Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Instant Laughs

Tonight I decided to go out on a limb and visit Marvin McCarthy's night in Hammersmith to watch and perhaps grab a slot. I'd seen photos of busy rooms and after a brisk walk in the rain from Shepherds Bush it didn't disappoint. How many rooms on a wet Wednesday can get 30+ real audience in at any time -  nevermind sandwiched between Christmas and New Year?

With an early start we were into the comedy by 7.15 and Marvin had been generous enough to give me third from top - right before the brilliant Rick Kiesewetter (pictured). Great from an ego point of view. Less great in that I had to avoid beer for most of the night lest it dent my performance.

The acts were a mix of pure gold and willing newbies. I took the stage after the host's rather surreal five minutes and plugged my phone into the somewhat down at heel wedge amp that was playing the part of the PA. The audience, however, were stars and joined in where they were supposed to despite the low volume trickling out the grill.

A great night all round which just needs me to bring my amp next time and a spotlight to be installed to make it complete.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

A Year in Comedy in Numbers

With my final gigs of the year now complete it seems like the right time review 2015 using the power of numbers. It goes without saying I owe a massive thanks to the performers, promoters, venue staff and countless other enablers who have ensured that this year has been a big one for both the events I've run and the appearances I've made elsewhere. 

10 min spots performed: 49
Equivalent stage time: 490 minutes (8 hours, 10 minutes)

Combined music streams on Soundcloud/Bandcamp: 455
Combined Youtube views: 191

Events hosted: 32
Event breakdown: Bear Jokes (24), Clash of the Tight Tens (4), From E8 to Edinburgh (4)

Number of times the PA has either been broken, conked out mid-set or been missing some essential like a mic lead: 4 (none at my shows!)

Number of songs performed by angry little men about how I am destroying the open mic scene: 1 (add 124 Youtube views to the previous total if you count it as a tribute)

As for 2016, the future looks bright with Clash of the Tight-Tens coming back in Feb, a revamped new-format Bear Jokes appearing the same month and Famous First Words returning from the wilderness in its new Finsbury Park home from Jan. As for Leyton's Premier Rapper of First World Problems - a complete album with a lead single is the current plan.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year people!

Friday, 18 December 2015

Hilarity In Shoes

This was the final HiS at The Ophelia and consequently had a laid back in-joke feel to it. The gold beat the crud by a factor of about 3:1 with a couple of acts I hadn't seen before being so good I recruited them the Bear Jokes cause. Over running by a spectacular sixty minutes was well deserved for a send off with a good number staying to the end.

As for me, Craft Fair and One Shot got an airing to a decent response and my new Roland amp served me and several other acts well on the music front. As I was leaving I was invited to perform at Thinky Big Words in January which was a nice Christmas present. It'll be a fine day when all gigs come to me rather than me having to chase!

Monday, 14 December 2015

The Gunners

Tonight's performance at The Gunners wasn't looking promising but thankfully some people came in halfway through my set and the girl in the group fell about laughing throughout.

We'll just gloss over the fact she did the same for everyone else who followed. It still counts.

(Pictured: Dangerous T with a bag on his head)

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Cafe Mode

Having given myself the week off to prepare for my four gigs in five days challenge I was looking forward to kicking off with this one. 

Ctrl Alt Comedy at Cafe Mode in Covent Garden is somewhat unique as a tiny club under a restaurant that uses it as part of its Wowcher meal deal. Consequently the room is always busy, even if it's often full of the most unusual mishmash of bargain hunters and tourists who come expecting to see Live at the Apollo.

I played safe with two tried and tested tracks. Unlike last time I was here the PA worked. Unfortunately whilst this meant the music was loud enough it was a struggle to get the mic to a level where it didn't constantly feed back. By the second track I'd ditched the mic entirely and went into projecting teacher voice.

The crowd response was mixed. A row of girls who could easily pass for Little Mix embraced the participation with enthusiasm. The drunk retired couple to their left just looked confused. Overall it wasn't a terrible gig by any stretch of the imagination and the other acts were solid. However, next time I return I'll use my new Roland amp for the backing track and circumvent the all too basic PA setup.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Bear Jokes / The Freedom Fridge

A double post for two gigs linked by the presence of myself and Andy Onions... and audiences in single figures. Christmas is here and people are clearly busy doing other things.

Bear Jokes had great acts and a small appreciative audience. My set was largely to other comedians but it did the job in kicking off proceedings. Craft Fair made a long due return and Crisis of Conscience acquired some self-conscious fist pumping from the "crowd".   Paul Browse's music set was amazing as always.

The Freedom Fridge is a great night and the line-up was fantastic. The numbers were low though. I was default headliner and so took to the stage to a room of other acts plus 2 non-performers. Halfway through One Shot the PA cut out and I was faced with a novel situation however. Given the intimate nature of the event I chose not an early exit but instead a bit of body percussion involving hitting your chest and clapping. The assembled were more than generous and joined in. I continued rapping. Jay Cowle started hitting a sofa to give more bass. It actually turned out quite well. 

