Friday, August 29, 2008

Imagination is more important than knowledge

There has been an explosion of ideas and technology the past ten years. These have mostly come from the creative kids who grew up in the 1960s and 70s. Decades where these kids grew up without electronic games, DVDs, multi channels on the TV and no one knew anything about mobile phones.

Yet their innovative ideas created the majority of the latest gizmos that dominate today’s society.
Children, who fell out of trees, stayed too long in the sun, drank out of ponds and more often than not spent summers with nothing more than a ball and a stick.

We made dens out of dirty blankets and tried to tame vicious dogs, we ate bread and sugar, stole rhubarb from gardens and ate it in bulk without washing it and we stayed out till 10pm in hot summer nights without mobile contact.

The kids I knew never had access to video cameras yet we played out scenes from Kung Fu movies and imagined the cameras to be right there capturing the action. We explained entire movies, scene by scene, summarising the plot to the kids who missed the latest block buster film. We played old tape cassettes of music we had copied from the radio so we could all dance in the hallway of our tenements. We were the generation that were just too early for the IPod, yet we made the best of what we had.

Kites were awesome and involved a lot of running, bikes were generally haphazard and often broken yet revered and kids knew how to build one from scratch, comics were swapped, toys were constantly repaired, roller skates were shared between a whole community of kids and a dirty old mattress became a trampoline for the summer.

We knew Michael Jackson when he was black, we were convinced Skippy the Bush Kangaroo could talk and we imagined the days when we could wear a watch that would display TV shows live to our wrist.

Who knew that the kids with no real toys would foster enough imagination to create the fantastic technology of today’s world?

The kids of the 1960s could only dream of a future world. The gadgets we saw on the old episodes of Star Trek would fire our imagination. All those hand held electronic devices that could transport people up and down the galaxies, made me excited about my future.

I personally believed back in the 70s that the Jolt Belt from the TV hit show the Tomorrow People would most certainly be available in the year 2000. Imagine how wonderful that could have been? We wouldn’t even need to remove our shoes for security purposes first! Just simply press a button and arrive at our chosen destination.

We were the generation that used our imagination and our unbridled passion to create the wonderful stuff that our kids enjoy today, yet we spent days with nothing but a wooden board, two old broken skates and the ability to make it into a small inner city push cart.

Today’s youngsters have no real idea how to occupy themselves without electronic goods; they wont know the joy of building a den or organising a spontaneous party that involved building a fire and roasting stolen potatoes from mums cupboard. Everything is done for them, wee girls are sexualised too soon and wee boys no longer get to dress as cowboys without being labelled gay.

The kids of the 70s have something that the children of today will never have- a childhood!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fringe Rumours

It’s all over for yet another year and the newspapers are still reporting on the ‘down turn’ of the ticket sales and problems with the ticket box office. Even the good old Scottish weather has become a feature in itself. The splashing showers got more attention and reviews than some heavily financed shows this year.

My own personal look back at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe is wonderfully optimistic. Despite all the gloomy news about the slump in ticket sales, I had my best year ever.
Some reviews of my show were less than favourable, yet I sold 60% more tickets this year than any other. Which makes me wonder if the reviews do sell the shows?

When I got a host of four and five star reviews back in 2006 and 2007 I was playing to fifteen people a night. This year my lowest audience was 90 punters.

So what does make the show a success? Is it the word on the street? Early press and features? Is it the gritty hard working Flyering team or just a plain determination to keep going and giving your audience a show they like? I am not totally sure.

A few things were rather disconcerting for me this year. One being the sheer amount of papering the rooms with free tickets and two-for-ones right up until the last day, this kind of marketing devalues the shows that depend on money coming through the door.

Luckily many punters who come to the Fringe have come to realise that the ‘Free shows’ are already catered for on Peter Buckley Hill’s and Alex Petty Free shows already. I fully support both of their ideals and understand that they are a great way for fresh comics testing the Fringe waters and I hope they grow throughout the years. What I find upsetting is the ‘Big Four Venues’ giving away free tickets when I am in the same venue as a show that will gladly throw the tickets to anyone who will grab them.

