Park Bench Life
Thought I'd mix things up this week for my non-existent readership and do a Monday blog instead (basically I forgot over the weekend).
It's been a busy weekend though, travelling to South Wales with my family. It was partly for my granddad to reminisce about his time in the Rhondda Valley when he was a child, growing up, and we in turn learnt a lot about the area, and our family history. It was quite lovely really, and a nice time away, however, the main purpose of the visit was business. I was set to perform in the inaugural Merthyr Tydfil comedy festival!
The opening night was amazing, and I got to see the absolutely amazing Mike Wilmot headline the showcase. It was a true masterclass, and my stomach genuinely ached from laughter.
The next day of comedy, however, not so ideal.
I didn't really get to see any other shows*, unfortunately, and when it came to my own show, no one got to see that either! As it ticked over to 5pm for my show to start, not a soul, bar my family was there. Eventually, a few people sat down in the park benches at the back and I thought, "fuck it, let's do this". So, ten minutes late, I moved the mic and stand to the back of the audience, and performed to three park benches, two of which, actually had audience in them!
I announced at the start, that I'd do an abridged 30 mins, but we soon got chatting and joking, and before I knew it, over an hour had passed. It had gone so well between the five of us, that we finished the show having enticed a total of ten audience members, and two bar staff who stood and watched. Hardly any planned material was performed, but I just went off script and improvised with them for the hour. It was quite invigorating actually, and probably more fun than doing my actual show! We finished with a sing-a-long to Tom Jones' Delilah and I shook hands/hugged each individual audience member goodbye.
They were a lovely people in Merthyr, and Drew Taylor's comedy festival was great (it's just unfortunate my show was in a bar that was showing the Grand National during my time slot I think). Hopefully it'll be back in 2019, and I look forward to returning to South Wales.
*I did see one show, with Dorian Wainwright, Richard Jay, David Hoare, and Maggy Whitehouse - a great show with top South West comedians.
PS I know this entry is a bit awkwardly written in places, but it's 2am, and I refuse to go back and edit.
Wow, what a cool rhyming title Andrew!
Thanks man, it's really contrived to be honest, but hey-ho, so the whole blog.
And especially this entry, the meta conversation format will quickly wear thin.
Yes, I had considered that, which I was why I thought I'd make most of it a monologue loosely based around a question that italics Andrew would ask...so, you know?
Oh yep, that's my cue! Is it hard to promote events and sell tickets?
That's a very loaded question, which is most easy to respond to with a 'yes'. However, it is fun, rewarding, and often quite exciting. Well, I say exciting, more terrifying. Getting people in the door for any event is hard enough, and especially when they have to fork over money for a ticket, so I'll talk about this in two parts.
PART ONE: Free Events
I've done a fair few of these, and have had some good success. As well as my 2017 Fringe show being on the Free Festival (i.e. no tickets, just a bucket collection), I trialed the model on all of my preview shows as well. It was definitely easier I think, even outside of the Edinburgh environment where that was the norm. I managed to pack out most of the rooms in Salisbury and Shaftesbury, but it was very nerve-racking having no idea who would turn up if anyone. So it's quite stressful, but can be rewarding, with some bucket collections being above and beyond paid ticket profits! Profit is second to audience however, and that was the biggest advantage, just telling people to turn up and worry about money after. It's an attractive scheme, and for the most part, everyone puts in the bucket (or on some occasions bought me a drink etc.).
The actual promotion is a little harder, because it's difficult to gauge what budget to set, and indeed how much pushing people need. With ticket sales, it's easy to see if you need to ramp up the marketing - blind faith is not easy data to analyze...
PART TWO: Ticketed Events
is a whole new kettle of fish. Offering something for "free" is easy to market, but you have to do a whole lot of convincing to get people to give you money, even if it's as cheap as £1! I'm lucky in certain areas like Salisbury to have friends, family, and a small fan-base, but venturing outside of the area solo is difficult. Online seems to be where you'll get most views, but as fellow comic and promoter James Alderson (very funny - check him out!) says, you need to put something in their hands. A physical flyer or sheet of info is so much more convincing than a facebook ad, as it's much more targeted. Social media has a wide net to cast, and has success via deluge, but five flyers in potential audience hands is worth just as much as 1000 views.
Similarly so with actually selling tickets, handing over a physical ticket is much simpler and easier than online sales. Face-to-face achieves so much more, but obviously no one has the time or energy to do this enough for the audience you want.
Which is why, away from physical and online advertising, word of mouth is perhaps the most valuable tool. For free shows too, but especially for paid events. A recommendation from an audience member can boost your sales massively, as people often respect and go with their friends' choices more, no matter how convincing a critic or Press Release is. It's a social psychology thing (probably), so get people talking about your event - it's hardly too imposing or time consuming to ask people to spread the word, and if you've got a good enough product, they should do so happily!
Cheers bold text Andrew.
The Strangest Gig of my Life...
This morning, at about 3am, I clambered out of bed, got in the car, and drove to Oxfordshire. Well, my dad drove, but either way, we were travelling very early to the town of Banbury, where history was to be made...
To take away the mystery and grandiose, I'll let you know now, that the Attic in Banbury were attempting the world's longest ever comedy gig, spanning a continuous 92 hours across the Easter weekend. Hundreds of comics had flocked to be a part of the attempt, all of whom had to fit certain criteria of professionalism and length (at least 15 minute sets). I, in my infinite wisdom, volunteered an hour's slot from 5am to 6am on the Saturday.
