My Stand-up & gigs
The Coding Craftsman
An Open Letter To HSBC
Pay What Now?
Hearing the music
When to quit
I am not as other men
Tonight I was funny
Attack of the Drones
Notes on your set
Why Pissing off a Fellow Comedian was Fun
Back On The Train
Well, I'm on a South West train heading for London. Apparently they are not striking today, which is nice. The last time I was on such a train was during my ill fated run at the Camden Fringe, which feels like it was a very long time ago, even though only a mere 30 days have actually gone by since it started. August really does drag on.
I think August has been quite an eventful month. The Fringe visit was obviously a highlight, and that now seems ancient history. I've had chance to recover from my post Edinburgh disease already, and I think we even made a creditable stab at enjoying the bank holiday weekend.
Probably the biggest issue of the month has really taken its time to make its enormity felt. My job will be substantially altered by the recent buy out of my employer's. I don't even know whether my job will exist beyond the end of next month. The news was broken calmly and I have been given various assurances, but there are on guarantees. The biggest problem is that I don't really know how to occupy my time in the office. There is nothing specific that I have to do at the moment. We have some ideas for what is coming up, and I have done some self training. In fact, over the last couple of days I've been on an internal training course in something so obscure and so foolishly done that I have the overwhelming urge to take a trip to Australia, where it was made, and explain to the people who made it why they will never be any good at their jobs if they don't change their approach. Pointless frustration.
Tonight, I'm on this train to go to London to meet my girlfriend, her mum and sister in order to see the Sondheim musical, Sunday In The Park With George. This should, at the very least, be an interesting show to see. It closes on Saturday, so it was a case of see it now or miss out, and the idea of seeing it in the first place didn't originate with me. Though I've arranged the tickets, I reserve the right not to be blamed if people don't like it.
August has seen a lot of gigs. Last night was my last gig of the month, and September has a few booked, even though I'm away for half the month. I feel like I'm back into my stride. I had been showing signs of improving and expanding back in November, but the move really changed my priorities. Now I have room to experiment again and the voice failure in Edinburgh, which forced me to do very few musical sets, did me a big failure. I Mc'ed the gig last night and realised that I'm bordering on having some non musical bankers, and that I'm not especially afraid of taking chances. All I have to do now is calm things down a bit. Still every act had a reasonable gig last night, and I think I managed to handle the rowdiness inherent in that room. Not bad. Could be better. Still, I tried some new stuff and it seemed to work. Woo.
So, we're entering September with various question marks and various constants. I'm still the musicals fanatic who is into comedy and ever pursuing some kind of big break. However, my accommodation situation and work situation are both in a state of flux. The plan to get a house must at least wait on a projection of guaranteed income doing something I'll prosper doing. The plan for a house is also dependent on closing a mortgage deal which I'm ever closer to closing. Just a tiny bit further to go. The job situation seems to need a bit of proactive effort on my part to avoid me feeling like a bystander. The company I work for has been good, but it is not the only company in the world. Who knows, maybe job hopping is the thing to do! It's not really me.
My morale is dipped slightly. The work thing is getting to me. I think it's largely because I was enjoying my job for the challenges it posed, but now there are no short term goals. There will be. Home life is good. Gigs are good. The car works. The musicals play 8 times a week. Life ain't bad.
Highlights Of A Bank Holiday Weekend
I had a good weekend. It was a chance to catch up on sleep and do things that felt like summer, even though summer is fast fading away.
Friday was a work day and was mainly about trying to get a handle on what little I know of my short term future. Friday evening was made of curry.
On Saturday we went to Cardiff to a music festival. We got into the field where it was being held a bit sooner than perhaps we should, and discovered that they didn't let you in and out as you pleased. So we were stuck. We filled our time with some food, a trip to the inflatable church to watch a cod wedding, and sitting about. The cod wedding was not especially amusing, though there was a highlight for me. They got to the bit where they asked for people to say why the couple should not be married, and everyone shouted out something offensive, which was a bit inappropriate in front of the young girl in a bridesmaid outfit, but then the fact that the bride and groom were both lairy welsh men probably made the whole thing well beyond just inappropriate. Anyway as people insulted the groom's sexual prowess, or claimed to be getting gratuitous sexual favours from the bride, the young girl decided she wanted a go. She grabbed the microphone and declared: "he has brown hair!". I led the applause.
The music on offer was variable. We could have gone to see The Pipettes but I couldn't trust myself not to throw something. We saw Bez from the Happy Mondays working the crowd during a dj set. . . Funny!
We got into the throng for Echo and The Bunnymen, not because we liked them or had heard of them, but more because it was time to join the crowd. Lily Allen had just been on, and she seemed to know how to perform live. Echo seemed to be a spoiled lot with the roadies pretty much wiping their spoiled asses for them. Indeed, watching the roadies set up was a highlight.
We were there for Badly Drawn Boy, and he did not disappoint. At one stage he asked the crowd to clap in 6/8. They had no idea. Cracking!
Then we left. Snow Patrol were headlining, but we'd had enough.
Somehow we had managed to avoid festival burgers, and we celebrated with my official festival food: subway.
We slept, we rose and we returned to Longleat. We had been there earlier in the season and had a ticket which allowed you access to every attraction once within the season. Last visit, we did the safari and then it rained so hard that we gave up and came home. This time the weather was good to us and we did most of what we could possibly do. A lot of this involved queueing. Only one of these queues was a huge experience, and it had to be the one where we were right behind a family with lairy kids and who seemed to think that all kids eat is calories. Crisps, sweets, biscuits. . . It was amazing. I'll admit that I was watching with the eyes of a reforming fatty, but it was still astounding to behold. It's no surprise that we have a nation of obese kids. I say bring back rationing!
The weekend was rounded off by bank holiday monday during which I did far too much sleeping. After only a few hours of being awake, I drove to my gig in East London. Note to self, the sat nav really does insist on a damn stupid route through London.
The gig went pretty well, which was good because it looked like going either way. I listened to a recording of it as I drove home and it wasn't quite as good to listen to as I remember it being, but I felt good on stage, like I knew what I was doing. Which is nice.
Apart from all of that, I failed to get any Diy done, and managed to advance the status of my mortgage, and book tickets for Sunday In The Park With George, which ends on Saturday. Not bad for one weekend.
Oh For ****'s Sake
Well well well. I'm currently marveling at the Reading medical system. I had an appointment with the nurse today to register with my new doctor. Although I would have preferred an appointment which put me back on the street in time for work, I took what I was given. 10.15. The nurse was late. So be it.
We went through a series of questions and tests. My blood pressure was very good. Woo. Then we got onto the subject of my dormant diabetes. I say it's dormant because my control tends to be very good and I never experience symptoms of any sort. Ideally I would be referred to a clinic where they would check me out every so often and tell me I'm still great. But no. Apparently we're doing this piecemeal. I get to make an appointment for my eye test, and I have to go and get my blood tests done at the lab at the hospital.
I don't expect the doctor to be able to do my blood tests in house, but I do expect them to be able to draw blood and send it. Apparently not. My last doctor could do that, but these guys can't. Ace!
To add insult to bureaucracy, they had run out of eye test appointments at the surgery, so I have to ring a number to get an eye test wherever they can fit me in. This is just needlessly confusing. I'm fairly bright and capable, and I'm having trouble keeping track of all of this. I'm currently sitting in the pathology department of the hospital waiting to have my blood taken for the test. This day is not going well.
Getting to the hospital was easy enough. They have a car park attached which is not too pricey: 2 pounds minimum for 2 hours. People in the car park drive like the walking dead: maybe the driving dead. It's as though people in hospitals should write themselves off as useless and with nothing to do with their lives but be ill. I just want to have my blood test and go to work, but I'm number 14 in the path lab queue, and they are still processing number 98. I assume it wraps round at 100 or so.
Even getting here along the corridor was a pain in the ass. Somebody was being given a lift on a buggy thing, which goes at walking pace and blocked the corridor. Though the driver made way for oncoming traffic, he kept swerving around and generally making it impossible for me to walk past. I had corridor rage for the first time. Brilliant.
All of this delay and irritation could have been avoided if the clinic, to which I'm apparently going to be referred for my diabetic check ups, did all these tests in house. They may do. This effort may well be redundant. Boy that would be good! Or maybe I would be at work now if the nurse had taken my blood there and then and sent them to the lab, or even sent me to drop them off. Perhaps she can do this, but didn't think I could give a fasting sample. She didn't ask if I'd had breakfast. I hadn't.
Whatever the other possibilities, it seems that a fragmented system is causing me to hang around in hospitals rather than get on with my life. Is this the case for everyone around me too?
They're at 99. This is taking ages. I'm not happy. The 2 hour minimum charge on the car park looks less like profiteering and more like prophecy!
Sonic Software appear to have chosen an odd picture for their website's front page. What are they trying to say?
