Sunday, 24 September 2017

September round-up

September heralds the post-Edinburgh comedown and last year I avoided shows to take stock, write and record. This year, however, I had two of my own shows to run plus a Saturday night appearance at the fledgling South Kensington Comedy Club (pictured).

Bear Jokes waved goodbye to Pub on the Park with a final well attended show featuring a host of new acts plus some regulars. The audience were warm and kept the energy going throughout, many of which were there to see the debut of double act Hunt and Murphy. Arianne Sherine and husband Graham topped off the bill with their own farewell set and I left the venue on a high - leaving it ready for Ben Waterstone's own night to move in next month.

Bear Jokes at The Leyton Star followed a week later with a spectacular bill and a modest yet keen audience. As at POTP, I MC'd with a few songs ably supported by my fiancee and backup dancer Anna J. On my own the songs had impact but with Anna's dancing it's taken us to another level. Audiences literally don't know where to look anymore and the fact they can flick between either or both of us gives the act greater variety for a generation (my own included) who are used to cutting between shots every few seconds.

The show itself ran well and Gary Tro's natural style meant his headline set really was the icing on a very satisfying comedy cake.

Last night Anna and I found ourselves upstairs in a pub for our first ten minutes at the South Kensington Comedy Club. Come 8pm the real audience was zero and there was discussion as to run the show or not. Given the choice of going elsewhere or having a workshop several acts opted to leave but we stayed - if only to run through one of our new songs. As it turned out this was the right move as, shortly after the exodus, a small but dedicated audience arrived and took their seats. This was no longer a workshop.

Considering some of the acts that left were the more experienced ones it was a pleasant surprise to find pretty much everyone on the bill had their moments in the sun - many throughout their set. Working with a single figure audience can be tricky but it tests skills and this is just as valid a reason for performing as anything else. From our ten minutes we found being loud and active is the only way to be and although a very drunk man may not being paying full attention those around him were smiling and joining in at the right points.

A good night and one made better by a cheap and cheerful Chinese after.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Fringe Analysis

Last year I analysed the performance of Mirthquake pretty thoroughly to help me (and the thousands of others of you who viewed the posts) get a better idea of how to make a free show work financially. I produced line graphs and tables to support this. Having tried to make line graphs again of this both of this year's shows I can confirm they're pretty meaningless, beyond stating the obvious, so I'm just going to stick with the spreadsheet this time.


I took two shows to the fringe with PBH this year for the full run. 

Clash of the Tight Tens was a comedy compilation show with a rotating bill of four comedians plus myself doing ten minutes each. It was at 1.45pm every day in Black Market Room 2 (official capacity 30). On Wednesdays, my day off, Sonia Aste looked after it and received £10 per show for the first two and then £15 for the third one - the figures on these days reflect this as they only record the money I personally received and hence why the third show appears to have got £0 in the bucket.

Andy Quirk's Got First World Problems was my debut solo show that took place every day except Wednesdays, also in Black Market Room 2. My analysis from last year suggested Wednesday was the weakest day for turnouts and hence informed my choice of day off. This does appear to have been supported by the showings at Tight Tens on those days this year.

The Spreadsheet

What I Now Know

Tight Tens was more popular than FWP. This wasn't any kind of surprise to me as this was my first solo show and variety shows are always popular, particularly in the early afternoon. I also had access to very good acts due to my shows in London. In total 564 people came and watched Tight Tens over the run and put a total of £940.62 in the bucket.

FWP did much better than I had expected as I had been bracing myself for days of single figure audiences (the norm for debut solo shows). In the end 341 people signed up for fist pumping musical therapy and donated a total of £667.51. On a few days FWP actually outperformed TTens - quite a surprise.

If you take out my (extreme) daily spending whilst in Edinburgh the combined donations from the shows came close to paying for all the costs I incurred. What really stopped my progress towards breaking even in its tracks was week three - which was much slower than the other two. Something to bear in mind for next year.

I spent a huge amount of money on a daily basis. Edinburgh hikes up its prices in August: drinks are expensive, food is expensive, taxis and tickets add to the debt. However, I'm a teacher and this is my summer holiday. Had I not been at Edinburgh I would have probably spent this anyway so it doesn't really "count". However, it's certainly something to take account of should you be looking to earn a living from comedy full time.

