Friday, 30 June 2017

The Freedom Fridge @ Kentish Town Rose and Crown

With a new song ready for airing, I headed to North London and a night at The Rose and Crown in Kentish Town. After a lengthy walk wondering why I'd decided to hop off at Upper Holloway instead of Gospel Oak I found a collection of new and familiar faces in the pub's basement.

Since my last visit, this little underground bunker has acquired a huge lit up sign shaped to say "Me" but otherwise it's the same slightly spooky cellar. The usual host, Andy Onions, was off elsewhere previewing his Edinburgh show so it was left to Philip Alexander to take the reigns and guide us through a line-up busting 15 acts over the next two and a bit hours.

I wasn't alone in testing out material for an Edinburgh show. Every other act in the first half appeared to be heading up there. One four minute car crash of casual misogyny crescendoing in a rape-joke aside, the rest of the acts were pretty decent. As the interval approached I readied myself to open the second half.

Now when people say they suffer for their art I tend to think of it in terms of financial strain or physical exhaustion. In my case this evening, however, my suffering came in the form of an ill-judge clapping motion and an unfortunately placed lump of metal protruding from the wall on the left hand side. I spring forward, I felt a prang and I sprang back - the arm of my t-shirt finding itself firmly hooked to said object and the area just under my armpit grazed and bleeding.

But I'm not one to let a little stabbing interrupt my flow and I detached myself and carried on into my new track. Modern Man features foot stamping to represent hammering and without warning my body decided this meant I should pay homage to the Ministry of Silly Walks throughout. The crowd, reassuringly, got it and we were all stamping about within a few seconds. The Radiohead related joke in the middle was recognisable to enough of the audience to be worthy of topping off the breakdown and afterwards one of the acts called me "very talented" so I'd call that a pretty successful ten minutes. 

Modern Man

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Famous First Words @ The Gunners, Finsbury Park

Last night I returned to the open mic I co-founded a couple of years ago and jumped ship from last September due to other commitments. Since then Dylan Dodds has done a good job keeping it going with various initiatives. At some point I will definitely go along to witness "Jazz Comedy" where he accompanies acts on a drum kit. Last night, however, was a standard show and I was on MC duties.

It's been a while since I've been to a show mainly made up of five spots. A mixture of new acts, new arrivals to the city and a handful of old hands made up the bill. 11 comedians. 1 poet. A big stage, a large room and the acts plus 2 well-wishers and an old-boy local propping up the bar. We were ready to begin.

It's never easy performing to a room made up largely of acts but it's a learning experience if nothing else. By the fifth act, "how much time have I got left", had become the running joke of those on stage. For a city so obsessed with squeezing every minute out of the day, winning over a slightly reluctant room for five minutes really does slow down time. Come half time it was time for drinks and a chat.

The second half carried on much the same as the first, enhanced by the local getting increasingly drunk and becoming an active participant in every set. It gave the show an edge, not least because most of what he contributed was totally incomprehensible. Still, he seemed to like my songs and made it all the way to the end.

Post-show it was time for a walk back to the tube with an act discussing the slightly masochistic nature of the average stand-up. Famous First Words remains a curious right of passage for new performers and long may it continue!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Edinburgh Preview @ Pub on the Park

When two of your acts drop out simultaneously the day before your show it can be a cause for concern. Not in this case though as I had some great acts in reserve to take the first half of Bear Jokes through to my Edinburgh preview in the second half. With a newly refurbished room and a brand new disco light we were all set.

Gary Sansome opened with some good crowd work with the minimal numbers (mainly a fellow Scotsman armed with two pints and a packet of Discos) which kicked things off nicely. He was followed by Daphna Baram talking all things Jewish then Nick Purves chatting away to the front row. Stella Graham wrapped things up with her usual sarcastic wit and we dived into the break as some new arrivals took up their seats.

With what looked like an actual crowd now in place it was my turn to run up and take the stage for forty minutes of chat, rap and daft dance moves. One maverick chose to DJ the Box of Frustration (a box with 7" singles labelled with chart positions 1-7 accompanied by a topic of conversation/song) and picked chart position 2 instead of number 6 so West End got an early airing. Thankfully, this didn't radically effect the flow and was actually useful in terms of practice handling such a move. 

Towards the end the drinks had been flowing freely as well as the laughs and "Yeah, FUCK the craft fair!" was belted out by a particularly high spirited individual when the final note had concluded the track.

So a good first run of the whole set and a promising start. My voice held out thanks to less shouting and more water and the new drums sound great. I could do with a couple more shows of this length to really refine it though. Offers anyone?!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Brighton Fringe

Enthused by the reception to our first show at the Brighton Fringe a few weeks ago Andy Onions and I returned for two more this past weekend. We figured that being on at midday was going to present challenges, particularly when the sun was out, but we got our flyering faces on and set out to convince random wanderers and early drinkers alike that what they really wanted to do was sit in a dark room and be entertained by two people they'd never heard of.

And it worked. Granted, the attendance didn't exactly lead to a standing room only scenario but at both shows we had people streaming in with minutes to go before the lights went down and the volume went up. Saturday's audience were quieter than their Sunday counterparts but within both ranks there were out and out zealots applauding and laughing at everything and bringing others on board the whole time. Not bad at all considering one group admitted they'd seen us in the program and come, "because you're on really early and nothing else is happening."

Andy's sets were tight and full of the kind of raucous nonsense he's famed for in comedy circles. Be sure to see Powerpointless at The Banshee Labyrinth come Edinburgh Festival. As for me, passing the box was a winner on the whole and people enjoyed pulling out the 7" singles and discussing their worst nights out, last things they'd bought or their experiences travelling abroad. Our youngest audience member, who I'd estimate to be 13 pulled one out and excitedly declared with pride she knew exactly what it was, "Hey, it's one of those things from the old days...a floppy disk!" I didn't have the heart to correct her.

Aside from being good fun, the shows were great in terms of building up my confidence for my debut solo show in Ed. I'm also finally learning how to control my voice so it doesn't fall into a croak by the third song. Drink plenty of water. Suck Soothers. Avoid shouting. 

Show this Thursday
Should you be in the London Fields vicinity, I'm previewing my full show at Pub on the Park this Thursday. Complete with updated backing tracks (new Soundcloud recordings here) and the Box of Frustration. Show starts at 8. I'm taking the second half from 9. See the Facebook Event for more info.