Sam Freeman

Theatre | Comedy | Marketing

Category: Comedy (page 1 of 6)

Gig #1 – Commo Comedy (MC)

Firstly this isn’t my first gig. Every year I make new year’s resolutions that are big objectives to achieve over the year – one of them for 2020 is to do 36 gigs over the year. As I a) blog and b) a few people I know read these when I did them years ago I thought that for one year I’d revive the habit and keep a log of how I’m doing.

I’ve been trying to work out what comedy and stand up means to me. I started in 2012 and was proactive for a couple of years and then, slowly but surely it became a hobby rather than a career ambition. I’m not good, not any more, I’ve stagnated at a level where, I’m unlikely to embarrass myself on a gig, but equally I’m unlikely to progress. I tried to work out what happened around 2014/15 that made me lose the dream – I was pretty good for an open act at that time, but something broke and I ended up (not entirely unhappily I should add) as a hobbiest.

I suspect now, looking back, the break, the hit was a few things – being a little bit depressed and anxious and having a huge self confidence crash that came from a couple of things happening at work that dynamited my creative confidence (I still find myself apologetic for feeling creative, as if simply having creative or artist in your title makes you a fountain of good ideas). I had a few encounters with pro acts who told me I wouldn’t make it (harsh but it’s sink or swim and i don’t begrudge them) – and I stopped doing stand up, I walked away from the stuff that was working and felt exciting (to audiences if not me) – I messed with storytelling (which in fairness was pretty good but a dead end really), musical comedy (average at best with lots of heavy bags), and trying to find a comedic voice.

I never found that comedic voice and it haunted me ever since – the closest voice I got was a low grade poor man’s Mark Watson – not unique or anything different. After a while I told myself I was happy to just do the odd gig, watching friends soar and maybe running the odd gig or two.

That’s a slightly sad opening to this blog but it’s the truth – I lost it, whatever it was, and never really found it.

Now the gig.

Tonight I was MCing. Commo is the gig I run with Pete Selwood and is lovely, chilled out and generally pretty friendly. The opening was probably the best MC opening I’ve done for a long-time – it felt fluent, I naturally went into stories I’d forgotten, had opportunity to play with the audience a bit and did one of my clapping intros that I love so much and that bring the crowd together. It was a solid opening if, as I tend to be, with a bit of shambles. No means perfect but not bad.

Next break was much harder – the fluency had gone, I found myself hitting classic MC tropes (jobs, relationships, yawn….) which came across as stale and unimaginative and my head wasn’t sharp.

I generally have a couple of pints at this gig – I’m worse when I have a beer, even just one. It’s the ability to think laterally, to notice things, to concentrate and mentally ask questions of the room, of the audience that disapates so quickly. When I’ve done paid MC work I never have for the same reason and it’s always much much better. The audience were also a little distracted – a long first section that’s very, very alternative, meant that it felt that keeping the energy and, more importantly focus of the audience was gone.

Zoomed through a bit in the final section, acts on and off, but then decided to try some material I’ve been writing for a bit about pubic trimming (yep). They didn’t go for it – I suspect because it’s a little gross and also because when I go gross, or a bit dark then I tend to lose audiences – my face doesn’t suit it, nor does my stage persona match any sort of dominant or sexual character. As Pete frequently says “you’re not a sexual being” and, comedically at least, it’s true (just only when I’m comfortable and relaxed) – talking about sex, unless expressing my naivety or confusion, loses the audience’s empathy with me and with it their willingness to laugh at and with me.

So… My performance, probably a 5 out of 10. A few strong moments in the first half, a frantic opening and some good building blocks put in place, but not capitalised on them and looked fatigued and a little pissed by the end.

I’m doing a solo show in September

Hey Everyone,

This is a long post (sorry). Just over a year ago I wrote a show, “Truth” which I performed at 81 Renshaw Street on a double bill with my good friend Rob Thomas as a work-in-progress. The show lasted an hour and was a reasonable success, so much so that I decided that the following year I’d go to Edinburgh, win the panel prize, quit my job and become an urban comedy legend. Suffice to say I didn’t get a room in Edinburgh (100% bitter), was therefore ineligible to win the prize and am still working in marketing. Then about 3 months ago I was asked if I wanted to do the show in York by a mate, so I drove to York and people actually turned up to see it, annoyingly however this was massively undermined by the fact that the venue cancelled the gig for no apparent reason 30min before I was due to start. Only a 6 hour round trip but who’s counting.

SO that gets us here. My good friend Alastair Clark (and top beard grower) asked me if I wanted to do the show for Liverpool Comedy Festival this year which I duly agreed to. The problem is that there is a real risk that noone will turn up. I’ll be frank now, the show is good, it’s funny but if it had gone to Edinburgh then I would now be wallowing in thousands of pounds worth of debt. It’ll also, I think, be the second, and last time I perform the show, so a real opportunity to join the 23 people who saw its first performance and say “I walked close to the sun”.

It’s on the 18th of September at 9pm (yes it’s late), and it’s £5 to get in (or £7 if you see Jack Lewis Evans’ show as well – which is, and this is a press quote, “snappy” ★★★★ Wee Review).

So please, if you read this do one of 3 things:
1) Share this post and/or the event
2) Come to the gig (if you hate it I’ll buy you a pint afterwards)
3) Say you’ll attend on the event below (even if you don’t that’s ok).

So that’s about it really. Thank you for reading.

Lots of Love, Sam Xx

Would I Book Myself?

It’s been a couple of months since I wrote anything on here – a few reasons really, hyper-busy at work, a few gigs and just generally feeling like I don’t want to write anything – suffice to say the numbers of visits my website has had has really dropped off (apart from in the Ukraine, where I am either incredibly popular or someone is desperate to break into my site). Anyway, it’s been 2 months, and I have something to say.

I had a gig tonight, it was okay, I was headlining and it was a paid gig. I wasn’t terrible, but I also wasn’t brilliant. But as I was driving home I felt, as I have a lot recently after gigging, a little hollow and, weirdly a little sad. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it for a while and here’s where I’ve ended up (in bullet point fashion).

  • I don’t like my set/material/musical comedy
    This won’t be a surprise to some people, I’ve known it for a while and been in denial about it I guess. It’s lowest common denominator, shock comedy hidden behind me trying to be quite affable. If I was watching I’d admire the commitment but not the art. That’s precisely the problem, it’s not art, it’s formulaic and, well, it’s not me. I was told that I have “a dirty mind” by a comedian I respect very much. That’s the nub of the problem, I can think it up but it’s not who I am, I can’t live the filth, fundamentally my beliefs are out of kilter with my stage performance.
  • It’s been 6 years of going nowhere
    I did a comedy course in 2012 and then started. I mentioned this to Louise yesterday and she, wisely, pointed out that I’d never really pushed for gigs or myself, it’d always been a hobby. The reality is I don’t want to do comedy clubs (at the moment, maybe I never have), or weekends at the store. Sure I like gigging and performing in front of people, and I feel compelled to do it regularly, but that’s once a fortnight not nightly. 6 years has taught me what I don’t want to be, and given me ideas of what I could do but I’ve not really heeded what I’ve learnt.
  • The only bit of stand up / comedy I’m actually proud of is Truth
    I’ve been thinking about the things I’ve been proud of in those 6 years and I can get to 2 things. The first is Truth (link), the show I wrote last year, did once, and then, after failing to get an Edinburgh venue, never did again, the second are my storytelling sets (but only outside the context of a comedy club). Sure I’ve enjoyed smashing the odd gig (I’ve died a fair few times as well), but those 2 things filled a hole, briefly, that gig smashing (or dying) never really came close to.
  • People laugh but say nothing after
    You might think I’m beating myself up a bit, but it’s about pride and feeling like I’m making something worthy of even being remembered. At the moment I come offstage and, while people have laughed, there’s no follow up, noone’s compelled to ask me about what I did, because it’s disposable, empty, there’s a moment of a laugh but then nothing more. The storytelling sets had that, the show had that – they had flaws and weren’t perfect but they weren’t throwaway.

