Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Max Turner, RIP

In my entry for Tuesday the 25th August I wrote:
My "brother in open spots arms" Max Turner came to see me, I have great consideration for him as a comedian and he is a nice and clever man.
Tragically I have just heard that this nice and clever man passed away during the weekend. He will be greatly missed.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The next Wigan?

Tonight gig was quite a sobering experience. The opening line about my name fell flat (I'm going to drop it), then I did my language material and it went increasingly well, so in normal circumstances I should have been quite pleased. But the truth is that I'm now playing in a different league, it was just 10 minutes but among professional comedians, so expectations were higher and comparisons less forgiving. I guess it's the shock facing every newly promoted team. Will I face relegation? Or, as a truly West Ham fan, will I save myself at the last gig with a joke not really mine and at the price of endless litigation from some Sheffield comedian? Or will I stay in the league and beat Chelsea one day?

Monday, September 14, 2009

My strangest gig so far

Tonight I went back to the club ran at the bar of the Theatre Royal in Stratford. It's a gig completely different from any other I know: the bar is huge, the night is free and people sit at the tables drinking, eating and often chatting, so you really need to fight for attention. The demographic is very young, very black and very very noisy, with laughter alternated not with the usual silence but with cheers or shouts of protest, American-style. Well, I had the strangest problem ever: I did very few jokes because people were laughing too much and didn't let me continue! It didn't feel as right as you might expect, though, it wasn't exciting or rewarding but felt actually very scary. I guess what made it so scary was the lack of control I was experiencing, the fact that I was getting a different and a bigger reaction from what I had bargained for. Sometimes they were even laughing at the set-ups, so if was clear that the balance between "laughing with" and "laughing at" this time was definitively screwed in favour of the second. I guess it was the opposite of a laugh of recognition: the vision of a geeky, bespectacled, grey-haired Italian with the strongest Italian accent attempting comedy in the most demographically unlikely of places was probably already enough. But fortunately there was a moment when I felt I managed to turn the tables and take control. The MC had done some jokes about Nigerians doing announcements on the tube, so I did my "learning English from the tube announcements" routine adding this time that "the problem with that method is that you pick up a Nigerian accent". That brought the house down, it was probably the biggest laugh I ever had. Now that I think of it, it's as if I inconsciously realised that I was "laughed at" for being so incongrous with the environment and I reacted by turning that very experience into its comical opposite. After the gig, many people came to shake my hand and congratulate me, so I should definitively be very happy and proud of it, but I'm also still perturbed by the experience. It showed me a side of comedy I had never experienced so clearly before. And I wonder if I like that side and, if I do, what that says about me. As Nietzsche famously wrote: "when you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you".

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The cat is out of the bag

I uploaded the first (short) extract of my Edinburgh video... click here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bipolar reviews and one more role model

Today I found two more audience reviews: a five star and a one star! The five star is a little masterpiece of criticism that should be taught at school, here it is:
Well done Hyacinth, you've spotted most of our peculiarities that make us uniquely English. Welcome to the club, and thanks for an excellent well presented show. You certainly pulled it off.
This is what I call a happy customer! And now for something completely different:
Italian software developer with a master's in philosophy (sorry, you can't hide from Google if you put your life on LinkedIn and Facebook) complaining about English Grammar. Haha, doesn't understand why we say "fucked up" and not "up fucked". Not funny. Gets fake call from his mama. Sterotypes not funny. One star (cause he was free.)
There a couple of interesting points here. Regarding the fake phone calll, the only thing I have to say is that before talking of stereotypes she should meet my mother. Regarding , instead, the fact that my problems with the English language are not believable given my master's and my non menial job, I'll give the author one more arrow for her arc: I even got an "A" in the Cambridge Proficiency Exam, the highest certification available to non-native speakers. So? You need to know the English language quite well to be able to express its oddities and if I exaggerate my own difficulties I'm just using a classic comic device. To make a comparison that is fresh in my mind, yesterday I went to visit Karl Marx's grave. He was of course a very well educated bourgeois, but this didn't prevent him from giving voice to the sufferings of the working class, to the contrary it's exactly what made it possible. Maybe I'm giving voice to the billions of people who are really struggling with idioms and phrasal verbs and that for this very reason don't have a voice, at least not in English. Broken English speakers of the world, unite!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Looking in the mirror

For three days the files of my recording have been sitting on my hard disk. The excuse for not watching them is that I was waiting for the DVD. Today the DVD arrived and I had no more excuse. What made me so terrified is that I remembered a good show, although a nervous and far from flawless one, and I was afraid of being disappointed. At the end I decided to take the plunge and I actually watched it twice. So, what's the verdict? I was definitively nervous, I stumbled on a couple of jokes and - the most serious flaw - I completely forgot the "pubs" joke, while leaving a callback that now seems completely meaningless. From a performance point of view, I was full of ticks and overplayed facial expressions, even if maybe that made me funnier. And for God's sake, I could have shaved, even if that shade gives me an almost Doug Stanhop-ish aria of neglect. I don't think I have ever looked at my own image for so long and so up close, comedy really is a journey of self discovery. By the way, the response of the audience was almost always very good, there is no dead bit and the end worked very well. Bron, the producer of the film, made a very good work. So what am I going to do with it? I still haven't decided whether I want to put it on YouTube or not.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I got booked for my first PAID gig!

