Tag Archives: Sam Gore

Balancing Act

EDINBURGH FRINGE 2010 REPORT NUMBER FIVE

Wednesday 18th – Sunday 22nd

Wednesday

A day off, in which my body decides to deflate and throw up all the fatigue, aches and pains it has been suppressing for the past fortnight. Fortunately, I have in my inbox a first draft of the first quarter of Running Through Corridors, which to my excitement has been typset and redrafted. It’s a mighty task we have set Mad Nowegian Press editor Lars Pearson, but by golly he’s more than up to it. Oh yes, there’s the odd idiomatic misunderstanding, and some of my jokes were originally so sloppily phrased and robbed of meaning by my cack-handedness that he’s had his hands full and we still need to tweak here and there, but I’m enjoying the process and am beside myself with excitement about having a book on the shelf.

Much of the day was spent indoors modifying sentences and noting with guilt that Lars has made me look like a better writer than I actually am, until it was time to guest again on Hardeep Singh Kohli’s Chat Masala. I’d been on good form last time I did it, early on in the Fringe. This time, I was a bit hesitant and hardly the sharp joke-merchant or witty raconteur the audience would have needed me to be were they to leave with any desire to grab flyers for Moths. Excellent, ebullient Kiwi Jarred Christmas was far more at ease and a breath of energetic and comedic fresh air. Then the legendary Tony Tanner came on for anecdotes and plugging, though having said he loved curry, didn’t want to try Hardeep’s Haggis & Pea Vindaloo, which looked delicious (I demurred because I don’t eat meat, so Jarred had two portions). Good show, but I didn’t shine. The next day, I checked to see how many new tickets had been sold for either of my shows as a result of my travails.

None.

Thursday

Great show today – I’d thought the day off might throw me off my game, but no: really enjoyable. Afterwards, met Dave Owen – a reviewer for Doctor Who Magazine whose work I have greatly enjoyed over the years. He has a gift for apt observations and witty remarks without the humour or reviewing being self aggrandising or tricksy. We’d never met before and had a right old time, before deciding far too late to grab something to eat. And so we had a lovely Italian that we had to rather wolf down so he could make the show he was going to see, and I could head off for FFF. I was pleased that the waitress complimented me on correctly pronouncing the name of my dish – Spaghetti Siciliana. Obviously my heart, stomach and mouth are in Italy with my lovely wife even if my brain is filled with tartan and greasepaint.

And what a night was had at FFF – terrific fun. A relatively sparse audience who nonetheless moved forward when told. The rather nice couple I chatted with at the front turned out to be opening act Sam Gore’s parents, which added spice to the evening. Watching him wrangle with his wanton misanthropy and filthy tongue in front of the terribly nice couple who bore and nurtured him was brilliant. Credit to both parties for doing so well! The Boy With Tape On His Face did a lovely gig, and when closing the section I got the crowd to give him a round of applause and uttered the words “Notorious gag thief” which was a piece of improvisation I was very pleased with that nevertheless got a bigger laugh than I’d imagined it would. I guess because it works in a number of ways. He doesn’t speak, so doesn’t do gags, so couldn’t be accused of that crime which many a comic levels at many another comic. He also does his whole gig with gaffer tape over his mouth: a gag he’s stolen? A pithy, three word joke with a number of meanings.

I think I may have peaked and should retire.

It made Chortle’s Quote Of The Day the next afternoon which made me chuffed. An excellent FFF, with Nik Coppin and Elis James doing the second half and also on great form. I hadn’t particularly wanted to do the gig, but was very pleased I had as I wandered home, having spent the evening both sober and funny.

Chalk Thursday up as a win.

Friday

Early morning – thank God for Damian, my tech, who’d texted the night before asking if I was looking forward to my 8.30am tech. What??!! I’d though it was 8.30pm. Groo! Anyway, off I went that morning, vexed and grumpy and tired. But what a venue, populated by charming and helpful staff, and with a sound system to die for. Suddenly, the enormity of what I was about to do hit me, and I had to buy an Innocent Smoothie just to calm myself down (Apple, Kiwi, and Lime since you ask).

