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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Entry 310: A gig and news news

I have a gig tonight at Camden Lock’s Grass Roots Festival.

There are a couple of professional acts on the bill, so it
should be a good night. That said, I have received the invitation from my good
comedy friend Moz, who doesn’t have the best track record in getting me good
gigs.

Last year he booked me in for a charity gig he’d been asked
to book and in room of about 150 people, 145 were talking amongst themselves
while waiting for the bands to come on, three people were listening, one person
was receiving and Indian head-massage in the corner of the stage area and the
remaining person was giving the Indian head-massage.

To make matters worse, the stage back-drop featured four
computer screens with flashing images of people with life-threatening tumours
and tsunami victims; and the stage area was right in front of the toilets.
Despite these appalling circumstances I still enjoyed it in a twisted sort of
way, I’m hoping tonight will be better – it could hardly be any worse.

In news news, I’ve just heard about the News of the World
shutting down. As I work in journalism, this is a huge story and it’s going to
be interesting to see just how this pans out as well as what follows in the
next few days and weeks. I certainly don’t remember anything like it in my
lifetime and can’t say I’m particularly sad about it. I’m also shamelessly
mentioning it to get into news feeds. Still, at least I don’t have to resort to
phone-hacking for the rubbish I write. This all comes from my head.

Word count: 272

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Entry 309: Two stag do’s, depleting funds

I have two stag do’s coming up in the next couple of months.

One is a week on Saturday in the, um, rock ‘n’ roll destination
of Bournemouth. I currently have no idea how I’m going to get there,
particularly as I have to be there for 10.30am. Actually, I do have some idea
and it will involve paying about £40 for a train which is not really what I
need to be doing at the moment as I am trying to conserve what cash I have for
Edinburgh, but I can’t not attend. I’m sure there must be another way to get
there which will be cheaper and better, I just don’t know what this is yet.

The second stag do is going to be the second stag do for the
stag. Did you follow that? He’s having two because not everyone can make the
first one in August, I’ll be in Scotland. So the second one will be a week
before his wedding and as I’m the Best Man (yes, I’m allowed to cap it up. I
feel important) I can’t miss it.

In other financial news, I learned yesterday that one of the
desks I work at on the paper is being shut down in an attempt to save some
money. It certainly won’t be saving me any, as that desk has helped provide me
with my rent many times. I’ll still have shifts on the other desk I work on,
but it’s not anywhere as nearly so well paid. The desk is finishing in October, so
I will make sure I take every shift that comes my way.

Word count: 272

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Entry 308: Early, just posted late

I have turned up to work more than an hour and a half early.
This is most unusual indeed.

But don’t worry, I’m not feeling ill; my train back to
London arrived shortly after 4pm and after killing several minutes in a
supermarket I decided come to the work offices and write this entry you are now
reading.

Although I am not actually in the work offices, I am
actually in the cafe area downstairs which is open to the public. Security
won’t let me in to where I work until I am scheduled to be there, and even then
they do their best to stop me getting in.

In comedy news, it was exactly one month to go yesterday until
Edinburgh Fringe begins, so the countdown is now on. Well, it was actually on
when the festival finished at the end of August last year, it’s just now much
closer and within touching distance.

We should be having a preview on Thursday and have two
booked for next week and a further one the following week, so by the time our
first show up there comes around we should be up to speed.

I am finally rid of the flyers I was designing for a mate’s
show, which cause me far more grief than the £20 I was being paid justified.
Now I can concentrate on getting my own done; they’ve been practically finished
for the past couple of months and I have sent the poster off to be printed
already.

I could have written about this yesterday but I had other
things to fill the space so chose not to.

Word count: 272

Originally completed at 5.56pm but not uploaded due to the
WiFi being rubbish