, which isn’t a bad at all.

I have three shows left, but am currently considering doing an extra one as the 8.45pm slot at the Kilderkin will be free on Saturday. It all depends on whether or not there’s enough demand. I could quite easily see 30 people being turned away from my first show, only for four to turn up to the second.


Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – Day 16

Yesterday may well have been my favourite show of the run so far, with a very lively audience.

It was the loudest a crowd has ever sung during the music round and they were very insistent about continuing. They also gave me a lot to riff off, with Mike in the front-row proving particularly good value.

My bucket anomaly of Sunday was corrected and I made £86. I’ve made more money during the other shows, but I don’t think I’ve had quite so much fun.

It was just the gig I needed at this point in the Fringe to give me a boost before my day off, then heading into the home-straight of the final four shows.

As I’ve said before, how well the show goes is dependent on what the audience gives me to work with. If they’re not getting involved, then the show doesn’t get going properly. It’s a risk for an hour show to be so dependent on the audience, but I’ve been really lucky with who I’ve been getting through the door – and also who I’ve been having leave through the fire exit.

When I return to the Fringe next, I am planning on doing an hour of stand-up. I don’t know if it’ll be next year, as I am currently fatigued and thinking of actually going on a proper holiday in 2016. When I do come back, I may still run How To Win A Pub Quiz in some capacity as it would be stupid to drop something that has worked really well for me both in audience numbers and financially. It’s always been an ambition to write an hour show, the quiz thing has just taken on a life of its own.


Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – Day 15

Yesterday, I continued my record of having standing room only at my shows and it was a decent gig, but I ended up getting my lowest amount in the collection bucket afterwards.

I received £36 and a lot of people left without putting any money in. The show probably went a bit better than Saturday, it certainly wasn’t a worth £50 less. It’s strange, because it was definitely a much better show than the first Sunday and Monday of the Fringe, where I made a lot more money.

I can’t really complain, I’ve been on a roll with the past few days and all rolls have to come to an end at some point. And I could also do with a jolt at this point to get me focused on the remaining five shows.

I am looking forward to having a day off from it all tomorrow. I’ll hopefully get some rest and come back at full-power from Wednesday onwards.

In other news, I’ve found a comment on Twitter from someone who came to see the show and didn’t like it.

This is what Sean says: “How To Win A Pub Quiz is honestly the worst Fringe show I have ever seen. Every single ‘joke’ is explained, that’s when you know it’s bad.”

That’s quite some endorsement. But someone wasn’t paying very much attention, I only explain about giant squid and jellyfish.

Further reading confirms that Sean was part of the group of about six 20-ish year olds who were bored, stood at the back chatting amongst themselves and then left through the fire escape when the quiz had just started. I’m actually grateful when people do walk out if they’re really not enjoying it. They’ve been in the minority this Fringe.

It’s amazing how divided some opinions have been on this show. Some people have hated it, whereas many people have really loved it. I’d much rather be doing something that divides opinion than create a beige, generic soup that everyone universally agrees is just ‘alright’.


Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – Day 14

I can report that there was no repeat performance of last Saturday’s drunken shenanigans and I didn’t wake up on my bedroom floor in a pile of my dirty washing. This is largely because I wasn’t bought three pints during my show.

It was a decent show yesterday, with about 30 people being turned away again. Even someone who’d asked me to reserve some seats couldn’t get in as they arrived two minutes before the show was due to start and I’d had no choice but to offer them to other people.

Yesterday’s crowd were a little more passive than the previous two Saturdays. I had to work hard to get them going and this took little while, with some of the material getting titters that has done much better at other shows. I also didn’t help matters by swallowing some of my words around punchlines, which is mostly down to fatigue. The crowd eventually got on board and there were some big laughs. I made £86 in the bucket at the end, which was down a bit from the previous three shows and was a fair reflection of how the show didn’t go quite as well.

I also unexpectedly had someone from Quiz Britain make an appearance at the show and ask to take pictures of me when I was handing out the pens and white boards. I am going to be featured on their website, which is pretty cool.

Another thing I’ve been really lucky with at this year’s Fringe so far is the weather. It has rained, but mostly stayed fine in the hour or so before my show to make sure that punters are not put off walking down the hill to the Kilderkin.

In previous Fringes, I have been left utterly drenched by downpours, which largely summed up my shows that year.

I hit the tiredness wall at about 10pm last night and had to go to bed. When I went outside the Kilderkin, there was a torrential downpour of old happening, with streams flowing down the streets. But when I woke up today, the sun was out and all was well again.

I have six shows left; I’ve managed to fight off the lurgy so far, but I could really do with a second wind.