I believe punters will feel aggrieved at having to pay £11 for a ticket when they have gotten used to hanging around some shows that will simply give them tickets at the door to get the bums on seats. I can understand that papering rooms is acceptable for the first few days and previews. I myself did two-for –ones on the first three days. After that, it’s cash only.

I have never papered rooms at the Fringe, not even when I first did my one woman show in 2002. I would rather play to six committed punters than 40 people who really didn’t want to be there. Though that it my own personal view.

My biggest gripe with this year’s Fringe Festival was the oddly awarded If.Com Award for Panel Prize. It is usually awarded to people or a show that are deemed the ‘spirit of the Fringe’ and this year the money and title went to ALL comedians who performed in Edinburgh. Apparently there was a free bar on the 25th of August. I didn’t bother to turn up, as I don’t really drink and didn’t agree with their choice.

I believe the Spirit of The Fringe should have gone to Peter Buckley Hill. A man who has been coming to the Fringe for at least a hundred years, supporting comedy, initiating the Free shows, showcasing comics and just being a jolly old stalwart that personifies the bonhomie of The Royal Mile.
I can’t even begin to believe that the If.Com panel found it hard to pick one person for that award, despite their protests I believe something seriously went wrong or some sort of controversy went down at that final meeting. How hard would it be to pick someone? Isn’t that their job?

At least all the comics on the Fringe can now have the If.Com logo on their posters next year; after all we did all win the prize collectively.

Well done to all who braved the rain, the ticket system fiasco and the seemingly low attendance numbers just to perform at the biggest arts festival in the world. I hope it was worth it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It’s all over

I wrote this last night when I couldn’t sleep…

It really is the middle of the night here in Edinburgh. I am staring out of the big ceiling to floor windows into the dark night sky and all I can hear are gulls screeching their odd hollow laughter at me. It’s like the echo of the stage.

So that’s another Edinburgh Fringe Festival over and done with. My 7th year of solo shows to be exact and I sit here quietly. The whole house is asleep. Husband is happily snoring and daughter Ashley is exhausted and lying half in, half out of her flowery duvet in her bedroom, I peeped in to check she was ok. I do that every night of her life when we are in the same house. Ashley worked really hard this year organising the Flyering team and making sure the public got my face on card in their hands despite the rotten weather.

The show this year has been my most successful to date. We sold 60% more tickets this year than last. The fringe had been fraught with problems from day one as the box office failed to work! (The only we needed them to do was sell tickets and they bloody couldn’t) The weather was horrendous and people were thin on the ground due to the credit crunch and other shitty things that stall the economy. Yet I am pleased as punch.

I won an award this year (Nivea Funny Women) and I got some great reviews.

I also managed to reach a core target audience of people who had NEVER been to see comedy before, (they told me so) yet they got on trains, buses and cars to come see my show. That is an awesome feeling.

But this strange feeling of pulling everything down and moving the family yet again to another city does become weary. I realise that we are just travelling show people, cases packed, publicity material stored and the show moves on yet again.

I don’t think I will ever settle in one place for the rest of my life. You get hooked on moving around, doing comedy in a different town, different continent or country year in and year out. Husband is getting fed up with it I think. He lay in bed tonight and asked me when we pack up again to go off after we go back to Glasgow and when I told him it was next week, he sighed. He never spoke, he turned around in bed, moved my arm off his chest and humped into a ball and fell asleep. I fear he is bored with it all and who could blame him?

Ashley will settle back in Glasgow as she has Uni to get back to and her own life. She has been coming to Edinburgh Fringe with me since she was 10 years old, back when I first started doing three or two hander shows in the mid 90s. She even did stand up comedy herself in her One –Girl show when she was 13 years old. It’s in the blood.

I had such a great time this year; it was very laid back and lazy at times. I didn’t take on as much work this time and was only doing one show a day, other than the few nights I was a guest on someone else’s bill of course.

