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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.


How To Win A Pub Quiz Mini International Tour. Stop one: Singapore

When I first came up with the idea of How To Win A Pub Quiz, my aim was to get double figure audiences every day at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe. I didn’t expect to be doing the show five years later and I certainly didn’t expect the idea would allow me to travel the world. But I am and it has.

The first stop on my mini international tour was Singapore. The last time I was there was confined to a quick stopover at the airport while the plane refuelled in 2007, when I think it was on my way back from New Zealand. It’s expanded pretty dramatically since then as I remember it being much smaller. Also, being in an airport doesn’t actually count as being in a country.

This time, I was totally unprepared for the humidity and was sweating profusely shortly after I left the airport. I’m used to sweating profusely on trains, but it’s normally due to me racing against the clock to catch one or being on the London Underground in rush-hour during the summer months.

I’d been booked in at a capsule hostel. Except it doesn’t feel like a hostel, which is basically like sleeping in a deep cupboard. It’s actually not bad, albeit with clammy conditions despite the air-conditioning being on constantly.

I was in town to do a show at The Merry Lion. As I was kind of limited with what days I could do, we settled on a Tuesday. It’s a great little room that had an audience of 15 people.

It’s not quite the crowds I’m used to with the show. Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun and also achieved my show’s original aim of getting double figure audiences numbers. It has also opened up potential opportunities to perform the show elsewhere in South East Asia.

I have now arrived in Wellington, where the climate is much more manageable. I perform my first show in a couple of hours time at The Cavern Club. I am also pleased to report that I am sleeping in a much more spacious room that doesn’t require air-conditioning.


We’ve done alright

This weekend just gone, I was making a guest appearance in London. Since I moved from there last year, there has been a drop in London house prices. Alongside this, Manchester has experienced the highest rising property prices in the UK during the past 12 months. Obviously, these figures are entirely down to me and my general aura.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t equate to me being able to afford to buy anywhere. But I might start approaching estate agents around the country, explain the effect I have and then see if they’ll give me a discount on a house in return for my presence significantly boosting business elsewhere in their area.

I wasn’t just there to cause a temporal shift in respective house prices; I had business to attend to. I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of the content management systems used by the business-to-business publishing sector, as I’m not allowed to under my contract. What a shame for you all that is.

For the night, I crashed at my mum’s cousin’s house in Tottenham. It was the same place I stayed pretty regularly in 2009 before I moved to London, when I was coming up for gigs and newspaper shifts. It was also the same place that I was house-sitting in 2011 that was then infested with fleas, when I took a call the morning after a night-shift from my current company to tell me that I was successful in my application. And at this exact time, I was sleeping in a bin bag to try and keep the fleas off me.

I did a gig for Gwilum on the Friday, but was really staying over as I had the opportunity for a meet-up with Parisian podcaster, Luke Thompson. Not only that, my old friend Moz was also there.

The three of us originally a met in a basement that smelt like toilets doing a comedy workshop in 2009, and I realised that we’ve actually done alright for ourselves through comedy and performing from those humble beginnings. Hopefully this won’t be the respective pinnacle for each of us, but it’s pretty good so far.  Moz is doing a successful walking tour of Soho, Luke has an international audience for his award-winning podcast and is making a bit of money from it; and I don’t know if you’re aware, but I’ve done a sold-out run at Edinburgh Fringe. I’ll admit, most people aren’t aware of this and don’t seem to react well when I berate them for not giving me the respect I deserve, no matter how weak the new material I’m testing may be.

The missing member of the crew is Paul Langton, who was characteristically absent. But as regular readers will know, he has achieved nothing in comedy. If only he’d stuck with the mediocre Love and Langton sort-of-double-act, who knows which small venue we would now be struggling to fill?

It was a brief counter, as Luke had to go off to band rehearsals in preparation for his 40th birthday gig and I had to travel back up north as I had tickets the following night to see another band in Birmingham. As much as I’m a fan of Luke and all his creative endeavours, his band will probably never quite match Iron Maiden.

In Edinburgh news, I can announce that I will be doing How To Win A Pub Quiz with The Stand again this year, but am doing the full-run. I am very much looking forward to this. Tickets should be available now. Probably, I haven’t looked.


A tale of two five minutes

It may seem obvious, but five minutes can seem like a hell of a long time if it’s not going well. At a comedy gig, space-time can actually bend around the stage and five minutes can last for several days. Conversely, if it’s going well then space-time speeds up and it’s over in a nanosecond.

