diary of a comic

Public diary of comedian Simon Caine.
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You can also be disappointed by me on Twitter.

Two gigs in a row have sucked and I hate that it’s had a negative impact on my mood.

One was to a crowd of mostly comedians and one hated anything “dark” I spoke about which meant I was basically talking at their faces for 14 minutes.
It’s knocked my motivation for gigging. This coupled with a day job which is tiring me out and the cold, wet weather has made me enjoy evenings in with the cat.
I miss gigging. I have one tonight. I need to write something new. I think it’s a problem in that I’ve nothing new to try (or nothing new with a “big ending”) so I don’t want to gig because I know the other stuff works most of the time… it feels… redundant? Maybe that’s the wrong word.
You get peaks and lows with gigging. Sometimes you’re really into it and even having a bad gig doesn’t put you off. Other times I just want to be in bed and write something from the comfort and warmth of my house where people on the internet can judge me but from afar and I can claim “nobody saw it” if it gets no Likes or RTs.
I am thinking about writing a daily blog like Richard Herring. I won’t share it all over the place like he does. It’ll largely be for my own fun and to track my life. But I fear in many ways  my life isn’t that interesting or noteworthy. Or maybe I am just making excuses. It’s probably the latter one.

Chortle has published an article which “reveals” the habits of comedy goers. Most of their angle sells the numbers as a really negative thing and (as you would expect with a media outlet) focuses on the biggest numbers / tours rather than the really interesting things you can get from a report like this…

(my words are in bold black, Chortle are not)

Chortle: Two-thirds of comedy-goers say they would rather go to a big comedy tour with a famous comedian rather than a smaller event with mostly unknowns.

 

Me : That means one third would give an unknown a chance… which is a great sign and a massive chunk of the market.

 

Chortle: Half the people who go to comedy say they would not to pay to see someone live who they hadn’t seen on TV.

Me : Which means half would. Again, this is an amazing sign as the number of seats a “smaller act” needs to fill for a tour / gig is smaller anyway. And as we’ll see in the next question… people don’t like the arenas.

 

Chortle: Comedy-goers prefer theatres (39 per cent) to arenas (29 per cent)

Me : So dot the performers (well, I do).

 

Chortle: Ticket sales for female comedians are soaring, having soared 12-fold since 2009 and trebled since 2011. However, the relatively small number of big-name female acts is likely to skew figures, with Miranda HartDawn French and Sarah Millicanon tour in 2014. Currently the biggest name to have announced more than a couple of dates in 2015 is Suzi Ruffell.

 

Me : As if the few “big-name men” (the report says Lee Evans, Michael McIntyre, Peter Kay, John Bishop, Jimmy Carr, Billy Connolly, Russell Howard, Kevin Bridges, Jack Dee, Frankie Boyle are the top 9 of 10 selling acts) on the circuit wouldn’t have skewed the figures.

 

Chortle: Shows by female comedians account for 14 per cent of all comedy events sold, as opposed to two per cent in 2009

Me : Nothing to say about this except: awesome!

Chortle: Lee Evans is the UK’s favourite comedian

 

Me :As in biggest selling? I wouldn’t say that makes him the “favourite” what about all the people who couldn’t get tickets to acts who sold out smaller venues so purchased tickets to Lee Evens gigs? Or friends who got their friend a ticket for their birthday?

 

Chortle: Heckling and updating social media during a gig is considered the most unacceptable behaviour

Me : Yep

Chortle: A huge rise – 46 per cent – in the number of comedy events outside of London, driven by an increase in regional theatre tours. London comedy fans are the most likely of any region to enjoy going to comedy clubs – although they still prefer arena tours.

Me : I’ve gone to arena shows and hated them all. So impersonal and hard to feel an atmosphere.

Chortle: The biggest group of comedy attendees come from households with an income of £20-39,000, with 29 per of comedy audiences coming from London and the South East. However, as a proportion, Northern Irish comedy fans are the most likely to go to a live show (62 per in the last year compared to 49 per cent of Londoners).

Me : Awesome. All the signs are telling me to leave London.

Chortle: Half the British population have been to at least one comedy event in the past three years, with the majority of comedy-goers 25 to 34 years old.

Me : OK…

Chortle: Ticket prices are the highest ‘barrier to entry’ for people going to gigs. The average ticket price for a theatre show is £27.20, and for an arena show £35.40.

Me : Yeah… that’s way too high. I wouldn’t pay more than £20 for a ticket to comedians I love (with maybe 2 exceptions). There’s too many people / managements that are either money grabbing or spending too much on the hotels / travel etc for performers.

