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BLOG 2021
Outside Beehive

Monday 3rd May 2021 - I'll be back!

It's taken longer than expected to get back to performing on any kind of physical comedy stage but it's been my determined aim, whether over-optimistic or not, to see that that happens this July.

I have been planning a series of gigs, enough to constitute a mini-tour (5 confirmed full shows so far), which include some familiar haunts at festivals in Buxton, Guildford and Bedford, as well as a couple of warm up gigs in Sunderland and Hull (see the gigs pages for details and tickets where available).

Meanwhile the Scottish Government is being very slow at providing any kind of the clarity necessary to allow venues to plan for staging events at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. Which means in turn plans for my participation there, though extensive, remain in the same stasis they were over 12 months ago. I am hoping there will be movement on that as early as this week.

BLOG 2020
Outside Beehive

Wednesday 29th April 2020 - Back by other means

Obviously these have been unprecedented times for all of us these past few weeks and those of us who were working in the world of live comedy have of course had our lives turned upside down. Clubs are particularly badly affected - they rely on being open to sell tickets and drinks, and operate in a way which totally goes against the concept of social distancing. It is going to be very hard to reopen under the so-called 'new normal' expectations.

However, ever-innovative and optimistic, comedians, promoters and comedy clubs have been experimenting with ways of getting comedy to people directly through online means, much like the way TV and radio have had to adapt, in what is now an existential fight for financial survival. Some may thrive and survive but many may not. Those that do nothing will not.

Anyway, The Stand Comedy Club is doing its best to provide some light relief in these sobering times by recording and uploading free online content. Their next 'Saturday Night Live at The Stand' will be shown on Saturday 2nd May from 8:30pm. And yours truly has recorded some one liners which may be used in the show... Enjoy! Link to Saturday Night Live at The Stand

Tuesday 25th February - Summer is coming, already!

This becomes a bit of a frantic time of year as so many comedians and promoters are planning for multiple summer festivals, and there are so many options and co-dependencies to consider as all the while submission deadlines approach.

I have made some successful bookings: I have 3 shows booked in at the Buxton Fringe again in July, and I have now secured a couple of short runs for shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

However it's finding a place for the big solo comedy show at that biggest of festivals which has eluded me so far, and the early submission deadline is only 2 weeks away now. Getting the short runs secured is good, but it has the downside of reducing my options on the full run, at least without potential disruption to any consistent schedule. But it's probably going to be beggars not choosers time before too long.

And thanks to the wonders of social media you can see other acts posting about the booking(s) which they have secured, proudly telling everyone else about it, and which doesn't do much good for the current state of mind.

If only the weather could be a bit less cold I could believe that summer really was not that very far away.

Tuesday 4th February - Leicester approaches

There are just two days to go before I travel to Leicester for the Comedy Festival there again. This year I am running 4 different full length shows and appearing in two.

Most of my time recently has been taken up with preparing for the UK Pun Championships, which is on Monday 10th. The trick is trying to have good puns in a broad range of categories as no-one knows what categories will come up on the night. That of course is easier said than done.

All the preparation and joke writing for the competition means I can do an almost entirely new 25 minutes set for the double header show I'm doing with Chris Leworthy on Friday. If nothing comes from the competition at least I've written a shedload of new material in the process.

I'm doing 2 history podcast shows in the festival this year. It'll be exactly a year since the first tentative episode and it'll be good to do a direct comparison, one of them in the same venue, and prove it's realising some of that initial promised potential. The interest is now there, while interesting panellists are coming forward to take part, and ticket sales are also going well.

As usual with these festivals with multi-show events in a few short days it's my actual solo stand-up show which has taken a bit of a back seat and I need to make sure I perform that well, something I felt I didn't do last year. Again, there'll be a lot of brand new material incorporated into it, which is always exciting.

Leicester is certainly up there as one of my favourite festivals and a highlight of the year for me so I can't wait to get stuck in!

Sunday 12th January - Happy New Year

So, Happy New Year and all that! Earlier this week I had the simultaneous pleasure of reaching 5,000 followers on Twitter (the number has since dropped back a bit!) and my eldest son having his first shave without telling me.

I published the final It Just So Happened show from last year's festivals yesterday, the one from the Nottingham Comedy Festival in November, taking the total number of episodes to 16.

Then yesterday I received the details I need to allow me to properly prepare for the UK Pun Championship finals in Leicester next month, which has resulted in some feverish activity today, even though there are still a few weeks to go. Ticket sales are looking healthy for all 4 shows I'm running at the festival.

I also attended a seminar in Glasgow yesterday on 'doing the Edinburgh Fringe', which made me feel like somewhat of an old hand. But it was good to put some faces to names of promoters after many years, and then meet them afterwards.

And I finally received payment for a gig I did in November which has brought an end to weeks of me harrassing the promoter trying to get him to pay me my fee.

BLOG 2019
Outside Beehive

Saturday 7th December - odd gigs here and there

So in the past few days I have had a gig on Tyneside cancelled (for a middle spot) but been asked to headline a local gig. This, on balance, has more going for it, as it's about one-tenth of the distance for similar pay and the kudos of being able to close another gig.

I have also been asked to perform at another local gig, which is on a Monday, in the afternoon, and in the open air - in January. The original request was to fill an hour's slot. This has all the hallmarks of a 'don't touch with a bargepole' gig but I'm sure with more enquiries and assistance it can be made to work - that's if it's not snowbound or blown away in a winter storm.

Wednesday 20th November - one down, but four to go

I drove all the way to Hamilton for a spot at a comedy night last night only to find it getting cancelled as there was no audience. But before I had left the venue I had been offered two other gigs, and when I got back home found another gig offer in my email inbox. For good measure I also secured a spot at a new material night this Sunday so I can try out the new set I had written for the Hamilton event, in advance of a spot at a 'proper' gig next weekend. If the new set doesn't work I will know to revert back to the previous best 15 minutes instead. So it was strange to not perform but end up with another four gigs in the diary.

Monday 11th November - the last Festival of 2019

This weekend was the Nottingham Comedy Festival, the 16th and last festival I have performed at in 2019.

I performed at a relatively new gig in Sunderland on the Thursday night, en route to Nottinghamshire. The set I tried was really well received so I was especially pleased that it was being video'd by the people there. I look forward to receiving a copy - although often the videos can't quite convey the atmosphere and immediacy of an event, this one did seem to be being well-made.

I was able to stay with relatives over the weekend, not too far from Nottingham itself, which gave me the chance to recuperate from some long drives in pretty horrible wet weather - just as the floods were hitting the area - and enjoy a catch up and a bit of downtime.

On the Saturday night I found myself doing a turn at a showcase show for some local promoters. It was held in a 'micropub', which it turns out means a small space with few punters in. But the event was surprisingly fun nontheless, and afterwards I was entered on the tick list of acts to be booked for future spots.

Then on to the Sunday, and 2 hour-long shows. First my solo show, where I felt a bit rusty reprising my Edinburgh Fringe show, but I also got to try out a raft of new jokes, some of which will definitely be going into the next show.

Then straight into It Just So Happened, which was fun, the panellists all up to the task. I had had more time to prepare for this one so had more jokes to tell. The recorder filled up yet again before the hour was up but I had made sure I was also recording proceedings on my laptop.

Then it was a long 5 hour drive back home, in the dark, and yet more rain. The A1 was closed north of Morpeth so I had to drive into snow in my diversion over the highest parts of the A68 - not the most pleasant of weather this weekend, but ultimately it seemed well worth the trip.

Sunday 27th October - some thriving local events

This was a lovely weekend with 3 very different events, each of them successful in their own way.

On Saturday lunchtime I spoke at my local museum, the 'Museum of Communication' in Burntisland (Fife), giving an hour's talk on WW1 in 'Conflict of Interest'. I was able to incorporate some of the very latest research from my recent trip to the National Archives. This evolving research means the talk never feels fixed or static, so keeps it fresh for me, as it deepens with every edition. The talk was very well received and there was a lovely lunch afterwards with a chance to chat to the Museum's members.

On Saturday evening I headed over to Clydebank where I had been asked to do a middle spot at a new comedy gig in a sports centre. For some reason I am always doubtful that people will go for my one liners but the reaction was great and it gave me a real buzz.

The third event was a monthly comedy night I run in the next village along from mine. Although it runs in a cafe on a Sunday afternoon the alcohol usually flows and it can actually get quite rowdy. This month it was packed out, the atmosphere was great, and the acts were well received. In fact the headliner got the best reception I had seen him receive in a long time, so I was especially chuffed about that as I know how that can make you feel.

It shows that if you keep a regular event going with strong line-ups word will get round and audience numbers will pick up, and it becomes a virtuous circle. So I hope the event in Clydebank can thrive in the same way. All in all, a very pleasing weekend.

Sunday 13th October - in the bar in Potters Bar

I have found myself in the South East of England for a few days with some rare evenings free so thought I would look on the comedy forums to see if any gig spots were being advertised.

I did see one advertised, applied for it, and was offered the spot, which was at a sports social club in Potters Bar. I was already out of the house on a family day out when, on the morning of the gig, I was offered the spot so would have to go as dressed, without notes or props later in the day.

After the family day out I made my way straight to Potters Bar. I had not eaten so found a supermarket for a £3 'meal deal' to keep me going - there are very limited options by 6 o'clock in the evening. It had been raining all day and there was nowhere to sit and eat, so with the rain still teeming down I walked in direction of the venue, and that was further than I expected.

I was meant to be doing a middle spot, and it was agreed I should go on first in the middle section to allow me to get away earlier and ensure I would be able to get back to base, but the opener was running late so I was then asked if I could open, which I agreed to do. As the show was about to start the opening act turned up, and said he was ready to go on, so I was stood down.

The audience were a bit quiet when the opener performed his set so I was then asked to go on second rather than first in the middle section, so again I agreed to a change. It was a challenging crowd for all the acts, but there was no heckling and there were enough laughs to sustain us all.

It was really no different to the kind of social club gig I'm used to doing in Scotland, so that was reassuring.

Tuesday 8th October - that was the summer that was

The chill winds of autumn are blowing and I hang my head in shame as I realise I have not updated my blog since July, when we were 'enjoying' record-breaking summer temperatures. But then, I did have a very busy summer...

In July I performed at 6 festivals in the space of a week, did a full run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (taking up three and a half weeks) and organised gigs at a local festival in Dunfermline soon after. Too much to report back on in a dozen blog entries, never mind one...

... but it is nice to have a bit of a breather, take stock, catch up on some things left undone for too long, and start planning for 2020. I already have some gigs in the diary for the spring, and shows booked at 2 festivals next year, in Leicester and Glasgow. More on that to follow while I gather my thoughts on what to write about next!

Friday 19th July - Under pressure

I will set off 'down south' shortly, first overnight stop: Morecambe. That's where my first festival show will be this evening, the first of 6 festivals I have shows at over the coming 10 days. The show for tonight is ready, and the two in Buxton on Saturday just need refreshing in my mind, but I performed them both in Ludlow last month. Beyond that, there is still a lot of preparation work to do...

There's always a lot of driving involved in these road trips to festivals and 'thankfully' the tyre puncture happened yesterday so there was time to get a couple of new tyres fitted on the car before the trip started. I could do without any more such incidents.

I am feeling the pressure somewhat...

Friday 12th July - On the verge

It really has been a manic few months. The Telford Fringe and Ludlow Fringe went well, with some lovely crowds in for both. But the driving and performing took its toll as I came down with a cold/cough which my throat still hasn't fully recovered from. Not so good.

I'm hoping my throat will be fine by next weekend as that's when I start my week of festival touring. I'm heading for the Morecambe Fringe for It Just So Happened, then Buxton Fringe for all 3 of my shows over the course of 2 days. Ticket sales are already up on last year's which is very encouraging. Accommodation in both places was looking unsure for different reasons, but I do seem to have beds to sleep in now.

Then on to Bedfringe, a new festival for me, followed by the Guildford Festival and Reading Fringe. I still haven't got all my panellists sorted for these two shows - it's proved to be far more difficult to book acts than I imagined, because I don't have the local contacts.

Then finally it'll be the Great Yorkshire Fringe on the way back up north, which is yet another new festival for me. All the details of all these shows can be found under 'Comedy Show Tour', 'History Podcast Tour' and 'Spoken Word Tour.' There's a lot of organising and writing still to be done but with a week to go I feel as if I am on the verge - still fighting through some long grass, but with a scythe in hand.

Wednesday 15th May - All things Brighton beautiful

I made that first trip to the Brighton Fringe at the beginning of the month and had a great time. Sweet booked me in to perform my spoken word show Conflict of Interest over 3 days and my alternative history podcast recording of It Just So Happened twice.

Things went pretty much to plan for Conflict of Interest apart from a hitch with the music in the middle of the show, where the whole song played over a slide rather than just a part of it. The only thing to do was literally pull the plug on the sound. The audience numbers for the show were good and I felt that at last I had a fully rounded and complete show, having visited the graves in France last autumn and worked out what to say about the material I had found at the National Archives in Kew.

I put a tremendous amount of work into the research for the history shows and of course only a small portion of it got used, but I felt it added to the subjects we discussed about Brighton, and the shows were relaxed and funny. Unfortunately one of the panellists was late arriving for the Sunday show and didn't announce their arrival so missed out on the recording.

I also did a guest spot in Vladimir McTavish's chat show at The Quadrant where I was first on and we feared the worst as the audience had started off very quietly, apart from 3 rather drunk girls on the front row who had been trying to sing karaoke on stage before the show started, but they were surprisingly well-behaved and the remainder of the audience also warmed up as things got underway.

I also managed to fit in a recording of an episode of the Contrived and Insufferable podcast, which took place at a house in Hove. I decided I had time to walk there after my spoken word show, which gave me the chance to take in some of the seafront sights of Brighton and Hove along the way. This included walking under the i360 tower and through the stumbling across the graveyard where George Everest is buried, a place I had mentioned in my history show.

I now have a few weeks to prepare for 3 Fringe previews coming up in Inverness, Kinghorn and Glasgow, and the next comedy festivals in June, which are all in the Midlands, in Droitwich, Telford and Ludlow.

Tuesday 30th April - Brighton Fringe Festival this weekend

I'm making my first trip to the Brighton Fringe this weekend, where I will be performing my spoken word show Conflict of Interest and my alternative history podcast recording of It Just So Happened.

Both shows are with Sweet at their Werks 2 venue in Middle Street. Conflict of Interest is at 14:15 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and It Just So Happened is at 11:35 on Saturday and Sunday.

Although there will be two history shows in Brighton they will have completely different panels on each day and material based on the date of the show, as well as covering different topics on Brighton's history.

Thursday 14th March - Glasgow Comedy Festival

I'm performing my solo show as part of the Glasgow Comedy Festival tomorrow evening. This follows a successful preview show last Saturday for many of the shows which are going to be in the same venue over the course of the festival.

I have chosen 162 jokes - the best ones based on audience responses at recent gigs in Leicester and Dundee - which should make the show last at least 45 minutes. I've asked Rory Fell, another comedian from Fife who does one liners and puns, to be a support act.

Tuesday 5th February - Leicester looming

The Leicester Comedy Festival is starting today and my involvement in it starts on Friday. Preparation has been going pretty well for it all.

Last week I decided which jokes were to go into my latest solo show, to make it last between 50 and 55 minutes. Gone are thoughts of visual material in favour of just jokes. There are plenty of new jokes in the set, ones which did well on Twitter and at new material nights. And everything is now in a completely different order to make sense of the new material, so the whole thing feels very fresh to me as I commit the order and new material to memory.

The podcasting equipment has been delivered and I had a trial recording at a friend's office last Friday. I still need to experiment with the editing side of things, but that's more for after the event. Unfortunately one of the panelists has had a bereavement and pulled out of the history show but I have found an able replacement, someone who has done stand up before and knows a lot about Leicester and its history. There's some pre-preparation still required to ensure it runs as smoothly as possible on the day.

Once I know my hour's set inside out I can commit a 20 minute subset to memory for the double header show with Chris Leworthy on Friday. I've also produced some slides for that show which should work well with the two of us on stage together.

And then I'll have a ten minute subset of that - the best, short, punchy jokes - for the two guest spots I've been offered in Chris Norton-Walker's shows.

I will have to refamiliarise myself with the spoken word show which was updated last November, but apparently there's nothing I can do in advance for the radio show I'm co-hosting on Monday.

It's also become an annual tradition to meet up with family in Leicester so I have that to look forward to as well. Oh, and there's this year's UK Pun Championships to watch on Monday evening.

Tuesday 22nd January - Material witnesses

It's that time of year when there is a lot going on, but most of it admin and planning behind the scenes in advance of the year's first festival (Leicester, next month), and in advance of filling in (or is it filling out?) the dreaded end of year tax return, essentially an exercise in working out exactly how much money it cost me over the course of a year to 'do comedy'.

However I did also perform at a gig just last night, at a new material night I had not done before. I used to turn up at a new material night at Dram in Glasgow every so often on a Tuesday night to test out jokes but since that night has gone by the wayside I've had to see what other nights do something similar.

So I was at The Record Factory in Glasgow with about 8 comedians and a similar number of punters - most it turned out to see their friend perform in the first half before they left at the break (I was going on last).

I had 23 jokes lined up to be squeezed into what was just a 5 minute spot. I was pleasantly surprised that even with such a sparse audience there was plenty of laughter for almost every joke. A couple of jokes were obviously too subtle when read out but it was nevertheless a very good return.

So I look forward to adding about 20 new jokes into the set for my next solo show - which is in 3 weeks' time - and revamping the format as required. Do I go for another new material night between now and Leicester? I may just do that.

BLOG 2018
Outside Beehive

Friday 7th December - Wet Wednesday Woes

I did a comedy gig on Wednesday night, the first in 5 weeks (I should have done a gig in Dundee a couple of weeks ago but thanks to the council moving the date of their Christmas lights switch on, the gig had had to be cancelled as the venue was right in the middle of where it was to take place).

