Saturday, 24 December 2016

Comedy Stats for 2016

Comedy Stats for 2016

Gigs performed: 130
..of which were 20 minutes or more: 30

Total time on stage: 26 hours and 40 minutes

Top 3 locations furthest from London: Edinburgh, Liverpool, Cambridge

Bear Jokes Comedy events: 26 event: Bear Jokes (11), Clash of the Tight Tens (7), Stand Up at The Leyton Star (3), Revelry at the Redchurch (2), Edinburgh at The Castle (1)

Songs in the repertoire: 13

Thanks to everyone who's come to a show or in some other way shown support this year. 2017 is already looking good with a bunch of shows booked in already, slots at Brighton Fringe in the diary and pending applications for both my own solo show and Clash of the Tight Tens at Edinburgh next summer.

Friday, 16 December 2016

December gigs round-up

December is a difficult one for running gigs as audiences are generally too tied up with family events and work parties to bother with their monthly dose of laughs on a budget. Still, Bear Jokes, Tight Tens and Stand Up at The Leyton Star all had solid line-ups and plenty of promo so I was optimistic in the run-up to each and every one.

This optimism was dashed at both Bear Jokes and Tight Tens though with very small audiences attending both. Enough people were there to run the show and both had a warm vibe of solidarity about them but they weren't the belters they probably would have been at any other time of the year. Still, it gave me a chance to develop my MCing and to perform my newer tracks so both were enjoyable and constructive regardless.

With the Leyton Star show topping off the three I had my fingers tightly crossed. Yuriko Kotani was debuting her first ever Edinburgh preview, therefore her first ever long-form show, in the second half the first half was packed with decent acts (Ian Miller pictured). When I arrived I found to my surprise that the gig had been moved from the karaoke room (capacity 20) to the main upstairs room with 30 or so chairs set up. My initial concerns were alleviated when I spotted reserved labels on the first ten chairs. This wasn't going to be a small night.

By midway through the first half I was bringing chairs up from the bar to seat everyone and things were going well. The audience were friendly if somewhat muted but everyone did well and a couple of my mainstays went down nicely at the top of the first half. A long queue for the bar later and the second half began. Steve Mclain reheated the now partially warm crowd and Yuriko came on to plenty of applause. 

For a show debut it went well. What was most interesting to note was when she did a couple of her most famous parts (featured across across various websites this year and on radio and tv) the audience actually clapped - somewhat like when a band plays their big hit. I await the day the audience started shouting out requests to me. So far it's just been comics.

Show over there was plenty of money in the bucket and I retired to the bar for a well deserved drink. Today I received a further financial bonus with a statement from the PRS to tell me I'd earned £180 for performing my songs at Edinburgh. This now means I've earned more from these raps than my musical output with every one of my past bands combined!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Why does Bear Jokes exist?

It seemed like high time to write a personal statement about Bear Jokes for the website and Facebook. So here it is.
Why does Bear Jokes exist?
It’s a fact that every night you will find a handful or more “new act / new material” comedy nights running across London. They populate similar bars in similar areas and many of them don’t charge a penny for your attendance. With so many promoters doing so many nights the above question is a fair one and one I want to answer.
For the audience
Many nights cram uncomfortably huge numbers of acts onto their bills simply to fill seats in the venue. It’s not unusual to find nights running for over three hours in order to cram in anything up to 25 acts doing 5 minutes each. By the tenth act it becomes a bit of a chore; when the twentieth comes in you could be watching the next Michael McIntyre, Stewart Lee or Sarah Millican and you wouldn’t care because by that point it’s become an ordeal and you just want your bed. Newcomers best suited to honing their first five minutes at open mics often confuse, bore or offend a crowd largely made up of the acts themselves and their well-meaning friends who’ve been dragged along because they can’t perform otherwise (what is known in comedy circles as a “bringer”.) Little more than glorified practice rooms, the event’s promoter spends little or nothing on advertising their event and the most common emotion come the end of the night is relief it’s all over.
Bear Jokes Comedy (home to the eponymously named night at London Fields’ Pub on the Park, Aldgate’s “Clash of the Tight Tens” and Leyton’s “Stand Up At The Leyton Star”) does not do this. I believe a real audience of people coming to be genuinely entertained deserve to see a variety of comedians with a wealth of experience mixing up new material with their finest tried and tested. Set lengths are long enough to showcase the talent on offer and there are never more than eight acts. I’m highly selective about who performs and book well in advance to secure the best up and coming acts on the circuit. It’s not unusual to find that the entire bill on a night have performed full runs at Edinburgh Festival, with many acts winners of national awards or with credits in TV, radio or print. That said; I book what makes me laugh so there’s always room for a few bafflingly good newcomers too.
For the performers
As both a promoter and a performer and I do everything I can to ensure every booked act enjoys their Bear Jokes experience. I spend money on actual print advertising (including decent full colour flyers and posters), I send out listings, I promote online and I work with and resource my venues to ensure they can do everything possible to let their locals know what’s going on. Past Bear Jokes events have been featured in Metro and recommended by websites such as Ents24. And, of course, not one of my events has ever or will ever be a “bringer”. It’s your ability to entertain a real audience that’s important – not how many friends you can bully into coming to support you.