Husband and I got to spend loads of time together as we didn’t have many guests stay over at the Edinburgh Flat as we had done in the past. It was just the three of us for most of the time. Though he did go back to Glasgow for a few days respite from the Festival madness, he did enjoy the peace and quiet!

I am off to Glasgow today and will miss Edinburgh. Roll on next year!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Getting on with things

I haven’t blogged in at least a week and I am so very sorry. I am still at the Edinburgh Fringe and the rain hasn’t stopped yet, so I am pissed off with it all. It really has made the Fringe really hard, the audiences have been coming in dripping wet, and I feel so sorry for them. Though they have been wonderful and I love the fact they still come to see me. I am lucky in a sense as my venue ‘The Pleasance Dome’ has inside queuing facilities and the audience can enjoy a hot coffee whilst they wait.

Each night I walk through the queue to my show, and watch out for kids. As adults have still been bringing young children to my comedy show, I have no idea why, as the show is clearly labelled for 16 years and over in the brochure.

Living at the Fringe is quite strange, the whole family have to decamp to a new flat and we all seem to fit in fine. Each person taking their own role in the circus that is my life, Ashley gets the Flyering done and husband looks after food and cleaning duties. I merely do the show.

I was a guest on a few other shows, like Late and Live, Spank and The Nicholas Parsons show. I also done a wee stint on The Hamilton’s Late Night Show. It’s all good fun and I am a bit dosed up with the flu.

The fringe has been awesome despite all the shit that goes with it, I have sold more tickets this year than any year I have ever been and that’s a pretty good achievement considering that most shows are having a hard time. The credit crunch, the Olympics and the weather have been against us from day one and don’t even mention the shit box office that failed to sell tickets.

I am still pretty chuffed that I won Nivea Funny Women Award as well. Some people have tried to diminish the award, being rather negative but as far as I am concerned, anyone who supports female comics is ok by me.

Being a seasoned performer at the Fringe makes me see things a wee bit clearer than the newcomers to the business. At the parties, you see stand ups chatting but staring over your shoulder to see if someone more interesting is standing close. Maybe a TV executive or major promoter could be within grabbing distance and you know your time with this person is over as their eyes start to glaze and they make a run for it to the more important person. You know you have a good pal in a comic when the continually make eye contact throughout your conversation.

Last week I had a good catch up with the funny Johnny Vegas and comedy legend Barry Cryer. Both funny men and good chatters, though the night was cut short as yet another rainy down pour put paid to outside fag break. I slipped off to go home and outside the venue heard two comics bitching about other people’s reviews.

The petty jealousies and sniping back biting always exists. Who got a comedy nomination? With cries of “Really, her? She is shit” ringing out through The Underbelly bar or who got a sell out show? “Why did he get an extra show? He is shit” Who got a five star review? “That sketch show is piss poor” That’s how life is at the Fringe.

This goes on constantly, and it can become weary. Yet the positivity and hopefulness still thrives all around us, not every one is having a bad day at the same time.

So it is now nearly all over.

Speak soon.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Nivea Funny Women Award 2008

Last night I won the Nivea Funny Women Award, I got loads of lovely skin care products and a thousand quid! The award show was running late and I just managed to mutter some of my speech, I knew I had to run off to a late night gig at the Gilded Balloon, so my daughter Ashley did most of the speech for me. I have a video of it all and will post it soon.

I am exhausted this morning and feel as though I have been hit by a truck, I am groggy and tired for no good reason.

My show at The Pleasance is going well, audiences are wonderful and all would be great if the rain would just stop. Each night the show changes slightly according to how I feel and I love just improvising and dropping new bits in when I feel like it.

