Vancouver, September 12, 2009
Ah, the manyfold joys of the late night show.
Because what do you do with yourself until your show at 10.45 p.m.?
Well the first bit is easy … I flyer. I flyer a lot. It's still early in this Fringe so, while no one is tired of flyerers yet, there are only so many big line-ups, and it is like there are ten of us preying on the same very finite number of faces … me jonno gemma sarah dan lana beckypoole (back in the gang after skipping Victoria), and new arrival Bryan from White Horse doing Cam and Legs, plus the @Lifes and the Caberlesques …
But I make my living doing fringes, and I partly make my living through flyering, so I've got really rather notbad at it. Because you can change your destiny through flyering. Because I have done my spiel Ooooh, 35-40,000 times, at least. And blimey, it's slick … it is very slick … it's so slick it's been known to lake in a pool beneath me and run off down the hill to become a pool of slick somewhereveryelse … It's that slick.
And I know pretty much everything that can happen when I'm saying it.
Hello, can I give you one of these, it's a fringe show, it's me, I talk a lot and people laugh, and they particularly laugh when it's funny, which is good, because it's not all funny and when it's not funny people don't laugh, which is also good because it would be embarrassing.
But please give it a read, it's all true apart from the bits I made up.
But I didn't make up the twenty five-star reviews, I didn't make up the lovely review in the Georgia Straight and I didn't make up the back …
(the back is blank)
There's something really refreshing about the back of my flyer, don't you think? And also, I was never very good at art at school and I think I'm playing to my strengths, you know what I mean?
Which is, in truth, a short comedy routine which, like I say, I've said tens of thousands of times and which I can shorten and lengthen at will, depending on whether they look interested, on whether they're laughing, and whether I'm desperate nor not.
I have to proudly add that those last three lines are brand new this year. Which means that after three months I have successfully ad-libbed three whole new lines. That's 37 or so whole new words. Wow. For me, that's productivity. Wow. Be impressed, be very impressed. (And then go and see Chris Gibbs or Ryan Gladstone.)
The only question I can't deal with when flyering is, what's the show about? 'Cos errrr … ummmm … ahem … So I stammer incoherently for a couple of seconds and shift on furtively down the line, losing furtiveness and regaining confidence with every step away from the dreaded question …
Sometimes the pitch kills all the way along a line and I can get ten punters in ten fifteen minutes, which is not a bad return on your investment. Sometimes it's hard work, and I make a serial dickhead of myself. Whatever, I usually enjoy it, it does not tire me out, it gets my brain alert enough for show-mode, and sometimes it's exceedingly good fun.
I learnt to flyer at the Edinburgh Fringe. On the Royal Mile in August. Which is the hardest school imaginable, because you can walk two hundred yards down the Royal Mile in August and acquire 75 flyers, easily. And not many are for spontaneously going to a show. Especially a show that's not comedy. Especially a poetry show.
So to stick out and get the punters in, you have to be good, you have to be very good and me, I could sell a poetry show, yes a poetry show, on the Royal Mile, in August. Which must be the hardest sell of them all.
If you can sell a poetry show in Edinburgh in August, by flyering, you must be able to sell pretty much anything anywhere.
We used to say, come in for nothing pay as you like at the end (p.a.y.l.a.t.e.) … which made us different … In fact I invented that sales pitch there. For years (1997-2004) mine was the only show doing that. Now loads of people are doing it.
And it does give you a selling edge.
All the other shows are cowards, they think you're not going to like them, so they get the money off you first. We think you're going to like us, so we say, pay as you like at the end.
Which is not a bad pitch. And at least it made us different. As well as being the only successful poetry cabaret since the 60s.
The fact that we were starving, two of us were literally starving, (our accommodation officer was living in a bush) did of course give us some extra impetus. There's nothing like desperation for generating good ideas. Cut the waffle mate, what works? This works. Then do it. Again and again.
But, whatever, two hours before the show I'm done flyering, so what do I do then?
I wander round the back alleys and back gangplanks of Granville Island, I lurk around the jetty, I lurk around the waterside, I lurk around the greens, I lurk around the greenery.
O yes, I lurk. O yes, I loom. O yes, I shadow myself. What amazes me is that I've never been arrested for loitering with intent. Do you have loitering with intent as a crime in Canada? Maybe you don't. It would explain a lot. Oh yes.
And then when I'm in the venue, it's even worse because I'm more confined. And WHAT DO YOU DO? … I can drink more water, I can throw more water in my face, I can walk up and down the dressing room, the corridor, the back of the stage, again, and again … I can do more face exercises, body exercises, voice exercises, I can flex tongue cheeks fingers legs arms neck, whatever … I can hummm and ommm and so … but … I can't sit down, I can't stand up, I can't read, I can't eat, I can't write, I CAN'T DO ANYTHING, I can barely even think, for I am in the suspended nontime before a show, and I spend too much of my life in this suspended can't-do-anything on-time. This year, last year and every year.
So yes, I have lurked in the back alleys and parking spaces and greeneries and backlots and side streets and university concourses and stairwells and playing fields of Montreal, Ottawa, Wakefield, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Victoria and, now, Vancouver.
Yes, I have lurked a lot, me. I've got a good figure for lurking. Just right. Long thin and European. Born to lurk.
And then what happens. O, the show, the show. The show was good. 78 punters at 10.45.That bit was great. I liked the show. I can cope with the show. That's the easy bit. It's the other 23 hours that get a bit much.
And I saw Dwayne Morgan's show Grade 8. This is an excellent piece. I know Dwayne from Toronto, where he runs the slams and stuff. I told him about the Fringe years back and he's finally got in one.
He had a tiny house, and I'm not sure about his venue, its size certainly limits one's ambition, but a show that well-written has got to do well in the end. The language flows beautifully from Dwayne's mouth and he makes it look like no effort at all. And, at heart, it's a moral piece when, let's face it, the Fringe isn't big on earnestness and morals.
In a sense it's a complete counterpoint to Straight (From That Side Of Town). It's a family story full of life and light and compassion and positivity, whereas Catherine Montgomery's show is a family story full of death and darkness and damage and self-destruction. It has some dark, but then, Straight has its light�
Whatever, let's hope they both have a great Vancouver.
And oh yeah, the Fringe has started. Great stuff. Das Kabarett, Today Is All Your Birthdays, The Cockwhisperer and Grade 8. Great stuff.
So its all going a bit Granville. Know what I mean?