Sunday, 30 August 2009

So, Edinburgh reviews

Having refrained from posting any reviews at all, now I think I can dare to look back at the few shows I've seen at Edinburgh, without upsetting anybody. (Lessons from past years include Don't post 2 star reviews of your friends shows. I know, but it wasn't obvious to me because I'm an idiot).

I've hardly seen anything this year, being lazy, busy, and unprecedentedly chilled all month. Not having filmed any Socks videos or seen many shows, I'm beginning to wonder just how I have spent the month. (The answer is I spent 9 days teaching comic art in schools and libraries, and our flat back home got flooded on day one, with all that entails).

So, to begin with the Best Show. It was Susurrus by David Leddy, a site-specific radio play that you listen to on an ipod while walking round the Botanical Gardens. Had Heather in tears by the last chapter and, post-Edinburgh, will be playing in Oxford's Botanical Gardens in September.

Susurrus contrasted with another site-specific piece, Hotel devised by Mark Watson and featuring various comedians. It was an interesting idea to have a variety of scenes and improvisations happening in rooms throughout a building, culminating in a climactic scene, clues to which had been scattered through the Hotel, but ultimately none of the individual skits amounted to much, being occasionally witty but mostly indulgent and silly, and the climax very "was that it?".

Enjoyed a number of one-person shows: Bec Hill was fun in her quest to be a superhero, Helen Keen was very witty about explorers, Dan March was charming on his appearance on Blockbusters as a child, Maggie Service showed a brilliant range of voices, and Mackenzie Taylor was intense and informative on his mental illness. Katy Manning's Me & Jezebel was a very good story with good characterisations, rattled through at perhaps too great a rate, and Hardeep Singh Kohli is a lovely bloke and skillful broadcaster whose show really needed more funny material to be truly successful.

The best of these solo shows was Nun The Wiser by Triona Adams, a sparklingly written and exquisitely performed true story of her time as a nun which stood head and shoulders above the rest, despite being half drowned out by the show next door.

Teak Show and Facebook Fables were both well performed and quirky sketch shows, and Sweeny Todd was visually adventurous if a little anticlimactic. But the outstanding sketch show was Princess Cabaret, which made me genuinely jealous of the sketch and song writing on display.

The art on show in Edinburgh was more disappointing than in any previous year, with the City Art Centre and Portrait Gallery closed for refurbishment. That said, the temporary installation by graffitti artists in the Portrait Gallery (Rough Cut Nation) was probably the best show in town. Another quirky one was a tiny room in the basement of an architects (Roger Ackling, Sleeper Gallery). But so many shows were non-plussing, from Eva Hesse in the Fruitmarket, through the Wilsons in the Talbot Rice, to some dreadful Artists Rooms at the Modern Art Gallery (Alex Katz is quite the worst artist whose work I've seen in a respected gallery), that it's hard to muster the effort to list the rest. Some nice celeb photos with Burns poems were on at the mound, Paul Martin was quite impressive at Hendersons Gallery, and surrealist photos from the 1920s at the Institut Francais were intriguing if sophomoric. The sculptors working live in the courtyard of the Art College would have been nice to keep visiting, but we only went once. Overall, art in Edinburgh this year gets 5 out of 10.

The best art was undoubtedly my own dear Heather Tweed's Abscission, whereby she secreted works across the city, with instructions on what to do for whoever found them. Four or five have been stumbled upon and reported back, and news will follow on her website heathertweed.co.uk and Twitter.

So, there are my thoughts on what I saw. No stinkers, some pleasures, and I really should have tried to see more. Maybe next year, eh?

Comics etc

The most invigorating chat of last night was on the subject of comic books with Stephen (Anorak of Fire, Teak Show) Dinsdale. Will Eisner, Watchmen, we covered them all, and I'm still thinking about comics this morning, triggered off by a Tweet by Oscar who says he's about to buy a Batman graphic novel.

I am so out of touch with comics, I'm just hoping they are as exciting to a new young generation as they were to mine (remembering I teach Comic Art to kids, so you'd think I'd know. But in my experience almost all kids are totally unfamiliar with almost all comics).

When I was growing up comics seemed to move so fast, and every year had a new landmark as big as a new pop music movement. It was like 1979 2000AD goes massive, then next year it's Marvel UK, then it's Warrior, then it's Alan Moore in 2000AD, then it's Frank Miller's Daredevil, Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, The Dark Knight, Killing Joke, Watchmen, Deadline, Viz sells a million, Jonathan Ross opens a comic shop, then before you know it I'm working in comics and it all goes down the pan. But that's really what the 80s felt like, something revolutionary every year.

Is it like that now, cos if it is I'm not seeing it. Someone reassure me that comics are still that exciting.

Clang! Namedrop central

Last night was the last of four wonderful Saturday nights that I've enjoyed in the Loft Bar at the Fringe, and like every one before it was star studded with stars. Admittedly it started off quieter, most likely because the TV Festival had attractions on its side of town and the Pleasance had its Awards people together, but the Loft was soon buzzing and I had the most pleasurable conversations with Stephen Dinsdale about comics, and with Iain Morris of Inbetweeners fame about everything, catching up. Also managed chats with Jimmy Carr and Richard Bacon about nothing in particular.

