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Melbourne

The temperature in Melbourne has been thankfully much cooler than Perth.

I’ve been here for a week as a tourist. As it turns out, there was a comedy club two minutes walk from my hotel. I was planning on turning up on the new material night to see if I could do a spot. Then I decided to go for a curry instead. This pretty much sums up where my head is at with comedy at the moment.

I did the classic tourist things of the zoo and botanic gardens. I also went to the beach at St Kilda’s and went in the sea for slightly longer than Rottnest, but not by much.

I did think about going on the Neighbours tour, having watched it for almost 20 years. During my late teens and early 20s, it was an ambition of mine to live in Australia and write episodes of Neighbours for a living. The show was a huge part of my time at uni, with it sometimes taking priority over lectures. Sadly, once it moved to Channel 5, I stopped watching and the dream died.

This week was also the 20th anniversary of my school production of Return to the Forbidden Planet.

I was happy to let this anniversary pass me by, only to randomly walk into a gift shop in a Melbourne mall and for the song Young Girl by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap to start playing. Although the lyrics to the song are unquestionably dodgy and these days would likely result in Mr Puckett and his union receiving a visit from the police as a precaution, the song is synonymous with Return to the Forbidden Planet. For some reason, it is that one song above all the others in it that transports me back to my fondest time at secondary school as I had never heard it before I did RTTFP. When the unremarkable quiet boy in the corner somehow ended up getting the lead role in a school production, mainly by being one of about four or five boys willing to act.

I’m now on the bus heading to Sydney next for more touristy things. I’m already looking forward to visiting the aquarium, paying close attention to the cephalopods.

In other news, I have now officially dropped out of Dunedin Fringe. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a replacement venue sorted in time. It’s a shame, but I’m going to make the most of the extra time I have in NZ. I also have another plan to make up for some of the other lost earnings with something journalistic, but it hasn’t been commissioned just yet.

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Rottnest Island

Yesterday, I went to Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth. I probably wouldn’t have gone there if my sister hadn’t have bought me a voucher for the ferry for Christmans. But I’m glad I did as it made a refreshing change from my normal routine. I use the word ‘refreshing’ here in a limited sense as it was about 35°C, with no cloud cover and I was on riding around the island on a bike.

After cycling for about 4km, the heat got too much. I stopped for a rest, only to find a deserted white sands beach. I took off my shorts and my socks and jumped into the sea, still with my cycle helmet on. My t-shirt and pants were soaked, but it was exactly what I needed and cooled my body temperature down instantly. I timed it just right, as a group of eight people arrived just as I was about to set off again, albeit with a prominent damp patch seeping through my shorts.

When I stopped at a cafe for lunch, the 8km of cycling started in the heat to make me feel a bit light-headed. Fortunately, a couple of carbonated drinks and some fish and chips sorted me out.

I’m happy to say that there was no repeat of the debacle in Madeira. And I didn’t fall off my bike or have glares of contempt from the rest of the group who I was holding back with my ineptness at mountain biking.

Rottnest Island is famous for the quokka, which are like tiny kangaroos. They’re about the same size as house cats.

Unfortunately, Tourism Western Australia is actively encouraging visitors to find one and have their picture taken with it. Visitors are not allowed to touch or feed quokkas, but it doesn’t stop people bothering them.

I saw one tourist practically straddling the poor animal to try and take a picture with it. He didn’t touch it, I might add. But it made me feel very uncomfortable. Pictures of animals are always made infinitely worse when a human insists on also having their face in the shot.

I refuse to use the s-word for this practice as it I detest it and it is never appearing in anything I write. I was taking these sorts of pictures with disposable cameras more than 15 years ago. I didn’t take an inane picture, take a look at it, then take another one of exactly the same thing, then repeat this multiple times. Admittedly, my picture may have been inane. But I at least had the decency to not repeat the same thing over and over.

The practice is manufacturing moments in time that used to be captured so much more authentically in one shot. I love photography, but hate how it’s been bastardised by social media for sake of likes. That’s enough of that rant for now.

Another thing from yesterday is that I now know my factor 50 sun-cream definitely works. The only thing is that I didn’t put enough of it on around the base of my neck, where today there is a prominent red line.