Don’t be put off by what you may have heard about new act comedy nights in the past and come and be genuinely entertained by genuinely entertaining people. I look forward to meeting you,
Andy quirk

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Suburbaret at The Cavendish Arms

The last time I performed at The Cavendish Arms was probably about five years ago with my then band, Hot Beds. Located in the not-quite back and beyond from Stockwell Station "The Cav" (as anyone who's sat through a 22 act Comedy Virgins night there knows it) features a lovely little theatre style back room in the most unlikely of places.

Unusually, the show started at 6.30pm but this was slightly delayed until a few people could be coaxed in to watch. A small but enthusiastic audience were in place nearer the 7 and we were off. MC Gareth (pictured) ran a raffle for Waitrose Essentials products using everyone's car keys as tickets and also guided us through a range of fantastically diverse and genuinely decent acts. There was musical comedy, a drag queen gameshow based on names of paint, soft-play area themed stand-up and a character act spoofing Gardener's World with with their "mucky fingers".

As for me, I was the final act in the first half and hammered through Tales of the Unexpected, Airport and Shuffle and Stop. Reaction was good and I managed to get the whistle in my mouth correctly at least 50% of the time during the middle song. As small gigs go this was a lot nicer than many. It was just a shame there couldn't have been more people there to witness it.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Once Upon A Mic at The Castle

Once Upon A Mic is a show I have a lot of time for. Originally run by the duo Marine and Horatio, the first time I performed here at the start of the year I loved the venue so much I brought Clash of the Tight Tens to it. OUAM might now be steered by just Horatio but it's still in rude health with a focus on variety and giving performers set lengths they deserve.

The catch with this is of course the length of the show. After a ten minute opening of poetry I was up for four songs at 8.20 and delivered both newer tracks, Foodie and Airport, alongside a couple of my mainstays. The audience were fresh and up for it and this continued to be the case when Caroline Francess followed with her Dresden Dolls meets Kate Bush alternative musical cabaret stylings. Half an hour later we then had a short spoken word set before an extended break to enable a full on band to set up.

The band were good and Horatio controlled the desk well for someone dealing with a multitude of factors. Part folk, part anthemic rock, it felt somewhat 2012 but was enjoyable none-the-less. Set complete it was the job of three comedians and a singer/songwriter to push on to a depleting and tired audience. Hassan Dervish and Lucas Jolson worked well with what they had. The others less so. Come midnight the show was over and it was time to fall into an Uber.

Another good night. Foodie needs some work in the breakdown. Otherwise everything is on track for Edinburgh 2017.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Stand Up at The Leyton Star

The Leyton Star is a great venue for many reasons, and not all relating to the fact it's down the road from my flat. By the time James Harris took to the stage to MC the cosy little upstairs room had a good number of genuine audience in and my new lamp meant that, unlike the previous month, you could actually see the faces of all the performers!

Due to some last minute cancellations the bill turned out way more alternative that usual with only James and Daniel Offen doing what might loosely be called conventional stand-up. Gatis Kandis opened with his usual offbeat manner, David McIver followed armed with an abacus as an awkward maths teacher and after Daniel I did my new track about airports and deafened both myself and the crowd with a whistle I was clearly blowing far too hard. Note to self for future.

After the break the room filled to capacity for Sasha Ellen's 2017 Edinburgh Preview. Drawing on tales of her childhood and life ever since, it was a good forty minutes of smile raising narrative, even if I could have done with a little less about the unfortunate end of her pet rabbit. Show complete, the collection bucket said it all with fivers from pretty much everyone in attendance. December 15th's return with Yuriko Kotani previewing her first ever full length show should be even bigger.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Bear Jokes at Pub on the Park

When four acts pull out of your show on the day its happening it isn't usually a good sign. That said, I'd got someone in last minute and the room was looking pretty decent thanks to a new spotlight and roaring fires at both ends. Half seven rolled around and I waited...and waited.

By 8pm the acts were in but the actual audience numbered just one. The pub itself wasn't as busy as usual and despite a decent round of listings, retweets and event shares it looked like this would be more of a workshop than a show. I stepped up and delivered my new song about airports.

As songs go this one is pretty challenging. To indicate when the audience needed to join in I'd gone with a whistle for this one. Though I'd put it on the backing track it was clear it would work better if I had one physically with me and so had bought one for far too much from a tourist shop on Oxford Street earlier that day. The track started, I remembered most of the first verse and then went into the whistle bit.

Juggling a microphone and a whistle whilst trying to remember freshly learned lyrics isn't easy. I missed my mouth several times and when I did connect it wasn't exactly Match of the Day. However, I soldiered on into the second verse and by the time it came around again it worked more often than it didn't and what there was of an audience were breaking down over the ridiculousness of it all. I finished the track and introduced the first act.

Given the reduced bill and the small audience figures we'd opted to run the show straight without a break and this turned out to be the smart thing to do. Surely but slowly more audience joined us throughout and by the time Sonia Aste was on stage we had a half-full room. Given the numbers the gig had a pretty odd feel, somewhat similar to one of the slower days at Edinburgh. Some of the acts were great, others were patchy, but all did well in the unusual circumstances. 

Wrapping up by 9.45 all that was left was to thank everyone and head home. Airport's cherry is popped so expect to hear my whistle plenty in the coming months!

Monday, 7 November 2016

Comedy Competition at Stratford East Theatre Bar

I have never done a comedy competition before as I've assumed the typical five minute slot will never be enough for me to pull the crowd into my raps enough to get them fully engaged. Recently though a monthly competition caught my eye. Ten minutes was promised with the winner gaining a paid headline spot at a future night. Just down the road from me, it seemed worth a punt.