Before the show, which was another sellout (the first one for which I actually bothered to whip out my camera and take a pic of the Sellout blackboard), I met up with Roland Moore and Wanda Opalinksa, Sitcom Trials alumni whose Best Man I also happen to be, and their 6 month old whose name I am rude enough to have forgotten. Tantalisingly, Roland had just been talking with Steven Moffat off of Doctor Who, who I would dearly love to speak to, but I'll have to settle for 2 degrees of separation.

The past 4 weeks have seen similar close encounters with pretty much everyone who's anyone in telly and comedy, and leaves everyone in Edinburgh feeling well connected and successful. Of course when we get home we'll discover it's not like that at all. (Robert Llewellyn posted a drawing on Twitter earlier which showed how it'll be back in the real world: http://bit.ly/Pq5w0 )

Today I have to collect the car from wherever I parked it three weeks ago, and hope it works well enough to drag us home through Bank Holiday traffic tomorrow. One last performance tonight, and I'll suddenly realise how much I miss performing the Socks. Oh how I wish I could take this life for granted. And have I succeeded in selling us to the telly? Not yet, but I like to kid myself I'm working on it.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Socks win Comedy Award (Genuine, fact)

We won an award!(Genuine)
Edinburgh Festival Insider - Comedy Award 2009

Although comedy is not my favourite genre, I've seen a smattering of shows that fall into that camp. And whilst an award from someone that doesn't claim to be an expert in the field may not amount to a hill of beans, there are some shows which certainly deserve special mention.

So, here is the inaugural Edinburgh Festival Insider Comedy Award 2009 - and the nominees are, in no particular order:

* Frisky & Mannish's School of Pop. This show has caused a sensation in its first ever visit to the Fringe. Hilarious spoof pop songs which had me laughing so hard I was grateful for the image stabilisation on my camera and a pair of stars in the making.
* Princess Cabaret. Everyone's favourite tweeting Disney Princesses treated us to a show which lived up to the hype and provided some cleverly-written sketch-based comedy that saw Snow White and the rest descending into some pretty risque territory.
* The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Goes To Hollywood. Intentionally shambolic, utterly chaotic and more laughs in 60 minutes than two socks have the right to generate.
* Shut Up, Play! For its uniquely Japanese lunacy and inspired nonsense, Original Tempo was a delight from beginning to end and had moments of absolute hilarity.
* Chris Cox: Mind Over Patter Mind-reading mentalism with a large dose of funny lines and self-effacing asides, Cox - like the Princesses - predicted how useful Twitter would be in generating interest in his great and mind-boggling show.

And the winner is....

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Goes To Hollywood!

For consistent laughs and boundless energy, Kev F Sutherland and his socks are this year's winners for speeding through a fast-paced hour of sketches, spoofs, ad-libs and songs that had me laughing from the moment the socks appeared until Sutherland emerged in his kilt at the very end. Both hilarious and extremely clever, his excellent show deserves not only this award but sell-out audiences for every run to come.

So, socks, take a bow:

Friday, 28 August 2009

Bigmouth strikes again

I must be careful what I write. Discovering anyone actually reads your blog comes as a surprise to many people, typing away in isolation. When your blog post ends up in the newspaper and everyone you know seems to have read it, you really start to worry about what you said. Well, according to today's Scotsman, this is what I said:

Comedy judges 'myopic' for Pleasance picks

Published Date: 28 August 2009
THE judges of the Edinburgh Comedy Awards have been accused of being "lazy", "myopic" and "insulting" for shortlisting nominees who mainly appeared at one venue – the Pleasance.
The shortlist for the awards, formerly known as the Perriers and now in their 28th year, was unveiled on Wednesday.

But the line-up has angered comic artist Kevin Sutherland, whose show The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Goes To Hollywood, staged at the Gilded Balloon, was awarded four stars by The Scotsman's festival reviewers.

On his blog Mr Sutherland wrote: "I'm bugged by the myopia of the judges in this year's Edinburgh Comedy Awards. Of all the contenders, two are on at the Underbelly and the remaining nine are on at the Pleasance.

"Are we really saying that there were no good acts at the Assembly Rooms, at the Gilded Balloon, on the Five Pound Fringe, on the Free Fringe?

Awards director and financial backer Nica Burns denied favouritism yesterday. "The judges made 2,000 visits to 400 different shows in 18 days – how dare he call them lazy?" she said. "It is absolutely coincidental that this has happened. It is just that the Pleasance has more comedy."

http://news.scotsman.com/entertainment/Comedy-judges-39myopic39-for-.5596777.jp

And, yes, I did say myopic, insulting and lazy, so I can hardly regret it being so widely circulated. I do feel a little like I'll be a comedy industry pariah now, but the comics I spoke to last night were all supportive and a few said they had wanted to say something but daren't because, well because they still want to be eligible for Awards in the future, something I've clearly given up the idea of.