Chortle: Jokes about family are judged to be the funniest, but audiences say they find jokes about disability a turn-off. Generally men have fewer taboos that women.

Me : No comment.

Chortle: One in five comedy-goers have felt ‘disgust’ after watching a routine.

Me : No comment.

Chortle: 32 per cent of people say that reviews influenced what comedy shows they go to see. 14 per cent of people get their information about comedians from the Internet.

Me : 68% aren’t bothered about reviews… that’s a massive majority.

Chortle: 82 per cent of comedy goers own a live comedy event DVD, and 17 per cent own more than ten.

Me : Does this include downloads or just physical DVDs? That would be interesting to know.

Chortle: Comedy purchasers from Ticketmaster travel on average 34.2 miles to attend live events. However this figure has been steadily decreasing since 2010.

Me : Great. Less trains for me to get. By the time I go full time (2130) they should be willing to travel to my living room.

Chortle: Five per cent of people have admitted to literally wetting themselves laughing at a comedy gig.

Me : Right…

The Ticketmaster report surveyed 2,499 members of the public, including 1,259 comedy attendees ,as well as analysing its now ticket sales.

Before I went to bed last night I signed the HeForShe campaign launched by Emma Watson. This morning I got up and The Daily Mail had printed an article about it, 80% of which could have been cut as it was only commenting on her clothing.

The campaign and Emma’s speech was trying to call for gender equality. And yet no guy ever gets his suit spoken about more than the content of his speech.

It’s like they didn’t even watch her talk. To be fair, it’s really hard to watch it given the version on their website has several adverts for make-up products showing before it.

Even the headline is subtly sarcastic and undermining. “She means business”. Can’t you just have a factual-based headline for once?

The most annoying thing for me about this is the number of men (I’m not limiting this to comedians as there’s loads of the general public jumping on the bandwagon) making jokes about this sort of subject OR making sexist cheap gags throughout the year and then acting like they’re not part of the problem because “it’s only a joke”.

The joke defence actually insults me. I shouldn’t need to be told it’s a joke if it one, it should be self evident.

All this less than 48 hours after Sam Pepper (a very popular YouTuber) uploaded a “prank” in which he asked girls for directions and touched their bum from behind while they were not looking. This is nothing more than sexual harrasment and the fact he has labeled it as a “prank” just goes to show how much women arnt taken seriously.

I feel like I’ve gone slightly off point so to sum up, if anyone from the Daily Mail is reading this I urge you to stop writing bullshit, clickbait articles and focus on journalism. And if you fancy writing a response to the blog post, don’t forget to mention I was were a green, elegant dressing gown with blue fuzzy slippers that have been worn away an the heel.

Also, if you’re a man who agrees please sign the HeForShe campaign - http://www.heforshe.org

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2763873/Emma-Watson-smart-sophiticated-belted-white-coat-dress-UN-event-role-Goodwill-Ambassador-For-Women.html

I’ve been alone for a week. My girlfriend has been in Sheffield, most of my planned social events were cancelled or move, so aside from feeding the cat and gigging I’ve been on my own.

In that week I’ve watched Season 1 of Prison Break, finished reading a book by Stewart Lee and started “How To Be A Woman" and managed to almost completely clear out my inboxes.

I’ve written 2 lines that add onto jokes I’d previously thought were finished and nothing else. So I guess you could say I’ve been productive.

Of course I’ve been doing other things but these are the main things.

Despite the low amount of writing I am still happy with the progress of the show. Why? I’ve written about 3-4 minutes of jokes on stage. I am finding it increasingly easier to write on stage than sat in my living room. I guess this is because a large amount of my material doesn’t “look good/funny” when written down. Which also explains why the quality of the stuff I’ve been pumping out onto social networks has dropped (or I feel it has).

So far, I am extremely proud of the show I am working on. The theme has changed slightly and I am almost saddened when I think I’ll have to drop these gags in less than a year. There’s two in particular which I really enjoy telling and the rest I’ve not got bored of (yet).

I’ve been booking 20-30 minute previews in December (and if you have anything to offer me please do). I am currently 10-12 minutes through the writing. Given I started with very little post-Edinburgh I am quite happy with progress. I could say I am “15 minutes done” if I was being arrogant, but I bumped into another comedian the other day who said they had a solid 10 “when they go for it”. After some probing this meant it would stretch to that length if the laugh breaks were that long. Given the way he said it and the amount he said he had been gigging since starting last year, I can only assume recently it had gone very well and he wanted to either casually show off or relive the moment in his head.

