Wednesday 31 March 2021

Vaccination and gigs, March summed up


I got my first Covid vaccination, at Ashton Gate Stadium, on Monday March 15th. Hev had hers a week earlier. We have made the first big steps towards recovery which makes reading my diary from March 2020 a curious experience. An odd mix of doubt, optimism and pessimism fills those pages. 

As for March 2021, it feels very much like business as usual. I have had almost as many Comic Art Masterclasses as I did a year ago, albeit online, and have had both comic strips to draw and Socks shows to perform. Indeed I may be getting a bit heavily into the open mic circuit, just in time for online gigs to wind up and schlepping around the country with my socks set to return. Here's what my busy March schedule looked like...

Comic Art Masterclasses

Mar 1 - Latymer Prep (inc Claudia Winkleman's son, and other celebrity kids unidentified)

Mar 3 - Renfrewshire Library Will Eisner classes (one very empty, 4 kids, as it was a schoolday)

Mar 4 - John Hapmden Primary

Mar 6 - Class Bento class, organised by me, attended by fewest pupils ever (3)

Mar 7 - Class Bento Party Class - better attended, this is where they specialise

Mar 16 - Rothbury, Hexham Book Fest classes, kids now back in classroom, so sound issues

Mar 18 & 19 - Chantry, Hexham classes. Kids in classroom, even worse sound issues

March 20 - Zion class, good turnout, good to have them on individual screens again. Did an interview on Radio Bristol beforehand, great fun.

In comparison to 2021's 8 days of classes, March 2020 managed 11 days of classes before the rest got cancelled (final live class was March 14th 2020), so we're not quite up to the old hit rate, but we might get there soon.

Socks performances

Mar 1 - Global Comedy Hour. Good line up, small audience.

Mar 5 - Virtually Hilarious. Good size audience (40+), good quality acts (at least one poached for Social Club), good quality presentation.

Mar 11 - Tokyo Stand Up. More a meeting of half a dozen comics than a show.

Mar 14 - International Comedy. From Tel Aviv, audience mostly acts themselves, low key.

Mar 16 - Late Stage. Audience 30+ v good, good adverts, good quality line up, weekly shows

Mar 18 - Jolters Barrel Of Laughs. Audience 40+, local crowd, friendly, mixed quality acts

Mar 19 - Talking Of Changing The Subject. Solo show, some say funniest yet. 40 paying punters.

Mar 21 - Freudian Slips. Streamyard (so no visible audience), mixed bag of variety & art.

Mar 23 - G&B Character Comedy. Audience mostly acts + 3 or 4 guests, mixed variety acts inc magic, good technical presentation.

Mar 26 - Henn's Night. Streamyard (no vis. audience) V good technical presentation, fun mix of acts.

Mar 28 - Dean Friedman Show

Mar 29 - Unmuted, from Melbourne Australia, at 11 in the morning. Audience mostly acts themselves, but good fun and we've been invited back to host next time.

Considering March 2020 had no Socks gigs whatsoever (our last show was February, and March's events were all cancelled) this is quite the improvement on a year ago.

Comics wise I have written and drawn a second three-page Space Elain strip (which I have yet to letter and colour). This rate of three pages a month doesn't quite compare to 2020 when, having produced 125 pages of Findlay Macbeth before the pandemic, I began Prince Of Denmark Street in March and drew 120 pages of it through April, repeating this feat with Midsummer Night's Dream Team later in the summer. My plan to get book four, Twelfth Thing, written and drawn before Christmas was overly optimistic. I have still to finish writing it, and as for when I might start drawing it, we'll have to wait till the classes and the comedy shows dry up for that to happen. It's good to be busy, but it was great to have time to produce three whole books in a year. 2020, we won't see its like again.

Facebook jottings:

March 2: How many Zoom gigs did I have to google until I learned that UTC and GMT are the same thing!

I think I've been dismissing gigs cos I thought UTC time meant they'd be somewhere in the States or Australia.
Apparently it's not been Greenwich Mean Time since 1972! So how come all through my education (which took place after 1972, thankyou very much) it's been GMT all the way.

