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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.

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Arrival in Perth

As I write this, I am now in Perth, Australia. 

If you’re wondering why I haven’t written anything since the end of October, then I can assure you that it’s not entirely due to laziness.

A few days after I wrote the last entry, there was a very sad incident in my family and I lost at least one reader to these ramblings. As I don’t feel the need to share every facet of my personal life online, I’m not going to reveal further details. I can save that for an Edinburgh show, or can tell you if you send me a message and are willing to pay me.

As a result of events, there has been a lot of stuff I’ve had to help sort out. This also lead to me cancelling my shows in Liverpool and Barcelona, which wasn’t solely because of poor ticket sales. 

When I arrived in Australia five days ago, I’d not done any gigs since 1 November 2019. I still haven’t, actually. My shows don’t start for another five days. At the moment, ticket sales aren’t looking too healthy. Unless you’re planning to come and see the show, that is. In which case, there are hardly any tickets available and you should buy one as soon as is humanly possible.

Part of the reason I chosen to come out here was a couple of deaths and a funeral putting things into perspective. And life really isn’t very long. 

But then if I’d known then how hot it would be, I may have chosen a colder country to visit. Yeah, obviously you need to make the most of every moment you have in life, but perhaps not if the humidity is making you feel like you shouldn’t stray too far from a toilet. It’s not worth the risk.  

I arrived on Monday night and it’s been about 35oC some days. I struggle when it’s anything over about 22oC. Hopefully it’ll cool down a bit, otherwise I will only be able to venture outside under the cover of darkness (the non-Hawkins variety). 

I’m in Perth for another two and a bit weeks. I may stay longer though. Once my shows finish here, I don’t have anything else until NZ Fringe in Wellington at the start of March. I tried booking some slots at the fringes in Adelaide and Auckland, but had another encounter with what is becoming my nemesis: non-responsive emails. My next plan was to hire a car and spend a few weeks driving along the Australian south coast to Melbourne and then onto Sydney. Sadly, the devastating bushfires then started. So I will have to make another plan. 

Fortunately for the content on here, travelling gives me an urge to write. Travelling also makes me have mishaps. I’m going to be away for around two and half months. Stay tuned. 

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Return to half-formed

After a period of silence for almost two months, you, my dwindling readers, are due an update on what I’ve been doing since I last wrote anything on here.

A fair amount has happened, with my geographical location noticeably shifting multiple times.

At the end of September, I moved out of my flat in Manchester and back to Stroud. It took almost three days to clean what had been three and a half years of miscellaneous nonsense and dust I’d accrued.

I’d be lying if I said that my time living in the north of England went exactly how I’d hoped. Although I’ve done far more paid comedy gigs than in the six years preceding the move, there is very much a feeling – at least as far as the circuit goes – of underachievement, stagnation, and frustration, not doing myself justice or working hard enough in relocation. I added those last two words for rhyming purposes.

My move was a gamble that I’d not really thought through or researched before diving straight into. But you don’t know if a gamble is going to work until you give it a try. I think I just needed to try harder to give it a better chance of succeeding, which is what many gamblers also believe in spite of a lack of evidence. Nevertheless, what’s done is done.

I didn’t have any gigs in September because of something that I may reveal more details on at some point if the material for a show comes together. Cryptic.

My return to the stage kicked off at Swansea Fringe at the start of October, which was hugely enjoyable. I’ve also been in London and did a couple of rusty short spots at some nights I’d not been to in a good few years.

The difference between me performing HTWAPQ and a shorter club set feels very much like what happens after breaking an ankle. When it comes out the cast, it takes time for the strength to return. That unintentionally reads a lot like a Swiss Toni quote.

After breaking my right ankle on that fateful New Year’s also in Swansea in 2008, my dominant right leg still feels weaker even after almost 11 years. HTWAPQ is my left leg and was never meant to be so much stronger than my right, but it’s done a lot more work. There’s nothing weird about this metaphor. It makes total sense.

Then at just before 2am this morning, I got back from a few nights in the Czech Republic where I was doing a couple of HTWAPQs. I had a show in Brno on Wednesday that turned out to be fun, albeit with the language barrier making things a little trickier at the start of the show. But to be fair, there have been many audiences all over the UK who’ve not been able to understand what I’m saying either, so it’s not like this is anything new.

I was in Prague the next night for another small but fun show. Audiences of 13 and nine respectively for two shows are much smaller than I’m used to for HTWAPQ, but they gave me an excuse travel to another country I’d never been to. And I may even be able to write them off as tax deductible.

