Monday, 17 December 2018

One week - Three gigs

Since the last time I wrote life has been keeping us plenty busy both on the comedy front and that other one known as everyday life. With wall coverings in our house being ripped down and put back up sans-artex swirls and financial experiments ranging from DJing to selling children's books at boot sales, performing has been given a chance to breathe. 

The past month's hiatus from the stage, Anything Goes aside, has also enabled the completion of all the new tracks for our 2019 show, "99 (First World) Problems". Lyrically and musically more ambitious than anything we've done before, we're looking forward to taking them out to a string of festivals next year which so far include Leicester, Buxton and Manchester. Edinburgh applications open shortly with our friends Laughing Horse and there are a number of other places we intend to take our rhyming frustrations with modern living to as well. Stay tuned.

This week though has put us back on the road (literally now we're in the north and without a decent public transport network) and has witnessed three performances, all unique in their own way.

First up we were in Lancaster last Wednesday for the Christmas comedy special at The Gregson, a rather wonderful community-lead pub with three decent rooms for events under its roof. With singing drifting out from one and an environmental film in full swing in another we found ourselves in the third space - a neat little room with a stage and six rows of chairs. The crowd was sparse and 3/4 made up of people Anna had invited. 

Almost every set made grudging or self-deprecating reference to the low turnout with the energy level to match. Weirdly surreal in places, we closed the show with a couple of songs and probably raised the party vibes from a 1 to at least a 3. Everyone involved was lovely and the night deserved to be more successful than it was - though there's something strangely prophetic about when even the Christmas crackers the MC uses throughout the show turn out to not even have jokes in them. 

Next stop was a local one with the final Anything Goes of the year at Isaac's in Glossop. Anna rested so it was down to me to take the MC reigns and welcome acts from as far afield as Rhyl, Leeds and Stoke on Trent. We had one liners, songs about bodily functions and observational storytelling in this evening's mix and the audience really went for it with the first outing for our new song, Shake It, bemoaning the spirit crushing experience of waiting at the bar whilst the staff slowly but surely grind out a large cocktail order. I usually close the show with a song too but this evening David Eagle and his accordion blew everyone away with a trio of exceptionally funny songs and the job was well and truly done. AG returns as a monthly event starting Jan 9th with a new ticketed night kicking off at The Globe on the 24th.

The final show of the week drove into Skipton on Sunday at a bar advertising drag queen karaoke and cocktails made of Love Heart sweets. Instantly enamoured with the place we headed in and met the other acts at the back of the bar. The show took place in the main room on a stage that resembled an industrial coffee table. If you were drinking you were audience so the numbers weren't bad. They were also somewhat loud and drunk as far as the first table were concerned but even they managed to sustain attention on those performing for the most part. 

Following sets including several surprisingly confident tens from acts with less than ten gigs under their belt, an MC dressed as "Shit Santa" driving a remote control car around the pub with a rubber penis taped to its roof and a battering ram of intense Scouse humour from the promoter just before we came on the intro track started and we got people's hands in the air shouting along and, in pockets all over the pub, mobile phones recording the proceedings. 

Meal Deal did its job, preceded by Anna J mercilessly ribbing audience members for their food choices and, in the case of the BGT semi-finalist sat right at the front, their hairstyle. Once we'd come down from that it was on to Gentrifried, a more relaxed and lyrically dynamic song which kept everyone who wasn't seven cocktails to the wind laughing whilst those incapable of comprehension at least managed a shoulder shuffle on their stools.

Job done we sat back to watch the headliner and eat our sandwiches (yes, we take sandwiches to our gigs nowadays). Show over, all that was left was to agree a headline spot for next year and drive the dark roads back to Glossop.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Anything Goes and the Binary Bar

Last Thursday's AG was another belting little hour that showcased talent from both near and far. Eleanor Mottershead opened with some locally sourced singing before Katherine Ferns (from Canada via Wigan) stepped up with a strong ten minutes of new material from her forthcoming Edinburgh show. This was followed by Westcountry comedian, now resident of Glossop, Harriet Dyer putting on her broadest accent and drawing on her upbringing with a sideline in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles references. The final act to take the stage was Mancunian Jack Vincent with a self deprecating exploration of his very being. Shout out to the New Mills massive, nice to see some of our cousins coming over the hill for this one!

Yesterday it was our turn to guest at someone's show so we hopped in the rap-mobile and powered into Manchester for our closing set at The Binary Bar. Host, Matty, was enthusiastic, helpful and all-round brilliant whilst the majority of the acts (some, recent AG performers) put in genuinely entertaining sets held together by an easy going MC from Birmingham.

As the last act on we had a good measure of the audience. Up for it, vocal and keen to laugh, it wasn't hard to get them shouting along with Meal Deal and Gentrified after ram raiding them with our intro track. The lack of two microphones meant we could indulge in some pantomime-level play fighting over it and we had enough space and volume to dance about and generally pretend we were at a rave. Definitely one to do again!

Monday, 29 October 2018

Anything Goes 25th October

For the first time in its five week history, local poets joined Anything Goes for its busiest night yet with no less than seven acts compressed into a concise hour of comedy and spoken word. 

Bolstered by a chatty birthday party group, the atmosphere was boisterous and welcoming for the acts who stepped up to perform. 