After talking for a while, I started to feel sympathetic to the judges and the Pleasance. Maybe the Pleasance simply did have the best comedy, and it was a coincidence.

Then I was reminded by looking through The Scotsman today that there is actually a pretty reliable court of second opinion. In the back of the Scotsman there is a Best Of The Fest, listing by category all the shows to have received 5 and 4 stars. I wondered if they would concur, and all the top shows would be from the Pleasance. What do you think?

The breakdown looks like this. 5 star Comedy shows come from the following venues:
The Pleasance - 2 shows (Idiots of Ants & Tom Wrigglesworth)
Assembly - 1 show (Dixie's Tupperware Party)
Canons Gait Free Fringe - 1 show (Peter Buckley Hill)
GRV - 1 show (Blow Up)
The Stand - 1 show (Phil Nichol)
Underbelly - 1 show (Paul Zerdin)

4 star comedy shows break down thus:
The Pleasance - 10 shows
Gilded Balloon - 8 shows
Underbelly - 5 shows
The Stand - 5 shows
Assembly - 5 shows
Bongo Club - 1 show
Just The Tonic - 1 show

So The Pleasance undeniably has more highly rated comedy shows than other venues. Just not THAT many. Gosh, I feel vindicated all over again.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Edinburgh Comedy Awards travesty

I'm bugged by the myopia of the judges in this year's Edinburgh Comedy Awards. Of all the contenders,

Idiots Of Ants: This is War
John Bishop: Elvis Has Left The Building
Jon Richardson: This Guy At Night
Russell Kane: Human Dressage
Tim Key: The Slutcracker
Tom Wrigglesworth’s Open Return Letter to Richard Branson
Carl Donnelly: Relax Everyone, It’s Carl Donnelly
Jack Whitehall: Nearly Rebellious
Jonny Sweet: Mostly About Arthur
Kevin Bridges: An Hour To Sing For Your Soul
Pete Johansson: Naked Pictures Of My Life

... two are on at the Underbelly, and the remaining NINE are on at the Pleasance!

Nine shows from the one venue? Are we really saying that there were no good acts at the Assembly Rooms, at the Gilded Balloon, on the 5 Pound Fringe, on the Free Fringe? At some other venue like the GRV or the Tron? Come on, it is an insult to Edinburgh Comedy and I cannot believe I am the only person who's really wound up about it.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Rotten show (this rarely ever happens)

Last night's show (SFSPT Edfringe) was definitely a low. Our lowest audience since week one, and they weren't making much noise right from the start, and I realised I'd been spoilt by responsive crowds. I guess I got a bit obsessed by how bad I thought we were going, when really they were liking it just in their own quiet way. A few more props went a bit wronger than I would have liked, the ad lib sections just didn't take off at all, we squeezed all of the material in, which we've been cutting two or three minutes of every night before now because of extra time for laughter and adlibs, and all the things that just weren't great.

Worst point for me was during the big Mary Poppins song near the end when, during the costume change, I knocked the microphone out of its holder and had to perform the next 5 minutes with the mike clasped between my knees, unable to bring my hands down from the visible area to do anything about it.

On top of this I was painfully aware that there were three press tickets out there among the audience, and I won't know who they were until later today, but I'm dreading them being really important press (ie the Comedy Awards, Time Out, The Guardian) in which case we get bad reviews and no prizes.

I had already vowed not to go for a drink after the show, but had to turn that on its head and go to the Loft, with Owen from Bath who had put on our last preview show and was in the crowd last night. It's the first time since week one that my nerves have been shredded by the end of the gig, and I'm still feeling bad about it this morning. I even had a bloody dream based on it last night: I'm on stage doing the socks and someone comes in flyering and walks across my stage, I try and remonstrate with the flyerer and he nicks the Action Man that I'm waving, I get up from behind the stand, wearing socks on hands and try and get my Action Man back from the flyerer and fail, so I have to tell the audience the show is over. Is that Freudian or just a little sad and literal?

(Two nights ago, when I was in the middle of a run of great shows, I dreamt that my set fell off the front of the stage and came to bits, and that I found myself performing with my head showing, which would be the sock puppet equivalent of standing on stage naked. These are, I think, the first two dreams I've had which have involved me performing the Socks).

Today we do art galleries. (And inevitably some flyering, cos numbers are low today. Maybe they've all heard about last night and have started talking.)

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Edinburgh for pleasure and profit

This year's Edinburgh Fringe, which still has 8 performances to run, has been an enjoyable one, and as ever I contrast it with previous years. Obvious in previous years we hadn't suffered a flood in our flat back home, and Hev hadn't shuttled up and down to check on things, but amazingly we seem to be keeping our minds off that as the days go by.

The most delightful comparison with previous years is how much The Socks success has grown. Audiences have been universally great, big in number and laughing in all the right places, and our reviews (all 4 stars so far) have reflected that. We've made more and more room for adlibs which are making our interaction with the audience funnier and more interesting than any previous show.

