Monday, 29 February 2016

Famous First Words at The Gunners

Tonight's FFW was the busiest yet with some of the best comedy I've seen in quite a while. To top it off we had a musical duo from Norway play us out who'd brought a whole bunch of fans.

On the downside, it's really late and I should be asleep. I turned in one song tonight to open things up. It's not the best version of Chilling I've ever done but it broke the ice. Next stop, Bear Jokes on Thursday.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Shelter Benefit at Jackdaw

This afternoon I was just down the road from my flat at Jackdaw in Lower Clapton for a charity gig in aid of Shelter. It was a great event with with the brilliant Sonia Aste on MC duties shaking maracas and generally keeping the energy going throughout the 20 act (!) show. The venue was also pretty cool, a cosy basement with table service and a decent little PA. 

I opened proceedings and, as I only had time for one track, did some crowd work before jumping into 1 Shot. Topical given the amount of coffee being drunk in the room. The crowd really went for it and it was nice to relax and enjoy the rest of the show without the pressure of knowing I was performing later. 

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Once Upon a Mic at The Castle

A twenty minute set on a Friday night is not something that comes along too often so I was looking forward to performing at this variety night of poetry, music and comedy near Aldgate East tube station.

The other acts were a mixed bag. The poetry was intense and, at twenty minutes a time, too long for my taste. The music was stunning at times - one female singer/songwriter blew the stage away with her gaelic influenced folk; not too bad at others - the man pictured delivering some nice tunes including a Chris TT cover; and sometimes not very good at all - I will never understand what there is to be gained by watching a pub covers band rehearse for 30 minutes when I could be watching something original.

It turned out I was the only comedy act on the bill and,  after identifying my new first world problem as bands walking straight out of a gig after playing despite everyone else watching them, I launched into Phones - followed by 1 Shot, Chilling and West End. The crowd were great and joined in on everything. Every other person seemed to be recording me on their mobiles so I'll be searching for some bootleg footage in due course.

As nights go the intentions were good and the setup was excellent. The organisers may need to rethink their timings and focus to get a more general crowd in and fill the thoroughly nice room though but I would certainly return if invited.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Open Mic at The Elmhurst

The Elmhurst is a pub out in Bruce Grove that proudly proves gentrification has yet to hit everywhere in Tottenham. 4 mainstream lagers are all that are on tap and drinks are served exclusively in plastic pint glasses. The stage is carpeted and most of the locals look like they're plotting a robbery.

That said, it is charming for all the same reasons and MC Ant Henson is doing a good job pulling in respectable numbers in the later stage of the night (not pictured). 

The acts are almost exclusively music - loop pedals, acoustic singer/songwriters and a girl band all put in an appearance. My set was one of two halves with 1 Shot drawing the biggest applause of the night but then Selfie Stick alienating everyone under thirty. Something to bare in mind.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Famous First Words at The Gunners

Another fine night of open mic comedy this evening at FFW. Though I had to kick things off as Nick was delayed, things ran smoothly up to half time with the assembled performers and well wishers showing plenty of enthusiasm for my two tracks closing the first part.

It was at the start of the second where things went pear shaped with crackles and bangs all over the first performer. After much lead switching and head rubbing we headed on acoustically, which worked surprisingly well. Rosie Holt topped things off with a ukulele powered ode to pubic hair and we all went home happy.

Turns out the banging was a very faulty lead, though I'm still unsure how we hadn't isolated it at the time.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Comedy Bin at T-Bird

After a week of gigs in busy rooms it was strangely liberating to perform in a Finsbury Park basement to 8 other performers and 2 real audience. 

With no usable PA for my backing tracks I was relieved to have brought my Roland boom box and it did a thoroughly reasonable job for an audience tipping double figures. Stella Graham and Sasha Ellen put in keen peformances and the whole room had a nice friendly vibe - like everyone taking a turn at a family get together.

Will I be using the video for promo purposes though? Probably not.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

The Freedom Fridge at The Rose and Crown

The Freedom Fridge was great tonight. A smattering of real audience was all that was needed to enhance the already good vibes of the night. Acts I have long been a fan of were in abundance: Sophie Henderson, Tim Shishodia (pictured), Chris Coltrane and the night's host Andy Onions. The last of which performed in day glo pants in honour of London Fashion Week.

I did two of the newer tracks, they were received enthusiastically and we went to Aces and Eights down the road afterwards. Win!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Cafe Mode

Around lunchtime today Daniel Offen put a post up on Facebook asking for acts for that evening's show at Cafe Mode. He promised ten real people and a short show to try out new material. True to form, Cafe Mode went somewhat beyond what was advertised.