Originally, these shows were meant to be part of my attempt to do a show in each of the 27 EU member states before Brexit. But judging by my energy levels after a three day trip, I’m now quite glad these plans never got very far.

Aside from comedy, I’ve been getting a fair amount of freelance writing work with my previous company thanks to my old friend, staff shortages. This work may start to dry up a bit, so I will need to find other sources of revenue. If you’re looking for writers and willing to pay, then I’m willing to write. I don’t think I can just rely on leads from this site though.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2019 – Days 24-25 | And post-Fringe thoughts

The reason I’m writing this much later than usual is that I’ve been without any internet for a few days. It has been refreshing to not compulsively check my phone to see what’s happening, or mostly isn’t, in the world.

After the Fringe, I travelled north to spend four nights in the Highlands. I stayed in the cottage of a distant relative, which sounds like the start of a horror film. Fortunately, I didn’t get woken up at any point by a crazy person brandishing an axe and it was a very pleasant stay.

The cottage is owned by my gran’s cousin, who lives in Musselburgh and who I stayed with for two weeks in 2010 in the first year I ever ventured up to the Fringe. It is an integral part of my Fringe history. I don’t normally have the time to venture up to the Highlands retreat. So it’s just as well I’m unemployed this year.

One of the places I visited was Loch Ness, which was much more touristy than I thought. I don’t know why I was expecting fewer tourists in one of the most famous places in the world, but there we go. Luckily, I pulled into a layby on the main A-road where I found a pathway down to the shore of the Loch. I didn’t see Nessie, but thankfully didn’t see too many tourists down there either.

There is so much more to see in the Highlands, four days isn’t really long enough. I will certainly be back and for longer next time.

Back to Fringe matters, the penultimate show on the final Saturday was a little flat, but not bad. For some reason, Saturdays are often the busiest days, but very rarely the best. I had three older men sitting at the front looking bored throughout. I’m fairly confident that it was one of them who wrote an arsey review on the Fringe website. So thanks for that, Charlie. I’m glad you didn’t enjoy the show. Also, I’ve got your ticket money.

Sunday’s final show was much better, with the front row consisting entirely of people who had seen the show at least twice, if not more. So while a small minority of people may not enjoy the show, the people who do tend to come back most years.

As I mentioned many times, the Fringe was much quieter than usual. It was only on one of the last days that I learned one of the reasons for accommodation being much more expensive than previous years. There has been a fairly recent change in legislation in student housing contracts, which means they are now valid for the whole 12 months.

Previously, landlords would be able to kick tenants out for the summer months, where they could get in some performers to pay much higher rents for August. As a result of the changes, many students are staying put and there are fewer properties available for performers and punters. There are other factors, but this may be the biggest one for the rocketing Fringe rents.

My ticket sales were 8% down on last year, with me selling 91% of tickets. Alas, I missed out on my fourth official sold-out Jpeg by 4%. I would appreciate some quiet at this difficult time. At least I’m honest and not claiming to have broken box office records, even if I did technically sell my highest number of tickets ever by purely doing more shows.

Despite the percentage dip, I made more money than last year due to sticking an extra £1 on ticket prices. When you compare this to what many of my more talented peers have endured this year, I’m counting myself to be incredibly fortunate.

In spite of all my gripes, it has been a positive Fringe for me. My main goal was to just have some fun with it after last year’s ordeal. And doing 30 HTWAPQs is the most I’ve ever done in such a short space of time.

The late-night shows were mostly all enjoyable, with one obvious exception. Performing in the main Edinburgh Stand was nothing short of a thrill every time.

The midday show was mainly new stuff, which I’d just about fine-tuned by the end of the run. And I now know that I have two almost completely different versions of the show that I can perform to mostly appreciative audiences.

I even had someone from a terrestrial TV channel get in touch, asking for four comps to the show. I didn’t expect anything to come of it. And I was right, they didn’t even show up.

However, what is becoming ever more apparent is that I need do something else too. As good as HTWAPQ has been for me, nothing lasts forever and I can’t keep doing this alone. I never expected to be doing it for this long, but cannot complain with how it’s gone and where it’s taken me.

I have an idea for a new hour show that is starting to come together. I’m going to take my time with it, instead of rush it like last year’s show. If it’s ready for next year then I’ll bring it up. If it isn’t where it needs to be, then I’ll spend another year working on it to get it right. There were a couple of shows I saw this year that highlighted just how much work I’m going to have to put in if I’m ever going to do a successful hour show that doesn’t turn into a quiz.

