Thursday, 30 December 2010

First (and second) appearance on a Grinning Idiot stage.

So I wrote this blog over a week ago (it’s been Christmas, busy busy) and it’s about events that happened over 3 weeks ago (I went on holiday straight after, lazy lazy) so like they say, better late than never! Happy New Year every one! (That might literally be read by one, I have no idea who reads this)

Me and my friend Laura had plans to see Norman Lovett (from Red Dwarf fame) and Isy Suttie at the Whitley Bay playhouse, but due to the snow the playhouse postponed the show because of staffing issues (which they predicted 2 days in advance, not trying hard enough I say). I had told Dan that I was planning on going when I saw him at Long Live Comedy, so when the night was cancelled he got in touch with me.

Dan asked me if I would like to do a 5 minute set, telling me that they were running a different line up (I'm guessing the original acts either couldn't make it or dropped out) with new local acts making up the middle section. I jumped at the opportunity.

The Grinning Idiot is the leading comedy club in Newcastle (in my eyes at least) so the fact they wanted me to even do a set was exciting. The first gig was on the Friday night (December 3rd) at the Corner House and as luck (possibly bad luck) would have it Simon Donald was stuck in Newcastle for the night and agreed to headline the show.

The Corner House
  So to start off the night we had Dan Willis (interesting to see outside of his MC role) followed by Simon Donald as his first character (hilarious!) then in the middle section we had myself, Nicola Jane Mantalios-Lovett and an act I cannot remember the name of (it’s been a couple of weeks, I want to call him Alvin)
George Zach also made an appearance briefly but most of his time in the limelight came from the constant abuse from John Smith (the MC for the night). The night finished with Simon Donald as Barry Twyford (apparently trying out new material and again hilarious, struggling to keep a straight face himself)

My 5 minutes went amazing (5 minutes 40 seconds, I was relying on Dan keeping time). With over 100 people in the room it was my biggest audience yet. Me and Laura had to run out during the raffle (Simon had brought a single book) but we missed our metro anyway (is this a blog or a story?).

The second gig was on the Saturday Night at St Dominic's in Byker. The line up went Paddy Lennox to start, myself opening the middle followed by Natalie and Andy Fury, then Dan Willis closing the night. My set was good, but not like the night before. It got big laughs in most of the right places, they even laughed at a line that wasn't meant to be funny, but for parts at the start I got silence which I have never experienced. It wasn't a bad gig, I've heard stories of bad gigs, this was just a quiet audience. Even the MC found it difficult, as did the other acts, so I wasn't alone. I learnt a lot from this night: don't be put off by the bright lights (I don't remember looking up as often) and if especially nervous don't rush it (it's my most panicked set to date). Friday went brilliant but it's Saturdays set I wish I could watch back.

They were both 2 invaluable nights which I massively enjoyed. To get asked to perform by the Grinning Idiot, even for 5 minutes, fills me with confidence that I am on the right track.

Here’s to a splendid 2011!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

When one gig falls...

When one gig gets cancelled, another one pops up. Thats what seems to have happened these past two weeks.

Last Thursday I was down to do a gig at the Trent House, but that is a confusing story. Basically it's not going ahead quite yet. After learning that gig had fallen through however I got contacted by the owner of Creased Comedy, Simon Buglass, asking if I would like to do a middle slot on the Friday night (Simon used to MC the Trent House but in this instance that is completely unrelated). As I am now going to as much comedy as I possibly can, I was already going to the gig anyway, so it was a no brainer on my part. I was originally going becasue Jason Cook was perfroming (who I see year on year and would recommend to anyone!), but I believe he was double booked and so Andy Fury (who was the MC from the new act night I talked about in my second blog post) filled the spot. The MC of this night was John Smith. I opened the middle section, followed by my friends in comedy Rory McAlpine and George Zach (it was a proffesional night with new acts in the middle).