I reckon it's "Hey there. Buy our software and look, here's a picture of an old-looking woman with a really long neck."
Back To The Keyboard
I've been primarily writing entries to this blog on my mobile phone which is undoubtedly having an effect on my writing style. For those people who think that I'm seldom terse enough, the change in draftsmanship has probably been positive. For those people who like me blethering and using words that the predictive text feature is not likely to know, then I probably will have been coming across as a bit watered down... or maybe concentrated, but in the way that stops people from drinking Robinson's Barley Water directly from the bottle without adding water.
As might be obviously from the waffle thus far exposed, I'm back at a computer keyboard for this post. Welcome back to verbal diahorrea.Work
Work is still very surreal and it's hard to know what to do for the best. I'm trying to absorb information at the moment, but my sponge-like brain is full and I'm quite tired, despite sleeping in, so a lot of stuff is washing over my head. I need to get stuck into something - then I can fill in the gaps.
It's hard to be motivated to turn up to work when all you do there is fill time with reading. No targets = no motivation. However, there are going to be some training courses next week, which will, at least, have their own structure imposed on them. I think that things are going to become more clear as the weeks progress... I'm going on holiday in a couple of weeks, too, so that will pretty much break things up. When I get back I'll be able to get stuck in.Gig
Last night I did my first post-Edinburgh gig. It could have gone better. It could have gone worse. I managed to get them laughing from the off and I got some good response to my musical stuff. I tried and failed to change gear in the middle of the set and do some of my non-musical material. A combination of me being a bit vague and maybe a lack of confidence (or amusement value) made it a bit of a sticky few minutes. Still, I came back with the guitar and things ended pretty well.
I was scuppered a bit at the start of the gig. This was a very frustrating sound check and the end result was that I couldn't plug my guitar into the sound at all. I was using the smaller guitar, which meant that it probably wasn't audible at the back of the room. Last time I gigged there, there was an amplifier and everything was great. This time, things were significantly less good.
I made a big mistake. I asked the compere to turn the sound on so I could try to multiplex the existing microphone and my guitar with my wee mixer. The compere didn't do that. So I started work on the setup. Sadly, when he got round to turning things on, nothing worked... even when I returned the setup I'd been playing with to its original settings. I regretted this a lot. On the face of it, it looked like I'd screwed it up. This was not the case and I now know why, but at the time, I was undoubtedly looking like the guilty party. This is why you shouldn't jump a step ahead. D'oh! This is also why you should sort the sound out for the musical act properly. This is, in fact, why you should have a sound setup that works, rather than something roped together.
The mic was connected via a long lead into the phono-input of an amplifer which was, itself, daisy chained to another amplifier. We couldn't make this work. The reason for this was that two amplifiers needed to be plugged in correctly and set to the correct inputs. In fact, the initial sound-off was caused by the fact that they weren't attached to each other, which had nothing to do with what I'd been up to at the other end of the room. After a lot of playing about, we decided to remove one amp from the equation and wire directly to the main one. This still didn't work. Apparently, one of the inputs on the main amp doesn't work... eventually it got working.
I wanted then to run my mixing desk in, which would have had the effect of giving my guitar some amplification and also pre-amping the microphone, which, by rights, cannot be connected straight into the back of a regular domestic Hi-fi amp. I was denied this chance... so the sound was shit. It wasn't my fault. I give in!Bookings
In my post-Edinburgh haze, I'm trying to fill the diary up for the rest of the year and capitalise on my new strengths. I've had a few people offering me gigs and I'm now ringing round begging. I hate ringing round begging. However, there are some clubs I really need to beg...To Write
Be careful what you wish for. In this case, be careful which features you suggest to a computer magazine editor. He might just take you up on the idea. So, I'll be writing a 4 page article on comedy websites, a 6 pager on urban myths and maybe even a piece on how to construct your own laptop using pizza boxes... that should be a laugh!To Sort Out
Still plenty of things to sort out. Some ebay items need sending - one to a buyer, one to be replaced by the seller. There's a mortgage to complete on, still! I have some Doctor's appointments for health check and jabs. I have to sort out my mail redirection to get it to arrive in Reading, rather than Farnborough, so I can return my key and get my deposit back.
Basically, I need to move my arse!
As expected, my mood was bound to take a dive, and it did so very convincingly last night. The reason was mainly tiredness and the beating my immune system is taking. In addition, we went to a pub quiz, which the other members of the team were taking astoundingly seriously, and we would have won it. . . But didn't. Then we went to Tesco and I got weighed, and though I've lost weight, I wasn't happy with how much. And none of this is really worth getting miserable over.
On the more positive side of things, I managed to have an argument with a high pressure critical illness insurance salesman and explain to him that he's trying to make me believe that somehow I'll beat the odds and profit from his insurance policy, which makes no sense since insurance companies employ actuaries to ensure that I can't. That was a fun debate!
Back To Reality
A very domesticated night last night. There was food, a trip to a Diy shop, some Diy, some watching of Lost, and the baby sitting of a rather mental kitten. This latter beast slept with us and decided that my feet were prey. Consequently I am very tired having had some interrupted sleep. On the up side, the mountaineering tricks of this creature are most entertaining.
Work is still a nest of uncertainty. I don't have anything specific to be working on, so I am doing some reading and pondering what work might be coming my way. There are myriad outcomes possible. I don't seem to mind. I guess I've not settled in so much as to consider what I do for my living to be some sort of immutable monolith.
I am feeling guite keyed up about comedy at the moment, but I don't want to over commit myself to too many gigs. That's a weird combination. I think I just need a bit of a break after the fringe, even though there's tons I want to try out and I have goals for capitalising on my recent improvements. I've no idea why I still feel so calm about the comedy. Perhaps it will help me not to be so needy.
Perhaps there's some sense of self preservation going on. I've not been in the best of health since I went to Edinburgh, and I currently have a cold and a slight stomach upset. Coupled with the jabs from yesterday, I could happily just chill out and feel slightly sorry for myself. So, the idea of driving to do a Sunday night in Devon doesn't grab me right this moment.
There are plenty of jobs I must get done, though. I have to sort out some important paperwork, and there are curtain rails to be erected. It's all in a day's work.
All Very Subdued
The atmosphere in the office is very flat as people get on with what they have to do and ponder what their jobs are going to become once our new owners have finished the necessary restructurings. There's no doubt that my job will have changed beyond all recognition, assuming of course that I'm kept on. I'm presently reading a primer book on Java, a language I always meant to learn, and now have to. So far, no particular culture shocks. The language I have been using, C#, has stolen most of the good ideas from this language, which in turn stole most of its syntax from C++, which I used almost exclusively in my last job for about 9 years. Basically, it's the difference between Brummie and Scouse.
I feel quite poorly, but more in a blurred head sort of way. I have a cold and the side effects of some jabs. . . I will survive.
I think there's some Diy on the agenda for tonight. That should be fun.
In The Doc's
Currently sitting in the doctor's surgery waiting for travel injections. They use a system where you can't really book appointments, which means that they're not ever booked up. . . But it also means that you have to just hope you'll be seen when you need it. They claim it works.
I feel quite tired. My immune system is fighting a series of cold like bugs, so I'm sure it will be thrilled to get further things to fight in the next few minutes. Last night we went out for food and a movie - Nacho Libre. Fun was had, though a big long sleep should also be scheduled at some point.
At some point in the next few minutes I'll be off to work. Then the fun will start.
Download Ashley Frieze & Chris Parr mp3 - Download The Musical! (Cast Album) mp3
Apparently you can download the entirety of The Musical! here
. We've been pirated! Yay!
Bouncy Castle Hamlet
Definitely one of the more memorable Fringe experiences this year. They used inflatable props and performed 2 hours of Hamlet, chaotically, on a big bouncy castle. It was very silly.
Hamlet has a play within a play and in this version they used a bouncy castle within their bouncy castle to represent that!To bounce, or not to bounce.
Back To The Present
Well well well. After a week in edinburgh in which I performed about a dozen times and saw about 30 shows, I'm back in the office. Yesterday involved a very long drive which flew by by and large thanks to some cds of Fringe shows, recently seen, and a long discussion over how to star rate the shows we'd seen. The traffic on the m1 was poor, though.
Back to work today, and everything has changed. Should be interesting to see what I'll be doing by the end of the year. Let's just say that everything I've done so far will be only vaguely related!
I'm Losing Track
I suspect that it's only been a short time since I last wrote, but time has been bent somewhat by show watching. I saw 5 different performances yesterday, three of which were in the same room. Oddly, I only paid for one of those 3, the others being either comps or walk ins. The one I paid for I accidentally heckled a punchline into. In fairness he had asked the audience a question, and I saw a gag so shouted it out. . . It was the reveal after the non gag answers. Still, I apologised, and I was still slightly proud of myself for having a mind that ran quickly enough.