The bar had a few groups sitting around tables when I entered but not exactly what you'd call an audience. Still, I figured things would improve and settled in with a pint. Five minutes before showtime there were a few more people in and I was sitting with some other acts checking the running order. The MC introduced himself and told us we were all doing fives. So much for breaking people in and the capitalising with a second song. Tonight it was to be full pelt from the off.

Lew Fitz was first on after the compere and was confident, off-hand and thoroughly entertaining. Trash talking various aspects of the venue resonated with the crowd and running with more improv than planned elements in his set he connected well. I dialled back my expectations on perhaps winning this little popularity contest.

Lew was followed by acts who missed more than hit and were more akin to what I thought I might find at an event promoted as a "new act night" (a phrase that in most circles simply means you aren't employed full time in comedy but here genuinely meant some of the acts had less than twenty gigs to their name). 

The first half ended and a huge influx of people arrived, completely skewing the voting away from anyone who'd performed so far. I picked up a lime soda (so pro) and waited for my slot in the middle of the second.

The guy before me didn't completely die but the audience were far from warm when I took to the stage. When "do we all know what a first world problem is?" was met by mumbles and people checking their phones I prepared myself for a rough ride...

...which didn't happen. Once the music kicked in attention focussed on me and by the first chorus large chunks of the audience were doing their required claps. By the second a table of diners were dancing in their chairs. I rounded off to a decent applause and hopped off stage. 

For the second time in a month the MC came on pretty much speechless and managed to do little more than introduce the next act. Which is where I watched my potential win come crashing down.

The guy after me wasn't terrible. A character act pretending to be a clueless Polish immigrant who confuses similar sounding words has milage but I'm a long standing fan of Gatis Kandis and this paled in comparison. The audience, however, loved it.

So come the end of the night Lew Fitz came third, I came second and the character act won. Credit is due to Lew - making the top three on the votes of less than half the potential audience is some achievement. As for me, well second is better than nothing but unless I write something more crude I don't think I'll ever win this competition.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Clash of the Tight-Tens at The Castle

The phrase, "you can't win 'em all," seems more than an appropriate way to describe last night's Tight-Tens. After a run of busy shows across the Bear Jokes empire November 4th decided to be the one where eight acts sat in a beautiful theatre room above a bustling pub with just two audience members (joined later by a third). The busy bar turned out to be hosting a private party and despite assurances by many they'd come up for a few laughs regardless none did so.

So did we cancel? Did we heck. Andy Onions opened proceedings with a warm meandering monologue and identified that every female in the room was called Sophie. The acts were relaxed and largely went with trying out new material, this included Sophie Henderson reflecting on the clueless ego-fest that is The Apprentice and Mawaan Rizwaan throwing his shoes into the back wall. I ran through Clicking Like and Shuffle and Stop with Andy leading the audience participation.

Come 9.40 we wrapped up and headed to the bar for a few drinks. I took a photo of Andy looking cheerful in a stairwell for our Hastings Fringe application and remembered to take down all my direction posters for the first time in months. 

My luck only lasted as long as my return to Leyton station though as I found my bike had been stolen. The place is becoming more like Hackney every day.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Thirty Minutes in Cambridge

Organised by Paul Richards (pictured), who I met at Edinburgh Festival, this packed to bursting point gig at The Red Bull in Cambridge was one I'd been looking forward to ever since it was booked. Not far from where my brother now lives I combined it with a family visit and come 7.30pm we arrived to find a nice pub with people already taking their seats in the upstairs room for the 8pm start.

The venue turned out to be the local for Rory McGrath and he was indeed in the audience when things kicked off. After some manic cajon based sing-a-longs with Paul, Izzy Rees did a ukulele powered ten minutes to a warm reception.

Adam Skuse was up next for fifteen with enough profanity to ensure his set was unlikely to ever be broadcast anywhere. His observations and musings kept the crowd laughing, particularly when he delved into the darker recesses of his mind. 

Mic handed back to Paul, I was then introduced and I launched into a five song set which is, to all intents and purposes, the work in progress for my Edinburgh 2017 show. Gone are the references to primary teaching but the formula otherwise remains pretty much the same. Presenting the set as my top 5 first world problems was effective and the crowd were more than willing to participate in the madness. Two verses in they were still rocking their arms back and forth to Selfie Stick - which is about a verse and a half more than any time before.

Thirty minutes later they and I had definitely had a pretty substantial work-out and it was down to the bar before heading home with my brother at the wheel - tired to the extent only possible of a parent with a one year old. At the bar I got plenty of congratulations and Rory called the set "superb". One for the comedy CV.

So what have I learned from gigs in Watford, Liverpool, London, Brighton and Cambridge this half term?

1. Watford books shops are actually really good places for a Friday night of comedy.
2. Liverpuddlians are huge comedy fans, even on a Sunday night, and love it rude and raucous.
3. Famous First Words is as thoroughly random and unpredictable as when I left it. 
4. Gigs in Brighton can be as light on "real" audience as in London despite a quality line-up.
5. Cambridge audiences are awesome.
6. Gigs outside of London are untainted by the grim realities of comedy in the capital - such as seemingly limitless amounts of acts on in a single night or the dreaded requirement for the acts to bring their own audience.
7. Train journeys are a great opportunity to write if you book a seat with a table and plug socket.
8. The difference in quality between two rooms in two cities costing approximately the same can be absolutely vast.
9. Soundcheck before you go on.
10. My sets work best with at least three songs.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Komedy Krackers at The Caroline of Brunswick, Brighton

After a typically Southern Rail journey down to the seaside (20 minutes late, half the interim stations skipped due to some unintelligible excuse on the PA system) I stepped out into an unusually sunny October afternoon in Brighton and made my way to Gulliver's B&B. Compared to Liverpool, the room is a dream. No ensuite of course, but modern with tea and coffee facilities and a TV. I duly emptied my bag and went shopping before taking some photos on the seafront.