Thankfully, this red line is not joined by a cricket ball sized, raw lump of the same colour on my inner thigh from all the cycling that I had the day after my Madeira ride.

Today, it’s 42°C outside. So I’m back to my normal routine of writing in the air-conditioned library. Next, I’ll be going to the supermarket, before returning to the hostel to eat some sardines and pasta. I’ve only got another two days left in Perth, but can’t say I’ll be sad to end this routine.

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Perth Fringe 2020 – Shows eight and nine

Back to the shows, I had about 33 in for the penultimate night. And it was good, even if I didn’t feel entirely on top of my ad-libbing game.

The final show was the busiest by some way, almost doubling my largest audience with 68 people booking tickets in advance in a room that seats 70, although four people didn’t show up. I was expecting to sell at least a few on the door given the previous few days. Alas, it was not to be and that elusive sold-out status was agonisingly just out of reach.

I put the whiteboards and pens for the quiz under the seats before the show, as I do in Edinburgh. It was the first time in the run I’ve done this as I knew where people would be sitting due to the full room. Previously, I’d asked the show runner to hand them out during the show. However, this extra pre-show admin meant I had forgotten to put my essential prop of my facts bell on the stage, meaning I had to go off stage during the show to get it out of my bag.

This was after there was a cock-up with the radio mic, so the audience couldn’t hear my announcement to welcome me to the stage. I decided to go off stage and do it again. Admittedly, I’ve done slicker shows.

The audience were a lively bunch, bordering on rowdy at times. There was a persistent heckler in the second row who I had to take down and also deduct points from.

All in all, it’s been a decent run. The shows have all been fun and the people who came all seemed to enjoy it. But there’s been the nagging frustration of it being quieter than I’ve become used to.

That said, I shouldn’t complain too much. Many other shows have struggled this year and many of these have had to cancel performance due to no audience. I also didn’t really do as much to promote the show as I would normally do at a festival, mainly due to the heat and to avoid getting ill. I think ticket sales should have covered my flights and accommodation and should have a bit left after that.

I was planning on using the shows to come up with some new bits. However, life events got in the way, and I mostly ended up sticking with the tried and tested.

I’ve been asked a couple of times if I’d do the Perth festival again. And at the moment, I’m undecided. It’s a decent festival in a really nice city. If I’d sold-out every night and made a huge profit, I expect I would definitely come back. I’d also consider doing it if I was working through a new show for Edinburgh, so that by the start of February I would already have about ten previews under my belt.

Another factor is that I don’t actually know what I’m going to be doing or where I’m going to be post-Edinburgh. I am still expecting to have to start applying for full-time jobs again then.

I have another four nights in Perth. Tomorrow, I’m getting the ferry over to Rottnest to do some exploring, and possibly even some bike riding. I just hope it’s not as traumatic as what happened in Madeira.

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Au revoir, EU

As I write this, I am no longer an EU citizen.

It is a strange feeling and one I was fairly convinced wouldn’t happen as recently as a couple of months ago. Then when the general election was called at the worst possible time, there was only really one way it was going to go.

My small crumbs of comfort were that due to the time difference, I was still an EU citizen for the first seven hours of 1 February as I’m currently in Western Australia. Then when I woke up, it had all been stripped away.

The thing is, until the Brexit referendum was called, I never felt particularly European.

But then having taken my first steps in Spain when visiting my grandparents, and growing up with family holidays to Normandy most summers, I couldn’t really be anything but. Until now that is.

And if the likes of Iain Duncan Smith, Farage, Michael Gove, and Anne Widdecombe ever think something is a good idea, it’s probably awful and I will always be on the opposite side.

Ultimately, Brexit was a fringe issue in the Tory party that has now engulfed four countries and made them worse places to live.

The referendum was all just a game between privileged politicians who will be insulated from any of the fallout. Leaving has been pushed by many politicians who don’t actually believe in it, but are merely using it as a means for power and attention in order to satisfy narcissistic urges.

The vote was won by lies a toxic combination of lies, electoral fraud, and false offers of hope to people in need of it.