Ashley and her mate Victoria are out Flyering daily, in rain and shine, I love them both.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Edinburgh Fringe 2008

I have been here now for two weeks and had ONE review! Granted it was a great FOUR star stonking review, but I am annoyed that’s all I am getting so far. The show is selling out well at weekends and that’s really cool with me. Mid-week the numbers are a slightly lower as not as many people are coming to the Fringe mid-week as previously assumed. The credit crunch seems to be having some financial effect and that’s worrisome for the shows. We depend on the cash through the ticket sales, as it costs about £10,000 to put on a show at the Fringe.

Ashley is on the streets every day handing out the flyers, and she has a great wee team with her who manage to get my name out there. The problem is the bloody box office system, first they tell people that there are NO tickets left for me, then deny they said that, and then offer other shows to people who want to buy my tickets, and then deny that as well. But luckily Ashley went in to the Fringe Box office and pretended to be a punter and asked for tickets to my show. She was told I was sold out and did she want to buy tickets for some other bloke’s comedy show. Ashley exploded and explained she had full control and access to the ticket sales and she knew personally that there were tickets available for my show.

I had to make seven phone calls to finally release twenty tickets for my show, which was after hours of the Fringe Box office saying I was sold out when I wasn’t! No wonder I am stressed to hell.

The Pleasance has been helpful and is trying to resolve the Fringe Ticket Fiasco.

So if you come through to Edinburgh and try to buy tickets for my show and they tell you it is sold out, COME TO THE PLESANCE DOME TICKET BOX OFFICE and buy them there. I am usually at the Pleasance Dome Box Office around 6.40pm. If you had problems getting a ticket, tell me personally! I will deal with it myself and try my best to make sure you get in.
I will NOT let the incompetence of the systems that they programmed ensure my punters and I lose out.

Thanks everyone for coming to see me and if you see my daughter Ashley handing out flyers in Edinburgh, give her a big smile for me, encouragement is a wonderful thing!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

I am a comedian

At the Edinburgh Fringe, you do nothing but run about organising tickets, Flyering teams and making sure the box office hasn’t screwed up the tickets YET AGAIN!
My show is at Pleasance Dome at 7pm every night and it’s going great. I have had a wonderful 4 star review and the other reviews haven’t been printed yet.

The rain in Edinburgh really flooded the city over the past week and that has affected sales big time. The good news is, I got to meet the amazing Joan Rivers, I got to have sell out shows and I got to see my best mate Monica, her sister and her mum. They all came through to see the show.

I have been video taping some stuff for a video blog and Ashley and husband are exhausted with the organising and Flyering side of things. Poor Ashley looked like a seal as she stood in the rain for hours handing out the leaflets promoting my show. I feel so sorry for her and the other guys that are helping me; I hope the evil rain goes away soon.

Good news is, people have stopped bringing kids to my comedy show. It was becoming mental, I mean, I am chatty but for adults only to be honest. The show isn’t that rude, but there is adult content in there.

So today is Saturday and I have period pains that would kill a horse, the cluster bomb in my womb is going big guns, yet I have to smile and pretend I am not bleeding to death. (When does this stop?).

I am having a great time at the Fringe; I do love everything about it and can’t stop smiling every time I see my face on a poster, or a stranger buying a ticket for my show. These things keep me going!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Sorry, but I killed myself

I am officially dead, well not really or I wouldn’t be writing this blog. But I have been touring right up till the day I arrived at the Edinburgh Fringe. I am exhausted and happy and clearly not dead.

My show is at Pleasance Dome at 7pm every night, and people keep bringing kids to the show, which is freaky and odd. Meanwhile Ashley is Flyering like a devil out in the sun/rain that is Edinburgh. She is all sunburnt and sneezy. I love her dedication and hard graft.

Yesterday I had a big fight with my hair and then decided to get most of it cut off and I did. A great hairdresser in Lothian Rd took up the challenge and my hair is the shortest it’s ever been in 40 years and I LOVE IT!

It’s not gym teacher short, just short enough to manage.

The show is going well, I made it up when I got here and it’s all god fun.

Sorry I have been slack with my blogging, please forgive me? I am alive.

I will write more tomorrow and give you juicy gossip and stuff.