I rather foolishly thought this would be a good place to run through my new show, but the almost fully inebriated crowd made that impossible. As I watched the comic before me finish his time battling with the early morning audience, I abandoned all thought of structure and tried to think what on earth could work in this environment. The answer? Pissing about.
I threw in some jokes and stories for good measure, but they just punctuated what was otherwise one of the weirdest hours of my life. Running a best beard competition, making people beat box, and stripping off my top whilst the crowd cheered and chanted, were all highlights of the morning; despite their combative nature, everyone was friendly, supportive and well up for a laugh.
A kind Gala Bingo worker named Paddy went and got me a pint of larger and I finished my set chugging it whilst everyone counted down. Then I introduced the next poor soul, and left, laughing to myself, unsure if any of what has happened had really happened.
A Brief Entry
Just a short one today, to keep up the momentum.
It's been a hectic weekend with three gigs across three days all averaging out to about an hour of stand-up each night! I love doing it all, obviously, but I'm fully expecting the crash on Monday. There's this real adrenaline from standing up on stage and when you've had that rushing through you for a while, the moment you step off the gas is when all of a sudden, all the energy just drains.
Luckily, we're almost at the Easter holidays, and am hoping the next few days of classes are going to be relaxed. A part of me wants to just keep going and riding the high, but I know that's not healthy, so I look forward to the time off.
Whatever you do, or whatever you dedicate your time to, remember to get a healthy amount of sleep and eat properly enough to fuel yourself. I often don't do this, but it's easier to preach than practice!
Writing to Write
I'm not sure if anyone is reading these weekly blogs, and I've not exactly been promoting them, so I doubt there's a steady readership. However, in many ways, that's not been the point really for me.
I started back in February when struck with pretty bad writer's block, finding myself at a creative loss. So, I did what everyone says to do in that situation: just do stuff. Write things, brainstorm nonsense, film crap. Don't filter yourself or worry about whether it's good, just get the flow going, and something will eventually come. Creativity really requires the right mindset, and just like any skill, it can get rusty if left un-exercised.
I would say this blog is sort of working, I've not felt so held back, even if there's not an amazing stream of content yet. At the very least, it's been psychologically boosting, and those benefits will really come through in my work eventually.
Similarly, I've been putting out 3 YouTube videos a week, just for the sake of doing them. They've been particularly fun to do, and some of them even have some semblance of humour! You can check out some of the random nonsense and doughnut reviews here.
It's definitely a piece of advice I will continue to heed, and also pass on: just create! Even if it takes a few months to get something really worthwhile, you have to keep that part of your brain active.
Loving the Hate
Recently, a video on my facebook page has experienced a bit of mini-virality, getting over 125k views as it stands. It was a short mockumentary about Salisbury and the Russian Spy Drama that's dominated the news, and I just shot it on my phone, going round the city for an hour with my friends, Tom and Sam, filming me. An enjoyable way to spend my free periods, and indeed I was quite happy with the final product, but the response has been far beyond anything I imagined. To reach such a large audience and get so many lovely comments about it was really cool, and even more impressively I actually got some hate!
Now it may seem odd to be impressed with that, but I've found it enthralling to reach enough people and make enough of an impact to receive internet abuse. Most of the comments (which has literally only been about 20 or so) have gone along the lines that I am a "twat", "unfunny dickhead", and even a "wannabe that should crawl back up [my] own asshole". How anyone can draw a conclusion like that from one 5 minute video is beyond me, but I'm loving it all the same. I've irked something enough to justify writing out an actual comment, I feel validated.
Online hate is something I just don't have the mindset for, I, and most reasonable people, just mutter it to ourselves and scroll past, but to get a large enough pool of people to be abused is to me, an experience to relish. At last, I am an "unfunny dickhead", and I've never been prouder!
Age & Wisdom...
I saw the fantastic Paul Pirie headline Wimborne Comedy Club tonight, and he just completely smashed the room; it was mesmerizing to watch and so so funny as well. Beforehand he talked about his experiences in comedy and joked about me being only 18, and without directly offering any unsolicited advice (The sign of a classy act), I just felt like I was learning so much. Not only from his performance, but from his attitude and the way he interacted with audience members, acts, and the promoter. Undeniably, this man is an experienced pro.
It got me thinking a lot about my own youth, and relative inexperience. Life has been a bit of a whirlwind the last year or two, and I've not really had a chance to properly reflect on the important things I've learned. This will probably sound wanky, but every experience has been invaluable in some way, and one of the things I love about comedy is rubbing shoulders with the long-timers, and just growing as a comic because of it. There's this idea about the 'passion of youth', but I've seen comics 50, 60+ with just pure joy in their eyes as they perform, it's not a young man's game despite what some bitter comedians on Facebook like to rant. Comedy in its purest form is a level playing field, which lets anybody, from any race, sex, gender or age, just express themselves through a mic for however long.
Naturally, there's some politics bollocks regarding the 'industry' and making a living/making a name, but at the TRUE heart of it, it's just people and microphones.
Maybe that sounds even more wanky, but I feel it's been an important thing for me to realize and recognize with more experienced comics, that the love of the art form should always be the driving force. It's easy to get caught up in success, or failure, or other acts, but the wise and experienced will always say bollocks to that nonsense. Get on with your own thing and enjoy it, and that's probably a good mantra for most things in life as well!
Any Old Bollocks
A weekly blog where I just share random thoughts, tangents, and stories.