Monday 26 April 2021

April travels

 I've kept quiet about them on social media, partly cos I don't want anyone to feel offended that we haven't come to visit them, and partly cos we may have been pushing the "stay local" rules of the recently relaxed lockdown, but Hev & I have been doing a lot of day trips in the last couple of months.

Perhaps the most significant is to Chepstow. You see, we have plans to move house, and have had for the past year or more. We've now put the flat on the market and are seriously looking at places to move. Because of how expensive Clevedon is, we've genuinely considered such places as Worcester and Bath, and ruled out many more including Stroud. It was only last weekend that, with cross border travel being relaxed after 6 months, that we had a look at Chepstow, and fell in love with it.

OK, fell in love might be going a bit far. But on our first visit, last Sunday, we got talking to the people at a gallery who asked Hev to exhibit, and bumped into Socks fans Nigel & Kerry Thurgar and chatted. Everyone seemed friendly and there's a great vibe to the place. And it is very very affordable. We returned the very next day to look again. And again on Wednesday when we ventured as far as Tintern (above, abbey just out of shot). And yet again on Sunday, when we visited Monmouth, walked a bit of Offa's Dyke, and continued to give Chepstow a thorough exploring. Though we've already ruled out a handful of properties and not found anything that matches our current flat for fabulosity, there's no doubt we can have 4 bedrooms and a garden in our budget, and get a period property that's somewhere quiet. Let us see.

The biggest journey of the past fortnight was to London. We've been dying to return and were amazed to find an art gallery that was actually open. Hev had got tickets to the new Gilbert & George exhibition at the White Cube in Piccadilly. The night before we watched the live interview with G&G - who answered a question texted in by Heather! The next day we were standing on the very spot where they'd been speaking, and we were looking at their giant screen prints all round the wall. It was brilliant.

We also took in Trafalgar Square, where we ate outside a Pret - the first cafe food we've eaten in six months - walked down Denmark Street again, and bought guitar strings in Regent Sounds; did Carnaby Street, Liberty, Covent Garden, Regent Street and Fitzrovia, and breathed in the city. It was brilliant. Feeling slightly guilty that we didn't see Jude and the family, but there's only so many hours in a day and we wanted culture culture culture. And we got it. It does you good, and you miss it when you're cut off from it for so long.

(Here are Gilbert & George, answering Hev's question, probably)

Our travels have also taken us, in the past month or so, to Exmouth where we walked up coastal paths and round backstreets that we recognised from when we last trod there, forty years earlier; to Exeter, more than once, where the nostaglia for our student days will never truly fade; to Minehead (pictured below, I'd forgotten about that excursion until I searched for photos to upload); to Worcester, where we considered moving, but which, on a return visit with specific properties in mind, never quite feels quiet or connected enough to be right; to Bath, again more than once, where we go to show anyway, and where, with properties in mind, nowhere seemed to have quite the right vibe (except for places like Widcombe where we could never afford to live); to Stroud, which was inexplicably voted most desirable place to live by someone somewhere, without providing any evidence to us of why this should be the case. 

We've strolled through Taunton, breezed through villages and suburbs from Burnham to Gloucester, Weston to Cheltenham, and all points Bristolian, to such a degree you'd think we're never at home. Oh, and we go for a walk almost every night on the back streets of Clevedon. It's going to be weird when lockdown finally ends and my travels begin in earnest. This is the longest period of time that Hev and I have spent without staying overnight anywhere outside our flat (save for one night, last August, at Audrey & Dennis's in Bod) in all the time we've been together. Even back in the Leicester days we'd have done the odd night in Kibby, and had a holiday at some point in the year. We are very lucky people that we can bear each other so well.

Saturday 24 April 2021

Socks Live Shows 2021

The Socks should be returning to the actual live stage, in the real world, in just a few weeks time. Here are the dates. Spread the word and let's sell these babies out.

Sat May 29th (late addition) - Market Harborough Drive In Gig! (late update 18/5/21 - it's just been cancelled. As you were. )

June 11th - Bath Widcombe Social Club, on a top bill of comics with a 20 minute set

June 26th - Zion Arts Bristol, giving them our Shakespeare outsde. Yes, Open Air Shakespeare! A first (tickets coming soon)

June 28 - Frog & Bucket Manchester, Beat The Frog  - We won the online heat so we're in the actual show!