Tourist time over I settled down at my room's desk and finished my new song about airports. It's a punk-funk number with a middle-eight breakdown verging on dubstep so musically rather adventurous. Perhaps more adventurous than the lyrics, though I am particularly proud of a pun based around baked beans. A recording will be up sometime in the near future.

Song complete I walked up to The Caroline of Brunswick for Sara Mason's Komedy Krackers. The venue is fantastically rock with the three headed Cerberus (know your Greek mythology) glaring down at you from above the bar. There was scant evidence of a night happening but I followed the signs to the performance room above and found Sara chatting to the acts and working out the running order.

Audience-wise there was nothing to shout about. William, who brought the three nice people to Famous First Words on Monday, was performing here also and had once again come through with a couple of friends in tow. The other acts hadn't brought anyone and my Brighton based friend had pulled out so it wasn't exactly packed.

The acts were pretty good throughout and after doing Tales of the Unexpected and West End Sara requested an encore so Craft Fair got an airing as well. The reaction was good, proof in my mind that whilst the audience numbers were similar to those on Monday the more intimate room made it much easier to connect. The room also benefitted from some nice lighting, decent chairs and a dedicated, working, PA.

Post-show I had a chat to Sara about promoting gigs before finishing my reasonably priced pint and heading back to base for a decaffeinated coffee. Rock and indeed Roll. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Famous First Words at The Gunners, Finsbury Park

In September I left James Harris and Nick Purves to run Famous First Words. My new job was the main factor as I, rightly, predicted I wouldn't be reliably available to host it on a regular Monday night. I was interested to see how the night had been getting on in my absence. Attendance had been patchy at best throughout my time there and I had my fingers crossed that it would have started drawing the kind of audience it so richly deserved.

Sadly this was not the case. As before, there was a small cluster of genuinely interested audience (friends of one of the acts), a smattering of uninvolved locals and the pops and bangs of dodgy mic leads that had plagued the shows I'd hosted previously. I settled in for another night at London's friendliest open mic with Dangerous T opening the show, as he has done since the start of the year.

T's set was typically adventurous and experimental and the interested cluster provided encouragement. Three guys at the bar though were pretty much instantly dismissive and turned their backs for the majority of the set though. Not exactly the spirit of an open mic.

From there four more acts tried their hand against a mix of awkwardness and indifference. This included one of the guys from the rude trio at the bar, who I'll avoid naming on the generous basis that it was his first gig and he clearly wasn't aware of good open mic etiquette. Unfortunately he compounded this disrespect by slagging off a previous act from the stage and then being woefully unfunny for a full five minutes. Shouting about how strong you are does not count as comedy - even if you can make your pecks wiggle a bit.

After this I took my turn and, upon seeing that the trio had gone back to chatting amongst themselves with their backs turned before I'd even opened my mouth, did what I could for Nick, James and the nice group of four at the front.

Sheraz Yousaf rounded off the comedy nicely and it was left to the rather good musical duo Mirror Maze to play to a dwindling audience. The bar trio walked off before the third song, ticking the final box on the list of reasons never to invite them back.

So it wasn't a great gig but it still has the potential to be. Here's hoping Nick and James can draw in a few more enthusiastic performers and three less dickheads.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Hot Water Comedy @ The Holiday Inn, Liverpool

Sunday evening new act nights don't look like this in London. 

Having rocked up at 2pm this afternoon for drinks with my Mersey-based cousins I'd then walked around the city and then continued work on my new track back at my budget-friendly hotel-come-student hall room. Shared bathroom and broken desk lamp aside, very much worth the £29.

Come 7.30 I walked down to the Holiday Inn and found the 50 capacity room filling. By 8pm kick-off every seat was taken and the affable MC was doing some kindly crowd work before launching into the £3-a-head night featuring 7 new acts doing 10 minutes each.

I closed the first half after two acts putting in fair sets. The crowd were a nice enough bunch but were more tepid than warm. Tales of the Unexpected went down well once the music/vocal balance had been worked out part-way through the track but I could see that I was probably convincingly winning over about two thirds of the room. My voice was breaking from time to time thanks to the far from perfect state of my throat at the moment, which didn't help.

Given the crowd size I opted to go with One Shot for the second song (where I split the room for different parts) and though I couldn't give it the welly I wanted to the crowd fell in with me by the second chorus and by the end pretty much everyone had shouted their part. The MC came back on with "Fucking hell, wow, it's time to go to the bar and keeping singing those songs". As reactions go, I'll take that. During the interval one of the acts that preceded me commented that he was glad he hadn't had to follow me as I'd "built the room's energy up so high." Again, something I'll take as a positive.

From a critical point of view though I'd have to say my performance was a 7-8/10 at best. My croaky vocals and only tacit connection with the audience, at least initially, ensured I didn't proverbially "smash the room" and left pretty certain no Friday or Saturday night slot will be forthcoming for the time being. 