Sundays are a good day. Both my shows were in the daytime and both welcomed families with teenage children. This meant Sundays worked well. Saturdays were strong too and Fridays and Mondays were also pretty decent. The slump in numbers in week three can be partially attributed to the fact that Scottish schools begin their new term in this week and so the local family market disappeared.

Tuesday-Thursday are the hardest days. Though in no way impossible. I still had good, sometimes great, numbers for these shows. 

My biggest bucket take was £99 on Saturday August 12th for Tight Tens with 35 people squeezed in the room. My biggest bucket for FWP was £83.29 on Monday 14th August (a bank holiday in Scotland) with 30 seated. Working out at less than £3 per person this was better than the average donation at a fringe show but I need to work on my bucket speech to crank this up to something that reflects the costs and effort incurred.

My lowest bucket take was £10.60 on Tuesday August 22nd for Tight Tens with just 7 bums on seats. The same amount of people donated £11.70 on Thursday August 24th at FWP. This reflects the general drop in attendance and generosity in the final week of the fringe - particularly midweek.

What Brought People In?

I did my best to ask people why they'd come to see the shows. There were plenty of different reasons - though the most popular routes were via the Official Fringe App and the PBH Blue Book. The ratio for these changed though as the run progressed with more and more people coming through the Blue Book as more and more of the books went into circulation. Was the £300 per show spent on the Fringe App worth it? Probably, but it's not the be all and end all if you can't afford it.

The limited number of guest spots I did this year also helped bring people in and a number of people came based on recommendations from friends who'd already seen the show. The 12+ age recommendation was a key factor for many as most shows had a smattering of teenagers in the audience. On one particular day FWP had at least half the seats taken by audience in their mid-teens choosing to come and watch a rap show whilst their parents went to something presumably of less interest to them.

Flyering was necessary but only within an hour of the shows starting. Thanks to Black Market being a hub with eight rooms in it there were plenty of people wandering in looking for a show on the weekends - though much less so in the week. A quick chat and the wave of a flyer with these people; particularly by my hiphop attired backup dancer and fiancee, Anna, was often all it took to encourage them in.

FWP received one five star review and a number of positive comments on Twitter. These will be great for the website and future press releases and show applications - but had little, if any, impact on bringing in people this run.

Final Thoughts

It was a great run with plenty of lessons learned for the future. I met plenty of great people, including bookers and media types, who I'll be following up on. I gained a backup dancer (and fiancee) who turned the show up a fair few notches and we're now planning next year's show and the route towards it via plenty of other festivals and full length show bookings in and outside of London.

Edinburgh: Final Days

Friday's shows were both pretty great today. What the crew lacked in numbers they more than made up for in energy. Our performance at The Malcolm Hardy Awards went down well, though we were then followed by an act that consisted of a man waving whilst a woman continuously hit a man in the face with a mop whilst he shouted "no" over and over again - which seemed to be more their style.

Clash of the Tight Tens: Citizens / Donations: 21 / £51.60
Andy Quirk's Got First World Problems: Crew Members / Donations: 10 / £19.55

Saturday was the final day of the Free Fringe and we decided to really go for one last push - even if this was off the back of a very late night out in Espionage following the awards show. Clash of the Tight Tens was comfortably busy and all the acts did well. I topped things off with a rendition of Clicking Like which blew any remaining morning cobwebs away.

First World Problems also had a good showing, including a return trip from our highly enthusiastic wheelchair user from the previous week, an old uni friend and a couple who'd seen Mirthquake last year and had kept in touch with me ever since to follow my preparations for this show. The energy was great and it was a good one to end the run with. 

Clash of the Tight Tens: Citizens / Donations: 22 / £45
Andy Quirk's Got First World Problems: Crew Members / Donations: 20 / £32

Final breakdown and analysis to come...

Friday, 25 August 2017

Edinburgh: Day 20

Week three of the fringe is easily the least busy of the run and a grey Thursday did its best to confirm this. Though Tight Tens consisted of just four couples watching four acts the vibe was surprisingly good and it was an enjoyable, if quiet, event. My £26 Peavy microphone (including 6m cable) did a surprisingly good job in the place of my confirmed-dead SM58 copy and the new lightbulbs in my new lamps lifted the gloom pleasantly.

First World Problems had similar numbers but the vibe was significantly less positive. If we'd performed to seven planks of wood we would have had more response. Missed punchline followed missed punchline, conversations that just got muddled peppered the in between song parts and when it was all over I wondered why they'd even stayed. Not great, but compared to pulling a show or seeing people walk out this was still preferable. With only two days to go, if this is the worst one then we've done really well.

