Thursday, 23 August 2012

Thursday 23rd August 2012: Whooosh! Big Ol' Blog!

Woosh is the sound of deadlines flashing by that Douglas Adams famously liked so much. For me it kind of represents this fringe. As much as I'd like to chill out and have a nice time, there's always so many things to dive into, and come out sparkling with joy and laced with sweat. The podcasts have proven to be nearly as much fun as actual gigs, I've seen some top of the range comedy (including The Boy With Tape On His Face last night. Amazing. The only thing that'll make me a four year old, losing all self-consciousness. Major likey) and I'm falling in love with stand-up again. Only this time in a healthy way. Lovely stand-up (kissey sound. Stand-up's asleep next to me on the sofa. I don't dare wake him up. But I'll make him tea. That'll be enjoyable).

The podcast interviews I did yesterday were nicely distinct, in that one was probably the most serious one of them all and the other one of the silliest. I look forward to what Zoe has to say about the Ellis and Rose one. But I did have my first Cinnamon Latte of the run. Which was pretty much unfathomably nice.

I was talking last night to my friend Alexander Bennett, who is a great comedian and chararcter actor about previous Edinburghs, mutual friends and all-out idiocy. One of the silliest moments was when we were both doing Brendon Burns impressions and a guy with an odd looking mouth asked us whether we'd like some MDMA. We were fine, thanks. On enough drugs ourselves to begin with. And with ourselves, I mean me.

Now, I'm quickly going to go through all the shows I've seen in the past few days. I've entered the Allen Wright competition for Fringe-based writers and so I may well have a crack at doing some serious talkies about stuff.

- Monkeytoast
My friend Jamie was in town for a flash visit to the Edinburgh Fringe. I had been successful in persuading him to go and see Storytellers Club at the Pleasance Courtyard. We bought our tickets and joined the queue. Only after about 5 minutes and a lady having to tell us that Sunday is not the same as Thursday, we had to go back, tails between our legs (ok, mainly mine, because I'd been responsible for this cock-up) and trade in our tickets. Instead, we went to see MonkeytoastUK at the Dome. This made up for the mess-up before. David Shore is a good interviewer, the guests (Nick Helm, Jay Foreman and one of the writers of Coalition, I think his name is Richard Goode) were tired but amusing but the improv in between the interviews was stellar. I quite like the fact that, like in America, stand-ups are allowed to be doing different things as well as their act. Idil Sukan stole the show for me, often contorting her face to increasingly implausible heights of funny, with Rob Broderick and Richard Soames a close second.

- Bridget Christie - War Donkey
My friend Chris texted me about coming to see the show whilst I was still asleep. There's nothing like that for a wake-up call. The show is on in the newly refurbished Assembly Rooms (where I had just a little snuggle in a corner for a bit. Oh my god those carpets!) and contains Christie in several different costumes and increasingly angry at misogyny. Genuis. And I now have a full set of Christie badges. How did I do that? Come and see the show and be quietly embarrassed. After that, me and Chris had quite a serious conversation about liberal feminism. That's the kind of show this is.

- Josie Long - Romance and Adventure
I'd seen Josie do her 2010 turnaround show Be Honourable where she for the first time shifted towards political comedy. Having missed her last show, I was curious to see whether she could actually do a show about things she liked and not have her righteous anger at everything the current British government represents come in and mess up things. Well, it did. But this breakdown show (as in: she had a life-based breakdown, see Felicity Ward, episode 4), contained positive advice, great polemic and a supportive way to live through the constant horribleness of being represented by people you despise. I have a similar thing about absolutely despising Dutch politics, and being ashamed about why our government for nearly two years (TWO YEARS!) had a crypto-fascist party as a support. In October, when I was going through my lovely breakdown, Occupy Amsterdam had just started and I tweeted Josie about RT-ing a positive note about how lovely Occupy Amsterdam really was. She did, and the message got through. I thanked her for that after the show. She's a great human being on top of being a great comic.

- Brendon Burns - Home Stretch Baby
I'd seen Brendon for the first time in July 2009, dying on his arse in Amsterdam. I was one of two people falling apart with laughter in an otherwise entirely quiet room. I saw him again this year in the Pleasance Dome and couldn't contain myself. I went for it and told him the Dutch are c**** and he was amazing. He told me to come to his show, because the ending was mainly about the Dutch. I saw him on a quiet night and was baffled by his powerful presence. He rarely shouted or even raise his voice, but was as unforgettable and impressive as before. After the show, I bought his book whilst being filmed by (awesome comic) Craig Campbell who has awesome slippers. I told him the story about his death in 2009. That'll probably end up as a dvd extra somewhere.