So not exactly what I'd planned but an experience that will stay with me for some time.

Next gig next week.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Hilarity in Shoes

Hilarity in Shoes excels at packing in acts like no-one else can. Tonight I was part of a 17 act bill where I knew just 5 of the performers. Nathan Cassidy, LJ D'Funk, host Michael Hill and Declan Kennedy were just some of the highlights. Outside of them there were bizarre magic acts (above), women with flashing rave hair and a few 5 minute bombers who took it on the chin and enjoyed themselves regardless.

5th on in the first half was a pretty good spot and after initially announcing the wrong song to kick off with I launched into Phones and found myself bullying the audience into joining in by the end. The insistence seemingly pulled off though as people were much more vocal in Crisis of Conscience, admittedly laughing at punchlines about 3 seconds too late. The fast rapping clearly too fast to process and laugh at on time it seems,

That or they found the whole concept ridiculous and were generally just laughing in bewilderment. 

Either way, a victory.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Bee Happy

Tonight I travelled across the river to Deptford and Sonia Aste's Bee Happy comedy night at The Duke. As a pub it was a lovely venue, admittedly sitting seemingly in the middle of no-where, with a charming back area for the show.

Sonia is an enthusiastic host armed with musical instruments and very prone to shouting "yayyyy" on a regular basis. She is what a night like this needs and a world away from the cynical deadpanners who often host comedy nights. Not that that's a bad thing. Just a refreshing change.

So I opened the night and One Shot got people joining in as its role intended. Selfie stick was somewhat crippled by a dodgy mic cable but I pushed on through and most of the punchlines hit. 

Opening may lack the kudos of a later spot but it does mean you can relax with a beer for the next couple of hours rather than repeatedly rehearse lines in your head. Some strong sets and good conversations later I was back on the DLR with an open invite to return.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Famous First Words

It's been a couple of months in the making but yesterday it was agreed with Viz "The Spoon", open mic promotions legend and now overseer of various London venues, that Famous First Words will be re-launching in January 2016 at The Gunners in Finsbury Park every Monday night. 

The name change from the current night running there (the less than original "Gunners Open Mic") reflects the change in personnel with both James Harris and myself joining current head honcho Nick Purves to take on individual nights throughout the month. Nick will continue to host and book for the first and third Mondays whilst James takes the fourth and I settle into the second.

To make this a truly open mic affair (unlike Bear Jokes and Tight-Tens which are very much curated by myself) people will be able to sign up for their 5 minutes / 2 songs on the wall for each individual event - with the first 15 guaranteed a spot. To keep the respectful community spirit of open mic alive all acts are required to arrive by 8 and stay 'til 10 and also buy at least one drink so this very nice venue can remain in business. Walk-up spots will also be available.

If you want to get the full picture join the Facebook page here.

Tomorrow I'm off to The Duke in Deptford for Bee Happy Comedy. Should be a nice change of scene.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Clash of the Tight-Tens

After a very slow build online I had been worried about turnout for my Saturday night flagship but thanks to a massive online push and the not inconvenient timing of Yuriko Kotani winning BBC New Comedian of the Year the day before the venue was pleasantly busy as the lights dimmed.

The first half saw in some slick performances but the energy in the room was on economy mode throughout so as I took the stage for the final spot of the half I knew I needed to pull out all the stops. One Shot got the crowd onside with plenty of shouting along as I jumped about and generally acted half my age on jelly beans. Crisis of Conscience mercifully worked and I finally remembered all the words. For a muted crowd they actually made a huge amount of noise with the right encouragement.

After the break Yuriko put in her award winning set and from there on in we got surrealism, line graphs for paedophile identification and high camp at its finest. Some drunk men wandered in, looked confused and left even more so. A great accolade if ever there was one.

Drinks followed and it was all good. Dimitri Bakanov even got a date out of it from an admiring audience member!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Bear Jokes

It really wasn't looking too promising with the extreme weather warnings in place but Bear Jokes returned to fine form last night with a completely filled room and some excellent sets. I opened proceedings with "crisis of conscience" and ended up interspersing the track with encouragement to people poking their heads through the door to take a seat. The track went down well regardless and I was asked if I had a Facebook fan page so they could 'like' it.

Roxy Bourdillon and Sophie Henderson go from strength to strength - with a 50/50 split of male and female acts it was a victory for the girls for the most part.

(Pictured: Sophie Henderson)

Monday, 9 November 2015

The Gunners

It's been a few weeks since I was last at The Gunners and in that short space of time it's shifted from 99% comedy with the occasional music act to majority music. Nothing wrong with that in itself but guitarists tend to plump for 3 songs, which when multiplied by string pluckers leads to very long nights. Tonight I followed a band and a poet at 10.50 when many of the acts had slunk off home. Still, those that remained joined in enthusiastically with Crisis of Conscience and once I'd seen Gatis Kandis do his thing to even fewer, but no less enthusiastic, people at 11.10 it was on the bike for the 30 minute cycle home. 

