Sunday, 27 May 2018

The vile views of 'comedian' Russell Bland

If you're thinking of booking or working with comedian Russell Bland (yes, Bland, not the more famous near-namesake), you may wish to read this public Facebook post he put online on the night of the UEFA Cup Final between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid.

Caution: There are highly offensive comments made by Russell Bland in these screenshots, many of which are racist, others mock the disabled, Hillsborough disaster victims and Manchester Arena bombing victims. Obviously I do not endorse these views.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

GSOH: Joy sticks

One of my favourite past-times is to play computer games. Not so much the modern stuff, but things from the 1980s and 1990s. It's nice that the X Box and PlayStation can throw us into near-photo-realistic 3D worlds, but when much of that is concentrated on endless rehashes of the same old FIFA and Call Of Duty, I prefer to regress back to a time when electronic gaming was genuinely inventive and packed full of interesting quirks.

Making a 200-mile round trip to a comedy night isn't unusual for me, I've performed up in Edinburgh, Liverpool and Portsmouth over the past twelve months. What is unusual is going a long distance just to watch a stand-up show as a punter. Why would I pop over to Gloucestershire to do that? Well, the absence of a decent segue from the previous paragraph should give you a clue.

The arcade at Smokey Joe's in Cheltenham

Lemon Rocket Comedy takes place on a Friday each month at an American-diner-themed restaurant in Cheltenham. Along with the neon signs, chequered floor and vintage Coca Cola ephemera to make you feel like you're in an episode of Happy Days, there's an aspect which appeals to me. Nearly a dozen arcade game machines, mostly from the 1980s, are sitting around the place.

Like the proverbial moth to a flame, arcades were a magnet for my attention back in the days before I owned a computer. A rainy fortnight in the Welsh village of Clarach Bay had me venturing frequently to the holiday camp arcade to hurl 20p coins into Pac Land and Kung Fu Master. I have more memories about the third round of Wonder Boy than I do of anything releated to Aberystwyth.

These days, seasides still have arcades but they're woefully geared towards to extracting as much money from tourists as possible. Hence 90% of their space is given over to dismal and joy-free mechanism aimed at the gullible, such as fruit machines, prize grabbers and automated bingo. If you're lucky, you may find a few games such as the fantastic Mario GP. It's sadly more likely you'll come across tedium-inducing light-gun shooters like the Time Crisis franchise or reworked efforts of Flappy Bird.

The decline of arcade gaming is probably down to home computers and consoles catching up in technology terms around the 1990s. Around mid-to-late Eighties, the arcade was arguably at its peak, with screens hurling multicoloured pixels into your eyeballs at an astonishing rate, with games such as Out Run, Space Harrier and R Type showing off a technical prowess that your Atari 2600 or Commodore 64 could only make a 'will this do?' attempt at trying to deliver the same experience.

Laura Monmoth deals with a bunch of pricks
The advent of the PlayStation not only matched and excelled the quality you'd expect in the arcades, it also threw itself towards an adult audience. The prolific Disneyified offerings from Nintendo had given the impression that gaming was a kids' interest, but we entered a new era, of Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto. The arcade games couldn't compete with that and had entered that downward spiral of repetition, spewing out ten billion versions of Street Fighter 2 in lieu of taking a punt on anything creative. Suddenly, your home console was the lead machine, with a few titles making their way to the arcade a long while later, rather than the other way round.

I was sitting in Smokey Joe's this January purely to watch a themed night of retrogaming comedy. Cheltenham-based booker Sal Drummond had made a Facebook appeal for comics who did material on vintage games. Naturally, many of us in the midlands put forward Laura Monmoth's name, on the basis of her LGBTQZX+ show which deals with growing up in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. I had compered a showing in Birmingham, which was simply astonishing.

Flatteringly, my name was put forward too, but I had to decline, having only two minutes worth of retrogaming material that I've only ever used in MC mode. Still, being alerted to the existence of this night had me among the first to buy a ticket. Comedy routines about vintage gaming? I'm there.

Tony Chiotti kicks off the show

It was a good idea to have turned up early. I got to play on a lot of the games for absolutely nowt, and there are more choices than the rather limited offerings at Southend's Happidrome. Laura and I had a bash at Gauntlet. I'm sad to say I'm still crap at it.

The night was completely sold out, and kicked off with American host Tony Chiotti doing an in-depth take on old games, followed by Berkshire comedian Sam Michael doing a brilliant opener, which centred on a physical reenactment of when you play Grand Theft Auto for the first time.

All of which probably wouldn't have landed as well at a generic comedy night, but this was certainly not full of inaccessible subjects. The comedy works as well to the layman as well as the hardcore geek clutching onto his rare Japanese Sega Saturn discs.

Oh, and in a way, I was part of the night. A few days before, I was asked to provide interval music, which I compiled from various home computer, console and arcade games. My bias is towards the ZX Spectrum and Amiga, the gaming platforms I grew up with, but I have enough knowledge to throw in a few familiar sounds from the SNES, Commodore 64 and Sega Mega Drive.

