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Archive for June, 2015

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That elusive 20

If you get paid sets at comedy clubs, they are generally at least 20 minutes long. However, it is very difficult to get your 20 minutes honed if you are not regularly doing sets this length.

Many clubs won’t book you to do 20 minutes unless you have a solid 20, particularly in London where a ten minute set is a luxury.  Although I have done multiple 30 minute and hour sets at a couple of Fringes and previews, I still don’t know what my ‘club 20’ should be, or if the material I have that works will actually be long enough.

Fringe audiences tend to be a lot more open-minded and willing to go with you on some whimsical tangent that might not really go anywhere. Comedy clubs are not usually so lenient and you need to be tighter. But this is just a loose rule and I have also experienced harsh Fringe crowds and generous ones at clubs.

I was booked to do 20 minutes in Birmingham on Saturday. I spent the previous week trying to think of what my strongest set would be, but didn’t get around to writing anything down or it until Saturday afternoon.

The Mockingbird Theatre it was a great venue, a theatre with cinema seating and about 60 people in.

I knew I was on second. But as there were only three acts and an MC on, I assumed that there would be a break before my set. However, it was only after the first act finished that I got around to asking the promoter if there was going to be a break. I then found out that I was on straight away, so had to rush backstage to get the stuff out of my bag.

I had about two minutes to get everything together. I needed to find my watch and get my set written out.

I was wearing an old PE shirt from my school days, but was planning on changing into a shirt to look a bit more presentable. In the end, I didn’t have time. So with barely three words scribbled onto my hands, my name was called out and I had to go on.

Two or three years ago, this sort of situation would have caused me to get tense, flustered, and incoherent. I used to think that unless I had my set written out precisely on my hand, then I would forget everything I was supposed to say. But I think that having done my own solo show has really helped me stay calmer and put my mind at ease in such situations. It is common to still be trying to usher people in to watch right when you’re due on.

There were a few lines that didn’t get the big laugh I was hoping and other lines that I also forgot due to my lack of preparation. Despite this, I really enjoyed it and got some really hefty laughs from  a lot of audience interaction. It is always nice to do well, get paid, have the promoter want to rebook you, but also knowing that you can do better.

Saying that, I’m booked at Pear Shaped on Wednesday and will probably die on my arse.

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Organisation

In less than two months, I will be performing in Edinburgh and it is safe to say that I am much less organised than I was last year.

This time 12 months ago, I’d already done one preview and my show was taking shape nicely. This year, my first preview isn’t until July and my show is only half-written.

This is both good and bad. It’s good because nothing gets me writing like a deadline and I’m less likely to be bored of my material by the time the Fringe comes around. It’s bad because I may not have enough time to get it properly road-tested

Compared with a year ago, I also haven’t done as many gigs. This is partly due to me not being able to do as much comedy admin during work hours now due to extra responsibilities, and also partly because there don’t seem to be quite so many gigs around now. A few years ago, it was quite easy to do two or three open mic gigs in one night, a few days a week. Whether or not any of them would have an audience is another matter.

The London comedy and open mic circuit has been on the wane for a while, but it now looks like this waning is going up another couple of notches. My reliable gig on Monday in Aldgate East is no more; it was often dreadful, but usually useful.

Another regular open mic venue is also ending in July, a long-running venue has also been recently sold, with rumours of a staple open mic venue likely being sold.

I’ve been saying for a few years that I think my comedy future lies outside London and further north. I’ll have to see where I am with everything after the Fringe and make a decision at the end of the year.