Think I'll take the week off.

Cafe Mode

Saturday night in Covent Garden is a big deal in comedy. Cafe Mode may well be the new act minnow of the west end scene but its capacity 30 were pretty typical of what to expect. Tourists, couples and a large contingent of early twenties taking in something before clubbing was what awaited me and my Bluetooth speaker (the impressive PA had been crippled by a broken amp. Without my speaker I would have had to pull out - £20 well spent!)

Chris Coltrane opened and was far too good. It settled after that though and I came on to a crowd slightly less excited than I'd have liked. 

Two Shots started quietly but by the end the crowd were joining in. During Selfie Stick the demographic differences became pretty pronounced though with the under forties largely clapping along in the right places and, in the case of the under twenty fives, audience members were actually doubled up laughing.

The three women in their forties/fifties however simply looked bewildered. It's not for everyone.

Great gig though - and I'm not not just saying that because I got a free pizza afterwards...

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Northcote Arms

Tonight's show was a step into the unknown. The Northcote is less than 10 minutes from me and promised 4 songs. Being a music night I wasn't sure if I'd be crucified for not playing an actual instrument but as it turned out this wasn't an issue. The crowd was small (15) but enthusiastic. Participation was reassuringly active and One Shot, Chilling and Selfie Stick all got the interactivity necessary to make them more than a 36 year old shouting into a mic. Many pats on the back followed which suggests music open mics may generally be short on laughs. I'll be back...

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Bear Jokes

With two last minute cancellations, a no-show and several acts arriving late the start of Bear Jokes tonight looked more than a little disasterous. The comedians were the only bodies in the room after three people had arrived five minutes before show time then legged it within two - presumably scared at being the only "real" people. 

Despite my best attempt at charm down in the pub they didn't return and I kicked off things with new track, "Crisis of Conscience", a song about worrying if giving up your tube seat for pregnant or old people may actually insult them if they are in fact just fat or old looking. This worked. The follow-up, newish song "Too Loud", didn't. This one needs work, binning or banishing to a b-side should such things exist.

Despite no audience at all for two acts the later performers faired better when real audience peaked at four and those in attendance swore blind they'd return in two weeks time. Here's hoping, the Hackney new act comedy scene is getting really cramped and competitive.

(Pictured: Currer Ball)

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Stand Up About Life

Having been out every night this week thanks to a mixture of comedy gigs, dinners and trips awayI had expected to spend this evening with the cat mixing my forthcoming album (yes, really) and watching bad television.

This failed to materialise though as Rosana Bosanac texted me to ask if I fancied ten minutes at her night hosted at The Haggerston in Dalston tonight. With the demise of The Comedian's Club in Leytonstone, Sunday nights are pretty thinly accommodated by new act shows so I was more than happy to accept.

The Haggerston is a cool pub. I've had more than a few drinks here before as it's little more than a stone's throw from where I work. What I didn't know was that is had a kooky little room upstairs where everything from comedy to film nights happen.

Things started unusually when it turned out that there could be no lead found for the microphone and there were just four acts on the bill - including Rosana on MC duties. Still, there were a number of people who'd be persuaded to come upstairs for the show (the photos isn't an accurate representation - there were about ten people in the room) so we made the night happen in the face of minor adversity.

I've never performed without a mic before but it was pretty liberating to be able to run all over the room waving both my hands about. I kept the backing track to a very moderate volume given I was projecting teacher-voice style and got a pretty good reaction for my troubles. 

As gigs go it was a pretty odd one but strangely good fun. 

And technically I headlined, rock n' roll!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Bear Jokes

Tonight's Bear Jokes restored my faith humanity on various levels. Ten quality performers, an attentive and happy real audience and a set for me where I felt energised enough to leap on a sofa at one point to illustrate the intricacies of selfie stick obsession. Two people even came after reading the recommendation in The Dalstonist. Proof positive listings do sometimes work!

(Roxy Bourdillon pictured)

Monday, 19 October 2015

The Gunners

My first show in ages really couldn't have been stranger. After nearly an hour's delay due to technical issues the Gunners launched with a musical duo who played for too long and talked all over the other acts with their friends. 

As the night progressed we were presented with both the wonderful and the truly weird. A token drunk woman took it upon herself to heckle constantly - though even she was drowned out by the bedroom DJ who did 15 minutes of Firestarter-era Prodigy. 

By the time my much delayed set rolled round it was nearly eleven and the crowd was down to single figures. Phones went down quite well but the second track  went down more like a shit in a lift. Zara Brown picked things up after some Christian hip hop but it truly was all over by that point. 

Great to see this night finally picking up, at least in the early stages. Now let's just get some equipment that works. I could do without the bangs and pops during my set!