While I wouldn't be on that stage (until two months later, which is another story in itself) it was nice to overhear folk in the audience trying to guess the games. Exclamations of "that's Golden Axe!" and "sure this is Double Dragon" made me really chuffed. The compere touched upon it too, and this opened up a conversation on British games, a subject not too familiar as the host grew up in the USA.

I'm pretty fond of one woman in the audience educating the crowd on the finer points of 'Dizzy Egg' (the Dizzy range of Codemasters games that were a huge hit on the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 platforms). To hear this being explained to someone who had no idea about the adventure-loving ovoid character, just provided more laughs.

Game for a laugh
The night concluded with yet another reason for going along. The full performance of LGBTQZX+. At this point I had only witnessed it at general comedy nights, now we'd be seeing the full 12" version. Laura was nervous about whether this would work, but quickly realised how the audience were very retrogaming-savvy, so we got all the bells and whistles this time.

Any pre-show nerves were absolutely evaporated as Laura captured the awe of the audience. She had toured this thing through the Edinburgh Fringe yet tonight had more people to play to than the attendance of her entire combined festival run. She deservedly stormed it.

This also put a lot of confidence in me as I'd be back to this venue in March, performing as my Wetherspoons-employed alter-ego Trisha Timpson. That's sod all to do with old computer games, but it was a theme-less night. I can't imagine Trisha wanting to go near an arcade machine, unless it was a certain 1983 effort from Bally Midway.

Friday, 6 April 2018

GSOH: Coronation Treat

My hobby of yelling rubbish at strangers in the hope of invoking laughter, has stepped up a few levels over the past few years. It's even had quite the gear change in the first few months of 2018. A few points on where I'm currently at...

  • Running five regular comedy nights in the midlands
  • Have done paid weekend work for Mirth Control
  • Helped a club break a Guinness World Record
I'm not getting massively rich off this but then again, it's more than just 'beer money' that's coming in each month. While I like having comedy nights to run, I really do enjoy playing Trisha Timpson, my idiotic barmaid character which has expanded from a ten spot into a nice fifteen.

Last month, for the Mirth Control gig, I had to drive the headliner to/from his London base - a pro comic whose stand-up has been on BBC One. Our styles are certainly not similar, what with him being a straight act with aggressive rants and me being a dippy character in bright red lipstick. To say he was a bit dubious of me as I was putting on my wig, would be an understatement.

Yet I did really well and the drive back gave me nearly two hours worth of complements.

Trisha Timpson at The Queen's Head in Peterborough

I'm back blogging because I'm pretty stunned at the events of last night. I did a Peterborough gig which I only learnt was a competition a few days before. The free pint and pizza for each act was a nice touch, then I discovered the top prize was £150 cash.

A bunch of noisy Prosecco-supping women in the front row may well be a factor as to why my wallet has a wad of notes in it this morning. I'm the winner of this inaugural competition, which is astounding considering the tough competition.

I didn't know who else was on the bill. I'd dragged up early and waited for other acts to arrive. I was sitting with the Corby-based Alyn Ashby when David Luck walked into the room.

"Oh, we best pack up and go now" I remarked. You see, David is an immense talent, only a year into stand-up and his dry pun-packed routine is smashing it all over the place. I first saw him when he was a last-minute replacement for my Long Buckby semi-pro comedy night and I was a bit nervous as to whether this newcomer would satisfy the folk who paid £20 to be there.

With a clipboard in his hands and a persona that is almost 'rabbit in the headlights', you'd probably think he was a nervous first-timer. Yet he's got charm and self-depreciation in the right amounts. I've never seen him do a bad gig. He lives three miles away from me and I'm really pleased that my county's produced such an excellent comedian.

The wine-soaked hecklers
David kicked off the first section to a very strong start. The last comedian in that bit was also bringing the house down. After the break, the audience were joined by a group of six Prosecco-wielding women who were clearly out for partying mode. If it weren't for their casual wear, I'd have assumed they were a hen party. They did have some inflatable crowns (fitting for a pub called The Queen's Head) and were very chatty, trying to make the night about themselves. A comedian's nightmare, essentially.

Now, in these situations you can ignore punters like that and appeal to those who are there for the comedy, "Never talk to the disruptors" seems to be sound advice, but there are times when they need to be dealt with and so a few other acts did acknowledge their existence in the front row and hurled a few put-downs their way. I could tell the rest of the audience enjoyed these.

I was up after the next break and thought up a few lines aimed at getting them to quieten down while not being especially cruel. I wasn't going to launch into these, probably wasn't going to use them as the MC was doing okay at tempering their rowdy nature.

However, they were still delivering 'director's commentary' when I was on, so I launched into the strongest of the bespoke put-downs I'd come up with in the interval, as you can see in this video...

The women did leave in disgust, but not due to me/Trisha. Another act had been quite brutal, saying what we and most of the audience were thinking. This unfiltered diatribe gained cheers and caused the walk-out.