Anna and I then went to watch The Gang of Names in the thoroughly remote venue that is Daylight Robbery. Surreal humour taking in a bizarre Chesney Hawks sketch, a quiz where you had to identify if names belonged to a beer or a horse, guess the year of the darts player's death and a farting ghost finale - it was just what was needed to perk us up before food at a nearby French restaurant where one of the waiting staff recognised me from my spots last year at The Hanover Tap opposite.

Clash of the Tight Tens: Citizens / Donations: 8 / £16
Andy Quirk's Got First World Problems: Crew Members / Donations: 7 / £11.70

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Edinburgh: Day 18/19


It started slowly with the smallest of small audiences at Tight Tens. The crowd were nice though and the acts got conversational and occasionally meta. The microphone broke down midway through which seemed kind of fitting so it was acoustic from there on in. A weird one but not a bad one.

First World Problems, on the other hand, came through all guns blazing with a decent crowd who were thoroughly up for everything. We clapped, cheered, stomped and shouted through every song and I made a comment about Deliveroo being the only future career option for a thirteen year old in the front row. The bucket wasn't exactly heaving but the vibes were great - and John Fleming dropped by to see exactly what he'd booked for the Malcolm Hardy Awards Show on Friday.

Clash of the Tight Tens: Citizens / Donations: 7 / £10.60
Andy Quirk's Got First World Problems: Crew Members / Donations: 17 / £22


Today I took the day off and walked up hills and stood by a loch with Anna. I recommend escaping Edinburgh at least once in the run.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Edinburgh: Day 17

Mondays are often pretty tough and they get tougher when acts pull out less than an hour from showtime or fail to show up at all. Today both these things happened with Tight Tens and so I found myself running all over the place trying to find replacements. Madeline Campion stepped into one spot (hopping straight over from her own show at a similar time) and Daniel Offen went beyond his allocated ten to, along with an extra song from myself, bring the show in at just over 40 minutes. The decently sized audience were appreciative but muted throughout and the obvious stretch that had occurred to fill the time was reflected in the poor bucket take. Credit to all involved though - it's amazing how performers come together to make the best of a less than ideal situation.

First World Problems also felt the Monday blues. Despite handing out an enormous pile of blue books and flyers in the run-up to the show our audience were a very modest seven strong. At this level I worry that the music won't cut through as it's so reliant on audience participation but I was thankfully proved wrong with every member of the audience giving it their all. Anna got her groove on and we powered through. The bucket rattled rather than crunched but we at least gained some Twitter followers and a lot of nice comments.

After this we scooted across to The Hanover Tap and performed two songs to another muted but cheerful audience. Plenty of flyers went out with a lot of nice comments received. Perhaps we'll have some of these guys at our next show. We're in the home run now.

Clash of the Tight Tens: Citizens / Donations: 26 / £24.78
Andy Quirk's Got First World Problems: Crew Members / Donations: 7 / £12

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Edinburgh: Day 16

It was another busy day with both Tight Tens and First World Problems. Firstly though I was at Whistlebinkies for some lunchtime comedy and it was nicely busy. I managed to trip whilst running around doing self-checkout related high fives but recovered quickly. The other acts were decent too.

Tight Tens had a ridiculous number of people in and we had to turn plenty away. They were a very warm bunch and loved every set - which included a bonus one as one act was running late and I drafted in Matt Duwell to cover. The late comer arrived and 4 acts became 5. Upon exit, more than one person commented they couldn't believe the quality at a free show. Thumbs up.

First World Problems had a great and diverse audience of all ages and backgrounds. The four boys on the front row, aged 10-13, got thoroughly stuck into the tracks and did some great additional backing vocals with me on Clicking Like. The adults that made up the rest of the audience were very vocal too. I did some of what I consider to be my best crowd work - though admittedly this involved a joke about farting in the bath. For young boys and their parents this was of course comedy gold though. Anna's dance moves kept heads turning from her to me constantly. Show complete the bucket was decent with plenty of compliments. All that was left to do was head home for some Chinese take-away and find my video camera had failed to record any of it.

Clash of the Tight Tens: Citizens / Donations: 39 / £73.90
Andy Quirk's Got First World Problems: Crew Members / Donations: 22 / £54.20