Ultimately I asked myself would I book myself? Or, under what circumstances would I book myself?

Here’s my answer – “no I wouldn’t”.

Why not? Well it’s crass comedy, it’s quite well performed but that doesn’t make it good, it makes me stage comfortable. It’s not clever, it doesn’t change your perspective on the world, it’s, simply put, not the sort of thing I’d book or be arsed about watching. The only circumstance I’d book me is for a footballers dinner or as a contrast act to provide variation to the evening – the problem is I’d rather be the thing I contrast.

So where’s that leave me. Well, I’m going to knock the musical comedy on the head for a bit. Also stop doing anything paid (luckily my 2 paid gigs of the year have happened and everything else booked in is new material). I love playing piano, and singing, but I can do that at home. I’m going to gig less and only do new stuff that is me (even if it means that I die on stage much more). I’m going to try doing some different things to see what fits. Get back doing new stuff and taking risks, maybe do some non-stand up things, try and find out something I’d exceptional at and love, rather than something I can turn my hand to.

I’ve never had a deadline for when I’d stop doing comedy, it’s been a hobby, and if it’s ever going to not be one then I need to find my niche or where I feel fulfilled. 6 years to find out what you don’t want to do is, I think, money well spent, but only if you twist when you find yourself stuck.

Night x

GIG REVIEW: Performing a show for the first time

So on Wednesday night this week I performed my new show, Truth, for the first time from start to stop. It’s always terrifying when you do anything new in front of any audience, what’s particularly galling is doing some solo hybrid comedy/theatre/storytelling, literally everything can go wrong. So did it?

Well…. No, not quite.

So I’d run elements of the story a couple of times at gigs in Warrington and Leeds so felt confident there was a basis of interest there – no point taking something dull and making it funny, at it’s core it has to at least prick interest. The previous Thursday I’d done the opening 25 mins of the show and it had been rip roaring. Wednesday was different, much quieter, much more nervy but still, for a first draft of a show, successful.

So what did I learn?

  • It’s hard gigging to an audience who know you. There’s an interesting thing about how you break expectation for audiences – things that seem quirky and different to a new audience will seem like recognisable tropes to people who know you better and will, of course get a different reaction.
  • I set the stage up wrong. I need to screen on my left and angled. It’s mostly about where I look and feel most comfortable, but also it’s about staging, I have to dominate rather than the screen.
  • It’s a slow burn. It took the audience 20 mins to get on board and even then I think there were at least 6 who weren’t (that’s okay at this point). Compereing off the top would help to get that warmth into the room a bit (but tricky when you know the majority).
  • It’s not stand up  nor is it storytelling. I need to decide which route to go down, or, perhaps, find a way of segmenting between the two, so that it feels more cohesive – the funny must drive the narrative and visa versa.
  • It needs more jokes. Obvious really, having not written any actual funnies in there it felt obvious where I was overreaching. Interestingly the onion bit about the kebab shop was really successful on Thu but died on Wed – probably because it feels like an attempted joke (and isn’t very good).

There was loads of other stuff too. The show ran at 55 minutes which was good, flowed coherently but lacked reinforcement and call backs to emphasis points that would payoff at the end. The ending split opinion a bit, I think I liked it but it needs to be more comprehensive and explain behind the curtain a bit more.

So the plan is…

This WIP was all about seeing if I had a tangible, workable idea. Yes I do. The next stage is booking a couple of previews further from home and repeating and editing as I go. I think I’m aiming for Edinburgh next year via a few fringe festivals so I’ve plenty of time. I need to think about character and costume (as it has an impact) and where I can simplify the powerpoint to balance the focus between screen and man.

SO… If by any chance you a) run a venue, b) run a gig or c) want to do a double header then let me know. I’ll do it on a bucket collection, I just want it to be good.

I’ve included 15 mins of the show below – because of it’s nature and structure I can’t put the full thing up as it’d ruin it. If you’d really like to see the full version then drop me a facebook or tweet me @mrfreeman1984 and I’ll send you the full video link. Oh and if you saw it and want to feed back then please do in the comments below – it’s really helpful!


Creativity, Confidence and a Show

There are, it is said, two types of creative people. There are those who talk endlessly about the book they’re going to write and then there are those who write the book.

I’ve been feeling over the past year that I’ve been falling, increasingly heavily, into category one. Sure I’ve done gigs, created some new bits of comedy and written a script that could be, generously, described as “pretty poor” but ultimately I’ve not really taken that jump.

I guess there are two problems – firstly, when you work in a sector which is still relatively bipolar, broken into the “creative” and the “supportive”,  it can feel tricky if you’re on the supportive side to feel a confidence in your voice. Secondly, if you get out of the habit of being “creative” outside of your day-to-day, of trying to do the big project where there’s the major possibility of failure (by which I mean “artistic”) then you forget that failure is, arguably, in the early stages of creating something, far more useful than success.

Creativity and the confidence to create is also massively personality dependent. I have a friend who believes that everything they do will be great. They believe in their art, that they can create and fuck anyone who doesn’t believe them. I find it really hard. I naturally defer to others and will regularly venerate the achievements and abilities of other artists and will stay quiet (or more often be massively self-deprecating) about myself. That’s not to say I don’t talk about it (see para 2), I do, but I will try to avoid seeming like a dick even when my head is yelling “I could do it better in my sleep”.

Of course the proof is in the performance. You can’t just sit around waiting for someone to ask you to do something, you have to take the bull by the horns and actually do it. Sure I’d love to direct another play (ideally In A Forest Dark and Deep by Neil LaBute or A Steady Rain by Keith Huff – both of which I’d nail directorially) but realistically one has to be taken seriously to get those chances, and to do that you have to do as Samuel Beckett is famously quoted: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”


I’m doing a show. It’s a one-man theatre/comedy show about truth. It uses projection and tells a story of something that happened to me in the last year. At the bottom of this blog post is a link to book a free ticket (or click here). It’ll last about an hour and will not be good, it will have possibilities and, more importantly, will be out there.

Of course you might be thinking, “shit Sam, this is really misjudged” or “if it’s going to be shit I’ll give it a miss”. It won’t be shit (just not good). For reference here is a link to a show I did that was quite similar from a few years ago – click here.