When it came to the audience clap-off at the very end of the night, it was really tense. I'd concluded David Luck would be topping it, although it was very close with another act. The sound of the audience confirmed what I thought. I'd had a good time and hey, I didn't win a competition the previous night, so it's just another gig struck off.

However, I gained a pretty strong response when Trisha's name was read out. Astonishingly, David and a few other brilliant acts were out of the running as the MC decided to make myself and another act go to a tie-break.

Queen Bitch
After about three attempts to get the audience to choose a definitive winner, it was still too close to call. (Although I'd personally concede the other act really had the edge.) The two of us were declared joint winners, so we got £75 each.

Some of you are probably wondering why I'm not naming last night's co-winner. There are - ahem - vocational reasons for this and so my lips are sealed. Honestly, it's not to big myself up. I'd like to say I was the outright winner, but I can't lie.

Still, £75 is fantastic. I did mention on Facebook before the gig that the free pint and pizza was reward enough.

I was already chuffed from the previous weekend's shenanigans that took place at the World's Longest Running Comedy Night in the Atic at Banbury, as my 17 minutes of Trisha was part of those 96 hours. (On an mathematical basis, I am currently 0.3% of a world record breaker.)

To go from what was a daft joke at a comedian's birthday party two years ago, to this, is pretty astonishing. I didn't think I'd find my comic speciality in a wig and miniskirt, but that's the way it goes.

Friday, 19 January 2018

GSOH: New Year Delight

Much of the western world likes to celebrate a four-figure digit of their calendar changing. It's supposed to inspire you to reboot your life, give things a fresh start.

Unfortunately, when Pope Gregory XIII instigated our calendar system, I don't think he took into account that the end/start takes place at possibly the bleakest and coldest time of the 365.25 days on offer. I'm usually nesting under a thick duvet nursing a cold, which is how I saw in 2017, and 2018.

You can make great plans for the 'new you' when 1st January hits, I always do, yet I'm often sidetracked by unexpected opportunities and pressures. I'm still freelancing where I was just before Christmas, but not complacent about it lasting much longer, plus there's been more evening work offered to me as of last week.

Anyway, let's concentrate on comedy, which is what these GSOH blogs are about. On the first Wednesday of the year, comedian/promoter Colin Hayward announced there was a spot going at the monthly Coffee Aroma comedy night in Lincoln the next day, which I grabbed. I'd got over my cold and all that stood between me and resuming as Trisha Timpson was a long shave. Oh, and a 100-mile drive.

The only time I've gigged in Lincoln before this, was also for Colin, at his Tap & Spile night. The line-up had the amazing musical comedian Friz Frizzle, who I saw in Leicester a while back. It was also one comedian down, so after doing my Trisha act, I scrubbed my war paint off, threw on a t-shirt and jeans and then did an old straight ten spot. It's nice to double up as yourself.

The organist Friz Frizzle entertains

The return to Lincoln, and the resumption of lipstick application, was a great decision. I had an phenomenal time back behind the mic. It's a well-lit room, so I could see the audience very clearly, and this time noted that it was the women who were laughing the hardest. Specifically, the rather rude bits I do (from a female perspective) generated a lot of laughter and quite a few heads being thrown back.

One superb thing to see when you're out and about, is a new comedian smashing it. 'The Angry Scotsman' Jim Tweedle certainly did that in the middle spot, with an astonishing stage presence. I assumed he was fairly experienced, but was really surprised to learn he'd just done his third gig.

When a newbie does it that well, my assumption is that they've had experience with speaking in front of large crowds. Teachers tend to make good comedians. My suspicions were affirmed. Jim's a cracking comic.
Jock and roll
As for headliner Stephen 'Friz' Frizzle, well, he just went out and smashed it. I'll come out and say it, musical comedy isn't a favourite of mine, the likes of Instant Sunshine being a baffling turn-off whenever I came across them on telly or radio, and when the Two Ronnies did an innuendo-filled number, I'd mentally tune out.

That's not to say I hate the genre. After all, the first time I performed comedy on television, it was in a musical sketch. There are some good musical acts on the midlands circuit, like Hannah Silvester and the shuddering mirthquake that is Rob Kemp's The Elvis Dead.

Frizzy Rascal, as Stephen doesn't like to be known, has a spectacular repertoire of pop song covers with new lyrics, covering a startling array of topics. From Claire's Accessories to cannibalism, the affable keyboard warrior weaves together a tapestry of laugh-inducing musical mockery. Book him for your comedy nights.

Happy New Beer
I'd conclude this blog entry on that positive note, but my ego has to go down a few notches. Firstly, I did my make-up in the dark, assuming my smartphone's torch feature would be the only light in there. Colin surprised me by turning a switch on.

It was a nice start to the year, having my first gig be a paid one. Although when I got to my car, the windscreen had the unwelcome adornment of a parking ticket, wiping out what I earned that night. Grrr.

