One night in October 2018 I couldn’t sleep. This will happen occasionally to me, the not sleeping. I would say that 98% of the time I sleep extremely well, but this particular night in October when I couldn’t sleep my mind also became fixated on something – the belief that I should organise a tour. I’ve always loved touring, the idea of touring, going from place to place showcasing a talent or a skill, or lack thereof in my case. When I was in my teenage years I was always jealous of bands that managed to get their act together to do long tours, roughing it DIY style, I honestly thought it sounded like the best thing ever! And now as a 30 year old man, unable to sleep one night, it seems that I was still as obsessed as ever with the idea of touring. But what should I do? Well, I had on and off been playing around with a stand up comedy PowerPoint show for the last few years, occasionally doing 20 minute routines at Bristol comedy nights. I figured that I could combine old and new material together to create an hour show. That would be it, I’ll take the PowerPoint comedy show on the road! “Stop planning tours in your mind and go to sleep” said Francesca from the other side of the bed.
The next day, all tired because I had hardly slept at all, I knocked up a promotional email and started messaging venues, and before I knew it, I had a few booked in. My initial plan was to do a week of non-stop shows, but this escalated and I eventually found myself with 14 consecutive tour dates in 14 different locations all booked in for March 2019. I had some press photos done out in Portishead by David Jeffrey-Hughes, a new poster put together by Kev Tungatt and I got to work putting the show together. It got to early March 2019 and I still hadn’t really put much together, so I booked myself in to do a preview show at a venue called The Robin Hood in Bristol, alongside comedians Riordan DJ and Morgan Rees. I was a bit worried that I didn’t have enough material, but in the end I did 1 hour 20 minutes! Perfect, I’ll trim out the stuff that wasn’t that funny and I’ve got myself a show sorted. Being an experienced comedian himself, Riordan sent me a whole bunch of tips on how to improve my show, of which I utilised greatly, apart from all the weird kinky sex stuff he told me to include, the creep. Fast forward two weeks and I set off, panda and panpipes in toe…
DAY 1 – WARE – THE MIXER
Had this been a DJ tour or a band tour, I would have said that a Sunday perhaps isn’t the best day to start on. It’s the one day of the week that people tend to stay in, watch telly and recharge their batteries ahead of work on Monday but this was PowerPoint baby! People will leave their homes on a Sunday for PowerPoint comedy. For those who don’t know where Ware is? Where is Ware? Where? Ware? Well, Ware is in Hertfordshire, not far from where I went to secondary school. A decent crowd showed up to The Mixer, made up mainly of school friends, members of the 70s glam rock band Hello (“Back! Back in the New York Groove!” – YouTube it, it’s a screamer) and one man who had clearly been drinking all day. It was St Patrick’s Day after all however as soon as he sat down he fell straight asleep and continued to sleep through the whole show. Not the best omen when I have a fortnight of gigs ahead of me. He did apologise afterwards, saying it was in no way any reflection on the quality of my show, he was just completely and utterly blasted.
DAY 2 – LONDON – THE ALBANY
The second show was on Great Portland Street in central London at the Objectively Funny night, who run Edinburgh Fringe preview shows every Monday. I wasn’t taking the show to Edinburgh but they gave me a slot anyway. I had to travel via the London Underground with an oversized stuffed panda and three pairs of panpipes on my person. Nobody batted an eyelid, this was London after all, commuters see unusual folks day in day out. The show itself was a lot of fun, even my parents came down! I enjoyed myself so much that I drank my first alcoholic drink of 2019 (kindly bought by my good friend Alex Holbourn) immediately afterwards. Back off the wagon baby!
DAY 3 – WINCHESTER – THE RAILWAY INN
After a delicious breakfast in Crouch End with my good friend Adam Smith, I left the capital and headed down to the South West, arriving at the venue in good time so I had a stroll around town. Winchester has a massive cathedral and a statue of a nude man riding a horse. You can see his meat and two veg and everything. It looked more uncomfortable than anything to be honest. Imagine if your horse took to galloping whilst you were riding it starkers. That’s a trip to A&E waiting to happen. I took a photo and included it in the PowerPoint show that evening, asking the audience if they had any idea what it represented. They had no idea.
DAY 4 – PONTYPRIDD – CLWB Y BONT
Glorious Pontypridd in the South Welsh valleys, a man called Jeff Japers had arranged this show for me and was also performing on the line up. We had been put in contact with each other as we were both utilising PowerPoint in our shows. We arrived at the venue to set up and it turns out The Voice were holding auditions in the venue before hand. As in the talent show with will.I.am and Tom Jones. Of course Tom Jones himself is from Pontypridd and Pontypridd is very proud of Tom Jones. Ian Watkins from Lost Prophets is also from Pontypridd, they are considerably less proud of him. One of the producers came up to me when I walked into the room. “Are you here to audition for The Voice?” he said. “No I replied, but I do work for BBC Radio Bristol, so in a way we’re kinda work colleagues!”. He looked at me disapprovingly, “ITV owns The Voice now, and anyway please be quiet, Myfanwy is about to sing Candle In The Wind!”. I later looked up The Voice on Wikipedia and apparently ITV acquired it in 2015! I was well behind on my talent TV show news. The gig was lots of fun – Jeff was brilliant, as were Sheep & Mash and Penny Matthews. The whole evening had a very Vic & Bob feel to it, which I certainly enjoyed.