EICC ... from the stage

Back home for an an epic snooze to prepare me for the big day. I’d been slotted in for a gig at the Jazz Bar, but the lovely organisers had one act too many and I was happy to duck out as by now I was finding everything a bit overwhelming. A chance to catch up with Mick Ferry first though, who is having a good time, but once again is being written up all too predictably – damned with faint praise by being described as a “good club comic”. Yes he is. He’s a brilliant club comic, one of the best. But he’s also a more interesting act than the first impressions made by some from his Northern, bluff, blokeyness. Too often I see Mick and Justin Moorhouse – both superb performers and deeply intelligent men – underestimated because of how they look and sound. It must be deeply frustrating. I understand, as often people write me off as mere eye candy because of my good looks and sexual magnetism, but it’s a cross I have to bear.

Sometimes, you know from the off that the audience are with you – they help you ride the waves of laugher, time the jokes, dictate the rhythm, and invent little magical asides in the moment. Sometimes, the audience seem like they’re going to need you to dig deep to keep them. Not necessarily hostile, but not big laughers, and certainly not people who’ll go with a little comedic segue or whimsical tangent. You need to keep it tight, tight, tight, nail every punchline, make every set-up lean and free of fat, and be sharp and energetic in performance. And just sometimes, they start off well and you lose them. Quiet inexplicably, the laughter ebbs away, and reaching the finishing line is a chore. That was the BBC show today. No explanation – but I can’t blame them as they’d started off loving it and lively. Curious. It was just the cosmic equilibrium ensuring I can never be allowed an entirely happy day –the lovely and talented poet and writer Kate Fox had kindly given me a Pick Of The Fringe and a nice notice in The Telelgraph, which was heartily received at my end. So I had to do penance somewhere, it’s expected.

EICC ... from the audience

Then to the EICC for Moths. Oof – an enormous prospect. I had a curious hour long hiatus beforehand where I just wandered about rather aimlessly. Then to the show – nicely busy (target reached!) and full of love. A warm, supportive audience, and thanks to the acoustics I could lower some moments to a whisper that hung in the air. I really enjoyed the actual mechanics of the performing of it and filling the space. Of course, it went so well and without hiccoughs that I had to get the ending completely the wrong way around. Of course I did. It’s the sort of thing I do. I very nearly forgot the most important, touching and pivotal bit of the whole show. I have never done that before, in the many hundreds of times I’ve done the bloody thing. Bonkers. Nobody else noticed apparently, but I did. Mum was in, plus many pals, and it was all a bit heady. Good though, even if my friend Martin rather drunkenly navigated us home with a needless mile long diversion. I was unnecessarily grumpy about this.

Saturday

As Mum disappeared off on the train, millions of people descended upon the city. And seemingly, all of them people who, despite it being the 21st century, have not yet mastered the art of walking on a pavement in an untwatty way. This lot knew all the tricks – meandering, suddenly stopping, not even vaguely turning their body when the person they are about to bump into has pressed themselves far into the wall and arched back as much as possible. Then there are those who, when you’ve twisted and indicted that you’re letting the person opposite you through, cuts in front of you, blocks everyone’s way and creates gridlock. As if they’d thought that instead of being an exhibition of common courtesy, your movement had been an indication of a sudden desire to deport yourself like a crab for a few minutes. Had I been armed, I may have indulged in some kind of spree. I was necessarily grumpy about this.

And so to Adam Riches Rides, which continues to sell a hefty number of tickets and never fails to entertain. Adam had had an annoying punter in the show yesterday, and was regretting not kicking him out. Who has the audacity to go to a show and be silenced by someone as witty and affable as Adam and still insist on chipping in, in a way that is less funny than the stuff, you know, written, honed and rehearsed by someone clearly skilled at what he’s doing? I think as part of our deal for doing the fringe, each performer should be allowed to cull irritating audience members. It would help maintain universal balance.