The show was due to start at 9, but by 8.30 there were only 2 people in the audience. There was heavy snow outside so it was understandable that people were not rushing to watch comedy (in a room which unfortunately was going through a period of broken heating). But by 9.15 we nearly had 20 people, a small crowd but enthusiastic, a great crowd to have, well done crowd. Tried out my newest additions for the second time with good reactions from the audience, did 8 or 9 minutes I would say. Was very pleased with the night. Steffen Peddie rounded out what was a great night of comedy.

I was due to do another gig tonight at The Comedy Pig (or "The Pig Night" as the flyer said haha) at Barkollo but no one turned up (I would imagine due to the insane snow). Luckily I was told it was off before I set off (as I was going for the later part of the evening due to a chinese meal I was attending). I arrived home from my meal to find an invite to do a 5 minute slot on Friday at the Corner House. The snow has cancelled a gig I was going to attend at the Playhouse but has given me another gig in return! When one gig falls another rises, I'm telling you.

Me performing at Long Live Comedy (Why video yourself?)

This is a video of me performing at Long Live Comedy on the 12th October. My Dad said that putting my material online might effect people coming to see me live because they have already seen it, to which I pointed out he was massively overestimating how many people were going to watch the video. He accepted my point.

Why video yourself doing stand up? It helps enormously. It allows you to see what the audience sees. It allows you to see how you are standing, where you are looking and how you are perceived. It allows you to hear what you said, when people laughed and when people didn't laugh. These are all things that are impossible to imagine after a gig. When I am performing I find it hard to recall afterwards which parts were the funniest and which parts were least funny (however you always know if something dies) so being able to watch it back is an invaluable tool. I was able to learn a lot from watching the video of my first gig and I have learnt a lot from this video as well. There is no need to video every gig, but I feel it is useful if you are trying out new material.

Why put the video online? At the end of the day the vast majority of my closest friends have seen me perform already. I do not expect all my other friends to go out of their way to see me live, but I would still like them to see what I am doing. Plus a small majority of people want to come and watch me but can't make it, so these videos are for them as well. I'm a bit too new to have a show reel yet but down the line video is a useful way to show promoters what you can do if they can't see you in person.

In conclusion, videos are great. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

First for the very first time.

I did a gig last night (gig number 5!) in Sunderland at the new Sordid Squirrel Comedy Club. What an interesting gig it was. I was put on first, not because I wanted to but because I didn't know any better. A number of the more experienced comedians refused (or preferred) to not go first and as it turns out I have realised a good reason for that. Of course when they came to ask me if I wanted to go first I just said 'yeah why not!' thinking that someone had to do it and that it couldn't be that bad. It was educational.

After I had finished George (the Greek comedian who is forever dishing out advice) said to me 'tough gig, but it's not your fault, it's their fault for not wanting to go first'. He then preceded to tell two of the comedians off for letting someone as inexperienced as myself take the first slot. But I am glad I did. I still enjoyed it and it will take a lot more to conjure any feelings of dismay. Granted I didn't get as many consistent laughs as my last 2 gigs, but there were a few laughs and people smiling throughout. It was the first time I have ever found myself actively looking into the audiences eyes, usually I can just look at them generally or just perform into the darkness but in this venue I had all 25-30 of them sitting in a horseshoe right at my feet. I could tell just by looking at some of them that they were not quite ready for comedy, but it might be that my style and my material is just funnier after a few more drinks.

At the end of the day, all the other acts had a reason for not wanting to go first probably because they have had a similar experience, so in that respect I have learnt something valuable which I can take with me as I continue down the ever enlightening path of comedy.

Monday, 18 October 2010

The Grinning Idiot. 3 very different nights.

Dan Willis from the Grinning Idiot invited me along to see one of their shows last night. It was the first 'regular' night I have seen by them, having seen two shows by them before.