The organiser of the gig reassured me that he had always had an audience of at least 13 even though it was a wet Wednesday night in Edinburgh in December. In the end, with an audience of just 6 (thus halving his previous low attendance record), he elected to let them decide whether they wanted the gig to go ahead or not. They voted for some comedy, so we performed to 6 people. It went well enough, but it was very much well enough 'under the circumstances'.

It never really seems to get any easier grinding out the comedy gigs. There was very little gained from doing this particular gig, but you never really know what you're going to get until you've committed yourself by fully preparing and actually turning up at the venue. I'm just glad that I have other ideas for shows in the pipeline, as well as my spoken word show to fall back on.

Tuesday 6th November - Planning for next year

I've managed to book 3 different shows into the programming for both the Leicester and Glasgow Comedy Festivals next year. That took quite a bit of doing, as the deadlines approached and there were 5 different venues, other acts, Jokes On Us in Leicester, and the festival offices all to liaise with. Plus one big Glasgow venue fell through at pretty much the last minute while other venues were receiving deadline extensions, keeping things in the air for longer than expected.

In the meantime I performed a comedy set at a venue I've not done before in Edinburgh last weekend. I had prepared my very best ten minutes set of gags for this one and it was well received. It was a good night and the promoter said he had not laughed so much at one of his gigs before. It certainly gave me a lift.

I've also managed to book my spoken word show into a venue in my home town - as far ahead as November of next year. So 2019 is filling up from either end it seems. In the more immediate future, the show is going to Scarborough later this month. Having been to France a fortnight ago to visit some family graves from the First World War, as well as carrying out some further successful research at the National Archives in London en route, I will need to fully update my slide set and script in time for that trip.

Monday 8th October - To Hull and back

I did a return gig at The Comedy Lounge in Hull on Saturday. It was good to do a club gig again, a 'best of' 20 minute set as the middle section act. I was getting a pretty good reaction to almost every joke (I had a setlist of 71 jokes which I reckoned would take 20 minutes to perform) but was surprised to find a darker joke got a particularly strong (positive) reaction about two-thirds of the way in, so I went off on a bit of a tangent as I commented on this and did a couple more unplanned darker jokes before returning to my original set.

I don't like to eat - never mind drink - before going on stage, and I wasn't off until about 9:30pm, so I left pretty sharpish so I could go on the hunt for some takeout booze before 10pm, and then get a takeaway. It turned out to be the first kebab I've had in a long time.

I stayed in Hull overnight so I could take the train up to Scarborough on the Sunday before returning back to Scotland. I was on the hunt for some extra material for my spoken word show about my family history. I found the church where my parents got married (61 years ago!) and where the wedding photos were taken on the green opposite.

I then made my way to St. Mary's Parish church. I had tried to look inside on a visit earlier in the year but the building was locked up. I knew that inside was a commemorative plaque inside with my great-uncle's name on it, and I wanted to see it. As I'd timed my visit this time for a Sunday lunchtime I thought there was a fair chance there would be a service on and I might then be able to get to go inside afterwards. I timed my arrival just as a service was indeed finishing. The vicar was very welcoming and I soon found the plaque, which happened to have both my great-uncle's names on it from 1918. I was introduced to a parishioner who gave me some background into the sister church the plaque had originally come from.

I then made my way down to the seafront and took photos of some of the dwellings my relatives had once stayed in. The lifeboat house was open so I went inside and I explained to the volunteers that my great-grandfather had served on the lifeboats at Scarborough. They let me go into the main building housing the lifeboat to take photos of the old plaques listing all the rescues back to the early 19th Century.

After that I was right at the beach in the south bay, and I was able to fulfill my main mission - to fill an empty jam jar full of sand from the beach to take away with me. I want to transport the contents to France as I take a trip in two weeks' time to place some of it at the grave of my great-uncle. He grew up near the seafront at Scarborough and died fighting in the dying days of World War One, on 20th October 1918. I'll be there for the one hundreth anniversary of his death.

Sunday 9th September - Back to pub gigs

This year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe was a full-on yet fulfilling experience. I thought it would be a good thing that I had lots of gigs lined up for straight after the Fringe but it’s not quite gone the way I expected.

It's been a mixture of gigs I've organised and performed in. 2 were in the Outwith Festival in Dunfermline, one my own solo show where the technical set up didn't work properly but my set seemed to go down well enough, and the other where one of the acts simply didn't show up or message as to why he was absent, leading to knock-on effects on the whole night.

Two other local gigs were battles against the limitations of the events, either because of inadequate PA in a noisy room or because of the whole way a room was set up - and in front of a tiny audience.

It's been a reminder of what the hard graft of gigging can be like, but at least they have all been local gigs so there hasn't been lots of travelling to add on to each of the nights.

Thursday 2nd August - The Fringe is underway

It feels like a slow start to the Fringe, but there is plenty to do to get up and running properly.

Sweet Novotel venue

On Wednesday I had a hectic day at work then caught the train into Edinburgh to visit my new venue for the first time - Novotel run by Sweet, which is in Lauriston Place and just up from the busy Grassmarket. I had half an hour to run through the technical requirements for my spoken word show, but I was concerned at how much I would have to set up myself each day in limited time (officially only 5 minutes, but hopefully more), and I basically had to figure out how to incorporate my music pieces into my presentation. I then had a general briefing with the venue management.

I located my flyers which had been delivered safely to the venue, and took them down to my other venue, the Beehive in the Grassmarket, but there was no sign of my posters having arrived. I was able to try out the techie bit for my comedy show there and it seemed to have worked OK. I then went for the train and got home after 8pm. After eating, I had to work on getting those music issues sorted out.

On Thursday I had a very hectic half day finishing all my work before I could log off - after all, I am taking more or less the rest of the month off to perform at the Fringe. It was at this time my flyerer texted to say she had double booked and could no longer flyer for me.

It was then time to get all my things together and catch the train into Edinburgh to perform my first show at Novotel at 3pm. 2 people turned up for the show so there wasn't much pressure and things ran smoothly enough.

Although I could put up some of my flyers in the Beehive venue, my posters still couldn't be found. They were then located so I picked them up and put some up in the venue. Tomorrow is the first day when I'll be performing both my shows, as I will be every day after that, except for the middle Monday.

Monday 30th July - The last festival before THE Festival

It's nearly here. You know. That BIG festival. But last night I was at a wonderful local festival comedy event in Aberdour. It's near enough to walk to from my house. Which I did, along the lovely Fife coastal path, and before the heavens opened as well (where did summer go?).

I had the pleasure of meeting Simon Evans again and taking him to the venue and making sure everything was sorted out ok for him there. He did an hour as the headliner and the time flew by. He also kindly did a video clip with me to publicise my own Edinburgh Fringe comedy show (it's uploaded to the 'Video' page). Yes, that's the BIG festival that is almost upon us - you know the one!

This is what it looked like from the stage last night!

Aberdour Festival

Wednesday 25th July - Festival report

I've been touring both my shows around England this past week, performing them at a number of different festivals. It's been good fun, and I've been able to identify where I can make a few refinements to the shows along the way. It's also good to now feel totally ready for the Edinburgh Fringe which for me starts a week tomorrow.

Keep pub venue in Guildford

The Guildford Fringe has been just one of many highlights. They seem very switched on to marketing and the festival arranged an interview for me with BBC Radio Surrey. This was much appreciated, but it was timed to be at 08:25 on Monday morning. I had to get up an hour beforehand so I could feel awake enough to be able to talk to the presenters. In the end it seemed to go well enough.

Sunday 15th July - Morecambe and Wiser

I loved watching Morecambe and Wise on TV as a kid, so when I went to Morecambe yesterday for the first time ever, I had to go and see Eric's statue. Here's me, looking shorter even than Ernie Wise must have been. I've made sure any short fat hairy legs are suitably cropped out of shot.

Eric Morecambe

I was visiting on a day trip yesterday to perform my comedy show in the Morecambe Comedy Festival. It was a sunny day, England were playing their third-place play-off football World Cup match and the guy who had the show before mine had not had any audience. It was little surprise then that nobody turned up for my show either. I know Morecambe and Wise struggled at the beginning of their comedy careers but having no-one turn up to see me after a 400 mile round trip is tough.

But at least I got to see the statue, and sample some nice fish and chips. And, just by turning up yesterday, there is now an opportunity to perform my spoken word show at another festival in the town in March next year. So, as Eric might say, wa-hey!

Sunday 8th July - It's coming Home-ilton

My heart sank when I saw that the World Cup game between England and Colombia was going to take place last Tuesday night - the same night I had been booked in to perform in the Hamilton First-Look Fringe. When I booked my summer gigs earlier in the year I hadn't really considered what might happen beyond the fixed World Cup group matches England were involved in - I mean, come on, not with the usual expectations, tempting fate and all that!

This would definitely be the only clash between any possible remaining England matches and my own July gigs schedule, but it might well have been the only knockout game anyway. Obviously I wasn't going to cancel my booking, but a debate did start up on the morning of the match between the promoter, the venue, the other act due to perform an Edinburgh preview the same night, and myself, about when the gig ought to start. I was definitely going to go on first, but I thought we had agreed a compromise that I shouldn't go on until the match had finished, for the benefit of any punters who were also football fans and for the sake of the comedy night itself of course.

If I was to watch the (first) 90 minutes of the match then I had to get to the venue for the start of the game. Through no fault of my own I missed the start, but not any goals. The match was on the pub's tv, but kept buffering in a very irritating way. England scored and the promoter suggested I go on at 8:30pm - about 15 minutes before the end of the match - as I was the only Englishman and keenly interested fan present. I reluctantly agreed.

However he did leave the tv screen on in one corner of the room, which was only mildly distracting - until Colombia scored in injury time, meaning the game was going to go into extra time. As that got underway, I kept having to lean over the mic stand to catch any updates, thus interrupting my own set. It was as if I was heckling myself, but as many of the audience thought this was funnier than my actual material I kept doing it. It actually provided me with thinking time!

I got through my set in time to watch the penalty shootout, and needless to say was the one who made the loudest noise when the winning penalty was scored. I was quite pleased to have been gigging in a Scottish pub when England won and no-one beat the shit out of me for either the football or my jokes.

Monday 2nd July - The highs of Ludlow

I was at the Ludlow Festival at the weekend. It's a lovely town on the River Teme in the West Midlands, not too far away from Wales.

The new challenge for me was delivering my spoken word show and my stand-up show both on the same day. And making a better job of remembering my jokes than in Leicester the weekend before.

The audience was disappointingly small for the spoken word show, but it was good for me to run through it with an improved set of slides, a proper projector and screen, and a brand new clicker. The size of the audience was no doubt largely due to my own lack of marketing.

I was pleasantly surprised therefore when the same room began to fill up for the stand-up show at 9pm. It was by now even hotter in the room, but I don't think anyone's attention dipped - only one person left, they said because of the heat. The challenge to myself was remembering as many of the 164 jokes as I could, and to keep it flowing. I think I lost about half a dozen jokes in the end, and it all flowed well.

I was on for a total of 48 minutes - and that's going to be more than enough for the Edinburgh Fringe show (where I have a maximum 50 minute slot). There were lots of positive noises at the end so I felt it was a job well done. I do need to put some more work into the first show, but I'm not due to perform that now until the Buxton Fringe, which is in 3 weeks' time, so I have a little breathing space. But it's on to the First-Look Fringe in Hamilton tomorrow night for the one liners show.

Sunday 17th June - Birthday treat

There are few more enjoyable ways of spending a birthday than being at a great comedy gig. I've been asked to organise a comedy night these past 4 years for a village in Fife called Culross. The event always takes place in the middle of June, and with it being on a variable night of the week, happens to have coincided with my birthday these past 2 years.

It's nice to put a line-up together which you know will go down well - including Mark Nelson, Scot Laird and Phil Differ in this case, and one to enjoy on your own birthday. I had also been asked to perform a set by the organiser, so put myself on in the middle. I had a completely new 15-20 minutes, as I had only performed my spoken word show recently and had plenty of new jokes I wanted to try out.

The event takes place in an outdoor courtyard area, covered, but still at the outside temperature, which last night felt not that much above freezing! I was starting to shake long before I went on - how much from the cold and how much from nerves was hard to tell. Thankfully they really went for the one liners, and I had to leave some long pauses after the jokes to allow the laughter to die down. And I had more than the usual number of people coming up to me afterwards saying how much they had enjoyed my set.

After I had done my set I was able to enjoy a fantastic curry - some was still left over, which for me was a treat on my birthday. Oh, and I got paid of course. Happy birthday to me!

Friday 15th June - Almost Festival season

It's that time of year when it feels as if I've been doing nothing except admin and preparation for months on end, but we're almost into festival season proper now, and this is where it starts to get more fun again. There's so much to do, partly because I'm booked in with so many different festivals. The Edinburgh Fringe brochure is out - I have a copy sitting on my desk, still waiting to be opened. Even an 'interview' for a publication in the south of England was done via an email exchange. But I did an interview over Skype for the Hamilton First-Look Fringe earlier in the week and it was such fun to do, providing some welcome relief from the admin, and it was good to actually have a laugh.

And there should be more of that soon. I have a spot tomorrow night at a local festival in Fife which has been great fun to be a part of these past four years. Then next weekend I travel to Leicester for my first 'Edinburgh preview' show of the summer, before taking both my stand-up and spoken word shows to the Ludlow Festival on 30th June.

Friday 25th May - Telling Porkies

It was 4am and I was taking a taxi to Edinburgh airport to fly to Prague for the Fringe Festival. It turns out the taxi driver's wife is a Slovak, and from Trencin, a place which features way back in one branch of the family tree. The driver said his wife didn't enjoy Michael Palin's TV series about the new Europe, as in one programme it featured his trip to Slovakia where he watched a pig getting slaughtered, before going to the Czech Republic, where he appreciated the fine art and historical buildings of Prague.

He also said he tried learning Slovakian but it's about the most difficult language a native English speaker can learn. I asked him how his wife had got on learning English and he said she did it by watching Peppa Pig from the age of 3. I said that they'd stopped making the programme in Europe - in the final episode she gets killed and eaten.

Maybe I should have agreed the taxi fare up front, or just resisted the temptation to make a joke out of it.

Friday 27th April - Riding High

I had a gig in Hull last Saturday. It was at a great club called The Comedy Lounge. The compere soon ran into trouble by referring to 'Humberside', as some diehard Yorkshire audience members insisted he use the correct terminology i.e. 'The East Riding'. I was the middle spot so thought it would be fun when it was my turn on stage to open with "Hello Kingston!". It did receive a cheer. I then added "upon Hull" and got another cheer. Then I added "in The East Riding of Yorkshire!" and got an even bigger cheer. I then explained I was originally from Scarborough, which received some boos. I just laughed as I hadn't expected my home town to be met with such a negative response. I shrugged it off and reverted to my usual set, which went fine.

I had decided to stay over as it was so far from home, so had booked the cheapest place I could find not too far from the venue. I found somewhere which was a hotel but had the feel of a hostel. Still, it was only for one night and it was only £36. That included an amazing cooked breakfast in the morning, proving that a down at heel environment doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get bad service.

I was able to visit some old haunts in Scarborough on the journey back and work out where some of my ancestors had once lived, down by the seafront. Scarborough is officially in North Yorkshire so maybe that's why those from the East Riding in Hull got so uppity with me. My grandfather had actually moved to Scarborough from Hull but it's not something I had time to explain at the gig the night before, and I did wonder whether just maybe he had been hounded out! Anyway, I like both places and look forward to a return gig in Hull in October.

Friday 13th April - new video

I'm pleased that after travelling all the way to Liverpool for a gig last week my set was indeed captured on video. The upload was done without fanfare or warning so I stumbled across it and it had already been viewed more than 200 times before I got to it. It was at the Hot Water Comedy Club and was tremendous fun. If you want to watch the video, go to the 'VIDEO' section of the site. It's only 8 minutes long but I hope it brightens up your day!

Tuesday 3rd April - a busy Easter weekend

I'm making the most of the bank holiday weekend by fitting in 3 comedy gigs. I had meant to be doing a charity gig in Kirkintilloch at the beginning of March but it was postponed when the 'Beast from the East' hit. The organisers managed to rearrange it for 31st March and I was still keen to do it. It was at the Regent Brasserie, which served up a lovely curry - not ideal food before performing, but too good to miss out on. The MC kept saying the opening act (myself) would be doing 20 minutes at the start, which to me felt like added pressure, but I did 21 minutes and it went well so that was all good. It was a fundraiser night for Marie Curie and £500 was raised just from the raffle on the night, so that felt good.

The next gig was last night down in Liverpool. The Hot Water Comedy Club run a Monday night gig for professional acts, where the acts are filmed and the clips are uploaded to their very popular website. The club runs so many different nights but most seem to sell out and Monday's was another of those, with 175 people packed into a studio theatre. And what a wonderful crowd they were too. We were meant to do sets of 5 to 7 minutes in length, but with so much laughter it was hard to know exactly how much time had elapsed while I was on stage. I stuck to my plan of delivering 23 jokes (the ones which I thought were my best and which could be made to fit together into a short set of approximately 6 minutes), and hoped I wouldn't go over time. And that seemed to the case - the video upload will either prove or disprove this!

I stayed overnight in Liverpool. The third gig is a new material night back in Glasgow later today, and the travel forecast doesn't include snow this time. I have about 40 new jokes I've not tried in front of an audience before so I'll be testing those ones out.

Tuesday 13th March – no shows

Sometimes it feels like the comedy ladder has no rungs on it. You just get given 2 heavy poles and have to figure out how to make and join on some rungs to climb upwards! Last weekend was meant to be a busy weekend of gigs, starting with a warm up charity fundraising gig in a music club in Dunfermline on the Friday night, followed by 3 shows at the Glasgow Comedy Festival on the Saturday and Sunday. As it turned out there were probably 3 times as many people at the Dunfermline gig than at all of the Festival gigs combined.

