Leicester Comedy Festival 2016: Tiff Stevenson

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Another random commuting photo

My first show at the Cookie of this year’s festival was Tiff Stevenson. I had seen Tiff last year with Ed Byrne at Loughborough Town Hall and was really glad to see she was performing at the festival as I really wanted to see a longer set of her material. Her subjects range from feminism to politics to pop culture and she has a very engaging and likeable personality onstage. Although she did accuse me of being too old for San Miguel! She said some very inspiring stuff about being honest as any kind of performer, which was great, and quickly and seamlessly filled in any gaps in knowledge anyone might have had about some of her topical references. It was a really terrific show, one might say Tiffrific but I am not that one. I strongly recommend you catch Tiff’s tour if you can. tiffstevenson.co.uk/

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Leicester Comedy Festival: Panel Beaters

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I am the late night commuting comedy fan.

My next Leicester Comedy Festival show was Panel Beaters at Firebug, a panel show hosted by Caimh McDonnell. It was a loose and very fun show, and guests Andy Robinson, James Cook and Gary Delaney competed to see who wouldn’t be killed and eulogised at the end. It was basically an excuse for four comedians to dick about and be hilarious. I really enjoyed the show and there was a really good crowd. I booked to see it because I’m a big fan of Gary Delaney but the other comedians were really funny too, and Caimh was a great host. The ticket price was only £3 and so it was brilliant value for money. Another Leicester Comedy Festival winner!

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Leicester Comedy Festival 2016: Stephen Carlin

My second show of the Leicester Comedy Festival was Stephen Carlin at The Globe. I had seen him previously at one of the Just the Tonic nights at Loughborough Town Hall and thought he was brilliant. I was really shocked to see such a small audience for a comedian that is so good. I sometimes wonder if lower profile comedians struggle to be noticed with such a glut of shows in the programme and on the website. The Globe have a board outside advertising the shows going on each evening which is a great idea to try to get casual punters to give the shows a try. Stephen’s show was really great and the way he delivered his full show to ten people was really admirable. He even engaged in some Loughborough banter as I was the furthest travelled of the audience except for someone from London. If you get the chance to see him please do, or at least look him up on Youtube. He is a really unique and gifted comedian and the first time I saw him reminded me of the first time I saw Bill Hicks on TV. I hope his future Leicester visits are better attended.

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Creation is an end in itself

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Photo by Paul Harrison

I just wanted to take a brief moment to talk about creativity. I am a writer and musician but that doesn’t pay the bills. My day job does that. Not everyone has the privilege of being able to do what they love to do in order to make a living. A singer recently was devastated not to be on a radio station playlist and made a video message to express how disappointed they were. But radio playlists are not terribly extensive in proportion to the amount of songs being released, so why should a particular act feel hard done-by for not being chosen for a very small shortlist of songs? Certainly they should not feel slighted in any way. Many songs, few slots, that’s all that’s going on there. Simple maths. A tiny minority of musicians can make a living just doing music. For most it is a hobby. This may make some feel aggrieved. But how many people who love painting can make a living at it? How many people who submit the odd poem here and there can make a living as a writer? Extremely few. We create things because we love to create, and if other people love what we create then that is a bonus, but to have mass acceptance as our aim is unrealistic. We work hard at what we do and it is natural to think that hard work should be rewarded, but in art, music and literature, the things that we hope will enrich the soul, that isn’t always the case, no matter how talented or enthusiastic someone is. I have always been in the enthusiastic camp. I have always believed in having a go. The people who inspire me most believe in the same thing. Create it anyway because you feel it needs to be created. If anybody else likes it then that’s just a bonus. I know how dispiriting it can be when nobody seems to appreciate the talent you have and the effort you put in. But seeking success or approval on the internet isn’t always the right way. Taking your work to people live is often the best way. Internet people are not dependable. They say they will go to things they won’t go to and will support things they won’t end up supporting. But if you play in front of some real people in real life they will see what you have done, and the support and encouragement they give you will be genuine. They came, they saw, they might want your CD as a souvenir of a wonderful night out. I know many talented people who perhaps deserve to be able to make a living from the wonderful music they create, but they might not be able to do that. But it is truly a privilege to have the chance and the talent to be able to try to do that. People sometimes say “I couldn’t do what you do”. Standing up on a stage trying to entertain people is not something everyone can do, and that is why it is such a privilege to have the mind-set and confidence to be able to do that. It is a rare and precious thing. Hits on a website don’t really mean anything. How many people post an event on the internet which many people say they will go to and no-one turns up? The internet can be useful but it is no indicator of anyone’s talent or success. The people in front of you in the room are all that matters. You are there to entertain them and to enjoy yourself. As I have said before, anything else is just a bonus to the gift and the privilege of being able to do this at all.