Last week I went to see a charity gig run by them. It pretty much followed the same format apart from the punch up in the middle. Yes, someone got slapped, there was quite a lot of palava. Long story short there were people making noise during the acts, no one was happy and they wouldn't leave. They left eventually but not before leaving a mark on someones face. The night was great overall (the acts followed the same listing as a bookable non charity night happening in Sunderland) and included John Scott, George Zach and Gary Delaney. Top quality all round. Gary is a great one-liner act and was fantastic to see him enjoying himself just as much as we were watching him.

My first Grinning Idiot experience involved Michael McIntyre in Sunderland. Me and a large group of friends managed to get tickets for one of his gigs in August. It was great to see him try out material, at one point reading jokes off a piece of paper because they were so new. He just stood in the same place, no skipping or prancing around. It made you realise he isn't all just a massive stage persona, really great to see, and did I mention hilarious? Just fantastic (and just as good as when we saw him at the arena, at a third of the price! Oh and literally 10 feet away, rather than 1000)

And we are back to last night. What a crazy night it was. I mean seriously, insane. I had not seen any of the acts before but was aware they were 'unpredictable'. Charlie Chuck was the first up and went down a treat with his ever so convincing character comedy. Convincing to the point I had to google him to figure out if that was just him or if he played other characters. Charlie Chuck seems to be the most famous, and to say the least he has left a lasting impression.

Keeping the sanity of the night was Barry Dodds and finishing off the gig was Phil Kay. Phil Kay has this unbelievable talent to create comedy out of thin air. Someone I was sitting with (I went alone, but met some very lovely Grinning Idiot regulars who had travelled all the way from Hartlepool) shouted out a heckle which Phil then went onto improvise an entire song around. He truly gives off the impression that none of his sets are the same, you cannot tell what has been said before and what hasn't. Definitely one I want to see again from a comedians perspective, just to see what his 'methods' actually are.

My Hartlepool friends asked me if I try to watch out for things to do and not do when on stage. I think I shall leave this topic for another time, it's late and this post is long enough! Tune in next time...for something else!

Friday, 15 October 2010

First booking!

Somebody has asked me to do standup! If you read my last blog post you will know I gathered a bit of  interest at my last gig, well one of the people who talked to me wants me to do a set for the opening night of a new comedy night in Sunderland called The Sordid Squirrel Comedy Club.

The night is an open mic night so will be performing a 10 minute set (maybe a bit longer if I get an influx of comedy inspiration). As an open mic it's not a paid booking (after 4 gigs, you crazy?!) but I'm classing it as a booking none the less! Getting my name on flyers and everything! :D

The date of the gig is Monday November 1st 2010 at The Victoria Gardens, Hendon, Sunderland.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Becoming a sought-after comedian?

Performed another successful gig last night which has gathered me a bit of interest from some very established comedians! Very exciting times indeed.

After the show I got approached by 3 seperate people who all told me that if I was to create a 15-20 minute set of that quality, they would have me perform at one of their nights. As the set stands it is 7 minutes long (I have other material but its not of the same quality) so I need to get writing! One of the comedians was Dan Willis, a co-founder of The Grinning Idiot Comedy Club (he also introduced me to the other co-founder John Smith, who had not seen my set). The fact that he thinks I'm good enough (or potenially good enough, he will of course need to see what I come up with) to grace a Grinning Idiot stage is quite simply fantastic. He advised me to go to the Dog and Parrot (where the Long Live Comedy show is perfromed) every week as sometimes people drop out or they might have a spare slot. His top tip was to just keep gigging (I strongly dislike that word. Any word where 50% of its letters are G is just not right), and that gigin (see what I did there?) is the only way you are going to get anywhere. He has got to where he is by doing thousands of gigs, I have done 4. I have quite a long way to go!

The other comedian to chat to me was George Zach who runs a comedy night at The Three Tuns. He also likened me to comdian Alun Cochrane (who I'll be honest I hadn't come across, but I can see where he is coming from, maybe its the face? Similar smile?)

As George told me after my second gig, the first 100 are just practises. I have 96 practises left. I really need to get a move on!

