Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Clash of the Tight-Tens this Friday

Back in London I've been checking everything's in place for Clash of the Tight-Tens this Friday at The Castle. Aside from finding it had been listed with a search-evading typo on a major events website everything is looking good with all acts confirmed and eager to get their comedy on.

With more than one act on the bill who's been up in Edinburgh for August it's anyone's guess what state they'll be in but if their experience was anything like mine they'll be sharp as a razor with their honed, honed and honed again set.

Friday's line-up features Stella Graham, Rick Kiesewetter, Sian Doughty, David McIver, Janet Bettesworth, Sam Mitchell, Sonia Aste and myself - with Andy Onions on MC duties. 

The show starts at 8pm sharp in the upstairs theatre room of The Castle, E1 1LN. Aldgate East tube is less than a minute away whilst Whitechapel and Aldgate aren't a great deal further and Liverpool Street a brisk ten minutes walk.

Facebook event here if you want to add it to your calendar.

As ever, you pay what you like at the end of the night, suggested donation £5 for those who can afford it.

Monday, 29 August 2016

What Does A Free Fringe Show Cost?

Having now completed my first run at the Edinburgh Fringe as one third of the show "Mirthquake" I thought it would be useful to share my costs for the month as a reference point for anyone thinking of doing it in the future - and perhaps for those who've already done it to point out where I possibly overspent...

Brace yourself, here comes the spreadsheet:

As you can see, I've costed this out in two ways. The 3 Man Show version is pretty much what I paid as part of Mirthquake (who all shared a flat), the 1 Man Show is the equivalent for those of you who would like the whole hour to yourself. The savings as a three hander come from sharing the cost of registering for a listing in the official fringe program, contribution to PBH, flyer/poster printing and, in my case, duplicating 100 CDs of my album to encourage £5 notes into the donations bucket. As a solo show I'm assuming I'd still share an apartment with other acts.

Given there were three of us we didn't pay anyone to flyer for us as we could do it effectively ourselves. The going rate is about £10 an hour if you need to factor it in.

"Ah, but what about all the money you make from the bucket to offset these costs?" I hear you ask. Mirthquake made just under £600 this run. That's £200 each. Our room was poorly located but our show was at a good time (4:30pm) and with an average of 19 people a show (in a room with an official capacity of 30) we were the most popular act in the venue and outperformed the norm for a first fringe show significantly - the classic number quoted being an average of 6 people per show.

To put our earnings into context, we made more from renting out our sofa and floor space to visitors and other acts than we made from the bucket. If you did the same you could claw back some cash but, with no disrespect to the other guys who shared our flat, next time I'd rather not house extra bodies and instead enjoy having a lounge and more than one third of a shelf in the fridge.

Here comes the breakdown:

Apartment: £970
We overpaid for this. The location was great and the views of Holyrood Park were stunning. However, we waited to rent it (through Air BnB) once our show had been confirmed by PBH and therefore missed all the cheaper properties available around January time. For 2017 I'll be booking somewhere at the start of the year. As Matt Duwell (our sofa surfing flatmate) pointed out to me, even if I failed to secure a show I could either cancel my accommodation or sub-let it to another act. One thing that isn't lacking in July are acts still looking for somewhere to live.

Food/Drink...: £850
I'm pleasantly surprised this is all I've spent. Thanks to being in a flat and not a hostel I only ate out once a day and otherwise made sandwiches and started the day with cereal. Drinking probably accounts for well over half of this money, not because I'm an alcoholic but because socialising is essential to stop you going mad and Edinburgh's bars largely charge London prices. Taxis are surprisingly cheap too, we crossed town in a black cab late at night for less than £8. It can't all be Free Fringe shows either to get the most out of the experience so I probably spent £70 or so on ticketed events.

Ed Fringe Registration (being listed in the official guide): £98.40 / £295.20
This is essential if you want to be taken seriously, are poorly located and want to have more than single figure audiences. PBH's own "Wee Blue Book" festival program and app is superb but we got a lot of our audience through the "now and next" feature on the official guide's app. Financially we probably just about made back the money through the increased audience numbers but personally I'd rather play to double digit audiences every day (we went single figure only twice in the whole run) than live in a world of audiences numbering 4 and having to cancel 2-3 gigs every week due to no-one turning up - as was the case with several acts at our venue who'd chosen not to be in the guide. £295.20 is the early bird price, it hikes to nearer £400 after the cut-off date. PBH deserve credit for getting our venue info out to us early enough to take advantage of this saving.