Did everyone else know about UTC except me?

March 7: Just watched the movie Us. I have some questions (spoiler alert)

Is there a Tethered zombie for every single person in the world?
What the hell are the rabbits all about?
And that Hands Around The World chain?
And the ballet dancing?
At the end are they all still there taking over the world? Or are there so few of them they'll easily be outnumbered by their doppelgangers who have bombs and guns?

(NB I've just read the plot again on Wikipedia and it explains the Tethered origin better than I got from the film, I think we were getting bored by that point. Still doesn't answer whether there's one for everyone in the world, or even America).

March 10: Where & when did the stand up comedy brick wall originate?

We've been doing a lot of virtual gigs at other peoples shows this year, and the most common feature is the brick wall background. It says "stand up comedy". But why? And when did it start?
I know in Britain's Working Men's Clubs there was always the tradition of the tinsel backdrop, and before that comedians worked in front of the curtains on stage (as Morecambe & Wise paid homage to). But where did this brick wall start? When? And why?

March 14: Talking of changing the subject, who else is thinking of doing outdoor gigs? In my memory, outdoor comedy gigs are always rubbish cos you can't hear the audience laughing, but because of this half-lockdown situation lasting for the next few months, it might be worth a punt.

Also I've always fancied doing open air Shakespeare. (Though I am also aware that my puppet set, unless I rebuild it, reacts to the slightest breeze like a ship's sail in a hurricane).

Quick, someone talk me out of it.

March 14: Is anyone else slightly fearing the end of lockdown? I have got so into the swing of doing online comic classes and gigs that I don't want them to end.

Classes are going to be a particularly sad loss. I fear I've already done the last one where there is a classfull of kids looking at me from their individual screens. This coming week they'll be back in the classroom looking at me on the big screen which, frankly, isn't as good.
When I ask them to hold up their work, on individuals screens, I can see them all at thumbnail size - and read their names too - so I can jump from pupil to pupil, enlarge their work so everyone can see, and give them feedback. Now they'll have to file up to the camera and, as is always the case, half their pages will be impossible to see, and those won't be the ones that make it to the camera first, if at all (I'm able, on multiple screens, to identify the boldly-finished inked pages first, start with them, then pay lip service to the ones I probably can't make out at all).
Comedy gigs I'll be able to get used to faster, if I can line some up, but the unpaid open-mikes I've been doing this past two months will be a short lived experiment.
Anyone else lamenting the passing of our locked-down online world?

March 15: I once had to make the decision of going to a party with my mates, or with my Irish cousin. It was a no Brainne.

March 16: Top 10 TV Satire Shows (British) - When The Mash Report got cancelled last week, I drew up a Top 10 that I was going to turn into a piece and didn't. Still here's the list I drew up. What did I miss?

(Didn't qualify cos not topical satire: The Day Today, Drop The Dead Donkey, Friday/Saturday Live)
10 - The Mash Report
9 = The 11 O'Clock Show / 10 O'Clock Live
8 - Mock The Week
7 - Armando Iannucci's Saturday Night Armistice
6 - Bremner, Bird & Fortune
5 - Mark Thomas Comedy Product
4 - Spitting Image
3 - That Was The Week That Was
2 - Not The 9 O'Clock News
1 - Have I Got News For You?

Go on, what's wrong about that lot?

March 18: Has everyone else been watching Resident Alien? It's currently our favourite TV show, and its position in our favourites list is helped by the fact that it's released in weekly episodes so you can't binge it and forget it in a weekend.

It's really well written, with original concepts done well, and excellent characters developed and revealed gradually and satisfyingly. Plus it's adapted from a comic (which I fear I hadn't seen) which I am happy to let take the credit.

Oh, and it's family friendly, which is an increasingly rare thing these days (I would argue it's harder to write a comedy drama that entertains a wide audience than a niche genre crowd) . You really shouldn't miss this gem.

March 21: Line Of Duty: this isn't a spoiler, but where did the term "Chiz" suddenly come from?

How have they managed five series without ever using it, and tonight they use it 80 times. Has someone been reading Molesworth or something?