Yeah! This feels great... like a breakthrough of some kind. And all I had to do was replying to the promoter's ad including a link to Kate Copstick's review, which seems to open doors like some sort of magic key. It'a Friday evening, a closing slot and £ 40, not bad for a first paid gig.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The shape of things to come

Apparently, there is (comic) life after the Fringe after all! In these few days back in London I have already a) booked a slot for another festival (Nottingham, 9th of November) and b) agreed the first line-up for my new comedy club in Bethnal Green (Gallery Cafe, 5th of October). I saw the last-minute vacancy for Nottingham in a forum on Chortle (the industry bible), I applied and discovered that being a non-free show it had to last an entire hour. So I proposed to Ashley Frieze to share the slot and he agreed! We are going to call it "The Anglo-Italian Job". So, my show will soon have a chance to see the (spot)light again. Not only, but I decided to book myself as the headliner for my new comedy club, so I will do 15-20 minutes out of it. Before Edinburgh I thought that I should play the truly professional promoter and book somebody better known and more experienced than me, but one of the reasons why I did the festival is to convince promoters that I could do longer slots and apparently I managed to convince at least one of them. Moreover, if I add a bit of schizophrenia to my egocentrism I can probably manage to become a bit more polycentric!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Happy ending

So, here I am, on the train back to London. The last performance went again really really well, I thanked the audience for these two wonderful weeks and the voice was indeed broken, but I avoided tears. I said goodbye to Ashley Freeze, who commented: "You have done so well this week, you should really be proud of yourself". Bless him, his support and advice have been really precious for me, I'm sure we'll meet again "on the circuit". I'm sorry that I didn't say goodbye to "Moz", his dark humor and hints of cynicism have been a nice corrective to my sometimes rose-spectacled view of the Fringe. By now he is probably celebrating not being a cannibal any more and he is probably called Michael or something like that. If you are reading this, please get in touch. After the show I felt completely empty, depleted of the purpose that propelled me like a bullet for the past two weeks. The sight if me might have been included into those "ghost tours" they sell to tourists. Which reminds me of the best piece of involuntary humour I heard in ages. Two tourists told me, completely staight-faced: "We went on a ghost tour but it was all hot air". By the way, if you want to see a real ghost in Edinburgh just look for a Fringe performer who has finished his run. That's why I decided to leave straigth away, I didn't want to be an undead in a place that saw me so concentrated and full of purpose. See you next year, Edinburgh, I can't wait. Regarding this blog, I decided to keep it alive, you might be curious to see what happens next. And I'm as curious as you are.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I was wrong: it's going better!

One more broken record today: £ 65. I know, this is starting to sound like the Financial Times, but "Moz" did tell me: we should float you on the stock market! Behind those numbers, however, they are laughs, compliments, people leaving my show satisfied of having spent with me half-hour of their very precious Fringe time. I was particularly happy that today's was a good show since Anthony Dewson was in the audience, he is a brilliant comedian and a very good and enthusiastic promoter. Anthony, if you see Max Turner please tell him that I'm not a deluded man. That disastrous Monday performance looks so far away today, as if it happened to somebody else, but I need to remember "history" in order not to repeat it. As always with holidays, when things start to go really well it's time to go home. Tomorrow I'm going to thank the audience. I just hope I'm not going to break down in tears like an old drama queen.

Friday, August 28, 2009

It couldn't go better!

Sorry for the delay in the updates, but I have been very busy. By the way, it's going really really well, today I broke my collection record: it's now £ 54. I know what you are thinking: you can never trust comedians, they are only in it for the money. But the truth is that money is the easiest thing to quantify, easier than laughs or (for a non-ticketed show) even people. And I have recognized a reliable correlation between the size of the laughter and that of the collection. Today the room was almost full, there were maybe 5 or 6 seats available. The flyer with the reviews stapled to it is working miracles, even if it means that I have to spend an awful lot of time cutting and stapling. Which explains the length of this post. Please stay tuned, anyway, now that my friends Laura and Luisa have left (thanks again for the great company) I'll try to update this more frequently.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Giacinto has charm as Tuscany has wine" (The Scotsman)

Hectic days... I have got a review from The Scotsman, in the person of Kate Copstick, who apparently is a very respected and influential critic. It's only free stars, but it's full of praise and quotable sentences. My show is "lovely" and "a charming, entertaining Fringe experience". Even if the opening seems to suggest that I'm not as smart as Jimmy Carr... I have never felt more offended. Anyway this review is great for me, all comedians consider Kate Copstick one of the biggest catches as reviewers go and it confirms three important things: 1) I exist; 2) I'm really doing a show at the Fringe; 3) my show is not a complete irrelevance. By the way, judge for yourself, here it is. And the four stars review for BroadwayBaby from Catherine Paver has been published on the first page of the printed edition. Catherine, if you are still reading this, thank you again and congratulations: you are now a printed critic. These good reviews came to save my show from the lowest point in its history, which was yesterday. I had finished my flyers and very few people came and I let an unplesant off-stage event just before my show affect my on-stage performance, something that many productions of "Pagliacci" should have taught that it's not supposed to happen. My "brother in open spots arms" Max Turner came to see me, I have great consideration for him as a comedian and he is a nice and clever man so I was sorry to disappoint him. I want to thank him for coming but I want to thank even more the bilions of people in the world who made the right decision of not coming yesterday. But after the good reviews, today I had an almost full room again and a good performance. And Mario Pirovano came to see it and he seemed to enjoyed it too. I have also 2000 more flyers and I stapled the reviews to some of them, thanks to the precious help from my friends Laura and Luisa who are here from Italy after having spent few days in my London flat. Their company is very important, it helps me to spend some nice non-Fringe realted time with intelligent and lovely people and to see things in a better perspective. I need to go flyering now... but things are really looking great!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back to normality but loving it

I was a bit worried about how I would take the climb down from yesterday's peak. Sunday is the toughest day for my slot and this morning there was nobody around. The audience was small, but better than what I feared, and they absolutely loved it. Equally importantly, I absolutely loved doing my show. And there was somebody taking notes all time, at least when she wasn't busy laughing, which makes for a very promising combination. The only drama of the the day was that when I arrived the room wasn't ready, all the chairs were on the stage and I had a hell of a time disposing them in rows. This happened because the show before mine was canceled. The saddest thing on the Fringe is seeing a show failing. Somebody made a mistake on the program with the ending dates, so Dough from "A sketchy show" had nobody coming at all yesterday and I guessed today he decided to pull the plug (but don't take my word for it, I don't want to add to his woes). There is no Schadenfreude there, we are really supporting each other, apart from the practical advantages of having a successful show before yours. Dough, if you are reading this, keep it up, it will go better next year.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Full house (almost) and triumphal show on the day of the recording... the God of the Fringe really exists!

