Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad.

I was surprised and amused to discover one of the three jokes I make a point about being the only gags I’ve ever written at the top of my show made it into the i Newspaper’s 50 Best Jokes at this year’s Fringe; what with my line about Anne Boleyn getting into last year’s Telegraph and Comedy Central rundowns, I’ve now got just one joke left to feature somewhere notable to achieve a 100% success rate.

I don't get it.
Joking aside (no pun intended), it was a relief to have something like this happen, as prior to it, I only had a single disappointing review to speak of as the sum total of this year’s coverage - save a couple of Q&A interviews - and I didn’t want that to be the legacy of what’s otherwise felt like a successful run, at least regarding show content; while it wouldn't be the first time, it’s frustrating when you only have an unrepresentative write-up as the online legacy of your run.

It’s funny to be included in another Best of joke collection when it’s so not what I do. It’s a lovely thing to happen and I’m grateful for it, but it’s so unlikely. That said, it’s ironic that this particular joke was picked up, as there were actually a couple of things I submitted this year that I was actually quite proud of that didn't make the grade, whereas this one is knowingly bad. It’s not to be sniffed at and I wouldn’t want it rescinded, but it only goes to show you never quite know what’s most likely to be picked up. It’s particularly special to be included in the ‘i’ as, when a paper with notoriously few pages singles you out, you're even more honoured to be included in it.

Monday, 20 August 2018

'University Challenged 2018/19: Part Four' (20.08.18)

For a terrifying seven-minute period, I thought I’d have to abandon my Twitter coverage of tonight’s episode of University Challenge as my phone froze completely and wouldn’t work.

Thank God I had my laptop to hand, or there would have been at least five people out there deeply disappointed they weren't able read my usual pithy (or take-the-piss-y) commentary. But I wasn’t prepared to let technology stand in my way. If all else failed, I would have sprinted up Arthur’s Seat - as I’m currently staying just around the corner from it - and orated my intended tweets like the Dalai Lama from a mountain top; provided I had sufficient Wi-Fi coverage to watch it on iPlayer that is.

See below for my slightly late-starting social media-based thoughts.

Clare - Cambridge Vs. Hertford - Oxford (20.08.18)

8:37PM: "I'm reading Law..." 


(What is it good for?) 



"Say it again."

8:39PM: Oxford's Woodgate: my favourite scandal.

8:39PM: ....and now the time has come to discuss Taylor's hair.

8:42PM: If Taylor was one of BraveStarr's magic powers, he'd be "hair of a cunt".

8:42PM: Nixon certainly puts his all into pressing that buzzer.

8:44PM: Gurr's sporting some big check.

8:46PM: Gurr gives further weight to my theory that every #UniversityChallenge team has at least one Herr Flick.

8:47PM: "What's your favourite herb, David?" Well, I've always been a bit of a rocket man.

8:48PM: The Beach Boys? The fucking Beach Boys? I Can See For Miles? THE BEACH BOYS?

8:50PM: Whatever it cost to make tonight's episode of #UniversityChallenge was justified by hearing Paxman say the word "indie" like someone's mum.

8:51PM: Paxman has NEVER been kind.

8:53PM: Imagine Paxman imparting bad news. "Your mother is DEAD."

8:56PM: Why do they always back the images in #UniversityChallenge questions with that spermy water graphic?

8:57PM: Can Paxman say Brest some more, please?

8:58PM: Waterway to have a good time.

8:59PM: Sorry for tonight's potty mouth.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

What You Need Tonight.

Tonight I went to see Brian Wilson play The Beach Boys' seminal album Pet Sounds, plus a truckload of his other classics at Edinburgh Playhouse, which was just what the doctor ordered at this stage of my Edinburgh run.

I was glad I managed to secure a ticket a week or so after a bit of an online struggle with Ticketmaster as I knew it would be a treat to look forward to, which was perfectly positioned, what with it being the night before my final day off and a short walk from where I'm staying; I’d much rather be watching him than any comedy show or play on the Fringe as he’s a genuine legend and musical genius - to chose two vastly overused phrases - rolled into one. After The Beatles, McCartney and Dylan, I own more of his material than anyone, so to say I’m a bit of a fan is an understatement.

While I was sat the gig and just prior to it, I essentially live-tweeted my experience (although I put my phone down for the duration of Pet Sounds and most of the rest of his set, so I could be free to enjoy it uninterrupted); here’s a record of my evening:

5:38PM: Wouldn't it be nice if my day ended with me seeing Brian Wilson? It does? GREAT.

6:20PM:  The same amount of time has passed since I last saw Brian Wilson live (premiering Smile at Festival Hall in 2004) as that between the release of Good Vibrations and my birth date. I'm deeply uncomfortable about this.

7:24PM: To be in the same room as the man who co-wrote the most perfect and beautiful pop song of all time - God Only Knows - and hear him sing it is an emotional thing. I'm excited.