Still, as learning experiences it was invaluable - not just as a performer but also to see how a small club can grow to running three shows a week and be in the process of building their own dedicated theatre space in the space of six years. There's a lot to learn from Hot Water Comedy when it comes to putting on a low cost night that doesn't feel like one and has a consistent crowd free of gremlin gimmicks like bringer policies or huge bills of 5 minute slots. 

One of the promoters is performing at Clash of the Tight-Tens next month. It'll be interesting to see what he makes of it.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Stand Up at the Star / Yellow Comedy

Stand Up at The Leyton Star
The debut night of my new local venture took a twist in the 24 hours preceding it when Yuriko Kotani had to drop out and I found myself performing at my own show in her place.

The room I have at The Leyton Star is truly adorable. Seating just over 20 people its little stage and ever so East London wallpaper (depicting, amongst other things, mugging and street drinking) made for a cosy night with a friendly audience ready and willing to enjoy what was in store.

Jay Cowle (pictured) performed 40 minutes of his developing show, "Hello Humans", in the second half to a warm response. The first half did the ground work with Doug Gordan, Matt Duwell, Lenny Sherman and myself doing well - with MC duties expertly taken care of by Maddie Campion. Come the end of the show the donations bucket suggested every last person in the crowd had stuck a fiver in and a couple of people even came back ten minutes later to say how much they liked both the show and my set.

Good times!

Yellow Comedy, Watford
A quick trip up to Watford tonight proved to be time well spent with a fantastic bill performing at a charming independent book shop on the high street. Alongside Victor Preda (pictured), other familiar faces included Rosana Bosanac, Zara Brown and Andy Storey.

With no beer available and a mature audience it was a different kind of gig for me and probably had more in common with the show in Edinburgh than anything else. I was on early and did "Tales of the Unexpected" and "Shuffle and Stop". Both went down really well and afterwards the promoter suggested the possibility of booking me in the new year for a headline set at one of the various nights he runs in the area. Things are indeed looking good for 2017.

Next show, Liverpool this Sunday for Hot Water Comedy.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Bear Jokes

Steve McCann talking up some geezer truths
If last month's Bear Jokes had been good then this evening's went one better. Thirty minutes before the show had even started there was a healthy audience. By showtime they'd filled the room to the point that some people had to sit on the floor. 

As anyone who has either run or attended a "new act night" before knows, to get more than a handful of real audience (heinous friend bullying "bringer" gigs aside) is a total rarity. Bear Jokes has now performed consistently for a good few months. After a summertime lull things are definitely back on track.

The mix was as random as it could get and was all the better for it. With Tight-Tens and Stand Up at The Leyton Star populated largely by acts I have long standing relationships with and trust to bring the house down with relative ease, Bear Jokes is now very much my launchpad for those I'm less well acquainted with - with a few gold plated regulars I can rely on to bring the audience up from any slightly more wayward sets. Comedy poetry, character acts, music and storytelling got into the mix with more conventional stand-up and provided more twists and turns than the average rollercoaster.

Large parts of the crowd were difficult to read though and increasingly boisterous towards the end. Ariane Sherine, debuting her brand new song about male genitalia, probably hit home more consistently than anyone else but everyone had their moments of mass mirth. As for me, "Clicking Like", got a reasonable reception opening the first half. "Foodie", however, did well enough with the first row but from there on back the audience were simply too reserved to get involved with the, admittedly stupid even by my standards, participation elements. Given its reggae dancehall rhythm its role as a breaker in longer sets is assured but standing alone it probably isn't in its element.

Come 10pm everyone wrapped up, drank a pint of whatever the hip ale of the week was and headed home more amused than they had arrived. Which, let's face it, is a win by any standard.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

The October Shows Begin

This week has been pretty full-on with both work and comedy. Originally I would have simply been hosting Clash of the Tight-Tens. Instead I performed last-minute shows at both Crown the Knave in Balham and at a charity event in Brick Lane on Saturday evening.

Crown The Knave at The Bedford (Tuesday)

My new day job is currently giving me long hours so after an extended day there I was pleased to be hopping on my horribly cheap thief-deterring "bar bike", parking up at Walthamstow Central and tubing it to Balham for Janet Bettesworth's Crown The Knave.

Hosted at The Bedford, the show took place in a slightly run-down side room at odds with the rest of the bar. The lights were bright and you had to go outside to go into the main room to get your drinks and chunky chips but the line-up looked strong and I was getting paid so I prepared myself for a really good night.

As nights go it was pretty good, with the vibe of an offbeat open-mic the evening was opened by a blues band who then gave way to a string of comedians performing to each other and a small but perfectly formed real audience. I saw Madge Hooks for the first time in ages and Daniel Offen showcased some new material. 

The food theme of the night was largely ignored by those performing but I did my best by performing Foodie alongside Tales of the Unexpected. I remembered all the words this time and the way people in the audience mis-timed their "Hey!"s was comedy gold in itself. However, it's still not there compared to the other tracks and I'll need to do it a few more times before it really beds in.

Before the end of the night I'd failed to win anything in the raffle but had eaten a delicious flapjack made by Janet herself. All that was left to do was to hop on the tube with JB Carter and make my way back to bike theft central.

Unsurprisingly, no-one had stolen my crap bike.

Clash of the Tight-Tens (Friday)

For the first time ever, my Tight Tens line-up didn't feature a set by myself. Partly because I'd forgotten to reserve myself a spot, partly because I just wanted to relax, it was another great night with people far too talented to be doing pay-what-you-like on a Friday night. Yuriko Kotani, Nathan Cassidy, Daniel Offen and Rosie Holt all put in appearances alongside MC Andy Onions (pictured). The audience wasn't as big as I'd expected but was still a very much respectable size. 