Trying to sum up this experience with a pun on Linkin Park is just a tedious exercise, so I'll allude to the second gig - right at the other side of the country - being covered in my next blog entry and just end this overly long sentence here, concluding this post with no viable payoff.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

GSOH: Just Twenty Seventeen, Part Four Of Four

I mentioned in the last entry how a couple of punters came to a gig because they heard me on a local community radio station, and I was just a mere support act.

What I haven't mentioned was that a few times in 2017, I appeared on national radio, talking about comedy and old computer games. I put in about three calls to The Late Night Alternative, hosted by former comedian Iain Lee, and got on each time.

Nobody came to my gigs out of this, but I remember after the first call that I got a few tweets and texts from friends who happened to be listening.

One of the country's most critically-acclaimed comedians, with Stewart Lee
I had an excellent birthday present from Samantha, who took me to see Stewart Lee at Northampton's Derngate theatre. He is my favourite comedian, he does comedy about comedy and shoves in shedloads of self-depreciation. That's right up my street.

There are a few idiots who take his on-stage persona to be the real thing. It's definitely an exaggeration, he's quite warm when being interviewed, as my writer chum and childhood friend Ryan Lambie told me.

Post-gig, I wanted to meet Stewart, having not seen him live for 22 years. I almost thought about showing him my viral tweet that mocked him and Richard Herring the previous month.

I clam up when meeting heroes, I don't want to come across all fan-boy-like, and I suspect that just adds to it more. Nevertheless, managed to snap up some DVDs and have him sign and pose with some Chuckle Pit flyers. He wished me luck with the night, which seemed like he thought I was going to do comedy for the first time. Well, it's not as if someone of my comedic stature would be on his radar.

The flyering campaigns had worked magnificently for Chuckle Pit, to the point where not everyone could get a seat. We had people standing at the bar because it was so packed.

Chuckle Pit, scoring more than a packed house
It was more than just flyering that worked out for us. A couple of niche social networks had also brought in the punters, and so had the cheap-but-very-effective 'table topper' idea.

At this point in my life, I was looking to get a new day job, but the freelancing work I was getting (and at time of writing, still am), was proving to be very good for my bank balance. I didn't want to go out gigging in case the freelance work came to an end and belts needed to be tightened (as it eventually will), so I turned down gig offers in October, stuck with Chuckle Pit and Laugh Yer Head Off. I didn't even go to other people's comedy nights, petrified at running out of dosh.

I'd been covering every gig I've done in an online note-keeper and decided to represent these jaunts visually with a map of Great Britain, colouring in each county based on what I've done there.

  • Yellow if I had performed comedy there.
  • Green if I'm going to perform comedy there.
  • Orange if I've performed and promoted comedy there.

The map currently stands like this...
The Pete Prodge Comedy Map™
It's been a motivator for doing far-flung gigs, reaching new audiences and getting to see acts you'd not see on the usual circuit. Or you could say it's a crazy idea fuelled by Asperger's Syndrome. What I do know is that I'm happier doing than going off to watch away football matches in the rain. The annoying thing was my predicament meant my plan to turn more of this country yellow, would have to be put on hold.

Comedy is something that doesn't really leave you. I'd missed doing Beerhouse Comedy, which as my monthly open spot showcase, was a nice 'nursery slope' where I could see new comedians and experienced folk trying new stuff.

Freelancing near Milton Keynes meant I could pop over to JAM Comedy's open spot night again in November. I had no intention to do a spot and certainly hadn't the gear to be Trisha Timpson, but it's so informal I ended up doing a quick straight spot as myself.

Martin Huburn asked me to do his Barge And Barrel night as Trisha again, so after nearly three months away from applying lipstick and waiting for eyeliner to dry, I was heading up the M6.

In that fallow period my legs returned to a natural hairy state, it took about two hours to shave them to a feminine state. Yeah, I always cover them up with thick black tights and I'm hardly convincing as a woman, but it's all about making an effort. My legs are the most feminine thing about me, so may as well capitalise on that while the rest of me looks like a half-arsed Brian Molko tribute act.

Bar made
I arrived in Tipton and did a pretty good set, shaking off the 'rust' and recalling the routines wasn't a problem. There's still life in the old girl, although 2018 will have me approaching comedy from a different direction. I'm not packing away the skirt and wig forever of course.

Also in November, I tackled something else that was well overdue. As some know, the year started off with really nasty things being said about me, publicly, by another comedian. I'm not going to waste time outlining this. Hence why I concluded the matter, it's done.

I don't regret a word I said, but the negativity went on way too long and I should have just ignored it much much earlier. Like, in January. If you find yourself in this situation, Jay Islaam's Online Marketing For Comedians blog post covers exactly what you should be doing in its bonus tip.

Comedy is a rare industry - being positive really does help, and you find competitors helping each other. I'm no stranger to this, giving out access to my three local MeetUp group subscriptions to other promoters. You find the most-loved comedians work together, hand out free advice and help support fledgling nights. I've refined how my nights work after visiting comedians have pointed me in the best direction, and I'm keen to spread this over to others.

If we all put on the best live comedy nights we can, it improves the public's perception of this entertainment. You have to remember there are still people thinking "comedians in a pub, free entry, can't be any good then", so you have to be up for convincing them that you have a great event for them to see.