Return Train Ticket: £80
Book early and resist saving £30 by going on a miserable coach. From London the train is perfect, especially with heavy baggage that airlines would charge you excess for.

PBH Contributions: £21 / £63
At the equivalent of £3 a day this is an utter bargain as it covers the room, the equipment and printing the "Wee Blue Book". Officially it's a voluntary contribution but you'd have to be an utter bastard not to pay it. The low price does come at some minor cost though - more on that further down.

5,000 Flyers: £13.63 / £40.89
Some people pay over £100 for a flyer and poster deal. It's a matter of convenience really. There were enough of us to be able to order our flyers early and take them with us from London to Edinburgh. Many people get them delivered to their venue at the start of the run using specialist firms and pay a premium for it. Problems can arise though with so many people ordering flyers to arrive on the same day - several acts I know were without flyers on their opening weekend due to delays. Next year I'll be ordering in advance from a printer in Edinburgh (there are loads) so I can just pick them up from their shop. It'll cost a little more but nothing like the premium deals I've seen offered.

100 CD Copies Of My Album: £12.26 / £36.78
This was a gimmick to encourage people to donate £5 at the end of the show rather than chuck shrapnel in. At such a low cost for 100 CDs it didn't break the bank but as it turned out it made no difference to what people put in, with the exception of one girl who got her friends to lend her enough change to get one. In my case I'd do it again - but mainly as promotion for myself and not as a serious strategy to increase income.

Replacement Mic Lead: £12.99
A good example of the limits of the free fringe. One of our two 3m mic leads (which I'd connected together to make one of a proper length) broke and there were no replacements so I bought a new 6m one for Mirthquake with the intention of keeping it afterwards. After a week that one broke too. With the other PBH mic lead also on the way out I bought yet another one but this time shared the cost with the other acts in the venue. It survived to the end and was given to PBH for use next year. There's probably a lesson about the karma of sharing somewhere in this story. 

25 A3 Colour Posters: £3.33 / £10
Independent printers exist on Ebay who do this deal inclusive of postage. It saves a fortune and they're easily carried up to the festival. We only needed 10 but, like with the flyers, the difference between 10 and 25 (or 2,000 and 5,000 flyers) is utter peanuts so it's worth paying the little extra.

Lamp and Bulb: £5
Free Fringe venues are often spaces adapted for the fringe and therefore don't come with lights or, indeed, a stage. It's amazing how a desk lamp with a bright bulb can transform a usually brightly lit 30 seater room from something resembling an open mic to something hinting towards a low budget experimental theatre space. And you can keep the lamp!

So that's it. 2k and fringe fame awaits!

Mirthquake - Lessons learned

I choose to do the fringe this year for a variety of reasons, all of which I achieved. Getting better at what I do was the primary one, followed by adapting to the needs of different audiences (small, big, old, young, English, Scottish, international, late night, early afternoon, a mixture of all the above), learning how to promote a show at the fringe, networking for gigs outside of London and to develop ideas for my 2017 solo show.

Doing Mirthquake taught me a lot about how the fringe works and what the reality is of doing a daily show. If you've been reading this blog recently you'll know I gathered a lot of data throughout the run. What you probably didn't know is that I'm a sucker for data, market research and graphs.

So let's break out the big guns:

Daily Turnout At Mirthquake
The Southsider's official capacity is 30 but if people sit down on the side bench and cram a couple of chairs into the back 40 is possible. It comes as no surprise that our room busting forties were two of the Saturdays with the other two Saturdays in the twenties. Sundays are pretty good too. Wednesday and Thursday are the worst days. If I want to take a day off each week in 2017 it'll probably be Thursday - for reasons you'll see below.

Daily Turnout Vs The Bucket
On average people donated between one and two pounds at our show, though in reality this often meant groups of students putting in far less or nothing whilst middle-aged couples would donate a fiver. The terrible donations on the opening night are indicative of us getting to grips with a venue which had only been set up hours before the show itself with an absolute din coming in from the main bar and sweltering heat. By the end of week one the pub had supplied a fan and we'd got comfortable with telling people shouting at each other directly outside our curtain to have some consideration for the show going on. This can be seen clearly by the vastly improved takings on the third Saturday when we had another full house. Thursday 18th's show ended after 20 minutes when the two audience who had come decided it was too weird for them to be the only ones watching and left. Note to self: Take Thursdays off.

Average turnout per show: 19
Average bucket take per show: £27.86

Lessons Learned

Location is everything
The Southsider was a good place for our first show as it had a well proportioned room, nice staff and locals often willing to take a punt. At 4:30pm the noise from the pub was only an issue on weekends. The food and drink was also a lot cheaper than most other places. 