Following a rendition of Meal Deal by myself, David Bawden presented a tight ten of observational humour followed by Diane Fitton with her own take on the world. Tim Hoy then presented some stirring spoken word before resident comedian-in-progress Daniel advised the audience with a novel solution to deterring door-to-door salesmen. Stuart Thomas ruminated on being larger than life and Andy Millican wrapped things up with a few well chosen verses.

With the hour complete it was time to retire to the bar downstairs and review the night's proceedings, beer in hand. Next Thursday's show promises to be just as good with another full-to-bursting line-up of comedy travelling in for Manchester and beyond. Be sure to join us!

Sunday, 21 October 2018

What's on your t-shirt?

It was another cosy corner of comedy at Isaac's this week when we welcomed Manchester acts, Luke Helly, Richard Probert and Andrew Rowan to the stage alongside ourselves for sixty minutes of mirth. The drinks were flowing, spirits were high (in both senses) and the sofas were comfy. It was time to begin.

Anna J and I always like to start with a musical moan on a first world problem vibe so we kicked things off with a track about self checkouts then slid into the woes relating to the defining feature of our decade, the meal deal. The audience were up for it and were singing along in all the right places, it was time for our visiting acts.

Every set was entertaining and unique in it's own right with plenty of observational humour, punchy one-liners and, at one point, an extended a cappella remix of The Smiths mashed up with The Bee Gees. Two acts in we got personal and compared t-shirts, concluding that those with attire sporting slogans and logos from New York and Venice Beach had never visited either location...or Venice...or York...or even a beach in recent memory. Next time you see someone sporting such a t-shirt ask them what it was like there.

At the end all that was left was to acknowledge Andrew's Joy Division t-shirt and then sully their legacy with our alternative 80's themed track about finding yourself standing in a bad nightclub at 3am with no idea how you got there. Cheap disco lights, sticky carpet, the vague aroma of Lynx deodorant. We've all been there.

Which leads me to the conclusion of this entry with a question. Where is the worst nightclub you've ever been, what made it the worst and what was its one saving grace? The last blog entry had over 400 views so it would be good to hear from some of you in the comments section. Failing that, join us for the next Anything Goes at Isaac's this Thursday and tell us. There's almost certainly going to be some open mic from 8-8.45pm and the comedy hour kicks off at 9. As ever, entry is FREE!

Saturday, 13 October 2018

The debut of the comedy hour

When starting a new night there's always a period of experimentation where you have to adapt your almighty vision to the realities of the area. Initially Anything Goes was planned to be a grand melting pot of creative locals, out of town special guests and community support. 

Three weeks in it was becoming obvious that the majority of the good people of Glossop would rather watch something than be obliged to be an active participant in it and to that end the fully open-mic approach originally designed to be core to the night has been subtly recast. Because I have a core belief in equal opportunities for self-expression the open mic element still exists between 8-8.45 but this is now a first half to a fully pre-booked comedy hour from 9pm of emerging acts and established pro's experimenting with new material.

This Thursday's show not only had a prime mix of acts travelling in Chester, Manchester and Blackburn but also a keen audience of locals and visitors from further afield. We enjoyed material from an Edinburgh Fringe work-in-progress, a self assured observational set exploring everything from the blurring of gender lines to driving under the influence, a short improvised set on sex from local hero Daniel and ten minutes in the world of bisexual politics. Spread throughout like mirthful glue, Anna J and I delivered four different first world problems in rap form before heading off in an unexpected direction with the audience on the meaning of fisting...what more could you ask for from a free night?

Drinks at the bar followed before heading off into the night. Next Thursday's lineup is again very strong and draws talent in from all over the north so why not swing by for a drink and a local warm-up at 8 before the hour kicks off at 9.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Isaac's New-Town...

Three shows in and Anything Goes continues to impress, both with the quality of its acts and the effort they make even when the audience numbers are small.

On a cold and quiet Thursday night we assembled for drinks and discussion before making our way up to Isaac's very nice function room to watch the UK's leading dinosaur impersonator, a former sideshow stuntman turned dealer of pure one liners, a gong-beating rising star, an avowed non-goth and our local up and coming gross-out stand-up. These followed my opening with a long overdue revival of Selfie Stick.

The good thing about running a weekly show in a place you're new to is that you quickly learn the lay of the local land as far as entertainment preferences go. My original assumption that Glossop is teaming with open mic legends in the making so far appears to be false with few guitar slinging troubadours or Peak District inspired poets ready and waiting to step up.

Instead there's a wealth of comedy talent ready and waiting to drive in from Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and beyond to hone their ten minutes into lean mean chuckle-delivery machines and there's a sizeable number of grassroots Glossopites who like a night out and a laugh. 

Therefore, from now on Anything Goes is powering forward with sixty minutes featuring the rising stars of comedy from 9pm, preceded by open mic from 8 for anyone local looking to take their first steps or share a song, story or joke.

Looking forward to next Thursday already!

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Welcome to the north

One month since our move from London and it's been a busy time for us here in Glossop. Having acclimatised to the fact strangers speak to you in the north and that people here don't live their lives to the rapid beat of commuting we've started to acquaint ourselves with our new surroundings and opportunities for a comedy rap duo outside the M25. 

