Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Drinks, poker, hand holding and pow!

Monday arrived to a surprisingly OK voice and the knowledge that my friend Jo was coming up for a few days and just when I could really have used a couple of early nights, I was definitely not going to get them. She arrived shortly after my Monday TB show which was surprisingly nice and I packed her on a bus back to the flat (Well I was already living with TWO girls, why not three?) so she could chill out for an hour and freshen up before coming to TLMCC. I'm going to stop talking about my shows now. Suffice to say that bar Tuesday afternoon they were all really good fun. I'll round up my feelings on them in the next blog. Right now there's fun to be had.

We had dinner and then got up to the Loft bar in time for me to bump into Arthur Smith. I'd been wanting to see him to try and get a slot on his "P**sed Up Chat Show" so I could unofficially open it. For details of what happened there, look here. As soon as my back was turned she'd bumped into Danny Ward and the next thing I knew they were holding hands and posing for photographs. This isn't as random as it sounds - she's got a history of holding hands with comedians in pubs but this is the first time it's been caught on film. It also gave me a plot to hatch.

Here's Jo holding hands with Danny Ward, comedian par excellence.

Booze flowed, the night drew out and I don't know what time we went home, but (flatmate) Susan was still in the coughing state of near death I had left her that afternoon. I can skip most of Tuesday afternoon. and cut to Tuesday night. Jo had a guest ticket for Danny's AAA show in Pleasance Courtyard and I had a date with the annual comedians poker tournament. We bumped into Chandrika Chevli (Freelance voice woman) and I left Jo in the hands (once again) of DW. Chad and I strolled up to Gilded Balloon where, after a couple of bizarre phone calls, we did actually rendezvous with Kevin Shepherd and Hannah Oldman - a couple of facebook comedy poker types that I had agreed to share a cab with out to the Circus casino in Fountainbrdge Park. Far less mucking about than last year resulted in (within half an hour of our arrival) the following comedy types present:

Andy Smart (The Man I came second to last year)
Andre Vincent ("Pokerman" and occasional comedian)
Christophe Davidson (Canadian comedian and 80s Rock Star)
Ria Lina (Slight comedy multi-mother)
A woman called Dana who may have been something to do with poker
Richard Vranch (Comedy Store Player)
Lee Simpson (Comedy Store Player)
A bloke called Phil
Myself (last year's runner-up)
Hannah Oldman (Comedy Agent)
Kevin Shepherd (Comedian)
Chandrika Chevli (As discussed)
Dave Gorman (Minor Celebrity)
Jason John Whitehead (Canadian comedian with woman's hips)

Twenty quid buy in, twenty quid add-on after an hour, prize money split between first and second place and the MS Society. Serious faces. Well, serious faces on one table. Our table had an absolute hoot as Chandrika quickly tired of the game and threw all her chips at Dave and Ria Before scampering off to "Karaoke Circus" to watch Richard Herring singing "I Will Survive". This left Dave and Ria as chip eaders on the table and frankly none of us ever got near them. The game started at midnight and wrapped up about 3.45am. I finished 5th. The important thing was this though: Andy Smart finished about 12th. To understand why this is relevant, It may be worth me telling you that he won last year's game by knocking me out in the final double-header. I have born hime a grudge for an entire twelve months. Cheeky grin or no, he was PaulB enemy number one until is early exit. There was no shame in 5th, I never got a card to be honest and only won two hands all night. Ria beat Dave in the head-to-head, which pleased the rest of us no end. He'd been ahead from the start and altogether intolerable in his constant analysis of how badly the rest of us were doing. It was brilliant.

We had an hour in The Loft and I got a cab home about 5am. Wednesday was largely a non-event, other than my shows (Which were great) and I was glad to be home early and coughing up into my pillow.

Thursday was Jo's last day and we'd got her booked solid with shows which left me free to do my own nonsense all day. If any of it comes back to me, I'll let you know. By the time we met up with Duncan Oakley in "Sin" we had already been persuaded to go to Banshee Labyrinth where Andrea the sound/bar man was having his weekly open mic gig in the room where I do my TB show. We we joined by Trevor Lock and (I think ) Jay Handley as well as one or two others. Andrea got my guitar. It was packed. I did "Everybody Dies" it was still busy. Duncan jumped up on drums with me and we did "Should I stay or Should I go". Half the crowd left. Undeterred, we belted out a very fast version of "Wild Thing" with me screaming "Triple time, Oakley! Triple time!" as drumsticks went flying, entire strings were missed and he ended up playing cymbals with his head. Trevor said it was the highlight of his festival. Andrea (fortunately) was laughing. We left before we did any more damage.