However, it was too far out of town to attract the majority of the passing tourist trade and the room had no door so noise was a massive issue, particularly on weekends when the shows after us became practically unplayable as the general crowd noise was augmented by live music and/or sport. 

Next year I'm only likely to accept a more central venue. Location is more important than time of day.

Flyering is important
The guides do bring people but often you can double your numbers by handing out flyers and even talking to people in the bar shortly before the show starts. Don't bother flyering people with lanyards, carrying shopping, walking quickly or wearing headphones. They will give you the kind of death stare that will remain burned into your mind for years to come.

Perform at compilation shows
Particularly shows early in the day as people often use these as guidance for what to see later. Good comp shows attract 50+ people and you can exit flyer all of them. It's also a good way to see what else is going on at the fringe.

Don't go mental at night
Drinking and dancing has to be done. But not every night. And if you're in your thirties get home by 3am or you and your show will suffer the next day.

Don't run two shows at opposite ends of the day
If you're doing a children's show or MCing a compilation in the early afternoon and then performing your solo show late at night your sleep patterns will be wrecked and the space inbetween the two will be a weird no man's land. Also, you won't get on many other comp show bills and will lose out on the potential promotion these afford.

Look after yourself
Drink water, eat regularly (and not just macaroni pies) and get plenty of sleep. I haven't been ill at all this run whilst pretty much everyone else I know has had to shake off a cold, sore throat or other minor ailment at some point.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Final Mirthquake

The final day for Mirthquake started with my last slot at Comedy Tapas at Opium. As usual the place was busy and, in tribute to the rock nature of the venue, I decided to do 'Clicking Like' for a change to an appreciative, though not a suitably rowdy, response. The same low energy met most of the acts throughout the hour and it was clear that the audience were feeling as knackered as the performers were at this, the tail-end of the fringe. 

Still, I handed out about 50 flyers as people left then joined Chris O'Neil (who runs the show) and David Tsonous for curry at The Mosque Kitchen. It's always interesting to eat with people with long histories in comedy as you tend to learn a lot from them. We also discussed the challenges of different venues and plans for next year's run.

Meal eaten I was back out flyering for Mirthquake, determined to go out on a big one. The footfall was good but few people were interested in taking either a blue book or a flyer. Fatigue is certainly the word. Onions had more success though and come 4:30 we had 24 people in for our final show - including the barman from a nearby pub who'd be promising to come all week.

The pub was noisy and the room was hot but we gave it all we could. Microphone problems dogged parts of my set but it largely went down well with the obvious split between 4 who clearly weren't having a great time and 20 who were. If you don't join in the songs they're a lot less fun but some people simply have a problem letting go. Come next year this shouldn't be an issue as it'll most likely be a solo effort and so those who are too uptight to enjoy what I do simply won't come.

Show complete I stayed on for my guest spot at Thom Milner's show and did three tracks to a very positive ten people who were only too happy to join in with everything - in many ways making it the more enjoyable gig for me. CDs duly went out to some very happy people.

Come 9pm I was back in the Bourbon Bar with a capacity (20) audience to perform to. After a strong opening the acts that followed were a vary mixed bag with two in particular rambling on about their chosen subjects without the hint of a punchline. My tracks went down well though and the closing act, a girl with a ukulele, concluded the night well. More CDs handed out I then headed across the Banshee Labyrinth to watch "50 Ways to Sack your Drummer" before, inevitably, meeting up with everyone in Opium to dance around to rock music with people who largely weren't even born at the time half the music was made.

Rather than add a separate entry for my lone show on Sunday I'll tack it on here for completion's sake. The festival has very much wound down now and Whistlebinkies was less than half full for Camden Comedy. The acts were great though, Susie Steed doing her trademark sloth/moth material and a headline set from the engaging Hackney-based Edinburger Megan Shandley. More CDs went out and I had a long conversation with an older lady about the perils of selfie sticks. Thankyou Edinburgh, I think we're done :o)

Shows Performed: 4 (54)
Bums on seats at Mirthquake: 24 (385)
Money in the Mirthquake bucket: £37.20 (£574.20)
Steps walked according to my pedometer: 15,152 (382,028) 
CDs Remaining: 34 

Friday, 26 August 2016

Penultimate Mirthquake

The final timetable for Edinburgh 2016
Today should have been a three-show day but I awoke this morning to a text from Tom of Comedy Shorts telling me the PA was knackered again so there wasn't much point in me performing. Though disappointing I appreciated the lie-in and booked myself a ticket to Kate Lucas' show at The Pleasance.