My Festival began with a late showcase show in Yesbar at 23:15 on the Saturday night. The previous show was over-running and was absolutely jam packed. For our show afterwards, 8 people turned up. It was a good laugh, but there's always going to be a different dynamic in a pretty empty room. I then returned to Glasgow on the Sunday afternoon for my solo show. I turned up at the venue to find just a few were in for the previous show, and one person was in the process of walking out. I set everything up for my own show, and no-one turned up. I was a little disappointed that even the pre-sales didn't show up. In Leicester, just four weeks previously and also on a Sunday afternoon, I had had nearly 40 show up. I hadn't realised when I took the Glasgow booking it was going to be Mother's Day, an old firm derby would be on, as well as the rugby internationals, so I had to accept I was up against some tough competition.

Then I had organised a showcase show at 19:15 in another venue. I wasn't due to perform but one act had pulled out after being involved in a car accident the previous evening (not too seriously), so I was happy to compere instead. With my show being cancelled I found myself with some unexpected extra time so waited around in the car listening to the radio and snacking. When it was time to go to the venue I found the place was dead and it was obvious no-one was going to turn up there either. This was a showcase show so it wasn't just me people didn't want to see! Even one of the acts failed to appear.

Now feeling deflated and a little desperate, I tried to salvage something by securing a spot in the Sunday evening show back in Yesbar after being told by someone that they were looking for more acts, but when I enquired about it I was told they were now full (and the show might not even have gone ahead as ticket sales were so poor).

Talking of the comedy ladder being like poles, the Dunfermline venue is a music club and has a prominently placed silver pole from ceiling to floor. The gig went well and there was no sign of the way the weekend was going to go - otherwise I might have been tempted to start off an alternative career as a dancer.

Sunday 25th February – I played Carnegie Hall!

Last night I did a gig in Carnegie Hall. I should just end the blog entry there, shouldn't I, but I'm too honest not to elucidate further. This was a gig which was for Fife Theatres, so that should give a clue about the actual location of the gig. Yes, it was at the Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline. It's the same Carnegie bloke though. It's not my fault he had more than one hall named after him. I admit that when I turned up to the gig I was a little disappointed that it was taking place in a studio theatre rather than in the main hall, but it was an enjoyable gig nonetheless and it would have felt pretty empty if we had all been in the main theatre!

Friday 16th February – Leicester Comedy Festival 2018

Last weekend was an extended weekend at the Leicester Comedy Festival:-

Saturday - spent the day travelling down to Leicester by train. Met up in the evening with family for a reunion over a meal, 11 of us in total, which was lovely - Leicester in February seems to be turning into more and more of an annual event for family get togethers as much as the comedy. I went on to an 11pm showcase show in Manhattan 34 where I was doing a ten minute spot, and for this reason had remained alcohol free all evening. In the end, I was on stage just after midnight. Alex Hylton is one of the driving forces behind JOU, the Jokes On Us Free Festival at the Leicester Comedy Festival, and this was just one of many gigs he had successfully organised.

Sunday - there was a minor snowstorm as I set off for the venue for my solo show which was at 5pm in The Soundhouse. It was a lovely room, usually a music venue and somewhat reminiscent of Whistlebinkies in Edinburgh. I was pleased to see nearly 40 people in, after some rather downbeat ticket presales - it was another good turnout for a JOU show. My aim was to deliver as many of 160 jokes as I could remember. I maintained a good pace throughout and afterwards worked out I had delivered about 130 of the jokes. Some Twitter followers introduced themselves afterwards - it was lovely that they had come to see my show, and to meet them 'in real life'. With lots of positive feedback and a healthier bucket than in previous years, it was a very satisfying experience overall. Afterwards I met up with family for a burger, and finally a deserved after-work beer.

Monday - spent the day ambling in and out of a couple of pubs, visiting the Richard III Centre, and the cathedral where Richard is buried. I was unable to see a venue I am due to perform at later in the year, due to the manager not being available. However I did bump into a promoter I did a gig for a few years ago, and met another contact at The Guildhall who booked me in for another Edinburgh preview later in the year. In the evening I watched the UK Pun Championships. This is the fifth annual such event, and the first time I was not taking part in it. It was fun to relax and watch the event from the audience's point of view for once. I was rooting for a number of friends who were taking part, and cast a critical eye over proceedings. I also managed to meet up another Twitter contact before the night was finished.

Tuesday - most of the day was spent on trains heading back north, and I was able to carry out some useful research during that time.

Monday 5th February – After the return

I'm pleased to report, further to my last blog post, that I did manage to submit my tax return before the deadline. More importantly I've spent a lot of time putting together my latest show. Sunday is the effective deadline for that, with a solo show at the Leicester Comedy Festival to perform on 11th February.

For this year's show I've decided to try delivering enough jokes without a break for what I reckon will fill a 50 minute timeslot. So I've selected my 'top 160' jokes, including about 60 new ones written since the Edinburgh Festival Fringe but included plenty of 'bankers' from previous years just in case. Basically, there should be enough msterial for first timers and repeat audience members alike.

Almost all of the new jokes have been first tested out on Twitter and then performed at at least one new material night and must have been well received live so that I can have reasonable confidence in their provenance. Much of the show preparation has then been focused on organising the 160 jokes into some kind of logical order and committing both the jokes and the order to memory. I don't mind the ordering process so much, although it takes many iterations for that to finally settle down. I find the committing to memory process however to be torturous. All the hard work really has to go in before the first performance and there is little incentive to get on with the process until the deadline of that first show is looming large enough.

I have one opportunity left to road test elements of the show, which is at a tryout night tomorrow in Glasgow. Time restrictions mean I can only test out some of the set, and it's difficult to decide exactly which bits that should be - the new material is now scattered throughout the show. However it's not an opportunity to be wasted so I must decided prudently, and hope there is an audience there to make the effort worthwhile.

It's still preferable to filling out a tax return.

Sunday 14th January – Taxing times

I'll be honest. I'm only updating my blog because any displacement activity is better than filling in my tax return. I've even been tidying up all of my office room under the pretence that I am 'gathering information' for my return. I've realised I've been keeping phone bills from over ten years ago. I have a big pile of papers to throw out. The dust is starting to irritate my skin.

But it's also proving interesting as it's making me review and assess what I was doing during the tax year 2016-17. For example I covered about 7,500 miles in the car going to and from gigs. I'm surprised it wasn't more. If my average speed was 35mph then I would have spent 210 hours or nearly 9 days on the road. That's a lot of Radiohead. Also, I earned double the amount from festival gigs as from other gigs. Most of that was taken as cash during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This underlines to me how solo shows and festival gigs are forming a bigger and bigger part of my schedule.

At the end of the day though (or tax year) I will still have made a loss. I don't need to be reading up about VAT exemptions at this stage of my comedy career. Why do I put in the miles and spend the money? Because it's what I love doing, telling silly jokes to anyone prepared to listen and laugh. And that will always seem a profitable exercise to me irrespective of the effort and money involved.

Right, I had better get back to the admin...

Monday 8th January – Happy New Year

My recent comedy gigs have been used for road testing new material, at open mic nights. I'm grateful to the promoters who have been happy to let me do this. As a result I now have my set list of 'successful' jokes ready for the Leicester Comedy Festival next month. There's a core of about 150 short form jokes in my set which I can draw on.

I've also been spending a lot of time preparing a second show, which has been absorbing and time consuming, and is still nowhere near a finished article. My aim is to have that up and running and performed first in May. It's going to be very different to anything I have performed before - a lot more personal for one thing - but it's too early to share any details just yet!

In the meantime you can catch me performing my solo stand up show Richard Pulsford: Uns-Pun at both the Leicester and Glasgow Comedy Festivals as well as performing a few guests spots while I am in both cities. I hope to catch up with some of you there.

BLOG 2017
Outside Beehive

Saturday 2nd December – Some more new jokes

I've been doing a lot more writing than performing over the past month so I'll post some more freshly minted jokes on here just to keep the blog warm.

- The Brexit Secretary wants to kick off every meeting with 'God Save the Queen'. Personally, I wouldn't stand for it.
- The barman said that as it was his birthday I could have two bottles of tequila for free. I took it all with more than a pinch of salt.
- Guys. I'll be giving away some viagra next week. Thought you might like the heads up.
- I just won kleptomaniac of the year. I had to pinch myself.
- My little girl was crying because her hair kept going in her face. I told her to get a grip.
- It's not easy being a football supporter. Last Saturday. when the shit hit the fan, there was one very angry Leeds supporter in the lower tier.

© Richard Pulsford

For more like this, feel free to follow me on Twitter via @richardpulsford

Saturday 4th November – Some new jokes, hot off the brain

I had a couple of hours spare today so I made myself write some jokes. I hope you like them.

- You look like a vampire. No reflection on you.
- My local deli will only ever make ricotta cheese. I've said to them, "Why does it always have to be that whey?"
- To those librarians who repeatedly do Sir Sean Connery impressions, I say: "Get over your shelves".
- I used to describe my touchy neighbour with the white stick as 'blind', until he told me he was partially slighted.
- I've just been watching some outtakes of The Clangers.
- Could they not have made the word 'Abbreviation' shorter?
- CS Lewis' middle name was 'Gas'.

© Richard Pulsford

For more, feel free to follow me on Twitter via @richardpulsford

Wednesday 17th October – Once one liner night

I think one liners, and puns especially, are often looked down upon by other comedians, even though many a comedian will happily include a pun or two in their own set. Good wordplay isn't that easy to write however, and similarly puns are a challenge to deliver well. One liner comedians face many pitfalls, needing to avoid eliciting too many groans, avoiding the trap of repetitive rhythm in delivery (which soon equals boredom for the audience, unless used to deliberate comic effect), ensuring jokes make sense in the short timeframes between jokes... I could draw up quite a list.

Anyway, out of the blue I was invited on Monday evening to take part in a gig the following night at Monkey Barrel, a newish but super comedy club in Edinburgh city centre. I was pleased just to be offered a gig, to be honest, but I had been asked along because it was going to be a 'one liner night'. Part of me doesn't wish to be so typecast, but that die was cast some time ago, and part of me was excited that there was actually going to be a night especially for one liner comedians to display their wares as it were. Surely this was some sort of recognition for us, meaning we were not always going to be classed as outcasts from comedy clubs?

The outcome was somewhat more prosaic. At the venue, a couple of other one liner comics appeared, but when a line up eventually appeared - not long before the show was due to start - there were names I didn't recognise, or associate with the craft. I was down to open the night. I had to ask just before the show started what the format was going to be. It was nothing inventive - we were to do some 7 minute sets. I had thought maybe there might be something planned by way of interaction between acts and audience, to bring out the spontaneous punning, but no, that wasn't going to happen.

I delivered a set of random one liner type jokes, and I was finished before I knew it. The thing was, the compere hadn't even introduced the night as a one liner night before I got on stage! One act in the second section was the bar manager wanting to try out material (not one liners), and the headline act was not a one liner comic either. He had at least contacted other comedians to get them to text him some one liners - ones which they had never used themselves or jokes which had failed to be kept in their own sets - and he read them out.

So it all felt a bit of a let down, and my biggest fear was that as the bar manager had bombed spectacularly (to his own self-acknowledgement) it would be blamed on the fact it was a so-called 'one-liner night', and therefore it'll never be tried again. It's something I'd still like to try to run myself one day, if I could find the time.

Sunday 24th September – Some gigs you can keep

On Friday night I was set to run a gig in Kirkcaldy for a Rotary Club. This was the fourth year in a row I had organised the comedians for the event, and I had confirmed all the acts were still coming a few days beforehand, so there wasn’t much to concern myself about it. However I received a cancellation from one of the acts a couple of hours before the gig. As the act was only down to do a ten spot the easiest thing was simply to stand in as a replacement.

I hadn’t planned the set much, but decided to play around with the order of jokes and do whichever ones came to mind while on stage. I have to say, the reception I got was fantastic, and was glad that the opportunity had presented itself.

The following morning I had a message asking me if I could provide support for a gig in Appleby–in-Westmorland. It was going to be 15 times the distance for less than half the money of the previous night’s gig, but decided it was good experience and worth it when considering the weekend as a whole.

It was almost completely dark when I got there. The venue was a castle and the parking was in the grounds some distance away down a track. The room itself was large and cold but with a low ceiling and pew style benches on three sides of the performance area, which was neither raised nor spot lit. There was a large portrait of a serious looking countess behind the performers, an even larger tapestry at the far end of the room, and a bar off the back down some large stone steps.

The biggest challenge was that the opener had been asked to also act as compere, so there were quite a number of factors not working in our favour. Unsurprisingly, the audience were not easy to warm up. I was the second section (the headliner being the third) and although I received a warm enough reaction, there were quite a few groans and a lot of people seemed to take a long time to get the punchlines.

Getting back to the car in the pitch black was a challenge. I got away from the gig at a reasonably early hour but found the route home 18 miles longer thanks to the slip road on the M6 being closed at the junction with the A66. Just the slip road, nothing else. So the diversion took me 9 miles further south just to get back onto the M6.

Sometimes it makes a whole lot more sense to only take a local gig, which can be more fun, more lucrative and far less time consuming, but then again, it’s not often I get to perform in a castle.

Sunday 10th September – Hello Haddo House Hall

Early last week I was offered the opportunity to do a gig as the support act for Simon Evans, of Michael Mcintyre's Roadshow and Mock the Week fame. Luckily I was free so happily accepted the gig. I drove up to the gig yesterday afternoon - it was at a National Trust property in rural Aberdeenshire and the sound check was meant to be at 4pm. However Simon's flight from Gatwick to Aberdeen was delayed, and so was the sound check, so I needn't have left quite so early, but it did give me a chance to do some exploring of the grounds.

The venue was the 'Canadian hall' at Haddo House, a hall with the requisite large stage and dedicated seating, but also a moose's head and old sledges on the walls. There was plenty of time to spare after the sound check so I was given a personalised tour of the house, which included viewing a Raphael painting and a large dinner service on display from Canada.

Back to the hall and I was sat alone in a rather down at heel green room waiting for the gig to start. I had already sussed that this was a venue without a bar or licence to serve alcohol, and the venue was also quite cold. Simon came back to the green room at the time the gig was due to start, and asked the venue manager for a beer. He was surprised to find none was on offer. We both ended up being given a cup of tea. He went on stage with his tea in hand, remarking how it was 'unusual' to be doing a dry gig.

Simon did about 15 minutes before introducing me as the support act. I was given a brief of performing for 25 minutes, so decided I would perform my usual set but add in some material I had written about the local area and a visual joke which I could still do even without the use of a projector and screen. My set was well received, and I only reluctantly did the local material because I thought I was probably short of my allotted time. As it turned out this was the best received material of all. I only realised backstage that I had been on for 35 minutes, so was glad I was unaware of this when onstage as it was likely I would not have done the dedicated material otherwise.

In the second half Simon performed another full hour of material which was impressive, and much of it was very funny. All in all it was a quirky but fun gig. I had remarked onstage that 'Haddo' sounded like someone with a cold trying to say 'hello'. Cold or not, I was glad to have been introduced to the place.

Sunday 3rd September – A hop and a skip

On Friday I travelled by train to Kent for the Hop Fest Fringe. The organisers had invited me to perform my solo show Phrases Ready there on the Saturday evening. It was an easy enough, albeit long journey, changing just twice in the two capitals, Edinburgh and London. My son was travelling with me and we were met at Faversham station by our Airbnb host. Her house was only a few minutes’ walk from the station (with my venue not much further away) so there was time to get introduced (to herself, two poodles and a friendly very cat) and settled in, before finding the main streets and somewhere to eat.

The Hop Festival has been going in Faversham for years, but the Fringe is a relatively new addition, this being the third year of its existence. It didn’t bode well that the landlady had not been aware of the Fringe before I had got in touch earlier in the week. Nor did I see any advertising for the Fringe anywhere in the streets, shop windows etc. On Friday night I got in touch with the organisers and received an update on presales. Two tickets sold. This was a long way to come for possibly a very small audience, but at least the show was probably going to happen.

My son and I had a lovely meal, and went back to the lodgings. Later on during the night – apparently – there was a terrific thunderstorm. I remember hearing some rumbling of thunder as I started to fall asleep, but that is all I was aware of. Come the first day of the Festival though, and the sun was shining. And the main streets of Faversham, now made temporarily traffic free, were absolutely packed with people. All barely moving, and many with a glass of beer in their hands. Which made getting anywhere a real challenge. But I found the Fringe director at one of the venues and picked up some Fringe brochures.

My brother and sister-in-law were due to come over from their home town to meet me and see the show, and as soon as we had made it back to the accommodation I received a text to say they had arrived, so I had to persuade my tired son to go out again to meet them. After that I had an hour to get back to the accommodation, get changed and make some last minute adjustments to the show, mainly to include some jokes about some local references and things I had noticed in the town.

Off to the venue and there were the usual issues getting everything connected up, the main one being that the music tracks on my phone wouldn’t play through the speakers. I had to resort to placing the microphone next to the speaker on my phone. That worked as a back up plan but was going to make moving from sections of the show requiring music to performing stand up and back again seem much more clunky.

Show time arrived and suddenly the main door was closed, so I set off my opening music and slide show. I counted an audience of twenty people, so much better than presales had suggested. There was quite a mixture of reactions to my material - the back row seemed to really go for it, whereas three or four people only seemed to be to squirm. It's difficult to know what people are really thinking though. I have no idea how much money was placed in the bucket at the end (yet) and indeed how many people had paid the £6 advance ticket price, so have no gauge of success there either, but I was pleased with having twenty in and the laughs I got.

I was invited back to the hosts’ house, as the local pub/garden was absolutely packed with people and unsuited to my son. We were given a lovely meal, a chance to catch up on some international football on tv, and most importantly some beer. It wasn't too far to walk back to our accommodation afterwards. It's the train trip back already the next day, but I received a message from the organisers thanking me for performing the show and hoping that I come back again next year. That is perhaps the best feedback of all, and adds a skip to the end of my Hop Festival experience.