I've felt a bit disappointed that I haven't done Socks video diaries this year, but with daily Comic Art Masterclasses on most weekdays since preview week, it's been out of the question. Frankly no-one's complained about their absence.

Now I'm getting a little concerned that I've not done enough to use Edinburgh to promote The Socks. I've only done a couple of extra curricular gigs (Geek Night Out and Get Up Stand Up) and may still do Spank and Old Rope. But have I made myself known to folks who book shows the rest of the year round? Not enough I fear. Though some theatres have come to see us, and one offered us a booking the very next day, so maybe the good work is going on behind the scenes.

Yesterday I attended a seminar of International Fringe Festivals, where we heard from and met representatives from Fringes in Prague, South Africa, Brighton, Adelaide, Amsterdam, Hollywood and some others. Most are pay-to-play, like Edinburgh, but a couple look like they might be worth the gamble. I'd most like to get us invited to a festival like Melbourne. Sucking up still needs doing.

Have hardly seen any shows, only 10 so far I think, and am refraining from reviewing them cos I don't want to say anything that might upset anyone (oh god, even saying that will make the friends whose shows I've seen think I hate their shows - I didn't, they were all brilliant. I just don't want to start making one show sound any better than another or damn by faint praise, not till the whole shebang is over, is that okay?)

Networking of a more nebulous kind went on in a great way last night at the Loft Bar, where I pulled me longest late night stint of this year, surrounded by bigger names than have been around for a while and some grand conversations. Best chat was with Stephen Merchant, about men, women, life the universe and He's Just Not That Into You, and I met Tav who manages the Ting Tings, and give full marks to chats with Sean Hughes, Hardeep Singh Kohli, Geoff & Marnie and a dozen other top folk some of whose names remaina blur. It was such a good night that I've decided to have an early night tonight since otherwise it could only be an anticlimax. I know, I know, I should network every available second, but sometimes you can just be trying too hard.

Next weekend is the TV festival and I must get all the delegates emailed by tomorrow morning. So that will be tonight's networking.

Oh god, sales figures are rubbish for tonight (following two more sellouts) so I'm afraid I must flyer some more. Laters.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Being Lofty

Really wanted a nifty title for this blog (not that it's of any great interest, don't get your hopes up, go read David Mitchell in the Guardian, he's brilliant*) and have ended up with a name that sounds like a Fringe show about the star of It Ain't 'Alf 'Ot Mum. (Mental note, must craft that into a pub quiz question: which sitcoms have two apostrophes in front of their words? See also Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em.)

I've found the Loft Bar (the slightly exclusive performers bar to which I have a pass) to have lost its novelty. Last weekend I enjoyed a Saturday night where I was part of a group that felt like the Algonquin Round Table. I met fascinating people I'd not met before, and some that I slightly knew and got to know better, with whom the conversation was brilliant, in the old illuminating sense not the more modern Fast Show meaning. Other even more famous people would drift around our table and we'd be the flame around which moths would flutter, you could leap from meeting to meeting and conversation to conversation, in the most enjoyable way. I felt like I was interesting to listen to, and I felt I fitted into all the chats I was having. It was like a choreographed corridor scene in ER or Casualty, with less blood.

Last night, one week on from my most enjoyable night at the Loft, I had a second night in a row where I felt the conversation never quite reached those, er, (mustn't say lofty heights, mustn't say lofty heights) those ...heights. Friday night had its high spots, like celebrating an interesting new person's birthday with champagne and I dearly hope I get to talk to that couple again, but both nights have had an awful lot of awkward moments where I'll be talking to a couple of people and they both leave at the same time, leaving me stranded and floating.

At those junctures I have been employing the technique of writing a text on my phone, which makes it look like I actually sought out this splendid isolation in order to have a moment alone. And usually, by the time I've written "I am twittering this because I don't know anyone else here" which, frankly, should be one of the standard templates in everyone's phone, I have caught someone else's eye and found a lost soul or a group to join.

But the gilt's gone off the gingerbread, and unless conversations introduce me to people I really benefit from knowing, either for the pleasure of their company or their significance in the industry and cynically manipulatable usefulness to me and my career, I'm not now enjoying talking for the sake of talking, or the commensurate drinking for the sake of drinking that accompanies it.

I've even had a couple of conversations where, I think, I've said the wrong thing or pissed someone off. No-one's been so rude as last year when Jim Rose of the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow 1 star The Scotsman (to give him his full title) turned his back on me mid conversation in the style of Naboo in the Mighty Boosh. That remains the most jaw droppingly rude I think anyone's been to me in civilized society. But last night I was talking to two Australian comedians I'd not spoken to before, we even had a table to ourselves, then they both excused themselves saying they had to leave early, and lo two minutes later I saw them clustered on the far side of the bar so they clearly had only wanted to get away from me, which can lower your self esteem no end.