So please come along (it’s on the 6 Sep at 81 Renshaw Street in Liverpool). Support me. Book a ticket now (it’s free) so that the pressure is really on for me to work hard at it. If it’s good then tell me, if it isn’t then tell me the following day.

I’m trying not to talk about the book, I hope you can sit down and have a read.

Gig Report: New material in Warrington

There’s a few gigs that, since I started, I’ve kept coming back and doing. They’re not the most glamorous gigs or even the easiest to get to, what they have is something better, an audience that is brutally honest but also not cocks. The Albion is, for me, one of those. I’ve tried out loads of brand new stuff and they are always receptive and even if I die on my hole, appreciative that you’ve tried hard.

I’ve been working on a new show, tentatively called Momentary Lapses Of Extreme Signmaking. I’m at that early stage having tried the opening 10 minutes once (although I had tested it on people at parties and when out). It’s much more storytelling than I’ve done in the last 12 months and, crucially, is less device driven (I don’t use a crutch like a book or keyboard). While I’ve faith in the narrative I’m not sure if it’s standup or storytelling or a mix between the two. I’m also not sure if it’ll need visual support (projection or not).

So I was trying bits out, incredibly rough and with big chunks of blagging…

I’ve popped some notes below on the recording (at the bottom – but just the first 6 mins or so…). I thought it might be interesting to talk about what’s going through my head on the drive home? Maybe not.

To start I will say that the audience were quiet and the background noise is from the adjacent bar and I was on first.

  • Opening (00:00 – 01:40) – This I’ve used hundreds of times as an opener, it won’t make the show I don’t think as it’s not relevant. Enjoyed saying “boom” a bit too much.
  • The Bar (01:41 – 03:05) – Not tremendously funny, really scope for setup here, also dropped the C-bomb far too early. There needs to be more scene setting about where I am (Chester + Hoole + Local Area) to help audience understanding and make the context play stronger. (AJ Hill who was also on spotted this and was dead right, if you use obscure references you lose people – explain it, clarify it or lose it).
  • Kebab Show (03:06 – 03:24) –  There’s two bits in here – 1/ there’s better stuff around me chatting about sustenance and the need for a kebab and it’s social function – 2/ “Retard” is a crappy awful turn of phrase that’s terrible and stupid, I was reaching for “moron”, failed to find it and landed badly.
  • Kebabs (03:25 – 03:32) – I missed Garlic Mayo
  • Walking (03:32 – 04:01) – This is just boring as shit, it’s got lots of unnecessary stuff in and again needs to set the context better – people need to be able to see the street – poss something about the bins (3 bins) is needed)
  • Fifa (04:01 – 04:25) – The Fifa bit needs to work more broadly (for non-geeks) – maybe replace with a sleeping man with pizza on his face and a cup of tea dribbling down his leg?
  • Margaret (04:25 – 04:38) – This has potential but needs to be undercut – doing a good deed is fine, feeling the warm glow of people watch me be a good guy is better, me avoiding eye contact with her in future to avoid any subsequent bag carrying is funnier and sets me up better.
  • Wank (04:38 – 06:15) – This I decided to do about 7 minutes before going on. Real potential for this character to be reincorporated. Does he need to wear glasses? How do I ensure I enter his narrative? Also, stamped the end of this – actually that should be a general note – I went a breakneck speed to see how far I could get.

Tonight’s gig…

Gig Report & Analysis

On Sunday night Hot Water Comedy in Liverpool let me perform and so I could record my set. I’ve needed a new recording for a while. Not gigging as often means I’m seen by less people so getting gigs from meeting people is getting harder. Also I’ve been conscious that when I record the songs on their own they lack the context of how I intend them to work in a gig situation. I also write this blog lots and for someone who wasn’t at the gig the notes make very little sense.

I was on first at this gig, the audience was warm, about 40 in, but it’s probably fair to say they were warmer in the middle and final sections. Paul (compere) had got them up for it, but there was a fairly painful man on the front row who was being a bit of a tit. There’s a fair amount of stuff I left out, some bits I rushed and also some audience interaction that I passed up. The mini-motif (70s TV Star) also doesn’t have a final verse so I missed that punchline.

I’ve not really watched the video (I just added titles and uploaded) so I thought I’d write some notes live while I watch. This might be interesting, might not. Rest assured that while watching I cringe. For those regular readers of this blog you’ll know I’m overly self critical so what you see and what I see may vary a bit. Also I’ve become increasingly conscious that I’ve clearly skipped arm day (and leg and torso day) and also that I look a bit rough. There’s also a presentational thing – I don’t look pro, or like I’m going to be funny. Not quite sure what I mean by that. Maybe it’s that I’m at the side of the stage to not annoy Paul too much.

So yeah, enjoy. Please comment on the bottom of here or on the link you found this on (it’s nice to know someone reads), and if you think it’s good then share (and if not then shhhhhh). Finally, I have a mailing list (top right on the desktop site) so please subscribe!

Video Notes:

  • Pre show thoughts were dominated by panicking that I’d failed to plug in the ipad mic correctly.
  • Hecklers are tricky, ignoring was my tactic with loaded sarcasm. He gestures a lot and kept making odd comments which you can’t really hear on camera.
  • Ready to Rock works better when people do nothing the first time round. I missed a joke here… “You’re only wasting your own time” is the classic one (a bit hack though).
  • The “ginger comperes” is something I do with whoever is compereing, makes it seem more in the moment.
  • I am a gentle lover.
  • The “Genocide” joke doesn’t really work, but the “When I was a kid” was accidental and will happen again – I think I need (time permitting) to add a few more stories of sexual failure in here.
  • Finger Up My Bum is played at too fast a tempo for the chorus which loses the audience a bit and the period joke could have dropped better.
  • Berating the audience for not joining in is quite good fun. Dropping a c bomb is a risky gambit, I think if I hadn’t the next bit might have gone better.
  • “Cured Racism, No Biggy, had a weekend free” is crap and a bit arrogant which doesn’t really fit with the character I use on stage. It really needs a story to accompany it.
  • Racist Bread they don’t go for at all and felt like hard work… Interestingly the more diverse an audience the better this goes – it tends to be a bit too soft to get big laughs.
  • Wedding Song intro is usually much more drawn out than this, usually I add an extra level of detail which builds it all up and makes verse one really fly. The extra detail to add the realism to the situation makes it all the more believeable – I think that might be a running theme of this set – rushing – with musical stuff time seems to go much faster, I was pushing but still went over by 2 and also cut the set 1 song shorter.
  • 70s TV Star reprise gets an okay response, if I do it the 3rd time then it all makes sense and there’s an artificial sense of a rounded set. It kind of disguises the lack of plot or narrative running through what I do.
  • Finger you should have lasted a lot longer, I kind of faked the running out of breath thing, whereas I suspect if I did this for twice as long then the payoff would be brilliant.





An idea, a graph and a calendar

It’s been a while since I wrote anything on here so, finding myself incredibly away at 12:46am I thought I might as well write down some thoughts about what’s happening and what I’ve been thinking about recently.