The Brown Stripes

NOW there was hand-holding to be done and camera at the ready, I set about arranging a number of impromptu photo-shoots over the next couple of hours as wine flowed and bonds were made. Here are a couple of the more choice results:

Kevin Shepherd

Matt Forde and Mick ferry
To see all the album, you'll have to already be a facebook friend of Jo's, or Dave Williams. it was yet ANOTHER late night and left me with only the last weekend to deal with. I'll deal with it soon.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Will I ever learn? NO! I WILL NEVER LEARN!

Friday evening was a non-event. I just got the bus home and had a quiet night in the flat to get over my cold as best I could ready for what I expected to be a very busy Saturday. It was. It began with me arriving a little late for Tweeting Beauty and not having long to set up. The show before me was packed so I was reassured that I would be busy anyway and so made the excellent decision to resolutely not flyer. It was packed again and possibly my best show of the run so far, also reflected by the best bucket. I'm sorry to go on about my bucket but it's a constant amusement to me that after performing stand up professionally for two decades I am reduced, at Edinburgh, to begging for spare change. Physically I also felt a lot better and although not back to full health was certainly on the mend. I headed up to Buffs Club for my 7.30pm show which was again packed (I love Saturdays) but despite the audience's efforts the show was a damp squib. I've been too generous to too many open mic spots this festival and they have let me down with their terribleness. I don't know why they don't see what I see. They go on stage, die on their arses in often unusual ways, come off, unblinking and then ask for another spot after the gig...

...Admittedly there was a blind, cowboy-hatted drunkard who heckled all the way through the show (until I asked him to leave - he did - but in tragi-comic fashion by getting up and walking directly into the cupboard at the back of the room rather than the door to the left of it) but nevertheless - pull your trousers up, new comedians! We still had a decent take after the show, drinks were bought and the night had very much begun. My friend Fenella showed up with what was revealed to be NO PLANS so we went out for a curry, ordered too much of it, had another beer and then I walked her towards the Underbelly so she could go and see the Wilfredo show that we had failed to see on Thursday. I think I forgot to tell you about this. Her friend Matt does a character called "Wilfredo" that she really wanted me to go and see with her. We eventually procured tickets and were then led directly into the wrong room where I sat down and watched three women doing something I couldn't comprehend on stage. Fenella hadn't even sat down. She had done a "Revolving Door" on the thing, realising we had been directed into the wrong room. When I realised she wasn't there, I also got up and walked out again. As drive-by gig-crashing goes, it was quite impressive. The clueless door monkey checked our tickets and assured us that it was indeed, the right show. We told him that it wasn't and scuttled off, unable to find the show we were supposed to. Afterwards we met up with Wilfredo himself as well as a couple of movers and shakers for a drink before removing ourselves to the Loft.

I say this because after I left Fenella I removed myself to The Loft, getting there around half eleven. I dropped into a conversation with Jools Constant and a rather lovely (and bizarre) woman called Jen who claims to be able to get you to give up smoking by sticking a candle up your bottom and getting you to do breathing exercises, all in the name of Yoga. She's from Las Vegas but hasn't been there for fourteen years. Some more of the usual suspects began to appear and it wasn't long before there were also Fenella (Fresh from finally seeing Wilfredo and gushing about it), Pam Ford, the Ricketts/Welsh axis, Paul Zenon, Jason John Whitehead (With his woman's thighs) and various other reprobates. It was a really good fun night, the booze was flowing and I was rather upset when a particularly bolshy doorman walked over to us and told us to drink up because the bar was closing. I looked at my watch. It was nearly 5am.

I got a cab back, made pate on toast, had a confusing conversation with flatmate Grainne about whether pigs were indeed as intelligent as three year olds or not (She ended the discussion by passing out) and went to bed. Obviously I woke up with no voice, a terrible cold and the resignation that I really am a complete idiot.