Having secured the night before securing our house, Anything Goes is now two nights in (next one tomorrow) and is growing in both confidence and audience numbers. Our weekly show in the upstairs room of funky cocktail bar Isaac's looks and feels very much like Bear Jokes at Pub on the Park with its sofas, cosy dimensions and all important disco light. Most of the acts so far have travelled in from Manchester and beyond but last week a young local delivered his first ever five minutes and truly smashed it as far as spontaneous debuts go.

Yesterday kicked off things officially for our own act with confirmation that we're booked to perform at the Leicester Fringe next February in the cavernous back room of O'Neill's. Full stage, 80 seats and banging PA included - "99 (First World) Problems" is going to be immense.

That evening we also took fifteen minutes to Liverpool for Hot Water Comedy. The comedy kings of the city, since I last performed for them over two years ago in an adopted hotel suite they've opened two dedicated venues and are packing them in. Seel Street's room is everything a club should be and the staff were brilliant, friendly and professional. Thanks to it's notoriety most of the acts on the bill had travelled in for the show, two from Southend only trumped by another who'd flown in from Ireland. Being the sole musical comedy act, and a somewhat zany one at that, in a lineup of standup can always go two ways but the crowd warmed to us and couldn't get enough of Anna J's surly ways. As the venue manager put it, "I've never seen anything like your act, it's funny and completely mad." One for the press release.

As the way things always work at shows we also got to know some other acts and chatted with the affable Adam Hughes - who showed us the near-secret shisha bar above the venue and invited us to perform at his own nights in Blackburn and Skipton sometime. Looking forward to those!

Monday, 27 August 2018

The Fringe Run 2018

2018 was my third fringe and the first officially as a double act with Anna J in First World Problems. We changed promoter (from PBH to Laughing Horse), found ourselves in a prestigious central location (Espionage) and delivered 25 shows of First World Problems in 25 days - the first (and probably last) time with no days off. 

Add to that 22 days MCing Clash of the Tight Tens (thanks to Sonia Aste for taking on Wednesdays and giving me a lie-in) and 25 guests spots (thanks to Simon Caine, Woodstock Taylor, Dave Nattris, Paul Richards and "Trevor Feelgood" for those) and it was certainly a busy month.

So how did we do and how did we achieve it? As is now becoming something of a tradition, here's the breakdown...

First World Problems
Where: Espionage (Kasbar Room)
When: 2:45pm every day, Aug 2-26
Total attendance: 628 
Total donations: £1,217

A musical comedy of fist pumping therapy for modern living where the audience join in as part of the crew. The big change from last year was the introduction of a proper narrative and a much bigger role for Anna J, who now sings parts of the songs, carries much of the narrative and mixes it up with the audience to keep them constantly engaged. The show is now very much a double act.

We had modest expectations for this but these were blown to bits within days of the run starting. In a room that seated 30 (+ some space for standing) we had between 25 and 45 crew members in on 17 of these days. For the remainder, numbers were still decent for midweek and the donations were solid throughout - with a big bonus on the final day.

Early on in the run Mumble Comedy came and reviewed the show and awarded us four stars. We added this to our posters in the venue to entice people in. Mid-run this was joined by a very positive review in Fringepig, who recommended us as a show "to be first in the queue for." How much these reviews actually contributed to our numbers will forever remain a mystery but I look into this further at the end of this post.

Clash of the Tight Tens
Where: Espionage (Kasbar Room)
When: 12:15pm every day, Aug 2-26
Total attendance: 749
Total donations: £1,476

A variety show of stand-up, sketch and musical comedy. Every day five acts performed ten minute tasters of their full run shows at this lunchtime showcase. I MC'd every day except Wednesdays when Sonia Aste stepped in to give me a lie-in. Pretty much unchanged from last year, the lunchtime slot worked in its favour with many people making it the first thing to see and there were more than a few people who came several days in a row as the bill rotated. I expected the show to do well thanks to the quality of acts I had on board but it exceeded those expectations much in the same way as FWP.

Of the 25 shows, 18 had 25 or more people in the room. The remainder always provided solid audiences for the acts involved with just two shows under 15 and none under 10.

Fringe Economics
With a total income of £2,693 you'd be forgiven for thinking we were rolling in cash after the run. However, once accommodation (£2,138), registration for the official programme (£295 x 2), print and online marketing (£185), payment to Laughing Horse (a very reasonable £100 x 2) and flyers/posters (£112) are taken into account we actually returned a loss of £661 - not including at least £1000 spent during the fringe itself on food, drink and tickets (very modest when you consider there are two of us.) 

Next year we'll book accommodation earlier with a view to halving this whacking cost. Elsewhere there aren't any easy savings to make. Therefore, our priorities for 2019 will be to ensure more bums on seats and more donations per bum. £2 per person is generally recognised to be the average donation at a free fringe show and given we hit this the challenge is not inconsiderable.

So what can I share with you that may be of some use should you be considering taking your own show up there in 2019. Well, this seems like a good idea:

What Got People In: The Top 7 Reasons

1. The Show Itself
It doesn't matter how much marketing you do, if the shows don't work then you are doomed from the off. Being pay-what-you-like shows people were free to up and leave if they didn't like what they saw and throughout the run handfuls did - usually people who'd got lost looking for Pottervision on the floor below. Given that FWP and CotTT retained the vast majority of their audiences from start to finish I'm happy to conclude that the shows met the audiences expectations. We certainly had a great time!