7:24PM: (I hope he plays Revolver.)

7:38PM: Chance of crying? Signs point to yes.

7:39PM: My eyes are already watering, thinking about it...and I've seen him before.

7:40PM: Ephgrave's watery-eye view.

7:41PM: How am I supposed to cope with it at this stage of my Edinburgh run?

7:45PM: Tonight I kick off my 1942-born bass-playing Gemini Songwriting-whizz Appreciation Society outing with Brian Wilson, which I round off in December with Paul McCartney.

7:57PM: The support act are reminding me why I need to invest in a loop pedal.

8:29PM: The support - Beet Root Revival - were excellent.

8:31PM: What if I've made a mistake and I've actually booked for the Mike Love Baseball Cap Experience?

8:32PM: Here's hoping Brian encores with Vegetables, with Macca on Lead Carrot.

8:42PM: Unlikely orchestral version of Little Deuce Coupe on the house music.

8:43PM: If he closes with Love and Mercy I may struggle to cope with it; tired and emotional.

8:50PM: Fuck. You know you've got a great back catalogue to call on when you open with California Girls.

9:13PM: I'd forgotten Al Jardine currently tours with Brian; bonus Beach Boy. Hope he sings my favourite, Lady Lynda.

9:14PM: Surfer Girl and Darlin', making me sad for the loss of Dennis and Carl.

9:15PM: Sail On Sailor. Double-fuck yes.

11:14PM: Home from Brian Wilson gig (which was a handy 20-min walk from digs). To start a set with the likes of California Girls, Don't Worry Baby & Surfer Girl, close with Good Vibrations, Help Me Rhonda & Fun Fun Fun - & stick the entire Pet Sounds album in the midst of it = ridiculous.

11:20PM: My voice caught in my throat as I sang along more than once & I was a mess of tears by the time he closed with the beautiful Love & Mercy; with the world in such a frightening state at the moment, the childlike innocence of Wilson's lyrics in that song couldn't be more pertinent.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Tired and Emotional.

Today I reached that inevitable point of the Fringe where frustration and exhaustion bubbles to the surface and you feel irritable and - put simply - want to go home.

That’s not to say I’m not enjoying being here or that I'm unhappy with my show - it’s actually quite the opposite - but however you feel about what you’re doing or how it’s going, bringing a self-produced solo show to Edinburgh is pretty much the dictionary definition of testing your stamina and everyone has their boiling point; I’m glad I have a day off on Monday, so I can regroup for the metaphorical final push.

My negative mindset was kicked off by today’s show, which was one of the busiest I’ve had, yet didn’t gel. There were some nice moments and a few happy faces, but try as I might, I couldn’t get much of a vocal reaction, so I was left with little time to breathe. It’s not that people weren’t enjoying it; they just weren’t an audience for big laughs, which was badly timed for a performer as tired and overwrought as me. It just felt a bit one-sided, with me throwing as much as I could into it to little response.

In shows like this you inevitably focus on the people who don’t seem to be enjoying it and today was no different; one guy was frowning so much during my last song it actually made me laugh. He was probably just listening to words or thinking about something else, but when you’re in such a small room looking miserable, it’s going to have an effect on the performer's demeanour: the show’s interactive; you’re not at home watching a DVD.

My tiredness turned to irritation as I packed up, which was compounded by a stressful walk back to my digs along the same busy road I’ve traversed countless times this month, made worse by having to battle my way through the Saturday crowds. My vertigo didn’t help matters, so I took the executive decision to postpone meeting my PR for lunch to another day, though I still had to go back out again to pick up my ticket for Brian Wilson tomorrow, which was even more pedestrian-packed and exhausting than the trip home.

On the plus side, I checked the Fringe website tonight to see I only have seven shows left. It’s not that I’m wishing the rest of the festival away, as I’m still determined to get the most out of it; I could just do with a break.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Dead Ringer For Love(ly)

Today’s show had an air of the last day of term about it, largely because I knew at least two of the three people in had seen it before at some stage other, and therefore we could all benefit from relaxing the parameters a little bit.

By rights, doing a show in such circumstances shouldn’t be fun, when the amount of people in the audience only narrowly outnumber those on stage, yet it was, with me veering off what I’d now regard as the script (not that I ever formalized it that much) to venture into unknown ground. This was particularly helped by an adlib I delivered, which I can’t for the life of me remember now, but was rightly timed at the moment. It’s a shame I can’t call it to mind now; all I can hope is it will come back tomorrow, as I think it was something that would benefit the show if it was kept in, though I may be wrong as I've no idea what I said now.

Prior to the show I got a taxi to the venue with my replacement screen in tow to discover there seemed to be no power in the space, which inevitably slowed down my set-up. Thankfully one of the crew located the problem (which was purely to do to a couple of circuit breakers that had been triggered, which is a little concerning as I don’t know what it was that caused them to trip). Once that had been found, I was back on track.

