Monday, 31 August 2015

Stratford East

Comedy came early this week after I accepted a slot at Stratford East Theatre seven days ago and found myself on a six act bill (plus MC) in the rather lovely bar area. Doing a ten back to back with quick fire one-liner Peter White and sandwiched between two experienced acts doing twenties meant this was the closest thing to a pro night I'd ever done.

It being the wind-down bank holiday Monday night I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of numbers but in the end a good thirty people were seated and ready for the off at 8.30. Hosting a show in a bar is a challenge as there's the chance a number of the people in there won't be interested in watching but the MC held it down well and had a particularly chatty table focussed by getting them involved early with plenty of questions. 

The parallels between a comedy show and teaching get ever more apparent.

After a thirty minute set of the MC and the first twenty there was a short break for me to hand my phone over to the sound engineer and focus on the task ahead. The front row had dropped back a few tables so the stage now faced empty seats when the MC returned. 

I'm never too sure if it's the done thing in these situations to give up with the stage and take the mic to the audience but I did anyway and talked first world problems with various tables before launching into One Shot. It went down well with most of the room singing their part. The second track divided the room though with notable numbers drawing a blank of what a craft fair was. Read the room better, lesson learned.

Still, a great gig and one I'd do again. I need to work out how to take better care of my voice though. Two songs in and I was already a bit croaky. Note to self - water not beer before set.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Open Mics Vs New Act Nights

I'm often asked why I insist on using the term "new act night" instead of "open mic" for my events and as I'm currently on a train rolling down to Dorset I find myself with the time to publish my definitive thoughts on the matter. Knowing what a night is offering is often difficult to pin down when the two terms are so often used interchangeably so here's my two pence worth.

  1. Performers at an open mic can sign up to perform on the night itself or pre-book online. The order of appearance is arbitrary and is usually based on a first-come first-served basis. The promoter generally exercises no direct control aside from the placement of a few "featured acts". Performers at a new act night are mainly pre-booked and the running order is decided by the promoter to give balance - for example by not putting two one-liner comedians on consecutively. There may be a few open spots for walk-ins but these do not make up the majority of performers.
  2. An open mic is open to anyone who wants to perform, regardless of experience or abilityA new act night exercises a degree of control over who is performing - informed by video clips, reviews or previously seeing the act perform.
  3. Due to the above, the overall quality of an open mic night will be variable - act to act and night to night. A new act night will have greater consistency.
  4. The vast majority of the audience at an open mic will consist of the performers and their friends. A new act night should be capable of appealing to the general public and encourage repeat attendance by non-performers due to it's consistency and ability to gain a good reputation from it.
Both types of show allow acts to hone their material and performance. Both most definitely have a place on the scene. Fundamentally though, open mics should be considered community style events where the enjoyment comes not just from the entertainment on stage but from the comradeship between the performers. New act nights still have the comradeship aspect for those involved but should also stand up independently of that to be entertaining to anyone who is not actively involved in their execution.

Coming up next time I have time to myself...why "bringer" gigs are a fundamentally flawed concept.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

One hot night...

When the worst thing that happens at your own show is part of the black backdrop detaching itself from the wall then things are going pretty well. Despite a couple of last minute cancellations and subsequent panicked reserve call-ups the second Clash of the Tight-Tens was an unqualified success.

Busy rooms are the holy grail of new act nights and it was with a significant degree of pride that I was able to count in well over forty actual "real audience". No "bringer" deal, no counting the acts themselves as audience - this was a fantastic mishmash of MeetUp groups, Time Out readers, locals with flyers and Facebook invitees. Now the entertainment had to be up to scratch...

...which it absolutely was. Every act brought their best to the stage and even my comparatively inexperienced set brought compliments - a couple of people asking after if the tracks were on iTunes. Andy Onions held down MCing duties with his usual charisma. Big smiles all round.

Once the comedy had concluded it was time for drinks upstairs with the MeetUps and then DJing to very drunk tourists at post-comedy clubnight Eargasm.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Clash of the Tight Tens tomorrow!

So I'm running this tomorrow...