Today is my last full day in Edinburgh. It's also the one and a half year mark for my relationship with my girlfriend. A lot has happened in the last 18 months, and a lot of it is worth celebrating. I am glad that I came to Edinburgh this year, it has been good for me, but I'll be glad to be back too.
I've had my muesli breakfast and I think I'm pretty set for the day. A friend from Newcastle is in the city, so we'll catch up at some point. It's his birthday this weekend. It's a busy time.
Finding Out After
This has happened a couple of times in the last couple of days. I've told a story to one of my housemates and showmates, and he has added a story which shows that I've been acting in character for myself and that there events had been broadly predicted.
Story one relates to an open spot I did where the promoter gave me a stiff talking to afterwards, despite my having done well on stage. He said that if I wanted to sing I should be a singer, and if I wanted to be a comedian, I should have a patter. This made me want to at least add straight stand up to my arsenal, which I'm now doing, nearly a year on. The story I discovered was that the person who organised the spot had been chatting to my mate and said about me 'yeah, he's funny, but the boss is going to hate him'.
Story two happened today. Cross with a sign in a charity shop offering "video's" for sale at 50p. I hit on the idea of going in and getting them to fix the sign in return for 50p. I explained the sign was wrong and that I would give them the coin if they fixed it right away. They pondered, but the generosity of my pedantry soon got to them and it was fixed. Then I told my housemate about it. He said that someone had made a bet that I and another guy in the flat would have organised a spelling bee before the week was out. There's still time!
The Best Laid Plans
Despite feeling rough last night, I managed to wake up at 9 this morning and conduct some sort of morning ablutions. These took longer than expected and I found myself running a little late for my 10am show: Shakespeare For Breakfast. While I arrived at the venue before it was due to start, there was a massive queue at the box office and I simply ran out of the will to see it. So I'm currently sitting in a cafe about to have my breakfast without a cod version of the Taming Of The Shrew.
This is one of the toughest decisions for me on the Fringe. Do I pre book and avoid disappointment and queues? Or do I breeze about hoping that my preferred shows are available just before they start. It's swings and roundabouts. On the one hand, why miss out? On the other, if I'm booked up, I become totally clock obsessed and stressed out if something runs late.
However, I think that I'm going to pre book some shows for today. I think today will be my last opportunity for hardcore watching. Some things must be seen!
And I need a haircut.
Had a good time last night. Ended up watching a show at the stand and marveling at good comedy.
Then today we got to see the Hamlet. Cracking fun. I've got a picture or two.
I flyered for another show today and my voice is totally screwed. Also, my set was highly shaky today. Still I got through it. An afternoon and evening of show watching was punctuated with a moment on the internet to sort out my life, and meeting friends for a drink. Soon we were in the next show, which I had suggested, and which rocked like a mother!
I feel a bit ill. It's raining, and my idea of doing a set of my 'b sides' is fading away, since I can't sing at all at the moment. It may get better.
I'll take a shower and a relatively early night. Tomorrow I want to see a 10am show.
Still No Bouncy Castles
There's clearly no cliff hangers in this story. The titles give it all away. I didn't get up and watch Hamlet on a bouncy castle. Last night's birthday party trip took over the whole evening after my gig and I further wrecked my voice with drink and karaoke. I got to bed lateish but that didn't stop me from getting up at a reasonable hour and being out of the flat in time for the 11am show with inflatable medieval buildings in it.
I got a call from my friend with whom I was planning to watch the show and we put it back a day. Fair enough. I had breakfast instead.
I have a shopping list of shows I want to see, and hook, the musical that tells the tale of the ugly duckling was on my list. So I went to see it and was nearly moved to tears. What a soft lad I am. Good show.
I managed to fit in some flyering, but I really need to stop talking. My voice is really tight. I did my straight set again today and it went okay. The show didn't seem to have been too badly affected by my less than usual flyering efforts. So no loss.
I've seen another show and another musical, I've eaten and I've bought tickets for another show. I've been telling people to go and see a free show when they have a spare slot. Since the one man star wars was sold out, after I quick marched to it, I tried to follow my own advice. I took one look at what was on at the nearest free venue and then left. Sometimes some time off is better than seeing a crap comedian suck the life out of a room!
I did my guitar set at yesterday's show, mainly because I wanted to show my new musical material to my friend and give a good account of myself. The show went well and I stayed long enough to pack my guitar before we sped off to the next thing. I like the busy times.
The next show was unspoken japanese comedy. We raced to the venue but could have taken it at a more leisurely pace as the show was running late. It was worth the wait, though. Cracking stuff. I think that I want to end this Fringe having done a wide range of different things, and at the moment, the Hamlet on a Bouncy Castle looks like the lead show in weirdness. I plan to see that tomorrow.
I ate Subway, which is my official food of the Fringe and then dropped off my guitar at the flat so I could meet some friends for a drink. One drink turned into a few over dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant. I didn't eat. Then there was coffee with the lesbians. Don't ask.
But, for some reason, I had a gig to go to at 1am. I had a long walk, about an hour from North East of the city, to the gig via the flat. Think of the exercise! The gig was late and weird and I screamed out some weird and late stuff. With a sore throat and more beer in me than I'm used to, yet without feeling it had affected me at all, I went to bed, knackered and smelling bad.
Today has been a rollercoaster too. I got up early and went to a sing along musicals show with a man dressed as a nun. It was great family friendly fun. Then flyering. Then a friend's play which ended as my show was starting, so I had to hotfoot across town to arrive in time to go on and close it. I did okay and the guitar was, again, in the flat. Then I rushed across town to see another play, which featured someone I know. The play was well executed but hard to follow.
I am trying to take time out to eat and relax. I'm not feeling at my best and my dodgy chest and throat are not good for musical comedy, the likes of which I'll be performing in an hour or so. So, a relaxed bit of eating occurred. Then I grabbed my drink and headed off to the flat with haste. I plan to change, get the guitar and close a gig. . . Then I'm going to a birthday bash.
It's a busy day. No bouncy castles today though.
Back In The Flat
I'm having what some might term a quick rest break, but others might call a 'Fringe poo'. Sorry. This blogging on the mobile phone allows for such breaking news, or indeed, breaking poos.
One's digestion cannot but help to be affected by the Fringe lifestyle, though it's usually a poor diet of fried food that does it to you. In this case I'm eating rarely, and reasonably healthily. I feel good, though my throat is not at its best. My back could be better, but that's what happens when rucksack meets camp bed.
I woke up before the alarm today. Last night felt like an early night, so I guess that's why. Once the shower queue had finished, it was still 11am before I got breakfast. More fruit yoghurt and muesli. Then it was off flyering for me.
Soon after, I met up with a friend I haven't seen in ages and his girlfriend whom I had never met. He's been away for a year and I noticed the changes in him as no doubt he did me. But they're physical changes. It's good to know we're still the same people we were. We did a show together here two years ago, and it was bound to be a point of reference for us as we chatted together over lunch. . . I just had a coffee.
More flyering followed. The lunchtime crowd, whom I enjoy flyering. Then a quick stop at the flat. I must now wipe and run.
We all feel alone sometimes. It's part of the human condition. I feel it strongly as a performer. Oddly, I feel more alone off stage than on. . . At least on average I do. Unless it's going badly, the feeling on stage is less about isolation, and more about bringing a room full of people together. When they're just staring, it does feel odd, though.
Going to and from a gig is the lonely time, unless with others, which is not the usual case. Coming off stage, leaving the gig, and fading into the night hrs weird. Once you were the centre of attention, now you're nothing.
I'm pondering this as I am walking the huge distance from the gig I just closed to my bed. Feelings of isolation are exacerbated by my imagined scenes of people I know partying hard in places to which I'm not invited. As I wrote before coming here, I feel like some doors are closed to me. In truth, it's probably in my head.
I suppose this in-built loneliness, and innate fear of death are what resonated so strongly with me earlier. I am not getting younger and as each day passes, so do I need to feel like my life will have a good finale. Not soon, though. I'm 32, plenty of living to do. For what it's worth, I'd like to end on a song.
Tonight, I left the flat in the dumps. Comedy cured me. I listened to my gig earlier. It needs work if I'm to do it again. But it took my mind off drunk homeless guys hoping for the mercy of death. As luck would have it, the coopere of my late night gig was the fellow who did first aid and helped out earlier. I needed to talk it through with someone else who had been there and we put the matter to rest.
When my turn came to perform, closing a tricky show, I threw myself into it and it went better than I expected. That's always going to make you feel good. What a weird day, though.
I think I learned something, though.
What A Day
If I would have predicted the contents of this entry, I would have expected it to be about my first twenty minute set without the guitar. Thinking about it, I don't think I've ever done that before. Last night, I wrote up a bunch of things I've either done or been meaning to do as spoken stand up, and today I did them. It worked enough, though there was no ending.
That's what I wanted to write about. I could also have added comments about the two shows I saw today and the flyering. However, life is not that simple.
