Sunday, 31 July 2016

Two days to Edinburgh

With the previews completed, the final spots performed and a trip to Pound Stretcher resulting in a nice big wheeled suitcase my mind is now firmly focussed on Tuesday and the train ride up to Edinburgh for the Fringe. Mirthquake starts on August 6th, with my first guest-spot the day before. 

Whilst on some days Mirthquake is all I currently have going on, on others I have anything up to three performances so I'm expecting to be keeping fit with all the running between venues. To this end I even bought myself some new trainers this week (yes, I'm that dedicated). I've been promised a few more shows by the end of today so once those have come in I'll do my best to post a calendar of appearances here so should you be in the city you'll know where to find me. Lucky you.

As should be obvious from this post, this blog is going to go very festival based for the next month and I'll be doing my best to reflect and report on what goes on there. I'm expecting to be busy, tired but rarely bored. If nothing else I'm going to become expert in handing out flyers and talking to strangers.

To join me on this epic journey do whatever you need to do to follow this blog, I'll be tweeting out links to entries to make it that bit easier. For the while here are some handy links with neat things to do.

Things to "Like"

This is my comedy page. This should not to be confused with my personal page, which is full of rants on education and pictures of cats, dogs and babies. 

This is the page for Mirthquake - the show I will usually be 1/3 of every day at 4.30pm at The Southsider.

Things to listen to, "follow" or download

This is the full album of material I will be performing from. Once you've decided it's a work of genius you can follow me on there and pick up a special edition Edinburgh 2016 version of it on CD for, ahem, "free" by putting £5 in the donations bucket at the end of a Mirthquake show. Alternatively... can download it for £4 from here if you're not coming up.

Things to watch

This is my Youtube channel. Currently it has an early version of One Shot on it, a more recent recording of West End and me playing two tiny rooms in London. It may well have Mirthquake footage on it eventually as well.

This is all a bit complicated. Is there a simple one-stop shop for all this?

Yes. It's called - enjoy!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Memoirs of a Geezer at The Thomas Neale

This was my final show before heading off to Edinburgh and I'd been looking forward to it for a while. Steve McCann (pictured) has done wonders with this dimly lit boozer this year and has established a new act night with a waiting list longer than the recent car park conga line to Dover for the ferry.

On previous visits the place had been packed but the warm weather had pulled numbers down somewhat with the crowd made up largely of acts - augmented with a decent smattering of locals.

As is the norm for a night of five minute spots it was a mixture of the good, the less good and the impressively odd. Early on one act dried up on stage within a minute but rallied in the second half to return and knock out a very decent 300 seconds as if it had never happened. Steve did a good job linking the acts - and regularly telling the occasional drunken local to shut up. I utilised the small plastic buggy on stage to serve as my Limp Bizkit Rollin'-inspired car whilst performing Clicking Like and Andy Storey topped things off the night nicely.

Unlike previous Memoirs the night wrapped around 10.30, some hour or so earlier than usual. However, instead of heading home for an early night I got myself involved in a lock-in until gone one and spent the night crashed out at a performer's flat in South London. A taste of what's to come in Edinburgh I suspect.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Hilarity in Shoes at The Lion

After an afternoon at the Science Museum playing retro computer games (hooray for holidays) I made my way to The Lion to MC Hilarity in Shoes on behalf of Matt, Jack and Victor - who were all otherwise engaged. Jack had arranged for a helpful guy at the venue to set everything up so once I was there it was simply a case of checking the mic level and working out the running order.

Andy Storey took the first half with his Edinburgh preview. His observational story telling style was well honed and good fun - even if he only got to showcase the last ten minutes to any real audience (people not performing in the second half). 

Still, this audience was a big boost to those in the second section. I opened with Clicking Like and got people shouting along before introducing a total of eight acts doing five each - including a closing set from the ever engaging Stella Graham.

