Thursday, 3 January 2013

New Year Goals

I'm not usually one to do New Year resolutions, however this year I've decided to set myself a series of goals to achieve over the year. Let's get right to them!

- Create 52 Videos. 
I have a Youtube channel with 46 videos on it, 82,500 views and 372 subscribers. In a bid to produce more regular content I'm setting myself the task of creating 52 videos over the year. This is with the intention of making them weekly, however if I miss a week I'm allowing myself to catch up a video. I've decided this is the year to start using visual aids to help me keep organised, so to keep me on track I've created a 52 box check sheet that I can cross off and a year calender which I've broken down into easy to view weeks.

- Gig more.
Since getting my car last year I've gigged up and down the country, however not as much as I would have liked to. A general lack of funds has hindered my travels. I moved out of my parents and got a car (and also performed at the Fringe for a month) all in the same year, so money has been tight. Thankfully, as of next week I'm going to be working full time, which means more money for gigs! To help me feel more focussed and organised I've created gig contact sheets allowing me to record when I've contacted and performed at certain gigs as well as record their appropriate contact details and venue information. 

- Reach 2000 subscribers on my Youtube Channel. 
372 people have subscribed to my channel allowing them to be updated about my new content. Those 372 have built up since August 2010. I intend to reach 2000 by the end of 2013 (maybe I should reach 2013?). That's 125 new subscribers every 4 weeks totalling 1628 new people over the year. Is it possible? Yes. In September last year I set myself the target of getting 60 subscribers in that month. Because I had set myself the target I did it, and I managed it in 3 weeks. I then stopped trying to get subscribers in the 4th week because I had already achieved what I had set out to do, rubbish! 2000 might seem high, but it's purposefully high.

- Do 2 exercises every day.
We all have this one don't we? Well I think I've cracked it. I'm trying the 'Don't Break the Chain' system created by Jerry Seinfeld (and introduced to me by Charlie McDonald on Youtube). The original idea behind it was to improve success in creative endeavours such as writing. The idea is simple and completely psychological, you set yourself a simple task and set out to complete it every day, crossing off the day on a calender when you have completed it. The idea is to not break the chain. In my case I'm using it for easy exercises, just 2 exercises a day. For example yesterday I did some squats and some crunches, it took me 20 minutes. 20 minutes a day is 2 hours 20 minutes a week more than I was doing before. I'll let you know how it goes! If it works I plan to use the same technique for my writing. 

Aside from the exercise goal, the other 3 have one larger goal in mind: to be seen by more people, to entertain more people and to become better at what I am doing. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

A Change of Character.

Over 200 gigs, after 2 Fringe runs, over 2 years, this week I decided to change it up a bit performing as a character.

I've written more material and ideas for this character in a week than I've managed to muster in 3 months for my usual stand-up routine. I'm not bored of performing as myself, don't get me wrong, but I feel like I'm tapping into a creative part of me I haven't seen for a long time.

Before doing stand-up I did many sketch shows, revues, pantomimes and plays over the years, so performing on stage as someone else was all I knew. Writing for a character feels like writing without limits, it's exciting. But is it any good I hear you ask? He's had 2 outings this week (I haven't fully decided on a name yet, he's that new), both of them different, both of them successful. He was well received at Long Live Comedy where I was also able to get good feedback off my peers and he went down well at The Playhouse in Ilkley last night (where he went by Mr Finley. It would have been Mr Lineker if Lee had his way!). There's more work to be done, but I'm feeling more inspired than I have done in a while.

But what inspired this character? Another excellent question. Lots of things to be honest. At the most simple level, I watched a clip of a comedian in a suit last week and thought he looked smart, but thought if I wore a suit it would look like I'd just come from a meeting. Boom, a man in a suit holding a meeting was born. I started writing material, as I practised it I started doing a voice from a character I did 2 years ago for a YouTube video and with that voice came the moustache (you can see the video below, it's the character of Q) Originally I think the moustache defined the voice, as I've practised the character to myself with a few different moustaches and it's just not the same. So there's the premise, an older gentleman with grey hair and moustache holding a meeting with the audience as his employees. Currently it's a nice mix of audience interaction and personal tales, but the ideas are flowing free and fast and the more I think of interacting with the audience the more potential I see.

It's the character of Q he most resembles. 