Yesterday I was sort of praying for something that would give this show a real boost. Well, one of the reasons why I don't believe in praying is that it stops you from working hard to achieve your objectives, so what I did instead was running the heaviest flyering campaign so far. The main stimulus was that I had agreed for the show to be video-recorded today and I needed a full house. And the strategy worked beautifully, besides maybe the famous word of mouth is starting to kick in as well. So I had an almost full house (only the front row was empty and few seats here and there), probably the biggest crowd seen this year in that room at any time, let alone at lunchtime. I asked the audience to wait five minutes longer because I didn't want any late comer, so when I went on stage somebody commented on the size of the audience and the long wait by shouting: "it should better be good"! As a result, for the first time in ages I was very nervous, which in a way is a good thing given that I'm not doing this for the comfort of safety, so unfortunately I ruined my opening line. But I recovered very well and the show was a triumph. Well, at least this time you will not need to take my word for it: I'm sure I will pester everybody I know (and many I don't, such as comedy promoters) with requests to watch this recording. To use one of those beautifully graphic expressions that the English language is so full of: I'm as happy as a pig in shit.

Friday, August 21, 2009

An expetional normality, friends in the audience and the wait for an (happy?) event

Yesterday I wrote that things were starting to become really interesting, but today I'm worried that this blog might become quite boring. Truth is that I'm becoming reliably good. Today I had an audience of 15-20, which I learned to consider good even if not exceptional, and the show went well. The only event worth of notice was the visit of my friend and ex impro coursemate Fiona with her husband. Now, I really need to apologize with Fiona's Husband for never remembering his name, but my short memory with faces and names was pointed out during the show by an audience member after I asked her origins even if she had already told me she was an Irish woman living in Italy when I gave her the flyer. I was quick to reply: "I'm sorry, but with such a big fanbase...", which gained me a big laugh and even a hint of applause. By the way, Fiona and Fiona's Husband were very supportive, I know they are reading this so I want to thank them again. I guess to shake things up I really need that bloody review. If I'll ever have children I don't think I'll wait for the birth of my first child with the same trepidation. I hope that if and when it will come out it will not have too many stars missing, but I'll love it never the less. What are all these reviewers doing all day? I'm coming to the conclusion that the Fringe is some sort of Egocentrics Anonymous. Everybody in turn walks to the centre of the room and shouts: "My name is XXX and I'm at the centre". Then they look at each other and realize that they can't all be right at the same time. And they recover. Well, sort of, otherwise they wouldn't come back to the Fringe to rock the world again with their shows. And the fact that I'm an egocentric doesn't mean that the world doesn't really turn around me. The problem is convincing it that it does. One audience member, and one critic, at a time.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I'm (almost) a celebrity: never get me out of here

No ifs and no buts, and no false modest either: today it was a triumph! I was very worried because this morning we had the heaviest rain so far. It seems to be this way every day: it rains in the morning, then the sun comes out after my show, the bastard. I was expecting an audience of frogs and snails or no audience at all. Instead I had a good audience, full laughs all the time, many compliments at the end and a collection of £38. Then the really amazing thing happened: after the show two people came to me with my flyer and a pen. I looked at them with a puzzled expression and asked what on hell they wanted me to do. Well, wasn't that obvious? They wanted me to sign the flyer! And so I did. By the way, I really hope there was a reviewer in the audience today. No, no review yet. Need to go now, I'm going to check on eBay the prize of my signed flyers. Stay tuned, things seem to become really interesting.

A good lemonade, some amazing people and a nightime adventure

Yesterday (I'm posting this before today performance, so this is the delayed yesterday post) I had 15 in, but I think I really managed to squeeze every single drop of laughter from such a small lemon. People even asked if I perform in London so they can come and see me again! What they don't know is that another thing I squeezed to the last drop for this show is my material, but hopefully more lemons will come in the future Two fellow performers came to see me, including Ashley Freeze, a very clever comedian, he seemed to love it. The other performer was the guy behind the show "Moz and the meal" and I returned the favour by going to see his show, a one-man-cum-recorded-voices about the love pains of a cannibal with the habit of eating his girlfriends. Half of the audience walked out, but I found it very powerful, original and amazingly well done. He told me that he had nothing to do with theatre before, but sets himself a challenge every every, so last year was running a marathon, this year was writing, producing and interpreting a play. Amazing. Even more amazing is Lynn Ruth Miller, a 76 years old lady from California who is doing three shows a day, one of which apparently involving her doing a striptease! I saw her other show, where she plays a role more traditional for grannies, that of telling stories. It was beautiful and moving and the very existence of somebody likes her is a bell sounding cheerfully for all of us. Funnily enough, I had a (real) telephone conversation with my mother, who asked me if it wasn't too tiring doing a 30 minutes show every day! She always manage to be stranger than my comic fiction. By the way, the Free Festival is full of very good shows and I'm really proud of being part of it. Generally speaking, there is a very nice atmosphere among Fringe performers. Yesterday I danced in the street with the cast of some musical and they gave me a stick saying "I danced with strangers". I met again a couple of them today and they celebrated me as an old friend. And I continue to bump into Mario Pirovano, one of the most famous Italian actors. Yesterday we were discussing how our shows were going, a bit like Cristiano Ronaldo comparing football notes with the guy from the pub team. I have been pushing him quite a lot to come to my show, it would really be great, I have even some jokes prepared for the event. Let's see. And the other night a funny episode happened involving another performer. My hostel is composed of flats of four rooms sharing the toilet and kitchen. I arrived at the hostel at 1am and I confused room number and flat number, so I tried to open the door of the wrong flat and it got stuck in! Not only I couldn't enter my room, but given that 1am is very early for most people at the festival I was potentially preventing other four people from entering theirs! After I don't know how many attempts with the key the door of the flat opened and the comedian Jo Romero came out of it in her pajamas. She is a good looking woman, who appears naked on the cover of her show's poster, titled "Touched for the very first time". I explained the situation and she managed to unstuck the key, adding to my humiliation but also to my relief. I said that waking her up was my revenge for covering part of one of my posters with one of hers, she weirdly replied that if I found a poo on my bed I could be sure of the origin. Such a classy lady. It was like we were rehearsing for a double act and it was actually good fun. By the way, pity that the English language uses the act of turning a screw as a metaphor for sexual intercourse, unlike the Italian language, which instead uses the act of turning a key. I know, a metaphor lost in translation doesn't make much of a kiss-and-tell story. But this blog, after all, is all about sublimation.... sorry, I meant "comedy". Maybe I should do that show on Freud after all.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Small audience happens... and how to deal with it