I am loving the fact there’s less “quotable lines” in this show (so far). As someone who used to do one liners, it’s nice to see (written down) how few of the jokes could be rewritten out word-for-word or be squeezed into a tweet. It (hopefully) means people will explain it wrong, or badly or get half way through the explanation and realise they’ve said something wrong, it wasn’t funny and say “it’s much funnier when Simon does it, you should go see the show”. Or words to that effect.

I still don’t quite know how to shake writers block beyond having faith in the idea / concept/ thought / feeling and talking about it on stage. That’s what seems to be working for me, or so I think. Sometimes I worry I might be rubbish at this and everyone is just being nice to my face. But I am pretty sure every comedian feels like that on a daily basis.

I don’t think there’s such thing as Writer’s block. I think it comes down to you not having the confidence to start something. A little thought or voice in the back of your mind that tells you it’s going to be rubbish. I think the key is to tell that voice to fuck off and do it anyway. You’re going to die one day, and on that day the voice is going to die as well and if you haven’t done the stuff you wanted to do the voice wins. 

If writer’s block excited I wouldn’t have been able to write the last 300 words about how I have it. I certainly thought twice before hitting send. And I’ll probably think twice before sharing the link on a social media site.

Writer’s block is that, a block. But not on your creativity, it’s a block on sharing your work. Yes it might stop you from wanting to start, but starting is the hardest part. But nothing easy is worth doing.

ps 220 days until Brighton Fringe.

I’ve spent most of the past 36 hours in the flat. I got home yesterday from a writing session all motivated and ready to do some work and then it just went on the way in the door.

I am finding it harder and harder to write new stuff. I spend a fair amount of my day wondering if I should apply for a “real job” for a bit instead of focusing on the show. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to do it. But I am fairly certain if I got a job now I’d spend the day sat at my desk thinking about the show.

In an average day I swing from being super happy about the direction everything is going in to super sad about being 27-years-old and not having technically achieved anything. But then I am 27, who the hell achieves anything at 27… *Googles it and finds out some kid in Utah has mastered the xylophone with only one hand aged 9*

Pretty sure I am doing life “right”. But I don’t know until it’s the end and by then it’s too late. I’m no expert but I think an existential crisis that lasts more than a day is a break down. Or is it? Am I trying to give the existential crisis a different name so I give the way I am spending the day meaning? I just don’t know.

Often I feel like I should be doing more things, seeing more places, earning more money, experiencing more stuff and not sat at my desk on a Sunday afternoon trying to work out my existence.

I guess having started a countdown to the next festival I am doing (and hoping to put on a show) hasn’t helped the panic. I guess having a 3rd grandparent at deaths door also isn’t the best thing right now (is it ever?)

When I find myself under motivated about writing and on a computer I go to Amazon and look at the list of things I earmarked to buy. I almost purchased a rice rubik cube, The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World book and a You Tube Cushion Cover. That’s a lie. I was only looking at buying 2 of them but all the joke books I’ve read say “3” is the magic number when making a list and I felt like this blog needed more structure.

Buying stuff isn’t going to help. If anything it’ll be more problematic than saving the money. First of all I’ll have to be in for the delivery and secondly I’ll have another thing in the flat to find space for. I’ve slowly learned I can’t give my life meaning from buying stuff. That’s not the way it works or there would be a very large, very profitable company called “Purpose” that would sell you your “meaning”. And every year they would come out with a new and more exciting “meaning” for you to buy with an extra HD screen and a fingerprint scanner and… I think I am thinking of the new iPhone. 

This is where the countdown begins.

I find I work better to a deadline…

I’ve 10 minutes of material and need 45. 

Let’s do this…

I’ve emailed and research 24 new clubs so far today. This has taken a little over 2 hours of my life and so far I’ve only got 1 email reply which was a “out of office” response from a national club.

Admin is one of the biggest pains in a comedians arse. I dislike it and although I get a sort of perverse pleasure in saying I messaged 24 promoters to another performer I know the minute I stop speaking they’re going to ask who and if they can have the contact email.

It’s dog-eat-dog, but not as much as you’d think.

Personally I used to want an agent to help out with this sort of thing but a few of my friends who have just “signed” with some form of management inform me they only add to your admin… not save you from it.

I slept badly and got home late which hasn’t help my day. It meant I struggled to get out of bed before 10.30am and didn’t follow my usual morning routine which threw me off for the first hour or so. 

Ah , the joys of being “full time” as a stand up.

Recently I’ve seen a bunch of people sharing lists written by random people I’ve never heard of telling me things I “should” do by the time I hit 30.

Usually this list consists of things like “sky diving” or “bungee jumping” but in reality I have little interest in one of those.

I am currently 27 years old. My birthday is the 20th December 1986.

