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Archive for July, 2013

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This is not an ‘ahhhhh’ situation

Comedy makes the world smaller and when Edinburgh is approaching or upon us, the world gets smaller still.

I tried to go into a detailed explanation using planetary alignment as a metaphor, but decided against it when I realised I didn’t know the correct terminology. Looking it up to make myself seem cleverer would be cheating, but that’s not something I’m always opposed to.

Anyway, on Monday, I was one of two support acts for a comedian who has been a hero of mine since I was 13-years-old, Richard Herring.

I’ll admit to a ridiculous amount of luck in getting this booking, but there was no way I could turn it down.

It was down in Brighton at a pub we did our Snigger Happy show at in 2011. It’s a good little room that seats about 60 and I was booked to do 25 minutes of Edinburgh stuff. There was no two-ways about it, it was the biggest gig of my short comedy career. Even bigger than the new act final in Worcestershire that had an audience of 12, which for the record is the second biggest gig of my short comedy career.

However, it was on one of the hottest days of the year and this particular room felt much like a sauna. Well, perhaps a very weak sauna. My point is, it was hot.

Clammy conditions are never the best for an audience as the heat can make them feel tired and less likely to laugh.

I wouldn’t say I had a stormer of a gig, as quite a few of the newer bits fell flat. But I managed to get some good sized laughs out of the hot room. It could have gone better, but it also could have gone a lot worse.

I had some really positive feedback from audience members afterwards, so I can take a lot from the gig. I also managed to get in a Lee and Herring ‘moon on a stick’ reference, which gave me the most pride. Plus I got paid, which is always a wonderful thing. In fact, it was my first paid 20+ minutes, which is a milestone in itself.

Unfortunately, Mr Herring did not get a chance to see my set and possibly recoil in horror about what his influence had created. But I did have a quick chat with him on the stairs, mention my moon on a stick bit and get a picture that was photobombed by a woman coming out of the toilets.

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Weather bane

It has often been said, often by me on this blog, that hot weather is the bane of comedy.

It makes people lethargic and less inclined to attend a gig because even the slightest effort of moving around causes unpleasant perspiration. Until this past week, I never realised quite now sweaty my knees get.

Anyway, sweaty knees aside, the point about hot weather being bad for comedy has been reinforced this week when audience were in scarce supply.

At one gig, we had one real person for audience. While at another, the tally was stretched to a massive seven, but only after including a couple who were sitting in a corner and had very little interest in actually listening to what was being said.

Numbers took a big leap at the second outing of Love and Lilley: Fear and Loathing on Saturday, with a colossal 13. But they were a great 13 and made it an enjoyable experience.

I felt it went much better than our first preview. I chose to drop the material about my time as a reporter, largely because it relies heavily on weak puns and I don’t enjoy doing it. But I suppose that is at least a fitting tribute to my miserable 15-months as a small town hack.

I replaced the reporter stuff with a brand new bit about the internal struggle of starting a missing person’s investigation for a housemate I hadn’t seen in some time, which was inspired by one of my numerous housemates I have had in my three and a half years living in London. As far as debuting new material goes, it was very positive and I will continue trialling it to get it road-ready for the Fringe.

Fear is a fun concept to play around with, particularly with the audience, because at some point in everyone’s life we have all feared something. I managed to get some decent mileage out of riffing on fears of the audience.

As a result, I didn’t have time to do my finale, which I wasn’t too disappointed about because I still have yet to write an ending for it. Nevertheless, I will need an ending for it soon.

We have another preview on Friday, so I might actually have an ending next time I write on here. By the way, with Edinburgh coming up, you can expect ramblings on here more regularly. I am aware that my entries in the last few months have shattered my self-enforced brevity rules, but if you read them in instalments then the effect is similar.

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Previews time

It’s at this time of the year that Edinburgh previews are in full-swing, and last Monday saw the first ever outing of Love and Lilley: Fear and Loathing.

The promoter said that he had about 40 audience booked in, so I was looking forward to a decent-sized crowd. But then I began to appropriately fear the worst when on my way to the gig, I saw that Status Quo were having their film premiere about 200 yards from the preview venue. I then began to appropriately loath the passers-by that had stopped to look, because those 15 people could have been vital audience members.

When I arrived at the venue, my fears were confirmed when the promoter said that the 40 people would not be there. Thanks a bunch, Rick Status and Francis Quo.

Luckily, there were still around 25-30 people there, which was a good turnout for a Monday night in July.

My set went probably as well as I’d like a first preview to go. The first half went well, the second half was much patchier with plenty of stuff I can work on and fine-tune. It confirmed that I don’t actually have an ending for the finale. I am doing a reworked version of the routine I did in last year’s show, which was only probably about 60% complete when I went up to Edinburgh last year and it grew as the Fringe went on into perhaps the best-received part of my set. The ending I used last year was a callback to something I said near the start, which I am not doing this time. So there is one of the challenges.

Simon has encouraged me to freewheel as much as possible, and he will be prompting me to freewheel when I am not doing enough of it. He is right, I think when I try to stick to a ‘script’ too much, I become disinterested with it and so do the audience as a result. When I am playing around and deviating from my prepared material is when I have the most fun, and the audience seem to as well. But then this philosophy does throw the many hours I spend writing out of the window.

I have another preview-ish thing on Wednesday and an actual preview on Saturday, so will be able to work on a few things then.  Then in two weeks time, I will be one of Richard Herring’s two support acts in Brighton and I would hope that I have my Fear and Loathing set in much better shape by then. Otherwise I might get a look of disgust from Richard when I tell him that Lee and Herring have been a massive influence on me since I was 13-years-old.

In other comedy news, the following night, we had our last Ruby Tuesdays of the comedic year. We had a great audience of about 20 in a small room and all the acts were brilliant. I was on MC duties, but as most of the audience had seen me perform many times before, I was in what I thought was the difficult position of not being able to do any of my material. So I had nothing actually prepared and just started talking about stuff and it just worked, with lots of laughter. There may well be a lot of truth to Simon’s freewheeling theory.

It was a pleasure of a gig and a bit of new totally new material I tried in the second half was very well received. Obviously, it takes a few gigs to wear new material in, but the first outing was very encouraging indeed.

At the risk of name-dropping, we have had a really good run of Rubys since changing the format in January, with paid acts such as Tony Law, Hattie Hayridge, Norman Lovett, Gemma Whelan, Ian Symes (paid £4), Grainne Maguire and most recently Jigsaw having really made the night into something special. But the most important thing is that the audience have enjoyed themselves enough to come back several times. We should be back in the autumn and I am looking forward to it.