Today my audience was made of only 7 people, but I didn't let it affect my performance and they seemed to appreciate it, so I'm satisfied. Coping with a small audience is an essential skill to learn if your slot is at 12.45, you are at the first Fringe and nobody has ever heard of you. By the way, yesterday I stayed in my venue to watch Ashley Freeze's "Seven deadly jokes", a very clever and funny piece of meta-comedy about the different types of joke. I always seem to like Jewish comedians, so given also my longtime interest in Freud maybe I should write a show called "I wish I was Jewish. Or the envy of the circumcised penis". By the way, tonight I'll hook up with Anthea Neagle to support Phil Higgins at the "So you think you are funny competition". It will be a nice chance to catch up with the other members of the open spots class of 2009. Not much more to say for today... ah, still no review.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Back on a high... desperate self-promotion apparently works!

Today I had an almost full room, people seemed to like the show, I was pleased with my performance and there was somebody at the back looking suspiciously like a critic (who, I'm afraid to say, didn't laugh much, but maybe he thought it would have been unprofessional). What turned things around was that yesterday afternoon I did a great promotion campaigne. I changed my style completely, with chat-up lines such as: [to people surrounded by flyers] You don't to seem to have enough flyers, do you want one? [to people reading the program] Let me guess... you give the impression of looking for shows to watch... right?... so clever of me. Stuff like that. Then I went on with a pitch about the show and with a bit of banter. They played along well, I enjoyed it very much and it seemed to work. In the evening I went to see Richard Herring's show (brilliant!), the queue was too long for the venue, they had to split it in two and they made a mess of it, so I shouted with mock rage: "These things don't happen at MY show!". People were curious, I did a self-deprecating pitch explaining why I didn't need crowd control at my show and gave a few flyers. What makes the Fringe so special is the desperation of the performers to promote themselves, which means that they (we, actually) are performing all the time, with every place becoming a stage and every crowd an audience. Going back to Richard Herring, as for all his shows he gave away a free program asking for donations for some charity. I couldn't even hear the name of the charity, but I was very happy to give my contribution to the promotion of the cause of bucket collections. Speaking of which, today it was £33, all in coins. My trousers are so weighted down that I get mistaken for a teenager. Sorry, I need to go flyering now... stay tuned!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Small audience, some awful comments and the meaning of "beer money"

I have heard many times that the life of a Fringe performs is all ups and down, a bit like the city itself. And my God if it's true. Yesterday I finished on a high note: in the afternoon I met Dizzy High, a regular compere with Laughing Horse, and he offered me to play the experienced opener in a new acts gig starting at 11.30pm. I accepted, even if I was a bit worried of facing a rowdy crowd, and I really stormed it. It gave me a nice confidence boot before today luchtime performance. The audience was much smaller, 1/3 of the room instead of 2/3. Among them, there was a lovely elderly couple of typical English Italy lovers, those who in Italy were brilliantly lampponed by the comic Enrico Montesano, who played an old English lady in Italy who found everything "molto pittoresco", very picturesque. There were also two young couples who really seemed to enjoy the show. The performance was much slicker than last time, but I didn't manage to get full laughs. When I was dismantling my stuff I overheard a middle age woman, who stayed in the room for the next show, saying that "this one was awful". The Italy lovers came to me after the show and asked in puzzlement why on hell I decided to become a British citizen. They seemed to be very disappointed by those aspect that sounded un-Italian, probably to their ears even treacherous. Well, I have a Union Jack on the seat of my Vespa and I call myself Anglicized, what were they expecting? The comedic equivalent of "A room with a view"? Bloody Italy lovers, if they like Italy so much why don't they move there leaving this country to those who really like it? Maybe I will fund the NBNP: Naturalized British National Party. I'm sorry, they were a really lovely couple and they made the effort to come to my show, it's not their fault if it wasn't the right one for them. I did the collection (£20) and somebody by mistake put the first coin in a used beer glass and the other followed suit. Which, I guess, gives a completely new meaning to the expression "beer money". Boom boom. Well, what can you expect on a down day?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Good audience! Big laughs! £37 Collection! Over the moon!