Here’s a large countdown clock to the “big day” -

That sounds like loads of time, but in reality if you don’t make plans you’ll never get anything done. And the sad reality is I am not guaranteed to live until I am 30. As a result I’ve made a custom list of things I am working towards.

At the moment there’s not 30. Largely because I want to give it as much thought as possible. But here’s the on going list of things I will do by the time I start my 3rd decade on the planet…

  1. Do a debut solo hour in stand up I am proud of.

    I’ve done 2 Edinburgh shows. 1 was a split one with a friend who no longer performs and the 2nd was a last minute thing in which I cobbled together jokes which I was fed up of doing and wanted to drop. This hour I want to be a thing I’ve slaved over and want to show off to as many people as possible.

    This is in progress.
  2. Record and release a stand up DVD.

    OK, so this sounds grander than it would be. It would be a digital download, not a physical DVD as that’s a dying format. This will also more likely be a recording of the show mentioned in point 1 (above).

    No progress until the show is sorted.
  3. Visit the following countries -

    Australia.
    [TBC]
  4. Live in New York.

    “Live” involves me spending more than a month in New York City.
  5. Watch every film on IMDB’s “Top 100 Films”.

    I’ve saved the “Top 100 Films” as of 28th Aug 2014. I realise this list rarely changes but for the sake of my sanity I now have a list of 100 films to watch. I also want to make a video review of every one of them as a series.
  6. Run the London Marathon.

    This is a “classic” on lists like this but for me it’s always been in the back of my mind. I was fat growing up and kinda resented people who were more healthy than me and could do endurance runs. I am now in better shape than I have ever been but I still get out of breath running for the bus.

    Update:
    July 2014 – I’ve purchased running shoes / clothing and can do 5kilometres.
  7. Sort my back / shoulder out.

    I’ve suffered with a bad shoulder / back for years and only recently have I started actively trying to sit up straight and stretching it out. Having this sorted will also help with my general health and with running. Also my girlfriend is largely concerned about this area of my life as I am currently in so much pain on the left side of my body, but unable to do anything about it, I often try and hurt the right side of my body to keep them even as my OCD drives me mad otherwise.

    Update
    Aug 2014 – In progress.
  8. Go to the dentist.

    I have a massive fear of the dentist. As a result I’ll avoid them at all costs. Last time I went they told me I needed a couple of “routine” operations but then they foolishly told me what they involved and I freaked out and haven’t been back since. That was 8 months ago and I really feel like this is an immature side of myself I’d rather didn’t exist.
  9. Be a full time stand up comedian

    Does what it says on the tin. But I’ll define “full time” as many open mic comedians say they’re “full time” and in reality they’re unemployed and using their benefits to cover the cost of getting to a gig.

    Definition – “Full Time”, a person who is making money as a comedian who doesn’t have to do anything else to live day to day. Anything else includes anything that isn’t live stand up shows, merchandise sales and writing.

    Update -
    Aug 2014 – In progress. I am working on a plan for this.

    1. Be able to mediate for 10 minutes every day.

      Again, this one is pretty easy and doesn’t require an explanation but basically I enjoy it and know it has benefits on my health so I want to get into a habit of doing this every single day. I might also add “do yoga daily” to this as well, but I’m not there… yet.
    2. Have my 2nd book published.

      My first book was published in July 2014 after 18 months of going back and forth with the publisher. I’ve 90% finished my 2nd book and want it complete by the end of the year and out by the end of next year (ie 28 years old).

      Update -
      Aug 2014 – In progress. Book is 80-90% complete, I’ve spoken to some publishers and agents about it, but as yet nothing is solid. If you know anyone in the industry please let me know.

So, after everything was counted my Edinburgh fringe 2014 show made £628.88 for Prostate Cancer UK… So far. I know a handful of people are yet to donate so we might crack the £700 mark. Which would be incredible.

I should say I did a full run (25 gigs, 5 were pulled due to lack of audience, so 20 gigs in total). I got around 240 people in total and can not believe the support I’ve been given.

You’ve all been amazing and I won’t bang on too much, but thanks for everything. It means so much that we could raise so much money in such a short space of time.

The Fringe is over. Well and truly. I turned up to my venue to find they’d started moving the buffet back into the room I was performing in.

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Nobody was taking flyers for the time I was out on the street so I pulled the gig. Yesterdays gig was awesome, so I am more than happy to finish on a high (medium).

I’ve learned loads from this Fringe and here are the top six shows (in no particular order… simply because I can’t order such different things) that I learnt from and had my mind blown by… 

I should say, I’ve seen more than 6 amazing shows this year, these are just the ones I learned loads from.