MCing someone else's show is an interesting experience. I stuck with the rhyming couplet intro idea I introduced into Bear Jokes a while ago but also pushed myself to speak with the audience when the energy dropped from time to time. This doesn't happen very often with Bear Jokes or Tight Tens as the acts are all highly experienced and rarely die on stage (it doesn't happen at Famous First Words either - but that's down to there being precious few real audience in the building to start with...)

Anyway, I've yet to riff off anyone but acknowledging their existence is a good start if I'm going to do more of this in the future.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The Edinburgh Approach

Depending on your point of view it's either been a one gig or three gig week. 

From the one gig point of view I polished Clicking Like at Hilarity in Shoes on Wednesday with the ever-funny Rick Kieserwetter doing a slightly extended set. Numbers were low and the microphone didn't really seem to be on but it was a nice evening to have a beer and chat with everyone afterwards. I've been asked to host next Wednesday's show as the usual guys aren't about which should give me a chance to practise my MC chat, something I rarely do and should probably be doing a lot more if I'm ever going to be more than a shouty guy with an iPhone full of backing tracks. 

With Edinburgh in mind I'm going to make some kind of video for Tales of the Unexpected this coming week. Despite it's focus on the truly hack area of supermarket self check-outs it's easily my most popular song - most likely due to it's universal appeal and rather decent backing track (if I do say so myself). 

I'm also rewriting my narratives so my tracks will link in the context of Edinburgh rather than London. On the whole the tracks themselves need no tweaking at all - though where I have made changes I'm once again reminded of the difference in approach between being a songwriter and a comedian. Songwriters, on the whole, write songs and if people like them that's a bonus. Comedians, on the other hand, are a lot more needy and tweak their material to appeal to the needs of their audience. In my case this has only stretched as far as replacing "pedi-cabs" with "rip-off cabs" on West End to take account of Edinburgh's pedal punishing hills and therefore lack of London's worst transportation. So not exactly the end of any artistic integrity I may claim to have perhaps.

Back to the three vs one gig debate. So this week was my final one at my current school as I'm moving over to an academy in Walthamstow in September in the name of career advancement and less journey time. Combined with the usual end of term shenanigans this has meant a lot of going out and a lot of love thrown my way by the wonderful staff at Queensbridge. None more so than on two consecutive nights them cheering me on to perform One Shot as they had all seen it at the Pub on the Park Edinburgh preview. The first night was a beer powered barbecue where someone wheeled out the school PA for some impromptu karaoke - which then inevitably led to my own performance - then on the second night in an actual karaoke room where everyone spontaneously jumped into the chorus whilst I was making a hash of making a farewell speech. 

So no, not gigs, but confidence boosting fun none-the-less. Needless to say that though we will be making efforts to stay in touch I'll miss the daily (dare I say it) "banter" of the staff room and beyond. 

So next week:
Monday - MCing Famous First Words at The Gunners, Finsbury Park.
Wednesday - MCing Hilarity in Shoes at The Lion, Stoke Newington.
Thursday - Memoirs of a Geezer, Shadwell.
Tuesday Aug 2nd - Edinburgh!

Friday, 15 July 2016

Bear Jokes presents Mirthquake at Pub on the Park

So last night was pretty unusual. This was the final Bear Jokes before Edinburgh and also the final preview of Mirthquake, sitting squarely in the second half of the night.

When the music went down and Ariane Sherine took up her MC duties the room was busy enough with friends, Meet Up regulars and an impressive number of randoms. Halfway through Hannah Rosen's set (pictured) though a very large number of staff from my school turned up and found themselves squashed into sofas and sitting on the floor. We were now officially busier than the rest of the pub (including a folk night in the basement bar) combined.

The crowd were rowdy, the bar maid who kept wandering in with food and shouting for the recipient more so, but the first half went well overall - with both Sam Whyte and Matt Hutson doing particularly well.

The second half started late due to queues at the bar but Nick Purves kicked off our hour with yet another tight set that people enjoyed, James Harris kept momentum and worked with the joyous rabble filling the room and then it was my turn. This must be what Wembley feels like. If Wembley were a 30 capacity room upstairs in a Hackney pub. 

