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Archive for June, 2014

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Two previews and a canal boat

This week, I have had two Edinburgh previews and both have been ideal preparation. By this, I mean I had small audiences.

First up, I was in Balham as part of a weekend of previews. I was expecting a modest-sized crowd as my show overlapped with Phill Juptius, but any previewing time is worthwhile and I managed to get six people along to beat the Fringe average of five.

Despite having my first preview at the start of May, the one in Balham was only my second in total. I should have been more organised and booked another one or two in those six weeks.

As a result of the gap between previews, it felt a bit of a shambles at the time, which is a slight underestimate after listening back to my recording. A lot of the material fell flat and many of the laughs were from audience interaction. This can cause you to get disheartened and then deliver your material to the floor. But what I am pleased with is that I didn’t let my energy dip and ploughed on regardless.

Another thing I am pleased with is that I had to cut my material in order to reduce the show time after starting ten minutes late in the hope that more people would find their way to my show. I ended up finishing just about on time as well, which is crucial for the Fringe. There are numerous irritants when performing in Edinburgh, but one of my biggest gripes is with shows that overrun and cut into other people’s timeslots. If you start late, you have to cut your show down accordingly to avoid other performers hating you.

My second preview this week, and third in total, was in the more unusual setting of a canal boat. It is where a friend and colleague called Dan currently calls home. When a few of us visited there after work a few months back for a couple of cans of lager, Dan suggested running a comedy night on-board. I had a look at the layout and said that it could work.

Various other things got in the way between then and now, so it never happened. But as I was in desperate need of previews, I took Dan up on his offer.

At most comedy venues in London, you would hope to at least reach double figures for audience. However, on a small canal boat a crowd in double figures could be a hazard. Eight people was more than enough to fill the boat and for it to remain afloat.

I recruited Hatty Ashdown to preview her show. She did her show first, with the thinking behind this being that the audience would have more energy at the start of the evening and the boat wouldn’t be quite so hot. I figured that as the second half of my show is a quiz, I would only need half an hour of their energy and the quiz would be easier for flagging audience energy.

I had also been told by Moz (who now also lives on a canal boat) that the people who live up on the water in that area have been known to call the police if people cause too much noise. So if the police were to be called, it would be probably be my show that was affected and I wouldn’t then feel guilty for Hatty.

Hatty’s show went well. But I didn’t start mine until 9.40pm, so I planned to cut material and do a show that was 50 minutes. However, it didn’t quite work according to plan and I ended up doing an hour as I had a very vocal audience who were disputing some of my facts. I had to employ some crowd control skills. I am used to getting these types in Edinburgh, so thinking on my feet and adapting my show accordingly was highly useful experience.

The material went better on the canal boat, but I feel there is still more work to do on this.

The quiz went very well at both previews, but it is difficult to predict how long it is going to last. It is much easier to estimate material length, whereas the quiz is an unknown quantity and its time can vary as it is so interactive. This should make each show unique and I think I will have a lot of fun with it, but I am going to work out how best to control it.

One final thing, I know I left the last entry on a bit of a cliffhanger with my Edinburgh accommodation. I have something all sorted and will be able to save myself about £130 from the previous place I was looking at. So you don’t need to worry any more.

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Something had to go wrong somewhere

My Edinburgh Fringe preparations were all going just a little too well and I had a feeling that something would go wrong at some point.

It happened this week, when I discovered that the flat I’d booked at the start of April had been cancelled about a month ago without me knowing. The website I’d booked it through had sent me an email to say that I needed to re-enter my card details within 24 hours or my booking would be cancelled, then there was a second email to say that my order had been cancelled. I don’t know how these emails were missed, but they were missed nonetheless and I now had to deal with it.

This wasn’t what I needed to hear as it is less than two months to go until the Fringe starts. This could have potentially been a disaster, as everywhere that’s a decent price is likely to be have been booked up months in advance.

I put the feelers out there almost instantly and had something lined up less than a day later. It will cost about £100 more each for the month and there are three bedrooms between the four of us, so we’ll have to rotate sleeping on the sofa bed.

But I think it has all probably worked out for the best. It turns out that I’d also missed another email from the website I’d booked the first flat with, to tell me that the four of us would be sleeping in one room. Mental note: open emails. Fortunately, I also hadn’t parted with any money.

If you enjoyed this blog, you are welcome to email me, but I can’t guarantee I’ll actually open it.

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Two months to go

I have almost exactly two months left until my Edinburgh show begins and I have not gigged at all this past week.

This would ordinarily be a concern, and perhaps I’m setting myself up for an inevitable fall, but I am currently feeling pretty confident about my show.

However, I have been doing Edinburgh for long enough now to know that you should never be too confident about anything at the Fringe. Every time you think you’ve got it sussed, it’ll throw something at you. Somewhere along the line, things will almost certainly go wrong and reality will come crashing down on you. The city is littered with debris from egos and destroyed souls.

My confidence could be coming from the various medications I’ve been taking for my chronic hayfever, but I think I have ‘something’ with this pub quiz concept.

In many ways, knowing that I have the quiz to fall back on takes some of the pressure off writing. I will actively be encouraging the audience to talk amongst themselves to discuss the answers, cunningly escaping the notorious final third when the audience’s energy is depleting.

I now don’t know if I’ll have the time to fit in everything I’ve written. This is definitely a better position to be in than desperately trying to make material stretch longer than it should, or throwing in some weaker stuff to pad it out. But then there is a chance what I include might not be very good after all, which is exactly what Edinburgh previews are for.

I’ll also need to think about prizes. The feeling of winning a pub quiz can sometimes be better than the prize you receive, especially if it’s a bottle of wine.

But all pub quizzes need prizes, everyone knows that.