Now Cafe Mode is not the most spectacular of venues. It is a very small basement holding 30 people where the stage light is a regular light pointing at floor space just about large enough to take a couple of sidesteps in either direction. The PA only connects to one of the speakers and the exceptionally warm heating in the cafe above disappears when you're about halfway down the stairs.

That said, it's still one of my favourite places to play.

This is in no small part down to the audience. There is one. A good one. One that fills the room without a seat to spare. One that doesn't usually go to comedy shows and thinks Michael Mcintyre will be doing a surprise guest appearance. And they're tourists, and they shout things out, and they're anything from 18 to 60. They are, in short, a less abusive version of Jongleurs-type comedy clubs. They are the reality of comedy away from the cosy but often insular "alternative" circuit. They are the people who think Mrs Brown's Boys is good and political correctness has, indeed, gone mad. If you can win them over then you can deal with normals - and if you can do that then the world is your oyster.

So I did two tracks. Tales of the Unexpected is about as close as I'm ever likely to get to something that could take me to the second round of Britain's Got Talent so that went well. Crisis of Conscience got the fist pumping going too. I shall definitely return.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Famous First Words at The Gunners

Tonight's Famous First Words was looking pretty unmanageable from a promoter's point of view around 7.45 when it was clear no less than 17 acts were there to perform, with one of which promised 20 minutes for music. It was time to get started.

And so we did and that's when I remembered why I love running open mic as well as curated gigs. A regular attendee at Clash of Tight-Tens walked up to do her debut poetry reading, several comedians with gigs in low single figures either forgot their material or finished about two minutes earlier than they thought they had, an experienced hand berated the audience for apathy, another read the assembled better and got respectable laughs, in the second half two acts teamed up and improv'd eight minutes, two of which were spent showcasing a drunk guy they'd met in the bar playing Imagine on the chronically out of tune piano, a pregnant woman acted out jackhammer sex and I managed to write some impressively poor rhyming couplets for every act to hang the whole thing off. The music was good too.

Was it 'Live at the Apollo'? No. Was it better than staying in on a Monday night though. Absolutely.

And I wrapped it up by 10pm with a 10 minute break in the middle.

(Pictured: Steve Hili)

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Hilarity in Shoes at The Lion

Now in its new Stoke Newington home, HiS was a belter of a night with an insane number of acts and an audience that took every seat in the room. Jack Brooks (pictured) did the MC honours and Currer Ball and Kathryn Ferns turned in great sets amongst others.

Tales of the Unexpected and West End went down well with some of the best crowd reaction of the night as far as I could tell. Possibly in part to bringing music into the proceedings rather than another talky tight five. I enjoyed every second. Afterwards, a transsexual pensioner seemed really taken with it in particular and came over for a chat so I'll definitely take that as an endorsement.

In other news, the venue for Edinburgh Festival is confirmed. Now begins the really hard work.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Bear Jokes at Pub on the Park

With recent attendances in decline I decided to reboot Bear Jokes for 2016 with a new day, less events and a more compact line-up. If the first of these shows was anything to go by then moving it from Tuesday to Thursday, taking it to monthly rather than fortnightly and cutting the acts down to eight (with no music spot) was the right thing to do. The night started busy and the show ended with a full room. Happy comedians, happy audience members and happy me.

Cutting down the nights and the number of acts has had the knock-on effect of making me really think about who I'm putting on. It's also ensured I really focus my promotional effort, making use of the likes of MeetUp and local press as well as the usual websites and London-wide media points like Time Out.

In the spirit of making Bear Jokes a proper event rather than a new act workshop I also stopped calling it a free event and opted for "pay-what-you-like". Putting value on live performance (be it comedy, music or drama) is something everyone involved in it should strive for and with a donations model it means there's no door price dissuading casual observers and no door staff to pay! People who've had a good time are often surprisingly generous and even those who give nothing or 50p have contributed to the night by filling the room and adding to the vibe. 

There is nothing worse than performing to a cold empty room.

For my part I made more of an effort with the MC part of my role. I kicked off each half with a chat and a rap, rhyming couplets were employed to introduce everyone to the stage, lollipops were thrown into the crowd and at the end everyone assembled was rallied to play a body percussion beat for me to present all the rhyming couplets (now in the past tense) to thank all the performers for their sets.

Viv Groskop (pictured) called it "a really sweet gig" and that pretty much summed it up.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Famous First Words at The Gunners

Tonight's FFW was a neat little mix of new and more established acts with a intimate vibe and relaxed atmosphere. Nick Purves was on MC duties so I gave West End a third outing to a good response. 

Apologies to Valerio Lysander, who dropped in to play what turned out to be an embarrassingly out of tune piano. Note to self - never offer it out again.