Monday, 12 October 2015

Clash of the Tight Tens

After a slightly quieter Clash of the Tight Tens last month I was justifiably nervous about this night and looking for a convincing bounce-back. Thankfully, due to a deft combination of MeetUp socialites, Time Out readers and fans of the acts the room was pretty much full as the room lights went down and the stage lights came up.

Andy Onions was on top form as MC once again and pulled back from the shouting long enough to chat to the audience and get a convivial atmosphere in place before the acts came on.

Every act did well and it would be impossible to highlight some acts in contrast to others so it's a standing ovation for Sophie Henderson, Cassandra Mary Canary, Matt Duwell, Roxy Bourdillon, Sam Mitchell, JB Carter, Lucas Jolson, William Lee, Chris Adams and - erm - myself! 

It was also the little things that made the night work so well. Gone was the manky mic stand of the previous shows and in its place one that didn't wobble. The stage backdrop was complete for the first time ever. Switching the venue's mic for my own also worked wonders for cutting down on breathing noises getting picked up and amplified. I have no idea how or why but I'm just glad it did. 

Work's been busy so I'm doing less gigs at the moment but there a few towards the end of the month and in November so I'm taking the time to finish writing some new ones and will then strike out when they're ready.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Bear Jokes

After a busy day at work Bear Jokes was just the thing to kick back and relax to - and being MC and promoter this may sound particularly unusual. The fact is that I'm very happy with my little night. Despite the ups and downs of turnout (it started quiet but grew throughout) everyone always seems to have a really good time and there's some genuinely funny stuff going on at the microphone.

As is my responsibility, I opened to the night to a room of acts and few others but the response was good and it was nice to get back into performing after well over a week off cause by the dreaded but predictable first term cold. I'm not going to critique the acts one by one as that would be, quite frankly, dull and who am I to throw my opinion around the net anyway. Still, special mention to the man pictured - Jay Cowle - who topped the night with a strong off the cuff opening part and then delved into the big dark box marked "new material". Some of it didn't work, most of it did. Well worth watching!

Clash of the Tight Tens on Saturday.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

This week I have a cold

It's amazing what a simple cold can do to you. No time taken off work but performing is all but impossible thanks to a combination of feeling knackered by 8pm and a throat that gives out if the volume raises above conversational. Sad times, I'd been looking forward to the Freedom Fridge tonight. Next stop, my own Bear Jokes next Tuesday.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Bear Jokes

So this is the view pre-show of my room at Pub on the Park for Bear Jokes. The intimate space makes for a nice atmosphere whether it's packed or just moderately busy - as was the case last night.

With my mum, brother, sister-in-law and 3 month old nephew in attendance it was a bit of a family affair. The personal nature of the night was further compounded by having some of my most long-standing acts performing, including Andy Onions and Gatis Kandis.

The comedy certainly had some highs and lows, the latter not really a bad thing as refining new material is partly what the night's about so long as you throw some gold in along the way. Steve Hili did a great headline set whilst Rosie Holt went down so well I gave her an extra 2 minutes to make up for her short set at The Gunners the previous night.

As for me, I did a couple of tracks to open the show and got people clapping in the right places to Selfie Stick. 

The curse of the previous night appears to have lifted, Bear Jokes is back entertaining actual people!

Monday, 21 September 2015

The Gunners

A number of familiar faces were at The Gunners last night. As usual, actual audience was thin on the ground but once some tech issues were sorted we strapped in for a night of Monday mirth.

With almost twenty minutes of stage time, Dangerous T ran through a greatest hits package and Jimbo pondered what a "known unknown" was for a similar length. My set went down well and later spots by Chris Joyce and Aaran Misaros were both witty and enjoyable. Despite only taking a modest six or so minutes stage time it was Rosie Holt (pictured) who made the night though. Ukulele comedy at its best and a genuinely funny person off stage as well as on.

Tonight also featured three dogs wandering around. One of which joined an act on stage for a while. You don't get that at The Comedy Cafe!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Clash of the Tight-Tens

September so far has been a patchy month when it comes to audiences at every gig I've been to or, indeed, run and it was with this thought that I went into last night's Tight-Tens.

The venue had gone rugby crazy with every blackboard and poster urging you to watch the matches - leaving no space for any mention of the comedy going on below. Still, I carpeted the pub room in flyers (1,000+ still unused with this show being the last date on them), put up my posters and crossed my fingers the 30 attendees on the Meet-Up would show - a figure somewhat lower than on the previous two nights.

The room looked good and at 7.30 people started to arrive, with only a few looking confused and asking where the "live rugby" was that a badly positioned blackboard above the door leading down to my room was advertising. By 8pm most of the seats were taken and we were ready to begin.

Andy Onions MC'd energetically as ever and had people dancing to 90s europop within the first 3 minutes. My set went down well too with most of the room shouting along to the chorus to "1 Shot" and the acts that followed all did their thing with panache and style. The issue, however, was the audience reaction....or lack of it. 