Regular readers will know that I finished writing a play, Opposition, in December and sent it to loads of theatre’s to get feedback. It was the first thing I’ve written since Floating and I didn’t have huge hopes for it. So when the rejection letters came in (the many, many rejection letters) I wasn’t overly surprised. There is, of course, an argument for not sending work that, deep down, I knew probably wasn’t good enough to theatre’s – but then it marks the end of a process – the unread play is a pointless thing. It had some of my best writing inside it but was structurally weak and lacked a strong enough, simple enough premise. It was like an onion, delicious in small amounts, layered, but a full one makes you cry. The letters always hurt (except the Royal Exchange who actually give good constructive feedback unlike many places) but I though, ah shit, never mind, that’s that.

Then, as is always the case I had an idea for a play last week and decided to write it in 64 days. But why 64 days I hear you ask. Well that’s aligned to the Bruntwood prize deadline. For a while I’ve always had a nagging suspicion that if I can’t write a play in a month then it’s probably going to be a bit shit because it means the idea is fundamentally flawed. So Floating was written in a week, Revenge in a month and Opposition took 6 months. Go figure. Anyway, so I’ve made a graph of the number of words I need to write on a daily basis to get it done in time with three drafts – 500 words a day – not a lot considering that I’ve written this, so far (284 words) in less than 10 minutes. I find the graph thing is useful because a) it monitor’s my progress, and b) it’s motivating in that you don’t want to fail, drop under the line of success and miss the deadline. So this is it, in 30 days I’ll either have a wonderful play, or I’ll be writing a blog about marketing.

I’m conscious that I’ve not written anything deeply entertaining and relevant for a bit. I have a few blog titles in my head but am unsure which to do (I suspect they’d work better as 10 minute presentations), if you have an opinion then get in touch.. Here they are…

  • My Biggest Failure – about the things I’ve got wrong doing marketing but what I learnt from them?
  • My Precious – about the most important thing marketeers never have: time.
  • An Interim Brand – this is about creating temporary brand for organisations to get stability under high pressure. We all do huge amounts of consultancy, spend months and months on branding, but sometimes there has to be interim solutions.
  • Telling The Story – this is about writing the Theatr Clwyd mission story (rather than statement), how it effects what I do and how I do it and why I think it’d be a useful way for arts organisations to engage the public and also their own staff.

Okay, so it’s gone to shit right. I have, as you’ll gather from this blog, big issues with my confidence about comedy. My last gig was amazing, but I have voices in my head that tell me it was shit and that what I do isn’t good. I can talk about it, I can be told to the contrary, but ultimately it makes no difference. I think time is an issue too, as is my work-life balance. I’ve a few gigs coming up which I’ll list at the bottom, I think I need to plan days massively in advance where I should finish work early and do a gig. Yeah. Less than good news. Oh no, wait. I have written 3 new songs, all of which I’m happy with. I’m also probably going to do Liverpool Improvathon (which is excellent) so, yeah, come to that.


  • 10th April – Southport – MC – The Barrel House (Sold out I think…)
  • 13th April – Liverpool – MC – Lennon’s Bar
  • 27th April – Liverpool – 20 min – Pros & Coms, Lark Lane
  • 31st Aug – Liverpool – 20 min – Pros & Coms, Lark Lane

Oh, and if you read this blog, please join my mailing list – it’s good to know people read this, and if a few more people join I might be prepared to do e-mails of stuff 🙂

Gigging with a famous comedian

So tonight I was on the same bill as a famous comedian.

Regular readers will know that my general choice of gig usually includes at least two of the following elements:

  • audience of less than 6 people
  • audience casually eating food unaware of comedy happening, sometimes celebrating anniversaries
  • compere’s begging people to not leave, or compere’s begging to leave
  • eerie silence broken only by the clinking of glasses being collected and the coughs of an asthmatic in an adjoining room.

So imagine your surprise when I tell you that tonight I did a middle ten for 200ish people, in Stoke, who weren’t eating, had deliberately attended the gig and all had great lungs.

Of course you’re reading this wondering who the the famous comedian is, and I’ll come to that soon, the main point of this blog is to analyse how I did for future gigs. I’ve not been quite as nervous about a gig for a while, literally because it’s been a while since I did a gig. I was chatting to Colin Havey (always excellent) and he mentioned the challenges as a new act of getting gigs and it’s very true, there are so many brilliant acts out there, I could comfortably take 50 in my facebook friends list alone who are in the same boat and I regard as better than me.

I also have confidence issues in applying for gigs which doesn’t help, hence why I’ve not gigged for nearly 3 weeks. I listened to Desert Island Disks last week with Jimmy Carr and one thing struck me and rang incredibly true. He mentioned that he was never depressed but instead just quite sad. I can relate to that, I have periods where I feel just a bit sad and it’s a little crippling creatively. Usually it comes in batches of 4 weeks then starts to ease, where I need to cry occasionally and demand hugs indiscriminately (Louise bares the brunt of this). The area it hits most is my confidence to apply for things and also to write (although bizarrely not comedy songs which clearly sit in the non-emotional part of my head). I think how Jimmy described it, as feeling sad, rather than depressed, rings true too. It’s not that bad, it’s not a chemical imbalance or anything deep seated I think, it’s just, well, there and it happens.

Anyway, back to the gig. So I was nervous as shit. Made worse by the lack of recent gigging and the arrival of famous comedian about 2 minutes before I was due to go on. Then a curious thing happened – a sense of calm, of almost serenity – that moment where you know you can’t go back so, well, fuck it, you might as well try to enjoy it.

I opened with “now are you ready to rock”, counterbalancing it with a quiet, excessively polite opening that throws people quite nicely. It got a nice response but importantly I paused for laughs, took my time and slowed my speech to allow myself to ad-lib. Next up was beasteality which was  an easy laugh. Finger up my Bum has turned into a sleeper hit that is my get out of jail card at the moment (a man came up to me afterwards and told me the “finger up bum” song was “class”). 70s TV star worked nicely as did the Wedding Song, and I tried a brand new song, about being 64 to close (I gave the audience the option and they chose it!) and it worked possibly better than my usual closer. I missed the 70s TV star reprive though which I was annoyed about.

What didn’t work? I lost the crowd with the racism song. I asked them to wave phones and lighters as I’d done at hot water comedy club and it distracted people too much with lots of people trying and failing to remember how the torches worked which you could tell from the murmuring in the room. It’s an odd song as I need it to change the tone but it needs phrasing better to make it punch in line with the rest of the set as it’s gone from being one of my strongest bits to one of the weakest in laugh terms.

I got a nice response for my set generally, still a bit annoyed about the middle where i lost 40% of people for a few minutes. The guy running the gig said I should ask the famous comedian for a quote as apparently he enjoyed my set. I feel a bit weird about that to be honest and felt very shy talking to them  (although I had a massive sugar crash so was feeling a bit dizzy which didn’t help), it was more useful to know they enjoyed it. I’m always unsure when I see people put those quotes on their stuff – i mean sure they’re great, but there’s no sense of context – and yeah I give references for people I know in a day job context, but I’ve generally got a sense of whether they’re consistently good or whether they’ve fluked it because the MC was so good and the crowd was so nice.

