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Posts tagged ‘Kilderkin’

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Edinburgh Fringe Archives: 2015

With three days left of August, I still have five more years of Fringes to cover. August this year has actually been pretty busy, not by my usual standards; but busy enough so that I haven’t had enough time to do this. I’ve been getting a fair amount of freelance work, and am also doing a podcast that I’ve also not been able to devote the time that I thought I would. I will continue regardless.

The next five years brought much success, which is boring. So stay tuned for the 2018 one, as that featured some good old fashioned struggles. Anyway, onto Edinburgh Fringe 2015.

As a result of the unwanted promotion in the day job, I was approaching the 2015 Fringe having done very little writing of new material. This is a sad trend that has mostly continued to this day. I had a few scraps of ideas, but the show was essentially a refined version of the 2014 one.

What was different in 2015 was that I had paid the £295 to go in the official Edinburgh Fringe brochure for the first time since 2011. I was convinced that it wouldn’t have any significant effect on my audience numbers. The Kilderkin was too far away from everything else to get a big audience every day. Wasn’t it?

Well, no. I will never forget getting back to the Kilderkin after flyering on that first Saturday and seeing more than double the capacity of the room queuing out of the door to see my show. And it wasn’t just a one off. I was getting full rooms every day. It took a few shows to adjust to. And felt like I was living in a parallel universe. There was only one day out of the 18 shows where it wasn’t standing room only, where I was four people short of filling all the seats.

Not everyone enjoyed my show. A group of disengaged students fled through the fire escape during one performance, with one of them writing on Twitter that it was the worst show he’d ever seen. And who can forget my audience review on the Fringe site from Megan? She said: “This is a tedious hour, peppered with weak jokes that are delivered charmlessly.” I certainly haven’t forgotten. She also said it was clear that the show was going nowhere. Predictions weren’t her strong point – that much is clear.

And aside from a few flat days, the shows were great fun and a sign of things to come. I was getting the most out of my bribe rule, where audience members could win their team a point if they bought me a pint during the show. One Saturday, I was bought three pints within the hour. The drunkenness descended from there, leading to me heckling my friend Pete who was playing some acoustic song in the pub later on. He did open mics every night at the Kilderkin in 2012, but didn’t appreciate my alcohol-fuelled demands for Mrs Robinson and Rocket Man on this particular night. He asked me not to come back. The next morning, I woke up in a corner of my bedroom on a pile of washing.

I was staying in a nice if unconventional flat behind the Meadows. The shower was in a cupboard in the kitchen. I was sleeping in a double bed that I had to climb a fairly high ladder to get in, probably why I opted to sleep on the floor on a particular night. And the key to the front door from the street was temperamental; sometimes, it took what felt like 15 minutes to be able to open it. Alas, it would be my final Fringe sharing a flat with Deech. Jake Baker was also sharing the flat, along with at least three different people sleeping on the sofa bed at various times.

Another thing that felt significant with my show in 2015 was breaking the £100 barrier in the collection bucket at the end. It had eluded me for years, so was thrill to achieve that.

I clearly had something in the show that people not only wanted to see, but were willing to walk a considerable distance for in large numbers. And there was only ever only one paid venue provider that I wanted to perform at.

After my shows, I would count my money at the bar and chat to Les, the Kilderkin chef. He knew people who worked at The Stand, so I asked him to mention my show. I don’t know if he did, but I didn’t know how else to go about approaching them for shows.

As it happened, 2015 would be my final year before moving to the paid fringe. This would also be my last Edinburgh as a London resident, although that may very well change in the not too distant future.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2018: Days 1-3

Edinburgh Fringe 2018 is now underway and I am going to avoid using the obvious pun of saying it’s been A Mixed Bag so far, because it’s actually been pretty good.

How to Win a Pub Quiz has been selling out pretty much every day so far, which is amazing. I’m in Stand 2 this year, which is one of the very best rooms at the Fringe.

Nevertheless, I am missing the terrace out the back of Stand 5, where I would sit for many an hour after my show and was often bought pints by audience members. But from a time and health perspective, it’s something that I can’t really do this year.

The three HTWAPQ shows so far have all been really fun. The new set is getting there, but I’m still tweaking with every show. There is still room for improvement, but it doesn’t require quite so much drastic editing as last year.

For Stop the Press, I Want to Get Off, I’m back at the Kilderkin for the first time since 2015, with a brand new show for the first time since 2014. When I left there, I was playing to packed rooms and turning people away.

Then for my first show Saturday, I had ten people in and two walked out. It didn’t feel quite so much like a triumphant return to my spiritual home, especially as it was a Saturday. But I have to detach myself from comparing it to HTWAPQ. This show is a different animal, albeit a less successful animal. And you really don’t know how something’s going to go until you give it a try.