Thursday 24th August – You never know what to expect at The Fringe

The first performance of the day was my own show. With a free show, you never know how big an audience you are going to get. With only 3 in, 5 minutes before the start time, a mother and two sons, I thought today would be the smallest audience, but not long after I had started the show that had grown to be no fewer than 21.

Just before the show started I helped one couple who seemed lost and worked out what the show was they were looking for and where the venue was (not my show, and not The Beehive either). As their show wasn’t due to start until mid-afternoon they agreed to watch mine. And it turned out that ‘Suzy’ was only the second audience member during the run to volunteer to join in and tell jokes from the front.

A group of three lasses also had to leave early. They had obviously been enjoying the show a lot, and were very apologetic that they had to leave before the end. So much so that one of them came up to me so she could give me a hug and a kiss.

On to the Cowgate for 14:30 and the ‘Worst Show on the Fringe’ for the second time this year. Unlike last week when the room was packed and extra seating was required, this week the venue was only half full. And the compere and both of the first two acts agreed that this was a ‘difficult audience’. After that build up I thought my spot went ok, but it wasn’t half as much fun as last week’s. Still, they laughed, and people were happy enough to take my flyers on the way out.

Then on to watch a show. Given the time of day, the ideal one from my list was Bilal Zafar's 'Biscuit', conveniently behind The Cowgate at The Mash House. I had no idea what the show was going to be about but had wanted to see Bilal after he was nominated for Best Newcomer in the comedy awards last year. As it turned out, I thought the show was fairly pedestrian, about him being a 25 year old putting together his 'marriage cv', and was more factual than funny. As with all shows which touch on the subject of dating (of which there are quite a few) and explain what it is like nowadays, I’m very glad I don’t have to get involved in that particular minefield.

Then on to Summerhall for the most anticipated show of my Fringe. I had been selected earlier in the week to take part in the play A Girl and a Gun, a 70 minute piece taking apart the sexism of Westerns and American culture. With only two actors, called 'Him' and 'Her', I would be on stage as ‘Him’ for the full 70 minutes with only an autocue to tell me what to do, where to stand and what to say. I was really nervous in case I messed up, and the instructions would only be given to me half an hour before the show. I was determined to go ahead with it though, as I think it’s important to push yourself into unfamiliar territory.

5 minutes before the start I was allowed in and was wowed by the space, the old Anatomy Theatre. The play is meant to be a surprise for every audience and each night’s new male actor, so there’s a limit to what I should say about the show’s content, but the experience included both nervy and amusing moments, as well as packing some pretty powerful punches. I found myself speaking what I thought was a pretty convincing American drawl without any training or practice.

And the time flew by. At the very end I was left alone on stage, delivering the final speech, then sitting down as the audience filed out. It felt weird that I then exited into the Summerhall courtyard, now very busy with Fringe goers, without being able to talk about what I had just experienced, or find out what the audience had thought of it either.

I needed time to wind down and decided to go for another curry from the Mosque Kitchen. In doing so I missed the start of Lewis Schaeffer’s show at The Counting House across the road by 5 minutes. In each performance he opens a letter from his deceased mother. I was advised not to go in because he films every show. Knowing Lewis, I didn’t really want to get on the wrong side of him. Maybe it would have been one emotional rollercoaster too many for one day.

Monday 21st August - Home straight

Mondays are my day off from the Fringe. They provide a chance for me to be at home and catch up on a backlog of admin. I can review what's working well with my show and what could do with tweaking or refreshing. There are the contacts I've made who need, well, contacting. I accumulate plenty of notes and quite a lot of small change in the show 'bucket' and that needs to be put into the bank. With only a week left my Fringe schedule also needs updating to see what I can still squeeze in in the time which is left. And there's always the next festival(s) to plan for - there are three which require registration right now.

There are also more mundane things to catch up on. The home dishwasher broke down again a couple of weeks ago and it's amazing how much time washing dishes takes up when there's a 'backlog' there too. One day 'weekends' are in fact not nearly long enough. Still, this coming week is the home straight, even if it's going to be the busiest Fringe week of all.

Wednesday 16th August - Rain did not stop play

The kids went back to school this morning - yes the 'summer' holiday is already over for them - so I had to get up at 07:30 to get them up and take them to school. It was a lovely sunny morning, until about half an hour before my gig, when the rain started and the Grassmarket looked abandoned. I resigned myself to maybe pulling the day's show. However, by 12:15 and the start of the show I had just about a full room - 6 people even had to sit on the front row. And they were a lovely and lively crowd. One guy had come to see me for the third year running, which was lovely.

In the afternoon I had a series of three guest spots. First a show in the cramped Kasbar, with impossibly bright lights, but the set was well received. I managed to wolf down my sandwiches while I was in there. Then across the Cowgate to Movement for Worst Show of the Fringe. I helped set up some extra chairs as it was another packed room, and another well received spot. Shazia Mirza closed the gig. I was given a business card by someone from an agency afterwards, and a friend video'd my set, which I hope comes out ok.

I had a little bit of time to kill before the next performance, enough to see Big Howard Little Howard in Banshee Labyrinth, which was a fun show but I felt Howard (Read) went on rather too much about putting £10 in the bucket at the end. Someone I got talking to in the street told me they had been in Movement earlier but had already seen my solo show, so I felt a bit sorry for them.

My final show was in Bar Bados, back in the Cowgate, so a Free Fringe show this time. As soon as I got to the stage for my spot I sensed that two people in the audience had already seen me. I found out afterwards they had also been in Movement earlier on. So the guest appearances are reinforcing the message about my show, but seeing me twice doing guest spots is probably doing me no favours. Still if some people will only go and see free shows...

Tuesday 15th August - Full on day

I had a day off from the Fringe and Edinburgh yesterday. This morning proved a bit fraught though as I couldn't find my rail pass and I only just made it onto the train because of my vain attempt to find the pass. On arrival in Edinburgh I had just enough time to pick up some tickets from the box office on the High Street before going to Whistlebinkies for my first spot of the day, a guest spot in the 11:00 show 'The Full Irish'. This show seems to get a pretty full room every time without any marketing effort so it's great for advertising to a sizeable audience.

I did my spot and left to go straight to Assembly Gardens in George Square to say hello to some of the people from the Prague Fringe who were having a meet up. It was just a hello though as I had to go on to do my own show at The Beehive. I had a stand in flyerer today but she was doing a really good job and I had 29 in for my show, pretty good for a Tuesday, and the 'bucket' collection was also generous. Also, two people said they had come along off the back of my guest spot at Whistlebinkies on Sunday, knowing that yesterday had been my day off.

I then made my way to George Street for a talk in one of the C venues, before having my lunch in Princes St Gardens and checking out the half price hut area to see if it was worth flyering there. I wasn't convinced, and seeing that the time was 15:30 I thought it might be more worthwhile to go to the Hanover Tap to see if I could get a guest spot in Masai Graham's afternoon compilation show there. And it was, as I was given the first spot, and it still enabled me to get up to Fringe Central for the first of two late afternoon talks.

I saw the venue managers from the Buxton Fringe I did last month in the first talk so introduced myself afterwards and we had a coffee and chat before the second talk, which was nice. Overall it was a good day with extra successful performances, a healthy 'bucket', and meeting up with friends from two previous festivals. Pretty non-stop though, with kids back at home to prepare for going back to school tomorrow!

Friday 11th August - Anyone for golf?

I perform a solo show every day at the Fringe and then also do some guest spots in other people's shows. Some spots are more unusual than others, and there's one of those on Saturday when I'll be taking part in 'Golfing Comedian of the Year'.

I don't rate my chances as it's a game I've never played before. I just hope I'm not expected to bring my own sticks.

Thursday 10th August - Beau Selector

My partner had a job interview this afternoon which meant I had the short straw of looking after our three children, as they are still on their school holidays, which meant having to childmind them while simultaneously performing my show. I try not to worry too much about such things nowadays, especially as the children have got older, but I still lost some sleep last night over how it would all work out today.

This morning I took my kids into Edinburgh early so we could catch fellow Scottish comedian Chris Henry's Balloonatics show for kids at the Gilded Balloon venue at 10:30. I marvelled at Chris' energy (even more so when afterwards he told me he had been quite hungover). Then on to The Beehive to set up for my own show. I decided the best thing to do would be to ask the kids to sit on the front row rather than at the back. I had arrived in good time, but so had a lady with a phone and notebook who I had the feeling was a journalist. When I asked, she wouldn't be drawn on why she was there, so this only served to put me on edge even more than I already was. Why did my show have to be reviewed today of all days?

Numbers were ok for a Thursday, but it was a fairly subdued audience. I did my best to keep the tempo up, but was also aware that there were some jokes I simply couldn't say in front of my own children! The audience probably laughed most when I acknowledged what I called this 'elephant in the room'.

It preyed on my mind most of the rest of the day that a journalist was in on my quietest day of the run so far, but there was an unexpected twist when on Facebook this evening a fellow punster said he'd had a journalist in his show this afternoon, a woman. Upon further enquiry it seemed as if it was probably the same person. The way he described it, she not only told him she represented Dave's Joke of the Fringe but laughed through his show and asked for clarification on the exact wording of some of his jokes after his show. Hmmm. That's not what had happened in my show!

As far as I know it's the first time I've been 'reviewed' for Dave's Joke of the Fringe so my enquiries in that direction seem to have paid off, but I get the idea that I didn't make much of an impression, and as more than 600 shows are supposed to be reviewed as part of the selection process, I don't rate my chances very highly of making the so-called 'top ten jokes of the Fringe'. Still, at least I'm being given a chance this year, so that's progress. And my kids had a fun day. And the interview apparently went well...

Wednesday 9th August - Keeping up with the Jones

I had been starting to feel that my earlier lunchtime spot this year was resulting in a significant fall in numbers. However, to my surprise, 28 people came to see my show today, which is pretty amazing for a Wednesday lunchtime, and more than some other shows I know were getting today.

At one point near the end I mention how it costs £18 a ticket to see an hour of Milton Jones' one liners. One couple said they had been to see his show and didn't really enjoy it. And they enthusiastically said they much preferred my show, which they reckoned was funnier and had been much better thought out. Not only that, they had come on the back of a guest spot they had seen me do a couple of days ago. I felt humbled. But I made sure I caught them afterwards to ask them to tweet about the show and leave an audience review. Word of mouth is valuable currency.

Later on I was flyering for Vladimir McTavish's chat show and a guy walked past who said he had seen me perform at the Greater Manchester Festival last month and would seek out my show in Edinburgh. I like this kind of positive feedback.

Tuesday 8th August - How Irish?

This morning I was the first guest in The Full Irish show (the rules for getting on the show are fairly relaxed!). It's a show which starts at 11am in Whistlebinkies, yet the room was absolutely packed. My set seemed to go down really well, so I was pleased I had had the presence of mind to set out flyers before the show began - after my spot, I had to rush off to do my own show, so wouldn't have been able to flyer people leaving the show.

Another positive thing was how one person in the queue for The Full Irish said they had seen me do a guest spot in a show yesterday and enjoyed it, and two guys going into Vladimir McTavish's show later on said they has seen my solo show last year, and asked me for my latest flyer.

Monday 7th August - Chatty man

My spot in the chat show 'A nice cup of tea and a chat...' with Vladimir McTavish at The Counting House went well yesterday so I was invited back as a guest again today. It's another way of advertising my show, so very welcome.

Sunday 6th August - Jack of all trades

Unfortunately there's no photo from today's show - because the 'selfie' wouldn't work on my tablet. Ironically that gave an extra emphasis to the associated joke about not being very tech savvy!

I've been helping Vladimir McTavish with his chat show at The Counting House at 14:15 every day (it's on until next Sunday) - so, flyering beforehand, announcing him on, holding the bucket at the end etc. Today he texted me to say one guest couldn't make it so would I like to stand in, and also he was stuck in traffic so might arrive a bit late, and could I set up the stage area before the show as well.

I set up the stage - not a difficult job - which includes the 'sofa' for the guests, which is in fact simply two chairs with a throw over them (typical no expense spared Fringe standard). As 14:15 came and went, the other guests, Jojo Sutherland and Gavin Webster, agreed to start the show while I waited for the host to arrive.

In the end he was only about five minutes late, but as we walked in the room you could tell from the audience's reaction some fun had already been had at his expense. Jojo went on first and she sat on the host's chair, so Vladimir ended up on the guest's sofa. Whereupon the throw slid down to reveal the chairs. I don't think I'm ever going to cut it as an interior designer.

To add to the general air of 'what's going to happen next?' there was a guy on the front row with a continually animated ventriloquist's dummy (actually, a chimp) who kept wanting to interject. He was kept at bay for much of the show, which was not how it looked like it was going to go at the start.

I was introduced as the second guest and while I was on the host's chair, we had a nice chat about my style of comedy and I got a chance to plug my own show. It was actually quite nice to receive compliments about my act from a 'Scottish stalwart' in front of a live audience. Last up was Gavin and he revealed an amazingly detailed memory of Newcastle United's past football results. That was actually more fun than I'm making it sound!

And so in the space of an hour I had gone from flyerer to PA to stage hand to chat show guest to self-publicist to money collector. And for some of it was heckled by a chimp. At the Fringe, you have to always be ready for the unexpected.

Saturday 5th August - First class comments

Getting on the Fringe express into Edinburgh again this morning, I noticed the first class section of the train was empty, so I made a move for a seat in there, as I was fairly sure it's available to ordinary ticket holders on that service as well.

Another, rather burly bloke obviously had the same idea, so as we sat down opposite each other, I said, "Can anyone sit in here?". He said, "Yes.".

Ten seconds later I realised my question could have been taken two ways and I felt obliged to say, "I didn't mean, I didn't think you should be sitting in here". Thankfully, he laughed.

Friday 4th August - Repeat business

An audience member today said he had seen me before, and after the show said he might try and catch me again before the end of my run. I'm not used to the idea of 'repeat business' but I guess it's flatteringly positive feedback and the best kind of 'following'. No stalkers though, thanks.

Thursday 27th July - The pun Merchant of Glasgow

What a fun audience at the Merchant City Festival show in Glasgow last night. After I was introduced, I decided to start off my scrolling hashtag powerpoint presentation, without introduction. I thought it was a good idea, but there were no audible laughs (I was at the back of the room so couldn't see their faces). Given that the piece lasts a full five minutes I had plenty of time to get worried. However, I let it run and then properly introduced myself. And, as soon as the punchline to my first joke had sunk in, the laughs started coming, much to my relief. It seemed they simply weren't so much into visual humour.

A group of 4 Americans came in about ten minutes late and heeded my request for them to sit near the front, and they provided some good banter during the show. I was told numbers were down due to Celtic playing a home match last night, and when I checked afterwards saw that indeed I had only about one third of last year's audience at this same Festival. However, this year's audience still put more money in the bucket at the end. That to me is a very good sign that my show is much better one year and numerous festivals on!

And as August looms, that was my final full show before the Edinburgh Festival Fringe! I'm actually feeling excited about what the Fringe might bring this year! Along with all the hard work of course.

Thursday 13th July - Toured de force

Well it's been a blast touring my show round some festivals these past few days. Manchester on Saturday was great fun and, as it turns out, the only tech glitch free show!

I next performed at the Buxton Fringe on Sunday, and was back there again on Wednesday. Each afternoon I performed a spot in the Pavilion Gardens and the venue for my full evening show was the lovely Rotunda Dome set up in the same gardens. It's a lovely, peaceful setting - at least when Ross the techie guy isn't swearing! The guys put so much effort into making the shows work there, and my tech effects were additional work for them.

The first night, the attached projector produced the music but not the words off my video, and the only solution we could find in the set up time available was for me to hold the mic to the back of the projector to pick the sound up. On the Wednesday my laptop screen went blank so I had to use the publicly visible screen to find the files I needed to run the powerpoint presentationss, video and music. I also managed to spill tea over my shirt during the show. Maybe I should go into slapstick!

I was in Telford for an 'Edinburgh preview' slot on Tuesday. My laptop ran out of battery charge just as the show was about to begin so I resorted to performing some straight stand up. I was chuffed that neither myself nor the audience flagged during the improvised half hour set. In fact, they were bloody marvellous, laughing at every joke. I love gigs like that!

So far I've driven over 700 miles since leaving home last weekend (it feels as if motorway closures have accounted for at least 10% of that total). Tonight I've got a ten spot at Scallywags in Cheltenham to look forward to, before I start winding my way back north over the following 24 hours.

Sunday 10th July - From slam dunk to Tequila slammers

On Saturday afternoon I set off in the car for my appearance at the Greater Manchester Festival. I was already en route before I realised my son had been playing with the satnav again, and damaged the charging lead. So even though I thought it was plugged in, it was in fact running out of battery, and it couldn't be recharged. In spite of that, and to my relief, I found the venue in good time.

It's actually the third time I've performed at the Kings Arms in Salford, in the same lovely small blacked out theatre space, but the first time I've been able to use a projector and screen in there, and the show is so much more with the visuals in it. It was a small audience - I'm told that's not unusual for shows from outside of the city - but what a laugh we had. 'John' said he had seen four shows that day, and mine was the most enjoyable. I'm so happy when people respond to my show!

I then drove off to Leeds to stay with friends there. What should have been a catch up over 'a beer' became a very late catch up over beers and then tequilas. So it was a day with a few unexpected twists, but a good start to my mini festivals tour.

Friday 8th July - When things don't go to plan... back to Plan 'A'

With 4 festival gigs coming up this weekend and early next week, last night was my last chance to try out a different short set and some brand new material, at spots organised at two gigs in Leith and Edinburgh. Unfortunately things didn't go to plan. I felt rushed at the first gig and put myself under unnecessary pressure, feeling like it was a test performance for the promoter (Gilded Balloon) so I didn't enjoy the spot and therefore didn't really use the opportunity to learn anything new.