- Daniel Kitson @ the Traverse - As Per 1:52 PM On The 30th Of April 2012, This Show Has No Title
Two years ago, I saw Kitson at the Traverse performing It's Always Right Now Until It's Later, and wept like a baby. For one, I'd never seen anything (ANYTHING!) that good, so I doubted my ability to ever reach a stage that I could do something like it. This show is different. It's Kitson doing Pirandello, writing about the writing process, about his personal life and about two people, one old, one young, who come together over stories told and untold. The three narratives are beautifully interwoven and the shifts of focus are astounding in intensity. He is -at times- incredibly funny, but more clever than heartstring-tugging, than his 2010 masterpiece. In Kitson terms, this is more a Weltanschauung than a C90. Kitson sits at a table, in cold fluorescent light, reading out the script, including all stage directions. This requires a lot from the audience, not least in terms of attention, because a beautiful turn of phrase will just fly away into the aether if you're not careful. It's heady stuff, but beautifully pitched. After the show, my friend James Hamilton just received a text that he'd been nominated for a Malcolm Hardee award. Rejoice!

- Nick Helm - This Means War
I'm a big fan of Nick Helm, seeing him twice in Brighton, where he 'kicked it in the dick' big time. This show holds a middle between an AC/DC gig and Tim Key's Masterslut but with songs instead of poetry. Although there are a few poems here and there. The band is a brilliant addition to the force of nature that is Nick Helm. The only downside is that the songs are not always funny enough to last the night. They might be well written and as melodious as is possible with the raw power that has become Helm's trademark, but just not as laugh-out-loud funny as his older songs. The audience that day was slightly reticent, not to their credit. It meant that Helm looked vaguely unfocussed at times and tried to address the lower energy in the room than usual. So a good four star instead of the five star I was expecting. Which is a shame, really. Better next year.

- Daniel Kitson @ the Stand - Where Once Was Wonder
I queued for this for more than two hours. Let me repeat that. I queued for this for more than two hours, outside of the Stand One, in decreasing temperatures. I was very chuffed that it didn't rain, so I read a book for a bit and in the end bought a ticket from a man whose friend wasn't coming. 3 pounds more than I'd otherwise have paid, being 3rd in the queue. But that didn't matter. It was so worth it. It was the most exciting, powerful, intelligent piece of stand-up comedy I've ever been proud to witness. Just go and see it

- Tony Law - Maximum Noonsense
I had to work quite hard to laugh at Tony Law's fantastic whimsical brainjolts of comedy. Not because ot wasn't funny, but because Kitson ended at 2 'o clock in the morning and I couldn't really sleep after that, due to my mind being blown. Although after about five minutes of working hard, I decided to have breakfast in the lovely deli place in the Arcade on North Bridge, after which laughter came more easily.
[note to all performers: laughing is hard work. Respect audience members if they do so. It's not easy, especially on an empty stomach]. The final song is amazing and Law's most powerful weapon (his voice) was in full flow this early in the day. Absolutely five stars. The breakfast was also dead good.

- Ellis and Rose - Failing to Pay Off Their Student Loans
Ellis and Rose only had 6 people in, including myself, in the Southsider bar. But it did nothing to diminish their performance. Think of Penn and Teller without the magic, but with physical comedy and lots of infighting. Rich Rose narrates with increasing incredulity their wilfully shambolic show while Gareth Ellis shifts from miming illustratively to having 3 full breakdowns on stage. There is a lot of potential here, the double act narrative is interestingly handled, but this show, more than anything, makes one curious about next year's. Plus Gareth's balls were very near my face during an explanatory dance sequence. I don't know whether that's a positive or a negative. Possibly both.

- Made for Each Other
Made for Each Other is an American style multi-character dramatic monologue. This style of performance doesn't usually travel, but that is exactly what writer Monica Bauer and actor John Fico have done. It's about many things, including Gay Marriage, death, afterlife and Alzheimer's disease. Go and see it while it's still on. Fico is a discovery.

- The Boy With Tape On His Face - More Tape
I cannot stress enough how much I love this show. As said in the title, it is more of the same, done phenomenally well. The Boy is the only act that makes me lose self-consciousness and revert to being four years old, shouting, ooh-ing, aah-ing and more vowels. He makes the Pleasance Grand feel intimate. Best show so far apart from Kitson.