3pm quickly rolled around and Onions and I were on the streets trying to convince people to come to our show. Despite the large volume of people, take-up was really slow. Festival fatigue clearly setting in now.

By 4:30 we had a handful of people in the room but fortunately they were joined by some latecomers and we found ourselves performing to our classic crowd size of 11. The show ran smoothly and the audience were really up for joining in with all the sets and shouting their lungs out to my tracks. The bucket rattled proudly at the end and and a number of CDs shifted, though we've somehow got to give out 50 tomorrow... 

Ariane at the Malcolm Hardy Awards
The evening started with a set at Bourbon Bar to a larger audience than yesterday and with a good response to my two tracks. Flyers duly handed out I trudged over to The Pleasance Courtyard to meet Ariane Sherine for a drink, chat and to watch Kate Lucas perform some fairly amusing and occasionally edgy musical comedy. From there it was across town to Watch Ariane perform at the Malcolm Hardy awards, an event dominated by comedy veterans and a distinctly nostalgic nod to a music hall tradition long forgotten. Having watched those involved in the production play Russian Roulette with hard boiled and raw eggs special guest Kunt from Kunt and the Gang performed a couple of tracks including one about fancying his paperboy. Disturbingly brilliant.

Come 3am I was in the pub nearest the flat with Onions and Nick reminding the barman he had only our final show as an option for attending. 

Shows Performed: 2 (50)
Bums on seats at Mirthquake: 11 (361)
Money in the Mirthquake bucket: £30.30 (£537)
Steps walked according to my pedometer: 12,921 (366,876) 
CDs Remaining: 50  

Character Acts and Karaoke

Thursday is a tough day for shows. Last week Thursday was the day with the audience of two who left midway through - so far so ominous. Out on the streets it wasn't looking good. All roads around The Southsider were one step from tumbleweed and when Onions texted to say flyering was slow I prepared myself for a second show cancellation in the run.

As you have probably predicted from the above paragraph though this wasn't the case. True, our audience of eight was still the second lowest of the run but eight is easily enough for a performance and as two of the number were made up of the trans women from the previous night I was determined to put on a good show show to thank them for coming.

The gig itself was pretty bizarre. Andy abandoned the microphone and launched Celebrations from the box to create chocolate rain, only topped by throwing onions into the crowd at the end. Nick got about four minutes into his set before one lady on the front row sidetracked the whole show with a story about building explosives at school. My set stayed on track but was augmented by the fact that one of the barmen had come to see the show and knew all the parts to each song before I taught them. My tracks have clearly been pretty loud in the main room - something probably worth mentioning in the application for next year's show to avoid being somewhere with other shows in the same building if all that divides them is a curtain or partition wall. Something I'll come back to later.

After the show I went down the road to finally catch Clare Plested's character show, 'Flock Up'. Something I'd been planning to do since performing with her in her Repunzel character at the beginning of the run. As a show it was very funny but as a template for how you create an atmosphere in a room not usually used for performance it was even better. 

High energy music greeted you upon entering the restaurant basement of Ciao Roma whilst Clare ducked in and out of the audience welcoming people and filling in a wall mounted chart representing the emotional state of them - ranging from 'fresh faced' to 'I've seen 8 shows today already'. Before she changed into her first costume (behind a large partition curtain rail) she got everybody shoulder shimmying to the music and during every costume change there were short video clips based on a character trying to change the world with daft hashtag campaigns.

Her final character blended the end of the show with the bucket collection and exit from the venue, meaning the experience really didn't end until you were out on the street. Plenty to learn here - not least because if you doubted for a minute any of this was unnecessary she's been inundated with good reviews and has been playing to large audiences every day.

With some time to kill before my spot at the Bourbon Bar I finally used the Fringe app to locate shows starting soon and came across another character act - this time Fiona Sagar's "Entitled". The show itself was really good, though a little more rough and ready than Clare's. However, this was understandable considering her room. Yes, we're coming back to my point about multi-room venues.

Cabaret Voltaire's performance spaces have a lot in common with London flat shares. The "Cinema Room" in which Fiona was in had much in common with the crappy box room that housemates often have to rent out cheaper in recognition of how awful it is to live in. With 4 rows of chairs seating a total of 18 people and a strip of performance area at the front no deeper than a metre the show was a workshop in making the best of a bad situation. Noise bleed was controlled by what looked like a duvet being hung across the entry arch - which made for a hot room and a bunker mentality. Fiona's costumes couldn't be as intricate either as there was no-where for her to change. If I'm offered a room like this for my solo show next year I'll have to grit my teeth and decline because it would be shit for everyone involved.