2. Location and Time
Twice as many people watched FWP and CotTT as they did the previous year when we were at Black Market with PBH. The shows are both slicker beasts than they were in 2017 but location clearly played a role. Espionage is at the centre of universe as far as "free" shows go, straddling both Grassmarket and Cowgate. It's also a dedicated nightclub with good lights and proper sound insulation, unlike 2017's pop-up with thin walls and the appearance of a condemned squat.

Time played a crucial factor too. Both shows were marketed as 12+ so families with older children could come. Families and older adults appreciated FWP for being completely free of swearing. CotTT was on at lunchtime, making it an ideal starting point for many fringe-goers, particularly the type most likely heading back to their hotels before the more in-your-face post-10pm entertainment kicked in.

3. The Free Festival Blue Book
Not to be confused with the PBH Blue Book - Espionage, The Three Sisters and Cabaret Voltaire shared a booklet with all their shows in that their staff distributed on the street every day. Huge numbers of people found out about our show through this very handy guide.

4. The Edfringe Guide and App
Those people who planned their day in advance largely used the official guide to the festival or its related app. There is no substitute for being in this publication if you intend to fill your show with people who are there because they planned to be - not randoms hooked off the street who may walk off shortly after the show starts because it's not their thing.

5. Exit Flyering Guest Spots
Giving people your flyer after you've performed a ten minute spot at someone else's compilation show does work to a limited degree. This was more effective last year when we did spots in the afternoon though. This year all our spots were in the evening and so it was less effective as we were flyering people who often had no intention of going to fringe shows before 7pm.

6. Street Flyering
This was useful for about 20 minutes before CotTT to grab lunchtimers looking for something to do before the shows they planned to go and see. It was less effective for FWP as the music aspect of the show made it less appealing to a general audience - though this was more than made up for by the numbers of people who specifically came having seen it in one of the guides. 

If your show has a strong identity or angle that sets it apart from the sea of general stand-up shows then street flyering isn't as important as it might otherwise be.

7. Reviews
It was great to be able to put stars and quotes on our posters but these reviews will probably contribute most in our applications to other festivals and shows in the coming year.

In Conclusion
We had a great time this year. Great venue, great organisation and great people from start to finish. Next year we'll be back with an even stronger show - though we may take Wednesdays off because doing 25 days without a break is a serious killer!

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Saturday to Tuesday

Having not updated for four days you can assume things have been busy with things here in Edinburgh. The shows on Saturday, Sunday and Monday were full as usual and we were particular impressed with our third week starting crowd who really threw themselves into it. They also helped us buck the trend of the third week slump when numbers dwindle and the bucket follows suit. One we should have video'd but didn't. Footage will be up in the next week or so.

Tuesday was a good deal quieter with 9 crew members taking part but giving it their all. It looks like we'll finally have to start flyering for more than ten minutes to turn this around - though its only a few days from the final weekend, which is handily another bank holiday!

Friday, 17 August 2018

Friday and we're back in the game

After a relatively quiet Wednesday and Thursday we looked forward to the weekend and it didn't disappoint.

Tight Tens was rammed and all the acts involved turned in superb sets with Ali Woods and Rosie Holt gaining the biggest laughs. The average age of the assembled was notably higher than midweek with most 40+ and in large groups. This was bonus bucket time and we recorded the best donation total yet.

Following this it was time for some lunch before flyering for twenty minutes before First World Problems. Me determined not to see the drop-off in numbers that reduced us to half a (wonderful enthusiastic) room the previous day to continue. Between this, the listings and the glorious Fringepig feature the room was standing room only when we came on and we had the best hiphop-come-therapy-session yet. Post show we got our second lovely tweet of the run spreading the FWP word, more of these would be very much welcome.

Back at the flat it was time for recuperation and home cooking before venturing out to the 3 Broomsticks for Trevor Feelgood's Alternative Showcase. In typical PBH style this centre of town pop-up resembled a derelict squat once you got to the performance spaces but there were stage lights, a working PA and an audience of five. What more could you ask for? All the acts put in good spots, "Mad Ron" going down particularly well and a good deal more developed from the days when I saw him starting out at Famous First Words. Look out for him. Our two songs were well received and some minimal flyering ensued. 

The night ended with drinks at Tollbooth Market after we were unable to get into Lew Fitz's show at Just the Tonic as it was completely full. Another night for sure though.

16 days down, 9 more to go. Bums on seats for Clash of the Tight Tens: 509. First World Problems: 389. Total money in the bucket: £1,628. Chances of breaking even: Good. If everyone from now on puts £20 notes in the pot.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Timely Review

As if by magic, following my post yesterday I found the latest copy of Fringepig in Espionage today and it was carrying this rather nice review/recommendation. With any luck this should direct a few more audience our way with a flair for writing.

Show-wise it was my day off for Clash of the Tight Tens. Sonia Aste was on MC duties and reported back that the audience had been smaller than usual but more generous in the bucket department. With this in mind we braced ourselves for a few empty seats at FWP and headed into the city.

Edinburgh was quieter than usual and with 15 minutes until showtime we had just 2 audience members. However, when it was time to press play on the iPad we had 15 in, almost all aged under 21. This demographic has been patchy for us in the past but it wasn't the case on this sleepy Wednesday afternoon. Halfway through the first track it was clear they were all up for a good time and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves for the next 45 minutes. The bucket may have been light (as you would expect with students) but it had been a good show and that's what really mattered.

