27 August 2010

Canada in London: Doughnuts & Coffee


I was asked by the folks at Visit London to write about Canada in London. At first I considered visiting the 'go-to' Canadian establishment, The Maple Leaf in Covent Garden. I didn't, but I'm sure one day I'll make it there (I hear they have poutine).

Instead, I went for pure authenticity, and wrote a little piece about Tim Hortons. It's here. Check it out, and comment, and tell your friends to check it out and comment.

Writing that piece got me thinking about Canada, and what I miss.

Two things I miss are Vancouver.
And Vancouver Canucks.

That was going to be my segue into an embedded youtube video celebrating Vancouver, hockey, and Vancouver hockey. However, the video was removed by the user at the request of David Newcomb. Read about it here.

Instead, we'll learn a little about Canada with Bob and Doug.

It's almost hockey season, let's have doughnuts.


25 August 2010

Roman Around: Reviews

They say 'never read your reviews'. I always thought that was because if the reviews were bad, it could throw your confidence and affect future performances, etc.

That's true, but there's also a flip side: getting good reviews mean that you can get on an unsustainable high, riding an unnecessary and unhealthy ego boost.

And I've learned that there's also a third option: getting mildly complimentary yet relatively indifferent reviews. That can be even more frustrating. What if your tree falls in the woods and makes a sound that people hear, only they're pretty indifferent about the whole thing? Solve that koan for me, Zen.

Roman Around has gotten some reviews: none of the first sort, but a few of the latter two.

I'm just going to post some links so you can read what people who have been saying things about the show have been saying about the show.

In chronological order:

1. ★★★★ David Harrison reviewed my second preview on RemoteGoat.

2. ★★★ Steve Bennett of Chortle reviewed my final preview before Edinburgh.

3. ★★★★ Massive Fringe reviewer Three Weeks were the only media outlet to review my show while it was in Edinburgh.

4. Camden Voyeur came and after the show we had a little chat. The result is this nice write-up.

5. ★★★ Spoonfed came late, but still gave a pretty good (if occasionally wildly inaccurate) write-up.

6. ★★★★ Another RemoteGoat reviewer came to the Camden Fringe and gave the best explanation of what exactly the show is.

I prefer not to think of the critical assessment of Roman Around as three four-star and two three-star reviews. Instead, I like to think of it as 18 stars!!!!

Now booking for fall, winter, spring and next summer.


22 August 2010

Buck 65 - Zombie Delight!

Thanks to Krensky for sending this clip of Buck 65 performing Zombie Delight my way. My new zombie anthem.


20 August 2010

Zombies!! Alert!


Zombies are dangerous. Even though they just stagger around blindly and randomly, they can fuck you up. So be careful. In case of a zombie apocalypse the trick is to not get caught. If you're caught the zombies will eat your brains, and then you're a zombie. And an undead life is no life at all.

Or is it?

The reason I'm asking is because The London Bridge Experience is hiring zombies to zombie around and be terrifying. As near as I can tell the job description is: stagger, stumble, moan groan, shriek, collapse. The perfect mindless job.

Sign me up!

I'm on my way there this evening to do my best zombie impression. I don't want to think of this as just a job opportunity, it's both a career opportunity and training to make sure when the zombie apocalypse arrives, I'll be well prepared to fight the bastards. or failing that, I'll be well-prepared to be one of the bastards.

If you're wondering how I'm going to channel zombie nation, I'll let this clip give you a window into the Zombie's Studio. It's now time to get zombified. Please, for God's Sake, protect yourself.

I'll leave you with this unfunny zombie song.


17 August 2010

Beer? Oh Brother...