After the show, I met another (this time former) Hitchin-ite - my friend Cyndee - in the bar, who’d been in the show for the second time, having missed the beginning the other day. We had a quick drink and a catch-up before heading over to the Udderbelly on the off-chance, in the hope of catching Rory Bremner and Jan Ravens’ show; I texted Rory first thing to cheekily ask if he might be able to arrange a couple of tickets as I thought Cyndee would enjoy it being very politically-minded, and I’d hoped to see it again myself too, but had clocked the run was sold out. The fault in my plan was I’d been essentially switching from one phone-receptonless room to another from that point on, so I wasn’t sure if he’d picked up my message, or already replied.

This put me in the slightly ridiculous position of asking the box office if there happened to be any comps put by in my name, for them to discover there was, albeit just a single ticket. That was until I decided on a second whim - as the first one had already succeeded - to ask if one had been put by in Glyn’s name too, to find out there had been; it was a lovely gesture on Rory’s part, though it didn’t surprise me as he’s such a gentleman.

The show was excellent, though this was to be expected, as both Rory and Jan are outstanding at what they do. It was interesting to see what had been changed since they previewed at Mostly Comedy, particularly in Rory’s set, which contained a lot of the ideas he’d mulled over with Glyn and I when we found ourselves in the surreal position of being asked by him for feedback over a drink after his Hitchin gig. What was particularly marked that night was how much he clearly cared about getting the content right, which was inspiring, when many lesser performers might be inclined to - to some degree - phone it in, or just rely on the high standard of his impressions while paying less attention to the writing. That’s what I find so impressive about them both: their material is also top-notch.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Thriving Thursday.

Today’s show was a world of difference to yesterday’s, with a lovely reaction from beginning to end, which was very heartening.

This was helped in no small way by the presence of fellow Hitchin-ites Adam and Charlotte Astill in the audience, along with a group of their friends who, for whatever reason, were suitably relaxed to just enjoy the show for what it is, without questioning the audience size or the subject matter. It was also assisted by everyone sitting towards the front in one bank, rather than being spread disparately around the room to accentuate the low numbers.

Once again, I find myself considering the psychology of comedy and why things sometimes work so perfectly to fall flat the next day. There have been times, for example, when my little playlet at the top of the show where I act out what it's like waiting to be seen at Stevenage’s Mental Health Unit grabs people from the beginning and they laugh all the way through - like today - and yet occasionally, the room just doesn’t go with it (though the end tends to get a laugh irrespective).

One of the biggest issues, I think, is purely numbers; if it was a busy house and everyone was familiar with what I do and - dare I say it - there was a little hype around the show, I’m sure people would go with it; stick it in The Pleasance at a good time (or in a better slot at Just the Tonic) and it would work a lot better. Sadly, so much of the industry is based around fickleness and unless you have the right people on your side you sink without a trace.

It’s like seeing The Guardian list the 'Best Shows at the Fringe' the other day; while I don’t begrudge anyone being mentioned in these things, they can never truly be representative when so many productions are never seen by those casting judgment; at least the Comedy Awards put their money where their mouth is and watch everything that falls within their remit.

All you can do is keep reminding yourself why you’re doing what you’re do and where your work fits within your own story. I’m personally proud of this year’s show compared to what I’ve done previously, and am pleased I tackled bigger themes in it. One thing I will take from today was Adam saying how much he thought I’d grown compared to last year's show, which was lovely as I know he really enjoyed that too; proof that, for all the people who regard what you do with confusion, there are others out there who really get it.

In other news, I'm now on an a-board.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Subpar Wednesday.

Despite being a busy one for me - relatively speaking - today’s show was hard work as, try as I might, I couldn’t seem to get them on board.

It wasn’t that they weren’t enjoying it, but they barely vocalized it, which wasn’t helped by the fact they were spread out across the room with no sense of cohesion. There were some nice moments - my favourite being when it sounded like someone’s watch fell off their wrist, which I pointed out by working it into the punchline I was delivering mid-sentence - but it's ultimately hard work when you’re throwing your all into it to be confronted by near silence.

I was particularly pleased with how the songs sounded; probably due to a combination of my voice feeling rested from Monday’s day off and my guitar still sounding bright from its recent restringing. It’s been enjoyable to play so often and to reconnect with some of the music I’ve written. It's a shame I had to drop ‘It’s For You’ to give the show room to breathe as it was particularly enjoyable to sing as I haven’t performed it often, but this was definitely the right thing to do; perhaps this re-connection will lead me to finish some of the songs that have been hanging around for a while in need of completion, but we shall see.

My mood hasn’t been helped by the fact my replacement screen hasn’t arrived yet, despite my sitting in waiting for it all day, aside from the few hours I went to the venue to do the show. I feel I’ve wasted a day and am a little cabin-feverish, which - combined with an unsatisfying show - made for a not-very-enjoyable day to reckon with; hopefully tomorrow will fare better.