It seems to be a recurring theme now at this show that the sizable audience will always play their laughter cards very close to their chest. Rather than regularly laugh out loud they'll applaud enthusiastically at the end of a set and come and tell you how much they enjoyed it during the break or at the end. Some people who had to leave at the intermission even went so far as to apologise for their early exit and popped fivers in the donation bucket. 

This approach to showing your appreciation is fine of course, as an audience member it's your right to express yourself as you see fit. However, it makes the work of the comedian on the stage right at that moment incredibly hard and I could see how they tried to deal with it in different ways. Some directly addressed the issue (risky, "hey this night's weird isn't it..."), some went straight into the audience to speak to them and get them involved (doubly risky as it made the set live or die on the responses from the audience) whilst others just carried on and trusted people were enjoying themselves regardless.

The final option was definitely the right one - confirmed by the audience feedback after the show. Note to anyone in comedy who finds themselves at a night which has a large contingent of MeetUp people at it though - don't accuse them of being incapable of making friends in a "normal" way. They might smile through it but you're setting back the normalisation of this very good social network for busy people in an often unfriendly city. I had drinks with part of the group after the show and they're some of the nicest and most interesting people I've met recently.

So was tonight a success? By the standard of comparable new act nights - an absolute yes. But I want Tight-Tens to be full every month, giving performers the chance to address 60+ "real audience" and giving that audience an experience of comedy that means they'll go to more new act nights in the future. 

By that standard it's still a work in progress.

(Yuriko Kotani pictured)

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Hilarity in Shoes

I like Hilarity in Shoes, and not just because it happens to be 10 minutes cycle from my place of work. It's the intimate friendly atmosphere that makes it - even if "real" audience can sometimes be rather thin on the ground.

Tonight there were a handful of non-participants in the room as things kicked off and Ian Lane did another excellent set. I followed and threw myself into my two tracks with a good-to-middling response from the assembled. My songs really do only half work if people aren't willing to join in and with participation somewhat quiet, though not inaudible, I returned to my seat only slightly more pumped than when I left it. 

Towards the end of the first half the people who made up much of the "real" audience turned out to be very drunk. One woman was in an easily riled state of mind and took a character act's ill-judged joke about Uber and sexual assault to be his actual opinion and walked out calling him a "piece of shit". With the energy now thoroughly sucked out the room the last act of the half did his best to claw it back but it lead to a shifty break and a muted second half. 

On the plus side though, one of the acts turned out to be the parent of a couple of children at my school so that lead to an interesting conversation.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015


The pub was unusually quiet, four of the acts had pulled out at the last minute and one of the speakers had gone awol yet Bear Jokes rolled on. Just. I've heard about when shows have become workshops - where the audience is pretty much just acts critiquing each other's new material but had never come close to that scenario at one of my own. Until last night. Disappointing in many ways of course but it was a novel and in many ways productive experience. I'd just rather it never happened again.

Monday, 7 September 2015

The Gunners

Another nice night at The Gunners tonight with a small but friendly audience and a stream of thoroughly decent acts. Tales of The Unexpected went more smoothly this time as I adopted my Gary Numan voice for the chorus with gusto. 

Also, for the first time ever when I asked the audience to name a first world problem the response actually matched one of my tracks. Though it has to be the first time I've ever heard the photo rods of ego doom referred to as "cellphone sticks".

The Comedians Club

After an August break The Comedians Club was back in business at Leytonstone's Plough & Harrow with many of the same acts i'd performed with before and a second half handed over to Carmen Ali and Jake Pickford's Edinburgh show. 

As has always been the case, the venue looked pretty sparsely populated throughout but when a room is designed for 150 anything less than 50 is never going to look great. Never mind when it's more like 15.

The energy level in the room wasn't far off that of a dying battery as the first few acts did their best to pick it up and my set, coming midway through the first half, faired only moderately better. People joined in 1 Shot's chorus and clapped in the right places for Selfie Stick. They were quite forgiving even when my vocal went way off piste on new track Tales of the Unexpected Item in the Bagging Area. Overall, however, it was one of those nights where people came up afterwards to say they enjoyed your set  rather than show it at the time.

Carmen and Jake's Edinburgh show in the second half went down well - feeling punchier than when I saw it in Scotland. Doing it earlier than the 11pm slot they had up there and getting a bigger stage seemed key to me.

Overall a lovely, though not lively, night. Leytonstone needs to wake up to it before they lose it.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Lindsy Is A Dominatrix

So this morning I had a Facebook friend request from the original singer in my last band, HotBeds, from about six years ago. A quick glance at her profile revealed she now works in "Financial Domination" - which involves going online, telling men they're scum, making them doing humiliating things to themselves and then getting them to send her money and gifts.