One disadvantage I have this year is that I have to get the room set up every day an hour before my show starts, which cuts into vital flyering time. I need to figure out a way around this.

The first show itself was a good start. The eight people laughed a decent amount at mostly the right points, I didn’t let the energy dip and made it through the entire set without looking at my notes or even writing my set on my hand.

The second show was much better. I must have at least 20 people in and they were great. There were some big laughs throughout. The show isn’t quite where I want it yet, but it’s getting there with every performance. And it now feels as though I have an actual show on my hands instead of an unsuccessful side-project.

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The Fringe ever-nears

I had my first show in 2018 for How To Win A Pub Quiz. It was in Oxford and I managed to get a decent sized crowd.

It’s a different set to previous years, or at least meant to be. As with many gigs, time conspired against me and I didn’t have enough time to get my set together. It wasn’t quite as much of a manic rush as the Newcastle show in October, but it wasn’t far off.

I ended up only doing ten minutes of material at the top and forgetting a large chunk of new stuff I’d supposedly written. It was a nice gig, the quiz was fun, but I felt a little rusty. It’s certainly motivation to make it better, especially with time running out.

I have been toying with the idea of dropping the traditional film sketch just before the quiz begins, but have since realised that it is an integral part of the show. I’ve written a new one, so hopefully it’ll be as well received. But the previous one had been honed over four years, so it may take a few attempts to get it to where I need it.

I was also meant to have a previous last week for Stop the Press…, but it was rescheduled after England ended up doing far better in the World Cup than anyone ever expected. But due to the lack of time to promote the show, the rescheduled one ended up being pulled too. The show is getting closer to where I went it, but it’s not quite there yet.

I’m previewing both shows in Beverley, East Yorkshire, on Saturday, which at the moment will be my last one for Stop the Press before I return to the Kilderkin.

Then I have one more Pub Quiz at the Hollybush in Cradley Heath next Friday. I’ll keep an eye out for others, but that may the last stop before Edinburgh and I’ll have bypassed London for previews for the first time ever.

I’ve been trying to get a final preview sorted for my hometown of Stroud on the last weekend of July, but I think I may have left it too late to get anything organised and promoted effectively now. There is only so much emotional blackmail you can do to friends in a short period of time.

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Grafting

This year, I am prioritising getting new material honed over paid gigs. It’s just as well, because otherwise driving a 175-mile round trip to Birmingham on Friday night for what turned out to be a reduced set of five minutes at a spoken word night might seem like a complete waste of time.

The other side of this is that I’m getting offered barely any paid gigs, but I’m also not actively sending requests for them. After eight years of plugging away, a logical person might consider this to be a pretty shocking failure.

When things aren’t going well, it’s all too easy to blame other factors such as the audience, the way the gig is run, not getting enough sleep, or needing a poo before the gig and there being no soap or toilet roll. But after a while, these just become justifications for your own failures. Either you get bitter, or you can keep trying to get better. It’s just one vowel’s difference and cheesy as hell, but I do love cheese.

Also, I’ve done two official sold-out runs at Edinburgh Fringe. So shut up, logical person. Admittedly, this does put me among pretty exclusive company among the circuit stragglers.

On the flip side of this, the new stuff has been going really well for the most part. I’ve suddenly got a lot more stuff that is getting to the level of where it needs to be. This has been achieved by writing, trying it out, writing some more, trying it out again slightly differently, then more writing and more gigging. There’s no secret to it other than hard work and that’s the key thing. I have been far too lazy in the past few years. I’ve not been booking up enough gigs or writing and performing enough.

The other thing behind this is that I am writing and testing stuff for my new hour show. It definitely helps to have a focus and a target to aim for. In August, I will be returning to the Kilderkin for Stop the Press, I Want to Get Off.

When you’re planning a show, it’s useful to have an idea of the venue in mind and there are few rooms I know better than the Kilderkin. In fact, I am fairly sure it’s where I have performed the most number of times. A quick calculation suggests that this is around 80 times from four runs at the Fringe, with only Walthamstow’s Ye Old Rose and Crown coming anywhere close to that and those were monthly gigs over six years. This isn’t something I’d ever thought of until now.

I’ve done two previews so far. At both, what I thought would be an hour turned out to be just over 40 minutes. This was fine at the second as it didn’t matter if I ran under. However, at the first one, I was part of the world record attempt for the longest running comedy gig and had to make sure that I at least did an hour. Fortunately, I had my notebook and was able to pick out bits of material to ensure I went the distance. My comedy accomplishments are now: two sold-out Edinburgh Fringe runs, a world record, and a white sock from all those dodgy nights in Tooting.

My new show still needs a fair amount of work, but I like the direction I’m going with it. I’ve got another preview on Thursday, but definitely need to book up several more.

Oh, and I’ll also be doing How To Win A Pub Quiz for the full-run at Stand 2 in August. I just couldn’t leave it alone.