The good news is that I managed to catch up with a friend I'd not seen in ages, and go with her to a show. The aftermath was less than enjoyable. Consider this, though. While we are pissing around, having fun here in Edinburgh's silly season, life is still going on all around us. My newish stand up set has an underlying theme of doing the right thing and death. . . And you can't say it and not believe it, that's cheating. Lest I'm giving the impression that something calamitous befell me then don't worry, I simply got sucked into someone else's misery for a bit and didn't like the view.
As I was walking down the street, I noticed an old guy, probably drunk, probably homeless, on the brink of collapse. Then as I passed, he did the collapsing. I had to choose whether to stop. I made the right choice and did. Someone else had also stopped, which at first made me wonder whether to leave them to it, but I decided that it was best to get involved. Over the next few minutes we were drawn in to doing the best we could for this fellow. He was staying at a nearby hostel and asked up to call them. Someone from there came to join us. We helped the guy with his angina medicine and noticed him getting less lucid, more emotional, and more obviously in pain. This is not funny. A passing stand up comedian, whom I recognised turned out to be first aid trained and also stopped to help. This happened a short while after we'd made and executed the decision to call the paramedics.
It's a strange journey to go from bitching about the flaws in a student show and wondering about what fun is to be had in other parts of the Fringe, to holding a man's hand as he begs you not to help him because he just wants to go, he just wants to be able to die so the pain will stop.
All the while, we're blocking the pavement, trying to keep people from crowding this man and trying to keep cars from coming too close to the edge. Some people walking past asked whether we'd called an ambulance, I think I laughed at them. . . Like we were just going to sit there and watch him die! Or maybe it was a clever mugging gang. In truth, they, like us were probably trying to help and might have been offering the use of their mobile phones.
This experience was upsetting. On a few occasions, I felt like I was about to see a fellow die. I didn't know what was upsetting me the thought of seeing it, or the sense that to his addled brain, he might be dying alone, confused and among strangers. I held his hand reassured him that he was being looked out for and tried to make him see it would be okay. We all of us, 4 in total, were doing what we could and hoping for the best.
The ambulance arrived and the paramedics took charge of the situation. The four of us - me, the man who first stopped, the first aid comedian and the hostel guy - we went our separate ways exchanging hand shakes and meaningful glances. We'd done what we could do. It might have been the emotional response of a man to his drink, and our homeless ward may well have many years in him, or he may not make it and his last hours of life may be the ones where some strangers tried to show him kindness and respect. I'll never know.
I did my best.
Though I really don't feel like it, I now have to go off to a gig and be funny. Perhaps I'll sing that hilarious song about masturbation.
I Must Be Getting Old
It's after two am on a Saturday night and I'm back at the flat while the Fringe ploughs on without me. I feel a bit like I'm letting the side down as I've returned to the flat to find myself alone, despite there being something like 8 other people living here. Truth be told I am too tired to enjoy any more non resting activities tonight, and I've had a second trying gig at a late night show. My confidence might have dropped if I hadn't started the performing day with a cracking show at the Great Big Comedy Picnic, and my belief in what would happen with this particular mixture of comedians came to be fulfilled. Good fun and we had a good collection too. In the rest of the day I did some flyering and went to see some shows. That's a generic description which you could probably apply to most of the next few days as I amuse myself and, hopefully, others here in Edinburgh.
There's plenty I want to see, and my fringe to see list is starting to get ticks next to things, which is also good.
Around 8ish I managed to combine several of my plans into a sequence as I met up with an Edinburgh resident friend of mine, saw a show, and then immediately went to get food. This was necessary. Eating is an important thing to fit into a day, and I was at risk of doing it all wrong.
There are a couple of things to note here. One, if you read the diary I wrote of my trip to Fringe 2002, when I was probably a similar weight to today and also trying to lose it, you will see that some of my entries made clear exactly what I was eating. I know not why. Actually, I do. When you're dieting, you get food obsessed and this can keep you on track somewhat. It's a bit boring for other though. Secondly, I foolishly allowed myself to be suckered into a promise I didn't want to make, though once made, I won't break it. It's the worst sort of promise too, because it's for my own good. I promised not to eat any fried food. Why!
In fairness, my plan was to eat healthily, and indulge myself with a cooked breakfast from my favourite shop for this on the last morning. In 2004, such a multitude of these led to my being fairly overweight, poisoned and knackered by September. I just wanted one, though, for old times' sale. Not allowed. Fine. In fairness, this ringfencing has strengthened my resolve to look after myself, and considering how exhausted I feel after just a day and a half walking in Edinburgh, it's probably for the best. So Subway is my friend. Breakfast was beans on toast, and I also ate an apple at some point.
This Fringe feels odd. This may be the twisted view of someone just joining the party, late. Or, it might be that the support for the fringe is either hampered by transport or on the wane.
I'm still happy to be here and I think my voice, which hasn't had this much of a work out in ages, is probably most hoarse from laughing. It's not a bad way to spend the day.
Here And Alive
Well, we got here. Saw a couple of shows performed in one and stayed up far too late.
We went to a pub quiz at a local Wetherspoons and didn't lose. We also didn't win. It wasn't a terrible performance overall. It was quite nice to be able to mix quiz question answering with eating some food. The food wasn't all that good, though, so it wasn't all that nice... but nicer than just sitting at home watching TV, even if TV comprises the most excellent Lost.
I feel a bit ill. I don't know whether it's work related stress, or maybe a chest infection. My back and shoulders ache a bit and I've been waking up with a tight throat. These could be Lost-watching-related injuries - as I'm spending quite a lot of time propped up awkwardly in bed watching TV. Or, it may just be a need to get myself away from responsibility and run around a city I love doing things which will amuse me.
Today at lunchtime I went out to buy a small notepad. In this pad I will keep track of my movements during the week I'm at the Fringe. It will be my show watching and performing diary. I probably won't get chance to write up my show watching while I'm at the Fringe. I'm not planning to take a computer and I don't expect to visit an internet cafe much - unless I find myself short on funds and need to manipulate my internet banking account. The mobile-phone blogging may or may not happen. We'll just have to see.
In the pad so far I've written a list of shows which I'd like to recommend to myself to go and see. I'll see some of them. All seem to be on at about 8pm, which is a bit of a nuisance. However, I must must must make time to watch shows. Simple as that.
What I'd also like to do is a 20 minute set where I don't play a single song on the guitar, but let's not go mad. We'll see.
Last Day Down South
Driving to work today I allowed myself the indulgence of really looking forward to tomorrow's trip to Edinburgh. I don't know whether I will be able to behave myself, but I'll try and I'll try to make the most of the week I'm there. By behave myself I mean in terms of eating properly, making time for friends, seeing shows, pushing myself to think of fresh things, and keeping in touch with home. I'll have a go.
Something weird is happening with the airports. They're being closed for security purposes. This is terrible. There are a couple of reasons I think this way. For our air travel to be suspended in this way at a peak holiday time is going to affect a lot of people and their sense of safety and freedom. Also it's going to knacker the roads as airport goers are turned into traffic jams. With an estimated 8 hour car journey tomorrow, I feel only slightly selfish for making this latter observation.
A part of my brain cannot help link any mention of air travel with the TV series Lost, which I have been watching religiously on Dvd for the last few days. I've seen 24 of the episodes from series one now. It's funny. It's funny how I suddenly caught on and am now obsessed with it. It's also a funny show. It has some witty writing, some moments of hilarity and a wealth of detail that keeps me impressed. One of the characters, Kate, is on the run and was caught while working for a farmer who only had one arm. It's like the script writers decided to give their fugitive her own one-armed man. It's detail that works best for me. It nearly spoils it that I've seen later episodes, and read the plot summaries, but it doesn't stop the 40 minutes of each episode from flying by.
Just a few more work hours and I can walk off into the sunset for a break. . .
Just Like Buses
Second writing of the day. Now it's confession time. I can be really crap at getting simple things sorted. I have to send a cd I sold on ebay, and return the broadband router I bought, and organise some paperwork for this now long running mortgage application. None of these feel any closer to being done. This is not suprising. Maybe I should sort just one of them out today. To prove I can.
Sometimes I blog because I feel I ought to, sometimes it's because I need to. At the moment, I'm having a bit of down time, and blethering about doing nothing seems to have taken a back seat. However, this computer looks like it's going to be busy on my behalf for a few minutes, so there's time to look back on the week so far and ahead to what's happening soon.Work
Work is proving a bit of a challenge at the moment. My last day before going away is Thursday and I have to leave something of a positive legacy for the 6 working days I'm absent. During my absence they're going to try to deliver the work we've been working on for the last 5 weeks, and I don't want to mess it up. However, I've fallen behind in what I'm doing and this hasn't been helped by the fact that the company I work for has been bought out by a company which was then, itself, bought out. We've been having plenty of "don't worry, everything will be ok" meetings. These take time and, though useful, have contributed to my latency.