It reminded me of my 2011 acoustic unsigned chart "hit" in 2011, long before I'd concluded that if I rapped I would not only have to no longer worry about the quality of my singing but that I wouldn't have to lug a guitar around everywhere. 

And yes, I had disco lights even then.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Stratford East

Comedy came early this week after I accepted a slot at Stratford East Theatre seven days ago and found myself on a six act bill (plus MC) in the rather lovely bar area. Doing a ten back to back with quick fire one-liner Peter White and sandwiched between two experienced acts doing twenties meant this was the closest thing to a pro night I'd ever done.

It being the wind-down bank holiday Monday night I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of numbers but in the end a good thirty people were seated and ready for the off at 8.30. Hosting a show in a bar is a challenge as there's the chance a number of the people in there won't be interested in watching but the MC held it down well and had a particularly chatty table focussed by getting them involved early with plenty of questions. 

The parallels between a comedy show and teaching get ever more apparent.

After a thirty minute set of the MC and the first twenty there was a short break for me to hand my phone over to the sound engineer and focus on the task ahead. The front row had dropped back a few tables so the stage now faced empty seats when the MC returned. 

I'm never too sure if it's the done thing in these situations to give up with the stage and take the mic to the audience but I did anyway and talked first world problems with various tables before launching into One Shot. It went down well with most of the room singing their part. The second track divided the room though with notable numbers drawing a blank of what a craft fair was. Read the room better, lesson learned.

Still, a great gig and one I'd do again. I need to work out how to take better care of my voice though. Two songs in and I was already a bit croaky. Note to self - water not beer before set.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Open Mics Vs New Act Nights

I'm often asked why I insist on using the term "new act night" instead of "open mic" for my events and as I'm currently on a train rolling down to Dorset I find myself with the time to publish my definitive thoughts on the matter. Knowing what a night is offering is often difficult to pin down when the two terms are so often used interchangeably so here's my two pence worth.

  1. Performers at an open mic can sign up to perform on the night itself or pre-book online. The order of appearance is arbitrary and is usually based on a first-come first-served basis. The promoter generally exercises no direct control aside from the placement of a few "featured acts". Performers at a new act night are mainly pre-booked and the running order is decided by the promoter to give balance - for example by not putting two one-liner comedians on consecutively. There may be a few open spots for walk-ins but these do not make up the majority of performers.
  2. An open mic is open to anyone who wants to perform, regardless of experience or abilityA new act night exercises a degree of control over who is performing - informed by video clips, reviews or previously seeing the act perform.
  3. Due to the above, the overall quality of an open mic night will be variable - act to act and night to night. A new act night will have greater consistency.
  4. The vast majority of the audience at an open mic will consist of the performers and their friends. A new act night should be capable of appealing to the general public and encourage repeat attendance by non-performers due to it's consistency and ability to gain a good reputation from it.
Both types of show allow acts to hone their material and performance. Both most definitely have a place on the scene. Fundamentally though, open mics should be considered community style events where the enjoyment comes not just from the entertainment on stage but from the comradeship between the performers. New act nights still have the comradeship aspect for those involved but should also stand up independently of that to be entertaining to anyone who is not actively involved in their execution.

Coming up next time I have time to myself...why "bringer" gigs are a fundamentally flawed concept.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

One hot night...

When the worst thing that happens at your own show is part of the black backdrop detaching itself from the wall then things are going pretty well. Despite a couple of last minute cancellations and subsequent panicked reserve call-ups the second Clash of the Tight-Tens was an unqualified success.

Busy rooms are the holy grail of new act nights and it was with a significant degree of pride that I was able to count in well over forty actual "real audience". No "bringer" deal, no counting the acts themselves as audience - this was a fantastic mishmash of MeetUp groups, Time Out readers, locals with flyers and Facebook invitees. Now the entertainment had to be up to scratch...

...which it absolutely was. Every act brought their best to the stage and even my comparatively inexperienced set brought compliments - a couple of people asking after if the tracks were on iTunes. Andy Onions held down MCing duties with his usual charisma. Big smiles all round.

Once the comedy had concluded it was time for drinks upstairs with the MeetUps and then DJing to very drunk tourists at post-comedy clubnight Eargasm.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Clash of the Tight Tens tomorrow!

So I'm running this tomorrow...