Later on we were back in derelict Bar Bados for Simon Caine's Single Comedians show. The diminutive crowd enjoyed what we did and we particularly enjoyed the final act. With friends and family up for the next few days we'll be getting out to more shows.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Monday and Tuesday

The start of the week has been surprising in every positive way. On both days Tight Tens and FWP have been without a single vacant seat and we've had some fun at the guests spots too (sharing a bill with Arthur Smith - pictured - and Dan Attfield at the Musical Comedy Guide Showcase.) 

It's at this point attention turns to reviews and feedback from the audience, or rather lack of it. It's certainly the case that there's always more to do when you're at the fringe and now we're repeatedly filling our rooms we're now looking at how to get it documented beyond the lone review we've had from Mumble. 

In an era dominated by social media it's curious that as yet we've had just one post-show tweet and one post to Facebook. The money in the hat and the great comments from the audience suggests it isn't the show that's the problem so the question is how to encourage more audience reviews. The Edfringe site itself allows the public to comment on the shows they've seen but this is frustratingly empty too. Any ideas on how to improve this scenario would be greatly appreciated!

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Weekend Two

This weekend has been a busy one. On Saturday both Tight Tens and First World Problems were packed with vast numbers of people standing at the back. In both cases this did lead to some people drifting in and out of the shows but overall they went well. It's not that often we perform to numbers topping seventy but we'd happily do it again.

Sunday hasn't been quite as busy but all seats have been taken once again (the empty seat in this photo was taken soon after I promise) and the easier going nature of those in attendance was in many ways easier to deal with. 

We have pretty much stopped flyering for the while as the room fills regardless and with FWP in particular we find it fills with the right kind of people who've done their research and know what they're letting themselves in for. Flyering certainly has a place and I'm sure I'll be eating my words by Wednesday but what seems to matter most is the copy in the brochure (and free fringe books) and location. CotTT is an ideal early show with a family friendly vibe whilst FWP is music based unlike 99% of the other comedy on offer. We've now made back over £1,000 via the donations bucket - though this sounds less impressive when it has to be acknowledged we started our run £3k in debt and have spent most of the bucket on food and drink....

Saturday, 11 August 2018


The weekend started with a whirl as I made my way to Tight Tens somewhat later than planned. Less than five minutes of flyering outside later I was in the room setting up the disco light and the Greek music. The room filled quickly and by the time the first act took to the stage the place was full once again. 

It's a good crowd that immediately not only joins in with the handclaps on Tales of the Unexpected but actually start singing the chorus by the end. Overall, the show was great with Rosie Holt and Yuriko Kotani (pictured) doing particularly well. 

With a bucket significantly better than the day before I dropped into Grass Market for a sandwich and coffee before some light flyering for First World Problems for fifteen minutes. Once again back in the room Anna and I set things up and asked the handful people outside the door waiting for us to stay there. Re-emerging from Kasbar five minutes later the handful had turned into a queue snaking all the way along the corridor and up into the bar above. A quick chat revealed various reasons for people coming - ranging from reading about us in the Grass Market gig booklet to researching our videos on the train up. Doors now open we filled the room and jumped into the set with both feet.

Every day the set gets that little bit tighter and today most everything clicked into place. The crowd joined in with enthusiasm (a sign they knew what was coming and much better than rows of slightly scared random people wondering what they've let themselves in for) whilst  Anna J stalked them for conversation. Come the end we'd lost a couple of people but the pile of fivers in the hat said it all.

We took the evening off from guest spots to watch JB Carter's band at Tolbooth Market but arrived early enough to see Tom Little perform in a tiny box room nearby. Compared to a cat chasing a laser pointer he was energetic, enthusiastic and very funny.

Friday, 10 August 2018

First Review

Today our first review came in with Mumble giving us four stars and some very kind words. It's always a little nerve wracking to get reviewed, not least because in this modern age whatever is written about you stays there for a very long time indeed. I could exemplify this with a rather lukewarm review of an album made by a band I was in ten years ago but I think I'll save myself the embarrassment. Anyway, stars are what it's all about and I'll be sticking some to our posters this weekend.

As for the gigs, it was an interesting day. Clash of the Tight Tens filled to standing room only once again but, no doubt hardened by seeing several free fringe shows by now, the money wasn't what it could have been. Some audience members were observed ducking out in the last minutes of the last act to avoid walking past the donations bucket - which is pretty disgraceful and apparently turning into somewhat of a thing for many shows this year. Donations aside, the acts were altogether brilliant, everyone had a good time and I looked forward to the main show at 2.45.

First World Problems went well and the audience numbers were around the 30 mark with pretty much every seat taken. Having been busy elsewhere in the hour before I had only had a chance to flyer for a couple of minutes so this was particularly impressive. The alternative blue book going around Grass Market appears to be doing a good job with many of the audience citing it as the reason they'd come. The audience were up for a good time and we flew through the set. Compared to last year, the Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday turnout couldn't be more different. Whilst I'd like to put it down to the material, I think the location can take some of the credit.