Charactered-out I walked across town to the Bourbon Bar and performed to a total of four non-performing audience all in their sixties. With the feel of an open mic, but with consistently higher quality acts, it was an informal affair and the row of older ladies and gents really enjoyed 'Tales of the Unexpected'. Hopefully they'll be making their way to The Southsider today.

I rounded off the night at The Blind Poet for some rock karaoke with a whole army of other fringe performers (Steve McLean pictured doing 'It's the End of the World as we Know It') and delivered a respectable rendition of Limp Bizkit's 'Rollin''. With only a few days left to go everyone is now winding down and it was back to the flat at 3am for snacks and sleep.

Shows Performed: 2 (48)
Bums on seats at Mirthquake: 8 (350)
Money in the Mirthquake bucket: £28.60 (£506.70)
Steps walked according to my pedometer: 15,844 (353,955) 
CDs Remaining: 55  

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Wednesday walkabout

Now with a fully working PA, Comedy Shorts was a mad mix of character comedy and stand-up today. The audience hadn't entirely warmed to ironic terrorists, fake drug overdoses and casual misogyny so when I closed the show I was prepared to die on my arse. Fortunately this older crowd of 10 rather liked the perils of the self-checkout - to the extent that I also did 'Shuffle and Stop' with some enthusiastic joining in.

Flyers duly handed out I made my way to The Southsider and stapled flyers to blue books for ten minutes, handing over a pile to Andy Onions. Wednesday always has the potential to go badly and we were going to do our best to reverse this. Again, the previous shows had amassed less than 5 audience between them so it wasn't looking good.

Things took an interesting twist when upon opening our little partition a mother and her 3 teenage girls came in. We resolved to keep it as clean as we could and I hastily created a tailored set of first world problems that might apply to them. Following the family we had a few couples and an older gentlemen I mistook for blogger John Fleming. We kicked off to a very respectable audience of 13.

All three sets were warmly received which kept things relaxed and informal. The response to 'One Shot', my final track, was deafening. The rest of the pub must have wondered what on earth was going on. The bucket was better than yesterday and seriously enhanced by £10 from the mum - parents clearly the way to go midweek.

Following a pie and chips with my dad I hot footed it to the other side of town for an appearance at Comedy-Geddon at the Bourbon Bar. Aware of the issues with this venue since seeing Jonny Gillam and Daniel Offen's show there I wasn't sure how it would go but in the end it turned out pretty well. The room itself, which resembles a futuristic bunker with terrible noise bleed from both the bar and the other performance space, had all of its modest twenty seats occupied when the show started. 

The quality of the acts was pretty good and a couple of music sets nicely broke up the comedy. My two tracks went down well and a couple of enthusiastic trans women in their fifties assured me they'd be coming to Mirthquake to get hold of a CD. I've been rebooked for today and tomorrow.

Show complete it was over to City Cafe to see Peter Merrett finally perform at the night he's been working for all month. Yuriko Kotani put in a nice ten minutes too and I finally got to see "The Upper Class Rapper" - who had his character act down to a T, though performing an entire song about famous people who are c*nts and repeatedly using the word for shock value seemed a bit lazy.

By 2am Onions, Peter and myself had joined others at the Gilded Balloon for Massaoke - a singalong with live band and lyrics projected on a screen. It was a good laugh and the only thing that irked (aside from everyone else being about 18) was the thought that I hadn't come up with the concept first.

Final shows added!

Shows Performed: 3 (46)
Bums on seats at Mirthquake: 13 (342)
Money in the Mirthquake bucket: £18 (£478.10)
Steps walked according to my pedometer: 14,906 (338,111) 
CDs Remaining: 58

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Final Run

With just four days of the run to go, routine has pretty much set in when it comes to my days here in Edinburgh.

Comedy Tapas started my day with another full room of people eager to see short sets from across the fringe. As many of the acts choose to perform the same five minutes every time it has got to the point where I can now recount them word for word. The major exception being the musical improv group Impromptunes - who by their very nature have to come up with something new every time. If it wasn't for the fact they're on at the same time as Mirthquake I would have gone and seen them by now, recommended.