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries & art centres - AND NOW ONLINE on ZOOMemail for details. His debut graphic novels Findlay Macbeth , The Prince Of Denmark Street and The Midsummer Night's Dream Team are available on Amazon. Follow Kev on Facebook, Twitter. Promo video here

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre will be touring near you sometime. Catch up with them on Facebook for the latest. 

Friday 26 March 2021

Socks to do Superheroes online + TikTok debut + recent gigs


The Scottish Falsetto Socks are proud to announce the online debut of their award-winning 2018 show Superheroes, on Zoom on April 17th. Looking forward to this, one of our favourite shows. Tickets are here on We Got Tickets and also here on JokePit.

I've been running the two box offices concurrently and seeing which does better. The Jokepit link is used for all Twitter plugs, and the Facebook listing, ensuring that Jokepit themselves share it. We Got Tickets is used for the mailing list. For last week's Talking Of Changing The Subject this resulted in 12 tickets sold on JokePit to 28 sold on WGT. For next week's Social Club sales currently stand at 3 on JokePit and 3 on WGT, while Superheroes currently has 8 sold on JokePit and none on WGT. 

Talking of Talking Of Changing The Subject, it was a very successful show. Not only a healthy turn out (40 paying punters, plus a few guests including the comics who'll be doing Social Club and friends) but a good few people said it was our funniest show. Given that the last couple of shows have included experiments like Murder Mystery and Quiz Night, I can see how a return to straight comedy could be very satisfying. Also it had almost no new material, being full instead with classics, most of which hadn't been seen for a while. we gave them...

Intro routine - What's Missing Off Telly (from 2010, last seen in Adelaide 2012)
I'm A Sock song - with music performed live for the first time*
Ship In A Bottle / Formats routine (from 2010)
The Western routine (from 2009)
I Change The Key/ Johnny Cash song (2009)
Hovis Advert (from Quiz Night)
An Actor Prepares Routine (from Shakespeare)
St Patricks Day routine (2010)
 - DEAN FRIEDMAN 1st song
Coke Advert (didn't do this, as by this stage we were, to my surprise, overrunning)
Interred Routine (2010)
Bingo routine (new, planned for Social Club. Now rewritten for then.)
Always A Bastard song (2010)
Postcodes routine (didn't do this as we were overrunning)
Falling out - "where's Dean Friedman when you need him?"
- DEAN FRIEDMAN 2nd song - Well Well Said The Rocking Chair (v popular choice)
Spectre song (on video, from 2015)
Finale - James Bond, ending with improv.
We Can See You song (didn't do, as ended well with Bond)

*We're now able to perform music live, playing it from iTunes. When we first tried this, I couldn't get the sound to play through Zoom. Now I try it and it works, so no more pre-recording songs on video, unless they need special green screen effects, as Spectre did.

I'd gone through the planning of the show thinking this really didn't look like an hour's material, and in the end had to cut a routine, a video, and a final song. That's always the best way round, and the punters seemed happy. Enjoyed a pleasant 90 minutes in the aftershow bar too.

Our gigs this week were:

Tuesday 16th March - Late Stage Comedy. We gave them An Actor Prepares, v good. See it here. Good size audience (in the 30s I think). A good range of mostly stand-up material, from which I plucked Sam Serrano to headline Social Club (and also Simon Hall, who makes good use of on-screen graphics).

Thursday 18th March - Jolters Barrel Of Laughs. Darren Hoskins club, with a very good fun local club feel. Good size audience, into the 40s, inc regulars. Some of the acts a little old fashioned in material but a good mix. The Socks tried out James Bond (which we then rewrote for our Friday show) and Bingo (ditto). First time I've dared use one of these new material nights to actually test out new material (more usually preferring to make a good first impression).

Sunday 21st March - Freudian Slips. An interesting one, on Streamyard so you can't see or hear the audience. Had art and variety, including a burlesque dancer interviewing her Mum, a band performing live, and art video clips, so a very different mix to previous clubs. From Berlin, so another international feel to the show. We gave them An Actor Prepares (during which I was suddenly worried because I knew we'd given them a pre-recorded set for last week's show and couldn't, for the life of me, think what we'd done. Luckily it turns out we did Richard III then).