By some strange coincidence, the ‘will of the people’ line that is repeatedly spouted just so happens to be the will of Rupert Murdoch and Vladimir Putin. And call me cynical, but I’m doubtful if they really have the best interests of everyone at heart.

My hope is that the worst predictions don’t come true, but I haven’t heard anything in the past three and a half years that has even started to convince me that it isn’t a terrible idea.

In any case, I will be applying for an Irish passport. That Irish grandfather is going to be useful.

I’m aware that this is a deviation from the kind of stuff I normally write on here. But this is my website and I can do what I like. Don’t worry, normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

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Perth Fringe 2020 – Show seven

At last night’s show, I had my second largest fringe audience of the Perth run so far 33 people in the room and 34 buying tickets. This total includes a couple who’d bought tickets but only turned up just before the end of the first round.

They ended up scoring higher than some people who’d been there since the start of the show. Admittedly, only by one point to the zero that a few others had achieved. The moral of the story is that it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll do worse in the quiz if you skip the bit where you might learn stuff.

Seating arrangements were slightly strange again. There was no repeat of the previous night’s phantom third row. Instead, there were people sitting in the front row, but only at the ends on each side. In the middle was a gap of about six chairs.

As with the previous night, the show took a little while to get going, but they certainly got their by the end. A row of about ten young Irish girls at the back were singing along with gusto to the music questions, which is normally a reliable feature of the show but hasn’t happened much in Perth so far.

Tonight is my penultimate show here. I expect to have a similar number of people to last night.

I’ve hardly done any exploring so far, but intend to once my shows are finished. For Christmas, my sister bought me a ferry ticket to Rottnest Island, so I will be heading there next week. I’m just trying to pick the day with the coolest temperature.

In other festival news, I am currently without a venue for Dunedin Fringe. I’d booked to go at the same place as last year, but received an email last week from the fringe organisers to say that the landlord of the building may be selling it. As a result, I became venue-less. Venues have been somewhat elusive this year, with nothing materialising for either Adelaide or Auckland.

I was offered another few options for Dunedin, but was still negotiating when I was told that I’d need to decide I’d need to decided if I still wanted to go in the main brochure. This was within a matter of hours after waking up on Monday morning.

Without a venue and uncertain as to whether or not I’d do the festival, I thought it made sense to pull out. But then I had second thoughts and may now have something lined up.

Getting an audience if you’re not in the main brochure certainly makes things a lot more difficult. It’s not impossible though.

Dunedin Fringe have a requested embargo where they ask you not to mention you’re doing the festival before the programme is officially launched. As I still don’t know I’m actually going to be performing there, I technically haven’t broken this embargo.

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Perth Fringe 2020 – Show six

Every night in Perth I’m doing a show, I get an automated email at 8.30pm to tell me how many tickets I’ve sold when they’re no longer on sale through the box office.

The more I think about tickets being unavailable through the official box office an hour before the show starts, the less it makes sense. Although tickets can still be bought on the door.

Anyway, I often don’t need this report as I’ve been closely monitoring numbers throughout the day.

Last night, my automated email said that only 11 people had bought tickets for the show. Despite achieving my Edinburgh Fringe 2014 target of double figures, it didn’t feel good for it to be my lowest audience of the run so far.

Shortly after I arrived a the venue, one lad came up and asked if he could buy a ticket on the door and if there were many available. He was in luck, there was plenty.

Ten out of the 11 pre-booked folk were seated. One person bought a ticket in advance but didn’t show up. This doesn’t matter though, because I have their money anyway.

Then a very odd thing happened. Just as the show was due to start, a group of ten people showed up and all paid on the door. So I had thus doubled my audience in an instant.

‘Very odd’ is a fitting phrase to use, as it was my strangest show of the fringe. The pre-booked folk were spread out across the front two rows, but the third row was left entirely empty and the walk-up group were sitting in the fourth row.

I later learned that the walk-up people didn’t know what show it was they were going to see, which explains a lot. They were all in their early 20s and had been drinking, so I had to step in early on to stop them chipping in and whispering to each other.