Susan (My other flatmate) was also as sick as a dog and demanded I take her to the chemists to procure various medicines, tinctures and linctuses to help her through the day. That was followed by a trip out to a Toby Carvery for Sunday lunch. As usual I took us on a road that seemed to be bereft of places to eat. As usual we got one just as I was about to turn round. The chef had also lost his voice and seemed a little too obsessed with Yorkshire puddings for my liking. He had an ace in the hole though - THERE WAS MASHED POTATO! It was actually a really good dinner, the lamb was excellent, the choice of vegetables perfect, the gravy marvelous and most importantly, THERE WAS MASHED POTATO. We got back fairly late, I missed a bus and didn't get to The Banshee Labyrinth (Home of "Tweeting Beauty") until about five to four, thus relieving me of the necessity of flyering. It didn't matter - the show was busy again and a very understanding audience (in lieu of my lack of voice) enjoyed what was probably the best show to date (I know I keep saying that but as the run goes on everything's getting honed a little more and I'm enjoying doing it a bit more every day as well). Joss (my agent) finally showed up to see it (She was late) and informed me that one the previous week had been reviewed, relatively favourably. I had an orange juice with her (Even I wasn't so daft as to drink when my voice was that bad) and then rocked back up to The Buffs Club, where I enjoyed tea, iced water and another opportunity to put on two open mic acts in the show who both bombed. They asked me for advice afterwards. I gave them it in no uncertain terms, to the effect that there was too much waffle in the build ups to their punchlines and that they didn't have enough of those either. Cruel to be kind? possibly. At my wits' end? Probably. A large crowd were brought down by a terrible show (none of us were on top form) and the smallest bucket of the run (At either show) reflected their chagrin. I did the decent thing and got out of there, walked down to Canon's Gait to see if I could get a slot at PBH & Some Comedians later in the week and he said they had a gap right there and then and would I do it. He very kindly managed to orchestrate me going on last. My planned early night was completely kaiboshed, the gig itself was under par, my own performance was lacking, to say the least (Well I could hardly talk) and the whole pointless exercise finally drew to a close at about twenty to midnight. By the time I got back up to South Bridge the buses had stopped running and I had to get a cab home. I finally got round to eating and sat up with Susan for a bit. We watched a programme about Formula One drivers being killed in the 60s and 70s and I collapsed into bed about half one. Today is Monday. Some of my voice has miraculously returned. I'm going to try and take it easy. Wish me luck.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

A podcast, a loss of legs, light relief and yet more illness.

I have just realised I have a few days to catch up on here. To say this year's Fringe Festival is going a bit fast is something of an understatement. By doing two shows a day of my own a large chunk of my time is spent (Well, about 2pm to 9pm to be precise) just sorting stuff out and living with people for the first time in over four years has also been an adjustment so I've just not really noticed the days pass.

Boring paragraph over.

Last Tuesday evening I came back straight after "The Lastminutecomedy Club" to make my podcast Punky! Radio . It was a ground-breaking cross-border Scottish Special and the first time Tony (my Nottingham-based co-host) and myself have actually managed to record the show whilst being in two different countries at the same time. The results, I think, stand up OK. An early night followed as I was still getting over a sore throat and Wednesday promised to be a big day.

It was.

It started at 1.45pm with a disappointing performance in front of six year olds as I once again took on "Huggers", Mike Belgrave & Nick Coppin's kid-friendly family-fum show which had cruelly received a solitary one star review off some student idiot (no experience necessary) critic working for nothing for some two-bit publication who said he would "Rather stick a pool cue up his urethra" than go to the show again. It's aimed at the under-tens. How can he get angry about a show for kids? It's this kind of reviewing that is the worst aspect of The Edinburgh Festival. There are few enough family shows as it is, this particular one is free AND IS AIMED PRIMARILY AT THE UNDER TENS. I can only think the reviewer in question didn't understand the jokes. Anyway, I had another crack at it and didn't do as well as before, although in my defence, there were only about four children there. The fifteen or so adults who came in half way through (By mistake) but stayed anyway turned out to be a godsend however and pretty much laughed at everything that everyone said. I had a bit of time to kill so allowed myself a couple of pints with comedy buddies before "Tweeting Beauty" (Which I am reluctant to shorten to "TB").