I'm not worried about the future of the company I work for. It's now the 10th largest software company in the world - surely I'm in a better position than ever. However, despite a rosy big picture, the little picture - i.e. what's going wrong on my machine at the moment, must be sorted.Tyres
Another matter that needed to be sorted was the tyres on my car. I have spent a lot of money since I bought that car and it's an interesting lesson. Should I have spent a couple of grand more on an equivalent car from a dealer, and expected it to start out in better condition? or would that actually have been a placebo and led to a similar number of problems and a sense that I'd wasted the money? No idea. However, I've been driving on tyres, two of which I knew had had multiple puncture repairs on them. In addition, for the last 4000 miles or so, I've been on tyres which the servicing people said needed replacing - all of them.
So, I gritted my teeth, took my 10% discount card, and went to Mr Kwik Fit, who has the advantage of being local to where I work. I was offered 4 Pirelli tyres at £300. I asked if they were the cheapest. I was told that they were "the cheapest named brand" and "the best discount". Then I asked if there were a cheaper tyre and was offered four Arrowspeed tyres at £230. The secret is in how to ask the question. Having established that my 10% discount would work with any offer they gave me, the question was which make to buy.
Given that I spend a lot of time in that car at ridiculous speeds and in occasionally ridiculous road conditions, and given that I have a long journey coming up, I decided not to save £40 on tyres and regret it. The Pirellis were duly fitted. It says a lot about your car, when they can't even recommend one of the tyres you've been using as a spare... however, the spare was so crap, ANYTHING would have been better. It's a tradition that the spare wheel have an inflated tyre on it, apparently.Holiday
It's all very well swanning off to Edinburgh this week for the largest period of time I'll have taken off work so far. To date, there have been two half days and I'm about to go away for 6 working days. However, I'm not taking my girlfriend with me (her choice) and we have needed to plan our annual holiday for some time. There's an advantage in doing it "last minute" but not that last minute.
The holiday is now booked. We're going to Kenya. Two weeks. Sorted.Lost
Once you've started getting into Lost, the TV series, it's difficult to stop. Well, it is for me. With mountains of intentionally odd backplot, plenty of pointless questions, easy to spot character journeys and occasionally subtle directing, it's a real grab bag of enjoyment. With the entirety of series one on DVD to watch, there's been plenty of time devoted to the series this week. I can watch 7 a night if I'm not trying too hard. They're written tightly enough that the 40 minutes you get when the adverts are removed pass rapidly.Soon
It's Wednesday mid-morning. On Friday morning, I'm driving to Farnborough to pick up a mate and drive us both to the Edinburgh Fringe. It's going to be a mother of a long journey, but it will be worth it. Between now and then I have to pack, ironing quite a lot of clothes.
I've been keeping a toe dipped in the water of the Fringe by reading reviews and trying to work out what I want to see. I've left it too late to see Bill Bailey - shame. I'll catch him on tour and it will probably be a more polished show as a result... but still...
I'm looking forward to the festival, though I'll miss my girlfriend while I'm away. We've not been apart for more than a few hours all year.
A New Beginning
Thank goodness last week is over. I'd truly had enough of it. As you'll see from the post before this one, I had reached a point of disappointment and vague bitterness. However I still had one gig to end the week on.
It was a cracker. I was the closing act. The act before me died, though not horribly, and this could have taken the night one of two ways. However, it actually went down the route of lowering the audience's expectations, so I got to shine by basically giving it loads of energy and being jolly. I tried a new joke, written that day, and I got laughs from some of my favourite bits. It felt like a reward for all the misery I had endured with three cancelled shows previously. Great.
I was even back home before midnight and had time to shower and watch 3 episodes of Lost, albeit the 3 I'd watched the previous night. . . They were still good.
This morning I had to be in for 9. We had a meeting at a local hotel, and I was delayed a bit finding its address. I was also delayed by traffic. Sadly while zooming up the inside lane of the M3, I managed to receive a windscreen full of pigeon, which was odd. No damage to my car as far as I can tell, but I think the bird may be woozy. Or dead.
Guess what. Go on. Guess. Can you? The show didn't happen. This is not the end of the world. I have a head start for my journey to the next gig. I also didn't have to do the less technically rounded version of the show: to save time I wired less up. Also the microphone was sounding awful. I suspect that someone had messed up the settings.
The crowning glory was that we managed to flyer for an hour, set up the theatre, call the house, get noone, and arrive at the decision to cancel after the official start off the show, all before the third act showed up. In fact when I left the venue he still hadn't arrived. All this after his assurance that he'd be there at least 30 minutes before show time. What a knob. There's no excuse. I don't live in London, and I've been able to arrive on time. This lack of respect sickens me, as does the lack of laughter he manages to raise from an audience, as does the fact that he can get gigs at clubs I can't. The truth is that nobody likes the effective middle class jolly man, when they can patronise the working class stoner.
Do I sound bitter and jealous? Well, I am. I have the skill or talent to make an audience laugh. I have the commitment and naus to turn up on time and treat the circuit with respect, and I am an educated and articulate individual. Yet some doors stay closed to me almost as a sort of reverse snobbery. What's annoying is seeing those doors opened to others to whom I feel superior. This is not a feeling to be proud of. Usually I can just patiently wait for my time to come. But when someone so easily pisses up my back. . .
Still another show in a few minutes. These people are prepared to book me. God bless em.
A small play on words, as this is the last night of it ill-fated Camden comedy show and this post must also finish yesterday evening's story.
While flyering last night I found myself sharing a pitch with the promoter of i gig in Camden. I think I had, at some point, emailed him. He offered me a maybe spot in the evening's show if ours didn't go ahead. I also asked him for advice on how to get into clubs like his, given that I'm reasonably experienced and capable, but not a well known name. His advice was slightly demoralising. He talked of good reviews in Time Out and the possibility that if one's not established after nearly 4 years, would it ever happen? Though I could have gone along to his club the moment we pulled the show, and though I could have maybe scrounged 10 minutes to demonstrate where I'm at, I decided not to push my luck. I wasn't really in the mood anyway.
Leaving the venue, I spotted a familiar face. Two people had come to see us after all. They were running late and we probably wouldn't have been best advised to run the show with just them in the crowd. . . So we grabbed a couple of drinks and caught up. . . More worthwhile than doing the comedy. I'm learning a lot this week. . . Like why I should not have signed up for this shit.
I'm presently on a tube having driven to Richmond where tonight's proper gig is. I've travelled from there into London by train, and there are plenty more journeys to follow before I'm done. The trains are not reliable, but they haven't destroyed my plans yet.
Last night I headed home and chose the first fast train to Reading from Paddington station. This promptly broke down in the station, a good place to do so, and we were transferred to another. It cost 20 minutes or so, but I filled the journey by getting the motor-mouthed american girl opposite to rabbit on about herself.
Back home I unwound in front of disc one of Lost. Then sleep.
Thus far today little has happened. The new wireless router that I set up yesterday has died, and I've come to London again. Will the show run tonight? We'll see.
It was bound to be a more challenging night. Unlike previous nights, there was a show before ours: 6pm, The Gazebo of Death. As a result, though I arrived at the venue in plenty of time, I could not use that time to set up the microphone guitar, sound and lights. However there was time to flyer.
A new problem came in the form of the stall which was set up in my flyering pitch, and I had to keep out of their way as they were tearing it down for the day. At some point, a man, who looked dangerously close to whacking through the pub windows with his shoulder full of iron bars warned me of the hazards of being too close when they were packing away. He was standing several feet away, and the only way he could have got me with his bars was to use the javelin method. I kept my tongue under control and thanked him slightly sarcastically. I really wanted to explain that I was equipped with brain eyes intellect and distance enough to avoid the problem.
The previous show kicked out and I exit flyered its audience. Then I set up sound etc. Then we cancelled the show when noone came.
Saturday Sat on a Train
It's the afternoon and I have a slight headache. Rather than planning an evening in with my girlfriend, or even having a full day out with her on my last weekend before disappearing to Edinburgh, I appear to have chosen to travel to London to attempt to perform this stand up show. This should be show 5, but if it goes ahead it will actually be show 4. Such is the nature of cancelling last night.
As you can tell, I'm not impressed with the situation, but I intend on being professional and responsible enough to see it through, no matter how stupid.
Today has been pleasant enough. Soon after waking up I sorted out the internet connection in the house, which means that we can now remove the old computer which was acting as the unreliable hub. At some point soon after that we went out and bought a cat.
I've never bought a cat before. I've bought a dog, or at least was present when a dog was bought. I've bought many chickens, but they were dead and for eating. So a cat purchase is a first for me. The young kitten has yet to be named, and is to live with my girlfriend's sister. Before going out to buy it, I was sent to buy a free ads paper, in which people advertise things for sale, like ebay but simpler. I was also asked to drop by the local vet's for advice.