Anyway, Tigering up left me in a good place to do Nicholas Parsons’ Happy Hour. What a joy. Jo Caulfield was there, and took it well when I told her that she’s been in my dream the night before. In the land of Morpheus, she and Kevin Hayes (who had both been on at The Frog and Bucket on my first weekend gig there as an open spot thirteen-or-so years ago, and had chosen to reunite in my nocturnal imaginings) had been talking to me: Kevin was saying I was a good comic and Jo was arguing that I was crap and I knew it. This is what’s called “an Edinburgh dream” and is nothing to be alarmed about, apparently. And actually, Happy Hour was an Edinburgh Dream too – Adam Hills on first; his easy wit and charm a great fit with the audience. He’s skilled and funny but clearly also an unassuming and decent human being. I am astonished at Nicholas Parsons – he’s in his 80s yet gamely interacts and ad libs with the audience for half an hour. Astonishing. He’d worked hard to make sure he pronounced my name right, but of course made a total hash of it. He was contrite, but it stood me in good stead as I have loads of amusing things to say about it, so got off to a flying start. I was pleased, as Adam was a hard act to follow and I hadn’t exactly shone at Hardeep’s show on Wednesday. I did a good gag about Nicholas’s death scene as Rev Wainwright in The Curse Of Fenric (in which he shouts “No … no … nooooo,” – which I pointed out was hesitation and repetition, to the delight of the audience) and he recounted with touching modesty how Nick Mallet had selected him for the part because of the way he’d been reassuring to some children when they joined him onstage as Window Twanky in a panto. A canny piece of insight from the director, and one which paid off, as it is a wonderful performance. Anyway – I’d been nervous, but a lovely host, friendly fellow comics who in no way expressed surprise that lowly old me was sharing the bill with them on such an illustrious outing, and a game audience, made for a definite highlight of the fringe.

A wave of heat greeted me at the Underbelly. Those delightful The Roaring Boys – always ready with a smile and an encouraging word as the hand the venue over to me – had sold out. They’ve had a raft of excellent reviews now, and look like one of the success stories this year. Couldn’t happen to two nicer fellows. The crowd at Now I Know My BBC was a pretty big one too, but they made me work for it. I don’t have a problem with this, but it still takes me by surprise (and it really shouldn’t, I’ve been doing it long enough) when a small midweek audience can really buoy you along, whereas a much bigger Saturday night crowd can be harder to get swept up by. I guess maybe there are more “casual” punters at the weekend, as opposed to many of the people who come because they already know and like my work and are sympathetic to the subject matter.

All good stuff for keeping one sharp though, so not a problem.

Sunday

Curious, how your eye always gets drawn to the most immobile face in the crowd. Tonight there was a fella who sat stony faced (not grumpy, not hate filled, just blank) throughout. And of course, in the middle of the front row. I could have put it down to a naturally stern demeanour, except he let out a huge guffaw at a joke I do referencing Anthea Turner and the Ku Klux Klan. And then returned to his inscrutable state for the rest of the show. Very odd. And I wonder why it was the crap-DJ/white supremacist interface that particularly tickled him. Do I need material involving Bruno Brookes and Combat 18 to win more vocal approval from Mr Granite-Chops? I mean, I call it a joke, but it’s not really, it’s reportage of an incident on Top Of The Pops from my youth. A fact. Perhaps he doesn’t like jokes, he just likes facts. Oh I dunno, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the bugger. The same happened with Moths four years ago. Can I remember any of the smiling faces, of which there were plenty? Can I bugger. But the fella who came one Thursday and whose physiognomy was a permanent study of ennui? I’d recognise him tomorrow.

Other than that…

Wibbly wobble day. Brick wall day. Self doubt day. Suffice to say, three minutes into the show I just didn’t want to be there. Not because of anything that had happened, and certainly not because of the audience (who were fine and laughed in the right places, Anthea man aside). I just found it a real struggle. But I pretended to be nice and happy and funny and think I got away with. That’s my job.

Went home, got drunk, took it out on my wife (who had been hitherto having a nice time on holiday, thankyou very much).

Edinburgh does this to everyone at some stage.

(I hope).

For universal balance, here’s a lovely review (though ironically, as I hit the edfringe website to find the link, I was confronted by a somewhat indifferent one from an audience member. So much for universal balance. It was from Sunday actually … Anthea Turner man, surely not …?)

