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Posts tagged ‘New Zealand’

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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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Unemployment and other forthcoming adventures

I have handed in my notice in my day job. I don’t have another job to go to and am not earning anywhere near enough from comedy to make a living, which currently shows no signs of changing in the near future.

You are probably now wondering just I’m playing at. Well, I will explain.

The end of January was eventful, to say the least. A colleague who sat at the desk behind me had a stroke in the office on the Thursday night and then died a couple of days later. I was waiting with him until the ambulance arrived.

Then the next day, I had the funeral of a school friend. He’d been living out in Australia and had just bought some land in Tasmania. When they showed drone footage he’d taken of his land during the service, I suddenly realised that I need to see more of the world.

And I can’t do this if I’m stuck behind a desk for eight hours a day, while driving all over the place in the evenings in a vain attempt to pursue my comedy dreams and just generally feeling exhausted. There was no pressure on me to leave my job, I just felt the time was right to do something else.

After Edinburgh, I’m going to move out of my flat in Manchester, pack up my rucksack and go travelling for a few months. It’s time to have some more adventures. I’ve saved up enough over the years to keep me going for a while. And my trip to New Zealand showed that gigs can cover travel costs, so that’s what I’m looking to do more of.

I made some enquiries about some festivals in America, but they didn’t really go anywhere.

My next idea was to do a gig in each of the other 27 EU member states before the current Brexit deadline on 31 October. However, this is proving difficult. The itinerary and getting around on a budget looks tricky, but not impossible. I could cover much of it on trains or ferries.

What’s proving the biggest stumbling block in all of this is actually getting a response from promoters. At the moment, it seems easier to book gigs in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand than countries that are about an hour or two away on the plane.

I’ve just realised that getting frustrated with Europe and instead favouring Singapore, Australia and New Zealand is very similar to what those hardline Brexit types are always on about. Plus, I also opted to leave something with nothing to go to. They say you become what you hate, I just didn’t realise it was so easy.

I potentially have four gigs so far in the EU27, just 23 to go. What I may do instead is just try and do as many gigs as I can around Europe and see a bit more of the countries I’m visiting while I’m still an EU citizen.

Then in March to April, I plan on going back to New Zealand and then to Australia. I’ve never actually spent more than a night in Australia, despite passing through it a few times over the years. Also, festivals there are much easier to book than those in countries ruled by unelected bureaucrats. There it is, slipping out again.

Once I’m done with that, there’ll be Edinburgh 2020 on the horizon. So I may end up having a year out from any full-time employment. I’ll be doing bits of freelance writing, so I will see how much that brings in before I decide my next move.

Are you looking for copywriters? If so, get in touch. As it says at the top of the page, I’m a trained journalist. But obviously don’t get in touch if you want me to write for free. I save that exclusively for this site.

And also get in touch if you live in one of the EU27 countries and want to book How To Win A Pub Quiz. I need the money.

After Edinburgh 2020, I’ll be looking to move either back to London, where I was based for six years; or to move to Bristol, where I was based for the first eight weeks of my life.

Or I could just quit comedy, accept defeat, get a full-time job and a mortgage, and try to become a normal person. Actually, maybe not.

For many people, uncertainty is a scary thing. For me in this instance, it is all quite exciting. I’m looking forward to having more time available to write and think up ideas, but probably also do a fair amount of procrastination.

Anyway, I should probably go buy some gammon and fantasise about how great things were before I was born.

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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.

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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.

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How To Win A Pub Quiz Mini International Tour. Stop two: Wellington, NZ

I am writing this entry from an environment that was highly familiar to me in 2007, but where I’ve not been since. I’m not referring to New Zealand, I am talking about internet cafes.

When I was in New Zealand last time, I would regularly frequent these places to keep in touch with people back home, write my travel blog, and generally use them as an escape from the backpacking experience or repeatedly watching the trailer for Spider-Man 3.

There were lots more internet cafes back then. This time, I had to hunt around pretty hard for one, as there don’t tend to be as many around these days. But I’m not here for nostalgia purposes, I’m in here as I needed to print something for my domestic flights and I figured I would make the most of the half-hour I’ve paid for by writing something.

Anyway, as you’re probably not reading this for information on internet cafes, I will move onto other things.

I have now finished my shows at NZ Fringe and I am pleased to report that they both sold-out, thus covering my flight costs. Friday’s was one of the liveliest I have done. They were up for it from the start and I had to use all the tools in my arsenal to keep them in line. Mainly deducting points. Friday’s show must have been the most times the ‘take one off’ chant has been used.

Saturday’s show was a little more sedate, but still good fun. Although all the tickets had been sold, nine people didn’t show up. But it doesn’t matter, because I still have their money.

I was gifted with a front-row of older people who were left confused by much of the show. These are usually the audience members I have most fun with as they have few inhibitions and will usually come out with an odd heckle or two. They didn’t disappoint.

The Cavern is a great room for comedy. It has low ceilings, is dark and has just the right amount of dinginess.

It’s nice being back in NZ. It’s a country I have a lot of affection for.

In 2007, I didn’t really enjoy Wellington that much. Mainly because the weather was bad and I was staying in hostels, living off a diet of pasta with flavoured  tuna.

But the combination of sun and not staying in hostels changes everything. Wellington is a city I could quite happily  live in. And who knows, perhaps one day I will do.

I fly to Christchurch tomorrow as I’m doing HTWAPQ there on Thursday.

Also, if you’re reading this and are in Dunedin, I am doing How To Win A Pub Quiz there on 30-31 March at Dee’s Cafe. Please buy a ticket.

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Returning

Last Friday, I returned to the stage for the first time in nearly seven weeks.

I felt a little rusty, but broke the longest stretch of time without a gig since I returned to stand-up nine years ago. I needed a break after what was a physically and emotionally draining August. Then a resilient cough and cold extended my absence from the stage.

So, what have I been doing with myself other than being ill? I’ve been writing songs about the life and career of Ross Kemp, that’s what. I’d like to do an Edinburgh show on this, but it may take a while to come together. And as the old saying goes: if you’re going to write a musical about Ross Kemp, you might as well take the time to do it properly.

The other thing I’ve been doing is consistently questioning what I’m doing with my life and my next step. It’s been something that has left me dumbstruck, because I genuinely have no idea at the moment. What the hell am I doing and where am I going? I may still not know the answer to the former, but now have at least a temporary answer to the latter. I am going to New Zealand.

In March, I will return to the country I spent four months in my early 20s that consisted of travelling around and doing stupid things.

What’s different with this trip is that I’m going there to perform comedy, as I’m taking How To Win A Pub Quiz to NZ. A show that was inspired by giant squid is going to a country where these creatures live off the coast of.

I currently have dates in Wellington and Dunedin, with others potentially in the works. I’m only going for two and a bit weeks this time, with a gig in Singapore on the way. But if the gigs sell well, then the trip should pay for itself.

An awful lot has happened in the 12 years since I was last in New Zealand. A ridiculous amount of things have happened to me personally and the world we live in. What hasn’t changed are my need for adventures and adrenaline rushes.