My own show went relatively well and a couple of comedy mates watched it and gave relatively favourable reviews (Well we're never going to be that flattering towards each other) and I decided to treat myself by going to see Frank Sanazi (finally) after threatening to go for a while. I got a beer. His show's great fun. I posted the flyer in the previous blog so check back for details. He's running the show with his buddies Osama Bing Crosby (Although he hasn't heard from him in a while) and Saddami Davis Junior. The attention to detail is terrific and the songs are great. My particular favourites are the opener "Third Reich" (sung to the tune of "That's Life") and "Bad Bad Chairman Mau". I had to leave before the end as I had my other show to do (of course). I didn't fancy the usual Guinness so was knocking back red wine before, during and after it. The show went fine. After the gig I met up with Joss, my agent, for dinner in that Turkish place I'm always on about but whose name constantly escapes me. We drank quite a lot of red wine as well. Then we went to City Cafe where (I personally) drank quite a lot more red wine. Then I completely lost control of my legs in bizarre and comedy fashion. This left me unable to walk in a straight line but being compos mentis enough to be aware of the hilarity of my situation. I bumbled and careered around Hunters Square and up on to The Royal Mile where Joss (Acting responsibly as my agent) decided that there was no way we could go to The Loft Bar (As I had suggested, still refusing to believe that "Crazy Legs" Edwards was anything other than 100% fit) and that she should instead get me in to a taxi. One was procured, we said our goodbyes and I returned home to find an extra girl in the flat, making it a total of three brunettes and a man without the use of his lower half. I didn't stay up very long.

On Thursday I woke up with the beginnings of what has proved to be at least a 48-hour cold. Practically every comedian who comes to the festival gets "Edinburgh Flu" at some point over the three and a half weeks and it's normally blamed on a number of factors: Performing at too many shows/shouting too much whilst flyering, drinking too much/not eating properly/too many late nights but this year I'm only putting it down to one thing - the weather. The bastard weather. It's been horrendous - truly awful. We've had two or three days of biblical rain and cold followed by a few hours of sunshine to kid us thinking we can leave our umbrellas at home quickly followed by sudden darkenings of cloud and further downpours that we get caught in completely unprepared. This was unfortnate as my friend Fenella was arriving for a few days of fun in the 'Burgh and had requested my presence as her Thursday guide. Obviously I met her at "TB" (I'm only calling it that when I am suffering from it). Obviously we started drinking, obviously I took her to see Frank Sanazi, obviously we kept drinking, obviously she then came to The Lastminutecomedy Club, obviously we kept drinking. Obviously we then went for a curry on The Royal Mile. Obviously we carried on drinking. Obviously we then went to The Three Sisters to catch a bit of the "Shaggers" show. Obviously we then went to The Loft Bar, obviously the booze flowed as we bumped into Radio 5's Bobby Prior, comedian Jools Constant, Rayguns Look Real Enough, Ian Franklin, Kevin Shepherd, Laura Levites, Wouter Meijs and other people that I will no doubt be reminded of. Obviously (As we all carried on drinking) they all told me how hilarious I had been on Monday night (Remember that? I don't). Obviously I was relieved to find that I had only been entertaining and not unduly offensive. I was particularly pleased not to have upset Laura (The American comediienne par excellence) as I was absolutely convinced I had. Obviously we were still there at 3am. Obviously I was leathered again.

If I've learnt anything from that experience it's that if you're planning on going up to a promoters/agents/comedians/movers&shakers bar with the intent of apologising to anyone you see for your drunken actions on a previous visit, it's probably best not to get smashed before you go up there.

Another aspect of Thursday had been the rather unexpected involvement of the Corporate Comedy Monolith that is "Avalon". Avalon are a very large UK comedy agency and yesterday afternoon called me to see if I could fit one of their acts, Lee Nelson, onto the bill at TLMCC. I said of course and for him to show up at 7.30pm. They called me back an hour or so later to say that since they were letting me have Lee Nelson for TLMCC that they wanted to know what time he was going on. I explained that they could name the time that suited them as I was flexible, but pointed out that I was letting their act do my gig and not the other way around. At 10.30pm the ycalled again, this time saying that as they were doing me a favour and letting me have Lee Nelson, that I  had to tell them exactly what time he would be on stage was he was very busy. I pointed out that I  was doing themthe favour, that I didn't care whether Lee Nelson showed up or not, that it was 10.30pm at night and that I was out with friends. I put the phone down. The next afternoon I got a lovely text from Avalon confirming that Lee would be with me for 7.30pm and would it be ok if he went on first. I said, of course. He showed up with three other people from Avalon who all came in to watch him. He did really well. He was really funny and to be fair they were really nice. When they promptly upped sticks as soon as he left the stage and went to walk out I screamed at them "Put some money in the bucket! You are Avalon the multi-million pound comedy company feared across the lands! Put money in my bucket!" You know what - they did, even Lee Nelson himself - and they weren't tight about it either. I reckon there was an extra twelve quid in the bucket thanks to them and I am going to give it all to Amnesty International.