In the evening it was back to Bar Bados for another spot at Well It's Woody. With its relaxed jazz club open mic vibe full of poetry, song and storytelling it's a very different beast to much of the fringe. Audience numbers were low (two in fact) but it was a nice place to just sit back and take it all in. The pair duly flyered, we had dinner before watching Jon Long's work in progress at The Newsroom just after eleven. The songs are as good as ever, recommended.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Wednesday's Week One Summary

Today Sonia Aste hosted Tight Tens so I could take the morning off and focus on some life admin. Reports from the front were good and Anna and I looked forward to First World Problems later in the afternoon. The room was busy and though we lost a few early on thanks to their realisation that our rap show might contain loud music we powered on through to a satisfying conclusion. 

After that it was time for an early dinner at a vegetarian restaurant before dropping in on Cabaret Voltaire to see Jinx Yeo fill the Long Room. Thirty minutes later we were in the infamous Bar Bados for our first appearance at Well It's Woody in Room 7. A relaxed affair, we had music, naughty poetry and more music with a cabaret vibe as well as us. The small but lovely crowd enjoyed everything and flyers were duly distributed.

We've now completed our first week of the fringe so it's time for some stats. As anyone who read last year's blog will know, I do love a good stat.

Clash of the Tight Tens
Total bums on seats: 220
Total money in the bucket: £392
Best day: Saturday (50 bums on seats / £107)

First World Problems
Total bums on seats: 134
Total money in the bucket: £235
Best day: Sunday (25 bums on seats / £58)

Tidal Turnout Tuesday

Tuesdays are supposed to be slow but once again we somehow defied the odds and had another amazing day.

Tight Tens was packed out as if it was a weekend and the lineup didn't disappoint. True, given the amount of audience members around the age of 12 the show could have probably done with less material about sex and class A drugs, and the C-bomb, but the parents looked none-the-less happy and saw it through to the end.

First World Problems also had a decent turnout and went down well. The addition of a league table of terrible UK nightclubs and some tweaks to the middle of the set proved their worth. One audience member showed off their party trick of jumping into the splits whilst the lyrics kept coming and Anna J double-twerked her way into the audience's hearts. As a crowd they were quieter than the previous day's but just as lovely.

A while later we found ourselves at Sweet Novotel for a 10 minute spot on their "Pick n Mix" bill - which turned out to be an un-manned digital PA system in the corner of the hotel bar. With a group of four enjoying a coffee in front of us and little else it was touch and go if we'd do the slot. In the end though we dusted off Crisis Of Conscience and ran through Tales of the Unexpected for the umpteenth time. The coffee lovers enjoyed it, joined in and took our flyers. Maybe we've just added four more to tomorrow's show.

In the evening it was over to Bar Bados and its derelict charm for Simon Caine's compilation show. A small but enthusiastic audience really went for our tracks and the rest of the bill was pleasingly solid too. Anna was approached by a couple of super fans afterwards, those two vowing to come to the main show.

Pretty good day overall.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Monday Movements

Mondays are supposed to be slow. Mondays when the paid fringe is offering tickets 2-4-1 are supposed to be doubly painful for the free fringe. Today was not in anyway painful.

Tight Tens ran well with all five acts very much Bear Jokes favourites, two of which have MC'd it in the past and one actually took on Pub on the Park when I found myself too far from it to run it anymore. The sets were solid and the audience warm (see photo). I stopped saying it was okay to put silver coins in the bucket and the silver stopped coming, replaced by proper money. Never underestimate the importance of your bucket speech.

First World Problems was similarly well attended and the audience were very much up for some fist pumping therapy for modern living. We had our first under sixteens in the audience and the two boys joined in with absolute unmitigated abandon. The set is now exceptionally tight though we are making tweaks everyday to squeeze the most out of every line. Importantly, it appears to be that though the "classics" we've performed for over a year still hit the mark it's the new songs that are really getting the laughs.

In the evening we headed over to the Musical Comedy Guide Showcase to host it for the night. It was great to see musical comedy in a variety of forms and the crowd, a mixture of fringe-heads and locals, really went for our closing number. As for our double act chat between acts we went for an awkward Eurovision coupling style which seemed to go down well. Flyers duly handed out we headed out to watch a show before crashing out.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Anything but a day of rest

The first Sunday at the Fringe is given a boost by Scotland having a bank holiday the next day and with crowds streaming down into Cowgate early on it could be seen in full effect. 

With the Espionage storage room resembling a partially collapsed cave complex, awash with flyers and precariously placed boxes on buckling shelves, it took a while to find the flyers but once they were located I was out on the street with my bits of paper and a laurel wreath on my head. An American tourist said I looked like Caesar, which given I was also wearing a t-shirt and skinny jeans doesn't say much for the US education system. Still, the power of the £3 wreath was in full effect as Clash of the Tight Tens took place to a room with pretty much every seat taken. The bucket finished up with too much change and not enough notes but as fringe-goers bed in for their second of third day it can be assumed they begin to start budgeting on their donations.

A spot of lunch and a chat with a flyering Peter Merrett later and I was back outside the club with the First World Problem flyers. People seemed interested and at one point it felt like I was doling out something people actually wanted. The show kicked off at 2.45 with even more people than Tight Tens and you know it's going to be a good show when an audience member proudly takes off his newly bought trainers to show the audience when asked what he's bought lately. We finally got the right mix of vocal and backing track + necessary volume and conversation flowed easily between the crowd, Anna J and myself between the tracks. The bucket heaved and the comments were good with promises to tell friends. "This was nothing like I expected it to be but I loved it". Good quote.