The vet's advice amounted to 'go to a reputable cat charity'. We read that as 'head to a high rise in a bad part of town and hand over 40 quid to a pair of tattooed chavs, the male of which does not wear a shirt.
So there's a new pet in the family. It won't be spending too much time at my girlfriend's house as the adult cat who lives there immediately showed hostile signs. Given that this cat has been known to attack my foot if I wake up and move it in the bed, this is not a surprise.
The problem with bringing strange animals into the house is that you don't know what else they are bringing in. I hope that neither flees nor worms have also joined the clan.
One bit of good news came today by email. I'm doubling up tomorrow night, doing a show in Richmond as well as Camden. I just found out that I am closing in Richmond, so I don't have to rush as much as I feared. The MC also intends to give me a copy of a book he's contributed to. Bonus.
Today started going wrong at 4.30 when my mobile phone's battery went flat as I was trying to call someone to see if they could help drum up an audience for the show I was about to board a London train to reach. Dead phone is bad. No spare battery- I keep it in the coat that I don't wear in summer. No charger with me. No contact with the outside world, and no opportunity to fritter away a train journey in my own head space, writing.
Oh bum. However, I managed to contemplate my way through the journey, and I arrived bright and early at the theatre, even taking time to give Mr Branson some money via his virgin megastore.
I set up the theatre for our show, relying more on memory than anything else. There's a definite difference in one's approach when you reach show 4. Then I went out to flyer and didn't have a drug dealer for company this time.
The other member of the show cast who can be bothered to flyer joined me at around 6.30 and we fruitlessly handed out paper while I got increasingly patronising about how to do comedy. He seemed to take it with good grace. A smack in the face would have been a justifiable way for him to react.
Show time is 7.30. At 7.29 only two of the cast were present and of the few people in the pub, nobody had asked about tickets. I was all for jacking it in. I was also fuming that our third man could not even be bothered to turn up 5 minutes before the show let alone join in with any effort to drum up an audience.
At 7.31 he arrived. I don't know if he was stoned or if he's normally like that. I explained that I thought we should pull the show. We agreed to announce the doors being open and pull it if noone came. After a bit of being told what to say, our third man went out and made the announcement. Then we pulled the show.
I asked our latecomer to come earlier the following day. He had no idea what time it was when he arrived and seemed to think it didn't matter anyway because he'd be on last. . . Like we'd start without him even in the building. Or like it's okay for him to expect us to flyer and him not lift a finger. Maybe he has other commitments. . . But maybe I fucking do too, with a full time job and 2 hours' travel to the venue from it. Cock.
I'm not happy. I always knew this show would go pear shaped and despite some good coming out of wed and thu, it drags me down to waste my time on a pulled show. I grabbed my stuff put away what I had to and headed home.
Here's a problem. I have no power in my phone. How do I call my girlfriend and ask for a lift from the station? I don't even know the number. I live there now so effectively I don't know my home phone number. Or the number of her mobile or anyone's number. It's all in the inaccessible memory of my dead batteried phone.
Think, Ashley, what did we do before mobile phones? I went to an internet phone booth in Paddington station which annoyingly had a big brass band playing next to it, I kid you not, and inserted a pound. I wasn't allowed to dial 118118, but I was allowed to use BT's own 118500. The operator reached the dialling code of the number when my pound ran out. I swore. I'm still pissed off.
I took the train, resolving to ring on arrival or just get a taxi. I calmed myself down rabbiting at the man next to me about things. Kids, don't talk to strangers, but if you do, try not to bore them.
In Reading I put my credit card in a phone used the 118500 service and even let them connect me to the other end. It will probably have cost 5 quid and I should send a copy of the credit card bill to BT with the words 'you thieving bastards' scrawled on it in my own feces. . . Well, I wouldn't want to use anyone else's.
Back at home it came as news to my girlfriend that there are two more shows, basically killing my last weekend before I go to Edinburgh. So I'll be spending some time apologising, no doubt. It's hard to justify doing the show if it's going to be like this.
I'm currently in bed, my phone is alive again, but I'm knackered. Good night.
I mentioned a couple of posts ago that our flyering efforts had caught the attention of a London based amateur comedian (aren't we all) who wanted a gig. Well, again yesterday we were subjected to a similar young hopeful. This guy was quicker to cotton on to the fact that we weren't inviting him onto the bill. He did ask how to find open spots while in the area, and I gave him the standard advice of ringing around the advertisers in Time Out. Noticing that he had a north east accent, I asked him his name. He gave me his card. I can hear, so a name spoken alone would have sufficed. He turned out to have played a gig I read about on a couple of the blogs that I read. It was a nice way to feel a link with a stranger.
As he was leaving, he did something butt clenchingly awful. He tried to be funny. Speaking in low tones he started talking bollocks about passers by. In much the way that a slight of hand artist has to work hard to fool another, so too does a comedian have to work hard to suprise another. I was slightly shocked. I felt an urge to deliver some crushing put downs or explain that it was embarrassing. However I didn't want to be horrible, and he was being slightly amusing. Had I been a punter and had he had the mystique of the performer, maybe it would have been funnier.
The exit door appeared when he pointed to a black fellow and said that he was a dealer. . . Bit racist. . . Thing is, as I pointed out, he was. He'd been the guy dealing earlier. Job done conversation stopped. No offence needed to be taken.
I wonder what other shows pick up passers by hoping to join the cast. You reckon that Les Miserables has a queue of people singing at the stage door?
I think I learned something
I think I learned something of the nature of friendship tonight. I have been learning a lot this week. First things first, though. I should detail what happened between leaving the last train I blogged from and arriving at the train I'm now blogging from. I should do this to give all the details and also to kill a bit of time. Do you wonder whether J K Rowling would have written shorter books if she lead a busier life?
At waterloo station I was in no rush to get the next train and so I took the time to charge up my oyster card. Lest you don't know what this is, it's a pre pay ticket for the London transport system which comes in the form of a magic card that you touch on special panels and they work out between them the most economical way to charge you. I also got some cash out.
Then I went to the venue. I was a good 45 minutes earlier than the previous two nights, so I had time to set up, tune the guitar more assiduously (it still sounded out of tune) and then get out and start the fruitless flyering. The other member of the show who flyers hadn't turned up, so I got a drink and relaxed first.
I found myself sharing my patch outside the pub with a drug dealer. Interesting. I was saying something like 'Do you want to see some comedy?' and then he was chipping in with 'you want drugs?'. It wasn't quite phrased that way, but it was equally odd.
Eventually the other flyerer turned up and we lost the dealer. This is one of those things where I'll look back and feel pointlessly aggrieved. There are three of us in the show. Two of us flyer. The other arrives 10 minutes before the show and he does sod all. With the exception of the flying guy's wife on the first night, I've been the only one using friends to fill seats and though I know the flying guy has made some effort to spread the word, the third chap simply won't. He doesn't care. It's disposable to him and there's nothing we can do to change that.
Flyering hasn't worked. Asking people to come has worked more than I thought it would. Earlier I'd spoken to a friend on Msn and determined that he was coming. Another friend was also coming. So that would be a playable audience of two. Playable just.
But friendship is a funny thing. The msn friend is an old school friend whom I've sporadically kept in touch with over the years. I think I often get in touch with him when I need something. I'm sorry about that. But he always comes through. . . I hope there's something in it for him somewhere and that he could call on me. My other expected attendee was someone I used to live with and whom I've stayed in touch with off and on. Mainly off. We have some shared history and he crops up in my life now and then as do I in his. It was good to see him and catch up with the last 19 months' developments.
Apparently a reader of this blog, hi there, a friend from university days also showed up, with his girlfriend. On the one hand it was a blast from the past. . . About ten years past. On the other hand it was two more for the audience. I was more impressed with the former. Honestly. Though I can't help but look down on the way I appear to sell tickets to my reunions with old pals.
Bizarrely, and I am not going to complain, I tried to flyer someone who was already planning to see the show. He'd picked up the listing from Time Out. Moreover we discovered another such 'muggle' in the audience. Wow.
So much for thinking that yesterday would be the last show. So much for thinking that no off the street punters would join the audience. Two did. And the show went along ok.
I could have asked to go on last, but I won't be that guy. I took middle position, reasoning that my friends would stay for me and wouldn't walk out two thirds through a show, where they might choose to if I opened and they didn't find the other acts to their taste. Sounds cynical, but I had yesterday's comments from audience members in my head and I think it was the right thing to do. I won't review my performance. I had a good enough time to build up some momentum and I tried one new joke which worked.
It's the post show thank you, which seems increasingly to be a nostalgic review of the times I shared with the friends I almost forget, that should not be omitted or underrated. I think I am lucky to have met many good people and shared a laugh with them, and the fact that they're prepared to put the effort in to come and say hi at a small theatre in camden makes me wonder whether I haven't been foolish almost losing touch. I resolve to make sure it's more than my desire to have an audience that links me to my friends.