My prediction of getting "the fear" in front of people I work with everyday, who by all accounts were steaming drunk for the most part, never materialised and I settled into an adapted routine that took in the tracks I knew they'd been listening to online. One Shot was raucous, Shuffle and Stop more so, Selfie Stick felt like I was playing the big hit off the album and West End wrapped things up nicely with a new twist - working in the audiences' worst nightclubs more securely than before. 

Soon enough it was over, all attendees had been thanked and I drank more than a few drinks with friends until way past sensible bedtime on a school night.

As an added twist, well known comedy blogger John Fleming wrote this article today - a very positive review but one with a warning about the perils of having your comedy too specific to a given area. Food for thought for many, though I'm glad to say I've foreseen such issues and the "day on the tube" narrative I've been using here is already tweaked for a broader audience in August. 

Who doesn't hate selfie sticks right?

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Famous First Words at The Gunners

The second Monday of the month meant it was my turn to take the MC mic at Famous First Words and pilot the small but appreciative audience through the newbies and old hands that had come to test their latest five minutes.

With three very different music acts on the bill alongside the comedy the focus was very much on variety. Paul Browse deftly handled instrumentals and vocal songs with expertise whilst nerdish punk rock ruled midway through and The Shattered June crooned towards the finishing line.

The comedy was, on the whole, tight, funny and enthusiastic. Ben Clover and Sheraz Yousaf (pictured) going down particularly well. I ended the first half with "Clicking Like" where, for the first time, people caught every parody riddled lyric as intended. At some point I'll remember every single word but, it seems, not quite yet.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Mirthquake at Brixton Veg Bar

Three weeks ago we decided we needed to do a south London preview. This nearly coincided with word coming to me that the Veg Bar were looking for events. Deciding to make a bit of a day of it, I recruited three other preview shows (Jonny Gillam pictured) and organised an afternoon of work-in-progress in a dark, yet somehow appealing, basement.

The crowd wasn't huge but then, given the timeframe, this wasn't Edinburgh at The Castle Pt 2. We had about 12 in and that was plenty for our needs.

Today Mirthquake felt tight, pretty much ready for the festival in fact. People laughed in the right places and even with small numbers I had enough joining in to make it work. One girl in particular seemed to be in hysterics throughout. "The dot" (mentioned previously) works in both directions it turns out and I kept panning back to this motivational beam of light.

Come 6.40 I'd eaten a vegan hotdog, drunk an organic beer and watched Ian Lane impersonate very specific contents of a microwave. A good day all in all.

Monkey Business at Camden Holiday Inn

After a week off to focus on work and life in general I returned to the hotel basement of mystery for the early show of Monkey Business. There were some tables and chairs to set up as the audience started wandering in and the sellotaped mic from the week before was back for an encore. Anywhere else I'd find this surprising but I'm now used to promoter Martin Besserman's unintended sense of anarchy. Ultimately it works which is a glorious thing.

The audience was made up largely of families with teenage children, which added a novel edge. There were musical parodies on art history, Russian stand-up, physical theatre involving a banana, some high energy shouty stuff and me. 

It was a good mix and my three tracks seemed to do well. Selfie Stick had a mum on the front table grinning but their offspring less so. I guess it's rare to be taken somewhere comparatively edgy only to have a self confessed teacher on stage side with your parents and rip the piss out of your photo habits...