From there my dad and I went to the Mosque Kitchen for lunch before I did the usual flyering for Mirthquake. By 4:30 we had a very healthy 17 people in the room - which was reassuring having seen the 2pm and 3pm shows before us attract a combined total of 3. They were slow to warm up but with a bit of chat from all of us things fell into place. For a change I went for some proper audience chat, noting that with a Londoner, an Aberdonian and a kiwi in the back row we had an Englishman/Scotsman/New Zealander "walk into a bar" joke in the making. The money was poor but with most of the audience very young (two admitting they were actually just seventeen) it was unsurprising.

Come 6pm and I was watching 'Kriss Foster and the Very Small Museum' at The Globe Bar. The whole show was powered by playing pass-the-parcel with a small box of objects (his personal 'museum') and material coming from whatever object was taken out when the music stopped. Some material was musical, some spoken, all very sweet and funny. By his choice of music (TV themes from the 80s and 90s) and material it was easy to see his target audience was aged 30+ listeners of Radio 4 - and they loved it. Today's photo comes from the end of the show where my dad had to hold up some violin music for Kriss to play and exorcise his demons of failing grade 1 as a child.

After this we watched Andy Onions take part as a panellist on Quiz In My Pants then ate heartily at a Burrito cafe. A few drinks followed and by 3am a good number of comics were saying goodbye at The Pear Tree.

Shows Performed: 2 (43)
Bums on seats at Mirthquake: 17 (329)
Money in the Mirthquake bucket: £15 (£460.10)
Steps walked according to my pedometer: 14,331 (323,205) 
CDs Remaining: 64

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Monday Movements

Mondays are not usually a day when you expect a decent crowd yet somehow by 4:30pm we had a group of 20 people in the room ready for some Mirthquake. Things ran to plan and despite a couple of walk-outs towards the end it was another great gig clocked up at the fringe.

My dad arrived during my set and so afterwards we dropped his things off at the flat and then made our way across town to The Hanover Tap for the 101 Comedy Show. Avid readers of this blog will know this is the one show where I've done badly and so I was apprehensive about a repeat.

Arriving in plenty of time, I was able to check the sound level of the music and the mic and all seemed okay. The room filled to capacity and the other acts, including host Ian Miller, were really good and kept the crowd laughing constantly. I was in the middle spot and kicked off with Selfie Stick. The curse returned. This time the audience were definitely enjoying it, however because the overall sound level was low and none of the speakers pointed towards the stage I could barely hear what I was doing. The song finished with me more thankful I'd kept in time than triumphant with the applause. 

Things took a further weird twist with West End though. The track was marginally louder then the previous one but everytime I spoke into the mic the level dived down - sounding like the sort of ducking you get on a DJ mixer when the DJ wants to give shout outs to the crowd. This made the whole track somewhat or a volume based rollercoaster and suffered accordingly. Again, the crowd handled it well and I went off to applause but I'm kind of glad it's the last time I'm playing there this run.

Post-show we headed back to the other side of town for a curry before I then joined Matt Duwell and a whole bunch of comedians for Matt's birthday drinks and rock karaoke at Opium (pictured). The music was absolutely ear shattering in both main rooms but a group of us found the pool table room where we could hear each other. It was good to catch up. Finally around 3am I made my way home with chips.

Shows Performed: 2 (41)
Bums on seats at Mirthquake: 20 (312)
Money in the Mirthquake bucket: £43.50 (£445.10)
Steps walked according to my pedometer: 13,857 (308,874) 
CDs Remaining: 67

Monday, 22 August 2016

Back to 11

Today didn't start very promisingly when I arrived at Comedy Shorts to find the PA wasn't working and therefore I couldn't do my spot. The venue said they couldn't get their tech in "because its Sunday" which seemed pretty short sighted given there were 9 shows due to take place in their that day.

I headed back to The Southsider to catch a show only for that to be interrupted midway by a freak fire alarm which went on for over fifteen minutes. With a headache I retreated to the temple of glamour that is Greggs and had a coffee whilst drafting a jingle-style song for introducing a Clash of the Tight Tens Edinburgh show for next year. Yes, my mind is already moving on.

From what I've learned so far it looks like the only way to guarantee good numbers and something meaningful in the bucket is to run a compilation show. This combined with my own perhaps thirty minute solo show next year is currently the way I think I could be going. This year has been all about networking and getting a feel for the fringe. So far I think I've done well in both areas. Still, there's another week to go yet!