On a deeper level, the last day of my Edinburgh Fringe Festival inspired me greatly. I saw 5 shows in the last day, 3 of which were Tony Law, Stewart Lee and The Boy with Tape on his Face. Stewart Lee I've seen many times over the years so I knew what to expect, but it's still impressive to witness his disregard for typical comedy conventions. Tony Law however was new to me, and his show was overwhelmingly inspiring to watch as an aspiring comic. Towards the end of the show I felt my breath taken away as I realised 'this is what can be done, this is what can be achieved'. You can imagine I was feeling equally inspired after seeing The Boy with Tape on his Face for the first time. Both shows made me realise that it's possible to look beyond words and actions and that the power of an idea should never be overlooked, whether that idea be hanging elephants from the ceiling or filling the room with hundreds of red balloons.

I'm not saying goodbye to performing as myself, but I'm planning on riding this wave of inspiration for all it's worth. I'm excited about writing, excited about performing and I'm excited that I'm excited because I think there's a lot to be said about doing what you enjoy. It's exciting that I'm still discovering that.

All Aboard the Comedy Bus!

A video tour of my Edinburgh Fringe venue: The Top Deck of the Comedy Bus!

Performing on a bus for a month was quite the experience! Despite the venue being too short for me (not an issue for my friend Sean!) we had a great run. Thank you to everyone who came to see us!

Me and Sean on our Comedy Bus. 

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Long Live Long Live Comedy!

Up and down the country open mic comedy nights start up and shut down on what seems like a monthly basis. For the North East there are more comedy nights than ever before. A new open mic night started last month, there is another one starting this month, another one just shut down, but when you look at the scene there are only a handful of established nights that have been running longer than a year. There is one night in particular that has been running longer than the rest, possibly longer than all the established open mic nights put together; the aptly named Long Live Comedy.

This month (June 2012) marks 2 years since my first stand-up comedy gig. That particular gig shut down a long time ago. Next month will mark 2 years since my first gig at Long Live Comedy. That was a terrible gig. I had been told that Long Live comedy was the gig to do, that everyone starts there, so I was keen to make an impression. It was a really big deal for me. My friends were very supportive of me trying stand-up comedy and so wanted to come and watch. Did I mention it was terrible? It was terrible. Long Live Comedy runs themed nights, where comedians can try out material based around a theme. I wasn't aware that nobody ever paid attention to the themes. The theme of my night was North. Did I try and write material about being from the north? No. I talked about magnets. I talked about compasses. I remember mentioning pirates at one point. My friends after the gig did well not to even mention what just happened. I filmed the set so I could watch back how I did. I've never watched it. I never plan to watch it. Needless to say none of that material ever got used again. 

My next gig at Long Live Comedy was 3 months later (I had another one in July so this was gig number 4. 4 gigs over 4 months, how things have changed) and it went much better. 

Everybody who starts out doing stand-up in the North East will have their own stories of success and failure at Long Live Comedy. Sarah Millican and Chris Ramsey both started there and I'm sure they will have stories of their own too. Every week new comedians start out, more experienced comedians try new material and every once in a while a huge name in comedy (most recently Reg D Hunter) might just show up to try out new ideas. It's just that sort of gig. For nearly 6 years Long Live Comedy has brought you the future of stand-up, so while new nights keep starting up and other keep shutting down you can expect Long Live Comedy to be still around, sticking true to it's name. 

For more information check out (I've recently given the site a facelift)

Long Live Comedy runs every Tuesday at The Dog and Parrot, Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Elderly Ninjas - Youtube Video

When it comes to warning signs, sometimes you just have to read between the lines.
This video idea came to me while driving back from Edinburgh one day and I passed through a small village (the sort of village that seems to only be one street) and greeting me was a singular sign warning me of Elderly People. There couldn't have been many more than 50 people living there, were so many of them elderly that there needed to be a sign? I saw no elderly people. That's where this video comes in.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Gig Tales - 'Shit' Could Go Down

As you entered you were greeted by a drunk and possibly high individual loudly requesting £2 from behind a cardboard sign. There was a table to the side of him selling art. Pictures £5. Snow globes £7. Not sure if the art was his or not.

I was the MC for the evening. The first act read a review of the venue he had found online, the review wasn't good. It could have been taken as prophesy.

A group of drunk women, scantily dressed in a variety of 'fancy' dress costumes were in residence. The back of our comedy room was essentially a corridor to the ladies toilets. We saw these women go to the toilet at least 7 times, whether they were using the toilets I don't know, I didn't check. If you don't want to disrupt the night, don't shout "sorry" at the top of your lungs to the acts on stage. Without your apology you would have been silent, which would have been super.