...and the line-up isn't too shabby at all:

Sam Mitchell (Writer for BBC Radio 4 Extra’s “Newsjack”) * Patrick Lee (Comedy CafĂ© New Act of the Year Finalist) * James Harris (Amused Moose Semi-Finalist) * Sandra Hale (Joker of the Year Finalist) * Madge Hooks (Funny’s Funny recommended) * Sian Doughty as Sally Firth (Golden Jester Semi-Finalist) * Tom Baker (BBC New Comedy Award Qualifier) * Jon Long (So You Think You're Funny Semi-Finalist) * Andy quirk (me) * Andy Onions (Resident MC)

So if you fancy it here are the essentials:

What: Clash of the Tight Tens
Where: The Albany, 240 Great Portland Street, W1W 5QU
When: Saturday August 22nd. Doors at 7.30pm.
Door Tax: Pay What You Like
Transport: Warren Street, Great Portland Street and Regent's Park tubes are all less than a few minutes walk. Slightly further to Oxford Circus.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Hilarity In Shoes

Tonight I did a couple of tracks in Dalston at this always friendly gig. Few actual punters (or "real audience" as I have now learned is the frequently used term in comedy) but with Carmen Ali at the helm with boyfriend Jake Pickford to bounce off it was like a little house party with chatty guests. A middle aged couple did my new handclap feature in Selfie Stick so that was my night made.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Last Edinburgh post

So here are 10 things I have learned from going to Edinburgh...

1. It's a maze
The app map may say the next venue is 300m away but it doesn't take into account that the city operates on two levels and once you're on the lower level it snakes all over the place.

2. It's a slow maze
Not only will the hills exhaust you but the amount of people there for the festival means you spend most of the day walking in the road. Woe betide you walk the narrow path through Princes Street Gardens clogged with tatty craft fair stalls and a thousand meanderers.

3. Every space is a stage
Including next to traffic lights. I listened to a man sing Beatles songs interspersed with impressions of John Lennon through an amp the size of a shoebox whilst I waited for the green man. In fairness, he was pretty good.

4. There are more shows than you could ever see in a lifetime
I have enough flyers to wallpaper the flat.

5. People are actually quite generous
Bucket donation on the free fringe may sound like the equivalent of busking with a roof over your head but it turns out that if you're any good people will regularly put notes in your bucket. Even if you're awful they'll still give you change.

6. Some venues resemble the torture rooms in Hostel
Just the Tonic at the Caves, I'm talking to you.

7. Whilst others look like storage rooms for restaurant supplies.
Because they actually are.

8. Drinking is pretty much mandatory
Support the venue!

9. Every performer is, without exception, an absolutely lovely person
Or maybe I was just lucky.

10. Performers are a creative bunch in ways additional to their material
From constructing stages out of packaged up flat pack furniture to sellotaping their posters to their t-shirts, you can see an active mind at work.

Buzzfeed here I come...

Monday, 17 August 2015

Edinburgh - Monday

The last day and one where I'm writing my update on the 4.30 train to London. It's been a great 5ish days. Will definitely return.

Thanks to Steve McLean for putting me on at Razzamatazz this afternoon. A decent crowd who seemed to enjoy 'Selfie Stick' and '1 Shot'. The other acts were brilliant too.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Edinburgh - Sunday

It's a strange day when you go to a midday show to find that one of the best acts of the free fringe is performing. With smart one liners, bizarre props and a thoroughly affable attitude Tim Shishodia is king in a parallel comedy universe. Genuinely, the crowd never stopped laughing.

Following this Stewart Lee did the big theatre thing and was his usual cutting self. At times slightly unnerving, you had to remind yourself of how he works a room before his punchy conclusion made you realise it was actually pretty clever. I never want to be as cross at the world as he is though.

Back in the back rooms Stella Graham kept a sizeable crowd laughing with things that annoy her. Engaging as ever, it was impressive to see how she knitted together parts of the various ten minute sets she regularly does at my shows.

Matt Duwell and Declan Kennedy were in the floor below later in a room with more people in it than this photo suggests. Solidly entertaining observations.

A long way across town Viv Groskop hosted a show high on audience participation with a focus on apology. Charming, relaxed and a welcome step change to the rest of the day's offerings.

This left Omar Hamdi. A bouncing whirl of observational and biographical entertainment pulling in everything from James Bond to ISIS. Enjoyable from the start with even a little food for thought thrown in.

Edinburgh - Saturday

First up today I saw Jo Coffee pull off a variety show by herself. Whilst it was a challenge to draw the small crowd into her whole world her Croatian Amy Winehouse Britains Got Takent dog act was brilliant.