The show took a while to get going and bits that normally get big laughs received a few sporadic titters. Then I addressed the empty third row, saying that’s what I demand for all my gigs, and it got things nicely back on track.

It had been weird, but I’d enjoyed the challenge of having to adapt the show when it wasn’t going as intended. I now have three shows left of the run.

When I left the venue to get my post show burger and chips, it had been raining outside. How happy I was to get a feeling of home. It cooled everything down nicely.

As I sat on eating on a bench, I never thought that having a wet arse would be so comforting.

Now there’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever write.

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Perth Fringe 2020 – Show five, radio and days off

I had an early start this morning, as I was due at ABC studios at 7am for a radio interview.

This marked my first appearance on the airwaves since I started doing a hospital radio show when I was 16, which I did once a week for 18 months or so. I would often have the studio to myself, so would sing along to some of the songs I played. On at least a few occasions, I would unwittingly leave the mic on. Fortunately, I’m pretty certain that no-one was listening anyway.

I’ve just remembered that I once tried to put together a demo tape at the hospital radio into send off to larger stations for presenting opportunities, but kept messing up the words I wanted to say and would just end up swearing. Not surprisingly, I didn’t send it off. I didn’t bother with student radio after getting put off by how complicated everything looked in the studio at the taster session and then never went back.

And I’m deliberately ignoring the time I wrote and recorded several sketches with my friend Edd for Stroud FM in 2006 shortly after I’d finished uni. But upon listening back to them, I was so horrified by their poor quality that I insisted they were never broadcast.

Back to today, I was appearing on Radio Perth to plug my show. I ended up just talking about squid a lot, as the animal holds a lot of responsibility for the creation of How To Win A Pub Quiz. I’ve not listened back to it yet, but hopefully there were a few more people listening than my hospital radio show.

Onto fringe matters, I had an audience of 18 people at Sunday’s show. It continued the run of of all the shows being enjoyable.

I’ve had days off from my show yesterday and today. Unfortunately, the library was closed yesterday, so I took another visit to the cinema to escape the temperatures of 38°C.

Since being in Perth, I’ve watch 1917 (very good), JoJo Rabbit (well worth a watch), and Rise of Skywalker again (more frustrating on second viewing). Yesterday I watched Just Mercy, which I didn’t think could be based on a true story as it is such a shocking indictment on the American justice system. But it turns out that it very much true. That’s enough of me using my film studies degree for one day.

I’m back doing my show again tomorrow and ticket sales are looking quiet once more. Hopefully my radio appearance will help to shift a few more tickets. I only have four shows left now of the run here.

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Perth Fringe 2020 – Show four

I thought last night was going to be quiet, but the discounts I set up for a certain number tickets have worked magically.

I ended up with 36 people, which is my largest crowd in Australia to date. It’s just under half of the largest audience the show has ever had, mind, but it is at least some progress in Perth.

The show was enjoyable and I am increasingly turning into more of an arsehole quizmaster with every show. It has always been a fun persona to play with, but seems to be amplified in Australia.

Tonight, I currently have ten people with tickets booked. When I first started doing the show in 2014, my main aim was to get at least double figure audiences every day during Edinburgh that year. So this is at least a success by those modest standards.

Another factor at play here is likely due to it begin Australia Day. So I expect that potential punters already have other plans. Probably something barbecue and beach-related if Aussie stereotypes are to be believed.

As always, it’s just a matter of waiting and seeing. I’m reluctant to spend too long out in the heat flyering, as it’ll just make me ill. And there’s me reverting to my national stereotype of being a whinging Pom. I make no apologies.

In itinerary news, I’ve now booked a five night trip to Sydney after Melbourne. Then, I’ll be heading to New Zealand slightly earlier than I originally planned. I’ve just booked a few nights stay in Auckland, which by some strange coincidence also coincides with the dates I arrived in 2007 as a clean shaven, 22-year-old idiot.

I’m also planning to get a bus to travel around the country. But unlike the bus I took in 2007, this one isn’t green and full of 18 year olds. I’m going to spend a few nights in places I haven’t been before as I make my way down to Wellington. The itinerary is all coming together.

