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Posts tagged ‘How To Win A Pub Quiz’

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Stewart Island

After visiting Gisborne and Napier, the third and final location on my list of places I didn’t visit in 2007 was Stewart Island.

Stewart Island is famous for its bird life, as it is without many of the invasive rodents and other small predators that blight much of the rest of the country.

On the ferry over, I saw an albatross or three. Make no mistake, these mothers are huge.

And three of the birds I saw at Zealandia – the NZ pigeon, the tui, and kaka parrot – have all struggled for numbers in years gone by. I can relate (Audience numbers? Fine, forget it). Yet within minutes of checking in at my hostel, I saw all three of these birds in the garden.

My encounters with rare birds didn’t end there. Insert your innuendo here if you must.

There was another bird I had never seen at all as it is one of the very rarest. I am talking about the kiwi. These small, flightless creatures are teetering on the brink of extinction with around 68,000 left in the world. This is down from several million a couple of hundred years ago.

Stewart Island has the largest population of wild kiwi anywhere in the world, which was one of my main reasons for visiting there.

They’re nocturnal, meaning that spotting one is a much trickier prospect. On my first night, I went on an impromptu walk along the coast for a couple of miles just as the sun was beginning to go down. But alas, I didn’t see a single kiwi.

On my second night, I heard there was a pub quiz at the island’s only pub. A couple of people at my hostel asked if I’d like to join them for it. As it turns out, I am quite partial to a pub quiz.

It was in the pub where I had my first pint of Export Gold lager since 2007, when I drank countless glasses of the stuff. It was pretty bland, so it’s nice to know that some things do the stay the same in an ever-changing world.

Back to the quiz, I should add that on the team of four, it was only me and Ian who knew anything.

I told the others that they needed to get the answers right, but they clearly weren’t listening.

And despite our best efforts, we came up five points short of the winners in third place.

I’m allowed a night off every now and then. And my show isn’t called How To Win Every Pub Quiz, meaning I can continue to perform it. Still, not winning does sting.

After the quiz, I decided I decided to go and look for some kiwis.

It had been raining, which fortunately meant that there weren’t as many kiwi spotters out as usual. The rule is that the more kiwi spotters are out, the fewer kiwis will be as they’ll get scared off.

Two minutes walk up the hill from my hostel, there’s a rugby pitch that I was told was a decent place for spotting them.

With no torch and just using my phone, I was going to find it tricky. I stayed very still for a couple of minutes and kept listening out noises and looking for moving shadows.

I thought I could see a small shadow moving, so walked closer to it. And there it was, a genuine wild kiwi.

Normal torch lights blind kiwis, which is why people use red lights when going out spotting. So I shined my phone light at my feet for a bit of visibility and moved a little closer. This then got the kiwi’s attention and he started coming towards me. I kept backing away, as I wasn’t sure if he was curious by the moving light or about to launch an attack with that hard beak. In hindsight, I’m fairly sure it was a defensive manoeuvre to kick me off his turf.

In any case, it was a privilege to see such a rare and legendary animal up so close.

Kiwis might be endangered, but they’re feisty little creatures. This was proven a couple of minutes later when another kiwi – presumably a male – appeared and a fight ensued in the bushes.

I was originally planning to stay on Stewart Island for four nights. However, finding out the hostel I was staying in only had two toilets spooked me enough to reduce this by a night.

As with most things I get worried about, the reality never turns out to be as bad as my head has been preparing for.

It was a small hostel and many people would leave very early in the morning, mostly to go hiking. As a result, I never had to queue for the toilet once.

Worrying and thinking of alternatives is one of my brain’s coping mechanisms.

Another example of this also on Stewart Island when my phone was playing up. For some unknown reason, I couldn’t access my phone settings. I took the most obvious course of action and went for Restore to Factory Settings.

When a blank screen then greeted me, I thought I may have to make the journey home without instant access to flight details, addresses of accommodation, or train tickets.

Thankfully, someone also staying at the hostel was a developer of Android apps and he fixed it.

I’m now in Christchurch, where I’ll be flying home from in four days time. I’m hoping these plans don’t get changed.

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NZ Fringe 2020 – Show four

Audience numbers for last night’s show thankfully picked up a bit. And while hundreds of people were lining the streets with the Wellington Pride parade, I managed to get around 30 people in.

The audience were great again. Although I would have liked a few more people in through the door, I’ve been very lucky with the people who have come through said door this run.

As it worked out, I actually ended up selling fewer tickets with each succesive show. This is a handy parallel with my last four Edinburgh runs, where each year’s tally is lower than the last. If the coronavirus is still widespread by August, then this record will almost certainly continue.

I would say that I’m not over here for the money, but it’s simply not true. Based on two shows last year, I thought I would make double the amount from four shows this time. Now I no longer have a full-time job, I need all the money I can get. Expectations ruin everything.

Unfortunately, I only made marginally more than last year.

Nevertheless, all the shows went well and it’s given me an excuse to come back to New Zealand again. Smaller audiences also meant I could have more fun riffing and dicking about with less admin to worry about. That’s very much how the show was forged and it is ultimately where I feel most comfortable.

As I have said many times over the years, I’ve always found failure easier to handle than success. Mainly because I’ve experienced more failure than success. But there’s no pressure or expectation that comes with failure. You just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on without worrying about sustaining anything.

It’s just as well I’m putting together a new show then.

It’s actually a relief that I won’t be doing Dunedin Fringe. I don’t think it’s healthy to compulsively check sales figures multiple times a day and then getting frustrated that the numbers haven’t increased.

And on another positive note, I have one night left in the worst hostel I’ve ever stayed in.

I won’t miss being woken up by my next door neighbour having lengthily phone calls with his partner on loud speaker, who sounds much like one of those garbling adults in Charlie Brown.