And I was feeling conscious of the gig running a bit behind time. Which also meant I left in a hurry. I needn't have rushed to the second gig, as when I got there, I found it had been cancelled due to lack of an audience. This was the second time I had wanted to try out the same new material - the other time was at a gig in Glasgow which was similarly cancelled due to the lack of an audience.

So for the upcoming festival gigs I will fall back to using the same sets which I had developed during the Prague Fringe last month. There'll be no harm in sticking with Plan 'A'. There's a phrase for that: something about being strong and stable?

Friday 23rd June - I'll get my goat...

Here's a short podcast piece I did with some students at Fife College. We only had time for one take - and the fire alarm went off during the session - so in the circumstances I think they managed to put something really good together. Lewis got an 'A' for his efforts so I am pleased for him! Podcast

Monday 30th May - Prague Fringe and the first minute on stage

So I was up at 03:30 on Sunday morning to get a taxi to Edinburgh airport for an early flight to Prague. Given all the turmoil with BA I considered myself lucky to be flying Easyjet for once, landing early in fact, at 09:00 local time. It then took two and a half hours to collect my luggage, get money out, catch a bus, then catch a tram, and find my flat. The flat is wonderfully central, underneath the castle and close to all the Fringe venues.

The owner's mother was waiting for me at the flat, and it turned out the only language we had in common was German, but everything was soon sorted and she was away. I unpacked, then went out to find a local shop so I could get some basics in. Lunch was brief, as I had to find my way to the venue where the Fringe Sunday showcase was happening, before 14:30.

It was about 30 degrees by mid-afternoon and the event was taking place in the ground floor space of Hotel Mosaic which was packed to the rafters with a few hundred performers, guests and punters all meeting up and jostling for space. All the performers had just one minute to sell their show. I was worried that no-one would understand any wordplay joke I chose to do, with such a diverse audience from so many countries. And the performers before me were from countries such as the Czech Republic, Ireland, USA, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland etc, all rushing through their pieces as best they could. I was due on as the 20th performer. As it was, when my turn came, I felt confident, took a selfie with the audience (saying I could claim them as my first night's audience), and got some laughs. [PS I have since found out that some people came to my first show on the basis of a single joke I told at the showcase - so these events can work!]

Afterwards I had a much needed coffee and cake as my head was pounding. I couldn't believe it was still only 4:30pm local time - it felt about 5 hours later! I returned to the flat after doing some more shopping at a larger food shop near the Charles Bridge and made myself a very nice pasta fish dish, washed down with some Krusovice beer. I decided to get through some admin and leave all the show preparation until the following day as I was so tired.

Friday 26th May - Czech me out

On Sunday I'm flying to Prague to take part in my first festival outside the UK, the Prague Fringe. I'm performing for 5 nights there from Tuesday. There's always a lot of admin and pre-preparation required to be able to perform a show at a festival, as well as actually putting a show together, and this is no different. If anything there is more to do, with bilingual contracts to sign, tickets set in a foreign currency, flights to book etc. It's pleasing therefore to be performing for a 5-night run, to make the most out of being abroad. I'm so looking forward to going, and even the forecast for Prague is looking promising.

Monday 15th May - All over the place

'All over the place' is a nice phrase for me just now. I'm planning on being in Dunfermline on Thursday for a podcast recording, the Foxlake Festival in East Lothian on Saturday (my first performance in a festival 'comedy tent', and at midday on a Saturday at that), Hamilton next Tuesday, then flying to Prague for the Fringe there a week on Sunday, then for festivals in Manchester, Buxton, Telford and Glasgow in July. Oh, and the Edinburgh Fringe in August. So with that comes a lot of admin. And of course I still need to keep a handle on social media and oh yes, write a show. I do feel somewhat all over the place already!

Saturday 6th May - In Keith

So I'm opening in a place called Keith tonight, which is about as far north as I have ever gigged. It's a fair drive north from where I live in Fife, I know that much. I'm going to do a 20 minutes' set of one liners, but am considering opening with a one-off joke acknowledging where I am performing, along the lines of: "Well it's nice to be in Keith again. The last time I was in Keith, it was a bit awkward. And Cheggers won't speak to me now". Maybe, maybe not.

Monday 1st May - May it go well

It's a new month and it's time to start gigging again, as by the end of the month my 5 night run at the Prague Fringe Festival will be underway. There's plenty of things still to organise for that - gigging abroad presents its own challenges - but thankfully a language barrier will not be one of them. In (minor) preparation for that I have exotic gigs to perform at, at Junkyard in Hamilton tomorrow, Keith on Saturday and the Foxlake Outdoor Festival in East Lothian on 20th May. May it go well.

Monday 27th February - The highs, and the West Lothian Question

It was an interesting mix of comedic events this past week. On Tuesday I headlined the comedy half of the 'Giving It Laldy' night at Yesbar in Glasgow (the second half is given over to a podcast). There was a bit of extra build up for me, being billed as the headliner, but it was lovely to play to a full room where each joke got some good laughs. It's a great night and I would recommend it.

By contrast, Saturday night was another crowd management initiative in a pub in West Lothian. The jokes were appreciated, but it was always going to be a battle of wills. There were two particularly obnoxious young lads attempting to talk through everyone's set. I went on third and adopted the strategy of saying I would only speak when they were listening. One fell asleep and the other shut up. Effective, but not particularly enjoyable. The West Lothian question should have been: "What are you doing here?".

And yesterday I was invited back as a guest on Stirling City Radio's Sunday afternoon show. It's always a laugh taking part in those shows, although it is weird when there is no audience interaction whatsoever. I got my two youngest children to tell a joke each on air, and that was their first time on radio. One came back for an unrehearsed second joke which referenced suicide, which was somewhat unexpected for a nine year old. Sometimes it's just as well when there is no audience feedback.

Sunday 19th February - Knocked out, but back for more!

This time last week I was on my way to Leicester for the Comedy Festival, and with great anticipation, as this has become one of my favourite times of the year. I had two simple aims for the festival this year. One was to make the most of participating in the UK Pun Championships for the fourth year running. And then to incorporate the best of the labour intensive joke writing towards that event into my solo show, to improve it still further.

The UK Pun Championships continues to grow and exceed itself. Jason Byrne hosted this year's event at the De Montfort Hall, which basically doesn't get any bigger when it comes to venues in Leicester. I'm told that there was an audience of 900 at the event this year, including 50 journalists. But the organisers had also set up an amazing looking boxing ring in the middle of the hall for the punsters to exchange puns against one another, and this really raised everything to a new level.

Publicity for the event was also more extensive this year. It included features for myself on page 3 of the Sunday Herald, the local Courier and on Kingdom FM. The Daily Mirror and the Metro, as well as Radio 1, also ran features on all the acts to coincide with 'UK Pun Day'. This was another innovation by the Festival and trended for a while on Twitter.

Unfortunately, after all the build up, I was knocked out in Round 1 of the competition - and somewhat controversially I felt, backed up by a consensus that I had been hard done by. At first I didn't mind, because I knew I had done well, but later I felt deflated that I hadn't had the opportunity to excel in some of the other categories, and that all people would know is that I had been knocked out early. But despite that, it was a really enjoyable event, all the Festival staff were lovely, and I know I'll just jump at the chance if I'm given the opportunity to do it all again another year (but perhaps with less of a fanfare on my part).

As for my solo show, I had to do that the following evening when I was feeling quite low. But it was the best remedy under the circumstances. Lots of people came to see the show and I delivered a back to basics stand up set followed by a 'best of' set of puns prepared for, but never used at, the previous night's event. Out of that I have now got a solid 125 jokes or so, in order, as the foundation of my show for this coming year. With about 20% of the jokes brand new it should provide some fresh impetus, as well as something fresh for those who have seen me perform recently before.

So Leicester, thank you again for a very enjoyable Festival, and some fantastic experiences!

Outside Beehive

Saturday 11th February - Prepared to Pun

It's been quite a busy week. I was down in Manchester for a gig last Saturday and had the pleasure of taking the headliner John Scott back from the gig to his home in Newcastle before driving back to my own home, a round trip of nearly 600 miles. Madness, I know. And I was back in Glasgow for a lovely gig at a packed Yesbar on Thursday night.

I've had interviews with or had articles submitted to the Fife Free Press, Kingdom FM, Daily Mirror and Sunday Herald this past week, as interest grows in Monday night's UK Pun Championships in Leicester. I've also been putting the hours in honing puns solely for that event, something the audience on Thursday were treated to! One of the pleasant surprises in this process has been going over some old joke notebooks of mine and discovering some gems I can't wait to try out in my solo shows this coming year.

I leave for Leicester in the morning. I will need to consider exactly what I can do for my solo show in Leicester on Tuesday night as there won't be the opportunity to do visual gags in the venue there. That's maybe something I can get my head round during the train journey tomorrow.

Oh well, punwards and upwards.

Saturday 4th February - Material Changes and Pun-ny Publicity

I've been trying to write lots of material towards the UK Pun Championships which takes place in Leicester a week on Monday, and I've been lucky enough to have been given spots at various new material nights to trial it out. So I've recently visited gigs in Dundee and Falkirk, and a couple of different ones in Glasgow, for this very purpose. As ever with this kind of process most of the jokes fall flat but a few have made the cut.

The publicity towards the event is also ramping up. I received a call from Kingdom FM this morning, to record an interview with Euan Notman for his Kingdom Daytime show. I then received another call from the Kingdom FM newsdesk for further questioning. The Daily Mirror also got in touch for me to OK them using some of my material in a feature they are going to run at some point.

I also received a 'Google alert' today, a somewhat unusual event for me. This pointed me to an article which was in Fife Today, in the 'Lifestyle' section. This article happily quotes puns from Tim Vine and Masai Graham but not from myself, which I found rather odd!

I had also submitted copy and a photo for this Thursday's edition of the Fife Free Press but haven't sought out a 'hard copy' to see if the article went in or not. They said they would put me on page 3 - make of that what you will!

Monday 9th January - Hecklers, we hear you

I opened 4 shows over 2 nights at Yesbar in Glasgow last weekend. There was some great camaraderie amongst the comedians (including booker and MC Viv Gee and headliner Eddy Brimson, both very funny and competent performers), in the face of a number of 'challenges' from each of the very different audiences.

Audiences in Glasgow are not diffident about 'joining in' during an act, and will happily tell you what they think of you. So quite often there needs to be some element of crowd control to suppress the unwanted distractions, and this can be disguised as engaging in 'banter'. It's designed to keep everyone on board.

The fourth show was no different in that regard, and although enjoyable did have ongoing 'feedback' from certain people. But the funniest moment for me was after I had been on stage and returned to the back of the packed room. There, I heard someone say to his mate that he didn't like the first act. He was obviously drunk (and not listening to the next act - he had his back to the room). I leaned over and pointed out that I was that first act. When he realised what he had just said and done, he laughed in embarrassment, and noisily offered to buy me a drink. I pointed out that at least I had now made him laugh.

And the same man found great joy in shouting out heckles during the headline act, which he somehow managed to find the time to concentrate on (maybe his friends had disowned him by then - a lot of them had left), and he was even homophobic in the process.

Needless to say, the drink never arrived. Some people are just all talk and bluster, and not much else.

BLOG 2016
Outside Beehive

Saturday 24th December - Happy Christmas AND New Year!

2016 has been for many a troublesome year, and I would count myself as being one of those people. However, at least Christmas makes it possible to spend some time in reflection and enjoy some quality time with family. Moreover, yesterday I received the news that my application to take part in the UK Pun Championship finals at the Leicester Comedy Festival next February was successful, and that certainly is the kind of present I will happily receive at this time of year.

The UK Pun Championships, hosted by Lee Nelson, continues to grow in size and profile with each passing year (next year the venue for the event is the De Montfort Hall, the largest in Leicester), so I brace myself each year to be told my application has been unsuccessful. So I do feel it a great honour to be asked to take part yet again, as in fact the only comedian to take part in all four years of the competition's history. And there are some surprising absentees from the list of those selected e.g. none of the past three winners. This makes it feel like more of an uncertain playing field.

I'm definitely 'in it to win it' this time, but if I can't win it (on the fourth attempt!) then I just want 2017 to be a special year, whatever that turns out to mean. As far as the competition goes, may the best punster win!

Friday 16th December - Monkey Business

December has been a bit of a mixed bag. Both gigs I was meant to be running ended up being cancelled, at the venue's requests. This is, from a selfish point of view, a pain in the backside. Apart from the loss of potential earnings, the effort of putting a line up together is suddenly wasted. Then there is the unenviable task of closing everything down again, hoping that no-one paid any attention to the advertising, and assuaging acts who frankly can show quite a varied set of emotions, mostly understandable in the face of what could be a significant loss of earnings on their own part.

Each time this happens I feel a measure of guilt, irritation and sympathy. None of which is healthy, and is in stark contrast to the feeling of satisfaction which comes from running a gig enjoyed by comedians and audience alike.

So it's turned into a bit of a lean month, and my last gig of the year now looks like it will be this Sunday. It's going to be in Hartlepool... I could still end the year on a high, not least by using this as an opportunity to get the gig-cancellation monkey off my back.

Monday 21st November - Tackled and converted

I found myself volunteering to perform at another charity fundraiser on Saturday evening, and yet again it was for Cancer Research. At this rate, they must surely find a cure soon...

Anyway, the fundraiser was at a rugby club in Fife, and not surprisingly therefore, it was a feisty affair (to say the least). I was due to go on second after the first break, which as is typical of such events became much later in the evening than expected, and I wondered how drunk the average audience member would be by the time my turn arrived. The act before me (the wonderful Scot Laird) was mercilessly heckled and had to constantly modify his set, meaning the power of much of his comedy was thwarted.

When he had finished, a lot of people naturally leapt up to go to the bar for top up drinks, and/or started chatting, and the host struggled to control the chaotic situation. He was slowly worn down, constantly blown off course by, for example, being 'forced' to down drinks by the baying crowd. But instead of calling a quick break, he must have spent at least twenty minutes going through stages of frustration, despair and then anger. One loud young lass on the front row received a lot of abuse which was frankly not only uncalled for but quite nasty. The host finally pleaded with the audience about the effort he had put in to make the event happen, and said that surely everyone had been affected by cancer, and how everyone seemed to be spoiling the evening. And it was in that context I was called up to perform...

And I have to say, I proceeded to have one of my most enjoyable gigs of the year. My plan was to thank the host for organising the gig (everyone cheered), to then mention the worthy cause we were raising money for (treatment for the host's nervous breakdown), and to mildly mock the state of the venue, before asking who liked puns and one liners (another big cheer). Twenty minutes later I had finished off a set of puns and one liners which had gone down really well, while managing to keep a lid on the noise coming from the audience. When the lass who had been barracked looked like getting too noisy I brought her on side by giving her a hug, which needless to say she responded to rather more positively than she had to what had gone on before.

I received a lot of great feedback afterwards, and there were a number of people who wanted to follow me on Twitter and whom got their phones out to 'sign up'. A great evening, but I do hope cancer gets the kick it deserves sooner rather than later, for the sake of everyone's health.

Friday 28th October - novel 'Trump a Novel' response

I was 'tweeting' on the train on the way into work on Monday morning (a rare morning when ScotRail's internet connection happened to be up and running), but still really only half awake. Then I noticed a trending hashtag which had started up under #TrumpANovel. Now, as I am taking a keen interest in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election, and feel appalled at how Donald Trump has seemingly easily brushed aside multiple allegations of sexual assault against women over whom he had power, I thought of a tweet, and tweeted it. It was 'Belittle Women'.

It was only when I had got off the train and into work, and sometime later checked my phone for updates, I realised the response to this particular tweet was gaining much more traction than my usual fare. Before long, it had in fact been retweeted over 500 times and liked by nearly 1,400 people, as well as viewed by over 70,000 people. It made the Huffington Post shortlist as best tweet, and has been liked and retweeted more than any other tweet under what has proved to be a very popular hashtag. It's also made it onto lots of other websites, including being listed first on Buzzfeed, and ew.com even subtitled the headline to their article with "We'll never read 'Little Women' the same way again".

Ironically, with such a response and coverage, Trump's been good for me in this rather unexpected way. But I had a vote in the election, I still wouldn't vote for such an appalling misogynist.

Sunday 23rd October - Stand Up to Cancer in the Blackpool Tower Circus

A few weeks ago I signed up to do a gig for free in Blackpool, which happened on Friday evening. Even though it meant taking time off work and a round trip of nearly 500 miles I felt it was for a good cause, and once close to my heart - Stand Up to Cancer. It was one of those gigs I was asked to do and agreed to do, before really knowing too much about it.

For one thing, I was meant to do 20 minutes of 'clean' material. The vast majority of my material is 'clean' so that was not going to be an issue. I then had it confirmed that I could only perform straight stand up i.e. no visuals on a screen, so again, not much of an issue, but placing some limitations. But I was then told there would be families in, so 'clean' actually meant family-friendly. This would significantly reduce and change what I could do, as there is quite a difference between those two categories, so I had to work on a revised set and incorporate a few new ideas.

But then the real positives. The venue was confirmed, as The Blackpool Tower Circus. When I looked online I realised what a fantastic venue this was going to be to perform in: a big, theatre style, completely in the round, and beautifully decorated performance space. Also the whole Stand Up to Cancer initiative linked in to a whole evening of programmes to be broadcast on Channel 4.

And when it came to the gig itself, it was wonderful. One act did about 10 minutes before me then I performed as the headline act in the middle stage area to about half of the arena (so covering nearly 180 degrees) with a radio mike and sound system to die for. I had also belatedly realised that I could bring my 11 year old son with me, it being a family-friendly gig, and with him being off for half term. So he could be with me on the road trip, see me prepare and do the gig, as well as video the performance for me. That was a real bonus for me, and he was effectively offered unlimited popcorn, sweets and coke!

And probably as a result of my son being there, we were given the chance to go to the 4D Cinema in the tower then take a trip to the top to see the Blackpool illuminations from above. Which was a bit weird, as we were mingling with some of the audience from earlier on, but was the icing on the cake to a really great experience. Plus, there was some nice publicity in the Blackpool Gazette and Huffington Post.