At the back of the room there was also a bar, which the other patrons also wanted to use despite there being a perfectly good bar in the next room.

The men's toilets smelled of a variety of illegal substances, so I was told. I heard that various dealings happened throughout the evening. Some of the acts became aware that 'shit' could go down at any moment and began to plan the fastest exit from the venue.

The man sitting at the art table became so loud and unable to stand properly that he was sent home in a taxi.

One of the acts highlighted to the audience that there was a sanitary towel outside the men's toilets. One of the acts had used sanitary towels in his set, it wasn't his. As proof of it's existence the towel was thrown towards me when I walked back on stage by the same act who pointed it out. Luckily sanitary towels have very poor aerodynamic properties.

One of the earlier acts later decided to heckle nearly everything said on stage. I told him to be quiet. He told me to "fuck off". He later apologised, saying he had had a spliff and had felt that he was genuinely adding to the night.

As a minor point, the mic stand was taped together. It didn't last the night. We had a taping session on stage.

During the second break one of the ladies in a metallic blue nurses outfit burst into the mens toilet asking if we had "seen fucking Kevin". None of us had seen fucking Kevin.

By the second last act a lady in the front row was unconscious. Her friends assured me she wasn't dead.

Despite all this the acts did really well and the audience who had paid money to watch were lovely. Sorry to end this tale on such a positive note, you probably didn't read this far for such a disappointing anti climax.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

North East Comedy Greatness

The North East is a great place for comedy and is filled with great comedians. There are enough comedy nights around the North East that an open mic comic could perform almost every night of the week. Add The Stand into the mix, now being open for a few months, and the opportunities for new comedians has never been greater.

The shear number of nights an act can perform at means they can progress at an impressive rate. I went down to Preston this week to perform my 'winners spot' at the Frog and Bucket's Beat the Frog competition, driving Katie Yossarian and Paul Brett to take part in the gong show. Both acts got through unscathed; Katie would have done a 10 minute set if they had let her and Paul bagged second place. The winner was North East based Rob Gilroy, topping off what was already an excellent night.

Last weekend saw the quarter finals for the Laughing Horse New Act of the Year competition held in Newcastle. Howard Lee, Jonathan Pelham, Nick Cranston and Biscuitz all got through to the semi finals, I will be surprised if one of them doesn't go through to win it!

Both these nights showed off a lot of talent from new acts in the North East, some who have been going for a couple of years and many who are in their first year of comedy, all of which will keep on getting better as they continue to gain experience from the growing comedy scene that surrounds them.

Me, Interval, then Frankie Boyle.

The following is a long lost blog post, originally writen on the 18th October 2011.
I've done a spot of traveling over the past 2 months. At the start of September I went down to London to perform Downstairs at The Kings Head. It was a great gig with a full room of people up for comedy, but I tell you 2 days worth of traveling is a lot for 5 minutes stage time. Got the coach down and back and stayed in Witham with my friend Chloe (who definitely helped make all the traveling bearable) so between 2 coaches, 2 trains and 3 tube journeys I was traveling over 17 hours in 2 days. The 5 minutes were excellent though. I had booked it about 5 months previous with the aim of doing a gig in London, I came home feeling it was worth it.

I have just done 2 nights at The Stand in Scotland, last night in Edinburgh, tonight in Glasgow (writing this on a train from Glasgow to Edinburgh to get the train back to Newcastle at 5:40am, good times). The gigs were amazing, both of them, but Glasgow especially. At a guess I'd say 200 people packed into the room all of them wanting to laugh. My 10 minute set both nights went excellent (only 5 hours on trains over 2 days for 20 minutes stage time, so much better!). To top the night off we had Frankie Boyle closing the Glasgow show, quite a nice surprise! The lineup went me, interval, then Frankie Boyle. Crazy.

I've spent the 2 days with Jack Gardner who was also a nice surprise to find in the lineups! We've had quite the epic time hanging out, writing, analysing and performing together the last 2 days. Much like my friend Chloe did in London, even if the gigs were terrible the company would have made it worth it. I should mention again the gigs were amazing, tonight is probably the best room I've played.

I have a 4 hour window in Edinburgh to get some sleep, I feel my usual post gig high may hinder this. Work tomorrow could be fun.

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