Oh there'll be some photos to go with this blog when I get a minute but I'm in a rush now...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Cancellations, sell outs and feet with fingers on them

Well I got my voice back, anyway. I got it back by staying in on Saturday AND Sunday night. Quite remarkable, really but ultimately very sensible. Saturday particularly was a good idea as it's obviously the night that EVERYONE in Edinburgh goes out and as I returned home around 10pm I found myself glad to be out of the madness. I even went out for Sunday lunch with flatmate Susan and after a drive around Edinburgh's Southern extremities we settled on a country Chef & Brewer for a carvery. If you're thinking I've got someone else in to write today's blog, don't worry - it all went wrong on Monday.

I got a text from my agent on Sunday night confirming me for her lunchtime showcase show in The Pleasance. I absolutely love that show but it was the first time I'd MC-ed it and it's not actually an easy gig to compere. This pill is sugared however by the fact that the MC gets FIFTY QUID CASH! What a start to the week! I was FIFTY QUID UP and it wasn't even three o'clock! After exit-flyering the gig, I legged it around to Whistle Binkies on Niddry Street to open for Simon Lilley's "Asparagus Wee And Other Stories" which was fun. Then I doggedly refused to flyer at all and was thus surprised when around twenty people showed up for "Tweeting Beauty". It wasn't a great show and my bucket was rather paltry which negated a bit of the earlier success but it wasn't enough to put me off. I had a chat with Frank Sanazi outside his show just up from me at The Hive.

We settled on a quick pint, obviously. Niddry Street is brilliant. There's Bannermans down the bottom, then The Banshee Labyrinth (Where I am), then The Hive, then The Globe and the aforementioned WB at the top. All of them have shows on during the fringe and the street could have a festival of its own. I carried on over North Bridge and went to "Snax" for a very disappointing chicken burger. "Snax" is on W. Register Street where my 7.30pm show is and the other day I had the best double cheese & bacon burger I have ever eaten. They're clearly putting all their efforts into that though because the chicken one as crap. Anyway, feeling far better about my voice, I hit the Guinness in Buffs Club as I awaited both acts AND an audience for half seven. Fortunately they all appeared and the gig was great fun. I returned to the booze and got stuck in to some red wine, which then promptly ran out, so switched to rose. Ten o'clock arrived and I (barely) got in to Robin Ince's show as it was so rammed. I did, however and it was worth it. I even held his bucket for him. Now that's a bucket. He got about seventy people in and must have taken at least £200. I told him he could buy me a drink. He did - with a chaser. Feeling rather relaxed, I headed over t Hanover Street and a pub called The Jekyll & Hyde to catch Laura Levites' show. I was the only person there. Her support act went on anyway, bizarrely - and proceeded to berate me. I pointed out that I was 100% of the crowd and she really ought to be nicer. Then a couple walked in from the bar who had overheard our "discussion". The support act finished and on came Laura in all her titian angst-ridden glory. What followed was forty five minutes of a girl sat down with her head in her hands growling into a microphone. It was brilliant. Laura is from New York but lives in LA. She clearly is not over-keen on Edinburgh. I suggested afterwards that we went and got drunk. I of course already was, but hadn't realised, because I was drunk. We got a cab over to The Gilded Balloon and went up into the Loft bar. I'm afraid the rest is a bit of a blur. I believe I managed to not upset Noel Faulkner and his Comedy Cafe crew who were all there, but I can't be sure. I don't think I upset Laura in any way as she has today accepted my friend request on facebook. When I got home I appear to have only drunk-dialled one person. I woke up at about half past one to several texts, none of which related to the previous night's events. One was from my mate Alex who had to drop out of my "Lastminutecomedy Club" show tonight. It's not too hard replacing comedians in Edinburgh (There are quite a few around). It was absolutely throwing it down for most of the day and after successfully negotiating the bus (I'm now saving a tenner a day by catching them - should really have done that last week...) I again resolutely refused to flyer my show and was AGAIN surprised to have a busy room, reflected by a decent bucket. As I relaxed in the Banshee I got a text from flatmate Susan asking me to come to her show as she had important people in and wanted as many bodies as possible. I thus had to leg it in the pouring rain over to Stand 4 where it was on at 5.55pm. I just made it and even had time to dry my hair under the hand dryer in the gents. The show is lovely - really lovely. I'd recommend it to anyone actually. My praise doesn't come easily (As I'm sure you've noticed) but there are some really funny bits in it. Here's the flyer

I then walked back through the rain with my Darth Vader bag on my head in an attempt to keep a bit dry. It didn't really work. I dried off at the gig and (despite again refusing to flyer) had a nice fullish room for the show, which featured an Australian woman on the front row who my first act, Al Cowie, persuaded to take her shoes and socks off and show us the exceptionally long toes she claimed to have. She wasn't wrong. They're really long. REALLY long. He remarked that it looked like she had fingers on her feet.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Inevitability on the corner of Otway & Vine.