So much for the suspense. Pity, I could have really played on it, since the day didn't start well at all. I didn't sleep much, I wasn't feeling in the mood and it was raining really very heavily. When I left my hostel there was nobody around, I had a first coffee in a bar that was completely empty, then I went to the Dome and there were only families waiting for the kids shows to start. I then decided to go to one of my favorite cafes, the Kilimanjaro, and it was packed with people reading the program and planning what show to see! Until then I didn't realize how close to my venue it was. So I decided to spend there the time before my show and to flyer every single fellow punter, stressing that the show was around the corner, apart from being free and at a suitable time. It worked amazingly well, my room was 2/3 full and it seemed as if the entire Kilimanjaro crowd have just decided to move to the Counting House! The show itself went well, even if I forgot the second part of the phone routine, the one with the self-deprecating joke. No prize for the first who mentions Sigmund bloody Freud. I got the laughs, received many compliments and ended up with an amazing collection of £37, that fellow performers told me it's exceptionally good. Now the sun is shining (really!), the birds are singing (I presume) and the Fringe is the most amazing event in the world.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Veni, vidi [to be continued]

Here I am, sitting on a sofa in the Pleasance Dome, at the heart of the Fringe! I have being looking forward to this for so long that when I got off the train I was almost tempted to kiss the platform. Pity that, after what everybody told me was a week of sunshine, my arrival coincided with a day of proper Scottish pissing down weather. The queue for the taxis was too long, so I decided to walk to my hostel in Cowgate, where I took a couple of wrong turns, so when I arrived I was drenched. I found the room quite nice, but I just left my suitcase and went straight to the The Counting House, my venue. On the way I met Paul Foot, a well known and brilliant circuit comedian, so I said hello. I kind of remembered reading on the his website the sentence "I don't have fans, I have connoiseurs", but the word "connoiseur" failed me, so I found myself shaking his hand while saying simply: "I'm not a fan". Fortunately he is a clever guy, so he understood from my embarrassment that I was looking for something else to say and he volunteered the second half of the sentence. Not much later I met Robert Comminskey, an American comedian from my London entourage of open spotters. He was very nice and told me that he would come to see my show. I asked him if he had done any gig and he replied that he performed in a showcase run by two common friends, who after quite a few reminders from me had failed so far to offer me a slot. Well, I did write in my very first post that this is starting to feel like a community but that this doesn't mean that there will be no envy or jealousy! Grrrr. But meeting two people I knew in my first hour in Edinburgh was a nice welcome.

So I went to the Counting House and I really liked the place! In the bar I met the performer of the show "Katrina and the Wifes" and I decided to go and see her show in the Lounge, the very same room where I will perform mine. It's a little room but quite nice, "intimate" I guess is the word. It was quite full, but I was very surprised by the composition of the audience. They were mainly regulars of the pub downstairs, Scottish and probably enjoying their retirement. I hope I will get more festival goers. The performer was very good in the audience banter and made the most of the heckles, again something I hope will not happen too much during my show. I enjoyed the performance, even if her character material didn't really talk to me. I then flyered the audience of Lewis Shaffer and of another couples of shows and I put few posters on. Then I came to the Pleasance Dome to flyer here, I had a curry in one of the bars and decided that I was running like crazy and I needed a break, so I started to write this post. I really feel the buzz of Fringe. The next post will be after my first show... keep your fingers crossed.

Because I can

Here I am, on my London Kings Cross originating train, feeling a bit like Harry Potter in his first journey to Hogarts or whatever it's called. I must admit that I don't have much to tell you that I didn't have last night, given that I spent sleeping most of the time in between, but it's my first journey with a netbook on a train with free Wi-Fi. So, it's a bit like that old joke that goes: "Why do dogs lick their own genitals? Because they can". I'm now entering Petersborough station, how exciting! Behind me there is a little girl that talks all the time with her ear-piercing high pitch. Once in this country they used to say that "children must be seen, but not heard". What happened to that? It's all fault of these bloody foreigners polluting the culture with their heart-bleeding liberalism. By the way, the train is full of people with Fringe programs and I'm almost tempted to point them in the direction of my show. And I'm happy that the train is so packed. The beauty of obsessions is that in their light everything starts to make sense. The greed of Wall Street bankers was a necessary step towards the creation of an environment more suitable for free Fringe shows. The increase in the number of new swine flu cases stopped jut in time. Global warming can only be good for Edinburgh. I'm still not sure how to explain the Iran crisis and the MP expenses scandal, but I'm working on it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Trust me, I'm a promoter

Here I am, ready for tomorrow 10am train to the city of the (often broken) comedy dreams. I have just seen a Facebook update from the comedian who has the slot before mine in the same room: he had an audience of 3! I hope that 45 minutes longer for people to get to the venue and a the display ad on the program that coasted me a small fortune will make a difference, but I intend to start flyering like crazy as soon as I arrive in Edinburgh. People who have never performed think that big crowds are scary, but of course in comedy a small crowd is much scarier, since you don't have the "critical mass" to get a proper laugh. And of course you do a festival because you want your show to be seen by as much people as possible. Let's see how it goes.

By the way, yesterday I wanted to email some comedy promoters with news of my show, so I did a Google search in that sense and I stumbled upon a Gumtree ad from a cafe JUST AROUND THE CORNER FROM WHERE I LIVE that was looking for somebody to organize a regular comedy night! They say that having your own regular night is the best way to improve, so I replied to the ad and I went to the cafe to meet the person behind it. The meeting went well, we are still waiting for the final OK from the bar owner but apparently things are looking good. We would start with a "pilot" night in mid September and see how it goes. I don't think I'll choose myself as the MC given that I don't have any experience in that role and that I'm not sure I'm cut for it, but I'll definitively book myself for a good slot. And I'm equally intrigued by the chance to exercise my taste in booking the other acts. Now I have one more mission to accomplish in Edinburgh, that of the talent scout. Comedians reading this, you should better brush up your act!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Meditations on an unpacked suitcase