Next it was over to Nigel Lovell's Worst Show On The Fringe. A compilation show of established acts who'd all received a one star review at some point in their career. All the acts were great, Nigel did a great job MCing and I have to give a special mention to Piff The Magic Dragon's moonwalking chihuahua.

Before the next comedy show it was into a theatre for a strange version of Repunzel. I still don't understand what happened it it.

Things got easier after this with MJ Hibbett's 'Hey Hey 16k'. As daft lo-if musicals about growing up in the eighties go it was pretty damn good.

Next was a ghost tour. Woooo...

Rounding things off I was at the Anarchy Cabaret. Each and every act was great whether they were walking around covered in fairy lights, giving out kitkats for animal impressions or banging nails into their nose. Genius.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Edinburgh - Friday

A cheerful but clearly hungover Faye Treacy took to the stage at 1pm for trombone related humour. Whilst not everything necessarily went to plan she finished on a high recalling her worries over a loop pedal powered composition

David Mciver, Sophie Henderson, Tom Wragg and guest Mawaan Rizwan may have initially looked like they pulled the short straw with a room more suited to storing boxes of Mexican ingredients (it was in the basement of a restaurant after all) than performance but thanks to a sizeable crowd and a deft mix of the observational, the bizarre and the absurd it was an hour of comedy gold.

 Next up it was Rosie Holt with her ukulele and songs about stds. Charming, amusing and a great 30 minute debut.

Next we PAID for a show. Shock! Amy Howerska talked about her unlikely and amusing pseudo-military upbringing for 45 minutes. Entertaining stuff.

Rounding off the day I saw Nigel Lovell host "my first laugh" where he interviewed two established comedians before they performed their first ever sets to the small but perfectly formed audience. A different kind of show to the others and well worth it for a change of scenery.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Edinburgh - Thursday

So I arrived late afternoon to see...

Nick Hall - character comedy genius and well worth a ticket.
Simon Caine. Observational and amusing with great audience interaction.
Clusterfuck. A 3 part show with stand-up, improv (pictured) and a sketch group. Really good and a great heads up for acts promoting their longer shows. Full.
Carmen Ali and Jake Pickford. A charmingly shambolic late night set of chat, atonal singing and post-its.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Angry rapper (not me) at The Gunners

Tonight I performed three raps to a small but appreciate crowd, including Madeleine Campion and Hannah Rosen. Then this happened. Ideally read the text below the video before watching it.

I cannot say enough nice things about the promoter and all the acts (and I mean all the acts) who came and hung out with me afterwards to show their support and disdain for what this guy did. This is not what open mic is about.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Hilarity In Shoes

The photo may not look like much but Hilarity in Shoes was really good tonight. With the train strike still casting its shadow over the capital, host for the evening Lucas Jolson was running late. Not one to sit and wait I involved a few willing volunteers and set up the PA in his absence and by the time it rolled around to his arrival at 8.15 we were all good to go.

The audience was thin on the ground with about 14 people in the room, of which 9 were acts. However, the vibe was good and I kicked things off to an enthusiastic reception with pretty much everyone joining in on the choruses. From there on in it was funny pretty much all the way. Lucas' informal chatty style worked well and when things wrapped up at ten it felt almost too early. A quick chat with some of the acts later I was on my bike and back home.

A genuine audience member came to shake my hand and say my song was stuck in my head. This is on par with winning a Brit Award as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Doubling Up: Touching Cloth / Party Piece

Disclaimer: This evening there was a tube strike. Audience numbers quoted are therefore lower than they probably are under usual circumstances.

Touching Cloth @ The Water Poet

And so it was that at 6.55pm I cycled into the city and parked up to get a walk-in spot at Touching Cloth at The Water Poet, a lovely pub not far from Spitalfields Market. Dangerous T was MC and the downstairs room looked really good. Except for the "PA". Take a closer look at the photo and you'll see amplification for the night was provided by the world's smallest amplifier with a microphone plugged into it. Adequate for a quiet room if you're just using your voice. A minor disaster if you're Leyton's premier rapper of first world problems and your backing track trickles out marginally louder than through the inbuilt speaker on your phone.

At 7.55 there were 7 comedians chatting to each other wondering where the audience was. At this point I came up with the brilliant plan to open the all-too-subtle door at the top of the staircase to entice people in worked! Well, we had six real audience within five minutes so it was a start. With 4/6ths of the audience busily eating their dinner, T started the show with some chat and I was on. It went about as well as you might expect. The comedians joined in the chorus to "1 Shot" along with the 2/6ths of the audience who weren't discussing who had the mayonnaise for the chips. The backing track sounded awful.

