Your browser (Internet Explorer 6) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.
X

Posts tagged ‘How To Win A Pub Quiz’

Post

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.

Post

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.

Post

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.

 

 

Post

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 – Days 6-7

I have now completed my five late-night shows in a row, then duly hit the tiredness wall around 6pm just as I was about to go and watch a friend’s show.

Following from Tuesday’s struggle, the shows on Wednesday and Thursday had much better audiences. Although as it gets later, the show does start to lose its focus and the audience just want to sing to the tracks played in the music round.

I’ve been finishing the show around 1.10am. After I’ve packed up all my stuff, it’s not far off 1.30am when I leave the venue and have to get the night bus back to where I’m staying. I’ve been going to bed at around 3.30am, then getting up at 9am to head back into town for my midday show.

I’m thankful that I only have two late-night shows left, as I wouldn’t be able to keep up this routine for the better part of a month. Although four out of the five late shows have been good fun and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of doing the show in a later slot, it’ll be nice to start going to bed at a normal-ish time again.

As far as the midday shows go, I had my smallest audience of the run yesterday with 28. This year being as it is, this number isn’t actually too bad. The people that have been coming to see my show have all been good fun, even if they are a little less inclined to sing along as enthusiastically to the music round than their late-night counterparts.

The set for the midday show still needs work, as not everything in it is flying consistently every day. But I have time to rework bits, and chop and change things.

As I don’t have to perform this Friday night, I’m planning to go to bed before 11pm and become reacquainted with that thing known as a enough sleep. Comedy is still the new rock n roll.

Post

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 – Day 3 and 4

I have been unable to write for the past couple of days, due to the new part of my Fringe routine that involves having a sleep for an hour and a bit before my late-night shows. Otherwise, trying to get by on a cool four hours of sleep out of 24 is a pretty effective way of burning out.

Sunday saw the first ever late-night How To Win A Pub Quiz and it was a really enjoyable show. I’d had about 30 people on presales, but another 20-odd showed up on the night. And although this was less than half the total capacity, it felt nicely filled with teams sitting around tables.

One key ingredient that set this show apart from the midday one is alcohol. While the audience haven’t been drunk, they have had a few more units of alcohol than their midday counterparts. This can lead to more chatting that requires some crowd control work, but it can also lead to the audience bursting into song during the music round. It’s always fun to get the entire audience clapping in time to I Believe in a Thing Called Love, which was one of the original cornerstones of the show. I never expected to be doing it five years later in front of a paying audience in one of the best comedy venues in the world.

Last night was quieter, with about 20 in. Nevertheless, it was a good show and the people who came enjoyed themselves.

It is quite a thrill to be doing shows at the Edinburgh Stand. Since I first came up in 2010, it has been the one venue I’ve always wanted to do shows. Although I may not currently be close to filling the room, the people who are coming to see it have so far been very enthusiastic in their appreciation. And you can only ever perform to the people who are in the room.

Also, not having 140 people means that I have a lot less admin to do in the quiz. You’ve got to take the positives where you can.

Tonight is looking quieter still, but there is still time for that to change and we shall just have to wait and see. Having done the show to such varying ranges of audience sizes, particularly in the earlier years, means that I can adapt it accordingly.

Meanwhile, the midday shows are mostly full and they have all been enjoyable.

It’s time now for that tactical nap.

Post

So this is Fringemas…

In 24 hours time, I will have just finished my first Edinburgh Fringe show of 2019.

Ticket sales are currently ever so slightly down on this time last year. With last year’s theme being the 90s and this year’s being Britain, it suggests that people prefer that decade to this country. This is perfectly understandable, especially with all the mad things happening at the moment.

I’m also looking forward to seeing how the show works in a late-night setting. Ticket sales are much lower than for the midday show, but the later time slot does give much more time for flyering and for people to buy tickets throughout the day. I’m only doing the late-night shows for the first week and a bit, which shouldn’t cause any issues when my energy levels are likely flagging in the final week.

My main goal of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe is to just enjoy it. Although I greatly enjoyed my midday shows last year, the early evening show was often a struggle that I wasn’t having much fun with. Last year, I was trying to do too much and ended up being ill for most of the month.

Another thing that’s different this year is that for the first time since 2011, I won’t have a full-time job to return to afterwards.

I left my job of seven years and nearly nine months at the end of last week. I was with the company for seven years longer than I originally planned.

It worked out pretty well with previous Fringes, with me either working remotely in some years, or taking the whole time off as paid holiday in more recent Augusts. I could have quite easily stayed put, but I felt it was time for a new challenge.