It was always going to happen. I was always going to lose my voice. I just didn't think it would happen this quickly and now I'm in a right mess. It's now Saturday and I've been in Edinburgh for six days. In that time I've performed at twenty shows, been in probably as many bars, failed to eat as well as I should have done and lacked warm clothes in what has been a terrible week for weather, even by the usual standards of this near-polar extremity of Northern Europe. I also had another largely sleepless night to kick it all off thanks to the continued presence of David Whitney. I let he and his girlfriend stay at mine for an extra night (He had been kicked out of his own digs), this time opting to sleep on the couch of a comedian friend of mine. I don't want to go into details, but it wasn't really very conducive to catching some zees.

"Tweeting Beauty" has been alarmingly successful, almost to my chagrin. I wanted to spend the first few days honing the show ready for a big push next week (And the following) but, despite my efforts to not put a single poster up added to a laughable lack of flyering, the gig's full every day and I've had to sharpen up pretty quickly, to the extent that I've had to alter the show a bit and drop out a couple of things that were just going to be too unwieldy to manage. "The Lastminutecomedy Club" has been a little more problematic as it's been fraught with comedians not showing up and me having to scrabble around to get whoever is around to fill in. We've had a couple of great shows but there was one when I only had one act (Aaron Twitchen) arrive and ended up having to do about forty minutes myself. When a gig's been billed as a compilation show with three "Great acts" it was unsurprising when the "Bucket" for the day was under four quid despite there being over twenty people in the room. I love the bucket. I love the laughs I get out of it and I love the idea that comics such as myself who have been performing for two decades (or more in some cases) are reduced to begging at the end of each show in the hope that people will consider them to be worth at least a pound each.

There is also, bizarrely, a culture of lying about one's bucket, whereby several "Comedians" ramp up their bucket statuses like drunken fisherman at the end of a day by the river. It's been a staple of Edinburgh for comics to lie about numbers at their shows. "It's brilliant - sold out every night" actually equates to "I'm begging you - please come and bring your friends, I'll guest list you" but the bucketlying is hilarious and occasionally turns things on their head. The latest craze seems to be how much people can claim to have got "Per person". I've been laughing at the amount of upstart chucklemakers I've heard saying "Yeah it was amazing - one bloke gave me twenty quid!" or even better - "Yeah I only had ten in but when I looked there was eighty quid in the bucket". These guys are never around to buy you a drink when you need one though - even though they've probably had one off you earlier.If you're interested, the average donation per person seems to be between £1 and £2 and my own stuff reflects that. You get the odd fiver but I also had a group of six older people in my show the other day who all walked out at the end with their heads down and their hands stuffed firmly in their pockets. This is when it descends into downright rudeness. There is no requirement that you must pay at the end of a show you have entered for free, but come on if you've sat and watched a show for the best part of an hour that someone has clearly gone to a lot of trouble to put together for you, the least you can do is give them a quid, surely.

Here's a man who really DOES deserve a pound. This is Mike Belgrave.  There's an all-female show that was short of an act so he put on a frock and wig and took to the stage. Obviously he was the highlight, not least because he was arguably the best looking woman on the bill.

My first few nights were spent predictably in the Loft Bar and the Library Bar of the Gilded Balloon, where I've bumped into a lot of the usual Edinburgh reprobates but also a few comedians at the fest for the first time, all of whom already seem to hate it. It's like the machine that Zaphod Beeblebrox goes into to be taught a lesson as to his stature in relation to the rest of the cosmos. As you walk around Edinburgh you see A1 posters of your mates looming down on you as if to say "Look how well I'm doing!". Photos of people you know aren't as good as you on the sides of buses and five star reviews of comedians you've never heard of that you know probably slept with the reviewer or at the very least, paid him or her off.

I bumped into Tim on The Royal Mile. We've know each other for the best part of two decades and as his star ascends mine seems to have somewhat stalled.He seems increasingly embarrassed to see me and even appears to be saying "Me success, You! Do better!" in the above poster.
The truth is that we get out of Edinburgh what we put in to it. I've put a lot of effort into getting my show ready. I've also put a lot of effort into drinking, not wearing appropriate clothing, staying out too late and not eating properly. The result is my shows are busy and appear to be well received but I'm hardly able to perform them because I'm a drunk old voiceless bastard (aged 41) who is only being saved by the sock puppet on his arm. Would I be anywhere else right now? Not on your nelly. I was talking to Robin Ince the other day (Another Free Fringe stalwart) and he went as far as to say I looked "Happy". Admittedly this was shortly after John Otway had been rubbing his pelvis into my back whilst talking to the former Science-based gag machine, blissfully unaware of the fact that he was doing so.