Also, Felicity Ward missed out on a Foster's Nomination. In my view, entirely unjustified. There. Deal with that Foster's (e.g. Nica Burns who actually was there on the night I went to see Felicity. She should have known better)! Still congratulations to Ben Target, Josie Long, James Acaster and Pappy's (I haven't really spoken to any of the others, although my congratulations obviously extend to them also). Listen to myself and Ben Target pretending to run up Arthur's Seat for no other reason than to make Zoe giggle on Podcast number 5. The only relationship I have with David Trent is him pretending to wank over me in a room above the Caroline of Brunswick pub when I still lived in Brighton. I've apparently got a very wankable face. This is distressing.

Speaking of the Craic (and tenuous wanky connections), I'm planning to do A TOUR OF IRELAND in June, couch surfing and doing lots and lots of gigs. If you're in Ireland and you want to put up with me being on your sofa for a bit and/or you'd like me to do a gig at your night, then please get in contact through the obvious media (twitter/facebook).

Also, I'm doing two gigs, one on Saturday, one on Sunday, both at 5:30 at Anderson's, 161 Lothian Road. I'll be on early, because I'm doing Paco's shows straight after those. Come and see how I've grown/lost weight. I tried on pants that nearly didn't fit me 5 months ago. I've got room for another person in there now. KABOOYAH!

Don't forget to download our amazing podcast! Yesterday I had Monica Bauer and John Fico and Gareth Ellis and Rich Rose. That'll be online soon. Only 2 to go! And one of those is about Poetry! Home Stretch Baby!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


That's where you'll find 'em.


More news later.

In the past few days, I have seen Bridget Christie, Josie Long, Brendon Burns (interspersed by walking LOADS around Edinburgh and possibly getting glue poisoning), Daniel Kitson (TWICE!) and Nick Helm. I feel privileged to be in this great place. Also, follow @zoefell on twitter. Because she's like really good at everything.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Very quick post to let you know the next podcast is here!

YES IT IS! Please listen, download, share, whatever you do. x

Starring Fronteiras Theatre Lab and The Silky Pair.

Friday, 17 August 2012

17th August 2012: Busy

This Fringe, for me, has been about reducing stressful situations. But last night and the night before were pretty late, and at the Free Sisters. I haven't been clubbing for more than 10 months, (I'm pretty sure the last time was in November). Now I have nothing against the Free Sisters, but after 10 'o clock, it scares the living daylights out of me. For the last two days, I had to spend the hours between 12 and 1.30 at exactly that location. On Wednesday, I'd just come back from doing an interview with the genuis Felicity Ward, and I had only 3 minutes to make it back from Bristo square to the Three Sisters on Cowgate. I made it. Usain Bolt eat your heart out.

The interview with Felicity was lovely, open-hearted and long. Both of us sat on the floor of the Dairy Room at the Udderbelly, really getting into the conversation. I was a bit shocked when I looked at the timer-thingy on the microphone for the first time, which was at that point saying that 50 minutes had passed. Talk about losing track of time! It was the most fun I've had interviewing anyone. I'd like to take a moment to give two very arrogant fingers to Fontys Tilburg where I spent two whole weeks doing a journalism course at age 18. Still very happy I quit before it got worse.

On the subject of podcasts: Zoe's been recuperating from a very intense couple of days, so you'll hear from Felicity, The Silky Pair, Horse and Louis and others before long I promise.

Basically, apart from sleeping well into the day, I'm pretty much doing loads and loads of things every day. Which is how it should be, I suppose.

Also, the article I wrote a couple of days ago is now on Chortle. See if you agree with me. Or not. Would love to hear from you regardless. It makes a hell of a lot more sense than this blogpost.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

15th August 2012: So Funny She Fainted

Yesterday was a bit of a weird one. It seems that A Five Step Guide To Being German might become too successful for its own good. There were more people in than ever before, it was mental trying to fit everyone in. Therefore: chaos. I feel guilty asking people to sit in the aisle rather than leave to come back another day, because the fan (that I always turn off before the gig but the audience always turn on again) didn't really work with all those people in front of it.

The show did go really well, but was a bit low on laughs, due to the restricted amount of oxygen available in the room, I expect. It took us 2 songs to get everybody out again. But as the auditorium emptied itself of people, there were a couple of girls sitting at the back, around another girl. She had tried to get up but then only saw black in front of her eyes and dropped off. Dehydration and overheating, we quickly diagnosed. Luckily, one of her friends present was a trainee doctor, so at least that was taken care off. When she could stand a bit and had drunk a bit of water, we had to carry her down 4 flights of stairs, and onto a chair and a stool on the pavement. There we had ice to cool her head and wrists and get her body temperature back to normal. In the end, Paco paid for her cab fare, he's a gent.