Starting to pack my suitcase for Edinburgh, I was suddenly hit by the realisation of my complete inability to fold shirts. Which, I thought, is not a great loss, since I don't know how to iron shirts either, so I don't have that much to lose by not folding them properly. Which, I then thought, is not a problem either, since I have a joke in my set about my inability to iron shirts, which wouldn't be credible if during the show I wore a perfectly ironed and folded shirt. So, I wondered, am I writing my jokes and then adapting my life to suit them? Of course it's more likely to be the other way round, I'm using as a source of comic material those aspects of my life in which, how to say that, the surface of my sometimes irritating perfection shows some utterly human and ultimately endearing cracks. But does this mean that I'm now condemning myself to never fill these cracks? Is this a Faustian pact where I accept the damnation of being laughable in exchange of the power to be funny? Is comedy the ultimate form of self-indulgence? And how many socks for two weeks?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My first review ever!

This Catherine Paver (never met before) came to see my preview for the Italian speakers group and after the show sent me an enthusiastic and articulated email. It was already almost a review, so I asked her if she wanted to write an audience review for BroadwayBaby, a site dedicated to such things. And so she wrote what happens to be my first review ever. I quote it here:
Giac doesn't power-drill his jokes into your head or swear at you every nine seconds. His natural delivery just lets the jokes hit you all the harder. The only reason I gave this show 4 stars is that I think the best of this comic is yet to come.
If you're tired of being shouted at about bodily functions and you want something clever as well as really funny, go to this. It's like spaghetti served with laughing gas. Free. What's better than that?

Good points

I saw a London Preview of this show and laughed almost all the way through it. Intelligent, observant and true, the excellent material is delivered in a likeably relaxed way to the audience.

Bad points

A slight loss of pace in one section about a mobile phone call.
Apart from that, my only criticism is that I wanted it to go on longer! Two bowls of spaghetti are better than one.
Thank you very much, Catherine!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The story so far

Still days of waiting (not my strongest skill). So, let's resume the recap where we left it last time. As you might remember, I had a half an hour slot booked for Edinburgh! Yeahh! Now the only little problem was to fill the half an hour, give that at the time I had only a 5 minutes set. As a punter I have always loved themed shows, like those that Richard Herring is so good at. My first thought, consequently, was doing such a show. I have always been interested in the subject of language and I stumbled across the idea of Globish, i.e. the idea that what non-native English speakers speak is not English but a completely new language, that should be taught as such. This idea has been formalised in a book called "Speak Globish, not English" by a French guy called Jean Paul Nerriere. According to this guy, even the native English speakers should start studing this new language if they don't want to remain isolated from the rest of the world! I found this idea brilliantly wacky so I came out with the project of a show where I would teach the poor native English speakers how to "unlearn" their own language in order to escape their pitiful linguistic isolation. Writing it now, I still find it a brilliant idea. But I wrote a routine about the subject, I tried it in front of some friends and it didn't work. The problem with themed shows is that you can't really split them in chunks of 5-10 minutes, so if this is duration of the slots you are given by comedy clubs you'll have no way to test and improve the material. I guess that the way Richard Herring and the other comedians specialised in themed shows overcome this problem is by doing a lot of full length previews. But when I booked my slot I didn't have any preview booked, at the end I managed to organize only three of them, one of which at a friend's flat during a party! Now I feel quite well prepared never the less, but thanks to the fact that in the meantime I changed my strategy completely. I decided to simply "sew" together my routines with the (quite loose) thread of identity. Not only this allowed me to reuse well tested material, but also to test the new material in chunks of 5-10 minutes. Writing a themed show from scratch was probably a challenge too far at this stage. Maybe I'll do it for the next Edinburgh, if I survive this one. So, amazingly, from the most narcissistic, solipsistic and megalomaniac of activities I actually got a lesson in humility. I just hope I'll not get too many more of those.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

How did I get here?

These are quiet days, I have no more preview and I will not travel to Edinburgh until Friday. So, given that this blog started in a quite abrupt way, I thought of using this time to do a bit of recap.

I have been doing stand-up comedy for a year, having started in July 2008. Everything started from the writing. I have always liked writing, including humoristic stuff. A couple of Christmas seasons ago I wrote a satirical piece about the British tradition of office Christmas parties, a spoof of a serious anthropological study. I tried to send it to a friend of mine from my work account, but instead I sent it to the MD of my company, who shared the same first name! Instead of firing me, he decided to read it in front of everybody during the Christmas party of my office. He said that it was something he received from an employee, but he decided not to mention my name, completely misjudging my desire for attention. He got some good laughs, which of course pleased me, but I was also irritated by the fact that somebody else was getting the laughs for what I wrote and the MD of my company, of all people, I mean on top of ripping the fruit of my day work! It was time to take control of the means of comic production.

Meanwhile, I was discovering the existence of comedy clubs: I could spend few quid and have a good laugh, at the same time stretching to the limits my English comprehension skills by being confronted with exaggerated accents, audacious puns and obscure cultural references . A friend of mine invited me to an open mic Wednesday at the Comedy Cafe in Shoreditch, so I discovered that there was such a thing. And I also discovered that I wanted to give it a try. By the way, a month ago I did play the Comedy Cafe and for me it was a very special night, since in a sense it was where "everything began". My God, I'm falling into every cliché of the "celebrity" autobiography! At least I'm not using a ghost writer.

So, I decided that to gain the required confidence I needed to join a course. At the end of my course I did a showcase, I got the first laughs and I was completely hooked. The next major step was doing the Laughing Horse New Act of the Year competition, where I reached the semi-finals. This gave me some visibility with Laughing Horse, so when I discovered that they were running the Free Festival I applied for a half a hour slot. And here I am.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Blowing my own trumpet

Warning: the present post contains some shameless gloating and scenes of a self-backslapping nature. If you think this might offend you, stop reading now. On the other hand, if people were training for a marathon, would you tell them that it would be more considerate, healthier and more pleasant to have a gentle, short stroll? Now consider that the Fringe, with its thousands of one-person shows and everybody's constant struggle to get noticed, is the Olympics of Narcissism. With just few days to go I should practise the required skill, shouldn't I?