John Otway - Frottage monster par excellence. He's yet another seasoned pro to embrace the PBH Free Fringe and The World's a better place for it, even though he appears to be feeling that up as well, the dirty sort.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Well it might be Edinburgh now but there's Luton to talk about first...

Day one of my eighty-shows-in-thirty-five-days laughstravaganza began in my mate Steve's pub in Luton last Thursday night. As usual the audience were great fun. As usual I shouted "Bumming" a lot. As usual it didn't end when it should have done or in a fashion that could be expected - namely, that opening act Anna Keirle would disappear around 3am and headline act Sully O'Sullivan would be found around 4am painting the car park with the contents of his intestines. As usual, I'm blaming Steve has his propensity for feeding guests a bewildering array of shots from around the world to accompany their drinks of choice. Either way, it was a 5am finish.

I was out of there not long after midday as I had things to do. I left Sully And Anna there under instructions to be at mine for 6pm for fish and chips (it being Friday). My business was got about. They did indeed arrive by 6pm, in body at least but were clearly broken of spirit. Anna in particular looked what I can only describe as vulnerable and described herself as "Over-rummed". That night's gig in Hitchin was remarkable only insomuch that neither of my guest comedians ventured an alcoholic drink at all. After the show we went to The Vic where I joyously quaffed a guest ale called "St. Peter" as they sipped mineral water and went no further than a ginger beer. Bizarrely, they did however insist on kebabs afterwards. Kebabs are not a foodstuff I have ever considered whilst sober.

Fortunately they returned to form on Saturday for the monthly gig in Letchworth which I have to say was an absolute joy and possibly the highlight of the weekend. The apres-party for this one was TheArena Tavern and a good number of the audience again joined us for a not insignificant amount of "Goat's Gash" (Our comedy shot of choice). We left there when they closed and not before, obviously. Six of us retired Chez Paul and I cracked open the Cannabis Absinthe to celebrate. I can confirm that it is - and remains - cheeky.

It would have been better if I had done none of the above as on Sunday I had to drive to Edinburgh to begin my three week run at the festival. Better preparation would have been a high fibre diet, plenty of rest and quite honestly, rehearsal. That I used the prior seventy two hours largely for hedonism comes as no real surprise, but anyway. Anna and Sully departed well after lunchtime and I wasn't in the car until gone 3pm, enjoyed a late lunch procured at Baldock Services but eaten in transit and arrived in Scotland's bejeweled capital around six hours later. Obviously it was throwing it down with rain. It nearly always is. If I only had three words to describe Scotland in general the three words I would use would be "Dark and wet". I found the accommodation I was sharing and hung about long enough to meet up with both of my female flatmates before driving in to town to check out the venue for my afternoon show, "Tweeting Beauty". it was brilliant. The show is in The Banshee Labyrinth Music Room, a tiny little basement bar with a stage at one end, a sound desk at the other and seating for about thirty people. I would have skipped home but thought it was better to drive.

I hardly slept. You'd have thought I'd have been out like a light. I gave up trying and got up to get all my kit ready for the day, had beans on toast and got a cab in to town about 2pm, ready for my first show - a ten minute opener for Simon Lilley as part of his "Asparagus Wee And Other Stories" show. A nice sized audience in a nice room were nice. I got to my venue (About three doors up), picked up some flyers and began leafleting in earnest. I gave up about five minutes later. Flyering really is depressing. I justified this by deciding that I didn't really want many people in to the first show anyway. Sadly - they insisted on turning up anyway and I got pretty much a full house, which put a bit more pressure on than I really wanted. I all I can say is that I got away with it. The show is not the finished article by any means but they all laughed in the right places, I got a few extra lines out if it for future shows and nobody left before the end. Phew.

Then it was really just a matter of heading up to the other venue that I expected to be far further away than it was - yet another result. I had set myself an "8.30pm" rule on beer consumption but reneged on the deal with myself my cunningly adding a "1" to the eight and invoking the 24-hour clock, thus making it the 18.30 rule, which I then broke by about forty five minutes. Well - they'd got that magic Guinness in the bar that gets creamy via electrolytes - how could I refuse? I did practically no flyering for the show, the gig is on a back street that two of the comedians had trouble finding, it's not in a good part of town for comedy and, lo and behold, it was packed. For the first show I had Susan Murray (flatmate), Danny Ward (Who shares an agent with me) and Howard Read (Who lives in the same town as me). It was a good decision. They were all great.