I then settled in for some of the worst comedy I've seen in a while. One guy actually turned on the minimal audience and wished one of them would die in a car accident. Thankfully, Haran X and the guy that followed him closed the show around 9pm with some material that actually engaged the punters (now mercifully finished with their dinner) and may have just convinced them that it might be worth chancing another free entry show sometime in the future.

That should have been it but then Haran suggested we carry on to another night and see if they had any spots going. I was about to "double up" for the first time...

Party Piece @ Smiths

Smiths is a trendy looking bar on the perimeter of Spitalfields Market. Inside there was no-one but downstairs the comedy was in full swing. They may not have had many more real audience than at the Water Poet but the vibe was a hundred times better. The stage looked good, the PA was decent and the lighting was just right. The enthusiastic MC picked up the crowd (14 including acts) when someone's set died on stage and she gave both T and I spots at the end. Haran no doubt would have got one too had he not needed to leave to prepare for his trip to Edinburgh the next day.

True, to walk into a room where a man is talking whilst slowly taking all his clothes off might have disturbed some people but at the very least it screamed variety. 

I closed the show with "1 Shot" and really enjoyed it this time around, the crowd and even the bar staff joined in with gusto. A place I'd definitely return to.

Monday, 3 August 2015

The Gunners Open Mic

This evening's Gunners night in Finsbury Park was an intimate affair with about 8 acts and 5 audience members all with the headliner.

After a first half of oddities, plus the always weirdly brilliant Dangerous T, the second half had some great tens with headline northerner Zara putting in a conversationally mirthful set. I did three tracks, including the debut performance of "too loud", and it went really well. What there was of a crowd joined in with the choruses of "one shot" with gusto. Win! And the promoter bought everyone a drink. Double win!

If you're a performer and reading this then look up this night. It's got so much promise and all it needs are a few more bodies in the room.

Photo shows Dangerous T in action. The table's response (the only table of audience) isn't actually fair. He had us all laughing at some point.


In 2015 it's supposed to be all about the internet. Granted, without the likes of social media and email my comedy activities would be all but impossible. I remember back to when I ran my first music gigs at the start of the noughties and actually booked bands on the phone or even by post having found their address on a record sleeve. Those days are thankfully gone.

However, even when you're looking to put 40 people in a small room every other Tuesday you cannot post a Facebook event and wait for the fans to roll in. Facebook ads don't work for this kind of night and simply being in the listings is like producing a product for Tesco then having it placed on the lowest shelf in the farthest corner of the store and wondering why no-one's bought it.

The most powerful thing is word of mouth of course. If people talk about your night positively then they are likely to convince others it's worth going to. All my nights now have a degree of this going on, which I'm very pleased about. However, that alone will not fill the room and ensure the tirelessly hard working acts aren't giving up their evening to present their material to a room mainly made up of the other acts. Most of which will have already heard their ten minutes before.

In my opinion the next best thing is flyers. You give them out wherever you go, you put them all over the pub on the night so random people know it's going on, you put your vision in print. For whatever reason, people trust print more than the internet. Perhaps the thought the promoter had to spend actual money on having them printed gives an indication of their self-belief in the night. Something in your hand is more real than something on your phone.

There's also something distinctly satisfying about having thousands of flyers stacked up in your flat. Your night is a real night. Your night is an event.

My new ones arrived today - 5,000 to see me through to the end of the year

And yes, I did go for a Hackney vibe (the Warhol bears are on the front, the dates on the back).

Welcome to Me

Hi, my name's Andy quirk and I'm a comedy promoter and performer. 

Actually, none of the above is strictly true. My last name isn't quirk (the lower case q may have given that away) but the name stuck long ago and I've used it ever since for my public ventures. Regarding the the promoter and performer bit, it is true I put on comedy shows and perform comedy raps at them and elsewhere when the mood take me. By day though I'm actually a primary school teacher and assuming I don't want to live in a cupboard and live off Space Raider crisps for the rest of my life it's likely to stay that way. I love my job but my extra-curricula activities give life that extra zing.

So why am I writing this? Well, partially to keep as a record to look back on in the future and wonder what I was going on about. Also though, I figured someone out there might like to see comedy through the eyes of a new act night promoter (not "open mic" - I'll address that another time) and part time stage invader.

Let the posts commence.