Standing and Delivering (and occasionally doing neither)

EDINBURGH FRINGE 2010 REPORT NUMBER THREE

Monday 9th – Friday 13th

Monday 9th

It’s all starting to blur now. Monday involved partaking in Peter Buckley Hill’s legendary Peter Buckley Hill And Some Comedians at the Free Fringe. An institution himself, PBH has nonetheless been lucky to stay out of one. He was on fine, if elongated form, and introduced Richard Sandling, Matt Tiller, Michael Dolan and then myself. Richard did a joke referencing David Collings, which made me do a little dance in my brain, Matt was on fine form with his witty songs, and a nervous Dolan, protesting that he hadn’t gigged in ages, went on and blew the place apart with his blend of tartrazine-spiked misanthropy. I had fun, but kept it short as I had to nip up to FFF. There was just time to pick up the gauntlet PBH had left by paraphrasing Macbeth by doing most of that character’s speech from Act 1 Sc VI. Not often you get to do that at a comedy gig, and when the opportunity arises, one must seize. Fun, and the very essence of the Fringe.

Now I Know My BBC overran by four minutes. Odd, as I unintentionally dropped some bits. Including a bit in the first half regarding lazy labelling that people of ethnic origin have to put up with in small market towns. There’s a payoff to the joke later which, without the set up, just makes me sound bizarrely racist. Guess who forgot the set-up? I rushed the ending a little, and it needs a bit of streamlining, but fortunately I spotted Tony Kinsella in the audience . Tony had helped me bat ideas for the show about early on and we worked together a lot on the Unbroadcastable Radio Show. The audience were giggling away and I directed a lot of stuff that I knew he’d like directly at him. Afterwards I phoned to ask where he was – somewhat surprised he announced he was on the Royal Mile, and off to a gig. We arranged to meet later, and when we did I asked him needily what he thought of the show. He informed me that it was very good, and that Paul Kerenza had come up with some very funny stuff. What “And I look forward to seeing yours tomorrow,” he said. He hadn’t been in? Who was that I was doing the gags to then, who was chuckling away? A ghost from the future? Surely no-one else looks like Penfold and gets cheeky in-jokes about archive telly. Quick, everyone, have a look round to see if Michael Gove’s been smuggled in to infiltrate the Fringe.

At FFF, I managed to redeem my antics from the previous one by dancing like a monkey for a bitty, not entirely cohesive audience slightly overbalanced by overconfident youth. In the first half Elis James confessed to having drunk too much wine before going on (you’d never catch me doing that) but was his usual brilliant self, The Boy With Tape On His Face is going to storm the Fringe this year (and the unco-operative girl he brought on stage, who had the audacity to think that anything she might do would be funnier than if she just went along with what he was doing, was rightly dispensed with even if she wasn’t justly ashamed of herself). In the second bit, Sam Gore is just as waspish and sharp even without his suit, and it was nice to see a confident Nik Coppin end the night on a high. No drinkies for me.

Tuesday

An overlong show yet again, but this time without the apparently racist outbursts, so let’s look on the bright side. Tony was in this show, as was another Manchester turn, Jeff Downs. Jeff pointed out that he hadn’t made an important connection, and I grumbled and grumped that the connection was obvious and could easily be picked up. I nonetheless tried to make it more obvious on Wednesday’s show, and lo and behold, it worked much better. Sorry Jeff.

Pleased to hear from Spider and Fishcake that XS Malarkey was nice and busy. I always get a bit angsty when it goes on without me there. The boys are looking after it well though.

Wednesday.

Traipsed around looking for souvenirs for the boys, and bought them a load of yummy Edinburgh Rock. Then remembered I’d done that four years ago and it hadn’t been liked. Damn these modern kids who get to be fussy about sweets. They’re sweets for goodness sake! Merely purchasing them should get me a free pass into Daddy heaven. Bumped into Ian Fox, who has brought his camera to Edinburgh. He’s a great photographer. The publicity photos he did me for Moths have been extremely useful, and they were most affordable – budding comics in need of good shots, I wholeheartedly recommend him to you. He’s been capturing the spirit of the Fringe in picture form, and I reproduce an example here.

A Snapshot Of The Fringe (Image © Ian Fox)

An Italian supper with Robin Ince and a lovely lady I’d not met before, Charlotte Young (who is the girlfriend of someone I know) was a delight, and another night of sobriety was easily navigated (though I did have some ice cream – yum, yum). Robin has been very self deprecating on Twitter and said he felt comics should reflect on the diffculties as well as the successes of the Fringe when they Tweet or Facebook or Blog, as otherwise it paints an inaccurate picture. I shall try to follow his advice here, then.

I got a nice 4 star review from Edinburgh Guide – huzzah! On the other hand, I’m not very good at swimming.