At the moment, it hasn’t really sunk in that I’ve actually left. I’m half-expecting to go back to work after the Fringe. If I did, I’d probably get some strange looks and would find someone else sitting at my desk.

The main thing I will miss is having that salary at the end of month. I have to wait for my Fringe pay day until October. I’m going to be doing bits and pieces of freelance writing while I’m up here, so there should at least be some new funds coming into my bank account before then.

What I’ve done for the past three Fringes is finish work on the Wednesday, then drive up afterwards to stay a night in either Cumbria or Lockerbie, before heading up to Edinburgh the next day and nicely splitting up a 4.5 hour drive.

This year, I drove up on the Tuesday and arrived in Edinburgh a day earlier than usual. This has given me an extra day to relax in the calm before the Fringe storm.

Another thing that’s different is that I can go and see some of the rest of Scotland, which I never normally have time to do. Once my run finishes, I am heading up to the Highlands for a few nights and doing a show in Inverness.

I’ve always wanted to visit Loch Ness since I was a small boy who was obsessed with dinosaurs, so will be finally crossing that off my to-do list after 30+ years.

Throughout the Fringe, I will be writing significantly more entries on here than I do in every other month. This site is the best place to keep up with my physical and emotional wellbeing for the month of August. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.

Post

Trial and error

On Tuesday, I did something I haven’t done in a good few years.

No, it wasn’t that. I performed the latest incarnation of HTWAPQ in front of an audience who had no idea what show it was they were about to watch. It was at a weekly open mic night in Leeds in a small room that is reliably full.

The look of bewilderment on people’s faces when I handed out the stationary was something to behold.

Nevertheless, it was nice to do the show without any expectations and have the freedom to try stuff out. Although I never tire of performing HTWAPQ to packed rooms of paying punters, I sometimes miss the room to experiment where there is no pressure.

After all, trial and error were a massive part of how the show came to be in the first place. It’s just as well I still have open mic gigs then.

Having done variations of the show so many times in numerous venues, I have a good idea of what will work within the format. However, what I thought was about 15 minutes of material was actually closer to ten minutes, so I need to get some more writing done. The new stuff received a mostly positive response. But then again, it was the same venue in Leeds last year in my preview for Stop the Press where one particular bit got a massive laugh that was never anywhere close to being replicated in any of the other shows.

In spite of the set coming in shorter than expected, I know I can always rely on riffing and audience interaction to get me through this particular show. The quiz itself needs work, but I have plenty of time.

This Edinburgh, I just want to enjoy myself. Last year hit me hard both physically and mentally. I was spreading myself too thin and didn’t have enough time or energy to devote to making the best of my new show.

What is particularly exciting for me this year is that not only am I returning to the midday slot at Stand 2, but I am also doing several late-night shows in the 140-seater Stand 1 downstairs.

I don’t expect the sell this out. Then again, I never expected any of my other shows to sell-out when I first moved to the paid Fringe. I honestly had visions of people queuing up at the box office demanding refunds. Things didn’t quite work out like this.

Edinburgh Stand is a special place for me. When I first went up to the Fringe in 2010, I saw Stewart Lee in the same venue and said to a friend that my aim was one day do a show there. I may have achieved this via a gimmick, but I’m counting it as a colossal win nonetheless.

Post

From Queenstown to Swindon town

I still don’t like Queenstown.

It’s beautiful to look at, but it also knows this. Unlike the rest of New Zealand, it lacks a soul; largely as it’s pretty much just there for tourists.

That said, I enjoyed it more than when I was last there. This is because I wasn’t drunk every night and hungover every day. These two activities may also explain why lots of things in New Zealand aren’t entirely how I remember.

And just as a side note, the bar I got thrown out of in 2007 for being too drunk has since burnt down. So I think I won that battle eventually. Suck on that, bouncers.

But Queenstown is not somewhere you want to spend a lot of time. A couple of nights is all you need. In my experience, it also remains a magnet for twats. Twats with money who also want to throw themselves off platforms with elasticatated rope tied around their ankles.

Speaking of which, I returned to do the Nevis bungee/bungy. Even though I had done it before, jumping out of a cable car over a canyon and falling 134 metres is never going to be something that feels normal.

It was chillier than when I did it before. So getting a lung full of cold air as I fell added to the experience.

It provided quite a rush and was an exhilarating end to what turned out to be a nice little trip. I definitely won’t leave it another 12 years before I return to New Zealand, especially as I now have a cost-effective means of getting there thanks to ticket sales.