Drove home listening to Richard Hawley, getting annoyed with the lack of drive thru KFC in East Cheshire and discovering that a 1999 Nissan Micra can bully me into pulling over to let them past on the A51. It was a gig I really needed I think and while I am my natural usual cynic, I think I did okay too. Which is nice.

And the comedian?

Tom Stade
(Click here if you’re not a comedy geek and need info)

Gig Report: Hot Water Comedy, Liverpool

Sometimes you make a mountain out of a molehill and build things up to a ridiculous degree in your head until you find yourself driving to Liverpool wondering if you could persuade your car to break down on the way so that you don’t have to do a gig.

Now. I appreciate that is an odd start to this report. Hot Water Comedy is probably the nicest comedy room in the North West now, the laughter reverberates and builds, it’s a friendly crowd, the compere is a little too good for comfort and you feel incredibly looked after every time you do it. But it is the gig that makes me panic and worry.

I suspect the reason is that I learn how to do comedy on their comedy course and so have always had a relationship with performing there as it being a huge deal. I gigged at the Crown, the pub where I first met them and it was dingy and dirty but it was the room I learnt in, it felt so incredibly natural to gig there. The Holiday Inn I struggled with – it was too cold and “business” as a venue for my personal taste. I think think was the point I started to build it up in my head – I think I worried that I’m going to let people down who are expecting better and the surroundings at the Holiday Inn were better, just not for me.

Now installed at their custom new venue I had visited a few times to look around and knew it was an ace space. A Saturday night as paying audience confirmed it. Essentially I didn’t want to be shit in such a well set up room.

So was I?

In a nutshell no. I was okay. By no means perfect, but i got the laughs, some lovely comments afterwards, and a slightly awkward moment where someone complimented my set and I froze and said “are you sure”,

Key things learnt.

  • I’ve got a new keyboard. Knowing what all the buttons do is essential as my start was weak because I pressed the wrong one.
  • My opening is still a bit ropey, the first proper song needs to be punchier and get people on board and at the moment I’m missing this from my set.
  • Doing a song about racism in a pitch black room illuminated only by the swaying light of the audience’s phones and 2 cigarette lighters is cool as fuck. Excellent from Binty in dimming the lights.
  • The sound in the room is great but really difficult to judge on stage.
  • I ran out of time for new stuff which I am desperate to test properly.
  • I need another “70s TV Star” reoccuring song to throw in.
  • My set lasts 14min without really trying and with taking out 2 songs.
  • I need to have free CDs to give out at the end. (or maybe for £1 if it goes well!)

End result
My performance: 7.5/10

Also on who were massively impressive and have also appeared in The Skinny:
Simon Lomas – First time i’d seen his set – very clever, brave with pauses, some smart but simple crowdwork.
Hannah Platt – Seen this set before but it’s getting more layered with extra callbacks that I enjoyed.

Oh and here’s the song I didn’t do…

Gig Report #6 – Albion, Warrington

This is a gig I’ve done before (as compere and doing storytelling) and while I love it to pieces it can be a bit tricky sometimes.

The seating configuration is in thrust, so, as you’ll see from the video below there’s audience behind and in front of me. This means that delivery becomes harder – I realised that trying to offer nuanced facial expressions is part of where i get some laughs so I lost that a bit as well as good eye contact. I also found myself getting a bit distracted and riffing more than I should and bumping bits of material so I can hit the songs I want to test quicker.

I think the main thing I learnt was how important doing a sound check is (it was a bit unbalanced at the top) and being disciplined, it took me longer than usual to get them onside and even at the end it felt like by dicking around at the start I’d lost something.

I need a stronger song / set piece after my opening song Bestiality, it needs a follow up or something to contextualise it.  I have 3 types of songs, the crude big laugh, the smartly clever and the link. I always worry about the smartly clever and the quieter songs as they’re not belly laughs, but the addition of the link element (70s TV star here) really helps when it follow straight on, it moves from thoughtful to dark and provides a dynamic shift that I quite like.


  • 3 x big hitters, relatable, fun and probably a little filthy
  • 2 x smart quieter songs, more personal but poignant, maybe a waltz
  • Find another song link cycle (like 70s TV Star)

Here’s a bit of the video from the night.


Gig Report 4 & 5 and some stuff about theatre…

It’s been a week or two since I last put my gig report online so I thought it’d be high time to keep up and write up what’s been happening. Well, I’m now up to gig 5 of my return and I’ve still not died hideously on my arse…

Gig 4 was Danny Mc’s gig at Alexanders in Chester. I arrived horrifyingly early to discover that I was both the only act and only audience member. Turns out I was very, very early. A nice crowd of 25 people came down and it was a fun, nicely set up room. I tried a couple of new bits with some bits that I know are solid. So “70s TV Star” as a reoccurring theme was tested and seems to work nicely to keep people on their toes, although disappointingly I did the two setup verses and then entirely failed to do the big payoff punchline – if I remember to do it then I’ll be a happy man. My dialogue was a little too whimsical and I needed to develop the punchlines and throwaways that litter those sections more to get that gradual build to support the main punchlines. I ended with “I love you” which is replacing “David Cameron Song” as my closer at the moment. It’s not quite strong enough, but offers plenty of opportunity to play with the audience and demand their participation.

Gig 5 was in Bolton in a bar called Metro Rocks. The epitome of the “character building” gig, it was, nevertheless, really useful for trying some new things, albeit to a smallish audience. “Finger up my bum” works as a song, particularly if I play with the tempo. I also started playing more vocally, adding ticks and quirks to my vocals that just makes the songs more vibrant (if less musically good). I’ve noticed I’ve shied away from the quieter songs, mostly because they tend to be a bit longer, but also because they’re the more intellectually robust, Guardian reading sections of my set.

My next few gigs are Warrington’s Albion Pub this Wednesday, then Soderfest in Manchester and a gig in Wigan. I feel like I’m closing in on that point where I’d feel confident applying for paid middles, but I’m missing maybe 2 – 3 songs to get a robust 20 and also a better sense of some of the supporting material to ensure it’s rock solid. ALSO, I’m going to invest in a piano case with wheels because fuck me my back hurts from carrying kit. (If anyone wants to offer me a gig then please do, I’m also ready and probably won’t disgrace myself).

Meanwhile life in theatre land has been, well, pretty hard tbh. I’m having a period of feeling like I’m running at full pelt pretty much constantly but not actually catching up at any point. There’s a really interesting article in The Stage today by a designer saying that the boom in admin jobs has hit technical jobs. I don’t know why but my initial reaction was fuck off.

My second reaction however was more moderate.

I think there is a common lack of understanding across venue departments about what everyone does and the time it all takes. When I started in marketing the departments were bigger but since then the channels through which we have to market have increased while the resource has decreased. It’s about the understanding of roles and how we communicate what we do**.

I think what annoyed me was that I think it’s probably naive to assume that there is a singular cause and effect – that admin jobs have simply cancelled out tech jobs – it’s not as simple as that – yes that will be an effect there’s also an economy of scale, of outsourcing and competition, of changing technologies, of space and equipment that has mean that it’s happened, rightly or wrongly (I don’t know which), over the last few years. The comment is the kind that divides us rather than recognises that we are in an industry that is evolving and changing at a tremendous pace and that the effects are not limited to a single group.