July 2nd - Lichfield Garrick, our most postponed show yet, see our first proper full indoor hour, and the debut of our new Fingers Crossed show.

July 3rd - Clevedon Theatre Shop, a home gig, and they're getting Superheroes, making its first proper live outing in a few years (after a run through online last week)

July 4th - Derby Bar One, our regular Edinburgh Preview show will be getting Fingers Crossed. Though whether we actually take the show to Edinburgh remains in doubt.

July 18th - Sheffield New Barrack Tavern, another Edinburgh Preview, as above.

July 24th - Bedford Fringe. We're back at the Quarry Theatre, at the festival that we've played for more consecutive years than we've played Edinburgh itself. They're getting Fingers Crossed, which should be ready to be seen by then.

Sept 3 - Whitchurch Comedy Fest

Sept 4 - Stourbridge Comedy Fest

Sept 17 - Bridport Arts (Shakespeare)

Hopefully more shows will be added. In the meantime our next two Zoom shows await your attendance:

Friday April 30th - Social Club 2
Friday May 14th - Eurovision Sock Contest

Sunday 18 April 2021

Superheroes online report


How's this for classy? Nick Steel watched last night's Socks production of Superheroes on the big screen at Widcombe Social Club where, coincidentally, we'll be making our return to the live stage in June.

As it was, our latest outing online was the poorest attended of our solo Zoom shows to date, with only 19 paying punters (supplemented with a good few guests, invited from my recent open mic shows). This was hardly surprising given that this was the first weekend when pubs were open, following the latest lockdown relaxation. And it was sunny, so the usual last minute rush for tickets didn't emerge.

The audience that did turn up for the show were lovely, and we had great laughter throughout, followed by a highly enjoyable drunken aftershow chat.

The show ran for an hour and ten minutes, even with us cutting the Cross Channel sketch near the end. Partly this was laughter and interaction causing the overun, partly it would be the advert segments that I interspersed on video (a Batgirl Equal Pay advert from 1974, a 1970s ad for superhero toys, a bizarre superhero-based advert for insurance, and a 2000s Got Milk ad, none of which I'd seen before I started searching the day before the show). And partly it would be technical issues, which included me re-starting the Avengers Reel song halfway through when Hev slipped me a note telling me the music wasn't playing.

This music thing's a new problem I've found with Zoom. We only discovered two shows ago that we could play music from iTunes and sing along to it on Zoom (which we hadn't been able to a few months ago). However, when you then play a video (all of which played perfectly) it causes the music setting to re-set, which means you have to go back a step and allow the sharing of music again. It's hard because I, as a performer, am hearing the music perfectly, it's the punters who are getting silence. I imagine Zoom will fix this problem soon.

Apart from the adverts, and the abandoned Cross Channel sketch, the running order was the Superheroes show as done at Edinburgh and on tour, and most of it worked well. But god do those costume changes and music cues need some tightening up! Next time it'll be smoother. If, of course, there ever is a next time.  

Fri April 30 - SOCIAL CLUB 2

Saturday 17 April 2021

The Rabbit Who Ate France - comics by kids

Only a few comic classes recently, but what quality productions they've resulted in. The Rabbit Who Ate France is from a sellout class run by Largs Youth Theatre; The Fox That Ate The Queen was from a class I organised myself, which attracted a respectable dozen punters; The Killer Laptop was from another sellout class, this time run by Plough Arts in Devon; Jo's Big Tik Tok Escape was from a private party to celebrate an employee, Jo, leaving Sky to go and work at Tik Tok; and Enog Noggy was from a 10th birthday party, another private booking. So no actual schools this month so far, which is a shame. I feel another mass emailing coming on.

The celebrities these five groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Ariana Grande, Elvis Presley, Taylor Swift, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and JK Rowling.

Next class Sunday April 25th: Ropetackle

Wednesday 7 April 2021

12 Socks shows in 14 days (and then some)

Brace yourselves, buckle up, select the metaphor of your choice and put some dates in your diary if you want to see the Scottish Falsetto Socks this month, cos they're about to do 12 dates in 14 days, and some more on top of that.