Mirthquake was an odd one as we started with 17 people plus a baby in a pram. As a result we dialled down the noise level (also possible as the pub was much quieter than yesterday). This had particular impact on both Andy Onions and myself as we're usually very loud. It turns out Andy doesn't have to shout everything and neither do I which was an interesting discovery both both of us. Two songs into my set (the last of the hour) things took a turn for the worst when thee old people walked out but then quickly improved when 'Selfie Stick' stirred something inside our rather self-conscious front rows. The energy picked up massively and next time I looked to the back even the baby was sat on his mum's lap grinning at me. Musical comedy, particularly rap styled like a school assembly, isn't going to appeal to everyone but as The Streets once said - cult classic, not best seller.

The bucket take was good for the numbers too.

My second gig of the day was an unusual one as it took place in a 200 seater room with PBH himself compering. A magic show had preceded us with every seat taken but due to the informal nature of our show this had dwindled down to about 30 when Peter took to the stage. There'd been no time to construct a running order so when he saw I was the only performer currently sitting within ear shot he announced me as the first act. 

Regardless of the actual audience size this was a novelty for me. For a start the stage was bigger than the entire room at Mirthquake, also I was towering above the audience. I plugged my iPhone in and hoped for the best given there'd been no time for a soundcheck.

Fortunately the levels were about right and I did three tracks. The response was pretty good with the front rows joining in enthusiastically, someone videoing me on their phone and a bunch to one side dancing in their seats. Further back there were a group of three who were clearly not impressed and just stared at me throughout. That said, I didn't have anyone walk out - the exodus began to happen shortly after the next act started. I headed off at 11:30 with about half the audience intact and a man who'd been talking for five minutes to no laughs at all. Playing a room this size to a small crowd is no easy task but it was well worth it for the experience.

PBH on stage shortly after my set.

The night concluded in the best possible way with Peter Merrett and I thrashing Andy Onions and Nick in a series of pool games then heading back for chips and one last pint in a very nice bar next to our flat.

Shows Performed: 2 (39)
Bums on seats at Mirthquake: 14 (292)
Money in the Mirthquake bucket: £30.60 (£401.60)
Steps walked according to my pedometer: 12,994 (295,017) 
CDs Remaining: 70

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Full House!

Despite the rain I had a good vibe about today. On my way through the city centre to see Jonny Gillam and Daniel Offen footfall was high even if the rain was torrential. 

After an hour in their truly bunker-like room I headed back over to The Southsider and flyered for about an hour, the venue had been restocked with Wee Blue Books so I took a good pile out with me. They were all gone by the time I'd finished. Another sign something might go right today.

Excuse the clumsy metaphor but by the time Andy Onions and I had set up the room the volume of people waiting for the show was so great they literally flooded in when we pulled back the curtain. The pub was loud but we were louder. Partially due to the PA, partially due to Onions' incredibly booming voice. By the time it was my turn to come up they were warm and open to whatever ridiculousness greeted them. I was happy to oblige.

After shouting, clapping and some spontaneous dancing in the aisles it was all over and we took our best bucket of the fringe so far. My favourite quote was from one man who, having avoided joining in most of the interactions in my set, came up and said, "I really don't know what to make of your act but it's seriously original". Something I'm more than happy to take - even if what I'm doing is essentially a school music assembly with adult themes.

Post-show I headed further from town to the outpost that is Crag's Bar and saw Sam Mitchell and Cressida Whetton perform to a nice bunch of people in a lovely little room. The location is an absolute ball-ache geographically and makes The Southsider practically central in comparison so perhaps I should be grateful for small mercies.

There's still a few shows to see tonight but I'll sign off early for a change.

Shows Performed: 1 (37)
Bums on seats at Mirthquake: 40 (278)
Money in the Mirthquake bucket: £66.80 (£371)
Steps walked according to my pedometer: 11,011 (283,023) 
CDs Remaining: 71

Friday, 19 August 2016

Friday in the rain

Memorable things happen everyday at the fringe but today's list of notable events is particularly pronounced thanks to a combination of good shows and novel first-times.

I all started predictably enough with a walk down to Opium for Comedy Tapas. On my way down it started raining, which is usually good news for venues on Cowgate as it concentrates the punters. But it's rubbish for outlying venues like The Southsider. I prepared myself for a good show which would then be followed by quiet ones teetering on the edge of being pulled.

The show was solid as ever and there were plenty of people in the room to shout along to 'One Shot'. Having flyered them all on their way out I got chatting to Danni, one half of Cowshowpolitan and we opted to go next door to see Nigel Lovell's 'Worst Show of the Fringe' to avoid the downpour. As shows go it's a definite must-see. Nigel presents three good acts who have at some stage in their career got a one star review.