...and the line-up isn't too shabby at all:

Sam Mitchell (Writer for BBC Radio 4 Extra’s “Newsjack”) * Patrick Lee (Comedy CafĂ© New Act of the Year Finalist) * James Harris (Amused Moose Semi-Finalist) * Sandra Hale (Joker of the Year Finalist) * Madge Hooks (Funny’s Funny recommended) * Sian Doughty as Sally Firth (Golden Jester Semi-Finalist) * Tom Baker (BBC New Comedy Award Qualifier) * Jon Long (So You Think You're Funny Semi-Finalist) * Andy quirk (me) * Andy Onions (Resident MC)

So if you fancy it here are the essentials:

What: Clash of the Tight Tens
Where: The Albany, 240 Great Portland Street, W1W 5QU
When: Saturday August 22nd. Doors at 7.30pm.
Door Tax: Pay What You Like
Transport: Warren Street, Great Portland Street and Regent's Park tubes are all less than a few minutes walk. Slightly further to Oxford Circus.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Hilarity In Shoes

Tonight I did a couple of tracks in Dalston at this always friendly gig. Few actual punters (or "real audience" as I have now learned is the frequently used term in comedy) but with Carmen Ali at the helm with boyfriend Jake Pickford to bounce off it was like a little house party with chatty guests. A middle aged couple did my new handclap feature in Selfie Stick so that was my night made.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Last Edinburgh post

So here are 10 things I have learned from going to Edinburgh...

1. It's a maze
The app map may say the next venue is 300m away but it doesn't take into account that the city operates on two levels and once you're on the lower level it snakes all over the place.

2. It's a slow maze
Not only will the hills exhaust you but the amount of people there for the festival means you spend most of the day walking in the road. Woe betide you walk the narrow path through Princes Street Gardens clogged with tatty craft fair stalls and a thousand meanderers.

3. Every space is a stage
Including next to traffic lights. I listened to a man sing Beatles songs interspersed with impressions of John Lennon through an amp the size of a shoebox whilst I waited for the green man. In fairness, he was pretty good.

4. There are more shows than you could ever see in a lifetime
I have enough flyers to wallpaper the flat.

5. People are actually quite generous
Bucket donation on the free fringe may sound like the equivalent of busking with a roof over your head but it turns out that if you're any good people will regularly put notes in your bucket. Even if you're awful they'll still give you change.

6. Some venues resemble the torture rooms in Hostel
Just the Tonic at the Caves, I'm talking to you.

7. Whilst others look like storage rooms for restaurant supplies.
Because they actually are.

8. Drinking is pretty much mandatory
Support the venue!

9. Every performer is, without exception, an absolutely lovely person
Or maybe I was just lucky.

10. Performers are a creative bunch in ways additional to their material
From constructing stages out of packaged up flat pack furniture to sellotaping their posters to their t-shirts, you can see an active mind at work.

Buzzfeed here I come...

Monday, 17 August 2015

Edinburgh - Monday

The last day and one where I'm writing my update on the 4.30 train to London. It's been a great 5ish days. Will definitely return.

Thanks to Steve McLean for putting me on at Razzamatazz this afternoon. A decent crowd who seemed to enjoy 'Selfie Stick' and '1 Shot'. The other acts were brilliant too.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Edinburgh - Sunday

It's a strange day when you go to a midday show to find that one of the best acts of the free fringe is performing. With smart one liners, bizarre props and a thoroughly affable attitude Tim Shishodia is king in a parallel comedy universe. Genuinely, the crowd never stopped laughing.

Following this Stewart Lee did the big theatre thing and was his usual cutting self. At times slightly unnerving, you had to remind yourself of how he works a room before his punchy conclusion made you realise it was actually pretty clever. I never want to be as cross at the world as he is though.

Back in the back rooms Stella Graham kept a sizeable crowd laughing with things that annoy her. Engaging as ever, it was impressive to see how she knitted together parts of the various ten minute sets she regularly does at my shows.

Matt Duwell and Declan Kennedy were in the floor below later in a room with more people in it than this photo suggests. Solidly entertaining observations.

A long way across town Viv Groskop hosted a show high on audience participation with a focus on apology. Charming, relaxed and a welcome step change to the rest of the day's offerings.

This left Omar Hamdi. A bouncing whirl of observational and biographical entertainment pulling in everything from James Bond to ISIS. Enjoyable from the start with even a little food for thought thrown in.

Edinburgh - Saturday

First up today I saw Jo Coffee pull off a variety show by herself. Whilst it was a challenge to draw the small crowd into her whole world her Croatian Amy Winehouse Britains Got Takent dog act was brilliant.

Next it was over to Nigel Lovell's Worst Show On The Fringe. A compilation show of established acts who'd all received a one star review at some point in their career. All the acts were great, Nigel did a great job MCing and I have to give a special mention to Piff The Magic Dragon's moonwalking chihuahua.

Before the next comedy show it was into a theatre for a strange version of Repunzel. I still don't understand what happened it it.

Things got easier after this with MJ Hibbett's 'Hey Hey 16k'. As daft lo-if musicals about growing up in the eighties go it was pretty damn good.

Next was a ghost tour. Woooo...

Rounding things off I was at the Anarchy Cabaret. Each and every act was great whether they were walking around covered in fairy lights, giving out kitkats for animal impressions or banging nails into their nose. Genius.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Edinburgh - Friday

A cheerful but clearly hungover Faye Treacy took to the stage at 1pm for trombone related humour. Whilst not everything necessarily went to plan she finished on a high recalling her worries over a loop pedal powered composition

David Mciver, Sophie Henderson, Tom Wragg and guest Mawaan Rizwan may have initially looked like they pulled the short straw with a room more suited to storing boxes of Mexican ingredients (it was in the basement of a restaurant after all) than performance but thanks to a sizeable crowd and a deft mix of the observational, the bizarre and the absurd it was an hour of comedy gold.