Handcrafted by monks, Belgium’s Trappist beers are among the finest in the world. Ryan Millar goes on a brewing pilgrimage

Beer is, to quote Benjamin Franklin, “proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” And if he was as right about that as he was about electricity, Belgium must be the happiest place on Earth. The small country’s 125 breweries produce approximately 800 different beers – although if you also count the one-off, seasonal and souvenir beers, that figure rises to more than 8,000. Clearly, Belgium takes its beer very seriously. Each unique drink is served in a branded glass, with a distinctive shape designed to coax the flavour out of the brew. In fact, Belgians’ devotion to beer borders on religious; in the case of the Trappists, it’s deeply religious.

Read the rest of the article in bthere Magazine online.


15 August 2010

Some Reviews from Edinburgh

I saw a lot of shows in Edinburgh - some were brilliant, some were good, and some were terrible. I also learned how important reviews are to the performers. It's a crowded field in Edinburgh and the best way to distinguish yourself is word-of-mouth, and the second best way is critical buzz, or at least a favourable review.

As a sometimes reviewer, I'm going to lay down some very short reviews of the shows I saw in the nine days I was there.

Pappy's: All Business - The preview was a shambolic affair, but their confidence and energy carried the day. Plus there were plenty of funny bits. 4/5

Cactus - Jonno Katz is a legend on the Canadian fringe scene, and it's obvious why: honest, engaging, funny, and fearless, this one-man show was thoroughly engaging and imaginative. 5/5

Kingsley and I - Some admittedly hungover comedians tried to figure out to do with their hands because the microphone and PA weren't working. Some laughs. 3/5

Matthew Highton - An hour long not-very funny 'surreal' comedy show about Tom Selleck's moustache. 2/5

Cannonball - An hour of engaging short-form from some London contemporaries. Plenty of high-points, but a joke about anus-tattooing lets them down. 3/5

Off the Cuff Bingo - Improv and Bingo? Amazing. Unfortunately, not quite as amazing as it could have been. Some bright moments, but still, I wanted more. 2/5

Boy with Tape on his Face - Silent mime stand-up prop comedy? Miles funnier than the premise would suggest. Brilliant. 5/5

Robin Ince Asks Why - Raging liberal comedian with a show full of anecdotes and hilarity. 4/5

Baby Wants Candy - Improvised musical with big belly laughs, great songs, and wall-to-wall balls out performances. Outstanding. 5/5

Life of Si - Two guys with a meta-comedy show about life and their teapot. Not hilarious, but funny and charming, and bonus points for the rap number. 3/5

Borderline Racist - Paul Keransa's show about what other countries think about their neighbours was a clever concept and his A/V material really brought it all home. 4/5

I Am Woof/Where Have All the Ladies Gone? - Some powerful performances, but the scripts were only OK, and the kebab-eating was unnecessary. 2/5

27 Up - A decent half hour of comedy that managed to also tie in a great gag about the future. Not many huge laughs, but worth the time absolutely. 3/5

Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting - I only caught the second half of this mental female sketch duo from New York. Great commitment and some sharp and raunchy lines. N/A

Suspicious Package - An interactive film-noir where the audience are the performers and the Grassmarket is the scene of some 1920's smoky intrigue. Awesome. 4/5

Michael Pipe: The Ping-Pong Years - I missed the first half of the show, but showed up in time to catch some engaging details about a big tournament from the aforementioned ping-pong years. N/A

Mary Barrel is Really Good at Things - A self-help seminar from an utterly precocious child. She'd be annoying in real-life, but Mary Barrel is a a fun character to spend some time with. 3/5

Ferris Bueller's Way Of - A comedy show based on life lessons from Ferris Bueller? Ideal. The conceit was tenuous at points, but full marks for clips from the film. 3/5

A Calculated Risk - Not bad stand-up. Not hilarious, some good laughs involved. Plus I saw it with Chiara, and that I liked. 3/5


13 August 2010

Beyond Edinburgh

I was up in Edinburgh for nine days. I did seven shows, saw eighteen, and am now back home wondering what exactly happened. And also wondering why I can't stop smiling.

It may take awhile for me to figure that all out, but what I do know is that the Edinburgh Fringe is awesome.

