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…
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 –
My feet now hurt and after having a hearty dinner with Emily and her mother I am ready for bed.
I’ve just finished crashing from an energy drink I had a few hours ago. I gave up energy drinks 4 months ago and have only had 2 since. Today I was shattered and after a very sweaty gig I felt I needed one. I regret this decision.
I am going to see 2 maybe 3 shows per day, which isn’t “loads” by anyone’s standards, but it’s 2-300% more shows than I would normally sit through. I am finding all this sitting in uncomfortable chairs quite painful both on my backside and shoulder. I’ve had shoulder issues since I can remember but I’ve started to try and “sit up straight” in the past couple of weeks which is a big change for me and is provoking my pre-existing problems.
I might need to get it seen to when I am back in London…
5 audience members including a comedian. This was an odd show given the 4 audience members were in couples and laughed at different things individually.
It was fun and exciting however not the best gig I’ve ever done. I’ve decided after Monday (when I’ve got an agent to come down and watch me) I am going to use the final 5 gigs in Edinburgh to “preview” the new show.
Today has made me realise how much more seriously I need to take producing shows and pushing myself. I am proud of all the jokes I’ve written but I do feel I need to “up” the professionalism and quality.
I found this sketch duo randomly through a bunch of Freestival flyers. I have a group of non-comedian friends up here who are going to see a bunch of shows I recommended to them. As a result I didn’t want to go to see them again but did want to meet up. I suggested we go see this double act.
It was outstanding. There are a few holes in it that I didn’t enjoy but overall you can see why they’re getting 5 stars in everything.
Some of the sketches about comedy were quite fun and self aware and they played the “race” cards a bit as there’s one of them who is black and one who is white.
The level of professionalism within the show was apparent and the amount of rehearsal that must have gone into the show was inspiring. It’s clear to me (or I would imagine) they’re trying to get a show together to do a run at the Soho or Leicester Square Theatre. They have the quotes, star ratings and polish performance of an act who could easily get bums on seats in the crowded market in London.
I firmly believe the show starts before you hit the stage (I’ve written about this before). Barry Ferns knows this all too well and had upbeat songs playing with him “jumping in” and saying his name over lyrics like “Are we human? Or are we
The show itself was a combination of stand up material, audience participation and improv.
I’ve heard a fair amount of his stand up material before but was happy to hear it again and his audience participation was at a level that can only be achieved from regular MCing. Barry runs a really successful comedy club in London and gigs almost every night of the week.
You were never quite sure what was going to happen next. The show had a lose narrative and a weird and inventive ending (which I won’t spoil here). The laughs are consistent throughout and it was clear that his flyerers and word of mouth were doing the trick as I waited in a queue of easily 140 people to fit into a room that could only take less than 80.
This show, coupled with a handful of others have made me really excited to put together a debut hour. I think I have the confidence and self-doubt needed to put it together at a professional level and if nothing else it will be an experience.
I had around 8 audience members and (for now) have my 2 recordings done. Some of the jokes went down better in this show than the last recording so between them I should have enough to throw away the lions share of this “show”.
I did a new joke about my thoughts on stage and got a clap from 2 members of the audience. Effectively causing an applause break – or the equivalent for an audience that size.
The audience itself consisted of a girl I flyered 2 days ago, a comedian who is also my friend, 2 of my parents friends who happened to in Edinburgh and a bunch of randoms who came due to the app.
This gig was a lot of fun and I had a moment on stage when I realised how much I love stand up. I’d completely forgotten about my life back in London and was enjoying the lack of worries and the creative atmosphere of the Fringe. It was a beautiful moment which was gone all too quickly as I had to finish the joke and get on with the next one.
After my gig I went to an event held at Fringe Central by the people from the Brighton Fringe. The event was criminally under attended and told the small group of people who decided to attend the free event about the festival.
They spoke about the differences between the Edinburgh and Brighton Fringes as well as what you get from attending.
The whole thing sold me on doing a different Fringe next year. I don’t regret Edinburgh but it feels saturated and too big for its own good.
I met with the person who runs the Brighton Fringe and several venue owners which just wouldn’t happen in Edinburgh. There’s too many people for that to work. Freestival have done an amazing job in giving me direct numbers for people to help out if anything goes wrong and a support network but Brighton feels like a totally different beast and as such you have a direct relationship with the venue and the people who work there.
They also spoke about other UK Fringe events you can do and reminded us that Edinburgh isn’t the only one about.
After this quick reminder I rushed down to St Anns to die in front of a group of 10 people from 4 or 5 (I lost count) different countries all with varying awareness of English.