As a final thought, the feeling after performing a good set is just phenomenal. And getting the amazing feedback I got last night just compounded it! I was still buzzing (that's right, like a bee) when I woke up this morning. I will quite happily experiance this thousands of times, quite happily indeed.

Long Live Comedy have fantastic acts every tuesday night at the Dog and Parrot. You can find out more at

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Getting recognised at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!

After only doing 3 gigs (not including the couple I did in 2008 :P) I managed to get recognised by a 'fan' at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! The chances of me talking to someone who had seen me perform are astronomical (or at least very high)! When you consider that at the most 300 people may have seen me do standup, and the fact that the population of Edinburgh doubles during the fringe (to about 1 million people, so I heard) the chances of me talking to anyone who had seem me are 1 in I don't even know, a crazy number!

We saw many fantastic shows, some of which we go back to see on a yearly basis. Two of my personal favourites I make sure I never miss are Jason Cook and Nick Mohammed, they are worth the trip just on their own! Jasons style of comedy is not only hilarious but from the heart and in past years has invoked many a 'choking up' moment. I go to see his shows again when he performs in Newcastle (he's a Geordie!) I cannot recommend him enough. Nick Mohammed is just pure genius. The best character comedian I have ever seen, he is the only Fringe act I have gone to watch again in the same trip, just genius.

Other standout shows we saw this year were Chris Ramsay (from South Shields, had Jason Cook and Al Murray sitting in the row behind us! Al has a very hearty laugh), Jack Whitehall, The Penny Dreadfuls and Simon Munnery. We of course went to see Jocks and Geordies (with Dan Willis as MC and Simon Donald as the headline, brilliant). We also saw the daytime Best of the Fest (Axis of Awseome were mind blowing, check out their 4 chord song on You Tube! Do it now!) Oh and we also saw a improv comedy 'battle', the one that Keith suggests in the video and doesn't go to see. I think he knew what he letting us in for.

9 shows in 2 days. Cannot wait for next year!

'Inception Review...or is it?' with behind the scenes.

Inception Review...or is it?

Inception - Recreating the Beach Scene (Behind the scenes of the review)

At the time of writing the review is just shy of reaching 700 views on You Tube, whereas the Behind the scenes is just shy of 1800 views! I think this means that more people must be searching for behind the scenes footage from the movie, only to find me lying in the sea! This just shows that if you make a video that is topical with an interesting title people will find it one way or another. I can safely asume despite 1800 people watching it the behind the scenes video is not what people would have been expecting. The review has a large number of 'Likes' and comments, whereas the behind the scenes video has a lot less despite having more views. Facinating.

If you want to add to those 'Likes' and comments click this link! :D

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The first embedded!

As I have learnt how to embed videos directly into my blog, here is my first stand-up set and video blog!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The journey continues.

Note: This was written on the 5th July 2010 after spending a week in London.

Right this second I feel alive. That's a strange thing to say and if taken literally is completely pointless, but it feels necessary. It's the only way I can express the mass number of thoughts speeding through my head. I guess I regularly feel alive in that sense, but this time I thought it was worth mentioning. Not to take anything away from these emotions, I just don't want you to think that because I'm feeling particularly elated now that this moment is the pinnacle of my existence, because that would be a lie and not to mention a very difficult thing to quantify. I'm glad we cleared that up.

I feel excited, about everything. I am excited for the future, I am excited about the present, the past is feeling left out.

The first videos.

Check out my first set of the year on You Tube! Follow the link below to see me do stand-up in Newcastle:

Then check out my first ever video blog! It's like this blog but in video format!

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

Friday, 18 June 2010

The first set.

Did my first set in a long time last night. Have to say it went pretty well, although it did feel like I'd rang Rent a Crowd, with at least 75% of the audience being people I had brought along. If I hadn't invited anyone there would have been about 15 people, 9 of them comedians. Because the audience belonged to me the compare made me the headline act, probably afraid that if I went on early people might leave. I also didn't need to travel far like the other acts, being local and all, so I was in no rush to get home.

