Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Three: That's the Magic Number.

Today’s show was one of the most fun of the run, despite only having three people in the audience, which serves to reiterate you can never predict how a gig on the Fringe will be.

Yesterday, I had about ten people in (and a reviewer) but got the impression they felt intimidated by what they perceived to be a small turnout, yet today, the three punters present were laughing enthusiastically throughout and often joining in. It was a breeze to do as their response gave me an extra energy kick that probably wouldn’t have surfaced if they hadn’t been so keen, which was the opposite of what I’d expected before the show began.

This morning, I’d checked sales to discover I had no-one booked (the only time this has happened since my two cancelled previews at the beginning of the run) so I left for the venue unsure if I’d even be doing a show. Then, a few minutes before kick-off, two women arrived and sat together on one side of the room, which left me anticipating another ‘crick in the neck performance’ until a guy walked in alone and sat on the other side with seconds to space. Even with the extra attendee, I still gave my techie Michael a roll of the eyes and steeled myself for what I assumed would be a difficult gig.

Spin forward an hour and I left The Caves elated by how enjoyable the show had been. I got back to my digs to find a couple of tweets from the women saying what a good time they’d had, which was a lovely gesture, as I don’t tend to get a lot of Twitter feedback (despite giving my account a little plug at the end of every gig).

I’m glad the show was fun as circumstances this morning could have been a little frustrating without it. Before leaving my digs to set up, I received a text from Glyn to say he'd spotted a post on my listing on the EdFringe website suggesting I’d won an award; I had a quick look (before entering the Land of No Phone Reception that is my venue) to see the statement, “Congratulations! You’ve won the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality.”

I decided not to overreact until I’d had the chance to look into it properly after the show. Even Glyn’s text was tentative, saying he wasn't sure if it was genuine, but it might be worth checking with my PR (Glyn knows things are never this simple when it comes to us).

After the show, I found the following post on the Facebook page of the person who orchestrates the awards:

Strong words, but I agree with what an unpleasant a thing it was to do. I’m glad I didn't get too excited about it, but at least today’s show was a good consolation prize.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Are You Taping This?

I like my packs of electrical tape to include a heart-warming family scene.

What’s more likely to bring mother, father and child together than the task of insulating electric cables? It’s a skill that’s been passed from generation to generation, stretching back to when we first harnessed the colossal power of…well...”power.”

Maybe the picture is intended as a metaphor for the physical bond the tape can bring, which like a strong family unit, will never be wrenched apart. Or perhaps I'm over-thinking it; I certainly have previous form in this department.

Today’s been a long day, which is probably why I’ve spent the first few paragraphs of this post talking about LX tape. The show was a little frustrating, in that I couldn’t seem to get the room to relax to the point that they felt able to laugh out loud. It wasn’t that they weren’t enjoying it, but it felt like they were either a little self-conscious due to the relatively low numbers, or perhaps it all felt a little too much for the time of day. I’ve got so used to performing the show at midday - which I also did last year too - that I sometimes forget the audience haven't necessarily adjusted to the idea of watching stand-up yet, even when knowing what they’re coming to see; when there's a small crowd, it’s often luck of the draw as to whether they’ll be thrown by this, which can be compounded by the early start.

In reality, I may be being too hard on myself, or even on the audience. I’ve definitely reached the point now where tiredness is creeping in, and while I’m still managing to give the show as much energy as I can, my mood outside of the show has dropped a bit, purely due to exhaustion at the relentlessness of it all. All the more reason to not spent too long writing now, as that time would probably be better spent getting an early night.

'University Challenged 2017/18: Volume Five (21.08.17)'

After a couple of weeks of gentle, less attention-grabbing characters, it was nice to see a few choice classics crop up on tonight’s University Challenge.

Firstly, we had the most likely contender for a mass murderer of the series thus far. Then there was the inevitable man-child, whose face has yet to be graced with such a thing as a five o’clock shadow. We also had the smug, yet maladjusted loner who might possibly get in league with the aforementioned murderer if not kept apart by another stock character: the Victorian gent; what makes it worse is, the four people I’ve mentioned were all in the same team (see if you can work out which).