Gong show
Having been off the circuit (save for my own gigs) for quite a while, it was nice to enjoy The Midlands Comedy Awards before Christmas. Founded and run by comedian Jay Islaam - who by his sheer conviction to ethics refuses to have himself nominated - the annual night is more than just a get-together for comedians and promoters. To be frank, it's an absolute roasting.

The 2016 affair, held in Nottingham's Canal House, was pretty brutal, lots of in-jokes about the scene. Plus, in some pre-arranged spots, comedians got to 'steal' each others' material. People outside the comedy industry wouldn't have got this, but hey, this wasn't a night for them. It was lovely to see Paul Palmer's take on Roger Swift's act and then see Roger Swift do Jay Islaam's Bam Bam Sheikh routine.

Rather naively I never went to the 2015 ceremony where my night Beerhouse Comedy was up for an award because I had already committed to doing a Club Smashing spot at The Cookie in Leicester. I had a hunch we'd not win, and was sadly proven right.

Anyway, this is about 2017 and a lot of the shortlist was absolutely dominated by Rob Kemp's Elvis Dead show, and rightfully so. The Midlands Comedy Awards took place in Leicester, a city where the Elvis Dead had established itself with a standing ovation.

The one from the ParaPod podcast who isn't Ian Boldsworth
Much of the 'Joke Thieves' concept was retained from the previous year. We had compere Barry Dodds really roasting a lot of the circuit over 2017's happenings. Much of it well deserved, but, in my view, it crossed the line a couple of times.

Double act Jack Kirwan and Andrew McBurney delivered a very acerbic set, again touching on what had been going on the midlands comedy scene over the past 12 months. No shortage of material there. All in all, a fantastic night out and I always laugh loudest at this more than anything else in the year. It was no shock to see Rob Kemp do so well.

Trisha would have one last outing of 2017, over in Birmingham, at the request of Laura Monmoth. I was to be a support act, along with Harvey Hawkins and Stu Woodings. This was to be the final showing of Laura's LGBTQZX show - something I had always meant to see in full, as it was the combination of comedy and retrogaming. Those are two subjects close to my heart.

Alas, the compere for this gig had pulled out just days before, leaving Laura to ask me to MC it. Now, as I've outlined in this blog, previous turns at MCing as Trisha had not done well. I still said yes, because I could at least build on improvisational skills if the prepared stuff failed.

Laura Monmoth's block party
This was a weird gig in that the LGBTQZX show had already been at the venue (The Gunmaker's Arms) a few times before and that there didn't seem to be that many people around to see it. Ah well, I've played to single-figure audiences before and managed to have a good night. Then something strange happened, in that we suddenly had a crowd in minutes before we started.

When you guest MC, you throw bits of your set in here and there as well as chatting with the audience. Trisha Timpson really landed with the crowd, I got strong laughs for the first bit of the act and even stronger laughs by simply having conversations with the first few rows and sheer ad-libbing off that.

Quite a surprise to learn how the character of a dim-witted barmaid would work under improvisation. I'm pleased with how this went, proving there's more scope to Trisha than the standard ten-minute act I do. Maybe one day I will finalise that hour-long show for her, her colleague and her boyfriend (the intention is for me to play all parts).

LGBTQZX is a fantastic show, accessible not just to ZX-Spectrum-obsessed nerds like me, it can work for those who have zero interest in a Kempston joystick.

Talking of retrogaming, a few comedians had noted my interest in 80s and 90s computer/console/arcade games and recommended me for a specially themed night at Lemon Rocket Comedy in January. That was really nice of them, but truth be told, I don't have much in the way of material, save for about a minute's worth of jokes. I naturally put Laura Monmoth forward for the role and I certainly wasn't the only one to have done so. (It's a goer - Fri 12th Jan in Cheltenham, I'm there as a punter.)

Sal Drummond at Chuckle Pit
One of the people behind Lemon Rocket Comedy is comedian Sal Drummond. She was part of the line-up for the final Chuckle Pit of the year and had wanted me to do Lemon Rocket so I could at least colour in Gloucestershire yellow on my comedy map.

I have to be honest, December is not a nice time for live comedy and I don't relish the prospect of running a night so close to Christmas. Pubs end up full of the once-a-year drinkers, there's a lot more noise than usual. I'm sure it's very good for venues' turnover of course, hence why it's a bit of tough situation when it comes to taking on those gigs. Make no mistake, doing stand-up around Christmas is about ten times harder than it normally is.

A hand-picked line-up of experienced comedians was used for Chuckle Pit's 22nd December date. It was a difficult one to do, battling against conversations going on from the newbies, but we just about got through it. We had a decent turnout again, so, I've been very pleased with how this night has performed throughout 2017.

That should have been it for my year in comedy, but shortly after doing Chuckle Pit, I was asked over by a local micropub to consider a new monthly comedy night.