Being the last act meant there was a long wait. I was already nervous not knowing if any of my material was in any way funny but the build up made it worse. I think now I know what jokes work I would be quite happy to do them again with no nerves. I think a lot of being a stand up is finding confidence in your material and that is something that will only come in time.

I filmed the performance so I could watch back what worked and what didn't. It's interesting because when you're on stage it's hard to remember how the audience are reacting. The most obvious reaction is when there is no reaction, but other than that I found watching back the footage very insightful as I couldn't have told you how much people had laughed and at what.

It's very exciting piecing together the good material. I enjoy being critical of my work, it's satisfying to say 'that one is a keeper, that one is never going to be heard again'. In time I will have a stash of quality material that I will be able to use to create a winning set. Then some time after that I will have twice and much, then I just need to double it again and I have a show!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The path of a comedian.

Do I know the path of your typical stand up? Sadly not, but here's my guess as to how comedians progress in their careers:

Open mic/ new act comedy nights
Listed set nights
Opening slot/ mid slot in line ups
(festival/competition appearances)
MC work/ support act
Headline act
Festival run/named show
Show tour (regional then national)
Television work/ arena tours/ DVD releases/ world domination

I haven't done any research into this, it's just how I imagine the progression of a stand up using my knowledge of existing stand up acts and comedy shows. A lot of those things might happen out of order and I'm sure there are lots of things I've missed out, like corporate gigs for example.

The big question is where in all that do people start paying you? I think it's most likely around the MC/ support act point, but maybe before if people think your good enough to be part of a payed line up. What's the pay like? The general consensus is that you start off on very little, but when you are more established it can be anything from £100- £500 a show. Then the figures go crazy if you make the big time. To me stand up comedy has good job prospects, but like any job you have to work hard and of course be good at it. Only time will tell.

The more successful you get the more time you spend on the road. To make a living I imagine it involves an extensive amount of travelling up and down the country, to the point you spend the hours of a typical working day travelling. In my head stand up offers a way to make a living, with good prospects like any other job. But unlike most jobs you're not selling a product, you're selling yourself, I mean to say you are the product. There is probably a better way to phrase that.

I feel I can make something out of comedy, not just because I think I'm funny but because I am good at all the other things that need to go with it: publicity and marketing, web design, networking, video editing and publishing to name a few. I strongly believe I have what it takes to sell my product, but at the same time I need to keep realistic. It's all very well having these hopes and dreams but I understand at the same time that turning something that can be classed as a hobby (entertaining people) into something that can sustain you and allow you to do it more takes a lot of effort. It's just the same as my fellow fine artists leaving university and saying; 'right, now to make a living off all of this', it isn't going to happen overnight. Actors love to act but they don't all make money straightaway, musicians love to make music but it can take years to make a living off of it once you start. Like these other art forms comedy takes time, effort, a bucket load of enthusiasm and a bath full of belief. Of course this is all informed speculation, lets see what I'm saying in a months time!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The start begins soon.

On Friday I had an amazing evening of culture; student art followed by new stand up comedy. The art was at the Northumbria University Visual Arts Degree Show, the comedy was a new act night at The Grinning Idiot. Starting out in comedy I plan to see as much stand up as I can, and talking of starting out my first set (of 2010 at least) is this Thursday.

After the show finished I met one of the acts at the Metro so we talked on the way home together. It was his first time performing on stage. The reason he did it was because he is wanting to do as many things as he can that scare him silly, to put it nicely. So doing stand up was a tick on his list and by the sounds of things hes going to keep on doing it. For him, he didn't want a big crowd, he had originally thought England were playing that night and so not many people would show up. There was 17 of us as it turned out, many of which I know by name thanks to the MC. There were 3 Graham's in the audience would you believe. He was pleased with the size of the audience, he didn't find it intimidating. I personally seem to thrive off larger groups. In all the plays and sketch shows over the years I have always made sure anybody who was free came to see the show. This Thursday is no different.