I was quite shaken by the whole experience, so I went home, had some Indian food and then was quite nervous before the gig in a way that I hadn't been for ages. So I just did some warm-up exercises. Myself and my friend Ben had a little chat about entrance music. He thought I should have Money for Nothing by Dire Straits. Personally, I'd prefer this one: PJ Harvey's This is Love. That'd be awesome.

After Dan's set, I bounded onto the stage and after 15 minutes I left. The main growth area that's been caused by the medication is my ability to chill out on stage, go with ideas and improvise. I got so much laughs from improvised bits tonight. A number of friends were there to support me, which was great. Including Jona, who'd never seen me do a gig before. I'm proud I'm now no longer in a place where my entire set is shite, so I can relax and do a lot of things that work, and then get to play around. The clowning element is something I'm really going to look into in the coming year. Still, a pity I couldn't do my new character (who's lines are now on two Tesco's receipts. But he will come out before long. I assure you).

I basically went home after the gig and felt a bit miserable. Mainly because of the girl at Paco's gig. We need to do something about that, pronto, or more people will faint. Or worse. So I felt a bit weird, running down the royal mile. I read for about an hour and listened to music. I'm really getting back into Jacques Brel, who was ruined for me by drama school for years and years. I've been thinking about his performativity, physicality and especially the way he uses his voice and how I can take some of those concepts into stand-up. I also had a bit of a cry when listening to Les Désespérées. Then I think I must have blacked out.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

14th August 2012 - Gigging! We're on a Bus Mothaf***az Don't You Ever Forget

Sometimes gigs just happen at the Edinburgh Fringe. I had planned to take most of the day off, to chill, read and advertise the podcast on the manifold of online barfing cups you can advertise a podcast on. So that's what I did for most of the day. I also wrote an article for the correspondents section on Chortle, which I shall post here if it doesn't get published by Steve Bennett.

After that, I went to see my friend Diane do her 1 hour split bill on the bus, at the Free Sisters. For people not acquainted with the Free Sisters, it's dickmagnet The Three Sisters but with lots of free comedy. Hence the clever name change. I was allowed to do 8 minutes at the end of the show by Diane and Joe. The gig was rowdy, fun and physically interesting in that due to my height, I could never really stand up properly. So I thought I'd do the gig on the stairs, one step down from the audience. Bad move. I felt like I wasn't communicating so much as shouting to the people on the bus, purely by grace of being one step lower down than they were. I then sort of clung on to the side of the stairs and continued the gig. The audience had been rowdy at the start but was completely going for it, listening intently. It's pretty cool when that happens.

Diane is a teacher, and we'd had several conversations about performing teaching. It's about asserting authority in different ways in different environments. Stand-up, although not as openly, seems to me to be similar to teaching. An audience's intelligence, as Kitson put it, is in inverse proportion to its size. That is true, but it also seems to me to have something to do with what being an audience is all about. Yes, you receive information, you process that, and sometimes there are semantic shifts or narrative doubles and you shift the mental image (because most people will always think in images) and in the gap between those comedy might occur.

The gig was lovely, although the bus was not the greatest venue I've ever played. The windows on the left were all see-through (i.e. no-one had thought to blind them) so the daylight was streaming in. That will make it more difficult to focus for act and audience alike. After that, myself, Diane and Joe had a lovely meal from what we made doing the gig. That's always a proud moment.

When I got home, myself and James Hamilton had a good 4 hour natter about life, the fringe and everything. There was fruit juice and crisps. Party 'o clock. One of the main topics is this year's anxiety about the fringe as an institution overheating. Lots of people are concerned about low audience numbers, and I am interested to see how many agencies will pull out of next year's fringe (if any will). Nobody seems to be quite sure where all the people have gone (apart from A 5 Step Guide to Being German, which I'll be playing techie at in about 3 hours).

Personally, I feel this is academic. I know that I'd love to do a split bill next year, since I do feel that it'll improve me as a stand-up. And it's just too much fun. Even if there's only 3 people in, that's still more than none (in Amsterdam...). Being on medication also helped deal with my main problem in the year I lived in England. I am now far less nervous and far more relaxed than ever. This really helps with projection and audiences making sense of the sometimes odd things I like doing with stand-up.