Another conversation last night was with a woman who lectures in branding and marketing at a music school. When she said that branding and self-promotion was the most important thing about music I enjoyed the opportunity to have a non-Edinburgh conversation so took a deliberately contrary position, saying that I thought, in a school teaching music, that to consider branding and self-promotion to be the most important thing was a dreadful point of view. I looked forward to this being one of those beautiful dinner party conversations which follows the pattern of Marxist dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, sparkles for a few minutes then moves onto other topics, everyone having aired and exchanged opinions in a light hearted but possibly thought-stimulating debate. What I forgot was that my response is what everyone from the creative industries says when she says that, and she obviously has to spend every conversation defending her brand and marketing oriented corner against we airy fairy writers and performers who think art comes first. Plus I was probably about to be marginally less interesting than a spotty first year, so she just said "I really don't want to have this conversation" and that was that.

So, though I will inevitably find myself magnetised towards the Loft Bar again and again before the month is out, I'm wearying of the hope of finding the company that will lead me into great conversation once more. Maybe tonight it will happen and I shall feel that I am F Scott Fitzgerald and my companions are Dorothy Parker and Oscar Wilde. Or maybe I'll have an early night cos I'll have been flyering all day** and I have an early start tomorrow. Let us see.

Kev F, Sunday morning, Edinburgh


*Or, by the way, if you are a follower of blogs on Facebook I do find Michael Legge and Liam Mullone to be consistently worth reading, although you do wish they could be happy just for once, even if it'd give us all less to read. Also worth reading are Richard Herring's Warming Up, and Graham Linehan's Twitter feeds. On which subject the two people least worth reading on Twitter are Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross, fact.

** Last night was a total sellout. That makes 3 total sellouts in a row, five in total, three more shows that were just a tiny handful short of full, and our lowest audience so far has been 50. That contrasts to 2007 where we only had more than 50 punters in twice. I tell you, looking at my sales graph of a morning is one of the greatest pleasures of my day. But today we start the day with sales way down in the tens or twenties, so I must flyer, even though the rain will make it a very difficult task. Yep, branding and self-promotion are the most important thing in this game, fact.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Edinburgh shows reviewed

After being here in Edinburgh for ten days and only managing to see two shows so far, I tried to make up for it today by packing some shows into my schedule. My criteria were that I had to see the shows for free (nobody believes I'm on a budget, but sadly I am) and I was just going to see whatever took my fancy next. I was also quite amenable to flyering, being a champion exponent of the art myself.

So the first show I went to was chosen as much because I'd been well flyered for it as anything else. It was Helen Keen's show The Primitive Methodist Guide to Arctic Survival. A very enjoyable show, Helen is witty, literate and entertaining and tells stories inspired by her ancestor's actual arctic exploration, and looking at the history of such nonsense. The show includes some very nice shadow animation, and reminded me of the fine cartoon animation in Bec Hill's If You Can Read This My Cape Fell Off which I enjoyed last week.

I hoped to see a second show not long after Helen Keen's, lining up my first Free Festival show Oscar Wilde's Lord Arthur Savile's Crime. But when I turned up at the Counting House I found it was cancelled because, I was told, the performer had swine flu. And so the epidemic begins.

I next tried to get to There Are Jokes In It on the Free Fringe at Espionage, but it was packed to standing-and-not-breathing-room-only, so I headed back to the Gilded Balloon where the next show up was to be something with Nun in the title. But I met my good friend Dan March outside the venue and promised to go to his show. That wasn't for another 45 minutes, so I ended up killing a lot of time and doing a lot of to-ing and fro-ing before I saw my second show, Dan March's Goldrunner.

Goldrunner looks back over Dan's life in the light of his 1991 appearance on Blockbusters, and grabs the audiences from the start with very funny true stories delightfully performed and hilarious clips from the original show. And he had a deserved full house. I grabbed the very last free seat, which was a good thing, as my schedule would have been way off target if I hadn't got in.

I tried after that to go straight to A Team The Musical, but it was sold out, which is how I found myself in The Princess Cabaret, which is definitely the best show I've seen in Edinburgh so far this year.

Telling the stories of various Disney princesses from Beauty & The Beast to the Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid to Snow White in a series of comedy sketches and songs, it filled me with admiration and envy. I wish I'd written half of those sketches or songs. Genius ideas like how the Sleeping Beauty would react to the world 100 years later, to the reality of how rubbish Alladin is compared to his princess wife are dealt with excellently, and the songs have some great original music, cracking witty lyrics and brilliantly snappy delivery. Highly recommended.

3 shows in a day, and maybe I can do the same tomorrow (although I do have to flyer too, so we'll see). Now watching King Kong on ITV, and about to miss the ending of it in order to go do my show. Oh it's a hard life.

Edinburgh 2009, week one

I notice from the header that I've very quickly fallen into the trap of calling this month simply "Edinburgh". That is so the sort of thing these namby pamby southern comedians do when they come up here for the Fringe then never show their faces here the rest of the year. And it's precisely what I said I wouldn't do after I spent all of December in Edinburgh playing in Winter Wonderland. I was to say the Fringe, not just Edinburgh. Whatever, I've been doing Edinburgh for 10 days now and it has been brilliant.