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Leicester Comedy Festival 2016: Richard Herring

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The first show for me at this year’s festival was Richard Herring’s ‘Happy Now?’. I’m a keen follower of his RHLSTP podcast and enjoy his Metro column every week and so I get to see the beginnings of some of the routines that make up his tour shows. In this new show he deals with becoming a dad for the first time which might signal the end of the credibility and edginess of a lesser comedian, but Richard Herring deals with it in his own unique and brilliant way. He also looks at some of the things that are supposed to bring happiness, like being hugely successful, but things like that often bring their own pitfalls.
This is just the beginning of Richard Herring’s Happy Now? tour and I found it a really funny show containing contemplative and conversational moments as well as hilarious fast-talking rants. I highly recommend checking his website www.richardherring.com to see if his tour is coming near you as it’s a really great show.

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Leicester Comedy Festival 2016 Prelude

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Last  year was the first time I’ve really gone nuts on the Leicester Comedy Festival and I had a brilliant time, seeing Josie Long, Stewart Lee, Count Arthur Strong, Dylan Moran, Sara Pascoe, Sarah Millican (Q & A), Hal Cruttenden, Tom Allen, Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer and Angela Barnes. The festival has so many great shows to choose from at all sorts of prices; some are even free.
This year I’m going to a fair few shows again and will be reporting back on my blog with reviews.
If you are fairly local to Leicester I can’t encourage you enough to check out what’s on this year over the next three weeks, from big name comedians to stars of the future. The website http://www.comedy-festival.co.uk/ has all the info you need, although it can be a little fiddly to navigate. The brochures are available from various places like Curve and other venues, but also from the Tourist Information Centre.
As well as the big venues like Curve and De Montfort Hall there are also many other places like Firebug, The Cookie, The Globe putting on shows so there are all sorts going on all over the city.
Some of the comedians I’m going to see are people who have performed at Loughborough’s Just The Tonic nights at the Town Hall which was a great way to check them out doing shorter sets so I’d be able to look out for their full shows in Leicester the following February. As with all my reviews, I’m not here to slag people off so if I see someone I don’t like then I probably won’t mention it, but I do tend to book to see people I know I’ll like so that’s unlikely to happen. All my reviews are about is sharing my enthusiasm for people who I think are really brilliant.
Let the japes commence!

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Reasons to be awkward

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I don’t often write personal things in my blog, mainly reviews of things I think are awesome, but I thought I’d briefly write about something that has made my life incredibly difficult. Many people are shy or feel socially awkward and can get very uncomfortable in certain situations such that they want to go home and hide in a cupboard. A couple of recent examples for me are a local folk club where I just can’t bear to be because I feel intimidated by the talented musicians and feel I don’t belong, and a local ukulele group where I don’t dare even go because I don’t think they would want me intruding on their thing. I have a feeling that people don’t want me around or joining in with their stuff. Somewhere this was particularly problematic was university and if I had felt more able to become involved I wouldn’t have had to finish my degree with the OU. But I think I can pin down the cause of all this and it is still a painful thing to think about, and strange to think how something that happened when I was 3 should still affect a 41 year old.
I was outside at my grandparents’ house when I noticed a group of children playing in a garden across the road. Overcome with enthusiasm and bonhomie I went over to play with them. In no uncertain terms I was not welcomed by the children or by somebody’s mum over there and my  mum came over and brought me back. What does that tell a 3 year old? It tells him that people don’t want him around, they don’t want him to join in and frankly they would prefer it if he was on his own somewhere away from them. It also tells him he is not worth much.
Now that was just one incident I should perhaps have gotten over, but it sets a precedent for the next series of incidents and going all the way through school, so you end up with many years of those feelings being reinforced, all precipitated by that first incident. Losing my mother the following year didn’t help. Having a heart condition and spending a lot of time in hospital didn’t help. Going into a step-family didn’t help. Developing diabetes didn’t help. Being bullied for nine years also didn’t help.
I’m not going to play misery top trumps with anyone, but I know people sometimes leave me out of things or feel I’m difficult to get to know because my personality might seem a bit odd or I might seem a bit insular, and the reasons all stem from this one incident. I have a sociable hobby of playing music which really helps, and I’ve always enjoyed work because of the friendships you can build up over time. All I need to know is that someone isn’t going to be horrible to me and the problem is then gone. I’m on the defensive in case people decide they don’t like me or don’t actually want to talk to me.
So you could consider this a Haynes manual for social interaction with Mr Carden. I am shy because I am frightened of the possibility of you disliking me.

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