All this to justify the choice to copy here the amazing comments I got from some of those who took part to the other night preview. Here they are:
Excellent evening - the comedian was so witty and was even better than I had expected! He was a spot-on choice and made everyone laugh so much - lovely, clever jokes about language and culture. Fantastic fun.

Good venue, great comedian, definitively a good laugh!.

I particularly admired Giacinto's verbal virtuosity.

The stand up comedy was great fun. A huuuge THANK YOU! goes to Hycinth aka Jack for having delighted us with his comedy.
. And now the most topical of the comments received:
Compliments to hyacinth giacinto who iam sure would blow his own trumpet if he could reach it.
What can I add? There will be a time to come back to earth, exercise some serious self-criticism, maybe even some soul searching. And that time might come sooner that I would like, maybe already after the premiere. But bare with me for now.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Just like the Azzurri

Before tonight preview I was in a very paradoxical psychological situation: I was worried of not being worried enough. This takes a bit of explanation. I'm probably one of few people who have always loved exams and job interviews, that kind of situation that really asks you to perform well. I'm a like the Italian football team, that always plays badly in the first round, waiting for the stakes to become high enough before really start playing. Generally speaking this is of course a blessing, since it means that your best performances also happen when it really matters. But the negative side is that you need to keep the stakes rising, otherwise you risk a drop. So, after last week preview, I wasn't really looking forward to do one more preview in front of a smaller crowd, made of people who were either Italian or studying Italian and without a microphone. At the end, it went very well, I was indeed more relaxed than the last time, but apparently not complacent, given that people laughed generously. The funniest bit was hearing people telling me afterwards: "It went well tonight, but would it work in front of a British audience?". So, I need to understand that, regardless of how much I like adrenaline, while I'm enjoying my high I'm probably looking too tense, while when I'm relaxed I'm probably looking confident. Doing sixteen performances in a row will be a good test in that direction. Besides, it would be nice seeing Italy playing well in that bloody first round, for a change.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!

My poor friends, acquaintances and colleagues might have noticed an increase in the frequency of my Facebook updates, blog posts and Chortle contributions (more on which later). I guess the main reason is that after the preview I feel more confident about the show as such, so all my anxieties are now concentrated on the question: "will anybody come to see it?" (of course there is also a deeper explanation, given that I'm an only child and that there must be some reason why I like standing in front of a room full of people with the lights pointing at me and a microphone, but I'm degressing)

So, today I did something a bit desperate, which might even backfire. I used the "media contact list" received from the promoter of the Free Festival to send the following press release:

Italian comedian wishes death to Berlusconi

Announcement made during the London previews of the show "Giacinto Palmieri: Italian misfit" amid rapturous applause.

London-based Italian comedian Giacinto Palmieri started the previews of his Edinburgh Fringe show with these words:

"I don't have any joke on the death of Michael Jackson, but I have some brilliant jokes about the death of Silvio Berlusconi. I can't wait for them to become topical. Hopefully in time for my Edinburgh show. He is lucky that I'm not doing the first week".

The audience, which included many Italian members, demonstrated to be in tune with Mr Palmieri's wishes by laughing, clapping and shouting "Hear! Hear!".

The medical staff of Mr Berlusconi have yet to comment.

Will this cause me problems? Will I look desperate in my attention seeking? I don't know, but it's true that there is no such thing as bad pubblicity, as Richard Herring and Brendon Burns recently discovered (my envy was all too clear from my previous post, even if of course we play in different leagues), expecially when nobody has ever heard of you. Let's see.

Meanwhile, a much safer promotion has come from Chortle, which has published an edited version of my Friday post, with the details of my show at the foot of the article. Now I only have to hope that comedians and critics will be so busy with Edinburgh that my article will remain for a while at the top of the Correspondents section's links. Now, THAT was a bit too much!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Brian Logan, are you reading this?

Yesterday I did a gig run by Manos the Greek and I had the chance to see a preview of his show. I'm very interested in what he does since his show is about being a Greek in Britain and mine is about being an Italian in Britain. I'm sure that if Brian Logan of the Guardian had a chance to see both our shows he would decide, again, that two make not only a crowd but a movement, he would call it something offensive like "The new Eurotrash of comedy", Manos and I would be given an entire page of the Guardian to reply and droves will flock to see our shows as I'm sure will do for Richard Herring's and Brendon Burns'. Stop dreaming.

By the way, fortunately Manos' approach and mine couldn't be more different. At least for the first part of his show, he plays some sort of Greek Al Murray character, ironically emboding and exagerating the national stereotypes. Even when he steps out of character, his view of the world is still that of the Greek observing British live and comparing it to "back home". My point of view, instead, is that of the "misfit", even more so in Italy than in this country, the culturally "contaminated", who doesn't know where "home" is anymore and probably never knew, hence his decision to move. My amusement is as much directed to the Italian society seen from my new British perspective than the other way round. I'm not saying that this is "better", it's just different. Althought I must admit I can't help making it sound more articulated. But this is MY blog after all.

So, movement or not, I do think that festival goers should come and see both our shows and that the contrast would only add clarity to them.