I had to really think about it, as 1) It's a very tiny space, a literal micropub. 2) Is it just far away enough from Chuckle Pit's venue? The couple who run it wouldn't appreciate me setting up competition for them.

Well, I had decided to make the micropub's small size into a selling point rather than an apology. I've themed the comedy night's brand around the compact space, there's no point trying to hide it. It can work in its favour. It's going to be open spot only, so it's not like it's taking on Chuckle Pit, and at the edge of town with a menu targeted at real ale drinkers, it's not really in the same market.

It is what it is, a small pub doing free entry open spot comedy for an hour. Not that different to how I started with Beerhouse Comedy. The comedians have been booked for Thu 25th January, we'll see how it goes. I'll start to publicise this night over the coming weekend.

If that's not enough, there's another pub in my county that's open to doing comedy and I really need to go off and sort that out, it may well be another paid night to run.

For 2018, there is the rather annoying concern of paying the bills. The past few months have seen me earn a really tidy sum from freelancing. The pessimist in me points out it's a finite number, money has that habit of running out. Do I continue in complete self-employment or do I get another day job? That's the dilemma I'm grappling with.

I am at a point, having seen my creativity pay off very well in the day job as well as comedy, that I should properly build on those skills. A chunk of the money I've earnt is going to be invested so I can take on bigger challenges and be generally more attractive to businesses. Anyway, that's my own thing to take on, I'm just musing out loud.

Trisha at the Young Gifted And Terrified Cabaret Cult, July 2017

2017 taught me...

  • Never be lazy about comedy night promotion
  • Keep going for the weird gigs
  • Playing an idiot is really awesome
  • Dealing with actual idiots only leads to misery, just move on
  • Stick to the Cowgate/Royal Mile part of Edinburgh during the Fringe
  • Don't leave it to the end of a year to write about your antics in comedy, you end up with very long posts that not everyone will read to the end and just cut down on this sentence, it's way too long you doofus
Right, here I am on the precipice of an uncertain future. Let's see if I come out of this shining in twelve months time. I try to start a new year with fresh plans for comedy, but usually, I end up taking a different (yet still fresh) route.

GSOH: Just Twenty Seventeen, Part Three Of Four

More paid work had come along for me, due to the Trisha Timpson character. 'She' was booked to play alongside two other comedians at an LGBT festival tent in Cambridge on a Saturday evening in July.

Trisha was also down for doing a spot at a charity event in Milton Keynes that afternoon, so this meant remaining 'en femme' as I drove from gig to gig.

The charity do was a tough one, with it being a mix of music and comedy - lots of live bands, separated by a few minutes of stand-up. This kind of thing rarely works out, there's quite a 'gear change' from live music to comedy (and vice versa). My fears were confirmed as the bulk of the audience didn't pay attention to the comedians. There was a pocket of people near the front who were laughing, but, as you'd expect, people wanted to chat, smoke and drink in between the bands.

These events have a better chance of working out if you keep the music to one section, and comedy to another. I must stress it wasn't the booker's fault, who didn't want it to be music-comedy-music-com. I just think some organisers look at the big light entertainment specials on television and reckon "ah, they've had Girls Aloud followed by Peter Kay, we can do that on our scale".

What works in a television studio, where the seated audience is familiar with the acts, does not work in a pub. Still, did my bit for charidee, and then jumped in my car to head over to Cambridge.

Festival fun
The LGBT event was helmed by a very tall drag queen, and is aimed at everyone. It attracts families and drinkers, as well as the local LGBT community. There was to be a lot of cabaret, but unlike the earlier event, there was a clear section of stand-up comedy, with myself being one of three comedians.

There was certainly a lot of colourful and kooky entertainment going on. Four women delivered 'pop power ballad yoga', a tongue-in-cheek aerobics performance that gave license to dance to 80s anthems in the skimpiest and tightest of outfits. Headline act the Fleurettes were a mix of drag, dance and physical comedy. There were more down-to-earth things, like a transgender choir.

I was really pleased to be on the bill and looking forward to being on a massive stage in front of over 200 people - my biggest audience yet. However, there was a slight twinge of guilt, in that I'm neither L, G, B, or T. (Well, maybe a lower case T.) Getting a backstage wristband at a festival is something I've dreamed of, but there was this nagging thought that, as a straight cis-gendered male, I felt like I'd gatecrashed the gig. Of course, I was there to be my character, and I was already in drag.

When it came to my turn, I took to the stage, and then, at some point in the set, a very drunken heckler hurled a very homophobic slur at me. While this is never acceptable, no matter what the sexuality of the target, my brain acted with relief on two points. I now felt properly part of the LGBT line-up of comedians, the insult was like an endorsement to me.

The second point was that I now had an absolute corker to unleash in order to deal with this situation. Borrowing a put-down I'd seen used by friend Louis Barfe, I sweetly smiled at the heckler - which beautifully fits Trisha's character and just dropped this verbal bomb...

"Aw bless. He looks like he has to pay his hand to have a wank."