This show appears to be doing quite an important job for the bar as it was busy enough when I arrived, dead when I dropped down during the interval and then busy again around 10.30pm. Having a quiet bar doesn't hurt of course as anyone who does come in inevitably goes where the people are and come in for the show. This lead to a real comedy highlight just before Daniel took the stage where four very drunk women decided to up and leave and as they walked out the door another three less drunk people walked in and replaced them like some kind of audience tag-team.

All that was left to do after the show was pack and buy everyone a drink for their efforts.

People For Change Charity Fundraiser @ Dark Sugars, Brick Lane (Saturday)

10am Saturday morning and I'm in bed recovering from the drinks the night before. The phone goes off and it's a Facebook message from a musician I'd performed alongside at Once Upon A Mic earlier this year asking if I could step into a comedy spot at a charity fundraiser that night abandoned by an act, "who may have had a nervous breakdown." Not one to turn down such opportunities I agreed and got myself down to Brick Lane for 5pm.

Dark Sugars is a very cool authentic-looking chocolate shop halfway down Brick Lane with the tiniest of bars in the back. Behind the bowls of raw chocolate slabs and intricate fancies a PA had been set up and a projector was running through images of African children receiving education and healthcare. It turned out the whole thing was running late so I decamped for food before returning to see a small number of people largely ignoring a music act who'd been selected to kick things off.

Following the music the event organisers spoke about the project they were involved in and the room filled considerably. Four speakers later I was announced on stage as, "a comedy music kind of act," and jogged up to open with a carefully prepared line about how rapping about first world problems really highlights how trivial our problems are compared to those in the developing world. Potential offensive opening disaster averted.

Given how the first act had gone down I was prepared for the worst but having opened with my little speech the 30 or so people in the room were prepared to give me their undivided attention. Tales of the Unexpected, with it's sniping about supermarkets, hit home in an independent business venue. We were rolling. One Shot also went well, the shop also served coffee so taking a swipe at Starbucks was never going to hurt. I finished with Shuffle and Stop and the crowd had swelled by this point to numbers that ensured the call and response couldn't fail. I left to cries of "encore" but my voice was packing up so I retired to the back for a drink and a de-brief with my girlfriend.

This week...
So far it's just Bear Jokes on the cards but you never know what might happen...

Saturday, 1 October 2016

The Freedom Fridge

This week I picked up an actual paid gig for next Tuesday on the theme of food. Having just written a track about foodies I realised I needed to perform it somewhere beforehand to ensure it was ready for an audience who may have paid anything up to two actual pounds to see it.

The choice was obvious. At that point the day was Tuesday and Andy Onions was on MC duties at The Freedom Fridge in Kentish town that Thursday. A few emails later I was on the bill alongside JB Carter taking a sideways look at child birth and Rasputin Something who performed a really funny song about Lidl.

Onions hosted with his usual charm and gave us a good dose of his new projector driven comedy under the title of "Powerpointless". Some of the material was brand new, some of it was adapted from his Edinburgh show. All of it was damn good.

I warmed up with a rousing Tales of the Unexpected and encored at Andy O's insistence with Crisis Of Conscience. In the middle I hacked my way through Foodie and forgot most of the second verse. In the past I may have considered this a disaster but experience has taught me I never get my songs right first time yet second time around it always comes out fine. Regardless, the audience didn't seem to mind and the first few rows indulged me with the tummy rub dance move and shouting "hey!" on a regular basis.

Balham, you are in for a treat.

In other news, Clash of the Tight Tens returns next Friday with an indecently all-star lineup featuring vast numbers of award winning acts returning from successful runs at the Edinburgh Fringe. If you'd like to see Daniel Offen, Yuriko Kotani, Nathan Cassidy, Rosie Holt, Gatis Kandis, Sonja Cheekykita, Jonny Gillam and Sasha Ellen you should seek out more info here. 

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

October Tour

With a new job starting and plenty of life admin to get on with September was a quiet month on the comedy front. My own shows aside, I didn't do much else and instead focussed on writing, compiling a promo video with Edinburgh footage, setting up my new night in Leyton and booking what amounts to a small but perfectly formed UK tour over the October half term. The "tour" as it stands is currently four dates long but could go one better with a London show thrown into the mix. Something I'm waiting on but will hopefully come through. 

Post-festival I've decided less is more and rather than trapse the open mics three times a week I'm focussing on fewer, but bigger, shows. With new songs in the offing I will need to road test them somewhere but that's probably taken care of with Famous First Words (who I remain a firm supporter of, though no longer a booker) and a couple of my preferred new act nights around Hackney. Yesterday I celebrated another booking that's actually paid and though I don't really need the money I appreciate the investment.

I've also hacked out what I think will approximate to a full Edinburgh show for 2017 but need to get that worked out to a greater degree in the next few months as I'm looking to do a few of the other festivals in the run-up. I hear good things about Hastings and will probably also look to Brighton given how close it is. Any other recommendations are very much welcomed. I've also set my sights on the Musical Comedian of the Year awards who open applications in just over a week. 

Tight-Tens will also hopefully be heading across the border next summer too. Currently I'm considering MCing in a toga.

I feel some sub-headed sections coming on...