Tuesday 23rd March - G&B Character Comedy. A very good variety bill of novel characters, hosted by a magician who did a very good performance of the nail-through-hand trick. My favourite act was Kevin The Nerd who uses model figures to tell stories, again making excellent use of the Zoom screen. I'd like to get him on Social Club if we do more of this sort of thing. The audience comprised mainly the acts themselves, but there were a lot of those so that was good. We tested out Batman v Joker, which went well. You can see clips on TikTok.

Oh, didn't I mention the Socks have made their debut on TikTok? All the kids are doing it, so I edited up some one minute clips from Friday's show, and our G&B appearance, and uploaded them. After a couple of days we have 120 likes, 6 followers, and our most watched clip has been seen 383 times. I don't think that makes us influencers quite yet. 

Gigs coming up:

Fri 26 March - Henn Night (10 mins, headlining, Streamyard)
Sun 28 March - Dean Friedman show
Fri April 2 - SOCIAL CLUB
Weds April 7 - Super Fun Comedy Show
Thurs April 8 - Chicken Box Comedy
Fri April 9 - Comedy Pops
Sat April 10 - Merthyr Comedy Fesy (good lord, a paying gig)
Sun April 11 - Larklord
Thurs April 15 - Social Distance Warriors
Fri April 16 - Blue Suede News
Sat April 17 - SUPERHEROES
Sun April 18 - Sounds Proper
Fri April 23 - 27 Minute Comedy Hour

How's that for a gig schedule? We are getting out there on the open mic circuit like the Socks have never done. Let's see how much of this leads to gigs in the real world, shall we? Let's just keep killing them, it's all we can do.

Sunday 21 March 2021

Nan's Pills & Impossible Dogs - comics by kids

 A week of Comic Art Masterclasses on Zoom this week included a few organised by the wonderful Gil at Hexham Book Festival, but with way less travelling than usual. These were done by kids at Dr Thomlinson's Middle School in Rothbury, which I have visited in person before now.

And this, also via Hexham Book Fest, was one of the pair done with Chantry Middle School. With these classes we found a new problem that, sadly, is going to dog my online classes from now on. The kids are all back in the classroom together so, almost inevitably, the sound is awful and I can hardly see the kids. It's better when they're on individual screens at home. Though, ultimately, it's way better to be there in person, so let's hope that happens again soon.

This comic was from a party booking, arranged through Class Bento, an online agency that have got me a couple of gig. This was a lovely family from North London, and it was Jeremy Callman's birthday. Only afterwards did I discover that he's a QC and the son of the famous Judge Callman. Prestigious. I really should learn to charge more. 

Class Bento's success is in letting people book bespoke classes (see above). They're not so good at attracting individuals to classes I've set up myself, as this comic shows. I ended up with only 3 kids in my class, literally the smallest group I've ever worked with.

This, however, continues to demonstrate how worthwhile it is for me to team up with art centres and exploit their mailing list. Zion Arts in Bristol, where I've done the class live a number of times, attracted a full house and give us all a splendid Saturday morning experience. Also it was great to get the kids back on individual screens rather than in a classroom on the big screen. I hope I can do a few more of these before it's all over.

The celebrities these 8 groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Elton John, The Queen, Michael Jackson, James Charles, Boris Johnson, Prince William, Rick Astley & Billie Eilish.

Join my free Kev F Comic Art Mailing List here. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Next Comic Classes, open to the public:

Fri April 9: Plough Arts

Mon April 12: Largs Youth Theatre

Monday 15 March 2021

Announcing Social Club - Doubling Up in Israel & Germany

The Socks are proud to announce new kind of show, an actual comedy club, with 5 guest acts as well as plenty of Socks nonsense and a lock-in in the virtual bar afterwards, all for only a fiver.

Friday April 2nd - SCOTTISH FALSETTO SOCKS' SOCIAL CLUB. Ticket only £5 (+ booking fee). And you have a choice of box offices... 