Susan and I went for a curry in a place recommended by comedian Jon Moloney. His recommendations are as good as his jokes. It was excellent. She went home to sleep hopefully for the first time in a week (The Fringe is a good recipe for insomnia) and I walked to The Pleasance to catch Danny Ward's "AAA" show that features himself, Matt Price and another bloke. It was another full show. Post-gig I met up with David Whitney and his significantly better half. We hot-footed it to the Library Bar of The Gilded Balloon and drank like monkeys. The drinking was interrupted by conversations with an array of comedy types including a bird called Jess that I'd never met before and the lovely Carey Marx, that I have. I demanded we leave around 3am. Whitney plus one had been left homeless by an evil genius. I call him that because I let them stay in my room instead, giving up my bed for them as I slept on the floor on cushions from the sofa. OR RATHER I DIDN'T BECAUSE DAVID WHITNEY SNORED, GASPED WHEEZED AND HUFFED ALL NIGHT TO MY UTTER DISTRACTION AND NOW I HATE HIM MY DAY HAD BEEN NIGH ON PERFECT AND NOW I HATE HIM HATE HIM HATE HIM.


Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Calm Before The Storm

So this is it. Tonight I embark on a run of gigs that leaves me with only four nights off between now and September 12th. What I have managed to set myself is quite ridiculous. Over the next three days I'm running my comedy shows in Luton, Hitchin & Letchworth. On Sunday I drive to Edinburgh. On Monday I begin a twenty date run of not one but two shows at the Fringe Festival. on August 28th I drive further North to do a gig in Stonehaven which I booked in because I have never been and it was probably the only chance I'd get to go. I drive home on the 29th, have the 30th to unpack/launder/pack again before flying from Gatwick on the 31st to do a week of shows in Cyprus. I return on September 7th. I then have my shows in Hitchin, Letchworth and Biggleswade to do on the 9th, 10th and 11th. That's right - I bookend this entire thing with gigs in central Bedfordshire. Whilst in Edinburgh I am (already) additionally doing a few family friendly poetry gigs, showcase shows, a couple of radio things and (no doubt) some late night comedy gigs that I did last year. Conservatively, I expect to do around eighty shows over the next five weeks. There is also the outside chance that on September 8th I may get fired out of a cannon for Sky TV.

Of the two Edinburgh shows, "Tweeting Beauty" is by far the more problematic. It has been beset by problems. An oversight by The PBH Free Fringe left me under the impression that I was not doing it at all until February of this year which left me with four months less to write it than I had foreseen (I had effectively shelved it). Then there were problems getting the flyers sorted as my laptop effectively packed up. When I finally got it written, I performed the only preview of it last Sunday at a mini-festival in Balham. When I got to the venue, my room was the only one without a PA system and I had been billed as "Paul B. Dennis". The show before me over-ran and then when I came to finally do my show, It quickly became apparent that I wasn't struggling to fill fifty minutes after all - I had about three hours of bloody material that I've spent the last week editing down to manageable lumps because the jokes were largely lost in the verbosity. I got nowhere near the end of it by the time I ran out of time and apologetically bought the entire audience a drink in the downstairs bar afterwards.

The good news is that thanks to the procurement of a blonde wig, the development of the phrase "Brief Synopsis!" and the fashioning of a sock puppet par excellence I am now good to go, well, other than the little mp3 player that I bought for twenty five quid in Argos which I'm having trouble sussing out how to operate. It's all right though. I've got until Monday to work it out and I'm bound to bump into young people over the weekend.

I know I've put this (and the following) photo in the previous blog but, well, I'm advertising it, aren't I?

The other show I'm doing in Edinburgh is a straightforward comedy show that I'm hosting with different acts nightly. I've got some great bills for it and it looks like being a really good laugh. Towards the end of the festival I'm even hoping to bring a female comedian out of retirement for an absolute exclusive. She knows who she is...

...And I'm proud to advertise them too - this whole year so far has been a LOT of hard work (And drinking).
As last year, once I get to Edinburgh I'm hoping to blog at least every other day about how everything's going, who I've bumped into and what scrapes I've ended up in. I'll give it until a week today before I've lost my voice, my sanity and most probably my liver.