That scored the biggest laugh of my set. His girlfriend, already embarrassed at his drunken stupor, was mortified, and I was very pleased that he was getting frogmarched out of the tent by a security guard. By the time I ended my set, I could see at the very end of the tent that he was having a talking to from the boys in blue.

Jon Pearson at The Black Prince
I've previously said that, while out as Trisha, 99.9% of the public don't care (or even notice) that I'm dragged up from head to toe. I might get some double-takes, but verbal abuse is incredibly rare. The next time I was dolled up, it occurred, but not at the venue.

I was making my way from a car park to a comedy competition in Hereford, and some bloke with his mates in a nearby pub beer garden had wanted to prove his observational skills.

"That's a man dressed up as a woman!" yelled the inebriated supersleuth, as his mates giggled. "It's actually a man!" He was pulling faces of mock-disgust, the kind you do in the playground when you're seven years old and That Friendless Kid Who Has The Fleas touches you.

The gig itself went okay. When I arrived, I was told that local celebrity Wincey Willis (former TVam weathergirl) was usually a judge but was giving it a miss this year.

The competition took place in a dark windowless basement, with very strong stage lighting. As soon as you stepped on stage, you could barely make out the audience, it had the feel of a police interrogation. I had been used to this from previous performances in theatres and in a BBC television studio, but this was really tough to see in. That's not to say I had a bad time, I went full steam ahead and got really strong laughter.

Joey Cannon from Liverpool won the gig. I had one audience member approach me to say that their partner - a lecturer in theatre study - was really impressed with my mannerisms and delivery. Apparently, I really am like a pub barmaid, although anyone who has witnessed me making a hash of pint-pouring knows I don't belong behind a pump.

This reminded me I probably had to walk past the intoxicated Sherlock back to the car (where all my male clothes were).

Right on cue, he unleashed his howls of derision but his friends weren't bothered and a few of them had properly distanced themselves from him. I think it's safe to say some chuckleheads, who sneer at gays, lesbians, and folk who don't fit the 'norms' of gender, very likely have their own closeted issues. Like those American politicians who vote down every gay rights proposal and then get caught in a public toilet with a rent boy.

Anyway, July enabled me to finally get hold of professional comic Jon Pearson for Laugh Yer Head Off. We knew he was perfect for the venue, but being in such demand - deservedly so, it took a while for him to be available. Unsurprisingly, he smashed it.

We'd cross paths again as Donna Scott had booked a preview spot at Northampton's Black Prince for Jon's Edinburgh show Feet First. Pat Draper and I were support acts.

Diss respect
Already glammed up as Trisha in the bar, I was recognised by a couple, primarily by my voice. I had done a radio interview as myself on local community station NLive, plugging my comedy nights and mentioned I'd be doing the Trisha Timpson act as support for Jon.
When not on stage, I don't talk in Trisha's voice, I use my own. I don't act like her until it's time to do the set. Going to the front bar and ordering a pint was what caused this couple to suddenly realise who I was.

I've been in a comedy sketch live on BBC Two to a million viewers during one Saturday morning in the Noughties, but never been recognised off it. I have had a stranger approach me because they've seen my comedy on YouTube and people in town knowing who I was through some social media stuff that went viral. I didn't expect anyone to pick up on that radio interview, but they'd come along for it. It's not like I was the star.

Anyway, that was a cracking gig indeed, for all concerned. I'd soon be back doing paid work on a festival stage again thanks to DissFest. Everyone was really up for this and the line-up was really stunning, ending with Doug Segal. I had a lot of positive feedback from my peers for my act.

That weekend Trisha continued gigging, with a set at Cradley Heath's BushFest - proudly billed as the smallest comedy festival in the world. I didn't set the place on fire here, going on very early because of a commitment to an evening gig in Liverpool. Character acts don't fare well at the start of an event. (When organising a line-up, I stick anything leftfield or character based towards middle/end.)

I pelted up the M6 to Liverpool to the Hot Water Comedy Club, still with the make-up and clothes on. I hadn't been to this gig since the middle of 2016, when it was based in the conference room of a Holiday Inn. The owners of this night are tremendously good at promotion, and have invested in a new venue of their own, a few blocks away.

While 2017 may be noted in comedy circles as the year the ailing-yet-famous Jongleurs went out of business, I'd rather attention be lavished on the promoters who are doing everything right, and that's Hot Water. They are the benchmark for what comedy promoters should aspire to. Oh, Trisha had a good gig by the way.

Did another spell at the Caroline Of Brunswick in Brighton during the week, then did a Wiltshire debut at Andrew White's new comedy night in Salisbury.

Life's a beach
I rounded the month off with two charity gigs in the afternoon at Gorleston-on-Sea, a festival comedy tent run by Kahn Johnson, East Anglia's very own 'Sleazy Vegan'. There were two runs, both with virtually the same line-up, to an audience of people who were at the seafront as part of the town's annual festival.

I have a thing about British seasides, I tend to visit them a lot, probably because it's a vast contrast to life in the midlands. Gorleston is a satellite town of Great Yarmouth, which I'm very familiar with. Anyway, we got to do this gig on a cliff top, literally facing the sea. There were some children present during the first run, so I toned down Trisha's gags a bit, but the second run was an adult audience. I delivered the full fat set.