Andy quirk's Half Term Micro-Tour of the UK
21.10.16 - Yellow Comedy @ Reason Coffee and Bookstore, Watford
23.10.16 - Hotwater Comedy @ The Holiday Inn, Liverpool
​26.10.16 - Komedy Krackers @ Caroline On Brunswick, Brighton
28.10.16 - Charity Fundraiser @ The Red Bull, Cambridge

Stand Up at the Leyton Star
A full length show in the second half preceded by a first half of 8 minute support sets. First one on October 20th.

Good Grief, A Video Showreel

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Bear Jokes at Pub on the Park

September can go one of two ways. As Tight-Tens proved, too early and you’ve got people reeling from the bank holiday and no students in town. Get it right though and everyone’s recovered and people are looking for something to do.

Bear Jokes headed towards the latter with a busy little room made up of medical students and a handful of actual fans of the acts. Opening with, ‘Selfie Stick’, the room was suitably warmed for the first half – a half featuring strong sets from many. This included a set of largely new material from Ben Pope, who hit many more times than he missed, and a darkly uplifting ten from Katherine Ferns.

The half closed with Ariane Sherine and I performing, “I’m Not Putting That In My Mouth”, for the first time. It’s quite a song and one where we might need to work on our on stage interplay to get the most out of it. I’m considering bringing an actual ladle the next time.

The second half was busy again with great reactions to a really strong string of performances from James Harris, Adam Jamal and Matt Smith. It was left to Ariane to close the show with a trio of naughty songs that kept the sofa spectators amused to the end.

After an erratic start to 2017 with low audience figures in danger of becoming the norm my flagship night appears to now be in rude health. Plenty of people signed up to the mailing list at the end and I’ve got a few ideas to fully utilise the newly introduced mascot (acquired in Edinburgh – see previous blogs) and give the night a few more quirks.

Tomorrow I’m meeting the bar manager of a pub closer to home to set up a monthly mid-week night featuring a full 45m show from an experienced act with 10m supports. The kitchen table empire continues to grow...

Monday, 5 September 2016

Clash of the Tight-Tens / The Roadmap for the rest of 2016

Since my blog on the costs of Edinburgh Festival went semi-viral (usual readers of this blog: 80 / Current hits on that entry: 3,523) I've spoken to a lot of people about my time up there. It's also been a talking point at family gatherings. Even a taxi driver in Weymouth who I went to school with was talking to my mum about it last weekend when she recognised her in her cab. So what now?

There is a new song in production but it'll be a while before it's finished so for the while I'm cutting back the gigs to those I run, paid shows and opportunities outside of London. With a big South London cabaret and gigs in Cambridge and Liverpool booked in so far it seems like the right way to go. And I still have Bear Jokes and Tight-Tens, the latter of which I was running last Friday.

It was always going to be a tricky one as I hadn't been in London to do the usual level of promotion, many comedy fans had been to Edinburgh and had their fill for the while and students weren't yet back looking for a cheap night out. 

Still, there was an audience - including several MeetUp regulars and the acts were as great as ever. With smaller than usual numbers the energy in the room wasn't what it could have been but Sonia Aste and David McIver put in particularly upbeat performances to get the nervous smiles converting to laughs. My own set went down well too - with Andy Onions and Sonia actually dancing to both tracks. Afterwards I stayed on until the small hours with the MeetUp group, a move that made me almost miss my train to my brother's house warming the next day!

Alongside writing a new song I'm also writing music for an intro rap to both my nights when I MC and the embryonic stage of my full show for next year. The rule really is go big to get big laughs so the more full-on the better.

This Thursday Bear Jokes returns to Pub on the Park with Ariane Sherine closing the night. Should you come you'll be party to the debut live performance of our duet, "I'm Not Putting That In My Mouth" - sadly delayed from an Edinburgh debut due to Ariane's ill health at the time. The full event details can be see here.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Clash of the Tight-Tens this Friday

Back in London I've been checking everything's in place for Clash of the Tight-Tens this Friday at The Castle. Aside from finding it had been listed with a search-evading typo on a major events website everything is looking good with all acts confirmed and eager to get their comedy on.

With more than one act on the bill who's been up in Edinburgh for August it's anyone's guess what state they'll be in but if their experience was anything like mine they'll be sharp as a razor with their honed, honed and honed again set.

Friday's line-up features Stella Graham, Rick Kiesewetter, Sian Doughty, David McIver, Janet Bettesworth, Sam Mitchell, Sonia Aste and myself - with Andy Onions on MC duties. 

The show starts at 8pm sharp in the upstairs theatre room of The Castle, E1 1LN. Aldgate East tube is less than a minute away whilst Whitechapel and Aldgate aren't a great deal further and Liverpool Street a brisk ten minutes walk.

Facebook event here if you want to add it to your calendar.

As ever, you pay what you like at the end of the night, suggested donation £5 for those who can afford it.

Monday, 29 August 2016

What Does A Free Fringe Show Cost?

Having now completed my first run at the Edinburgh Fringe as one third of the show "Mirthquake" I thought it would be useful to share my costs for the month as a reference point for anyone thinking of doing it in the future - and perhaps for those who've already done it to point out where I possibly overspent...

Brace yourself, here comes the spreadsheet:

As you can see, I've costed this out in two ways. The 3 Man Show version is pretty much what I paid as part of Mirthquake (who all shared a flat), the 1 Man Show is the equivalent for those of you who would like the whole hour to yourself. The savings as a three hander come from sharing the cost of registering for a listing in the official fringe program, contribution to PBH, flyer/poster printing and, in my case, duplicating 100 CDs of my album to encourage £5 notes into the donations bucket. As a solo show I'm assuming I'd still share an apartment with other acts.