Good luck, Manos, see you in Edinburgh!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Laugh with me, laugh at me

During last night preview a little episode occurred to me that made me think a about comedy, its pleasures and its risks. Unfortunately to explain what happened I'll have to describe one of my routines and quote some jokes, but I hope I'll not spoil it too much for anybody. There is a moment in the show where I pretend to receive a phone call from my mother (that was the first spoil: now you know that she is not really calling me!). At her insistance to marry the daughter of a friend, I protest: "But she has only one eye! (pause) What do you mean with 'that would higlly boast your possibilities'!?. That's a nice turn of phrase for somebody who doesn't speak a word of English!". Given that one of the main themes of the show is language, in my intention the last line was the real punchline, revealng the absurdity of the entire conversation (so I haven't spoiled too much after all). But what I didnd't bargain for was the MASSIVE laugh I got at previous line, the one about having only a one eye being an advantage in evaluating a potential bride. It's true that a female voice in the audience shouted "that's so unfair!" (I'll need to check the recording to be sure that my subconscious didn't play a trick at me there), but the general feeling was the audience were expressing an overenthusiastic agreement with the supposed judgement of my mother. So, were they laughing with me or were they laughing at me?

The line, I guess, it's quite a fine one. Apparently, in some Roman and Medioeval celebrations a "fool" was elected Carnival King and enjoyed absolute power for a day, at the end of which he was killed. Today we live in gentler times, but I think that something of that role survives in the modern comedian. In a sense, the comedian "sacrifies" himself as a laughing stock. Ok, if he or she is a good comedian people will laugh with him and not at him, but there is also a implicit agreement going on that says: I give you, the audience, the authorisation to laugh at me, with my approval and to my own advantage, so you don't need to feel guilty about it. The pleasure that incurs is, in part, the pleasure of doing something that would normally be forbidden or frown upon but that is here exceptionally allowed. Which, I guess, is the essence of the Carnival. Probably the most extreme example is when comedians with a disability made jokes about their own condition. I'm thinking, for instance, of Liz Carr, Lawrence Clarke or my brother in open spot arms Max Turner. Laughing at accents, nationalities or ginger air can be allowed in many "normal" social conditions, but laughing at disabilities is definitively taboo. These comedians bravely allow us to do just so for the duration of their set.

So, why was I slightly upset by that reaction? After all, I have never considered my look one of my strongest assets, even if I have never targeted one-eyed women for that reason, which I guess would make sense only if I was in some way three-dimensionally challenged. I guess the reason why that episode left a bitter after-taste is that my look wasn't the subject of the routine, which was more about Italian mothers and the absurdity of the two of us speaking in English. Of course, I was consciuous of the comic potential of that specific "turn of phrase", but I wasn't really granting the audience the license to laugh at the way I look. Now I will, I'll keep that line in my set and I'll enjoy the big laugh.

In the meantime, to the girl who shouted "that's so unfair!"... drink?

Post-preview post

Yesterday I passed an important milestone in my road to Edinburgh: I did my first public preview of the entire 30 minutes set. In the preparation to it, I felt it was an event as important as the premiere itself, since I knew I would perform in front of a probably bigger audience, many of which friends, and I knew that a failure would have taken the wind out of my sail. Fortunately it went very well, I got the laughs, I received compliments that sounded sincere and some very interesting criticism and suggestions too. Of course it wasn't perfect. This morning I realised with horror that I forgot to tell the strongest joke of my phrasal verbs routine, even if of course the audience couldn't know it. And in the second half some jokes were delivered in a less sharp way and got a smaller reception than expected. But I got the confirmation that the set holds well together and I can do half an hour without boring the audience to death, to the contrary they told me that it looked shorter... well, I recorded it and it was 25 minutes, so they had a point after all, but that isn't completely off the mark and I can add some topical material. And the ending, which I had tried only once in a "private" preview at a party and I was very worried about, seemed to work well. Now I'll listen to the recording and I'll try to fix the things that might work better, but generally speaking I feel confident. Sorry for blowing my own trumpet.

By the way, the really amazing thing of the evening was the turnout from my friends. I promised the promoter to bring at least 20 people and I was very worried, since most people don't like the idea of travelling to Stockwell, but at the end I contributed to the event with 23 guests and they were all very supportive. It really felt very nice.

Now I'll have a last, semi-private preview for a group called Italian Meetup, made of people who are studying Italian or who are Italian themeselves (even if the show will of course be in English), then up to Edinburgh. I'm really enjoying the road.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Suffering for my art

I spent a week in Southern Italy and my God if I felt a misfit! I was born and brought up in Milan but my family are from Puglia in the South, where my parents spend the summer and most of my other relatives live all year. There is a huge cultural difference between a big city in the North and a small town in the South and I have always felt an alien there. The most frequents arguments of conversation were food, money and gossip. Fortunately every now and then the subject of politics came out. Italians say that they hate politics but they can't stop talking about it. I saw a newspaper with the headline "Berlusconi bastona gli inglesi", i.e. "Berlusconi gives stick to the English" (meaning the British). The reference was to Mr B's reactions to an article in the Guardian. My father showed the headline to me and joked that I should better be careful. I said that I was preparesd to seek asylum in nearest British consulate, like a British Asian girl forced to marry a cousin in some Pakistani village.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Four gigs in a week!

The preparations for the show are in full throttle. Last week I did four gigs, a personal record. The funniest thing was to meet the same comedians over and over again, it felt like being part of a traveling circus. It's just like going to the pub to see familiar faces, the only difference is that the pub changes every night. I have always had problems with communities (hence the Misfit in the title), but I like the fact that this is starting to feel like one. Which of course doesn't mean that there will be no competition or jealousy involved. On the subject, yesterday I shared the bill with Denis Krasnov, the author of a vicious article according to which free shows (like mine) are inevitably worthless. The entrance was only two quid so, according to his own meter, he was expected to be really shit. Two quid gigs are for people who are not ready for the the £18 shows at the Comedy Show and who should better not to waste our time at all. Instead, I must admit, he was really good. Oh, the irony!