After changing back to male mode in the car - never a comfortable chore, I got to spend the evening over at Great Yarmouth. There's something about having chips by the seaside that I really enjoy.

By the way, I should mention Chuckle Pit is going from strength to strength. The flyering had paid off, all the nights were nearly hitting capacity at this point. Unfortunately, my monthly open spot night in Market Harborough - Beerhouse Comedy - hadn't done too well in recent months, so a mutual decision was taken to rest it for a while.

It's true that I'd concentrated a lot more on Chuckle Pit, bringing that bang up to standard and exceeding expectations. Previous Beerhouse Comedy nights had so-so audience numbers. I wasn't flyering them and I don't think a poster had been printed since 2016, it really was all riding off social media and the expectation people would just go there every third Thursday. It's still on hiatus and I expect it to return in 2018 when I have the resources to relaunch it in a similar way to how I breathed life back into Chuckle Pit.

Trisha had an astounding gig at Stourport-on-Severn, where a packed audience latched onto the character immediately and there was the atmosphere were the set-ups were causing giggles. Naturally, I like these gigs. I got to throw in some ad-libs and really draw out the laughter. Stupidly, this tremendous set was never caught on my camcorder.

Sadly, July was the month I received some awful news that was to impact my future income. I had already booked accommodation in Blackpool and Edinburgh for a big holiday up north, where we'd spend another few days in Lancashire's cheap-and-cheerful seaside resort before heading north of the border to the Fringe for about half a week.

I could have just not gone to keep the belt tightened, but it had been paid for, so we had our holiday. I had already wound down the gigging, turning down offers to concentrate on ensuring I have a decent financial future. I am not a professional circuit comedian, it's a hobby that got a bit out of control and I make a reasonable amount out of it. Not enough to give up a day job of course. Work comes first.

Trisha did a couple of agreed appearances in Milton Keynes and Cradley Heath. Then we headed over to Blackpool, took on the Pleasure Beach and navigated through the acres of tat to go off to Ryan Gleason's Comedy Station. We were there strictly as punters, but we soon realised one of our friends of the circuit would be there. Ben Briggs - a truly stunning comedian rooted in dark humour - was doing a spot.

Doing what the Romans couldn't
We'd soon be bumping into people we knew on the comedy scene a lot more frequently when we hit Edinburgh, which is no unusual thing.

We aimed to see about eight to ten shows a day. Marauding through tourists along those side streets between Cowgate and Royal Mile was very hectic and stressful, but we got to see nearly every show we wanted to, and quite a few we'd never planned.

I bumped into Will Preston, handing out flyers outside Harriet Dyer's show. Didn't have time to have a full conversation, but did remark that every time I met him, it was in a different country - England, Wales and now Scotland. My optimism at navigating through Edinburgh to get to Aaron Twitchen's gig was ill-founded, so we took a taxi over to Mark Row's show - A1 : The Long Road To Edinburgh - a gig about being a newbie comedian finally ending up in the Fringe. Mark had gigged for our nights, plus I'd been on a few line-ups with him.

To go through all the shows we saw would extend this blog entry to the astonishing lengths of yesterday's prose. It's a personal blog, so I'll go through what I did. Scored a couple of early afternoon gigs at Whistlebinkies for Alastair Sadler's Streetbeat Comedy showcase.

My last visit to the Edinburgh Fringe was in 2015 for just two ten-minute spots on showcase events on one night. I don't have a festival length show written yet, my plan is to do an hour of Trisha Timpson (well, 20 mins of her, then 20 minutes of another character in her life, then finish with another). One day I'll get to write that, but we were in Edinburgh to primarily watch comedy rather than be on stage.

However, your peers soon get wind of you being in the Scottish capital, thanks to the social media age we live in, and you get offers sent to you constantly. One out-of-the-blue offer from comedian Alex Leam was to do improv at his hour-long night, Improv Provocateur. I'd never done improvisation before, always wanted to but never really saw an opportunity, until now.

Second comedy accolade of 2017
Well, the above photo shows you how well that went. The night is very closely modelled on Whose Line Is It Anyway, but Legally Different enough to be its own thing. Four comedians on stage and reacting to just about anything thrown at them in a series of games.

Our Edinburgh nights would conclude in a 17-mile journey across the Forth Bridge into Dunfermline where we were staying, thanks to airbnb. One night my sat nav ran out of battery, causing a wrong turning and ending up within spitting distance of the Grampian Television region.

Anyway, on return to home, I concentrated on running my own comedy nights and making a plan to go freelance with the nine-to-five work. Stressful times indeed, although things are slowly working out in my favour.

I had ordered several thousand flyers for Chuckle Pit's remaining nights of the year, and blitzed even more of Wellingborough than ever before. That worked out well.

Safe to say the last quarter of the year did not see me anywhere near as busy on the gigging front. More of that in the final blog entry on 2017, probably tomorrow.