Tomorrow morning, I checkout of this dump and will never return. I may even steal a knife and fork out of spite.

They say a week is a long time in politics. It turns out its also true when staying in horrendous accommodation.

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NZ Fringe 2020 – Show three

I’m writing this while I’m waiting for my washing in a laundrette.

My hostel does have a washing machine, but I wouldn’t trust it based on everything else in that place.

Although it’s probably going to cost me twice as much at this laundrette, it at means that I can avoid spending time in that awful hostel and my clothes hopefully won’t come out smelling like rotten flesh. Actually, mouldy peanut butter is a far worse smell. So I will go with that instead. Just two more nights, just two more nights…

Onto show-related matters, I think I had about 36 people in last night. So, just over half full. I’ve never known an instance where the Wednesday and Thursday shows are busier than the ones on Friday and Saturday. But this is the situation I find myself in.

Attendances have been down across all my shows. I’m obviously not going to blame my lack or promo when I can blame other factors.

They were another good audience who all seemed to really enjoy it, with many saying nice things afterwards.

It’s my final show of the run tonight. At the moment, it’s looking like it’ll be the quietest. But it is a Saturday and people are around. And as I often say on here, you never truly know how something is going to go until it actually begins. 

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NZ Fringe 2020 – Show two

It is definitely quieter this year in Wellington as far as audiences go. I think that there are a few reasons for this.

There are meant to be more shows on this year, meaning potential audience reserves are spread further. And the coronavirus could also be making people stay in slightly more, probably to guard their mountains of toilet roll they’ve panic-bought.

And there is another reason that a lot of people who would have wanted to see my show already saw it last year.

It is a new quiz apart from two questions, even if I am using some of the same material to set things up for later. But for the most part, it’s a different set. So one mistake I probably made was not giving the show a secondary title.

I was called out on using a few of the same jokes by a reviewer from Art Murmurs. She gave me a glowing review last year and it’s nice she enjoyed it so much that she wanted to see what I was doing for it this year. But she also said she was disappointed I’d rehashed some of the content from last year.

I’m fully aware of how complacent and lazy the show has made me in terms of writing material. And this is why I’ve made the decision to write a totally new hour for Edinburgh next year and am likely to put HTWAPQ into storage. After six years, I could do with a new challenge. So I expect this year’s Edinburgh Fringe to be my last full run with HTWAPQ.

Nevertheless, the reviewer gave me some amazing quotes. Such as this pearl:

“Love appears to be the epitome of those times you are in the shower thinking, ‘Oh, it would have been really cool if I had said THAT’, the Armando Iannucci-ian repartee a skill I greatly admire.” 

Being likened in any capacity to Armando Iannucci is perhaps one of the biggest compliments anyone could pay me. I’m not quite sure what she means here though. If it’s Armando himself, or the shows that he writes. Because Alan Partridge is certainly an influence on my quiz host twat persona.

The second show last night was also a good one, even if I could feel it dip slightly somewhere in the middle of my set. I had about 40 in, which is 20 tickets from being sold-out.

Afterwards, I met up with my friend Chloe for a drink. And I managed to magically turn one pint into five. It was the most I’ve drank in one evening on my trip. My 22 year old self would be horrified, and likely suffering from a much worse hangover.

There, I can make it through an entry on here without moaning about my accommodation. Although I did have to resort to my other token subject of Edinburgh Fringe. 

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NZ Fringe 2020 – Show one, plus more accommodation gripes

Having completely sold-out both my shows at last year’s NZ Fringe, it was an simple decision to come back this year.

Only this time, ticket sales are much slower and I can say fairly confidentially that I am unlikely to match last year. Bizarrely, the first show on Wednesday night had the most presales, when it’s usually the weekends that are busiest.

There were 46 people in out of 60 for my first show, which is a decent number for midweek. And they were a great audience, so I cannot complain about the people who were there.

Tonight and tomorrow are looking about half full, which should pick up a bit nearer showtime.

My main concern is for Saturday. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect to sell more tickets at the weekend. Only at the moment, I’m barely scraping double figures. I’ve since learned that this is probably because it clashes with Wellington Pride.

Hopefully it’ll pick up, but you never really can tell. In any case, I will try to put on the best show for whoever does buy a ticket.

Now it’s time for a moan about my accommodation. If I thought it couldn’t get any worse then I was very much mistaken.

The hostel I’m staying in is appalling. It actually feels more like a prison. There’s no ventilation in the rooms and the windows don’t open, so there’s no fresh air. There is a fan contraption thing in my room, which I have going on all the time to avoid suffocating.

My room also has a musty smell to it, much like the long-abandoned attic of an elderly relative.

There are three male toilets between 50 rooms.

The showers have has their tap outside the shower curtain. And I’m fairly sure the nozzle on the shower I used on my first night is from an actual garden hose.

The kitchen has flies buzzing everywhere, and this evening there was a mountain of washing up in the sink that had been abandoned, topped with a bowl that contained some watery tinned spaghetti.

There is a cleaner I see every day. But I have no idea exactly what he does, as the same stains and grey clumps of hair and miscellaneous other matter remain fixed. I’m starting to think he could also be a figment of my imagination.

It is completely my fault for booking the cheapest option on Expedia before doing any research into it.

There is a plus side to all of this. Before I arrived, I had been trying to extend my stay here by email. Fortunately, I wasn’t able to do so.

Within two minutes of arrival, I knew there was no way I’d be extending my stay. I booked somewhere else for the extra nights, but I’ve since found out that this new place also has a similarly poor reputation.

I’m now counting down the days I have left in this toilet bowl, before I’ll have somewhere else to complain about. Just four more nights, just four more nights…

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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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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.