Brilliant but different. For starters Heather came up for week one and will return for week three and on the day of our arrival we learnt our flat back home had had a big water leak, so that cast a big damp shadow over us, just as I was trying to get my show running and she was supposed to be having a holiday and doing an art installation. We've got it sorted by the way, and she's at home doing that now.

The other big difference from other Edinburghs - dammit other Fringe years - is that I've booked daytime work outside the Fringe. I've been delivering my Comic Art Masterclasses around Edinburgh, three days at Balerno High School's summer school then morning or afternoon visits to libraries in Granton, Muirhead, Corstorphine, Blackhall (Google them, they're Edinburgh's flyover estates and the kids are lovely), and at Edinburgh central library (where yesterday a kid in my class was sick, NB: kid vomit smells just like cat vomit, fact). I have more of the same in this coming week too.

All of which means I have to cut back on late nights, and can't do so much flyering in the day, something which is vital to promote your show. It also means my tradition of the last two years of producing daily Sock Puppet videos has totally gone out of the window. The Socks have maintained YouTube silence all the time we've been up here and I'm worried our fans might forget us.

Few such worries on the ground here in Edinburgh where the show has had a record year. As of yesterday we'd sold more tickets and taken more through the door than we had by the end of 2008's Fringe, and more than half the shows have been sellouts (some are technical sellouts, with a few empty seats for admin reasons, but four now have been total every-single-ticket-sold sellouts, and tonight's is, I believe, already the same).

Our TV profile got off to a great start with GMTV:


...and the BBC:


And Heather became the lead story in ArtMag:


And the icing on the cake of our first week has been the 4 star review in The Scotsman, along with a big photo:


So it's good for the show, looks like I'll be making money this year, now I really have to work out how I turn this success into getting the Socks onto the telly and into the big time where they deserve. I'm thinking on it. And being quite knackered. Having pulled a few good late nights at the Loft Bar, having some great conversations with hordes of great people far too numerous to mention, coupled with the classes and the flyering, which I do love and have done some good long stints of, I'm feeling a tad weary. So today I shall see some other peoples shows, and prepare for two more weeks of light entertainment self promotion.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Getting on the telly, the big conundrum

With the Edinburgh Fringe feeling like it's halfway through (though in fact it's only a third of the way in), I've got the show up and running, the audiences building, and our first very good review (which subsequent reviews may now try and detract from but I hope not. Did I mention I made our 4 stars from The Scotsman into a t shirt and wore it all day yesterday?), now is the time when you start asking yourself why you're doing this.

And I don't know why everyone else is doing this, performing at least one show a day for a month (and I'm the lazy one in the comedy camp, most people are pushing to do extra gigs, and Marcus Brigstocke who I spoke to yesterday is doing three shows, Early Edition, School For Scandal and his solo show, every single day), but I think I know why I'm doing it.

I have a comedy act, the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, that I've been developing for three or four years now, and I think it's funnier and has more potential than anything I've ever done before, and the audiences agree by coming in bigger and bigger numbers (a little later today we will have sold as many tickets as we sold in the entire month last year) as do the reviewers. So I want to promote that act.

And the obvious direction in which I want to promote them is the telly. Our touring shows have been doing increasingly well, bigger audiences and more venues year on year, and I aim to repeat that process in 2010, as well as doing more shows in London, which we keep failing to do, simply because regional theatres pay good money and dingy clubs in London often don't, especially if they've not heard of you yet. But telly remains the prize.

I know it is for everyone, so I know the competition is stiff and has possibly never been stiffer, there being an exponential growth on the number of comedians on the scene and a well known contraction in the TV industry and its budgets. But dammit we're good, we already prove how well we work on the small screen with every one of our YouTube videos (which reminds me we still haven't filmed anything while we've been up here), and we're cheap.

It's not like we're a four man sketch troupe that'll need a set as big as the Banana Splits to do their show, or a three man sketch troupe who'll need to recreate the Goodies set to do theirs, or a double act who insist on their whole first series taking place in a zoo. We're two socks. We're cheaper than animation to make, all we need to spend the money on is writing it and filming it.

So all I have to do is meet and impress the right people from The Telly and make sure they know what they're missing. Anybody know where to find them?

Thursday, 13 August 2009

4 star review in The Scotsman

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre is so delighted to have received a 4 star review in The Scotsman that I've just spent all morning making it into a t-shirt. Here it is, enjoy:



Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Obsessing about the figures - Edfringe 09

Yesterday I got a bit obsessed by my sales figures in a way that I must try and stop doing. The first few nights of my show (SFSPT Goes To Hollywood, Gilded Balloon 22.15)were sellouts. This was quite dazzlingly brilliant and unprecedented for my shows and gave me delusions of adequacy, so it was galling when, on day four, my sales dropped and I ended up only 75% full.

I realised afterwards the reason. Last year I had, like every other show in my venue, had my show booked in with the first 4 shows at half price and the next two as 2 for 1. This year, somehow, I'd forgotten to do that. That meant that on Friday and Saturday, when my show sold out, I did so at full price, while everyone else was only taking half as much. However for Sunday and Monday, which are harder days to sell on, punters were seeing everyone else's shows listed as 2for1 tickets, mking mine prohibitively expensive.