I think about £500 was raised for the charity. I will confirm that when I find out.

Article in The Blackpool Gazette: Gazette

Tuesday 20th September - I came, I saw, I conquered

I had a lovely gig at the Dundee Blind and Partially Sighted Society (DBPSS) last night. The organisers wanted to run a social event to encourage more of their younger folk in, but as it turned out there was both a baby and a 96-year old in the packed audience, so I'm not sure the marketing was a resounding success! It's unlikely I'll ever perform to an audience with such a wide age range as that again.

I was first up, and that was after the compere hadn't shown up. I decided to tell the audience that they wouldn't have seen me before - a hack joke, and one which they didn't even realise was a joke. So I had to explain what it was I'd meant. After that start, I was worried they'd turn out to be the Dundee Blind and Partially Slighted Society, but those fears were unfounded, as in fact they really warmed to my material.

Although I had been met at the train station before the event, and had been fed and watered, the night ended rather abruptly when I legged it out of the venue in order to try and catch my train back home. I got a bit lost and that would have been enough to make me miss it, but as it was, the train was delayed by ten minutes, and I made it just in time. So overall, it was a really enjoyable Monday night gig with some lovely people.

Friday 16th September - Stop! Police!

I was standing in the school yard this morning, part of the regular routine of seeing my kids into their classes, when 2 policemen walked by. They went up to the teacher of the class my youngest is in, and had a brief conversation with her about something. I had no idea what it might have been about, but sometimes there are issues with parents parking in front of the school, and the police have been involved, dealing with that, in the past. As the policemen turned to leave, one of them came directly towards me.

I wasn't sure what was going to happen next, but I did feel rather self-conscious in front of the other parents. He then said he had seen me performing at the Edinburgh Fringe and said I was very funny. We both laughed. My laugh was borne more out of a sense of relief, but I felt flattered. Moments like that remind me that lots and lots of different people have seen me perform and it's often a memorable experience for them - in a good way. I don't know what the other parents thought had just happened, but it's nice to keep people guessing sometimes.

Monday 8th August - Underway!

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is well underway now, and so far it's been fun. From what I can tell, fellow performers are reporting good audience numbers and receiving good feedback. I've performed my 3 Fringe preview shows, tweaking heavily with each one, and am now taking my first Monday off. I still need to tighten up the show a bit, as the tech stuff between sections seems to be taking up too much time, but I can see the best way for it to run now, and am confident in how to work all the tech stuff.

I've also done a number of guest spots, including The Full Irish at Whistlebinkies and The One Liner compilation show at Pravda in Espionage - both very enjoyable - and a more challenging 00:30 Saturday night compilation show in a small tent inside the Free Sisters Courtyard in the Cowgate. If you know what the Cowgate is like on a weekend, you'll understand how it might present some challenges...

In between all of this I performed a solo show at The Merchant City Festival in Glasgow on Friday evening. I had expected simply to perform my Edinburgh Fringe show but as the screen was unavailable for use I simply did more stand up, and it felt great to relax into the show and have a really responsive audience. Definitely one of my favourite gigs of the year. Iain Pollock did a short guest spot for me as well, and he really rose to the occasion, performing the best I've seen.

I'm glad for the day off to recharge my batteries and try and catch up on a lot of admin, as the next 6 days are going to be some of the most hectic of this year's Fringe, with 23 shows/events in the diary so far, and that's before I've even looked at what shows I would like to simply go and watch.

Get in touch if you're going to be in Edinburgh yourself - it's a great time to catch up with people.

Thursday 28th July - Falling into place

The pieces are slowly coming together for my Fringe show. I have:
- the flyers, which arrived in the post today (and looking good)
- someone to flyer for me during the run
- a clear idea now of how the show should run
- guests booked into all but the last few performances (and they seem genuinely enthused by my description of the show)
- trawled through a couple of thousand of my tweets from recent months to identify the most popular ones to use
- someone who has agreed to put together a video for the end of the show

There is still quite a bit to do though. I'm struggling with getting some memes made up, I need to make an updated short video, and be clear in my own mind which jokes to include in my set, based on reviewing audience reaction to each joke at recent gigs where I recorded my performances. Nothing to panic me yet though...

Saturday 23rd July - Getting ready for some punchlines

After a hectic couple of weeks of gigging it's now down to the hard admin behind the Fringe and, not least, getting the different elements of my show to hang together. I'm getting quite a few offers of spots in other comedians' shows, which is nice, and always good for publicity. I've also decided to have a guest in each of my show performances and it's been quite exciting to start booking up those spots in my show.

I've started to make a much bigger thing of Twitter this year, as hashtagging has proved a good way of getting instant off the cuff puns out into the wider world and seeing what reaction they get (and it's often at variance to what I expect, so it's very useful feedback). I'm hoping to connect my followers up with each of the Fringe shows by inviting them to suggest topics for myself and my day's guest to pun and tweet on. I'm prepared to live life somewhat on the edge over this as the element of jeopardy could make the show more interesting for the audience. Or it could prove to be unworkable...

Whether I am creating a masterstroke for social media or not, only time will tell. But in the meantime, my website home page now has a direct link to my live Twitter updates (thanks to Jay Miles for organising that for me), so the set up is there. All I will need from 5th August are some punchlines.

Monday 11th July - Shelter in the Borders

I've been taking some time off from gigging recently. There's always a lot of admin and preparation required in the run up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but there is also the need to enjoy some time off before it starts to get hectic as there is very little free time available once it's all underway. I did however succumb to the temptation of doing a couple of gigs at the weekend.

Comedian Damian Kingsley is nearing the end of a nationwide tour performing and raising funds for Shelter, starting at Lands End and ending in Edinburgh. By the weekend he had surpassed the 100 gigs mark and was close enough to the end for me to join him as a support act, in Hawick on Friday and in St Boswells on Saturday.

Given what felt like the last minute nature of the gigs it was pleasing to find audiences at both, and both were supportive of the concept and of the comedians too. It went well enough in St Boswells for me to feel able to experiment with some ideas I had towards my Fringe show. There was enough there to give me some confidence in where I want to take it.

Damian's last show will be at The Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh this Thursday. Unfortunately I can't make it to that one as I have a gig in Liverpool, but he is hoping to have raised a total of £20,000 for Shelter by then, which will be a marvellous achievement.

Wednesday 8th June - Launch Day

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe brochure was launched today so I feel it's worth a quick update on the blog. I've not become particularly excited about the launch this year, partly because my show has been online for some weeks already, and partly because I've been planning for the more immediate Culross and Aberdour Festivals. I've also been trying to produce a viable flyer/poster and want that ready before 'launching' my show properly on social media. I need to get a move on, as the general public will now start thinking about the Fringe and some will already be planning their itineraries. So today marks out a milestone in the calendar, and the start of a real ramp up of activity towards the month of August. And another thing I must do is get hold of a brochure myself.

Wednesday 4th May - Recovery from an unexpected situation

I've been performing comedy for a number of years now, and I sometimes have to drive ridiculous distances to get to gigs. So when the car I was using to get to gigs reached 130,000 miles on the clock last December, it felt safer to replace the vehicle with a newer model before something went seriously wrong with it. With a little over 6,000 miles on the clock of the new car (and very clean both inside and out), the 'new' car felt great to drive.

So on Friday night I was driving on the M6, travelling back from a gig in Blackpool, and was startled to find the car suddenly starting to judder, losing power, and flashing up some mysterious warning lights. Luckily there was an exit not much farther on, so I managed to drive safely off the motorway and find somewhere to park, at a petrol station. I found and checked the manual. The warning light implied I had to seek immediate assistance and get the engine looked at at a garage. Well, I was 150 miles from home at 11:30pm on a Friday night, so it wasn't going to be my local garage.

And so started a diagnostic and recovery operation to get me home and the sick vehicle off to the nearest garage to my house. This consisted of an AA van and 2 different recovery vehicles to get home, arriving at 05:30. And after just 2 hours sleep, another vehicle at 08:00 to take the car off to a local garage. A replacement hire car was due to arrive later in the morning so I got no further sleep while waiting for that to arrive.

So again, another tale of dedication to the cause. The gig paid little in comparison to the time and effort involved, but at least the spot had gone well. There was thankfully no car crash whatsoever last Friday night.

Wednesday 20th April - Professional to the end?

It's been a while since I've blogged, as we've had a death in the family. My partner's father suffered a major stroke a couple of weeks ago, and he died a few days later. Obviously that has been a blow, but at least he had had a pretty good innings. The fates conspired to ensure I received the news of his passing by text about ten minutes before going on stage at a gig in Moffat...

It had already been quite a stressful experience just getting to the gig. With the family upheaval my partner was now away and I had had to find childcare at very short notice as the promoter was relying not just on my own attendance but on me bringing 2 of the other acts from Edinburgh as well. I somehow managed to do all that. Then came the news. Normally I go over a couple of introductory lines in my head before going on stage, and I became acutely aware that I was about to ask the audience if they were happy, and tell them how happy I was to be there. I wondered if I might have a delayed reaction to the news, in the context of delivering material which might now sound pretty disingenuous.

At least as an exercise in self-psychology this was going to make some interesting research. The way it turned out, I was able to put out of my mind 'current events' and put on what seemed to be a very well received opening 20 minute set. Which was weird, and slightly unnerving. But maybe this was simply an example of what it means to be professional. I was pleased I had let no-one down, though hope I can give just as good a performance in happier times as well.

Well, I tell a lie. I did actually let one person down. By the time I had left the gig and dropped off the other 2 acts and got home again, I was an hour late for the babysitter. He was paid in full though (yes, it was a 'he'!).

Wednesday 23rd March - Judgement Day

I was recently invited to be one of the judges for a comedy competition, which was held last night in Edinburgh. It's an annual competition organised by the Edinburgh University Revue and open to any student from the university. The other judges included an ex-student performer and a journalist from The Skinny. When I arrived there was already a great atmosphere building up, though my heart sank a little when I found out there were going to be no less than 18 acts performing and there was no list of names provided.

However, as the night progressed it became clear that the standard of act was impressively high. There were few obvious signs of nerves shown, and there was a stream of clever, inventive and funny material throughout the evening.

I thought it was going to be difficult to choose between 18 acts where even the 'worst' did well. Moreover, time was ticking away and I knew there wasn't going to be much time for deliberation before I had to rush off for my last train. Thankfully the penultimate act was so good he became an instant hit with both audience and judges, reducing the number of difficult decisions for the judges to one of deciding on who should be placed second and third, and a best joke of the night. In the end we agreed on a runner up and decided to award a joint third place to two very different but equally good acts (one was a one liner comic, and one told a surreal story using cartoons).

Unfortunately I had to rush off for the last train out of Waverley before I could see the announcements being made. It was certainly fun to watch rather than take part in a comedy competition for once, and interesting to understand at first hand what it is like to be a judge and see what catches the attention and sticks in the mind, for both good and bad reasons. One thing that will stick in my mind for some time is one of the female acts (deliberately) bearing a breast at the end of her performance. I don't think it was done for the judge's benefit; regardless, she was unplaced.

Friday 18th March - Podcast

I recorded a podcast last weekend and it was an interesting and enjoyable experience. Steven and Craig Duncan record what is currently a weekly podcast in their living room in Kennoway in Fife. Their aim is to interview local people on current affairs and topics of interest, and episode 14 was given over to interviewing me about the gigs I run and the art of writing and performing jokes.

Since it's been published, I've listened back to the recording and am quite pleased with it. Normally I hate the sound of my own voice, but I didn't find this difficult to listen to. Maybe I had a cold or something. I've notice that I do say 'er' a lot - there is so much deliberating over some questions, it makes Jeremy Corbyn seem decisive. But hopefully there is something of interest in there for those curious enough to look behind the scenes, and enough to keep the boys' podcast generating the interest it deserves.

Here is a link to the Besides the Norm podcast, episode 14: Besides The Norm

Tuesday 15th March - Because I'm worth it

So that's my one and only solo show come and gone in the Glasgow Comedy Festival (on Sunday night). This particular festival lays down a marker for me, as it's the same time of year, same city, and same venue where I first performed a full solo show. Which was actually only 2 years ago, but it already feels a lot longer ago than that. It's also a bit different to the other festivals I take part in, in that this show reflects the Yesbar venue's general habit of running ticketed and paid for shows.

I am still flattered that anyone wants to pay good money up front to see me, and on the basis of pretty minimal marketing amazed that anyone turns up. Having said that, I think this, my third year, was my best yet. I deliberately avoided trying to shoehorn in any videos or technical distractions, and delivered better and more consistent material. Nowadays I am able to relax into it and enjoy it more, mainly thanks to having gained plenty of experience of doing longer sets. So, yes, people paid to see me perform, but I also now believe I'm worth it.

Wednesday 9th March - Boomtown Rats

Foot long rats

I saw this headline in the local paper today and just had to take a photo. Why rats are taking it out on Fifers remains a mystery, but then there's no point in seeking a logical reason for irrational behaviour. Regardless, we must do our utmost to challenge prejudice in whatever form it takes as it continues to plague our society.

Friday 19th February - Banker bashing

I paid some money into the local branch of my bank today. Banks like to know something about their customers, especially when the customers are paying in cash on a regular basis. This teller, who also happens to be the local branch manager, asked me how I was and would I give him a pun. "You know, now you're famous. You've been in the paper and everything."

I wasn't in the mood, so I said I was 'off duty'. He seemed disappointed. Not as disappointed as he would have been had I shared what had actually crossed my mind - that I could instead make up a limerick for him. And the first line of the limerick would end with the word banker... but then I prefer to retain my access to local banking facilities.

Sunday 14th February - Last Minute and Live!

And so back to Leicester for Round 2 of Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival. I had a single guest spot booked on the Saturday night, which would be soon after arriving in the city, and the main event for me, which was my solo show on the Sunday at 5pm. I also had a lunch appointment on the Sunday. The hope was I could fill in some of the rest of the weekend with either guest spots or seeing other people's shows.

About half an hour before arriving in Leicester I saw 3 different gigs advertised online, which threw me into a bit of a panic as I didn't have the means to respond while on the move. As soon as I got to my hotel room I set about putting myself forward for the gigs. One was for 'Hate N Live' later on that evening. The other 2 were both for the Sunday evening, one as a replacement for an act who had pulled his solo show and the other for an out of town gig.

In the end I was offered all 3 spots, which was nice, but I was left with a dilemma about what to do about the Sunday evening, as I would now have the embarrassment of turning one of the spots down again. In the meantime I went to check out the venue for the new solo show spot and was told I could do it - but it wouldn't be advertised and therefore it would almost certainly be quiet. And to do the out of town gig would require me getting a lift from Leicester. No word came back from the promoter on that all evening, so I was left hanging. Then the Hate N Live spot was withdrawn because the spot had apparently already been offered to someone else by one of the other organisers of the show. Then when I arrived at the venue to do my original guest spot I was told everything had had to be rejigged and I no longer had the spot. The feeling of dissatisfaction was growing.

But then a few good things happened to rescue my weekend. Firstly, on turning up at the venue for my solo show I was given a voucher which entitled me to a free meal - that was gratefully received. Then, by hanging around at the venue of my original guest spot, I was offered a new spot which suddenly became available. And as that went quite well, I was offered a second spot later on. Then, the vacancy at Hate N Live turned up again, so I found myself heading off to Hansom Hall for the show there after all, which was at 22:45.

Hate N Live relies entirely on improvisational skills so I was quite apprehensive about taking part, but I have a philosophy that you need to throw yourself into things to grow as a comedian, and there can be benefit in being outside of your comfort zone. And then to ramp things up a bit more as I was waiting for the show to get underway, Tom Stade arrived to sit in the audience. But I said hello, we had a chat, and he kindly offered me a beer.

The show was good fun, though I soon realised there was more to be made of the format than just ranting off on things you hate, as the comedy had to come from rather more clever or subtle or outrageous things, and I wasn't doing that well on any of those fronts. But job done. 3 spots performed for the evening, within hours of arriving in Leicester, a free meal, some free beer and a small payment for my performances. Though I was still left with the dilemma about what to do about the Sunday evening.

Wednesday 10th February - Pun-ner up!

Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival designated last Monday as UK Punday. The highlight of the day was to be the evening's UK Pun Championships Final at Hansom Hall in Leicester, hosted by Lee Nelson. It was the third time I had entered the competition and the third time I found myself competing in the final. After being knocked out in Round 1 two years ago, and Round 2 last year, could I make it third time lucky in 2016?

Well, I almost did. In the first round, I was drawn against one of the strongest contenders, Masai Graham, someone who had had some of his jokes selected for Dave's Top Ten jokes of the Edinburgh Fringe more than once before. We went head to head after being asked to tell our best and corniest jokes, and I was genuinely surprised by how enthusiastically the crowd reacted to my material. After delivering 3 jokes each in turn on the randomly selected topic of flowers, Lee Nelson said he couldn't decide between us and so he let us both go through to the semi-final stage, causing a potential headache for the organisers.

Then in the semi final I was drawn against Tony Cowards, someone who headlines clubs up and down the country with his own brand of one liners and puns. The topic this time was Europe, and amazingly, I was the one who got the biggest cheer after 3 puns, and so I suddenly found myself through to the final. After that, the other semi final was won by Masai, and so we were to face each other again after an interval for 3 further rounds of puns.

During the interval I rang home, as it was my son's 8th birthday. It was the first time I'd missed any of my children's birthdays, but everyone at home was pleased to hear my voice and very excited when I told them I was in the final.

And so to the final itself. I delivered pretty consistently on the topics of love and animals. Some of Masai's material seemed to be a bit close to the bone for some people, but he also had some belters, and with those it seemed obvious which way the night was going to go. In spite of this, Lee said I had won the third round (on education), and there needed to be a deciding round, and that turned out to be on the theme of chocolate. Ironically I felt that that round was much closer to call than the other rounds. And although I got a big cheer from the audience when it came to the cheer-off, Masai got a much louder response, and so deservedly won the crown. He just comes across as a lovely bloke so it was great to see him win.