See below for tonight’s UC tweets from me:

York Vs. Warwick (21.08.17)

8:02PM: de Sousa hasn't been born yet.

8:04PM: Bindler: MURDERER.

8:05PM: Salter is the lovechild of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and James May.

8:07PM: Bindler wouldn't let you search his lock-up without a warrant.

8:08PM: Maier's "I've fucked up" face.

8:11PM: Longworth owns a Penny-farthing.

8:13PM: Bindler arrives at your flat at twenty past midnight, sweating, covered in blood, demanding you act as his alibi.

8:13PM: Maier, son of Angelos Epithemiou.

8:15PM: Longworth owns a fob-watch.

8:15PM: Maier's celebration face-and-stance. Pleasant.

8:18PM: You wouldn't usually see York's contestants in the same room, let alone the same team.

8:22PM: Keep it on the down-low, but I think Warwick will win.

8:24PM: Maier has a slight air of a young Brian Wilson about the face.

8:25PM: I'll show you my 'lady chapel'.

8:27PM: Salter's a crested tit.

8:28PM: Maier's tache isn't a tache.

8:29PM: Did Maier just do a sarcastic salute? Maier just did a sarcastic salute.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Tissue Paper Stationery.

Much as I’m loath to admit it, the time may have come to retire the envelope I keep my Edinburgh setlist in.

The problem is I’m a strange balance between being slightly obsessive-compulsive and gently superstitious, and once I’ve started doing things a certain way, I hate to change them. It’s not so bad that I can’t leave the house without flicking my bedroom lightswitch off and on twenty-seven times while singing Mad Dogs and Englishman in a Glaswegian accent - I managed to knock that on the head - but altering things at this stage still makes me a little uneasy.

I didn’t have any problems with last year’s envelope as it was made by Tyvek (which is probably the dullest sentence I’ve ever written on my blog in its four-year history). Tyvek envelopes are far more sturdy than conventional envelopes as they’re technically not made of paper (which is my second dullest sentence); they consist of high-density polythene fibres that have been flash-spun, or at least that’s what Wikipedia tells me. Consequently, last year’s envelope is still fully functioning despite accompanying me to Bath, Brighton, Hitchin, Letchworth, London Edinburgh, Leicester and probably a few other places besides, while this year’s is unlikely to survive tomorrow's five-minute walk from my digs to my venue.

The irony is I actually have a few spare Tyvek envelopes with me, but my wife didn’t pick them up for me until after I’d started previewing this year’s show* and once I’d christened a standard envelope with the title David’s ‘Now Who’s a Comedian?’ 2017 Notes I didn’t feel I could go back; like I already intimated: I’m a weirdo.

Perhaps if I’m careful I can stretch my knackered one to the end of Edinburgh and then give my setlist a new home afterwards. It only needs to make it through another seven days for my anxiety to not hit fever pitch. I wonder where one needs to go to get some of those linen gloves they handle historical artefacts with?

*I'm not saying it's her fault.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Thanks Be to Lakesman.

I got back to my digs feeling a little despondent today, to find a lovely message sent to me via the blog, which was perfectly timed, coming at the end of a long day.

It was really nice of them to take the trouble to seek out a way to contact me to tell me they enjoyed it. One of the hardest parts of doing the Fringe alone is remaining positive and energised in the face of such a relentless workload, when the only encouragement you get is from those closest to you (who ironically are geographically far away for the month) and from the audience in the room during the gig itself - and if the houses are occasionally on the small side, those audiences can often be intimidated into silence.

Today’s show was a case in point in that there weren’t many in, but I could at least tell they were enjoying it; two women in particular in fact, who were giggling all the way through, albeit quietly, due to the size of the audience. While I was pleased it went well, the business side of my brain can’t help but be discouraged if I'm often playing to small crowds, or if I’m not getting many press in.