A couple of years ago I had a conversation with a friend about theatre and he said that the problem with theatre was that it sees problems and considers that working harder is the only solution. He said that  working more efficiently would lead to better long term results but it’s often overlooked for the short term sweat. An inevitable effect of the grind, the constant churn of the day to day. I think that’s something we miss and need to find again. How do we complete our work more efficiently to create time, to enable us to ensure the quality of what we do is reflective of the great art onstage? To ensure that we are creative in a way to compliment the stage? To ensure that the day to day is automated and the important, life and business changing stuff gets the care and attention it needs?

That question is not one for 12:20am on a school night – but it’s one I’m going to ponder and get back to you about*.

Night x


*I wonder if I should write a blog about the 10 things to make us more efficient in theatres? Useful?
** Originally I wrote a pissy tirade in here about people saying they’ve not seen posters when shows aren’t selling. It didn’t seem that constructive in the context of the post.


Gig Report #3 – Pros & Coms, Liverpool


I was back at my old stomping grounds* down Liverpool’s Lark Lane to do a set at Pros & Coms. It’s a gig I have a long history with having compered it regularly for 2 years and it being my home gig. It’s moved venues since I performed there regularly to a bar called Milo Lounge. I have to admit, I was nervous in the first half. Not least because there was an audience of 4 of which 3 had said they “had to go at the interval”. I was on second after the break. So the break arrived, they promptly left leaving one, slightly bewildered audience member. Yet all was not lost, George, the promoter, had been raiding the street and brought in 14 willing audience members for the second half.

So how did it go?

Well, it was good. I used this as an opportunity to try 2 new bits and a regular callback of which all three worked well. The song, Finger Up My Bum, has audience participation potential and could maybe be a closing song. The call back, a repeated song called 70s TV Star which is mixed with me making comments about “them not all being guilty”, until it reached the 3rd time, I was pleased with a structural device.

It was a little odd having that structural device when I messed around with the order of the songs. So much, I realize, relies on understanding of pace, dynamic and ensuring that it has peaks and troughs**. The better and more intimate I make the drops*** then the bigger return I get from the more filthy or silly songs. I think I did around 10, aware that I didn’t want to overrun.

Did a bit of audience control which resulted in a drunk girl crying. She kept chatting, like when someone’s in the cinema and asking questions about what they’re watching and also saying things like, “it’s a song about sex”. So I shouted, comedically, this sounds bad, everyone laughed, and then she cried, but was very drunk, so although I don’t feel (too) bad about, I wonder if I should have put her down more musically rather than just yelling “shut up” like a deranged psychopath.

However, all in all a nice return to the old stomping grounds*.

 Gig rating: 7/10 – tried new bits
My Performance: 7/10 – trying new bits so not a planned performance, but okay.

*the phrase “stomping grounds” makes me sound like such a prick.
** this is the wrong word for this… I mean the quieter bits.
*** by which i mean troughs**

Gig Report #2 – Comedy Asylum

There are some gigs where you arrive and you think, “this is going to be fine”.

There are other gigs where you accidentally take a wrong turn on the way there forcing you to drive through (and pay for) the Mersey tunnel twice despite there being no need, to arrive, in Birkenhead, at a bar that looks like it’s been ripped from the set of Sons Of Anarchy.

The venue is a rock bar and I had trepidation to put it mildly. How would piano led comedy and songs work in a bar clearly more suited to rock?

It turned out to be better than fine.

Lesson 1 – Don’t judge a gig by everything you can see when you arrive.

I opened the night, always risky as you have to set the tone for the evening and I was really conscious of that. The need to be high impact, go at a furious pace and try to inject as much energy as possible into the night. I opened with “Now are you ready to rock” which, in a new development, I managed to play mostly right. It’s the simplest part of my entire set  but I seem to lose the timings quite a lot. I followed that with “beasteality” which worked really nicely.

Lesson 2 –  Make sure each song is supported by two “talking” punchlines or moments.

The set was probably one of the strongest I’ve done in the musical guise, with the opening particularly getting much better. I lagged in the middle, the songs lacking adequate supporting jokes or content to make it interesting. Missed out the call back with the “70s TV Star” AGAIN. I swear to god if I ever remember to do it it’ll be the best part of the set.

Had a lovely improv moment halfway through a song the audience were lukewarm about where I changed it to a song about an audience member. Caught people off guard and the unpredictability seemed to be effective.

Lesson 3 – Improv is good, but needs to be controlled to ensure it doesn’t just become an improv thing.

Ended with the Tory song (formerly David Cameron) which doesn’t quite work now it’s been rewritten. It needs a figure of hate more strongly in it. Also I failed to bring 2 x new songs with me that I wanted to try. Overall though a fun gig with lots of great feedback afterwards. Still, however, lots to work on before I ask for pro-gig trial spots or try it at pro-gig tryout nights.

Gig rating: 7.5/10 – fun for trying new bits
My Performance: 7.5/10 – much better but with a noticeable drop in the middle and a weak(ish) ending


Gig Report #1 – Tiger Lounge, Manchester

So I’ve started again.

I realised the other day that it’d been 12 months since I did a proper set, what with the excess MCing I’ve been up to, so I approached this gig at first with trepidation. I’ve put this as gig #1, in reality it’s probably gig #180ish, but it feels like I’m making a new start at stand up so hence the restarting of the numbering system. In reality though, the nerves weren’t really there, it was excitement and I felt mostly pretty at ease on stage.

The first time I did this I was, as a very new act, incredibly brutal, focused on my feelings lots and also, quite naturally had a complete lack of perspective. Every gig was life changing, a step down the road to going pro. Now I’m older, further along, my ambition as changed to not necessarily wanting to be a professional, but definitely wanting to be better than everyone else.

So the gig. It’s a lovely night run by Tuesday Tony with a huge amount of acts trying 5 min slots. I was in a section on my own as a “musical interlude” which either helped or hindered, it’s hard to tell, most likely made little difference. It was a mixed audience, one table quite hard work and then well supported by surrounding tables. Probably about 25 in.

I did a musical set and learned one thing straight away – keyboards (and associated kit) are heavy. I totted up the weight of kit and with cables, spares, stands etc it comes in around 30kg. My back now kills and I think I’ve pulled a tendon in my knee.

Lesson 1 – get a lightweight, fold-able keyboard stand.

The opening was pretty weak, I tried to do the clubland (“are you ready to rock”) and it didn’t really work. However when I improvised at the start around the audience I got them on board really quickly. It plays to my strengths of MCing and also being able to listen, assess and then improvise something short and sweet quickly.

Lesson 2 – improv song at the start is a good place to go from

The Bestiality song, needs to be 2 lines and that’s it – any more labours the point and actually it’s punchier and means I can talk nicely and get to know the front row. I followed this with the Racism song. This was far too early for this, it needs something bigger before it as it’s very quiet and reserved. The racism song works, needs more context to tie it together and make people listen – maybe i need to talk about me and breadmaking? It needs to be more delicate to really find the contrast in the songs otherwise they can meld together.