So, on Sunday, when I ended up selling fewer tickets than I'd sold for the same night last year, I ended up making nearly twice as much money cos all my punters had paid full whack this time.

However Monday 10th was looking so poor (in advance, by the start of the run, it was the only show to have sold zero) that I had the box office change its tickets to 2for1s so I'd cost the same as everyone else. The drawback with that strategy was that the punters would only know I cost 2 for 1 if I told them personally. Which is why yesterday saw me doing my longest stint of flyering of the Fringe so far.

I ended up selling not badly, one ticket more than the previous night. The irony is, since all those people bought their tickets on the day and as a result of my flyering, they would most probably have bought them at full price if asked, rather than 2 for 1. So I went and worked myself silly, then cost myself a couple of hunded quid in potential dosh.

Today all shows revert to a level playing field, with all offers removed, and all shows on their normal price for weekdays, a bit more expensive at weekends. And we'll see how well I sell with absolutely no flyering, as from 10 till 4 today I will be giving my Comic Art Masterclass in a couple of librarires, in Granton and Muirhouse.

Happy flyering everyone else.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Abscission - Heather Tweed's Edinburgh art installation

Heather Tweed, who some of you will know I've had the pleasure to be married to for many years, is up in Edinburgh working on an art installation project. It's been slighly held up by domestic tribulations, ie our flat back home got flooded the day we arrived in Edinburgh and that needed sorted, but she's still managed to make a start on the work, and this week it will start to kick off in earnest.

She's secreting small pieces in places around the centre of town, in small plastic bags with labels that explain what to do when you find the piece (you can do nothing, leave it somewhere else, text, send a photo, Hev explains it better.)

It's the lead story in the new issue of Edinburgh's Artmag. Read it online at http://artmag.co.uk/artnews/ or pick up a copy free at any Edinburgh gallery. Photos of work in progress and more info at Heather's website http://heathertweed.co.uk

There will be clues and alerts appearing soon about where to look for new pieces. Follow @heathertweed on Twitter, and hashtag #abscission

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Comic Art Masterclasses Edinburgh Aug 09

I will be presenting Kev F's Comic Art Masterclasses at libraries in and around Edinburgh as part of the Tales Of The City project, working with school age pupils to produce a comic in a couple of hours and pass on some of my expertise from 20 year writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel comics, Viz, 2000AD et al. There may still be places available, so do please contact the libraries themselves if you know anyone who could be interested in taking part. Here's where I'll be:

Tuesday 11 Aug - Granton Library 10am, Muirhouse Library 1pm
Weds 12 Aug - Corstorphone Library 10am, Blackhall Library 1pm
Thurs 13 Aug - Edinburgh Central Library 2pm
Fri 14 Aug - Edinburgh Central Library 2pm

Monday 17 Aug - Morningside Library 10am, Moredun Library 1pm
Tues 18 Aug - South Queensferry Library 10am, Kirkliston Library 1pm
Friday 21 Aug - McDonald Rd Library 2pm

Masterclass examples at comicfestival.co.uk
Tales Of The City

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Socks on BBC Edinburgh montage clip

Get us, we've made it into the BBC's Edinburgh teaser clip on the website, and they've put us in the headline:

Socks t shirts available, in Edinburgh only

Attention Socks fans, I have a limited edition of Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre 2009 t shirts with me here in Edinburgh, and you can buy them from me, direct for just £12 each. The sizes are limited to what's in stock.

I have:
Small (1 left)
Medium (3 left)
Large (3 left)
XL (2 left)
XXL (1 left)
Ladfit L (1 left)
Ladyfit M (1 left)

And they look like this:



To get one you'll need to text me on 07931 810858 saying what size you want, and we'll arrange a pick up time. Ideal pick up location will be outside the Gilded Balloon where I flyer, and this weekend would be the best time to get one. Get them while they exist.

Also I have found, in the same box, the last remaining 2007 design t shirts, in very odd sizes. I have:
Ladyfit S (3 left)
Ladyfit M (1 left)
XL (1 left)
Kid aged 9-10 (1 left)

These too are £12 each, cash only, text me to get one. They look like this, but on black and worn by someone younger (I don't now who this guy is in the photo, I got it off the internet):

Thanks

Kev F, Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre
07931 810858

Edinburgh first weekend

I may be the only comedian in Edinburgh actually awake at this time, and I've certainly not adjusted to Edinburgh Time in any way. Hev and I came away from the Loft Bar last night before 1am and felt it was getting a bit late.

This is the first year I've combined doing an Edinburgh Fringe show with doing a, sort of, day job. For three days I've been teaching my Comic Art Masterclass at Balerno High School. Only 2 hours each day, though with the drive out and back it's taking me out from 12.30 to 4.30, time which in previous years would have been filled with flyering the show and filming Socks Diary videos on the street.