From Queenstown to Swindon town. The international tour rolled on.

Due to being wrapped up in my travels on the other side of the world, I had almost forgotten that I was bringing How To Win A Pub Quiz to Swindon Fringe Festival eight days after I arrived back in the UK.

In something highly unusual, I had barely given it a plug on Twitter. Luckily, I used my old hack connections and got an article in the Swindon Advertiser a couple of days before.

The show ended up selling out, which you may get tired of reading, but I never get tired of writing.

The crowd were great fun and interacting with them resulted in a lot of laughs.

The last event I went to in Swindon was Radio 1’s One Big Weekend that I was covering for the paper almost exactly ten years ago. The highlight of that day was getting back stage, blanking Vernon Kay and finding a tenner on the floor. Saturday’s show was much better in every sense. 

Articles

How To Win A Pub Quiz Mini International Tour. Stop four: Dunedin

The final stop of my mini international tour was Dunedin.

I liked Dunedin last time I was there. Back then, it was a welcome escape from what turned out to be an awful stay in Queenstown.

Dunedin wasn’t quite how I remembered it. I don’t know if there’s been a lot of investment in it or that my perceptions of things in 2007 were skewed by alcohol and fatigue. Anyway, I liked Dunedin then and still like it.

Shortly after I arrived in my hotel, I had an email from the Otago Daily Times requesting an interview. As I don’t have a Kiwi sim card, a phone interview wasn’t feasible. So we did a Q&A over email.

Later on, a photographer was sent out to take a picture of me. I don’t think this has happened since I was in the birthday listings in the Stroud News and Journal when I was eight or nine years old. I’m more familiar with the other side of things.

The photographer even had a company car. I was amazed, as company cars were unheard of for reporters and photographers in my time at the local paper.

Onto the shows, ticket sales had been much quieter than I’m used to. On many occasions over the last couple of months, I would receive a daily automated ticket sales email to tell me I had not sold any tickets on that day.

I later learned that this is largely because people in Dunedin don’t really buy tickets for anything, which does explain a lot.

Fortunately, sales did pick up. In a 50 seater room, I had around 40 for the first show, which was pretty good going. It was also another lively one. I do love Kiwi crowds.

A few things went wrong, mainly the facts bell refusing to cooperate on several occassions. But it didn’t spoil the show and also got a few more laughs along the way.

For the second show, there wasn’t enough room for everyone who wanted to see it. If only they’d come on the previous day.

So, half an hour after the triumphant end to what was meant to be my final show, I did another performance due to overwhelming demand.

However, the extra show ended up being in front of nine people. It felt a bit anticlimactic after the previous show. Still, they paid to see it and more money helps reduce travel costs further.

And that brought an end to my NZ shows for this year.

This morning, I got a bus to Queenstown at 8.30am. Unlike in 2007, the bus wasn’t full of public school-educated 18 year olds. I am grateful for this.

I’m here for two nights, specifically to do the Nevis bungy/bungee before I fly home.

Post

How To Win A Pub Quiz Mini International Tour. Stop three: Christchurch

In Christchurch, things didn’t go entirely to plan.

What was originally offered as a free stay in a four-star hotel turned into a stay on a sofa, which later turned into nothing. So back to my hostel roots I went. I haven’t missed staying in hostels, but I splashed out on a single room to avoid sharing a dorm.

As for the show in the city, the venue cancelled it three days before. A replacement was quickly found, but a one-off show in a venue that’s changed with three days notice was always going to be tricky. Five people turned up, so I made the decision to pull it.

Small crowds are useful for testing stuff out. And when I was first trialling the show concept in 2014, I would have gone ahead with it. Yet with a polished show in the bag, this almost feels counter-productive. Look at me, being a diva.

Then again, tickets hadn’t really shifted in the previous venue. The show sells well, but only if it’s part of a larger festival and people are actively looking for stuff to see.

Despite the mishaps, I still enjoyed my time there. I co-hosted a pub quiz and MC’d an open mic gig. Once my show was cancelled, I got a lift to New Brighton to do a spot at a gig there, which was fun. I’d not been there before, but have spent many happy a time in the old Brighton. Sadly, I didn’t see a New Langton, New Moz or New Luke. It was only a quick trip though, so they might have been there.

A lot has changed in the Christchurch since I was last there. The earthquakes that struck in 2010 and 2011 did conisderable damage to the city, which is still recovering. Then earlier this month, an utter moron killed 50 innocent people. Events like this really put into context that it really doesn’t matter if a show is pulled.