I followed this with I Love You (Like I Love Creme Eggs). Generally was okay, playing the pauses for people to have the gross out moment works well – didn’t play the last verse which is a shame as it ties it together. Ended with the new Wedding Song which worked beyond my expectations, not really a closing number but a solid middle item I suspect. The context again needs fixing, I forgot the accompanying material which was fine but it’s important to have it so that I’m heading in the direction of comedian who does music, rather than musical comedian.

I need to work out how to structure the songs so that there’s a flow and so I can be responsive in the moment. Tricky while I’m still learning them. I think I need them printed on card rather than in a notebook so I can play with the order as I go.

Lesson 3 – print out set on carboard.

All in all, fun and useful.

Gig rating: 7/10 – fun for trying new bits
My Performance: 6/10 – hit and miss but done with gusto


Edinburgh Fringe 2016

I thought I’d write up a little about some of the shows I see this year!

Chris Stokes: The Man Delusion
A nice show by a comedian I really rate and admire, he has a real like-ability that comes from avoiding the cliches of the ego-driven stand-up and instead being low key and incredibly humble on stage. His material is relate-able but also clever in sending you the wrong direction with some clever pull back and reveals and intelligent wordplay.

Growth by Luke Norris
A great play about a man finding himself in the face of a testicular cancer scare. Incredibly funny I think that Luke Norris writes some of the best, wittiest dialogue around (reminds me of Tim Firth sometimes!) and a clever way of playing with time and structure. I love playwrights who adhere to the get in quick get out quick mentality of writing but who don’t sacrifice character by doing it. Well acted and directed in Edinburgh’s most lovely venue.

Lucy Porter: Consequences
I’ve been watching Lucy Porter perform, I realised today, for over 12 years. This show (which we went to with my parents) was clever and while not world-changing or life-changing gave astute and hilarious observation, had a real connection with its older audience and had a genuine warmth about it.

David O’Doherty: Big Time
A mixed night really. I love David O’Doherty, he’s brilliant, clever, anarchic and silly. His new show is no exception with all the wonderful tropes and traits in this as have been present in his other shows. The venue however was disappointing (Assembly Hall) with poor sight-lines, high ceilings and a lack of connection for the full audience – you want each laugh to boom, to be all encompassing, the roll and echo – but although the show was as funny as ever the room didn’t work as well for me – that said, I’d gone to the wrong venue in advance (George Square not Assembly Hall), so maybe I was just a bit pissy.

Daniel Kitson
Work in progress for a show that will in all likelihood never happen. It was really interesting to see new material being workshopped. A very friendly room – I always have that question about the credit in the banks famous comedians have that makes testing material and getting an unbias opinion hard to come by. That said, I fucking loved it.

The Pianist
Probably my favourite show again – brilliant physical theatre for all ages about a man trying and failing to deliver a piano recital – had some minor changes since the last time I saw the show – superb.

Meet Fred
Some lovely puppetry damaged by bad writing, dubious direction and examining the over theatricality of the show – being meta I think it’s called – all in all it felt like some very talented people had created something that lacked conviction and clarity and was a piece by theatre folk, for theatre folk, with all the injokes that go with it.

I’ve never taken crack. Or coke. Or ecstasy. This show was a little like what I imagine snorting all those would be like. The first half was a fake story about Marlene Dietrick the second half was the first half reversed telling the real story. It was utterly bizarre which had a huge amount of experimentation and technical ability but lacked precision, presentation, direction and clarity.

A nice show where a new musical is improvised from scratch. Great performers and some brilliant vocals but I thought it suffered in the same way much improv can by feeling like it became too complex to resolve the story and occasionally a little self centred. Fun!

Max & Ivan
Probably my favourite of their shows since Con Artists, their show is slick, quick and clever with a real understanding of how story arcs work and how to build empathy while not losing the funny. Also the pants were very tight.

Phil Nichol
A best of show featuring extracts from all the shows he’s done in Edinburgh. Interesting and a bold, in yer face performer who has more nuance and acting ability that many actors I’ve seen.

The Duke
Storytelling by Hugh Hughes about the curious relationship between himself, the refugee crisis, his mother and a model of the Duke of Wellington. I really wanted it to work but it felt like it would benefit from being slicker and from a directorial eye – I kept wanting pace changes and the link between the two stories to be stronger and feel symbiotic rather than incidental.

Mark Watson: I’m Not Here
Quality show from the man I apparently look like – very funny, perhaps without the strength of narrative that his previous show had but incredibly funny and bold and with a clever device to raise the energy on 45 mins. Ace.

Empty Beds
A clever one-location show about three sisters going to visit their brother in a mental institute. Clever writing to capture those personality clashes and traits that occupy siblings, the effect on choices they make on their relationships and how we talk about mental health.

The Blind Date Project
A clever directed improvised show where a girl goes on a blind date with a different person each night. Our night she was set up with Nina Conti. It was a clever and moving glimpse that felt voyeuristic but also very cleverly performed. The key was that it was played as a team rather than any sort of oneupmanship and it was dynamic and oddly moving.

Love, Lies and Taxidermy
Another show in roundabout (my favourite Edinburgh venue). Fast paced storytelling from a shit-hot cast with really clever direction and technical support. The same cast as Growth, I preferred Growth as the subject matter appealed more, but this had a whimsical edge that raised a smile..

John Gordillo
A great stand up this at times felt like two shows – one about a man’s breakdown and the other about how data is mined and we assess the world around us. There is an amazing show waiting when these two are successfully linked but at the moment it felt like two separate shows without a strong enough sense of connection.

Things I also saw or heard good things about:

  • The Flanagan Collective
  • Bilal Zafar: Cakes
  • Brennan Reece
  • Zoe Lyons
  • Kill The Beast: He Had Hairy Hands
  • Austentatious




A final(ish) gig report.

On Friday I did, what will be, my last gig for probably the next 6 – 8 months. I’m taking a break while I get sorted in a new job and have also been struggling with my confidence to apply for gigs so it felt like a break might be good to reinvigorate me too.

Confidence is a strange beast, you see it when you watch football, the striker who whereas normally would calmly trust themselves to deliver instead lingers too long, overthinks, panics and then sky the ball kilometers over the bar, their confidence shot. For me its rarely shown up when I’m onstage but instead a lingering doubt that has accumulated with the single voice of “you’re shit, why are you doing this”. It affects me applying for gigs (and I realise as I write this how ridiculous that seems) and also has some other side-effects. In the lead up to a gig I’ll stop eating properly for a couple of days, my sleep patterns will change, hilariously I sometimes get the night sweats accompanied by dark dreams of failure. I know I obsess about anything that isn’t perfect and inherently don’t trust feedback. For example if someone says to me that I was good, my mind instant starts thinking “well you would say that wouldn’t you, because you’re a nice person and not a twat” – after all, no-one gives honest feedback, not really, unless 100% anonymous.

Which kind of begs the question why am I writing a gig report I suppose? I think as a record that I did the gig. Maybe so I can write down what it was like before it comes a tainted memory and also so when/if I pick up standup again I have a previous marker.