This week, I have performed two five minute sets at two of the bigger clubs in the UK. One didn’t go well, but I beat the gong so was still technically a success. The other one went much better, mainly because I could relax due to the lack of the sword of Gongocles hanging over my head.

On Monday, I managed to last the distance at Beat the Frog despite being on last and much of the audience not liking my set. Two out of the three audience with cards were holding them up. Fortunately, my safe passage was ensured by the third card holder really enjoying my act. From the largely flat audience reaction, I didn’t really feel like I’d earned it when the music hit to confirm I’d beaten the gong. Still, it’s an improvement on when I last did it and I can mark it as W on my personal gong record. I hate gong shows, but it is one way of getting seen by the bigger clubs so is a necessary evil.

The second gig was at Glee in Birmingham, as part of the try-out section. I was instantly more at ease than Monday due to it being a gong-free zone, and also that I nearly always have nice gigs in Brum. It went well, I got some big laughs and enjoyed it much more than Monday. I also got a free pint and chocolate brownie, so I’m definitely marking this as a win.

I’m currently writing this from a cafe 30 seconds from my flat that I heard was interested in running a comedy night, which would be ideal for me. First impressions aren’t good. The beer is expensive, I hate the music and would probably actively avoid most of the clientele. It would be hard to run a gig somewhere I wouldn’t want to go through choice. Fortunately, I am scouting incognito, so they’ll never know I was here. If I do start running a night soon, then I must have been talking about a different place.


Entry 317: The difficult second preview

I suppose last night can accurately be described as ‘the difficult second preview’.

It was quite a weird night. I don’t know exactly what caused it, but there was an awkward tension throughout.

We had an audience of 14 people, which isn’t bad going for the summer months at all. Seven of the audience were people I had invited, the other seven were people who were at the venue anyway and fancied coming to see the show. Most of the latter group didn’t seem to be enjoying much of the night, but credit where it’s due they stayed until the end and its good practice to deal with apathy and how you can turn it around.

Paul didn’t enjoy his set at all and blames it on me for forgetting our Mixed Bag bag. I was on after him and found a way to get some enjoyment out of it through sheer persistence and perseverance. My reward was some audible laughs peppered throughout my set, which I felt I had earned.

It was hard work, but great experience. In Edinburgh we are likely going to be dealing with similar circumstances. I do quite like weird gigs and find the best way to cope is to embrace it and see where it takes you instead of ploughing on with Plan A.

Tonight we have our third preview down in Camberwell, the show is coming together nicely and I do think it’s only a few tweaks away from becoming rather good indeed but then I would say that.

Word count: 256


Entry 316: Recording

I try and record every gig I do whenever I can. However,
what I’m not so good at is listening back to the recordings.

I find listening back to my own voice an unpleasant
experience and spend most of the playback cringing with my head in my hands.
And that’s just the good recordings, aah.

Today I have forced myself to listen back to the recording
of my Ruby Tuesdays set last night.

As a comedy night, last night was one of the very best Rubys
there has been for quite some time. All the acts did well, many stormed it and
Luke Thompson was quite superb as MC. But you’re not interested in that, you sick
internet people want pain and suffering – which is just as well, because I am
going to mention some.

I wasn’t happy with my set, I would consider it a
frustrating 6/10-er. Not bad, but there was room for so much more. It was a
friendly crowd who wanted to laugh and I did get laughs, but a few things fell
flat. It was set up to score several majestic hat-tricks but I managed to score
one scrappy goal which I had to claim was mine.

You might think I’m being too harsh on myself, and you’re
probably right, this is just an insight into my comedic mindset. But in many
ways it’s exactly what I needed just before Edinburgh, there is still much work
that needs to be done to make my set to be as good as I want it to be. Now if
you’ll excuse me, I have much work that needs to be done.

I have another Edinburgh preview in Shoreditch tonight at
Cantaloopy – which is at the Cantaloupe bar and Restaurant, 35 Charlotte Road,
EC2A 4PD. See you there.

Word count: 300


Entry 315: Press releases and comedy stuff

I am still trying to get this press release written for my Edinburgh show.

I spent 15 months as a reporter for a local paper and read many bland and appalling press releases, so I’m trying to write something which is journalist-friendly and will need little tweaking done to it. This is made all the more difficult by the fact that I’m also writing it and using quotes from myself. This is why I don’t work in PR, that and I didn’t get any of the PR jobs I applied for when I was applying for anything and everything when trying to move to London. I found it hard to get enthusiastic about it.