Look at us, doubling-up last night (Sunday March 14th). Not only were we on International Comedy from Tel Aviv live, we did a pre-recorded set for Freudian Slips from Hamburg. (Gonna miss this when lockdown ends)
Freudian Slips (we start at 34 mins):
Tuesday March 16th 8pm - LATE STAGE COMEDY

Thursday March 18th 8pm - JOLTERS BARREL OF LAUGHS

Mar 19: Talking Of Changing The Subject…

Sunday March 21st - Freudian slip Club

Tues March 23rd 7.30pm - G&B Comedy Character Comedy

April 2nd: The Socks’ Social Club

Sunday 4th April - Sounds Proper Comedy

April 10: Merthyr Comedy Festival (Streamyard)

Tuesday 9 March 2021

Socks On JokePit

Whether this will make a difference to the promotion of our shows or not we shall see. The Socks are now on JokePit. It's a listing site and ticket agency for comedy shows, which means that we appear alongside other such events when folks are searching, with a profile for our act and also a link to our shows.

Here's our act listing, do say if anything needs changing...

And here's our next show, on March 19th. This is a totally separate box office for it, which means that tickets are being sold here and also on WeGotTickets. At time of writing, WGT has sold 12 tickets, and we usually sell the bulk in the few days running up to the event. Let us see if, now, the JokePit box office sells any.

This has necessitated setting up an account with Stripe, the sort of thing I'm loathe to do, it always makes one feel vulnerable to give away the sort of information you have to. But tis done, let us see if tis worth it.

UPDATE: After a few days, Stripe have emailed saying "We’re writing to let you know that we have noticed an increase in customer refunds and disputes in businesses operating in your industry. Unfortunately, to help ensure that your customers can get timely access to refunds and chargebacks, we’ll need to change the payout schedule for your Stripe account for UT Productions. Starting today, your funds will be made available to be paid out 14 days after a payment is accepted."

One bonus point to We Got Tickets there, who still pay within 7 days.

March 19th: The Scottish Falsetto Socks: Talking Of Changing The Subject, on sale now!

Monday 8 March 2021

★★★★★ "Absolutely terrific" - 5 star review for my Comic Art Masterclass


Absolutely terrific! I was trying to find something fun for my husband's birthday during lockdown that would work for the kids to get involved in as well. I found Kev and his comic strip class and took a punt - he was BRILLIANT! He is very charismatic and talented and full of stories as well as being great with kids and adults alike. We all learned a lot in the 2 hours and had fun drawing our own characters and comic strips - we have a kitchen table full of drawings now! Thanks Kev, what a great afternoon!

How's that for a 5 star review for a Comic Art Masterclass? I was booked for a party, via Class Bento, and this seems to be where Class Bento's strengths lie.

On Saturday I tried promoting a class by listing it on Class Bento, and though ten people bought tickets, only three ended up joining the class, making it officially my lowest attended class ever (beating Wednesday morning's Renfrewshire library class's previous record). However Class Bento has proven much better at attracting orders for private bookings of my classes.

Sunday late afternoon saw me booked by the Callman family, for Jeremy the Dad's birthday party. The kids joined in and, as you can see from the review, had a great time.

I have three such potential classes under enquiry in the next month. If they go ahead and are as successful as this one, then Bento works as an agency and has the bonus of reviews that appear on the website thus driving further business. Let us see if this continues, here's hoping it does.

Join my free Kev F Comic Art Mailing List here. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Next Comic Classes, open to the public:

Sat Mar 6: Bento Class 

Sat Mar 20:  Zion Bristol

Fri April 9: Plough Arts

Mon April 12: Largs Youth Theatre

Saturday 6 March 2021

Global Virtually Hilarious Comedy - more Socks gigs

Two Socks Zoom gigs this week, both great, and both with an international flavour. The first, Global by name, wasn't that global by nature though it had a good line up of John O' Keeffe, Lubna Kerr, Madge vs Mariuh (first double act I've seen on Zoom, worked well), Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, Kathy O’Bryan, John Morris & Gareth Ball. The Socks gave them the first part of the Magic routine this time.