Will I get another chance to win the crown next year? The competition seems to get more high profile, and correspondingly tougher every year, and previous winners can and do reapply. I certainly would like to do it all again, and do even better next time, working perhaps as much on the performance as the material. Hopefully the event won't coincide with any family birthdays either.

Friday 5th February - I'm a Page 3 stunner!

I sent some information to my local newspaper last week about me taking part in the UK Pun Championships, and was surprised when people started telling me yesterday that I had a feature in the Fife Free Press. Not only did the newspaper use my copy in Thursday's edition, they gave me a half page feature on page 3, along with a big photograph. OK, so it's not The Sun newspaper, but I can still now claim to have been featured on page 3. That's one quickly added to and ticked off my bucket list then. Thankfully for everyone, I wasn't revealing any man boobs. No-one would want to see the paper's circulation figures adversely affected.

I hope they're not expecting a follow up article next week. Maybe they want a feature on me bringing some sort of trophy back from Leicester, perhaps organising a victory parade and an open top bus. I think Leicester City have more chance of winning the English Premiership and keeping a trophy in Leicester, than of me punning my way to victory. But whatever happens, at least I now know I have a nascent modelling career I can fall back on.

Monday 1st February - What the heck, Auchinleck?

I was booked to do a gig in Ayrshire on Saturday night. In a place I had never heard of before (Auchinleck) and in a venue called 'The Railway Tavern'. I imagined some run down poky pub near a railway station. It turned out to be a huge venue, in the kind of room which must host wedding receptions for hundreds of people. Unfortunately this was the first comedy night they had run there, so the lighting was poor, but otherwise it was well run and the comedians were well looked after.

My own performance was seemingly well received, until someone heckled that they 'had paid a tenner for this' and was only 'there for the craic'. I thought my comebacks were quite good, but I then found I had lost my momentum, and I didn't know how many people had really taken the side of the heckler.

My spirits inevitably sag under these circumstances, and yet how often does this happen: on leaving the venue, the solitary smoker braving the cold told me what a great night it had been, and so instantly my spirits were lifted again. I reckon comedians have to show a measure of humility in the face of heckling which appears to be an on the spot (1 star) review. They're entitled to their opinion. At the same time though, there is a need to teach audiences to shut up at the right times, otherwise they're potentially spoiling it for everyone else. And everyone else has also presumably paid a tenner.

Where the humility comes in is, in, basically not having a rant back. The heckler may have paid a tenner, but I was just one of the acts, and by the end of a 7 hour shift would have driven nearly 200 miles in some pretty treacherous conditions to entertain them, in a place I'm never likely to go to under any other circumstances. I had prepared hard. I had taken time out from my family and given up my Saturday night. I almost didn't get home because of the snow falling on untreated roads.

But, what the heck. It's all part of the fun of being the clown who turns up, does some stupid stuff, gets some laughs, leaves and is never seen again, and almost certainly forgotten again. Especially by drunken hecklers who won't remember much about their night out the night before. So 3 cheers for the cheery smokers! And what the heck, Auchinleck!

Sunday 17th January - Durham, Durham...

I was booked to perform at the Gala Theatre in Durham on Friday night. There was some spectacular snow-covered scenery to enjoy on the drive down, and I was thankful that there was no travel disruption. In fact I turned up an hour early as the expected disruption around Durham never materialised. When I got to the venue I found out that the line-up had changed significantly for this sold-out gig, with Andy Fury now opening and Simon Donald, creator of The Viz, taking over as the MC. The promoter, who was present, had asked me to perform a 15 minute slot in the middle section.

I felt as if the audience hadn't warmed up enough in the first section so this added to the pressure I was under, having driven a relatively long distance (150 miles) to a gig, playing to a full room, and with the promoter there. I pack in a lot of short 1-liners near the start of my set and that usually sets the expectations well, but there are never any guarantees with how each audience is going to react. As it turned out, there was a warm reaction from the off, so I immediately relaxed into my performance. There was very little heckling and the biggest challenge was adapting to the ripple effect whereby some people - almost inevitably in a big room - are slower on the uptake, and it takes longer to get the laughs from them.

Having watched Vince Atta produce a brilliant beatbox set to close the night, perhaps the most interesting part of the evening for me was receiving both praise and advice in equal measure, from fellow comics and from the promoter. For example, it was recommended I wear a suit on stage. This is an interesting idea, as I have over time moved away from wearing loud shirts and always make sure I am respectably dressed, even though I still wear jeans (for the purpose of one of my jokes).

This is an idea I cannot wait to try out. Watch this space!

Monday 11th January - The man who fell from earth

I was just one of no doubt millions of people whose first waking moment of today was a profound sense of shock at hearing the announcement of David Bowie's death.

That announcement had been made by his family. It said that he had died after an 18-month battle with cancer, at the age of 69. He had obviously kept his illness a closely guarded secret. Having lost my own father to cancer - and he died at exactly the same age - my own feelings of loss returned with a vengeance again today. Whenever those feelings revisit, it still surprises me how raw those feelings are, even over a decade later. My father didn't so much fight 'bravely' as succumb to the inevitable with admirable grace. I still get a lump in my throat when I think about the time he told me the doctor's verdict on his, until then, undiagnosed illness. It takes a great deal of inner strength to maintain your composure as you tell your son you've been told you only have a few more months to live.

Despite the obvious shock of the surprise announcement, millions of Bowie's fans will soon move on from that, and come to realise that they will always have such a fantastic artistic legacy to enjoy. That renewed appreciation started afresh even today, and we'll be enjoying it for as long we ourselves live. I think Bowie's family however, those who actually knew the man, will feel an overwhelming sadness, and one which will never quite leave them. But that sadness will always be mixed with pride, especially when they take in the breadth and depth of the reaction to the man's death from all around the world.

And the family will surely also be proud already because - as is now becoming obvious - Bowie had made the latest album 'Blackstar' as his swansong, without the general public realising it, his death suddenly transforming it into something so much more poignant and profound. He had somehow managed to time things so that he was to die just after the album's release, with him singing the opening lyrics of the single released this week: 'Look up here, I'm in heaven'. Wow!

It reminds me of the last music released by Johnny Cash, full of grit and emotion, which was also made in the knowledge that death was close at hand. There's nothing like personal experience and emotion to drive out some profound works of art. But this is something far beyond just another artist releasing another, albeit final, album.

Yes, Blackstar was successfully released without anyone knowing the true facts, and therefore without understanding its true meaning or significance until later. That takes some organising and a kind of marketing genius. But this sense of timing, a sense that he was revealing to us the shocking reality of his passing, by singing it to us from 'the other side'? That maintains the magic, the aura he could conjure up of other-worldliness. Suddenly he seems to be singing to us from beyond the earth we mortals live in. This concept neatly fits in with the questions asked about creations such as Ziggy Stardust: Was he more than human, was he some kind of alien, or a spaceman?

That shocking announcement this morning suddenly seems more like just the start of another phase, not the end of something. It's triggered a renewed appreciation of the artist. It's just another of his many regenerations. And as a final earthly act, to have planned and engineered his death and final earthly act in this way, proves the genius of that artist.

Friday 8th January 2016 - Happy New Year!

2 lovely gigs this week to start off the new year: I was the opening act at Green Room in Perth on Tuesday, then the support act for Janey Godley's Wild Cabaret night in Glasgow on Thursday. I was impressed to see such well supported gigs, given that they were running midweek in the first week of January. Comedians often talk pessimistically about the demise of the circuit, and the imminent closure of Jongleurs in Glasgow is a case in point, but there are always plenty of smaller gigs on the go, and many of them are well run and marketed. The gigs in Perth and Glasgow, run efficiently and proudly by Gary Divers and Janey Godley respectively, and with some professional on-site staff, are two very good examples of the type of gig which keep audiences coming back, and so keep the 'circuit' alive.

BLOG 2015
Outside Beehive

Wednesday 30th December - Downs and Ups

December was quite a tough month. A combination of personal circumstances, stormy weather and the Forth Road Bridge closure meant I ended up cancelling all 3 of the gigs I had in my diary before Christmas. I hate cancelling gigs, but my attendance at these particular gigs was not vital. It did help put a downer on things though. Experience has taught me not to get too despondent as things inevitably take a turn for the better, and that is just what has happened these past couple of days.

Last night I had the pleasure of organising the first comedy show back at my local pub in Burntisland for ten months. It was quite full, the acts did well, and lots of money was raised for the local foodbank. That left a warm glow, where even getting out of the house for a drink would have been a minor pleasure.

Then today, I woke up to find I had been picked as the support act for the first show of 2016 organised by Janey Godley at Wild Cabaret in Glasgow. I felt privileged. Then came the news I had been selected to take part in Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival's annual UK Pun Championships in February. As the only act to take part in all three championships held to date, I felt even more privileged.

It proves the old adage is true that things even out, the up will follow the down. I now need to refamiliarise myself of some my material in time for the first gig on 5th January.

Sunday 29th November - I know you know what I do, but do you know I know?

It was time to replace the car this weekend. I figured, if I'm going to get to gigs reliably and safely, then I needed a car with at least 100,000 miles fewer on the clock. There was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with the car salesman via email before agreeing to view a second hand car at the showroom yesterday, a car which had been brought in especially from somewhere else in Scotland. We were happy with the car (and even happier to get our rusty old car passed on).

When it came to the admin, I sat down with the salesman at his desk and computer, and it was all fairly standard stuff. I had already passed the finance checks. But as he turned his computer on, and the screensaver went off, I got a bit of a shock. The screen was just at an angle where I could view it. I don't think that was intentional, because I could see that he had been looking at my website. Whether as a 'due diligence' check or just out of curiosity I realised that I had been checked out.

Of course, if your name is 'out there', and in a self-publicised way, you can't complain about which people find out about what you do. He never mentioned the fact I perform stand up comedy, so neither did I. Maybe I should have been glad there was nothing worth mentioning.

I just hope he hasn't sold us a joke for a car.

Wednesday 4th November - Madchester

Spent the day yesterday travelling to and from Manchester, to perform my solo show at the Greater Manchester Comedy Festival, and before that to plug my show on Salford City Radio. I thought I might run out of time to do the radio show, with quite a lot of fog slowing down my journey to Manchester, but I arrived in Salford in good time to find a parking spot and then the radio station itself. After introducing myself to the manager I realised I'd left my phone in the car, so went to retrieve it. Upon returning to the studios I met the rather panicked hosts of the afternoon show 'Salford Scene', Teresa and Jake, who ushered me in with less than a minute to go before the show started. I was the sole guest and we chatted for what must have been at least half an hour about my show and what seemed to be their chief interest: what it's like to be a comedian/writer, and the art of punning. I enjoyed the chat and sprinkled in plenty of puns throughout the interview.

There was plenty of time to kill afterwards, so I looked for somewhere nearby to eat. I ended up in an ASDA café, eating a pulled pork burger to the sound of a voice repeatedly telling people they were nearing the end of the travelator, which was annoyingly close to where I was sitting. Not ideal preparation for working through my show. And I then saw an email which told me I had 1 pre-sale for my show. So, at least on the positive side, the show was going ahead - that's if the pre-sale purchaser turned up. And hopefully there would be some turn ups on the door as well. Soon it was time to get back to the car before the ticket expired. And so into a traffic snarl up of mega proportions, the like of which I just don't see at home, but I found a way through to get to the venue, and there was still with another hour spare.

At the venue, the Kings Arms, I had to wait for the technician to arrive. Then I found out that there was no screen and projector set up, and I had to ask for a mike and stand. I decided that as the space was quite small, it would suffice to show slides on my laptop. And it could be plugged in, so there was sound. As the time for the show arrived it became obvious that I had an audience of one. I promised to do the show if the 'audience' still wanted a show. He did. So I performed to my smallest ever audience. I turned up the stage lights so I couldn't see him. It was really rather surreal, but 40 minutes later we were probably both somewhat relieved it was all over.

Outside it was now raining - yes, in Manchester - and I had the prospect of a 250 mile journey home, arriving back sometime before 1am. I hadn't expected the radio interview to lead to an audience, and so it proved, but each part of the day did feel like a rewarding experience nonetheless. But of course, there is no substitute for a sizeable audience. And there are only so many times you can say to the same member of the audience, "So, is there anyone in tonight who has ever...".

Monday 26th October - Lancashire Hot Spot

Another weekend, another long journey. This time to drive to Southport to pick up an act, Ro Campbell, take them to headline a gig in Blackpool (at Comedy Station) while also doing a 15 minute middle spot there myself, then drive the act to Edinburgh, before driving myself back to Fife. What could go wrong? Well I left home at 3pm to make sure I got to Southport in good time. I found the venue, a lovely arts centre called The Atkinson, and met up with Ro. The show was part of the Southport Comedy Festival, with Gary Delaney as headliner. I got to stand backstage while the MC started the show, 10 minutes late at 20:40, and then Ro did a 25 minute stint, which went down well with the audience. So far, so good. But time was ticking by. We still had to get to Blackpool, and with so many speed cameras en route it wasn't possible for me to drive too fast. Then we had to find a parking spot in Blackpool away from the Esplanade, and then find the venue itself. Bear in mind the second show had started at 20:45 and there was only one act on before I was due to go on. We got there after 22:30! I expected a hostile, drunk reception, having kept them waiting for well over an hour.

I walked into the room with Ro, and all eyes turned on us. Everyone was still staring at us, a couple of guys at the back trying to make a joke with me, as the MC said, "Here they are... so without further ado, here's Richard Pulsford!". Ro had already dived into the toilets. By this point the stress levels were really high, but thankfully I had no time to really think about that or the jeopardy. I got to the stage and started with a half joke, half apology, about some imagined traffic problems, and then ploughed on with some one liners. Thankfully there were laughs all the way through my 15 minute set. Having walked straight in from the cold I could feel my nose starting to run a few minutes into my set, but didn't want to leave any pause to blow my nose in case I lost momentum, so had to keep sniffing and wiping my hand against the bottom of my nose. There was then a break before Ro headlined, and I could finally sit down with a sigh of relief, knowing I had done what was required of me.

We didn't get away until midnight, and we needed food. The drive back went OK, but with the Forth Road Bridge closed for the weekend I had to divert from Edinburgh all the way back as far as the Kincardine Bridge just to get across the Forth. The total distance for the day was 555 miles and I got home at 04:30. Thankfully with the clocks changing I got an extra hour in bed on Sunday, and I certainly needed all the clock changes I could get.

Wednesday 14th October - You're in the Spare Room

Sometimes you question whether a journey is going to be worth it or not. Heading south to a gig in Darlington on a wet Monday night wasn't the most promising of scenarios. However it was a pleasant surprise when I got there to find a well attended and well run night. It was held in an upstairs room called The Spare Room, in a pub called The Hole in The Wall. Neil Jollie of Hilarity Bites obviously knows what he's doing and the audience knows it can expect a good night. It made the journey back reasonably upbeat, despite the A1 being closed south of Berwick, leading to a 15 mile diversion. Some journeys are more worth it than others.

Sunday 4th October - Variety and spice

I've performed at 3 very different gigs this past week, which if anything goes to show that live comedy can be performed under very different conditions.

Last Saturday was a tough gig in a packed room in an old mining village in Fife. The PA system and lighting were if anything a hindrance, and the hecklers were unforgiving. Yet all of the comedians who took part stepped up to the plate, embracing the set up, and the crowd had a really good time. It was, after all, supposed to be a charity fundraiser.

Then midweek was a spot at a queer cabaret night in Edinburgh. I was late on, performing after political poets, musical acts, drag queens, and even a drag king. Never did I feel so acutely that all I can do is 'straight stand up'.

Then yesterday was another fundraiser. This time at The Clutha Bar, scene of the terrible helicopter crash, but now a wonderfully revived and refurbished venue. It was a classic music event with a 'now let's get a comedian up on stage' spot. People simply don't stop talking when that happens. There was the added distraction of food being brought out for the customers during my set. But it was a privilege to be the first comedian to perform there since the place got up and running again, and I got some great feedback from individuals afterwards and requests to follow me on Twitter.

So a week full of variety. I'd quite like to do a gig in an environment without too much spice again soon though!

Wednesday 22nd September - Leaving of Liverpool

Last Sunday I was performing as part of the Liverpool Comedy Festival. That was the brief. Except I was at the regular Sunday show for the Hot Water Comedy Club, which was rather empty because the Festival was on and it had taken away most of the HWCC's regular audience. So it was a long drive to perform to a small crowd, but thankfully they were really up for it. I'm sure the promoter would take full account of the circumstances in assessing the performance of the acts and the associated noise level in the room.

Wednesday 9th September - Kings Arms Festival

Last Saturday was my first gig after the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. So, to the Kings Arms in Salford, a rather long drive compared to the relatively short journey into Edinburgh. From the largest arts festival in the world, to a festival in one venue over a weekend, and which is in fact mainly a music festival. But the pub, and it is a pub, actually has no fewer than 3 performance spaces (there may be more, but I found 3). So the venue made it possible for comedy to be performed in a rolling fashion in one of those spaces throughout the afternoon and evening.

But for me, the format meant there was no opportunity to mix with other comedians. And it was a case of entertain whomever happened to be in the room at my allotted time. Which was a disappointing 4 at the start. But, the room was pretty full by the time I had finished my impromptu set. I would say that this was as much down to a band finishing their set in another room as to the quality of my set. But with so many people continually coming into the room, I had to be pretty interactive, and I quite enjoyed that for a change. I even developed a running joke with those already in the room about what the newcomers were expected to do.

I received some encouraging comments afterwards about my sense of humour going down well there and 'I must be doing something right'. So it may not have been Edinburgh, but it was a good enough experience to make me decide to sign up to going back and performing a show in the same venue as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe in early November. This time the audience will have to pay to see me though. As Arnie would say, "I'll be back!". But with tickets to sell.