DAY 5 – MANCHESTER – GULLIVERS
A long drive up the M5 & M6 landed me in Manchester in the middle of rush hour. We had sold out in advance for this show so I knew it would be good one, however I was concerned about the number of in-laws and extended family friends coming – what if they hate my PowerPoint comedy and convince my fiance to leave me?! I had a bit of a tech meltdown half and hour before doors opened as I couldn’t get the sound on my laptop to work, in the end we had to have my computer at the back of the room as opposed to on stage with me. I had to lean over people and point my clicker during the show, which in itself became quite funny. This show had a brilliant lively, up for it crowd and was also the first show of three that Jimmy Slay would join me for, who delivered a superb mix of John Cooper Clarke style poetry, mock american teenage singalongs and bad one liners, all the while wearing a giraffe onesie. Thanks Jimmy. After the show, a friend sent me a video of a young Mancunian lad dry humping the Queen sticker on the side of my car. Stay classy Manchester!
DAY 6 – SHEFFIELD – DINA ARTS VENUE
I lived in Sheffield for almost 10 years so was very excited to be back, plus we had pre-sold a whole bunch of tickets for this one and I would be performing in the biggest room of the tour. DINA is a quirky venue that used to be known as the Stardust nightclub. A huge piece of art depicting Paul Hogan, Hulk Hogan and Terry Wogan hung in a room, which I then included in all my PowerPoints for the rest of the tour (Hogan, Hogan and Wogan – genius). Turns out the painting was by Stuart Faulkner, who actually beat me in a talent competition a few years prior. It was well deserved though, his routine included stripping down to his pants, putting a kettle on his head and playing the trombone – how could I even compete with that!? All in all the Sheffield show was brilliant. My PowerPoint crashed and at one point I accidentally clicked my clicker then had to re-perform a routine that I had already done, but it all added to the fun. And to top it off the Lord Mayor of Sheffield Magid Magid came down to watch the show – what an honour! Afterwards myself and Jimmy were booked in to do a DJ set at the Great Gatsby bar. I managed 5 songs before being asked to stop. I then left and bought cheesy chips in Walkley, leaving Jimmy to get hammered in town.
DAY 7 – LEEDS – LS6 CAFE
I headed over to Leeds early as I was due to appear on BBC Radio Leeds to promote the show as a guest on Larry & Paul’s midday show. For those who don’t know, Larry & Paul are radio presenters who also do very funny, weekly videos. Check out ‘Gizacol’ and ‘Newsreader Nightmare’ – two of my favourites. We had also sold out in advance for the Leeds show so another top night was in store. The musical comedian David Hoare was joining me for two nights. That’s his real name by the way. Hoare. David is rude man who likes to sing innuendo-ridden songs about self-pleasure and lady’s private areas. My aunt and uncle were in the audience for this show, my aunt in particular seemed to really enjoy David’s brand of smut. Good work Dave! After the show I hung out with Rikk Richardson from the ska/reggae band The Indecision and admired his amazing band t-shirt quilt. Spectacular stuff.
DAY 8 – NEWCASTLE – BAR LOCO
Up to Newcastle for the most Northern point of the tour. I had flirted with the idea of getting up to Scotland, but decided against it as I was driving all 1500 miles of this tour myself. Myself and David Hoare stopped off at the Angel of the North and took some photos. In the show later on I said “it’s great to be back in Newcastle!” and then brought the photo of me in front of the Angel up on the screen. Someone shouted “that’s Gateshead, not Newcastle!”, well, you can’t win them all can you. The Newcastle gig was hilarious, but not necessarily because of what was happening on stage. Francesca’s cousin Sean got smashed and kept shouting random sentences out loud, a giant Alsatian made its way into the crowd and a Turkish man laughed so hard he fell through his chair, pouring red wine all over himself. Big thanks to Fraser from the Whippet Beans for organising it all, my love for Newcastle grows stronger every time I visit it.
DAY 9 – SHREWSBURY – ALBERT’S SHED
A long drive from Newcastle down to Shrewsbury for a free entry show at Albert’s Shed. This venue is perhaps more of a live music place rather than a comedy place but it was an enjoyable show! The projector was a bit messed up and all my images looked like they would if had dropped LSD, or so I’ve been told that’s what it looks like when you drop LSD. After the show there was a high-tech interactive quiz taking place, in which myself and a few pals took part. We thought we were smashing it, but we realised we weren’t pointing the remote at the right point for the first few questions, thus rendering all our answers void. Give me pen and paper any day of the week!
