diary of a comic

Public diary of comedian Simon Caine.
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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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Rarely on the Fringe do you find a show which makes you cry and laugh in equal measure. 10 Films With My Dad made me do just that.

I’d seen this show back in 2012 when I came up to the Fringe for a visit for a week. I briefly met Aiden and told him how much I enjoyed it. Since my first viewing I’ve lost two grandfathers and tried to work harder at connecting and building a relationship with my father. This might explain why this viewing hit me harder.

This was Aidens 150th performance of the show - and sadly his last. This one was recorded and although there were some hiccups (including an asshole leaving right at the most honest, humbling and emotional part) the show went seamlessly.

I don’t want to tell you too much about it as he’s selling the recording as a download and I’d say I wouldn’t do the plot justice, but in essence he bonded with his father by watching films. This show lets you in on the relationship and dynamic of the two of them and how they grew closer and more honest with each other as a result of finding common ground.

Universal themes but his honesty and quite subtle performance make this a unique show with a touching narrative that’s also painfully funny.

Aiden came to my show a few days earlier. He’s been very supportive of what I was doing since finding out all my donations went to Prostate Cancer. I had a gig booked with him in Brighton a few months back but had to cancel because I wanted to spend time with my dying grandfather and he was only too supportive then as well.

In 10 Films Aiden has a joke about wearing red wellington boots to protect himself from shark attacks after a misunderstanding with his mother made him believe they were the ultimate method of protection from sharks.

At the end of the show I went to talk to Aiden about the show and offer him a spot on my podcast and we both cried and hugged. He then offered me a gift: the pair of red wellington boots. I said I couldn’t take them both, so we agreed to get one each. I’ll treasure it.

Shortly after leaving I rang my dad to tell him I loved him and tried to contact my mum but her phone was off / unavailable.

As for my show, it was cancelled due to no audience members. I didn’t much mind. A friend from home had come to see it and we spent the hour catching up.

Also, before I’d got out of bed, my girlfriend had walked back from her mums flat to where we are staying and stopped on the North Bridge. She’d made a conversation with a homeless man who gave a donation to Prostate Cancer after noticing she was holding my bucket.

Today has been a really emotional one. People have been so lovely and I’ve really appreciated how lucky and fortunate I am. Goodnight and sleep well readers.

Day 20

I am slowly learning the audience member I least wanted to flyer was the best person in the room. Today that person was a woman in her mid80s who had driven from the midlands to Edinburgh that morning, parked her car and came up to me to ask “do you know where I can find the free fringe venues?”

I explained they were all over the place and my show was about to start. She dashed into the venue and made it clear she could only watch it if the show was an hour or less in length as she only put 2 hours on the meter for her car park.

In hindsight this is the kind of person everyone wants to play to: an up for it person who is out for adventure and fun. She was recently divorced and living life (in her own words).

The rest of the audience (about 6 people) were lovely but nobody quite compared. She loved being chatty and bantering. She was supportive and helpful in “sticky” bits and best of all she donated the most to the charity.

What a wonderful human being.

I hate the pre-judgements you get as a flyerer. You imagine who you are, what your jokes are and 2nd guess every person who comes your way based on no real information at all. Like a real life version of Tinder.

The show itself was fun and the audience were very warm.

After the show I went to see Boris and Sergey again as Emily’s family were up and I wanted them to see it. They had added bits and it was fun to see how the show had evolved. Also the improvised “spooky story time” was completely different and so exciting to watch.

Due to the lack of things I did today, I’ve decided to combine the two blog posts to make this entry seem more interesting…

Day 21

I died so hard today it’s difficult to find the words. I had a room of mixed people: 2 teenage boys who wanted cock jokes and their mum who totally did not. An elderly couple who sat still and didn’t react to anything (even when I asked them questions they were wooden). A couple in their 40s from Glasgow who (in their own words) “enjoyed being insulted and talked to more than being told jokes”. And one guy on his own in the back row who sat with a book (closed) on his lap.

Some people got some jokes, others got others but it was near impossible to get them into a unit / grouping to build any sort of momentum.

At the end of the gig the Glasgow couple came over and said “you did well to keep going, but try just talking more… you’re funnier off script”. The big secret in stand up is we all have a script. Ok, so a few comedians like Ross Noble and Paul Foot don’t, but they’re outstanding at it. The rest of us need something ready to say… the key is making it look like you’re just talking.

It didn’t hurt to die, oddly. I enjoyed it. I learned a lot from the gig and loved the fact they all had feedback and comments and felt comfortable enough to tell me them.

Feminism For Chaps – Review.

After the gig I went to watch “Feminism for Chaps”. A rare 5 star reviewed show (Chortle) it was an interesting concept. His opening line set the mood and summed up what was in store: “Hello, welcome to Feminism for Chaps. If you’re a woman, I am sorry, there’s nothing here for you but jokes. If you’re a bloke I am going to try and school you in some things you’ve not thought about before.”

I think I got the end bit of that wrong, but you get my point. He acknowledged the elephant in the room (a man talking about feminism) and moved forward to a really slick and interesting show about men and their relationship with feminism.

It was personal, fun, funny and honest. A real treat on the fringe given the mass of stand ups doing either unfunny or boring material in boring ways. This show had a really nice self-aware ending and even had “in jokes” for comedians. I’d recommend it. I didn’t belly laugh, but I did have a consistent smile on my face for the whole thing and it was amazing to watch someone tackle some weighty subjects.