In comedy news, I had a decent gig last night. It’s a venue I’ve done a few times just for the stage time and never done particularly well due to a number of factors, not all of them beyond my control but I’ve taken full responsibility nonetheless. It was actually the best night I’ve been to there; there were some really good acts on the bill, and although the crowd was small they were friendly and laughing. My set went pretty well, a new line I tried out for the first time went received a really good reaction so I was happy with that.

Tonight I am returning to Ruby Tuesdays, which is a night myself and around 12 of my comedy friends set up in November 2009. Numbers have decreased in the past 18 months as unfortunately members of our original comedy gang decided that the comedy world and all that it entailed was not for them, or have others who have gigs elsewhere booked for that night. There is now a nucleus of about three who are regularly there, I don’t consider myself to be part of that nucleus as I’m now normally working that night. Let’s hope my return will be fun.

Word count: 319


Entry 314: Gigs and annoying noises

I had a really good gig last night in Bromley. When I got there and the stage area was right next to the front door I thought it might be slightly problematic, but my concerns proved unfounded and it was a most enjoyable

I was trying out a few new lines with the hope of fitting them into my Edinburgh set, but it can be difficult trying things out that are part of a 12+ minute routine in a 5-minute set as some things are not in total context. But there is the challenge and if the audience don’t laugh at the jokes in the shorter version, they’re probably not going to laugh at them in the extended one. The audience did laugh, and laugh well, at the majority of my set. A couple of the new lines didn’t go so well, but I’m going to dissect them shortly and see if there’s another way to get them to work.

I am hoping to get an hour or so of writing done once I have finished this. Although this is going to be made more difficult by a builder next door doing a lot of hammering, I will put my headphones in and listen to some music to thwart his disruption plans.

In other annoying noise news, there is a helicopter that circles above my area of Walthamstow every night at 1-2am. I don’t know why it does this and it’s just quite annoying when I’m trying to get to sleep, especially when I’m going to get woken up at 8am by the builders next door. If anyone knows the answer to this helicopter activity or would like to make a guess, ridiculous or sensible, leave your thoughts below.

Word count: 289


Entry 312: Flyers now done

I have now managed to get my flyers all completed for Edinburgh with a few weeks to spare.

I am aware that this is the standard amount of time in which flyers are normally sorted out but I had a dream recently where it was less
than one week to go before the start of the Fringe and I hadn’t managed to get my flyers sorted out, this spurred me into action to get it all done as soon as possible.

I’m not totally happy with how the back of the flyers look from the proofs, but I’ve let it go just so I can get them delivered in time;
and as Mr Langton correctly points out, the majority of these bad boys are going to end up in bins around the city.

I am now trying to find the will and motivation to get a press release written. It’s in one of those annoying states where it has been
started but there is still some work to be done to it before it is finished, perhaps I need to have a dream about not getting it done to force me to complete it.

In other news, I was woken up again this morning by the builders next door. This has been going on for the past two weeks. I have a
good mind to find out where the builders live and then make loud noises to wake them up at inconvenient times and see how they like it. This plan is not without its flaws, as not only would I be depriving myself of more sleep in the process but I also run the risk of being stopped by police, which gives the builders a distinct advantage. It could all be a campaign by energy drink manufacturers to get me to buy their products and it’s currently working.

Word count: 309


Entry 311: Well, that was a weird one

Last night’s gig was a weird one indeed, not that it wasn’t enjoyable with it. But it is accurately summed up as weird, although I’ve come to expect no less from gigs I get off Moz.

It was in a coffee shop in Camden Lock, on a site which was full of largely music based acts performing elsewhere.

I remember a few months back how there was a story in the papers about the first winner of X-Factor Steve Brookstein was performing in a coffee shop to an audience of a handful of people; at the time I may have sniggered, now I can empathise with him. Still, at least I didn’t need to win a talent show on national TV to achieve the same career feat.

It wasn’t an ideal performance area for a stand-up gig, behind the stage area was a huge window with people walking past. The doors were all open and you would get people heckling through the open doors. This reached an awful pinnacle when Moz was performing his set and about nine loud tossers all carrying beer cans leant over the seating area at the front and shouted abuse.
Thankfully for both the audience and performer, the backing track was so loud that you couldn’t really hear what they were shouting.

The coffee shop employee went outside and told the tossers to go away, which they didn’t like and it almost got violent until some mates of the coffee shop employee turned up and sent them away.

I spent a large chunk of my set messing about, improvising and interacting with people walking past the glass behind the stage. Some of it worked well, other bits fell flat but I had fun. More fun than Steve Brookstein did anyway.

Word count: 295