I mean you've already missed the first Social Club, about which more here. That was on Friday April 2nd. Now here's what's coming up...

Weds April 7 - Super Fun Comedy. 7pm (8pm Europe), 7 min set, free on Zoom, register here.

(Good show, from Brussels, we gave them Richard III)

Thurs April 8 - Chicken Box Comedy. 9pm, 7 min set, free on Zoom & Facebook.

(Good return show, from riot-torn Derry, which could be seen and heard in the background of Les Ismore's screen. We gave them Richard III, good audience 30+)

Fri April 9 - Comedy Pops, 8pm, 7 min set, free on Zoom, tickets here.

(Highest professional quality of acts, we opened with not very good Prince Phillip material, though thankfully couldn't do the hastily-prepared song, but then gave them An Actor Prepares which went well. Felt it wasn't our best show, and of course it was the biggest audience, 60+)

Sat April 10 - Merthyr Comedy Festival, 9pm, 10 min set, free on YouTube here.

(An actual paying gig, on Streamyard so no visible audience, we gave them the Magic routine)

Sun April 11 - Larklord 

(The Socks hosted a round of this Taskmaster-like very good fun show on Streamyard, managing to entertain the room with our improv and ad libs, no actual material.)

Thurs April 15 - Social Distance Warriors 

(A fun, and different, format, which comprised 15 minute interviews and a few games, lasting two hours. The Socks won the Cast List movie quiz and did some fun improv & ad libs. No actual material. On Zoom, but then given a treatment so it went out nicely framed, but with no audience, like Streamyard.)

Fri April 16 - Blue Suede News

(A variation on Have I Got News, hosted by Roger Poulter, again on Streamyard - it's been a Streamyard week. The Socks managed some good improv on topical stories, again no material.) 

Sat April 17 - SUPERHEROES (our own solo show, full report here)

Sun April 18 - Sounds Proper 

(A good and busy line up, we were on second and had to leave early. Did a cracking 5 minutes of Magic routine and some banter. Also picked up the final act for the next Social Club, Michelle MaliZaki who was on right after us, live from LA).

Mon April 19 - Unmuted, from Australia, 11am UK time, the Socks host the show

(Great fun. Gave them a new, Melbourne-oriented, version of We Can See You, and various other bits of schtick and lots of banter, between 7 acts who filled an hour.) 

Tues April 20 - Comedy Virgins (3 minute set, show cancelled)

Weds April 21 - Spiky Mike's birthday party

(A last minute surprise. We knew we'd been invited to Spiky's online birthday party, and that there were going to be some acts performing, but it was only the day before we discovered that the Socks had been put on the bill. That makes this by far the most star-studded bill we have been on this month. We were performing alongside Hal Cruttenden, Patrick Monahan, Steve Royle, Tom Binns, James Dowdeswell, Brian Damage & Krystal, Mandy Muden, Jonny Awsun and Scott Bennett. I know! The Socks did a nifty little 5 minutes of gags, mostly the travel puns, and were well received. A brilliant show to have been on.)

Fri April 23 - 27 Minute Comedy Hour.

(A tight format, a. bit like Mock The Week, that admirably squeezes everything into less than half an hour, as advertised. The Socks were out of their comfort zone with this one. Apart from a 3 minute set, the rest was cracking gags about topical stories and it's not a style that we're best at. We've been doing nicely with our adlibs and improv on other shows - see Larklord, Social Distance Warriors, & Blue Suede News - but this time we felt we weren't up to strength. Not bad going to have one weaker show among such a busy month of appearances)

Sat April 24 - Reckless Comedy (headlining) + Thirst Grab (from India at 6.30, look at us doubling up)

(This was an interesting double-up to compare and contrast. The show from India had 100 people in the audience, started at 6.30pm and we did 10 minutes at the start. Great to be seen by so many new people, and on a bill where the acts were doing half their set, usually the punchlines, in Hindi. Then we crossed to Reckless which, I thought, was going to be maybe 90 minutes long. So, since I knew we were headlining, I told Socks fans we'd be on about 9pm. There then followed a succession of open mic comedians, some good, some less so, and I lost count of how many. Maybe ten? That meant that we didn't get on stage till nearly 10.15. We then did a blistering set - we gave them Halloween, Earth Song, and Magic, the classic 20 minute set. Sadly, apart from three Socks fans who hung on to the bitter end, there was no audience apart from fellow comedians, but the laughter was great and it's always reassuring to know we've still got it. But performing to so small an audience, and for no money, does seem slightly pointless and we'll have to be more discerning about the shows we do from now on. We need to get back to paying gigs, so thank heavens we have seven live shows lined up starting in June.) 