 Next up it was Rosie Holt with her ukulele and songs about stds. Charming, amusing and a great 30 minute debut.

Next we PAID for a show. Shock! Amy Howerska talked about her unlikely and amusing pseudo-military upbringing for 45 minutes. Entertaining stuff.

Rounding off the day I saw Nigel Lovell host "my first laugh" where he interviewed two established comedians before they performed their first ever sets to the small but perfectly formed audience. A different kind of show to the others and well worth it for a change of scenery.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Edinburgh - Thursday

So I arrived late afternoon to see...

Nick Hall - character comedy genius and well worth a ticket.
Simon Caine. Observational and amusing with great audience interaction.
Clusterfuck. A 3 part show with stand-up, improv (pictured) and a sketch group. Really good and a great heads up for acts promoting their longer shows. Full.
Carmen Ali and Jake Pickford. A charmingly shambolic late night set of chat, atonal singing and post-its.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Angry rapper (not me) at The Gunners

Tonight I performed three raps to a small but appreciate crowd, including Madeleine Campion and Hannah Rosen. Then this happened. Ideally read the text below the video before watching it.

I cannot say enough nice things about the promoter and all the acts (and I mean all the acts) who came and hung out with me afterwards to show their support and disdain for what this guy did. This is not what open mic is about.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Hilarity In Shoes

The photo may not look like much but Hilarity in Shoes was really good tonight. With the train strike still casting its shadow over the capital, host for the evening Lucas Jolson was running late. Not one to sit and wait I involved a few willing volunteers and set up the PA in his absence and by the time it rolled around to his arrival at 8.15 we were all good to go.

The audience was thin on the ground with about 14 people in the room, of which 9 were acts. However, the vibe was good and I kicked things off to an enthusiastic reception with pretty much everyone joining in on the choruses. From there on in it was funny pretty much all the way. Lucas' informal chatty style worked well and when things wrapped up at ten it felt almost too early. A quick chat with some of the acts later I was on my bike and back home.

A genuine audience member came to shake my hand and say my song was stuck in my head. This is on par with winning a Brit Award as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Doubling Up: Touching Cloth / Party Piece

Disclaimer: This evening there was a tube strike. Audience numbers quoted are therefore lower than they probably are under usual circumstances.

Touching Cloth @ The Water Poet

And so it was that at 6.55pm I cycled into the city and parked up to get a walk-in spot at Touching Cloth at The Water Poet, a lovely pub not far from Spitalfields Market. Dangerous T was MC and the downstairs room looked really good. Except for the "PA". Take a closer look at the photo and you'll see amplification for the night was provided by the world's smallest amplifier with a microphone plugged into it. Adequate for a quiet room if you're just using your voice. A minor disaster if you're Leyton's premier rapper of first world problems and your backing track trickles out marginally louder than through the inbuilt speaker on your phone.

At 7.55 there were 7 comedians chatting to each other wondering where the audience was. At this point I came up with the brilliant plan to open the all-too-subtle door at the top of the staircase to entice people in worked! Well, we had six real audience within five minutes so it was a start. With 4/6ths of the audience busily eating their dinner, T started the show with some chat and I was on. It went about as well as you might expect. The comedians joined in the chorus to "1 Shot" along with the 2/6ths of the audience who weren't discussing who had the mayonnaise for the chips. The backing track sounded awful.

I then settled in for some of the worst comedy I've seen in a while. One guy actually turned on the minimal audience and wished one of them would die in a car accident. Thankfully, Haran X and the guy that followed him closed the show around 9pm with some material that actually engaged the punters (now mercifully finished with their dinner) and may have just convinced them that it might be worth chancing another free entry show sometime in the future.

That should have been it but then Haran suggested we carry on to another night and see if they had any spots going. I was about to "double up" for the first time...

Party Piece @ Smiths

Smiths is a trendy looking bar on the perimeter of Spitalfields Market. Inside there was no-one but downstairs the comedy was in full swing. They may not have had many more real audience than at the Water Poet but the vibe was a hundred times better. The stage looked good, the PA was decent and the lighting was just right. The enthusiastic MC picked up the crowd (14 including acts) when someone's set died on stage and she gave both T and I spots at the end. Haran no doubt would have got one too had he not needed to leave to prepare for his trip to Edinburgh the next day.

True, to walk into a room where a man is talking whilst slowly taking all his clothes off might have disturbed some people but at the very least it screamed variety. 

I closed the show with "1 Shot" and really enjoyed it this time around, the crowd and even the bar staff joined in with gusto. A place I'd definitely return to.