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!