Tonight, I'm doing 20 minutes at the Free Sisters, Maggie's Front Room from 22:10. It'll be great, I promise. I'd love to see some of you (all of you, really) there.



P.S. Podcast-wise, we're going strong. Zoe will be editing like crazy to get them all out. We've now got a lovely website to put all of the interviews on. It's got my face on it and everything, so click on the little star and favorite it (if that's a sentence).

Monday, 13 August 2012

PODCAST Episode 2 - Also Some Edinburgh Stories

Here it is. Share it and listen to it.

Also, I'm quite tired, having been turned away from the Just the Tonic party last night, I felt quite despondent. So I self-harmed with KFC. I had a large fries and a Healthy Option wrap. Which at the time made me feel like more of a twat than is basically necessary. Because if you self-harm with food, you at least take a bucket of chicken. But I had the healthy option. Twat. Then I decided to eat the entirity of a packet of Hobnobs. This is how I deal with defeat.

When starting on my self-pitying meal deal, the great James Hamilton of Casual Violence renown recognised what was going on and immediately laughed in my face. This is an unusual form of fellow-feeling but oddly, it made me feel a whole lot better. I'm a sucker for punishment. After a while my friend Diane phoned me, and told me I shouldn't feel like such a dick about it. That helped.

Today is again a day off for me, no 5 Step Guide to Being German, which is manic every day. I've met the oddest people, including German comedy deity Ingolf Lück. No, me neither. But still v happy about that. Also, for most of the day I was coasting on the joy that the gig on Saturday had given me. My next appearances may be at the storytelling festival on the 15th where I will talk about my breakdown using jokes. I may also do Comedy Car Crash if I feel like I need more punishment.

Also, I've been getting known on the Royal Mile and environs as 'That twat in the hoodie who runs everywhere'. This is true. I love running around Edinburgh. Yesterday, I was running from St Andrews Square, near the RBS HQ (evil corporation I used to work for in 2008. For my sins), to Princess St. Suddenly, a 9 year old boy (or something. I didn't frisk him for his ID) started running alongside me. We sprinted for about 100 metres, going pretty much the same speed, until my way was blocked by an old lady, so I congratulated the small boy on his victory. But still, I'm 6 foot 4. I have way more wind resistance. So I still win. Bad luck 9 year old boy! Bad luck!

So even though I had that thing happen to me last night, on the whole, I'm feeling pretty good about myself. That's a change. Let me read now. xxx


Sunday, 12 August 2012

Chuffed Like A Train In A Choo-Choo Chuffing Railway Station - 12th August 2012

I did a gig yesterday. It was wonderful.

Now that could mean quite a number of things, either I did well (I did) or the ambiance was great (it was) or the crowd was large (50 people on a Saturday night at the Free Sisters, or what is otherwise known as Cunt Central) or the other comedians were brilliant (the amazing Dan McKee and my close friend Paco Erhard were). It was all of those things.

I got to do most of the jokes I did last year again. God I had missed them. Really enjoyed doing Zizek to 50 people who didn't know what in the name of balls I was talking about (apart from one girl who advised me to pluck my hoodie a bit more. Brilliant). The new material I did was a bit hit-and-miss, but the hit rate surprised even me. It was just so much fun. But the main feature was that I, now on lots of medication, can still enjoy stand-up. It was really interesting to talk about these things honestly and jocularly. There were a couple of faces in the crowd that went a bit empathetic during the gig. There was one lady in the third row who looked a bit concerned for my sanity, but laughed uproariously at the jokes I could make about my condition and some of the crap I've been going through for the past year.

When I got off-stage, I was buzzing. Not the highly agitated buzz of 2 years ago, but a buzz of contentment. To use quite a wonky analogy, I got to empty my painful comedy blue balls. And it worked. I'm now far more secure in my ability to continue doing stand-up. If you've got a gig somewhere that needs a spot, I'm your man.

I even got a share of the bucket; precisely 195 pennies. Which is going to buy me an americano at the Elephant and Bagels after I've finished this blog. Which is now. By-ee.



P.S. According to Zoe, Episode One starring Doug Segal and Witness Theatre should be out TODAY! HURRAY!

Saturday, 11 August 2012


Yes people. It's here. Episode 0 of the FringeReview New Talent Podcast. Please, do all you can to spread it around, but don't forget to listen to it. We'll be putting out new episodes as the fringe goes on. Please support us!

This is the link:



P.S. I've got a gig tonight. Well nervous.