Virtually Hilarious really was the global gig of the week, and the best attended. That had over 40 viewers, which they admitted was their biggest yet. Certainly the biggest we've played to apart from Mortified in Tamworth, Dean's gigs, and our own shows. Most of the open mikes have struggled to fill one screen, so well done Virtually.

The acts were dotted all round Europe, the host being in Prague and the MC in Barcelona. The line up, from  Vienna and a few other places were mostly American, with a couple of Brits and us. A very high standard of professional comedy, and we acquitted ourselves rather well. They were Tristan Barber, Sravanthi Basa, Matthew Murtha, Paul Jacobs, Scottish Falsetto Socks, Tori Burton (an excellent "Tori Talk" with powerpoint cartoon slides about her experiences as a pole dancer) & Jack Holmes. We gave them An Actor Prepares, which went really well. A 10 minute slot.

Coming up we have:
March 16 - Late Stage Comedy
March 18 - Darren Hoskins Cabaret
March 19 - our own solo show
March 26 - Notts Puppet Festival (details tbc)
April 4 - Sounds Proper
April 10 - Private party
April 16 - Blue Suede News
April 23 - 27 Minute Comedy Hour

We sure are squeezing these Zoom gigs in while we can, looking forward to get some real live gigs lined up by the summer (though we'll keep our Zoom gigs going on a monthly basis, I think).

Mar 19: Talking Of Changing The Subject…

Thursday 4 March 2021

"Claudia Winkleman? Yeah, she's my Mum" - comics by kids

 A busy week of Comic Art Masterclass had a high point on Monday when I was doing a day of classes at Latymer Prep in London. I knew it was an independent school. But I didn't know how independent until, in the morning class with Year 5, I made one of my passing gags about "Orange Woman, or Claudia Winkleman I think she's called."

A kid went "Hoy!" and the class laughed. Then, a bit later, the celeb they chose to tread on a worm in my demonstration was Claudia again. So, when I got to speak to the kid himself, Arthur, I said "so, are you related to her?"

"Yeah, she's my Mum." Yes, I was teaching Claudia Winleman's kid. And, as the day progressed, I realised I was teaching the offspring of probably another dozen A-listers. The kids let slip that someone else in the morning class was probably Hugh Grant's, and I think another one was Richard Hammond's. All I'm saying is, I could've charged more.

Shenley Brook End in Milton Keynes is a school that's had me in in real life, and originally had this visit lined up as an in-person appearance. In the end it was a good half day Zoom class.

This comic came from a class organised by Chesterfield borough council. They paid half my bill, so I could sell the tickets myself at the reduced price of £3.50. We sold out, making this just another success story in the events-planned-with-arts-centres experiment (as described here). 

The half-day class organised last week by North Yorkshire libraries was so successful that they added another one, on Saturday afternoon (after the Chesterfield class). A true validation of the art centres experiment. I better plug to them again for Easter. Quick.

Okay, if there was one day in the experimental series that was less successful, it was Wednesday's Will Eisner week classes. A brilliant initiative run by Renfrewshire Libraries, fully funded by them so that I could do two classes in the day, both for free. Unfortunately, being Wednesday, all the kids were back at school so no one was free. I managed to get 4 along to the morning session - the smallest online class I've done, and tying for the smallest class I've done in the last fifteen years. The afternoon (above) fared better, with a healthy nineteen kids signing up and making probably my favourite cover of the week. (Okay, I drew it, and went to town on the homage to Planet Of The Apes issue one, but they came up with the title).

The final comics of the week were with John Hampden Primary in Thame, Oxon. The week began with Claudia Winkleman, so it was fitting to end with her, being menaced by a Boogie Beast. Hey, don't blame it on the sunshine, don't blame it on the moonlight, don't blame it on the good times... well, you can see where that was going.

The celebrities these eight groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Billie Eilish, David Attenborough, Simon Cowell (twice), David Walliams, Abraham Lincoln, Jim Carrey, and Claudia Winkleman.

Join my free Kev F Comic Art Mailing List here. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Next Comic Classes, open to the public:

Sat Mar 6: Bento Class 

Sat Mar 20:  Zion Bristol

Fri April 9: Plough Arts

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