This made me wonder if Edinburgh (the biggest arts festival in the world) is for me. Yes, I will probably come up next year for a week to watch stuff, but it’s very unlikely I’d bring a show. It feels too much like an up hill battle and like you’re following Lemmings off a cliff with the first Lemming having good intentions but everyone else not knowing why they’re following.
Ok, so this explanation has fallen apart somewhat but the truth of the matter is that if you have a good show it doesn’t matter where you do it… word of mouth will happen. As a result the days of getting “discovered” in Edinburgh feel long gone unless you’re willing to play a game of media / PR coverage, stunts and networking. The awards and money men seem to have changed Edinburgh from what I am told but there are other Fringe events which have yet to be tarnished by these damaging forces.
When I get back to London I am going to have to investigate my options further and decide which Festival(s) are the best choices to spend my money / time / effort on.
If you’re a performer, I’d highly recommend you heading down to Fringe Central and looking at the events they’ve got on to see if any can help you. They’re totally free for performers and give you a rare opportunity to talk to industry one-on-one.
Before I begin, I should say a couple came to the show yesterday who read this blog on condition I don’t call them a name. I think the name was “old farts” or something similar, so to them I say: thanks for coming / reading.
I got up on time and left late, which pretty much sums up my Fringe experience so far. No matter how much I plan things they seem to change hourly.
The show got 2 audience members today, a couple (not the ones mentioned above) from the Midlands. I offered to pull the gig as they didn’t look very comfortable (having been sat alone in the back of an Indian restaurant for 15 minutes only to find out they were the only audience it was hardly surprising). They opted to give the show the green light.
I told them the usual show “format” and gave them the option of hearing a bunch of new jokes and ideas which I am working on for 2015… they picked the latter.
This show proved to be one of the most fun ones of the Fringe.
Becoming increasingly bored of your material is a thing most comedians take longer to feel than me. By trying out new ideas and riffing them I was able to get direct feedback from people who have never performed comedy as well as a good length of stagetime to test which ideas were worth pursuing and which I was going to backbench for 2016 (or later).
I left with an amazing adrellaline rush I’d not felt for a while. I get a buzz from coming off stage but by not scripting the jokes and just running with the idea(s) by a few strangers I had to think on my feet and talk normally (and not in the overly rehearsed style I tend to do).
After the gig I walked back home to drop off my bucket. Smug as I’d been able to try a bunch of new bits and feel that most of them had legs, but a little wary of the fact that trying out a joke once is not a full proof system of knowing if it’s a good gag – a lot of off-the-cuff or in-the-moment improvisations are only good the one time, so I was keen to give a few ideas a 2nd go.
Oh Stanford Improv - spot
Although this night is billed as an improv gig only comedians with pre-planned material were on the bill. It was a fun room, albeit a little lukewarm in places. I really had to sell these new ideas and I did none of the stuff I was dropping… which felt great.
I did around 11 minutes of the new stuff and all but one joke hit.
Honestly not felt better about stand up in a while. I felt more “me” on stage (as wanky as that sounds) and I really loved the feeling of improvement. I’d thought on my feet and added the odd word / line on top of bits I’d done in the morning.
Afterwards I chatted with the audience to thank them and we talked about a few name ideas I had for the show for 2015. It was fun to get their direct opinions and feedback on them. It was like a little marketing focus group, but I didn’t have to pay them.
I loved this.
I know Stu from his Comedians Comedian podcast that I listen to a lot. I’ve heard every episode and have been to some of the recordings. He mentioned he was going to be at the Fringe and I ignored the advert. I’ve never seen him before so wasn’t really willing to risk £9 (plus booking fee) on a person I’ve yet to see tell any jokes. Also couldn’t find a good video back in June so I left it.
Yesterday Chortle uploaded a video of him at the Fast Fringe and I loved his bit about the phrase “plenty more fish in the sea”. It’s a really cool and intelligent take on the classic phrase so I booked him.
The show itself was really well put together. The flow of it was not fast and not slow, it was just right for his 7pm time slot. He handle the audience and room (it was very hot) amazingly and it clearly shows he’s been doing stand up for more than a decade (and street performing for another 10 years).
He had 2 very smart and well-placed callbacks at the very end of his show that elevated it above a traditional “stand up” show set. It linked the whole thing together and made sense of the earlier story which otherwise seemed a little out of place.
The only “downside” to the show was that he used the “plenty more fish in the sea” bit in the show. I dislike it when I’ve seen the material elsewhere as an advert for the show, but that’s just me. And to be honest I enjoyed hearing it live.
I had planned to do another spot, explore Edinburgh and see Barry Fern’s show… but alas, this was not meant to be. So tomorrow I hope to see Barry (or Saturday, depending). I’ll try and get out of the city next week and I’ve got a spot on the same gig tomorrow, so I don’t have to wait too long to check to see if the other jokes were one hit wonders.