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Perth Fringe 2020 – Shows two and three

It’s now 35°C outside and I’ve taken refuge in Perth’s nicely air-conditioned public library.

Other locations where I frequent in such temperatures include the cinema; and lengthy strolls around the cold sections in supermarkets, mostly just to browse.

Two shows in and audience numbers have been picking up ever so slightly. I had 25 for Thursday and 29 in last night. It would be nice to sell the venue out at least once during the run, but it might not happen.

I’ve already made sufficient funds in ticket sales to cover my accommodation. And by the end of my run in Perth, I may have even made enough to cover the cost of my return flight. This has to be one of the most cost-effective way of travelling the world.

And the plus side of quieter than expected sales means that I’m now in absolutely no danger of getting into trouble with the Australian tax authorities.

All three shows so far have been good fun. One thing of note though is that I have been getting more questions from the audience about the questions in the quiz than ever before. And this may very well be the difference between a UK pub quiz and an Aussie trivia night. An Aussie trivia night lasts for an entire night due to the sheer volume of questions about the questions.

Before Thursday’s performance, I was met with the potential disaster of the bar in the venue closing ten minutes before the show was due to begin. Apparently, there’d been a cock-up with the closing times. I could feel the tension as I arrived on stage and it took a little while for them to warm up. But they did, particularly so when I mocked them for not being able to get a drink and said it was my idea for to close the bar.

In other news, I tried my hardest to get tickets for My Chemical Romance’s UK shows yesterday as soon as they went on sale. But alas, it was all for nothing.

Not being able to get tickets for something is a particularly bitter blow when you have plenty of your own tickets that haven’t sold. MCR sell-out two dates in a 40,000 capacity stadium in a matter of minutes and I can’t even sell-out a 70-seater room. It’s enough to turn anyone Emo. But on the plus side, it means I don’t have to go anywhere near Milton Keynes.

The band are actually playing in Auckland when I’m over in NZ and tickets are available. Admittedly, it is on the day that I’m due to fly home. I may just have to look into rescheduling.

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Perth Fringe 2020 – One show down

Last night was the first in my nine show run at Perth Fringe. With ticket numbers fairly low, I was pinning my hopes on a last-minute surge.

Because as I have learnt, you never really know how a show is going to go or how many people are will show up until it starts.

Unfortunately in this case, the pre-show report was pretty much bang on with the 16 people it listed. Although numbers were boosted by another two who bought tickets on the door, taking my grand total to 18.

I must admit that I expected sales to be slightly higher given how well the show has done in Edinburgh and New Zealand. Each festival is different and can take a few days or longer to figure out the best way to get people in. I’ve been handing out flyers, but current stats don’t look like this has had any effect so far.

And unlike Edinburgh in particular, there isn’t a daily influx of thousands of people to Perth who are in town specifically to see shows.

It’s also not the best time to be in Australia, given the environmental emergencies around the country. Some people have said that this may be having an effect on ticket sales, but who knows?

I honed the show playing to smaller crowds and my small shows in the Czech Republic were a handy reminder that I can never take ticket sales for granted. The show has no right to do well wherever it goes.

Nevertheless, it’s not the fault of the people who turn up for the empty seats around them. And I made sure that I gave them the show they paid for.

Pretty much, that is. As it was my first gig in almost three months, I felt quite rusty. A few things got a bit jumbled, mainly when I was ad-libbing, and I lost my train of thought a couple of times. There was also a lot more German speaking than usual, which was mainly from the audience.

But I felt the show went pretty well on the whole. It wasn’t perfect, but the audience laughed and got more into it as the hour progressed. I had a reviewer in, so I have no idea what he’ll write but I’m fairly sure I saw him laughing at least a few times.

Tonight is looking busier, but not by a huge amount. Then numbers drop again over the weekend, which is just bizarre as these days are normally reliably busy at festivals. I’ll just have to wait and see what unfolds, and look out for promo opportunities.

In other travel news, I’ve got the next part of my trip now planned. I head to Melbourne in a couple of weeks, where I’ll stay for at least a week. I’m looking at heading to Sydney afterwards, depending what the weather and fire situation is like then. It’s another case of wait and see.