Sunday April 25 - Dean Friedman's All Request Show

(We do this every month and sometimes forget to mention it, usually cos we do so little in the show. This time we had a spot miming to a song by Dean called He's My Friend, that he wrote for the TV show Boon back in the day. We also did door duties and led the chat at the aftershow, and Dean always makes me feel a part of the team, so a fun and fitting end to the weekend's run of shows.)

Weds April 28 (was to be Weds April 14) - Velvet Banana Comedy from Prague 

(This was a storytelling show, rather than straight stand up, so the Socks gave them The Performance Artist and some gags. Fun atmos, audience was just the comedians but a good bunch.)

Fri April 30 - SOCIAL CLUB 2

And announcing the next new show - Eurovision Sock Contest on May 14th!

Saturday 3 April 2021

Social Club report

The inaugural Socks Social Club went very well and was a joy to do. Though only half the show was Socks, I ended up writing more for this than I did for their last solo show (Talking Of Changing The Subject). You can see the first Social Club in its entirety on Facebook.

No sooner had I drafted the ad above, adding the names of the actual acts (following a conversation where it was suggested all shows should do this) than two of them pulled out, on the morning of the show in fact. So it was that we ended up with no Sam Serrano or Ian Crawford, but with Jaleela Galbraith and Rebekka Turner in their place. The acts went well, Jaleelah being a perfect headliner, and Tori Burton proving invaluable as a temporary stand-in host when my broadband cut out mid-show.

The running order was:

Intro video and theme tune (I've remade the 20th Century Fox theme and Respect, cos they kept getting flagged and muted on Youtube, this version escapes that fate)

Intro gags

Act 1 - Simon Hall - does stand up with slides which works very well on screen

Advert 1 - Dragnet. I'd curated a set of ads, from, for cigarettes, each more shocking than the last. This one had the star of Dragnet telling you how fags weren't bad for your health.

Pouring a drink routine - this got cut off by my broadband cutting out and Tori taking over till we returned a minute or so later.

Meat Raffle - very good Socks routine, got great laughs from two raffle tickets

Act 2 - Maeve Boffey - was the funniest act on the very first online gig we did, Frenzy back in Feb, and did very well today

Fine Fare interview - One of my favourite bits of new material, we introduced the character Dave Clark Five and the house band. They then sang a song about a "Northern Hero", the Jim'll Fix It theme. I don't know if I'm the only person this amused, but they seemed to laugh enough for me.

Notably, tonight's show continued the pattern of singing the music live, as debuted in the last show. This means video clips are reserved for pre-filmed and novelty items, and music is fresher and more flexible.

Act 3 -  Rebekka Turner - appealed more to some than others, but I liked her, with offbeat character comedy verging on the very silly

Advert 2 - Dog. You could win a free puppy with fags in the 50s.

The Bingo Round. I'd previewed this at Talking Of Changing The Subject, and with one round changed it went just as well this time.

Act 4 -  Tori Burton - does a great routine with slides, looking at her time as a pole dancer. Excellent.

Advert 3 - Flintstones. The Flintsones advertised fags in the 1960s, quite shocking.

Ventriloquism routine - a brand new routine that could, I think find its way into a live show. Must keep trying this in open spots.

Act 5 - Jaleelah Galbraith - a perfect headliner, good professional stand up, adapted well to the small screen.

Closing lines and final song from Fine Fare - Chopped Up Sheep & Chopped Up Sheep & Cows, of which I am again inordinately proud.

Ticket sales for Social Club totalled 40 (13 on WeGotTickets, 17 on JokePit), which is about the same that the monthly shows are getting. At £5 a ticket (compared to the usual £9) I thought we might do better. This means that, once I've paid the acts, I come away with less money than I have for any of my solo shows. But it was so much fun to do, we're doing it again on April 30th. See you there.

Fri April 30 - SOCIAL CLUB

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