What was more memorable for me though was sitting down next to a guy who then asked if I was "the rapper from London I've been hearing about". A flyer was duly given and he should be along tomorrow. A first for me, I'm sure the paparazzii are only a door knock away...

Show over I left Dannii exit flyering and trecked back to The Southsider to stand in the rain and give out precisely three flyers to wet angry looking people. The pub itself was busy thanks to a football match but the performance room was an expanse of empty. I got busy setting everything up and hoped for the best. 

As it turned out things weren't as bad as they could have been. We had our perfect mode-average of eleven ready for the start of the show made up of some cheerful looking girls, a middle-aged couple and a back row of grim faced locals. The show ran well and Andy Onions' move to using the TV screen to play 'Hipster or Hungarian', amongst other things, was a big improvement on waving an iPad around. On the downside my newly purchased mic cable broke so I was tethered to the desk by the 3m long house cable like some kind of dangerous dog. The bucket was crap though with the locals giving as little financially as they had emotionally (0p) and the girls only able to summon up £2 between them. Hats off to the couple though who put in a fiver each.

After a quick trip to Farm Foods for quality canned goods and a meal involving said items back at the flat I was back at The Southsider at half seven to prepare for Bear Jokes. The pub was busy, though not necessarily interested in comedy thanks to yet more football on the screens. However, with some concerted flyering by the flatmates we enticed in another fine bunch of eleven made up of football widows and soggy tourists. Between our own eight minute spots Rosie Holt really got the crowd laughing and Sophie Henderson (pictured) topped off the show with an extract from her incredibly funny So Your Think Your Funny Awards Final-ready set. If she doesn't win next week it'll be truly criminal.

The cherry on the very fine cake came in the form of the bucket collection - making almost enough to pay off the significant amount I'd spent printing flyers and buying a panda bear soft toy for the shows. The fringe is more about losing as little money as possible rather than making any but notes in the bucket do show a level of appreciation that affirms what you're doing is worthwhile.

And so to post-show and me taking a night off the drinking and the dancing to type some stuff and get an early night for a change!

More dates at Sportsters now added.

Shows Performed: 3 (36)
Bums on seats at Mirthquake: 11 (238)
Money in the Mirthquake bucket: £12.60 (£304.20)
Steps walked according to my pedometer: 13,615 (272,012) 
CDs Remaining: 76

Swings and Roundabouts

Performing to an audience of two is not possible. After two songs I today handed over to Nick and as he took to the stage the couple (that had chosen for the show to go ahead) made their excuses and left. Despite an hour of flyering and the busy Wednesday room it seemed no-one wanted to watch comedy on Thursday.

I've been told to expect this to happen at some point, most likely around now. At this point in the run the issues with weather, location and limited marketing are compounded by the awards shortlists being published. Why spend valuable holiday time checking out something that, despite our continued encouraging to do so, has no audience reviews on the website - never mind reviews from trusted sources?

The dearth of willing watchers turned out to extend way beyond Mirthquake with Mel texting in reports of various shows that she wanted to see being pulled. I went to Kilderkin for the Cup of Tea Showcase (pictured) for 8:45 to find myself performing to a family of four with even the other acts disappearing straight after their sets in the lead up to my "headline" slot. Kilderkin is as poorly located as The Southsider which no doubt didn't help.

Still, the family were really nice with two daughters in their twenties joining in as enthusiastically as their parents. It seems an audience of four is at least workable unlike one of two. I had a drink with promoter/performer Thom Milner afterwards and talked about the Birmingham comedy scene and how to make small nights work consistently. There was a tacit invite to perform up there later this year, which alongside a recent offer to perform in Liverpool in October ticks my "get out of London" target for this fringe.

Drink drunk I saw Mel off onto her Megabus Gold and joined my housemates for a few drinks at Opium. Two arrived earlier than planned as their show had also been pulled due to no audience. Here's to an improvement for everyone today!

Shows seen today: My Groupon Adventure (very Round Ireland With A Fridge - worth a watch) and 07800 834030 (a show based on ringing back people who'd left a request for advice on the voicemail - very quirky and made all the better by Andy Onions featuring by chance!)

Shows Performed: 2 (33) - though Mirthquake was pulled mid-show I'd performed by then.
Bums on seats at Mirthquake: 2 (227) - if only for fifteen minutes.
Money in the Mirthquake bucket: £0 (£291.60)
Steps walked according to my pedometer: 18,295 (258,397) 
CDs Remaining: 76