Given there were three of us we didn't pay anyone to flyer for us as we could do it effectively ourselves. The going rate is about £10 an hour if you need to factor it in.

"Ah, but what about all the money you make from the bucket to offset these costs?" I hear you ask. Mirthquake made just under £600 this run. That's £200 each. Our room was poorly located but our show was at a good time (4:30pm) and with an average of 19 people a show (in a room with an official capacity of 30) we were the most popular act in the venue and outperformed the norm for a first fringe show significantly - the classic number quoted being an average of 6 people per show.

To put our earnings into context, we made more from renting out our sofa and floor space to visitors and other acts than we made from the bucket. If you did the same you could claw back some cash but, with no disrespect to the other guys who shared our flat, next time I'd rather not house extra bodies and instead enjoy having a lounge and more than one third of a shelf in the fridge.

Here comes the breakdown:

Apartment: £970
We overpaid for this. The location was great and the views of Holyrood Park were stunning. However, we waited to rent it (through Air BnB) once our show had been confirmed by PBH and therefore missed all the cheaper properties available around January time. For 2017 I'll be booking somewhere at the start of the year. As Matt Duwell (our sofa surfing flatmate) pointed out to me, even if I failed to secure a show I could either cancel my accommodation or sub-let it to another act. One thing that isn't lacking in July are acts still looking for somewhere to live.

Food/Drink...: £850
I'm pleasantly surprised this is all I've spent. Thanks to being in a flat and not a hostel I only ate out once a day and otherwise made sandwiches and started the day with cereal. Drinking probably accounts for well over half of this money, not because I'm an alcoholic but because socialising is essential to stop you going mad and Edinburgh's bars largely charge London prices. Taxis are surprisingly cheap too, we crossed town in a black cab late at night for less than £8. It can't all be Free Fringe shows either to get the most out of the experience so I probably spent £70 or so on ticketed events.

Ed Fringe Registration (being listed in the official guide): £98.40 / £295.20
This is essential if you want to be taken seriously, are poorly located and want to have more than single figure audiences. PBH's own "Wee Blue Book" festival program and app is superb but we got a lot of our audience through the "now and next" feature on the official guide's app. Financially we probably just about made back the money through the increased audience numbers but personally I'd rather play to double digit audiences every day (we went single figure only twice in the whole run) than live in a world of audiences numbering 4 and having to cancel 2-3 gigs every week due to no-one turning up - as was the case with several acts at our venue who'd chosen not to be in the guide. £295.20 is the early bird price, it hikes to nearer £400 after the cut-off date. PBH deserve credit for getting our venue info out to us early enough to take advantage of this saving.

Return Train Ticket: £80
Book early and resist saving £30 by going on a miserable coach. From London the train is perfect, especially with heavy baggage that airlines would charge you excess for.

PBH Contributions: £21 / £63
At the equivalent of £3 a day this is an utter bargain as it covers the room, the equipment and printing the "Wee Blue Book". Officially it's a voluntary contribution but you'd have to be an utter bastard not to pay it. The low price does come at some minor cost though - more on that further down.

5,000 Flyers: £13.63 / £40.89
Some people pay over £100 for a flyer and poster deal. It's a matter of convenience really. There were enough of us to be able to order our flyers early and take them with us from London to Edinburgh. Many people get them delivered to their venue at the start of the run using specialist firms and pay a premium for it. Problems can arise though with so many people ordering flyers to arrive on the same day - several acts I know were without flyers on their opening weekend due to delays. Next year I'll be ordering in advance from a printer in Edinburgh (there are loads) so I can just pick them up from their shop. It'll cost a little more but nothing like the premium deals I've seen offered.

100 CD Copies Of My Album: £12.26 / £36.78
This was a gimmick to encourage people to donate £5 at the end of the show rather than chuck shrapnel in. At such a low cost for 100 CDs it didn't break the bank but as it turned out it made no difference to what people put in, with the exception of one girl who got her friends to lend her enough change to get one. In my case I'd do it again - but mainly as promotion for myself and not as a serious strategy to increase income.

Replacement Mic Lead: £12.99
A good example of the limits of the free fringe. One of our two 3m mic leads (which I'd connected together to make one of a proper length) broke and there were no replacements so I bought a new 6m one for Mirthquake with the intention of keeping it afterwards. After a week that one broke too. With the other PBH mic lead also on the way out I bought yet another one but this time shared the cost with the other acts in the venue. It survived to the end and was given to PBH for use next year. There's probably a lesson about the karma of sharing somewhere in this story. 

25 A3 Colour Posters: £3.33 / £10
Independent printers exist on Ebay who do this deal inclusive of postage. It saves a fortune and they're easily carried up to the festival. We only needed 10 but, like with the flyers, the difference between 10 and 25 (or 2,000 and 5,000 flyers) is utter peanuts so it's worth paying the little extra.

Lamp and Bulb: £5
Free Fringe venues are often spaces adapted for the fringe and therefore don't come with lights or, indeed, a stage. It's amazing how a desk lamp with a bright bulb can transform a usually brightly lit 30 seater room from something resembling an open mic to something hinting towards a low budget experimental theatre space. And you can keep the lamp!

So that's it. 2k and fringe fame awaits!