The post show drink included the school friend and college friend, who also knew each other, and one of the other acts. We shared the stories, which relied on many in jokes and back plots to make them make sense, and we gleefully recounted these tales. It was fun.
I don't foster delusions of stardom or a belief that I deserve an audience for what we're doing in Camden. I can hope for some people to come and I really appreciate it when they do. Maybe it's good to have an excuse to gather your friends around you. Maybe I shouldn't need excuses.
Either way, this week has brought some familiar faces back into my life and I'm thankful.
Last night we were flyering outside the venue trying to drum up custom. So far on luck. One of the guys walking past took an interest. This was encouraging until he asked 'so, how do I get to be in it?'. He was an amateur stand up himself and wasn't taking no for an answer. I explained that it wasn't a comedy night, but was instead a three header stand up show. He was, of course welcome to pay to watch.
He really didn't grasp this, so I took him aside and asked him man to man what he thought the chances were of him coming to see the show. He said he'd see it if he were in it. I replied that that wouldn't be coming to see it and I asked again. He didn't seem to get my point. Then I spelled it out to him. The chances of us adding him to the bill were the same as the chances of us expecting him to be a paying punter. It still felt like he didn't understand.
A lot of so called stand up comedians are, in fact, simply very ill individuals. I wouldn't expect all of the cast of our show to pass sanity tests. . . Myself most definitely included.
Not one to be especially discouraging to new talent, I gave the guy some tips on where to look for gigs and started looking for real punters to flyer.
The flyering is going badly because the people walking past are simply not the people we need to flyer. Most of them are headed elsewhere, or are not English speakers. I demonstrated this to my sister and cousin last night when I asserted that most people didn't speak English, immediately flyered a group and they looked sacred and said they didn't speak English. I knew from looking at them, but I proved the point. Still all to play for tonight, eh?
Back on the train
I blagged a lift from the office to allow me access to the earlier train. I even asked the man at the ticket desk if he could work out a way of making my Farnborough to Reading via London trip any cheaper. He did. I just saved ten pounds and gained nearly 30 minutes. Bonus.
According to the latest census, there are two people expected at tonight's show. I'm not sure if that is playable, and if it is, I am not sure what to do about the running order. On the one hand, if people turn up because of me, I feel like I want to close the show. However, I don't want to be the prima donna that insists on top billing every night. Yet, from yesterday's feedback, if I am on earlier, there's a good chance that an audience won't stay around for the end. Given that I'd be teching, I'm not sure I want to witness that.
This is the world I inhabit, folks, and it's depressing at times. It's also making me feel guilty. Why is the only time I bother with my friends to this extent also the time when there are tickets to be sold and seats to fill. Am I so egotistical that I see myself as worth paying to keep in touch with? I hope not. I think I've the comic skill to be entertaining, though these small audiences of acquaintances seem to make me nervous. Add to this the coffee lack of sleep and a day's inertia at work, and I'm really not at my best. I'm also dangerously close to giving in to my desire for bad food.
Hopefully, arriving in London a bit earlier will make my trip feel a bit less stressful today. However, getting on top of the workload tomorrow will be a challenge. So many delays and interruptions.
I feel like I want to write something new, but there's no time. I thought of a joke last night that I may try out tonight, it involves Charlotte Church, so it's already got a good start. I really need some space to get things sorted, but I have over committed myself. No surprises there, then. I must must sort out the mortgage and similar before I go to Edinburgh. I need a haircut too.
In other news, this train is air conditioned, which is nice.
One step beyond
I have gone one step further than my previous blog efforts. I have finally set myself up with the email version of blogger. Now all I have to do is send an email and my words appear on the blog. As a friend of mind discovered yesterday when I was emailing him from the train, I have a mobile phone with email capabilities, so I can now blog live from virtually anywhere.
'But wait,' you cry, 'didn't you blog on the train in the last post?' Yes. I did, but such blog entries have previously been manipulated on the computer before hitting the blog. Now it's in real time. I hope that this may encourage me to keep the blog up to date while I am in Edinburgh from the end of next week. Make something easier, and it may be done more often.
I don't feel so well at the moment. I am not especially ill, but my digestion is not at its best, and I had trouble getting to sleep last night. Part of it was post show come down, part of it was anxiety about the work still to do, and the houses still to fill. . . I am not convinced that the rest of the week will be as easy as the already tricky start.
Still, I am busy and I am interested in what I am doing, so that's a plus.
I like this train-based blogging thing. It's good to take some time at the end of the day to reflect on things. In an earlier post today I mentioned that I found some posts I made while in the midst of things 2 years ago to be surprisingly lucid and feet on the ground. Perhaps it's time to look at where I am, from a performing point of view at least, now.
Tonight's show was reasonably well attended, and infinitely better attended than last night. I went out there in front of my sister and her friends, my cousin and a friend of his, two old school friends and a further friend of a friend. I could have spoken to the majority of the crowd and addressed them by name. In some cases, I did. As a stand up it was both an easy home crowd and a difficult crowd to play as I was stripped of the pretence that I was some anonymous 'act'.
It's no triumph to invite some acquaintances and family to a room and arse about in front of the for 20 minutes. . . Though we had a laugh. In reality, I was going to be happy if I felt like I wasn't made to look inferior to the other guys performing, and I didn't feel like that had happened.
Comparing this show to my magnum opus, which played in the same venue two years ago, before they upgraded the sound desk to make such a show easier to run, I have to admit that I am nowhere near as committed, and overall, the show is nowhere near as good. I think I'm a more accomplished performer now than I was. That should be the case given the experience I have gained. However, the three of up doing stand up in this setting is a strange fruit. In terms of style, we have nothing in common, likewise experience. Even my relationship with the others is odd. I don my stage manager's hat and boss them about a bit too much. While I'm a reasonably capable techie, I can still manage to mess up occasional details like turning a mic on.
Overall, the biggest disaster is the promotion. That is, the getting bums on seats. I have nearly run out of people I could possibly ask, and the other two have so far brought one audience member between them. I suspect that one of our number will bring noone, such is his commitment and respect for what we are doing. I also suspect that the flyering will be a waste of time, as will be appearances in listings magazines. In short, we have 4 nights left and I suspect we may have already played our last show.
I hope I'm proved wrong. This week is a lot of effort to go to for no further attendances. I am indebted to my girlfriend for driving me around to make this commuting simpler, and rail and bus tickets are costing a fair whack each day. In short I will personally have spent more than tonight's ticket revenues by friday.
There's still a chance that we'll get genuine anonymous people in from the general public, but I doubt it. Why would they come and pay 7.50 for three people they haven't heard of doing a show they don't care about. I wouldn't. Though I encourage anyone reading this to do so!
Do I want out? Well sort of and sort of not. It's something to do. It's a bit of a life lesson for us all, and I feel like maybe it will help the others to face this. I also feel like I'm doing them a favour being their pet techy. Plus, even with poor audiences, it's an interesting challenge to play that room. It's not easy. If nothing else, it's a way of pushing myself into a mood where I'll be warmed up for Edinburgh.
My job is getting enough attention. The show is getting me from 4.20 until 9.30 when it's time to come home. The only thing that is suffering is my home life. I'm not sure it's really worth that. Note to self, don't forget those closest.
On the way to tonight's gig, I ended up in step with someone from the same business park as the one I work at. We got chatting and I purposely revealed that I'm a comedian because it's an easy route to a conversation, and also allows me to play geography games where I tend to know places people I meet also know. The link is the 300 or so performances I've done in random locations around our landmass.
As it happens, there were many geographic coincidences to discuss and we also talked about reading and jobs. A good mix. It made the journey to London pass by quicker and gave me moments to fill with humour and moments not to.
One key discussion point was about selling out. We'd been talking about Ben Elton, who went from alternative comedy to lowest common denominator box office friendly west end. My colleague suggested that not everyone sells out be cited J K Rowling as an example. While I believe that she would probably have written her Harry Potter stories her way whether she was wealthy or not from it, and while she doesn't appear to have allowed money to compromise her vision, even in the Hollywood versions of her novels, I still think she has been negatively affected by success.
Being a writer or performer is basically a lot to do with vanity. I've been aware of that since I started having the big ideas, and I like to remind myself of it. I think that a succesful writer or performer feels they have more license to exercise their vanity than an unsuccessful one. In some cases this leads to brilliance. Take Mel Brooks and The Producers for example (stage, not screen). In Rowling's case, I think she's allowed herself to become overblown without substance. I got bogged down in the 5th Harry Potter book and I blame her.
I tried to extol the virtues of better writing. The witty concise Douglas Adams for example. I also pointed out that terse writing can be easy but not really any good. Dan Brown is the best example. Race through his books, but expect no message.