DAY 10 – HULL – UNION MASH UP
Back up North and over to the other side of the country for the Hull show in a brilliant little venue called Union Mash Up. The decor inside can be best described as brothel meets funeral parlour, but in a really lovely way. Jed Salisbury & Kelli Taylor were on before me, who were both absolutely hilarious. In the toilets I spotted some graffiti – “House of Lords, more like House of Aunts!” At least I think it said “aunts’, the first letter of that word was rubbed out so I’m assuming that’s what the graffiti artist meant for it to be. After the show we went to The Polar Bear and I drank 3 whole pints, which was the most I drank in one evening on the tour. So for those who thought I was having a wild time on this tour, pushing the limits of hedonism to the max, you can now plainly see that this wasn’t the case.
DAY 11 – LEICESTER – THE GLOBE
Now the Leicester show was originally meant to take place in the Criterion, however a few weeks before setting off, I was informed by one of my support comedians Jason Neale that they venue had been shut down due to them not paying the electricity bill. Thankfully we managed to move the show to the Globe last minute but it did end up being the smallest crowd of the tour. We were in the upstairs room where as the downstairs room was actually fairly busy. I went round before we started asking people if they “fancied having a laugh upstairs?” It turns out it was so busy as it was in fact a wake. They had all been at their mate’s funeral that day. If I was into catchphrases I would say “you couldn’t make it up could you?!” at this point.
DAY 12 – CARDIFF – THE FLUTE & TANKARD
Over the moon to be reunited with Jeff Japers once more for another Welsh show, I wasn’t even bothered that the three other acts on the line up had dropped out short notice. Jeff did an extended set to make up for the extra time we now had, including an absolutely hilarious song about liking lemonade, which had me honestly crying with laughter. One of the things I’ve massively enjoyed about doing the whole tour is getting to see other acts do their thing. An absolute treat, and I’m now particularly fond of Jeff Japers’ unique style of keyboard, ukulele & PowerPoint comedy. Check him out if you’re yet to!
DAY 13 – BRISTOL – THE WHITE RABBIT
Homecoming! And nice to be performing in a venue that I can literally see from my flat. A full house in the White Rabbit that evening and joining me on the line up was smutty David Hoare once more and my good friend Riordan DJ – a medic student and a very funny young man. Not much to say about this one apart from it was a very enjoyable time. I love the White Rabbit staff, the nicest crew in Bristol. Make sure you go have a beer or a pizza there if you can. Apparently the landlord there was murdered there 20 years ago, but don’t let that put you off the place.
DAY 14 – BATH – THE BATH BREW HOUSE
When people asked me how the tour came about, including a couple of comedians, I explained that I tackled the tour more like a DIY punk band would do so, as opposed to a budding comedian. There are these structures within the comedy scene that you’re supposed to follow. You start with open mic nights, then perhaps you’ll get some 5 minute slots, followed by 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30, etc and you work your way up to doing a full hour Edinburgh Fringe show. I decided to bypass the whole thing by impatiently booking a 14 date tour having only previously performed stand up comedy on my own a handful of times. This meant that I hadn’t really collaborated with comedy promoters at all, apart from the London show and now the Bath show, the finale of the tour, Saturday night as part of the Bath Comedy Festival. I genuinely had no idea how many people would show up for it, so I was massively surprised when the room hit capacity and the venue had to go source extra chairs for the audience! A fantastic way to finish the tour. I went home tired, but happy, excited about where PowerPoint could take me next.
BIG THANKS TO…
David Jeffrey-Hughes, Joab Archer, The Greyhound Factory, JB & The Gang, Kev Tungatt, Martin Willis, Adam Smith, Stephen Ripper Mizen AKA Hatman, Michael Bilham, The Biscuit Barrel, Jeff Japers, Sheep & Mash, Penny Matthews, Adrian Thompson, Jimmy May, Please Clap Improv, Tev Theveneau, Stan Skinny, Simon Thake, Sam Walby, Courtney Jocelyn, David Hoare, Super Trooper Improv, Larry & Paul, Rikk Richardson, Mandrake Fraser, Andy Broxton, Phil Cooper, Jed Salisbury, David Stead, Kelli Taylor, Jason Neale, Sarah Johnson, Jack Campbell, Andy & Dave at the Flute & Tankard, Daniel Glyn, Sam Cook, Martin Booth, Gus Rogers, Riordan DJ, Nick Steel, Dion Hesson, Dominic Kidson, James Hanson, Cameron Davidson, The Arnolds, The Scotts, The Booths & The Trubys.