The first time I did stand up there was an audience of over 100, a great size for an audience. I should mention that next Thursday will be my 4th official time of doing stand up, the first being at an art/music/culture night, the second at an improv comedy night and the third at a memorial celebration in a church hall. So I guess this will be the first time people will have come and expected to see a stand up comedian. All of my material is untested, no one has heard it yet so it might seem odd that I'm inviting people I know rather than test it on unknowns. I think I'm eager to get feedback, actually get told what works and what doesn't.

In the grand scheme there are going to be few times I will be performing in front of people I know. I need to get myself performing in front of crowds like Friday night. A small crowd of complete strangers. Small crowds are fascinating. They might be finding it hilarious but showing no signs of audible laughter, which must be hard for a stand up. I'm yet to experience that. I'm yet to experience a lot. How will I deal with my first heckle? No idea. No ones laughing? How does that feel? I aspire for the big crowds, I think anyone would once they get going, but I don't want to neglect the small crowds, I feel they have a lot to offer. A group of 17 people is a great size to try out new material, especially if half of them are named Graham, they laugh at anything.

I look forward to performing in front of anyone, be the group 100 strong or 10. I say bring on 1000! It's such an exciting time, I can't wait to get started!

Friday, 11 June 2010

The meaning of life, almost.

I have made this blog as a place for me to collect thoughts and just write in general. It’s all going to be comedy related but beyond that broad umbrella I can’t say what it’s going to include. Something exciting or at the very least interesting I hope.

I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Graham Oakes, I am 22 years old, just finished a degree in Fine Art and have decided now is a good time to get into stand up comedy. Art, theatre and comedy have always been a massive part of my life so going into stand-up doesn’t feel like too great a break from the norm, the only people who have been surprised at my ambition have been people with no knowledge of my comedy history (which I will get into another time).

I think the word ambition is a good place to start. I asked myself the age old question ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ Over the course of my degree I have seen myself doing lots of things but the one thing that sticks at the front is entertaining people. I see myself making people laugh. Over the past 4 years I have seen myself as an artist, web designer and I guess an overall creative designer, with interests growing in video and other forms of digital media. 6 months ago that really was the only path that seemed logical, a way to use my degree and utilise my expansive number of skills at the same time. And I think all of that is what I see myself doing, but as part of something greater. After completing a fine art degree I know there are a number of people contemplating becoming artists of the freelance variety; i.e. they plan to make money from their art.

One of the most important things I have learnt over the past years is that art can almost be anything at all so long as it makes you feel. If something makes you feel an emotion or conjures up a memory then it is art. Theatre is art. Music is art. Comedy is art. It is the reason why some people see a piece of contemporary art and declare ‘that is not art’ because to them it isn’t, it doesn’t do what art is supposed to do. But to someone else it is art, because they feel something from it.

As an artistic person, I suppose the question you need to ask yourself is ‘what do you want people to feel?’ I think the question can be rephrased a lot more self-centred than that; ‘what gives you the greatest satisfaction?’ My art has always had a ‘wow’ factor usually through people being amazed at a certain technical skill, whether it be a photo realistic representation of something or the digital prowess to create an interactive art piece. I get a lot of satisfaction out of art, but does it give me the greatest? Maybe it’s the instant satisfaction that comedy provides; maybe it’s the obvious reaction that comedy provides. I don’t think you can get much better than making people laugh. Yes, it’s both those things. Comedy is a nice simple form of art, the emotion it provokes is instant and obvious and it provides an engagement with the audience that most art lacks. I’m all for leaving something in an exhibition to let people look at it, think its interesting and for them to mull over what it all means for days on end, but in 5 years time I see myself on stage making the grand total of visitors to said exhibition all react simultaneously and instantaneously the way I get the greatest satisfaction from.

Well, it would seem this post has managed to cover the justification for comedy as an art form, the meaning of art and quite possibly the very meaning of life itself. When I said interesting, I was thinking more along the lines of what I planned to do tomorrow, but no matter.

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