In 2007 and 08 I filmed a Socks diary every single day of the festival, but this year I haven't even started one, and with this schedule I can't see it happening in a hurry. For as well as the day work, which this coming week sees me doing two libraries a day, from 10 till 3.30 plus travel, for four days, there has been the flooding of our flat back home.

This being the first year Hev has accompanied me for week one (usually she arrives in week 3), little could have been more damaging to a holiday than your flat being flooded by a leak from upstairs so bad it gets reported by the flat below you, about which you can do nothing but worry and make phone calls. A lot of time, phone money, and angst has been expended on this problem, which will continue to hang over us long after Hev goes back next Thursday. She doesn't yet know if she'll be able to turn the lights on without blowing the place up, so untold horrors no doubt await.

On the other side of the coin it's been the best Edfringe yet for me and the Socks. We've had one total sellout followed by two technical sellouts (5 seats left unsold and I think that's a problem about releasing venue or press tickets which I can sort out) and we've already been on GMTV. The shows have gone really well, and I mean really well. After we changed the content between shows one and two, losing two weaker sketches and replacing them with one from the touring show, it has come together beautifully and hopefully we can keep this up.

And last night Hev and I had a barbeque on our roof terrace. The flat may be smaller than previous years (and that was a cause of some misery before it got drowned out, as t'were, by the flat back home's problems), but a roof terrace that looks out over the roofs of the Royal Mile round to the Mound, to Calton Hill, to the Firth to Arthur's Seat and round to the Mile again is unbeatable. And we had it to ourselves, gorgeous.

And the weather, though it tempts fate to mention it, has been incredible. Hot and sunny all day since we arrived. Remembering we left behind a Bristol where I felt it hadn't stopped raining for a month (and it was Somerset's wettest July since records began in the 19th century) this is a treat we can't underestimate.

Today I have the annual Edinburgh tradition of Parking The Car, ie taking it somewhere outside of the parking fee zone (which extends every year) and walking a loooong way back (then planning the bus journeys to take me to all next week's day jobs). Then flyering. Tonight's show is selling well and should, fingers crossed, be full by tonight, but the rest of the week has a long way to go.

Especially Monday the bloody 10th. It is still the only show not to have sold a single bloody ticket. It's inexplicable. I've put the show on a 2-for-1 offer, and will plug it like buggery all weekend. Luckily I bloody love flyering and am actually actively looking forward to getting stuck in.

Here we go....

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Socks on GMTV

Our half a second on GMTV:


Or as it'll say on next year's flyers, "stars of GMTV"

Also we're recommended as a Five Pound show by Edinburgh Festival Guide

- not sure it's factually accurate, but bring it on!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Not a good start to Edinburgh

Pride comes before a fall. In the run up to this year's Edinburgh Fringe I've been enjoying good preview shows and good ticket sales, and had lots of lovely work up until the event meaning I can (almost) afford to do it this year. Hev in turn was about to come up for the start of the Fringe in order to do an art installation in town, so all promising all round. But, I admit, we were both excessively nervous when we set off.

A perfect drive up, which I think I also gloated about on Twitter. Then the fun starts. The flat is not very good. Can't call it crap (stayed in worse personally) but it's the first year Hev will be up here for so long and the last two year's flats have been excellent. This year's is smaller, grodier, in poor state of repair, tiny kitchen, studenty in look, and though I'd probably not notice, she's not enjoying it for starters.

The stress of that compounded on yesterday meaning that, by the time of my tech rehearsal, my nerves were jangling, and trying to get a drink after the show was harder. Simply wanted to get a can of beer to take back to the flat. This is impossible after 10pm so had to go for a drink, on my own, in the Hullaballo Gardens feeling pathetic while Hev waited in flat. Shattered by end of first draining day.

Then woken at 7.20 this morning by neighbours in flat above us back home. There's been a lek so bad it's gone into the flat below us. And of course we've left none of them with a key. Our friends who usually look after our cat have key, but we now have no cat so we don't even know if they're in town. We wake to the thought of our flat looking like the Titanic, and 9 days before we can do anything about it. Oh brilliant start to the bloody season.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Sitcom Trials at Edfringe

I almost forgot, in the excitement of preparing my own show, but I'll also be in Edinburgh representing The Sitcom Trials.

The 10th Anniversary Season of The Sitcom Trials is looking for entries, and in Edinburgh I'll be particularly interested in seeing sketch teams and writer-performers who want to submit material that they intend performing themselves.

The bulk of the entries into the Trials are from writers. Our producer appoints directors who cast, rehearse and stage the sitcoms. However there will be those of you looking to bring the finished package to the Trials as writer-performers, so it will be vital for us to be able to assess whether that will be suitable for inclusion in the show.

So, anyone interested in entering writer-performed material, who is performing in Edinburgh and wants to be seen, contact me on this thread, or text 07931 810858 or email kevf@sitcomtrials.co.uk

For the terms and conditions of the Sitcom Trials go to [url]http://sitcomtrials.co.uk[/url]. Deadline for entries is September 6th.

Oh and I'll be happy to meet writers who just want to chat. I'll be the guy with socks on his t shirt.
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