Bec Hill.

A wonderfully funny, upbeat, witty and outstanding bit of stand up. Her quest for an award should be seen by any fan of comedy. She’s inventive, interesting and the hour is so paced I didn’t even notice how quickly it was going.

On of the coolest thing about it was when you walked in she was dancing around… which made sense by the end of the show. And when you walked out you were given free cheese samples (I didn’t see them, but Emily assured me there were there).

Boris and Sergey.

Fuck me this is amazing. A dark comedy puppetry show which I haven’t stopped telling people about since seeing. The level of skill and improvisation involved was outstanding. Imaging The Muppets if Tim Burton directed it.

I highly recommend you watch it.

Luisa Omielan

After her debut hours success she follows it up with an outstanding show about womanhood, he body and trying to find her career (and man). An honest and powerfully upbeat hour which I loved. She’ll be doing a run at the Soho theatre in mid-September and I’d say you should get tickets early as it’s going to sell out.

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Aiden Goatley

I reviewed this show a few days ago, but for those of you who haven’t read it “this show is about communication” as Aiden puts it. It’s about how he communicates with his dad through films and is heart-breaking, honest, funny and sadly never going to be performed again. But you can download it on DVD at some point in the future.

Sean McLoughlin

This guy is criminally underrated. The room was packed but I still feel he deserves more. It was a powerfully honest hour about his life, relationships, living situation and future. I won’t say much more as I think / hope he’s going to do it at more festivals or in London.

Stuart Goldsmith

This show had me in stitches from start to finish. It was a fun hour which combined several different types of comedy. He end call-back was one of the best I’ve ever seen. The really lovely and heart filled moments were still punctuated with jokes and he coped so well with a hot room.

There were a lot of times during the show I realised I hadn’t been analysing the set (like I normally do with stand up) I had just been watching and enjoying. I hope he does this show in more places.

There’s a theme immerging in what I love in stand up and what I want to do more of. I love honesty and truth and passion, regardless of which emotion you give me I want it to tell me something about you. I went to see a show last year from a young comedian who was funny, but I left feeling empty and like I hadn’t got to know them at all.

This year I avoided all shows like that. They’re fine and have a place but I really don’t enjoy them and feel they can be a little easier to do that the honest stuff. I prefer it when you get to know a performer and here something that doesn’t feel like a joke.

 

Now… here’s some things I’ve learned from the Fringe.

  • Try and write something interesting about the room. A little line or comment about where you’re performing. It really helps acknowledge the elephant in the room and is a bit of fun writing practice.
  • Write some jokes. Even if you’re 100% happy with your set / show, just chuck in a one liner or bit to try it. Doesn’t have to be on your show either… could be on a showcase gig. 
  • Always reserve your train tickets WAY in advance. Trust me.
  • If you’re going to use a number in a joke, make sure it’s an odd number… makes it funnier and more believable. I read an article online about this, but can’t find it. Basically 10 seems such a round number that it’s planned and thought out, 13 seems genuine and weird.

  • Take 1 day off for every 10 you perform. You need a day off.

  • Make sure you have the details of where you’re staying signed and in writing. I’ve had to move twice this month due to the first place screwing up the booking (they thought it was for 1 person not 2, even though I said I would be sharing a room) and the 2nd I sublet the place and the rental finished 2 days earlier than I needed it to, but only found out a few hours before I needed to move out.

  • Eat well.

  • Go out and try local restaurants.

  • Remember there’s more to Edinburgh than the fringe and also remember there’s more to the fringe than comedy. Later today, I am going up Arthur’s Seat. But avoid the castle, it’s honestly rubbish and over priced.

  • Sleep.

  • Try to repress your “fear of missing out”. It’s easy to imagine you’re missing out on things when you’re up here. It feels like a party all the time and when you get back to your room to a text you missed about a drink with a comedian you’re friends with you can feel like it’s the end of the world… but in reality it was just a drink.
  • If you’re doing your show for charity, make sure you check if the last day of the Fringe is a bank holiday, or you’ll end up with a large bucket of money you can’t donate until after the 4 hour train trip back to London…

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  • Go and see other shows. Especially the ones which get 1 star. I hate the star rating system, but I do love to go and see something a critic hated.
  • Get to know the people who work / run the venue you’re in (esp if you’re in a free venue). I said “thank you” to the people I saw everyday before leaving for the last time. The way they responded I think I was the only one to properly do that. I am not saying this to seem high and might, but it’s just a good thing to keep the “locals” on side, and manners cost nothing.
  • And finally… always ask your audience how they heard about your show. It really helps with future marketing.

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