Having said that, it only takes a short walk around Edinburgh to be reminded of just how many shows are in town this month, and how you’re in fact lucky to get an audience at all. This afternoon I received exactly that reminder, when I ventured to the Assembly Rooms on the Mound for the first time (despite this being my fifth Fringe in some form of other) to see my friend Chris in the excellently-pitched new musical, 'Atlantic: A Scottish Story'. Just a quick scan of the venue itinerary above the Box Office window was illustrative of how much competition there is, and how easy it is to be literally lost in the crowd.

Although I enjoyed Chris’ show, my mood dropped a little on the way home, mainly through tiredness, so discovering the reply to yesterday’s blog was a helpful boost that was genuinely appreciated. In truth, I’ve enjoyed the run so far, despite a few challenges, and feel happier about performing alone. I’ve enjoyed doing this year’s show far more than the last one, mainly by not getting too deep or serious about it; I’ve kept my approach light and been more mindful about it  (which I know is a bit of a buzzword, but there’s a lot to be said for applying the technique). Despite this, it’s still often felt like a mountain to climb, but as long as I have the odd bit of encouragement like this, the uphill trajectory will level out a bit.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Always Nice to See Him.

My day’s been floored after reading Sir Bruce Forsyth has passed away.

The man was a legend; a word that’s bandied about too often and too easily in many instances, but not in this case. He came from a stock that has long since departed: the all-rounder who could act, sing, dance, play piano, do comedy, host shows, do anything. He even managed to mock contestants on his game shows in a way that didn’t make you like him any less, which was a talent in itself; I would have paid good money to be on the receiving end of a put-down from Bruce.

When I interviewed Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee with Glyn for our More Than Mostly Comedy podcast, we mentioned Paul’s stint on Strictly and our mutual love of Sir Bruce; unsurprisingly they were both in complete agreement. They spoke with awe of the extensive audience warm-ups he’d do before each show and Paul called him "The Master"; high praise from a man who was pretty exceptional himself.

I went to see Bruce's one man show at the Albert Hall a few years ago, and was genuinely emotional when he walked on stage. Not only was it a delight to see him perform, it was an entertainment master-class; he held the audience spellbound for two hours, displaying energy and vitality that would floor many half his age.

Towards the end he performed a song about friends departed - and whilst he sang, photographs of him alongside many a legendary entertainer flashed up on the big screen. Nat King Cole, Tommy Cooper, Morecambe & Wise, Les Dawson, Ronnie Barker, The Goons...the list went on.

They were all his contemporaries and they are all no longer with us. Now we’ve lost him too. There will never be another like him; he absolutely did do well.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Gentle Approach.

I’m managing to still enjoy myself at the Fringe at this late stage, which feels like a triumph when I consider the emotional roller-coaster of some of my previous fringe experiences.

That’s not to say I’m not tired, frustrated and often riddled with self-doubt, as this is all par-for-the-course. At point of writing I’ve only had one reviewer in - who came today in fact - and a nonplussed agent, and am starting to wonder if this might be my lot, but despite any perceived setbacks, my mood has been predominantly good; I’m still having fun performing and haven’t gone dead behind the eyes or resorted to phoning it in just yet, which is great when I know how susceptible to these things I can be.

Staying well at the Fringe is delicate balancing act that can easily topple to wrong way if not kept gently in check. Even discussing it can feel like a risk. The trick for me has been to not take it too seriously and to keep the festival at arm’s length. I’m eating healthily, haven’t taken on too much and haven't had many late nights, which is advisable when my show starts at midday. Most importantly of all, I meditate regularly and try to approach everything mindfully and not put myself in situations that are likely to trigger any negativity I have the capacity to control. Tiredness and a punishing schedule often go hand in hand with low mood, but as long as I remain gentle with myself within the context of what's an inevitably challenging environment, I’ll come out the other side relatively content with whatever unfolds. Let’s face it: things could be a lot worse; we could have a maniac in the White House who behaves irrationally and has a propensity for overusing exclamation marks.

(Oh SHIT.)