Post-show we met up with Andy Storey for a coffee and tech-talk at Fringe Central before hopping over to the Southside Social for Taco's Travelling Man Showcase. The venue is lovely, though painfully just outside the sphere of most people's walking routes around the fringe. Performing at a variety show where the number of acts equals the number of audience should have been hard but thanks to the quality of what went on stage it was great regardless.

We have reviewers in on Tuesday. Tuesday has the potential to suck audience-wise. If you're planning on coming please make a date to do it Tuesday.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Super Saturday

The first Saturday of the fringe is always a busy one and this one was no exception. By 11am I was out in Grassmarket, flyers in hand and with a laurel wreath on my head promoting Clash of the Tight Tens. Footfall was brisk, interest was high.

Come 12:15 the room was packed out and I made my introductions before a rendition of Selfie Stick and bringing the first act on. Everyone went down well but it was closing act, Jinx Yeo, that really got the place laughing. The bucket take was good and I had to use the card reader for a second time. At this rate it'll have paid for itself by this time next week...

A little lunch later and I was down on Cowgate flyering for First World Problems and pleasingly few people stared me down with my little bits of paper. It was almost as if people actually wanted to see shows! At 2.45 every seat in the room was taken and the audience were much more up for it than Friday's crowd - who were so reserved they resembled a peak-time Virgin Trains carriage. Come the end of the show the bucket was respectable and comments were very positive.

From here it was guest spot time. 

First stop was an anarchic effort called "Comedians Learning To Play Drums" hosted by Paul Richards at the remote resort-in-progress destination called Tolbooth Market right down the far end of the Royal Mile. Anna and I attempted to play drums whilst talking to the audience, answering their questions and attempting to keep a beat whilst people ran off with bits of the kit or tried to distract us in other ways. Nominally a competition, we lost to Josh Massen - whose efforts on an instrument he had never played before in his life were much appreciated by the crowd.

After some dinner we returned to Tolbooth for a second Paul Richard's show. A Short History of Pop involved us singing hits from the 40s through to the 00s as Paul narrated and did his best to get the audience involved. With no PA set up it was thoroughly acoustic and when the time came for us to perform a couple of own songs we ended up doing them in the style of a whispered bedtime story to match the puny speaker on my iPad. The somewhat baffled audience seemed to enjoy the whole thing though and flyers were duly handed out.

The final spot of the day was at Bar Bados for Comedy Shorts. Six comedians, a decently sized audience and a room that looked like a post-apocalyptic bunker was where we closed the show with Selfie Stick and Clicking Like. All in all a long tiring but rewarding day.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Swings and Roundabouts

Friday is officially the first day of the fringe and if Clash of the Tight Tens was anything to go by (pictured) this was indeed true. Forty or so people crammed in for a jam packed hour of comedy where all who stood on stage got a good response and a strange experience of telling jokes to two audiences at right angles to each other. More on that later.

Come the end of the show the donations were good and someone even patiently waited as I watched my new card reader constantly pick up and then lose its bluetooth connection to my phone. 3 minutes later it finally hung on long enough to tap out £5. Could be an issue in the weeks to come, though it so far appears to be that people still carry cash. Even euros. Cheers whoever put that one in.

First World Problems was harder. Initially I thought we had 5 in but a further 13 had come up through the other entrance so there were healthy numbers when we kicked off. This is when the right-angle issue became really apparent. Our performance was strong but things simply weren't landing as they should. It's hard to hit a punchline and make it work without actually looking at your audience and due to the room setup this meant half the crowd always had this.

Three songs in and we'd lost a number of people on the left side of the room, taking with them much of the energy we had managed to create. Before a minor leak became big enough to sink us we encouraged the remaining audience on that side to join the others and pushed on. It wasn't perfect but with everyone in our line of sight it worked a lot better. 

Towards the end a random group of people wandered in and stood at the back of this side in preference to sitting on the other seats and gave us the final push we needed to make it over the finish line in one piece. Was it our best show? No. But will it make our next show stronger? Definitely. 

Friday, 3 August 2018

Preview Day

Today is a preview day. Today is a preview day. Today is a preview day.

It's important to have mantras you repeat when you're stood on the street with a laurel wreath on your head and the situation looks pretty dire. 

The good news was it had stopped raining. On the other hand, the streets weren't in any way bustling. Spanish tourists eyed my flyers with confusion before muttering, "no thank you," whilst serious-faced Scots rolled their eyes as they passed. Clash of the Tight Tens at its 12:15pm slot is very much for the early riser or artistically-minded family. These markets, at least today, appeared to be rather smaller than I'd hoped.

Showtime rolled around and audience numbers totalled 4. Suddenly, as if descended by a divine intervention, 6 middle aged women came to Espionage and started to eye the events timetable outside with interest. I stepped in, smiled a lot, waved my pieces of paper about and sold them Live At The Apollo if it happened to be in small cave populated by outsider artists.

With 10 in the room it was a good show. Jonny Gillam (pictured) performed alongside Taco, John-Paul Mcque, Fiona Sagar and Tom Little. The audience were entertained mostly, slightly baffled at times. Classic Tight-Tens. £33 in the bucket.

