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Edinbugh Fringe 2014 – Days 10 and 11

I managed to get a nearly full room for Monday’s show, but it turned out to be my toughest gig of the Fringe.

I had to work really hard to get the audience going and segments that normally go down quite well either received a muted reaction or silence. I battled on against the apathy and managed get several big laughs, but nowhere near as consistently as I would like.

After the gig, when Deech’s pizza arrived in the pub, it immediately slid off the plate and launched molten cheese, tomato sauce and pepperoni straight onto my left foot. Deech says this is his current highlight of this year’s Fringe.

I also got that review from Kate Copstick, which was very nice. She said: “Alex Love is great fun, and there is, it must be said, not much squid-based humour around, so his set gave us a rare chance to enjoy it.”

On the whole, the Fringe has been very good so far and it should get even better as I am now officially on holiday and get to sleep in an actual bed for the next ten days after I doing my time on the inflatable mattress.

On a more sombre note, like many people, I was very sad hear about the death of Robin Williams.

He was someone I watched from a very early age in Mork and Mindy and many films from my childhood. He was one of the first people I remember watching who was funny.

For me, my favourite film of his will always be Hook. Far more of his work has received greater critical and commercial acclaim. But for all its flaws, Hook will always have special place in my heart. It helps that it is protected by the powerful bubble of nostalgia, as it was one of the first films I saw in the cinema. But the key theme of not getting so consumed in your working life that you forget who you are and stop having fun is something that we should all keep in mind. Thank you, Robin. I know you couldn’t hold on to those happy thoughts, but I will do my best to keep hold of mine.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 – Days 8 and 9

On Saturday’s show, I had a full-house at the Kilderkin for the first time since the final Dirty Laundry in 2012.

There wasn’t enough room for everyone to fit in, with people crammed in at the back. Although it was very satisfying, it made doing the quiz much more difficult due to my limited resources in terms of whiteboards and pens.

A couple of punchlines fell flat, but it was a really enjoyable gig and the audience got more involved as the show progressed.

I am having a lot of fun playing the mock-hardline quizmaster and deducting points from people when they say something I disagree with. I am also enjoying playing around with a service bell that I ding at various points during the show when I say a fact, or any time I feel like doing so.

From Saturday’s show, I made a total of £63 in the collection at the end, which is my record so far for gig takings this year. It still seems strange not to split the bucket with anyone, but I am getting used to it being mine. All mine.

On Sunday, I did a spot at Nigel Lovell’s Worst Show on the Fringe. This is an exclusive show for only performers who have had one-star reviews to perform at. Thanks go to James Hampson from ThreeWeeks for qualifying me for this in 2011. Nigel did a great job of warming up the crowd and packing the room with about 70 people, which included the infamous comedy critic Kate Copstick.

A year or two ago, knowing that I had someone reviewing the show I was doing, particularly such an established scribe, would have knocked me off my game. But I have now reached a point where I don’t let that affect me. Obviously I would like people to say nice things about me that I can use to promote my act, but I have learnt to not let criticism get to me. If you perform in public, people will say things about you and people can say what they want about me.

I ended up having a gig I was pretty pleased with and even saw Copstick laughing quite hard at my giant squid material. I don’t yet know what she has written about me, or even if she will write anything about me at all. But there would be a certain irony in doing a show only because I got a one-star review and then getting a decent quote from a respected comedy critic out of it. Time will tell and there is always a chance I’ll get a mauling. Either way, it feels really good to be performing comedy at the moment.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2014 – Days 6 and 7

One week, six shows in and for the first time ever at the Fringe, I have nothing to complain about.

There is a very long way to go, but I am really enjoying myself so far this year. I know this doesn’t make for particularly captivating reading, as my miseries and mishaps are what you people want. But worry not, despair is only ever one bad gig away.

In spite of the wet weather and not having enough time for flyering as I have dedicated in previous years, I have been really lucky in getting audiences in double figures every day. This might not seem like anything to be pleased with for those not ‘in the know’, but given my venue location and the struggles I had at getting a crowd last year, this makes me very happy. The punters have also all been really receptive and keen to get involved with the show.

Having an hour to play around with is something I am getting a particular amount of enjoyment from. Every show has been different so far and I am able to spend more time on certain things some days than others.

My show is not perfect and can still be improved, and I would like to have several full rooms with loads of money in my bucket. I may have fashioned myself a delusional cocoon, but if the rest of the Fringe goes as well as the first week has then I will be delighted.

Before I came up here this year, I was going to try and get as many guest spots at other gigs under my belt as possible. But having done four in the past week, I have realised that I would much rather just focus on my show and go and watch other people perform. I will still do the rest of the additional gigs I am booked for and probably won’t turn much down that is offered my way if I’m needed to help out, but I’m not going to make much of an effort to find other gigs. Once I have finished my show, I want to have a few pints and unwind without having to worry about going to perform anywhere else.

One week in and this Fringe is all going a little too well… something must surely go wrong somewhere.

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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.