Morgan & West: Parlour Tricks - Review

I love magic. Anyone who knows me even slightly will be aware that this is the only time in life I don’t mind being lied to.

Morgan and West are “time travelling magicians” as such the show is set in an unspecified time in the 19th century. The end of the show brings the whole thing together and there was audible “oh my gods” during the final trick which made my jaw drop.

I don’t want to say what happened in the show as that would be shitty of me and also they kindly asked people not to at the end. But I would say if you want to watch some funny, intelligent and overly complex magic this is the show for you.

I’m finding myself increasingly on a different “time zone” to everyone else I know in Edinburgh. My show is on at midday and a lot of people I know have their show between 7-10pm. This means they tend to go and do their show and stay out drinking and partying… I have to get up around 8.30-9am so I have time to eat breakfast, shower, flyer and set up the room in the venue (should there be anything to do).

It’s currently 10.40pm and I am in bed, ready to go to sleep directly after finishing this blog. I am trying to be as “sociable” as possible but I am finding it harder and harder. If you don’t make an arrangement with someone you’re unlikely to see him or her… and I am dire at making arrangements.

As the end of the Fringe is on the horizon I am quite looking forward to getting home. I miss loads of things about our flat and I really want to catch up properly with my family. Don’t get me wrong, I love the creative atmosphere of the Festival, but the month is a long time. (I am fully aware in a few days time I’ll be on a train home complaining it wasn’t long enough).

Day 18

The room was half filled but the audience brought a great gig. I felt like I wasn’t even doing a gig, I was just chatting with friends. You know when you’re cutting wrapping paper at Christmas and the scissors just glide… that’s what this gig (and the 19th one (below) felt like).

I had so much fun with this group of people. I left with a really big adrenaline rush and a sense that the “show” was coming together. Even though the “show” has very little formatting I felt I was getting to grips with it and I was able to throw out some new ideas and gags near the end which got mixed reactions but largely positive laughter.

Day 19

Today was really fun. I had a full room with a couple of comedians standing at the back. I also had to turn away a handful of people which felt good and bad in equal measure as I really wanted to get everyone in, but also the flyering and marketing paid off the day I needed it to.

I had an agent coming down to watch me perform which I was a little worried about but as I didn’t meet her before the gig, I thought she hadn’t turned up so I didn’t feel any anxiety or stress on stage.

The gig itself went pretty well. I recorded it which is the last time I’ll be recording stuff for a while. It means I have some high quality recordings of some jokes I am putting to bed and I feel like I am on the radar of some industry people.

My main aim for Edinburgh was performing in front of people and increasing the number of people who know what I do in terms of audience, but if industry get involved I am not going to turn it down.

I got £61 in the bucket which is amazing to me. It means between the last two days I got over £100 for the charity which fills me with a large amount of pride.

I basically need to get some sleep and let todays feelings go so I can start afresh tomorrow. I find if I don’t leave behind the feelings from the last gig I am either in a really high or really low headspace which means if the gig last night went badly I am in a bad mood for the next one and if I had a great gig I am expecting too much from the next one. This is easy to do when you’re doing circuit gigs (5, 10, 15 minutes) but with an hour I am finding it hard not to enjoy the emotion (good or bad) and then let it go.

I should say, I did try and go to see some shows today but every time I got there they were either full houses or sold out so I just stopped trying about 5/6 hours ago.

Today was easily one of my favourite days in Edinburgh yet. Not only did the show go swimmingly but the day itself was highly enjoyable.

Show Review.

 

Around 15 audience members (and if you care, are £55 in the bucket). A friend from uni came and brought a plus one who both enjoyed it. He’s seen me several times and said I’ve got better and his friend added me on Facebook and messaged to ask when I’d be doing some London gigs.

There were 6 people over the age of 60 in the room and the rest of the audience were around 20-30 years old. It was the perfect storm of people who were “up for it”, a varied age range and timing.

At one point in the gig I was heckled for not using a broken microphone and I said the equipment wasn’t reliable at that moment the spotlight cut out and came back on again 10 seconds later. This wasn’t something I planned but was a magical moment I wish I’d got on tape.

Two other audience members came from a recommendation which meant the world.

The whole thing was the reason I do stand up. I left the stage feeling amazing and happy that I’d made those strangers a group in their own right and they enjoyed the stuff I’d been working on. If every day was that good I’d gig 5 times a day.

Up Next – spot

 

I died a little here. I did some of my new stuff and some even newer (rewritten that afternoon). I don’t feel like the audience wanted as much material as I was doing, I felt they were enjoying the banter from the MC more. But I did want to get the stuff out and try it.

I feel this went down well. The space was interesting as it was in an open plan nightclub.

The theme was “the future” which I hadn’t really prepped for. I crowbarred it into some existing jokes and added bits in on the fly. I do enjoy theme comedy and shows with a “niche” etc. but I am not the best at writing it. Amy, the MC and person running the gig, said she had the idea for the theme after doing a monthly night in Liverpool Street which gives comedians a theme 2 weeks before the gig so they have to write something for it specifically. I might email them and do it when I get back.

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The rest of the day was spent walking around Edinburgh. I had another spot at a gig that got cancelled and I didn’t really want to rush off to another show (plus none I wanted to see were happening at that time). I really enjoyed exploring around the centre of the city and it made me excited to go up Author’s Seat next week.

Here are some photos I took –

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My feet now hurt and after having a hearty dinner with Emily and her mother I am ready for bed.

Night!