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Posts tagged ‘Newcastle’

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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.

 

 

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Looking back at 2017

With a few hours left of 2017, I will now summarise what has occurred in the past 12 months.

There are no surprises to learn that the highlight of my 2017 was doing a sold-out full-run at Edinburgh Fringe. That this was also a year when many shows on the same side of town struggled for audience makes it all the more of an achievement. Being asked to do the show at Newcastle Stand was also a thrill, even if my journey there was an ordeal to say the least. Leicester Comedy Festival in February was another highlight of my year, and I really enjoyed my shows up in Glasgow.

I have also made the most money from comedy this year than possibly the previous six years combined. Outside of my hour show, I have done more gigs than last year and a decent amount of these were paid. But it still remains that How To Win A Pub Quiz is going substantially better than my progress on the main comedy circuit. This is partly because I’ve been doing the same material for so many years that I’ve become bored with it and also that I’ve not been booking up enough gigs in my diary. To rectify this, I am planning to do an hour of stand-up in Edinburgh next year without any quizzes, just me and a microphone. Hopefully I’ll have an audience as well. Forcing myself to do a totally new hour will give me a much-needed focus and motivation to write more, plus I’ll need to do more gigs to try stuff out. But do not dismay, quiz fans. I am also planning on doing a variant on How To Win A Pub Quiz in August. I don’t know what sort of state I’ll be in at the end of the month, but I’ll worry about it then.

It has been a good year for attending music gigs, as I’ve managed to see Guns and Roses once and Iron Maiden twice, plus Weezer, The Darkness and Jarvis Cocker. At the moment, 2018 is looking pretty empty on the music gig front.

In November, it was nice to do some reporting for the first time since 2009, when I was sent out to Finland to write a feature on an electric ferry as part of the day job, even if my shorthand turned out to be a little rusty. When I was a reporter in 2008, I was looking into last-minute trips to Scandinavia. I ended up buying a Playstation 3 and spent my holiday playing on it instead, which pretty much sums up what was the worst year of my life. While in Finland in 2017, I suffered from a severe bout of food poisoning, which is also a decent summary of my 2008.

Onto films, my favourite one of the year is probably Logan. I really enjoyed The Last Jedi as well, which has polarised opinions. I’m writing a more detailed assessment of this, so stay tuned. This should tie-in to my idea for a podcast, which I’m hoping to get up and running this year.

New Year’s resolutions: write more comedy, do more comedy admin, spend less time procrastinating on my phone. Every year, I also say that I’m going to learn a language. I’ve been learning Spanish for the past year on the Duolingo app and am going to be doing real language lessons next month.

I don’t know what the next 12 months will bring or where it’ll take me, but can at least be fairly certain that I’ll be writing a review of it in 364 days time.

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A race against time

In what was the largest audience I’ve ever had for How To Win A Pub Quiz on Friday in Newcastle, I had quite possibly the worst kind of preparation.

I’d opted to drive, as the train tickets were £67 return and there’s no way I’m paying that for something I can do for cheaper and be less restricted by departure times.

I left Manchester at around 1.30pm and every route planner I’d looked at said it would take me around three hours. I’d booked a 24-hour parking space, so I’d have plenty of time to park up, then get to the venue to soundcheck for 5pm, giving myself a good hour and a bit to relax and prepare for the show at 6.30pm.

The one flaw in my plan was motorway delays. Lots of them. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced so many. There were various moments when I was at a complete standstill, with the ETA on my satnav getting later and later, and the sun beating down on me just to make things even more uncomfortable.

The two-hour cushion I had to play with ended up dwindling into nothing and when I finally got moving, it was a race against the clock to make it to the venue in time for the start of my show. I’d been in regular contact with the venue and there was no option of starting 15 minutes late as the show on after had sold-out and they needed to get the room ready.

Throughout all of this, my bladder was getting fuller and fuller. In the end, I had to make an executive decision and  piss on the grass verge in a lay-by in full view of passing traffic. The alternative wasn’t worth contemplating.

I reached the centre of Newcastle at 6.20pm and was driving around, frantically searching for a parking space nearer the venue than the one I’d booked, while doing my best to negotiate my way around a one-way system I’d never used before. At 6.26pm, I’d found my beacon of hope: a parking space.

I parked up and dashed to the venue in a sweaty and stressed mess. It was now 30 seconds before my show was due to start. Fortunately, the venue manager took pity on me and gave me five minutes to compose myself.

I had 76 people in, it was a decent show and they were good fun, but I can’t help think how much better it would have been had I not arrived at the venue in such a state mere seconds before the show was due to start. What worked in my favour was that I’ve done the show so many times now that I can just click into it. I definitely felt much better at the end of the show than I did at the start.

But next time, I’ll be getting the train.

 

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The ridiculous ride continues

The ridiculous ride that is How To Win A Pub Quiz is continuing to ever greater heights

The other week, I was asked if I would like to perform the show at The Stand in Newcastle. The venue capacity is for 300 people for a show that I originally hoped would get me at least double figures ever day at the Kilderkin on the Free Fringe. I was in two minds about accepting, as the show was never intend for that many people.

Whenever I’m mulling over being offered stuff I have doubts over, I always think back to one of the first people I interviewed when I was a reporter in 2008 called Stan Dibben. I don’t expect you to have heard of him, but he was a former world sidecar racing champion, had been a member of the team who worked on the Bluebird land speed record, and even redesigned the wheels of supermarket trolleys. He’d released an autobiography that and when I asked him about how he had come to experience such a diverse array of weird and wonderful things, something he said stuck with me: “You say ‘yes’, always.”

So I accepted the offer and will be performing in Newcastle on Friday 27 October.

As a precaution, I asked for them to cap the ticket sales at 120 just to be on the safe side as I don’t want to be held back by doing too much admin. I obviously don’t expect to sell this many tickets, although I wouldn’t bet against it considering how ridiculously far this show has taken me so far.

One of those Facebook memories things came up recently from 2007, in a conversation with a mate about some comedy scripts I’d written and how I was trying to book up some more gigs. Then I remembered that ten years ago, I was also washing up and working in various warehouses through a temp agency. A lot has happened in the past decade, but it reminded me that I really haven’t done too badly at all.