See, triumph and disaster in careful balance.

Thursday

Best show yet. A great crowd who, if anything, bestowed too much laughter unto me. So I overran again. I had to pitch the show at the less laughy people for fear of leaving them out and resting on my laurels. It was such a good show that of course, no reviewers were in. Whereas The List were in for a slightly stumbly performance the day before. Still, at least the ending worked better than ever before (thanks Jeff, sorry Jeff) at that show.

Anyway, it was straight off to The Stand in Glasgow – with Sam Gore again, and the delightful Sarah Profit driving. Had a good time opening, and was thrilled to be on the bill with the magnificent Pippa Evans (as Loretta Maine) with whom I worked last year on Totally Looped – she’s daffy fun, extremely talented and a pleasure to see, and was in with her new hubby: they honeymoon after Edinburgh.

Friday

Yikes, busiest day of the fringe so far. Breakfast with the lovely Who-appreciating chum, who I first met when I did Moths at the Maltings Theatre, St Albans. It was a great gig which got lots of laughter and yet resulted in me receiving hate e-mail from a man calling me a “liberal tosser”. Ah, this angry isle and its keyboard warriors. Anyway, my friend is fluent in the language of those on the periphery of social acceptance, in that he knows his Zentos from his Zeos, so we had a lovely and all too brief chat about the merits or otherwise of The Power Of Kroll and Season Three. A man needs times like this. Then it was off to Susan Calman Chats Up in which the perky and witty Miss Calman effortlessly engages an audience who then stare at a comic who thinks the gig will be easier than it turns out to be and only really thaw when Susan returns and the chat commences. It wasn’t unpleasant by any means – they’re a nice bunch who turn out of a lunchtime, so don’t get raucous like an evening crowd. The chatshow banter was much more fun and it is an entertaining hour – they were also treated to Wil Hodgson and Rob Rouse after I’d gone. Rob was good enough to tell me later that he thought I’d done well (tellingly, neither he nor Wil did the stand-up bit) which is a measure of what a kind and thoughtful man he  is (the only person to go round and introduce himself to all the door staff at XS Malarkey and make sure to thank them and remember their names when leaving at the end of the night: that’s Rob Rouse, utter gentleman).

Adam Riches Rides continues to be an a total pleasure and joy. He’s getting deservedly good notices, and it’s inspiring to see such a strong show so professionally put together. It also benefits from the contributions of the doughty, long suffering and hilarious Benjamin Wilson who undergoes a right pummelling at the top of the show, and Kirsten, Kerry and Amira (who are all up here in a play called The Track Of The Cat) fulfil vital support roles and do so very well indeed. Done sloppily their contribution could bring a show down. Done with unobtrusive skill really helps to lend a sheen of quality to proceedings. I cannot recommend this show enough – you’ll have a big, stupid smile on your face at the end of it, I guarantee.

Then to PBH. I noticed a distinctive group sitting on the second row, which included a man with a red Mohican. They were a fun, feisty bunch and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, watched in awe as Robin Ince did twenty minutes of utter brilliance, and was sad to miss the excellent Gordon Southern, but I had to nip along to the Edinburgh Stand for the late show. Miles Jupp compered charmingly and I bounded on, happy to just do the material I’d shared with the good people of PBH’s crowd. And there, in the front row, was Mr Mohican and his six mates. So I had to do different stuff. I stumbled along with some distinctly second tier material – and they all roared with laughter. It was a brilliant gig – but not down to me at all. A terrific club with a savvy, generous audience. I got heckled by a lady and had great fun with her. By the time Phil Nichol devoured the stage at the end of the night though, her bonhomie had turned to belligerence and she was escorted off by the attentive and supportive staff.

It was Jason’s birthday, so he popped in and we stuck around for a bit. Being one of the best comedy clubs in the world, it was of course fully populated by an illustrious bevy of comedians – which meant the socialising was as good as the performing.

An excellent end to a busy but good day. Only one downside – I spoke to the kids and it only served to emphasise how much I’m missing them. Had a bit of a sad moment.

Sorry I haven’t put links of everything and everyone mentioned above, but it is stupid o’clock in the morning and I should be asleep.*

*OK, more links now added, and the text has been slightly edited and tidied up.