A spot of lunch later, I was back out on the street handing out FWP flyers to ever-more baffled passers by. There were more people about but there were also a lot more people handing out bits of paper. Competition in the area was hotting up. Someone gave me a flyer for their show with no venue or time on it. There's being exclusive and then there's being elusive. This fell into the latter category.

First World Problems (Preview) kicked off to two people at 2.45. Shortly after starting, the audience doubled thanks to some jolly ladies from Fife joining us. As shows go it was pretty odd. An audience of 4 and a stage area the size of a postage stamp isn't ideal. However, we had a good time and so did the quartet watching us. £19 in the bucket (£10 of which from one particularly involved crew member) and some nice words later we headed out into the light.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Let's Do Launch

Wednesday was set-up day and we headed to Espionage in the afternoon with a roll of posters and fingers crossed that all the wall space hadn't yet been taken. Hailing the venue manager as she closed the door to the venue we just made it in and set about finding prime locations for our posters.

This was trickier than predicted as it seemed everyone else in the entire festival had already been in and wallpapered the place - some with the same poster four at a time (naughty). The advantage of height came into play and we managed to secure some spots in the rafters whilst hearing the regular clattering of Espionage's oversized signs for the toilets as they defeated the tape they had been secured with and fell off the walls.

Posters up we then had time for a chat with the venue manager. She pointed out a completely clear wall in the bar we could put our posters on. Bonus points!

After this it was time for some lunch before making the trip to Fringe Central to collect our performers' passes. We passed Andy Storey en route, got chatting and spent the afternoon with him at the centre chatting all things fringe and comedy whilst drinking coffee. If you're up here go and see his show at The Caves. It's a good one.

Time had caught up with us and a glance at the phone revealed it was already 7.30pm so we walked over to the Free Sisters for the Laughing Horse launch party. One free burger and a beer later we'd chatted to various people, stuck posters wherever they would fit and were ready for an early-ish night in preparation for Thursday's show debuts.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Arriving in Edinburgh

The journey up to Edinburgh is a reminder of the contrasts of this country. A week ago it was littered floors, stress on the streets and skylines of urban sprawl straight out of a distopian novel. The edge of London to you and me.

Yesterday instead we drove through the rolling hills of the Lakes and onward into Scotland where we were greeted by more expanses of grand nothingness and the occasional village. Epic and a literal breath of fresh air. Once in the city limits of Edinburgh we were able to also take in the finer details of this historic city. Though this was more a reflection of the 20mph speed limit that dominates the streets rather than any conscious choice.

Eventually we rolled up outside our top floor flat, heaved our worldly possessions into it ready for the month ahead and found somewhere free to park the car to gather dust until the end of August. It was 10pm by now, time for bed surely?

No. I'd got free tickets to the launch of one of the many Edinburgh Fringe guides and I was determined we'd use them. Who cares it started at 7pm and finished at 11, to be late is to be fashionable right? So with 15 minutes to close we made it to Brewhemia, got ripped off blind at the bar (a pint + double gin and tonic = £16. SIXTEEN POUNDS!) and watched some very good acrobats do their thing on a long table.

Magazine duly read and replaced, we moved on to take in the sites and sounds of a city in waiting before heading back to the flat. It's now 3pm. We're nearly ready to go and put some posters up. The show starts tomorrow.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

From Leyton to Guildford

It's been a while since I last posted but after a frantic month the dust has finally settled long enough to tell you a tale of two previews.

The first was at The Leyton Star and was both our only London show and also our fond fairwell to Bear Jokes. Come September we're Londoners no more so running a night in zone three didn't make a whole lot of sense. To make it extra special we took the big room, set out a few rows of chairs and enjoyed a fantastic first half MC'd by the mighty James Harris. Ali Woods, Jonny Gillam and Lenny Sherman all put in sets worthy of a final night and the slightly overheated crowd responded in kind.

The second half preview was well received and nearly every member of the audience crew ended up doing something at some point to express their first world problems. The larger room (and therefore stage area) gave us plenty of space to pull some unlikely dance moves and post-show it was time for drinks at the bar and discussion around gentri-fried chicken. A new comedy night is planned for the venue come September. Keep an eye on their Facebook for more news on that.

Two nights ago FWP made its way to Guildford. Best known for its university (which I attended), it's Omen-featured cathedral (which I probably went to once in three years) and the UK space program (yes, there is one); its comedy festival has yet to make the same impact but it's well on the way with plenty of shows and high-profile acts. FWP is not one of these as yet but as we found ourselves on the cover of the program and rampantly tweeted and re-tweeted in the run-up things looked pretty positive from the off.

As it turned out our numbers weren't about to break any box office records but our Surrey-based crew were keen, able and ready to laugh about songs involving kale. Performing on a full live band-ready stage complete with monitors was a new experience and a pleasant one at that - even if the tech's tendency to use vast amounts of delay and echo effects on the vocals did throw me initially before I embraced it for its Wembley Stadium leanings.

The crew were chatty and Anna J went into the audience with her mic to ask questions like the host of a well healed version of the Jeremy Kyle show - something we'll definitely keep for our similarly sized and setup room in Edinburgh. The show ran smoothly enough to look like we knew what we were doing but loosely enough not to resemble a staged musical. In short, a big win!

Edinburgh Festival now looms. See you at Espionage Kasbar!