I learned a lot. Met quite a few interesting people, handed out a lot of flyers, and saw some shows - brilliant, great, ok, and terrible. There was such a buzz, and so many cool people around doing all kinds of wonderful things at all hours of the day and night that it was absolutely exhausting. And an amazing thing to be part of.

Also importantly: Roman Around is now a much better show than before. With new jokes. It's also more responsive to the audience; more rhythmic and just 'tighter' than before.

Which is not to say that it's shorter, because it's not. But the pace and rhythm are more natural. I've relaxed, and the audience seems to relax, and we have fun and learn stuff. And who doesn't like to have fun and learn something?

Something I learned, from the engaging and wise Mr. Bunk, is how to make an incredibly persuasive pitch at the end of a 'pass-the-hat' show, which allowed me to take Chiara out for a great lunch and dinner after she arrived.

I also learned (from someone who knows) that Roman Around could do alright on the Canadian Fringe circuit.

And those are just two examples of the type of education that one week in Edinburgh has got me all excited about.

Because now that I've put this show on, and been to the Edinburgh Fringe, I'm excited about the possibilities: for this show, for performance, for festivities and for travel and adventure.

But for now, I'm focusing on the last two 'certain' dates for Roman Around: 21, 22 August at the Camden Head Pub as part of the Camden Fringe. And also my dissertation. Ahem.


05 August 2010

School of Edinbras


The walking, hustling, meeting, flyering, selling, and relentless energy output of the Edinburgh Fringe can be exhausting. Especially for newbies. Especially for this newbie, who seems prone to getting lost and either running out of flyers, or carrying around far too many and arcing from venue to venue, seeing shows and promoting. Fortunately, I've had reserves of fringe-newbie novelty/joy to carry me through the crucial first couple days.

Which is good, because my promotional strategy is... me handing out flyers with my face on them. And putting up some posters of my face and title. There are no tricks or gimmicks, no team, no uniforms, no stunts or make-up. It's not much as far as a conceptual campaign, or a multi-pronged assault on swathes of festival-goers (nor is it leaving me time and space to focus on the show) but it's all I've got.

I rode an initial burst of energy and flyered the shit out of this city for the two days before my first show. And not just flyering: I chatted. I met folks. I laughed. I schmoozed. I sold the shit out of my show. People liked the sound of it. Plus it's free, right off the Royal Mile, and takes place at 12:30pm, meaning it's unlikely to clash with your big-ticket evening events. All checks in the pro-column.

And, though I had no press juggernaut or hype machine, I was riding the strength of a few nice press pieces:

A four star review on RemoteGoat
A Q&A with The New Current
Some choice words about a taster event I was part of on Camden Voyeur

In short, I was feeling pretty optimistic about the audience.

Reality: my first audience was five people. Then three people from a production of The Bald Soprano came in late, swelling our ranks to eight (nine including me), but they also left early to go to their tech rehearsal.

Disappointing. But I took the setback on the chin. In fact, by some metrics, that's a decent audience at your first Edinburgh Fringe. But I found it hard to stay positive about the meager returns on my promotional time-and-energy investment.

Today though, I kept at it, flyering and talking up the show, to whomever took one. My audience was close to 20 people. I don't know precise numbers, because I was too excited to count. But it was definitely exponential growth. So I'm now out of my depression trough and riding the rush of an unsustainable hope that that growth will continue.

So to sum up, the Fringe has been first confusing and overwhelming, then depressing, and now ecstatic happiness. Overall: exhausting.

The good news is that I learned a trick the other day: instead of saying Edin-burr-ough, you can just say Edin-bra, thus saving yourself a syllable. Since I learned this shortcut, I've been using it on every occasion possible, and I'm feeling less tired as a result.

A few more tips and tricks like that, and my Edinbra education will be complete. Or, if not complete, at least sorted enough to help me plan next year's assault. Strategically.