Monday, 4 July 2016

Hullabaloo at Angel 2.0

Angel comedy has semi-legendary status with performers. A 24/7 promotion working purely on the donations model has seen it grow to become one of the biggest nights in London. So big in fact that the owners decided they could do with a second venue and crowd-funded themselves enough money to take on and overhaul a nearby pub once known as The Mucky Pup. It was in this venue that Arianne Sherine and I decided to launch the Sunday evening musical comedy night – Hullabaloo.
The venue isn’t finished but it’s already better than many other places I’ve been to. The front bar is armed with an array of interesting beers and the shelves are full of comedy related books for the punters to browse. There’s even a small beer garden, which we decamped to after the show for a discursive pint. Most importantly, the staff are 100% committed to the venture and understand how these things work. This, in my experience, is worth 10x more than having a state of the art PA or fancy lighting.
The bill was full of top class talent: Faye Tracey opened with trombone and ukulele based fun whilst Arianne MC’d with her usual charm – handing out prizes on account of it being her birthday. Due to a drop-out, my stage time had expanded to a full twenty minutes so I went through another version of my Edinburgh show. Given it’s the birthday girl’s favourite, Selfie Stick got an airing for the first time in months and the set as a whole went down well. Audience is everything and these guys, many of whom there to celebrate with Arianne, were more than up for it.
In the second half Matt Hutson, Rosie Holt and ‘Philfy’ Phil all put in great performances. It was interesting to see how they worked within the musical genre – Matt’s chat with an older gentleman at the front took us down a very surreal pathway littered with asides and a marriage proposal, Rosie brought her family into it and Phil used the crowd to determine if the song that followed from the previous should be cleaner or more filthy. Currently I’m in story-teller mode with my longer sets which makes the conversation very one sided. This’ll be the next big challenge now I can dispense my actual “material” fairly effortlessly. Chat builds rapport  - so long as the chat is good!
So was it a good night? Absolutely. Will Hullabaloo return in September? Fingers crossed. 

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Monkey Business at Camden Holiday Inn (Basement)

If I were to present to you a crisp piece of fresh white A4 paper then use a biro to mark the smallest dot imaginable on it and then ask you what you saw in all likelihood you would say the dot.

This is a illustrative metaphor I learned during teacher training and it held true this evening. In the later show this evening there was a dot. She was a 22 year old goth and a Camden local.

Forget that within this room of 30 real audience the sophisticated women on my right were laughing in all the right places, forget the group behind them that were screaming "Two Shots!" on cue, forget the second and third rows on the left that were doing their bit shouting "One Shot!" back at them, even forget that the dot's friends looked amused. The dot did not like me and the dot wouldn't stop chatting to her friend and checking her phone.

Mid-song I crouched down to eye level with the dot whilst she was looking at her phone and sang in her face for about ten seconds. When she finally noticed she looked really angry. I went over to the other side of the room and topped up on smiles again. 

Do not confront the dot. The dot is not an attitude fuelled nine year old who needs reminding that in your class you are the teacher and they should hang on your every word. The dot has paid ten pounds to get drunk with their friends and has no time for your immature rap shit when real music made by real people with real realness is being played in a variety of venues down the road. 

If you are going to confront the dot do it after the song in an expertly crafted conversational fashion like the headliner who followed you and smashes the room to pieces.


So yes, I was back at Monkey Business tonight. Like previous nights there were a variety of trademark Martin Besserman's (the promoter) in effect. We reconfigured the panic room style basement from looking like a lecture hall to a supper club five minutes before the audience arrived, the microphone grill fell off during my early set and was sellotaped on forever after, the mic stand broke, and no-on really knew when they were due on until the show was underway. Chaotic. Anarchic. Oddball. But it worked and both the early and late show audiences appeared to love every minute of it.

Clash of the Tight Tens at The Castle

After the previous week's festival previews I was back in The Castle for Tight Tens and a line-up to die for. With Yuriko Kotani and Jon Long as an effective double headline and a recommended listing on Ents24 (who? quite influential as it turns out) I figured we'd buck the football curse and put at least twenty in the room.

Come 8pm we'd stripped the rather empty main bar of chairs to accommodate double this number and Andy Onions was on stage shouting and generally revving up the expectant audience. 

The first half went well, Nick Purves putting in yet another really strong set that the audience enjoyed immensely and my own two track turn getting the room bellowing for all they were worth. 

Come the second half things went as well as expected. David McIver's physical humour neatly offset by Jon Long's music and Yuriko's other-worldly observations. 

It's a genuine pleasure to see this night working at the same capacity I had at The Albany last year and long may it continue once I return from Edinburgh an experienced, if somewhat shattered, performer/promoter.