But there’s life in the old HTWAPQ dog yet. I’m taking it to Swansea in October and then to Australia early next year, before possibly heading back to New Zealand. Five years ago, I was just delighted that I’d managed to get double figure audiences every day.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2019 – Days 18-23

Edinburgh Fringe has a way of warping time. At times, it feels like I’ve been here for years. At others, it feels like no time has passed at all. It is very easy to lose track of time and have no idea what day of the week it is, let alone the date.

What is consistent though is thinking that there’s enough time to see all the shows I was planning to, before getting to the final week and not having seen anything. Then there’s either the urge to see everything, or just choosing to admit defeat and see the shows when they’re on tour.

This year, there are shows I have been planning to see all month, but had made no efforts to actually do so. I have seen some of the shows I wanted to, but will have to let others pass me by. Then there’s always the vow to be more organised next year, but knowing that the same thing will likely also happen then.

One thing that is different this year is that my visits to the Kilderkin have so far been limited to the solitary pint. It’s another thing I kept meaning to do, but didn’t get around to much. Although the pub will always hold a special place in my heart, that sour taste of last year’s show there is still there in my palate.

I’ve actually barely been drinking this Fringe. This wasn’t a conscious decision; it has just turned out this way. Doing midday shows has been a handy incentive to go to bed at a reasonable hour. And another key factor is not having a bar there immediately after I finish performing where audience members either want to buy me pints or I need something to numb the pain.

The shows have been going well. I now have just two left then that’s me done for another Edinburgh.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2019: Days 13-17

With just over one week left of the Fringe, I am approaching the final stretch.

After a slow first week, audience numbers have picked up for the midday slot and the past eight shows have pretty much all sold-out.

It might have something to do with the late shows no longer splintering my potential audience. But the possibility of gaining another official sold-out Jpeg probably went after the quiet first week and I have come to terms with not being able to add to my collection. It’s a Jpeg, nothing more, nothing less. That said, they can’t take my existing three away from me.

The midday audiences have all been great, but there’s that nagging feeling again that I need to do something else next. I need to have a think about this. Fortunately, I’m now unemployed so have plenty of time for pondering.

One thing I’ve not written about on here so far is the weather. It’s been perhaps the most extreme I’ve known in my nine years of coming to the Fringe. It’s been humid for pretty much the entire duration, but also raining a lot. And oh my, has it rained a lot.

Streams flowing down the streets have been a regular occurrence. For clothing options, I’ve gone for shorts and a rain coat, with a pair of jeans in my bag to perform in.

I’m staying down in Newhaven this year, which is right on the coast. So I’m making sure I get plenty of sea air in my lungs to ward off any lurgy. And I find that looking out across the waves is a great place to put in the pondering hours.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2019 – Days 8-12

After a couple of nights off doing the late-night shows, I completed the remaining two of the run and performed to the second and third largest ever audiences the show has been performed to.

Sunday’s show was probably my favourite of the run. I had 64 in, which is almost the perfect number for the show. There are plenty of people in the room, but not too many so that score keeping and crowd control are tricky.

Traditionally, the second Monday of the Fringe is the day most comedians take off. And while I had a break from the midday show, I still had the final late one to perform.

Monday’s show had at least 70 in. I was concerned I wouldn’t have enough stationery if a lot more people showed up on the door. Admittedly, this is not a concern you hear from too many comics.

The two audiences were just the right side of lively, without ever straying into dickhead territory.

And just to clarify, my record show audience remains Newcastle Stand, where I had 76 people.

Out of seven late Edinburgh shows, six went really well. It was only Tuesday’s show that was a struggle, which isn’t a bad return for a late-night Edinburgh slot. Although I’ve enjoyed doing these six shows, I always felt much more pressure to perform in the late-night slot than midday. This is partly because Stand 1 is such a legendary comedy venue, but there was also the knowledge that I may well have drunken people to deal with. I’m fine with this during the show, it’s just the mental preparation for it. Until the show starts, you never really know what you’ll have to deal with. And you can’t deal with anything until it begins.

I’m pleased to have completed the late run and no longer have to perform the first show of the day and the last one. It would be tough to do this for an entire Fringe. I can now start going to see other shows without having to worry about getting my early evening nap in.

The midday show is still proving to be consistently good fun. The past four days have all sold-out, which is nice in what’s been a quieter than average year. The show is nearly where I want it and I now have the time to rework bits to get it fully there. Today, I had  front-row that was mostly aged in their 80s. They provided a lot of laughs throughout the hour and their reactions to events in the quiz were a particular joy.