So the gig…

It was a charity fundraiser, a phrases that usually makes you want to stick a fork repetitively in your own eye, but it turned out to be really nice. Raising money so that kids can have new leotards for their gymnastics club is surprisingly fertile ground. I was MC which is a position I think I’m reasonably strong at and, in a hot room, I think it went okay.

The opening section is always slightly terrifying as you’ve no idea whether an audience will be coming with you – I think I need more material sometimes at the top of the show, but then I’ve seen MC’s who rely on the material and don’t improvise from the room and it can seem a little formulaic and staid(sp?). Usual interactions with the front row bounced nicely if not explosively and although they were warmish when I brought Allan Finnegan on (who is ace, book him, actually book everyone I mention) they maybe needed prepping a little more. The audience was on tables which in theory is great (somewhere to put the drinks) but in practice means you’ve audience further away than you’d like and a row of people who were late on row 2 didn’t help.

The middle section was much better, lubrication with beer invariably helped as did some pretty crude fingering jokes, material about Bluetooth-enabled leotards and a giant of a man whose sperm was the size of a subway. I think going a little crude in the middle tends to work for me if they like me after section one, it also means I can gauge it for the final bit about whether to go worse or rein it in. There are occasions I notice that I go a little panto-dame-esque with “you can do better than that” but I think I manage it by making sure that I keep dipping to my reference points in the night (leotards, man giants, subways).

Final section was spot on (which I rarely say), I asked the audience if they wanted darker material, they said yes, I said no, then told an elongated spitroast joke about an elderly 3 some in their 80s which gets darker everytime I tell it. I particularly like being able to use a stage whisper to change the tone and also find that silence for this works really effectively. The punchline “vaseline” is as horrendous as it sounds but hit perfectly and it also gives me chance to talk to the audience about how it’s lucky I’m not telling that joke tonight.

We ended, as invariably charity gigs do, with an epic raffle. 20+ prizes of differing quality dispatched within 5 minutes including the most hideous cuddly toy ever seen. Overall it was a nice gig I suppose. One downside was Radio 4 not working in my car on the way home but then I’m not sure I can include that that as an element of my gig report.

So that’s it really, keep up with tedious marketing blogs on here and the odd bits of theatre stuff and I’ll write again when I start again!


P.S. Oh, another blog worth reading is by Jim Bayes, it’s really interesting if you like the gig report/thoughts of a new(ish) comedian – click here)


A set of pure, unadulterated terror

This week I had 2 gigs which for me is a lot.

I don’t do as many as I used to, I get bored of my material incredibly quickly which is problematic as it’s incredibly unmotivating for doing gigs. A good example might be the storytelling set(s), I know that they work every time, but that makes them so dull, yes there’s a pleasure from getting the laughs but it feels monotonous. I’ve tried a few things to try and break free of this but to no avail really. I’ve written stand up sets which are okay but I think feel a little safe, the storytelling is easy but quickly loses excitement (and takes a long time to create) and then the musical comedy, well, everyone largely hates that so that hasn’t been so much of a problem. The closest I’ve got is compereing, unfortunately regular compere gigs are hard to come by and it’s unlikely any promoter will get me compereing unless I’ve done middles or opened for them. Anyway, that’s beside the point.

I’ve been fascinated by improv for a long time doing bits in school, college and uni although never seriously and only fleetingly. I think part of the issue with improv is that I struggle to believe I’m a good actor, pretty much because I’m a lousy actor. I feel like the fraud a lot of the time in the presence of other improvisers, being on stage I feel like the audience are looking at me asking what the flying fuck I’m doing there. I also struggle with the competitive nature of it, there’s the “we’re all in it together” nature, but combined with my insecurities I feel like a non-league player being placed with a team of Lionel Messi’s and horribly out of my depth, or, to put it another way, like Newcastle in the Premier League.

Which is why I guess it’s odd the set I did on Thursday. Me and Mike Osborne have used improv in our writing sessions to good effect, spitballing ideas based on the other persons suggestion. Essentially we write random ideas and have to do a minute on that subject with what comes first to mind. It’s a great point to jump off at. But I started to think what if the audience suggested my entire set, a bit like SetList but with more audience engagement so people feel more connected to the performance and have more buy-in. How could i have the terror of doing new material each time but with the fun of improv but feeling secure on stage?

So at the start of the gig I gave everyone a piece of paper and asked them to write down a statement or question that might be my material for tonights show and put them, sight unseen, in a black velvet luxury bag. I opened with some silly stuff, getting the audience to chant (When I say Com, you say Omedy), then told a story about other gigs I’d done well at and that I was doing this material to be the most versatile comedian ever. What followed was Operation Prawn, a vague story about a mission at the Sealife centre to push prawns to the top of the food chain by killing off sharks through breaking natural selection, to do this Rolf Harris was called upon to fist the sharks to death with the only lubricant red and brown sauce, taken from the insensitive fish and chip stall at the centre. Everything underlined was audience suggestion.

So did it work. In a nutshell “kind of”. Firstly I was opening which made the room tricky and it was a little cold. The intro didn’t really work as playing high status and crucially pretending to be successful doesn’t work for me because I don’t have the supporting material, persona or verve to pull it off – i don’t do arrogant on stage well, I’m much better as politely vulnerable. Making it lower status and me as the underdog would help more but I’d need 3 bankers at the top to aid this. The audience were engaged apart from two people who arrived late who I’d not spoken to pre-show. I think the early interaction was good as was using the audience members but that it needs streamlining to keep the pace high otherwise there are lulls when a new idea is taken out of the bag and read by an audience member (the bag lady).

Slowing down and placing myself firmly in the story and establishing the problem needs to be centre of this – finding the resolution to the problem is the journey and I didn’t quite find it. Visualising the space helps the audience, and it’s not a set for huge laughs (yet) more oddity… I need to structure what goes on the suggestions, a few people wrote jokes (to help) while others wrote questions – i needed a mix and maybe another device to create these would be nice – maybe a dictionary, a random phrase from a book or something else.

It was terrifying but not awful and really enjoyable to do. Although I was chatting to a comedian afterwards who said he felt sick during it as each idea he’d try and play along. It’s definitely one that will develop over time. I think key to this is getting more comfortable with finding the ideas and stretching them as far as possible. I was very conscious that when practicing with Mike and Steph that the longest I’d managed was 8 minutes. When I actually did it I reached 15mins. I need to slow the fuck down. Take my time, relax and also smile as much as possible – the audience need to know I could be fucked at any second but I’m okay with that.

I’m going to try and develop it over a bit of time so if you have a shit gig I can try this out at then please let me know, also let me know what you think/whether I’m a lunatic or not. Night, Sam x

« Older posts

© 2020 Sam Freeman

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

meIf you’d like to receive infrequent e-mails about my upcoming gigs, things I’ve made or simply fun things then please sign up below (I won’t share your deets and you can unsubscribe at any time)..

Thanks for reading this. If you’d like to receive infrequent e-mails about my upcoming gigs, things I’ve made or simply fun things then please sign up below (I won’t share your deets and you can unsubscribe at any time).Either that or follow me on facebook or twitter. Thanks!