Wednesday 2nd September - The Dangers of Becoming Conventional

I am now back at work after taking a whole 3 months off. I figured I deserved a long break after working continuously (with normal sized holidays) for 26 years. For one thing, it gave me time to leave the 'rat race' and enjoy performing a full run at this year's Edinburgh Fringe. I was upset today to see that in all the rush of the Edinburgh Fringe I had failed to notice that David Nobbs had died. In case you didn't know, he wrote for Frankie Howerd, the Two Ronnies, Ken Dodd, Dick Emery, Jimmy Tarbuck, Les Dawson and Tommy Cooper. He was also the creator of Reggie Perrin. As a child I loved watching The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. I'm reminded of how the anti-hero character once said to his wife, when coming up with the idea of Grot shops: "I am being serious. What do you want me to do? Be utterly conventional? I spent twenty five years being conventional. Do you think I have been through everything just so that I can be conventional all over again? What would you have me produce - bulldog clips? Perrin's epitaph in a country churchyard: "Here lies Reginald Iolanthe Perrin. He made 196, 465, 287, 696 bulldog clips, and they were all exactly the same."?". How ironic to have revived that quote by such a great comedy writer just as I return to my office desk after performing at the Fringe.

Monday 31st August - The Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015 comes to an end

So that was the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for 2015... It was a hugely enjoyable and rewarding experience. I've learnt so much about myself, my material, delivery, abilities and limitations. My show has changed, developed and matured (the takings in the bucket reflected this!). I even feel as if I have conquered Windows 10 - I'm glad I stuck at it. I'm humbled that well over 500 people came to my show, including many old friends who appeared on spec. Well over 1000 must have seen me perform in other shows and the feedback from audiences was very encouraging.

Special thanks go to my family for their understanding, to Ben Verth at The Beehive for entrusting me with the slot at the venue and to my flyerer Jack Chambers who was there on time every day and was always so pleasant to everyone. Also to everyone who gave me multiple spots in their own shows (Chris O'Neill, Rob Thomas, Masai Graham, Paul Sneddon, Ross Leslie, Ali James, Alastair Sadler, Njambi McGrath, Andy Stedman, Izzy Nicholson and Haran Sivapalan) and to other people who offered me spots which I couldn't commit to.

And I got to see some shows as well. It's always interesting to see how other comedians perform, especially ones in a similar genre, such as Milton Jones, Stewart Francis and Bec Hill. Also, I have admiration for all those comedians who were able to entertain my children. They got to see 4 shows, but I was most impressed by how James Campbell managed to do an hour of stand up - no props or gimmicks - to an audience of adults and children without anyone getting bored. Tom Binns (The Club Sets) gets the award for the most hilarious show I've seen this year, but Rob Coleman's Ocean Going Idiot was also 'up there' as something different, low key, and yet very engaging.

It's hard to believe it's less than 18 months since I first performed a solo show. Edinburgh has moved me on a lot. I hope to perform a solo show again next year, but in the meantime, there are plenty of other festivals to go to...

Thursday 27th August - Cracking puns Grommit!

3 weeks in, and this morning I found the first review of my show online. I didn't even know a reviewer had been in. I'm not sure about the etiquette around secretive reviewing, but then anyone can sneak in and out of a free show. There is no need to declare you're coming to the show by requesting a comp ticket. So to the review itself. One quote I can take from it is that I have "some cracking puns". Unfortunately all of the rest of the review is about my bad delivery and a tendency to criticise myself for having a bad day. I can see straight away that the reviewer must have been in last Saturday. It was my worst day of the run. My boss from work was in, and that had really put me on edge. It was also hot in the venue and my labyrinthitis (a recurrent ear infection I am prone to, which literally throws me off balance, especially when under stress) was particularly bad that day. And now I know why there was at least one other person in who was not laughing at anything - they were reviewing the show! So I can't disagree, I did have a bad day that day. Sod's Law they didn't come any other day this past week, but I'm not that bothered. I actually quite like the quote the reviewer gives me about me putting the bad into badinage! However, the upshot is, in spite of the 'cracking material', and some really good shows this week, I have been given a lone star review, and having that review online for evermore is going to make my job convincing people of my comedic talent that bit harder. I recognise my weaknesses when it comes to delivery - sometimes people really don't go for it and it's really hard to turn that around in the middle of a show, but I'm determined to keep improving, picking up tips on keeping an audience engaged, and I really want to end the run on a high.

Wednesday 26th August - A Day at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Managed to pack a lot into a half day at the Fringe yesterday. Started off with some flyering for my own show, then performed the show. And what a lovely audience as well. There were 25 in, which, as it turned out was the biggest audience I saw all day. I also managed to fit in 3 guest spots at different locations, at 5pm, 7:10pm and 9:45pm. Going on first in the 5pm show meant I could fit in a show to watch: Ocean Going Idiot at The Counting House, with Rob Coleman regaling his audience with tales of his ocean going rowing exploits. Rob has put himself under the Spoken Word section but there's plenty of humour in his show too, and it was thoroughly enjoyable. I met a fair few comedians for the first time, those sharing the various bills with me, and I also bumped into a lot of people, such as Alex Petty (Laughing Horse head honcho), Simon Caine (Ask the Industry podcast) and Christian Steel, amongst others. The Fringe is like a concentration of the rest of the year rolled into one month, and I am sure a lot of comedians go through varying degrees of depression every September as they have to hit the road to get gigs again and experience what is a kind of cold turkey. The end of the Fringe is approaching, but there's a lot of work still to do before my final show on Sunday afternoon...

Thursday 20th August - To sleep, perchance to escape

Thursday seems to be the quietest day of the week, but even then 14 came to see my show today. Most seemed to go for my puns, but one couple blatantly put their heads on each shoulders just a few minutes into the show to have a kip. This was so blatant and obvious that I really didn't mind, and it became a running joke in the show. They still somehow managed to wake up and leave just before the end, presumably so they didn't have to put anything in the collection bucket. When it comes to the Fringe, you have never seen it all.

Friday 14th August - Welcome rain

So today was the first day it rained at this year's Fringe. I was curious to see how this would affect audience numbers and mood. It turned out I had nearly a full room for my show and everyone seemed quite perky and up for a laugh. All except for one bloke who turned up late and complained to me (on stage) that he had travelled halfway across Edinburgh to see my show. No sooner had he sat down, he fell asleep! I suggested to everyone else that it might not have been worth the bother! My guest spot in the Clean (as possible) Comedy show was also really well received. I don't know if I can take all the credit though, as sometimes it can simply be that rooms are that bit cooler in the wet weather, meaning audiences are less distracted by how warm they are feeling. Whatever the reasons, both audiences and myself seemed to have a good day, in spite of the rain.

Monday 10th August - Full and almost flowing

Today is a 'rest' day. And much needed after a hectic first 4 days at the Fringe. Edinburgh seemed to be heaving at the weekend. I had a completely full room on Saturday, which was also the first day all the technical stuff worked. Unfortunately the screen failed on me early on in the show yesterday, but it was actually refreshing to put that aside and deliver half an hour of stand up. I decided to still show my closing material via the tablet and that got louder laughs than usual so I'm determined not to let the technology defeat me! I also found time to see some other shows yesterday, including Alfie Moore, Best of the Fest and the I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue show. So I now have a souvenir kazoo!

As well as my own show, which resumes at 15:00 every day from tomorrow, I have some guest spots this week:

Tuesday: Pick of the Fringe at The Beehive at 21:10.
Wednesday: The Full Irish at Whistlebinkies at 11:00.
Thursday: Ross Leslie's show at The Beehive Inn at 13:25.
Friday: The Clean (as possible) Comedy Show at The City Café at 16:15.

Thursday 6th August - And we're off!

Well that's my first performance of this year's Edinburgh Fringe done and dusted. A technical nightmare, but pleasing nonetheless. It was actually my first gig in over a month. I remembered to deliver all but one group of 6 jokes out of more than 100. I was also pleasantly surprised to have an audience of 10, despite having done no flyering at all. A friend I had not seen for over 10 years came along and he said he thought the show was good. I also met Jack, my flyerer, and he seemed to laugh at all the jokes, which should mean he'll sell the show more enthusiastically to potential punters. If I can get on top of the vagaries of using Windows 8.1 I should be flying.

As well as my own show at 15:00, I've also got the first of 2 guest spots tomorrow:
13:25 at The Beehive with Ross Leslie
23:45 at The Counting House with Njambi McGrath

Wednesday 5th August - The night afore

It's Fringe-eve. I've settled on all the gags for the show, the visuals, and the running order, but am still fiddling on with technical stuff. I'm determined to run a slicker show this year, but using a tablet and Windows to link up to a screen has proved much more fiddly and frustrating than I could have wished for. I wish I had a dedicated techie for my show so I can just concentrate on the funny! And then of course there will be the admin and hours of flyering to look forward to as well. I just hope all of the extraneous stuff isn't too distracting and I can remember and enjoy telling all of my jokes. So, here's to 3pm tomorrow, and the first of 22 performances of 'Unexpected Items in Badinage Areas' at The Beehive Inn.

Saturday 1st August - Ice cream or I scream?

So, August has arrived. The local ice cream van blared out the song to The Teddy Bear's Picnic for what seemed like hours this evening, in defiance of the unseasonal weather. I'm sure sales must have been slow. And with the changing of the month on the calendar I have developed a mild sense of panic, because my first Edinburgh Festival Fringe show starts on Thursday, and I have a lot still to organise, and I have a full run this year (right up until the 30th August). Oh, and I am having to lay out plans for the next 9 months in advance of next year's Fringe show, now. More on that shortly. In the meantime, tomorrow morning I have an interview with a local radio station, and then in the evening I am liaising with The Aberdour Festival as I have booked the comedians for their big comedy event, which includes Craig Hill as the headliner. It's more than the usual mix of nerves and laughter at the start of this particular August. I could do with an ice cream.

Saturday 11th July - Greetings from Poland

I'm not blogging much at the moment as I am on a tour taking in much of central Europe during the month of July, and access to the internet has been sporadic, while any spare time to sit down and write has been squeezed to the minimum. However, with some free time this evening, I thought I would share some wonderful words of advice I saw on a Polish train:

'Hand brake. Should the need arise to wiggle to the right till feelings the resistance. Unnecessarily usage will be sanctioned.'.

Childish to make fun of someone's attempt at a foreign language, I know, but amusing nonetheless. Like my attempts to speak Polish, no doubt. Dzenkuje.

Monday 29th June - I'm going to be on tv, maybe

Yesterday I was in Gateshead for the making of a local tv pilot comedy show. Showing up at a business park on a Sunday evening wasn't the most encouraging of starts, but Arron and the guys at 'Giz a Laugh' evidently take their jobs seriously, so they immediately made the comedians and audience feel welcome, ushering the former into a specially set up green room. For the filming, they had transformed a large meeting room into what for all the world looked and felt like a comedy club, complete with round tables with flickering candle effects, black out curtains with starry lights in them, a stage with a brick wall effect backdrop, and most importantly an audience who were prepared to laugh!

The challenge for us comedians was to 'clean up' our sets, and still have 15 minutes each of material left over. I felt, with my one liners, an editor would find it relatively easy to cut out anything too crude or 'offensive'. I thought I had gone through my set and pretty much worked out what should and shouldn't stay in anyway. A little bit of non-offensive, though less funny, padding jokes made it up to 15 minutes of 'clean-ish' material. What I hadn't figured out though, was what was going to happen when I got to the point where I ask the audience, "So who is drinking tonight?". Normally I would get a resounding cheer, but I forgot that this was a non-alcoholic venue, so all I received was a puzzled silence and had to hurriedly improvise and pretend some people had actually cheered. I'm sure Giz a Laugh are professional enough to edit in some cheering?!

Friday 12th June - Culross Festival

The best gigs are often the ones you've never done before, and indeed ones which are the first of its kind in any given place. Because you simply cannot pre-judge how it is going to go, it makes it all the sweeter when such an event does go well. I had just such an experience yesterday evening in Culross, a wonderfully preserved historical village on the north bank of the river Forth, upstream from the Forth road and rail bridges. We saw the need to reorganise the layout of the room a bit as people were already arriving, but the combination of a warm summer's evening, good PA, and a full 'house' ensured we were well set up for a good night. I also had full confidence in the performers I had booked. For me, as both organiser of and performer in such a 'first' gig, it was wonderful to see a festival courtyard fill up with eager punters, who were slightly wary for a short while once the comedy had got underway, but who warmed to the occasion, and by the end were roaring with laughter. As the organiser told me: "The locals are already nipping my head to make sure we do it again". For me, that was a top night of comedy entertainment, and more importantly we gained some more converts to the experience of live comedy events.

Thursday 4th June - Launch day

Today is that date in the calendar which usually causes a little flutter in the stomach. It's the day when the summer's Edinburgh Fringe Festival programme is launched. It magnifies the fact that the Fringe is getting closer and more real, yet there is always still so much to do before August, when the shows begin. Nowadays of course, much of the show searches happen online, and my show has been online for a little while now, but there's still something special about the launch day, if only because it's the day when you can get your hands on the real physical printed programme. It means there are 9 weeks to go, and there goes my stomach again!

Thursday 28th May - Extremes

I've been clocking up the car miles this week with 2 performances at opposite ends of Scotland. On Tuesday night I was in Dumfries for 'Raw Guffaw' at The Troqueer Arms, then on Wednesday night I was in Elgin for 'Do you like jokes?' at The Drouthy Cobbler. But as both gigs are well run, and enjoyable rooms to perform in, it makes the journeys worthwhile. When gigs like these have dedicated sound desks and techies to look after them, you know things are likely to go well. As it turned out, these gigs came into the diary the same week as I was due to make a trip all the way up to Orkney, so the higher than average mileage somehow doesn't actually seem that bad!

Saturday 23rd May - It's a Miracle!

I went to see Derren Brown perform his show 'Miracle' at The Edinburgh Playhouse this evening. I saw his show last year and this year's was just as good. He epitomises everything I admire in a showman and performer: he entertained, challenged and left the audience completely gobsmacked; yet despite his 'powers' he isn't self-obsessed or haughty, and he seems to genuinely want people to realise their potential, while rubbishing the claims of religion and parapsychology to do that for them. Moreover, he does it all with a great sense of humour - some of the quips were cleverer than most stand ups can come up with. Obviously he has a whole team around him, and that helps, but there's no denying he is also a talented individual who puts a lot of work into his shows.

Saturday 9th May - Hive minds

I have just performed consecutive nights at The Beehive, a great weekend comedy club in Edinburgh. Although both nights have exactly the same line up of acts, they can turn out to be very different experiences according to the type of audience and how much alcohol has been consumed. The Saturday night is usually rowdier than the Friday, and this weekend was no exception. There were 3 lasses from Glasgow who just wouldn't stop talking to the acts. Thankfully they quietened down when I was performing. There was also a stag party consisting of 30 guys from Barrow. I remarked to the other acts that by coincidence I did a gig in Barrow last month, but decided not to refer to that on stage as there wasn't any particularly funny remark to go with it. Which is just as well, as afterwards, some of the blokes said they'd seen me perform in their home town recently. And if I had known that before going on stage, it would have undermined my confidence in delivering the punch lines, as it's likely they would have remembered what was coming. Apart from the pleasing 'small world' aspect to this coincidence, what was really nice was that, on seeing me waiting in the wings, some of them said they had told others in the group who hadn't seen me before, "Watch out for him, he's good". That was a lovely comment to top off a rowdy but fun evening.

Tuesday 5th May - Really switched on?

An amusing incident in Perth this evening. Towards the end of my set I made a joke about (not) switching on the lights in my home town at Christmas. After I came off stage it was time for a break and a few people came over to say how much they enjoyed my set. One guy, who had obviously had a few too many drinks, said he lived near to my home town and remembered me switching on the lights, and I was very good then too. It would have been one thing to mistake me for someone else from Christmas time, but, my town doesn't even have a switching on ceremony. I now wonder in what way he laughed at my set this evening.

Sunday 26th April - Mirth of Forth Comedy

I manage the running of various comedy events in and around Fife under the name 'Mirth of Forth Comedy', which is a comedic pun based on the name of the local estuary, and in a moment of reflection this weekend, realised that this weekend marks the 5th anniversary of the first regular Mirth of Forth event.

I say 'regular' because we (me and my mate Mark) ran a 1-off gig in my home town of Burntisland back in 2007. A 'no swearing' policy from the landlord of the pub put paid to running further gigs there, but that first gig still meant meeting a very youthful Daniel Sloss who had turned up to watch (with his Dad) and experience the embarrassment of HIM asking ME for a gig. Now that's funny.

Anyway, April 2010 marked the inauspicious beginning for the comedy club running regular gigs. Inauspicious, because it was baking hot barbecue weather outside, and very few turned up to watch comedy in the back room of a hotel, and (goddamit!) the same thing happened again the following month. Given that the venue was charging us for the room (I didn't know any better back then), we had to find somewhere else where we wouldn't be losing shedloads of money each night. Hence our fortunate move to The Star pub.

Interestingly, as the club has grown and run more and more events, that first venue in 2010 has long since closed down. I don't think many would have bet against the club being the first to fold, but maybe charging us for the room was a hint of the owners' desperate attempts to bring in some extra income!

Of course I now look back to that first struggling gig with affection. I still remember those people who turned out to support the renewed venture and many of them are now/still amongst the best of my friends. Pity the barbecue weather doesn't happen every year at this time though.

Link to Mirth of Forth website

Saturday 18th April - I never promised you a herb garden

Abbot House in Dunfermline is one of those historical gems of a building, but what gives it even more of a wow factor is its position just next to the Abbey, where so many Scottish kings and queens are buried. The heritage centre celebrates its 20th Anniversary today with events planned all day and into the early evening (all free entry). I'll be doing some comedy there at 5pm.

Link to birthday bash details

Postscript: That gig was the first I have done in a herb garden. It was balmy!



You can contact Richard directly via Twitter tw or via email at mirthofforth@gmail.com