So. Success can change you. I must now leave the train. Unchanged.
Some Random Wednesday Thoughts
I presented a beef sandwich and a small cup of soup at the till in the cafe this lunchtime. They can't guess what's in the sandwich, so I listed my order for the woman to ring into the till. I said "It's a beef sandwich. And a small soup."
The woman disappeared after ringing in my purchase. I was busy gathering the coins to make exact change. When I looked up I noticed her over at the soup. I called to her that I already had the soup. She returned and crossly accused me of not mentioning it.
I would have thought that the cup of soup I had sitting next to my sandwich on the counter, to which I'd pointed when I said the words a small soup" might have been a clue. As I walked away to consume these, I muttered to myself something about not being so stupid that the best I could do for a career was sell food. It made me feel better.What Are We In For?
The company I work for was bought out by a company this week. That company was then immediately bought out by a bigger one. Wow. I'm now a very small fish in a very big pond. We had a conference call today in which we were told what to expect by the big man at the head of the big company that owns the big company I work for (or maybe the company that owns the company that owns the company that... and so on).
He mentioned something about wearing seat belts and providing the best products to the best customers in the best way with the best people. I'm all for that. Probably.Was I Sane?
Looking back at my blog from July 2004
, I have to wonder whether I was truly sane or not at that time. My memories of this month have been rekindled by this week's gigs at the Etcetera Theatre, where some of July 2004's events occurred. I look back and wonder whether I was on the ball, and then I look at the blog and it appears that I was holding on very tight to reality.
I'm glad that I noted the contribution of other people to the successes.Review
A couple of weekends ago I wrote an article for Micro Mart on the impact of blogging. As I was writing it, I registered this site on Technorati. Having done that I was then able to see if anyone has been blogging about my site. I was interested to find that there was a cross over with another Micro Mart article I'd written. In The World's Worst 100 Websites
I gave "Inner Geek" a bit of a playful dig. However, they found out about it and were not happy.
I can't remember exactly what I wrote about them specifically, but that's actually not relevant, since they didn't respond to my comments on their site. They responded to their inclusion in the list and the judging criteria I'd used. They hadn't read the whole thing. As a result, they objected in principle, missing the point that the article was in fun and actually made the point that some of the criteria would cause "good" websites to enter the list... albeit those which wasted time in a good way, or were "so bad that they're good". It's interesting that the "geeks" chose to bitch about it behind my back, rather than approach me to ask me to account for myself.
You can read their blog post and my comment on it here
. So far nobody got in touch. I guess these geeks must be too shy.
Well, my nerves are over. The first show has been and gone and it has been as bad as it can be, and that wasn't too bad in the end.
I'll explain the worst case scenario, because I have some time and I'm on a train, so that time won't fill itself. Unlike the woman on the train I took to London, who was texting with keypad tones on on her phone, so it sounded like she was dialling a huge long number, I use my phone on silent, so nobody will get pissed off. Actually, I asked her if she was dialling a long number and she said that she was texting and asked if it was annoying. I said yes and she was put out. Then I asked if her phone didn't have a silent mode and she got more put out. She then told me that if it bothered me I could find one of the special quiet carriages, at which the person behind her suddenly exclaimed that we were in such a carriage. Cracking!
Anyway. The worst case gig scenario. It's not nobody. That's bad, but you don't do the performance, so it's not that bad. Playing to fewer than 4 is worse, though 4 is pretty bad. Playing to one is hardest as is 2 if they're a couple. It's worse if you know them personally, or at least off stage. It's worse if it's family. It's worse still if it's your mum or grandmother. So tonight wasn't actually the worst it could be for me, but the audience of one, who was one of our number's wife, was fairly tough.
I closed the show and doubled the audience when I brought this woman's husband from backstage to the seating area to join her. It was still far too intimate, but what the hey. I tried out some new stuff and messed around with some oldies. Call the whole thing a technical rehearsal. . . One I managed to fluff a little when I didn't personally check the others were ready to start before I started the show going. It made sense to me that the acts, backstage at the allotted time, with the audience seated, would be ready. . . Apparently not.
In general, I'm not nervous about performing. Going on stage doesn't scare me at all. During the days of The Musical!
in Edinburgh, once we'd got into the rhythm of the show and its place in a day of flyering, my biggest worry was fitting into the tights with sweaty legs. As I'd go through the somewhat humiliated process of doing this - it always seemed more unusual to be dressed that way in the dressing room, than on the stage - I'd sometimes notice my co-performer pacing the floor, or looking worried. I'd ask "What's wrong?", and he'd say "The show?", and I'd ask "What about it? Are you worried about audiences? or maybe reviewers?" and he'd reply "No, we're about to go on stage and perform a show". I never really got it.
However, today I'm feeling a bit butterflies-in-the-stomachey. As always, I've managed to connect an after-hours busy period with a busy week at work. I've a lot to do at this computer today. It's presently in the middle of running some tests which will tell me whether I'm moving closer or further from making everything work. The waiting gives me time to contemplate this week of shows. From today until Sunday I'll be at the Etcetera Theatre
in Camden (where we one played The Musical!
) performing 20 minutes of stand-up.
As always, there are two things which worry me about a theatre show. Wires and bums on seats. I'm currently equipped with plenty of wires and a guitar. They're both in the office as I'm planning to use public transport to London, having been given a lift by my girlfriend this morning. As for the bums on seats... I've no idea. I've done a little promotion and I've very specifically avoided asking about pre-sales. I haven't had the time to beg people to come, and filling 6 houses is too big a job for my small network of contacts. Still, the show is being plugged in Time Out and other such publications, so you never know.
I don't aspire to doing things badly. I'm sure that the show will run fine, but as I don't know, there's a certain sense of trepidation.
I guess we'll see.
Ikea Again (and Road Rage)
Getting back home last night, after a quick stop at my now-ex-house to pick up my bike, and after a trip to Tesco to be weighed and discover that I have lost weight, but accidentally had gained weight last time, I was fed and told that we were going to Ikea. Fair enough. I don't hate Ikea.
So, off we toddled. We were buying a table for my girlfriend's mother. This is all part of a plan to sort the house out, and I'm always happy to help with plans to sort things out. There was a none-too-subtle suggestion that my trip to Ikea was also recompense for my forthcoming week's gigging. Whatever.
Ikea was looking particularly gaudy that night, though I was amused to find a chair called Harry, another called Roger and another called Nandor - which is close enough to Nando's for me!
We found the table and had trouble putting it on the trolley. Some random man turned up and told me that I should really get one of the staff to help, since it's their job. Then the random man offered me his help and I accepted. We soon had the table on the trolley. The fun, however, was about to begin.
We stood in the check-out queue for about 20 minutes. It was desperately dull and made me want to shout at someone. Loudly. Docile staff at 11.30pm slowly putting Ikea's crap through the till. It was simply not good enough. We all know that Ikea exist for two reasons: to sell reconstituted sawdust, covered in plastic, and to make their real profits from selling £1 hot dogs to people who leave, having paid their "Ikea Tax" - the £30 charge levied to all customers, for which you get a bunch of tea-lights, some glasses, some sticks and some more sticks.
Following the check-out, we got to the outside, where we were well and truly pissed on with rain. Unpleasant.
At the car we discovered that the table was about an inch too wide to go in to the boot nicely, so it went at an odd angle and we had to drive home with the boot held down with a bungy cord. I keep one in the boot for such eventualities, which makes me feel slightly self-satisfied when such an eventuality occurs.
I chuntered about the bad drivers and stupid pedestrians enough to get myself into trouble with my girlfriend. I think it came to a head when I stopped at a zebra crossing to let the woman, who was standing in line with it, facing the other side of the road, cross, and then she looked at me sheepishly and indicated that she wasn't planning to cross the road, to which I drove on, exclaiming loudly "Well, you shouldn't be standing at a crossing then", obviously audible through the ajar boot. Well... she shouldn't! Why are people so stupid? Seriously. There are some docile imbeciles out there, and they're invariably in my way.
I'm probably suffering some sort of ongoing state of road rage these days. Whenever I drive somewhere, I'm usually in a rush and usually on roads which are busy. I notice the docile middle-lane hog. I notice the boy-racer who aggressively scares people and creates a hazard. All I want people to do is get on with it. Move along the road and make space for me to do so too. Don't crash into me, or endanger me, and I'll try to do the same for you. I may wish to scoot along at the maximum possible speed, which probably means that if you're not making the most of the lanes available, something odd will happen - I will undertake if I have to, as I'm not going to sit in extra traffic because someone else doesn't know how to drive. Conversely, I will encourage people to take the time to get into the right lane... like that time I flashed a woman to show her that she was sitting in the outside lane for no reason and she responded with her opinion that I was a wanker. She was right, but I got to my destination quicker with her behind me.
I think this week, where I shall drive infrequently, along with Edinburgh, where I'll also be off the road, will be good for me.
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