Tag Archives: PR

Good Godley! – It’s the seemingly irresistible rise and rise of Janey Godley

The indomitable, unstoppable Janey Godley

Some people are just unstoppable.

Janey Godley’s autobiography Handstands in the Dark (a bestseller in 2005 and 2006) is published for the first time as an audio book today and she appears yet again as a panellist on BBC1’s Have I Got News For You tomorrow night.

Penguin Books recently reprinted Handstands in the Dark with a new cover and new introduction. Frank Get the Door!, a book transcribing some of her viral video voiceovers, made the Sunday Times bestseller list last year. Her first novel is coming out next year. The Last Mermaid, a 2019 short film she co-wrote and starred in, won a couple of awards at Berlin and in Scotland; and she starred in a series of lockdown monologues for the National Theatre of Scotland.

In other words, she is on a roll.

Handstands in the Dark – Janey’s bestselling autobiography – still selling well after 16 years

Her nationwide UK comedy tour, which was interrupted by the Covid pandemic last year, re-starts this autumn. Her political voice-over videos have made her a worldwide viral YouTube hit complemented by animal voice-over videos and more family-friendly videos featuring her dog Honey.

Over the last few years, she has also built-up a massive following for her weekly podcasts, online pandemic chats with her daughter Ashley Storrie, random appearances on UK radio and TV, a weekly column in The Herald newspaper (she used to have a weekly column in The Scotsman) and what seem like daily news items in Scotland’s Daily Record about her Tweets.

Ashley has appeared in various BBC TV comedy series, has her own weekly BBC Scotland radio show and today BBC iPlayer (UK only) has posted online the new BBC3 comedy drama pilot Dinosaur in which she has the lead part as an undiagnosed autistic woman. It will be screened on BBC1 on 7th June and was made by Two Brothers Pictures, producers of Fleabag.

BBC TV have also just announced a new documentary series next year: Ashley & Janey Get a Real Job following the duo round the country doing things like working on a fishing boat (!)

So, obviously, I had to have a chat with Janey.

But what I was really interested in was the extraordinary range of her online commercial merchandise – everything from the normal and to-be-expected mugs and T-shirts to – extraordinarily – greetings cards, her artwork and bottles of Janey’s own Frank Get The Door! and Aw The Sandras branded gin at £32 a bottle…


JANEY: I’m sooooo fucking tired, John!

JOHN: I’m not surprised. You’ve been running round like a blue-arsed fly.

JANEY: I think it’s just… Well, I got shingles, which I’ve never had. 

JOHN: Jesus! That’s really painful.

JANEY: It really wasn’t that bad. I kept on thinking: Have I got sunburn? Then I got these sharp pains and a rash. It went away pretty fast; it wasn’t that bad. But then I got this dizzy thing.

JOHN: Vertigo?

JANEY: It was connected to the shingles and it started the morning I was filming with Joanna Lumley. I woke up, the whole world went sideways and I thought I was having a stroke. And we were filming on an old, bumpy bus.

JOHN: Your merchandise is everything from pens and mugs, T-shirts and face masks to bottles of gin. So how did that start? You were maybe a third of the way through a national UK tour, Covid hit and you had no live comedy income at all…

JANEY: And then Frank Get The Door! (the catchphrase from her viral Nicola Sturgeon voice-over videos) became really famous so we decided to make Frank Get The Door! T-shirts. My husband Sean got on LinkedIn and somebody recommended this guy lan Adie of Promotional Warehouse in Glasgow… I called him and he said: “You came to the right place at last, because I don’t need a deposit off you. We’ll make it and we’ll share it.”

The very first wave was T-shirts, clicky pens and cups. 

I told him: “It’s not going to do very much but, even if it does, I’m going to donate 100% of my profit to the STV Children’s Appeal.”

He said: “That’s weird, but OK.”

So they went on sale that first weekend, back in June/July last year… and he phoned me on the Monday and said: “Oh my God! We have sold 7,000 units!”

The first wave brought in £25,000 for the STV Children’s Appeal, which I don’t regret. I’m still happy that happened, despite HMRC (the UK government’s tax authority)… We had to pay tax on it… If you’re selling goods for a charity – not donations but selling goods for a charity – you still have to pay VAT because it’s sale through goods. Because people could say they have passed it on to charity but not done it.

JOHN: Even if you get a receipt from the charity?

JANEY: It doesn’t matter. What happens is £25,000 goes into my bank account. But I can’t just give that £25,000 to STV and say to HMRC: “Oh, I gave it all away to charity.” I have to pay VAT on the income, because they don’t see it as charity money; they see it as you making £25,000. I still have to pay VAT on it. So about £4,000 or £5,000 went to HMRC.

JOHN: And are you still donating your profit on those items to STV?

JANEY: No. The STV Children’s Appeal stopped. But now 100% of my profit on my Emotional Lifejacket merchandise goes to the Scottish Carers’ Trust. I don’t get a penny of that myself. If you buy anything from my website that’s got Emotional Lifejacket on it, 100% of my profit goes to the Carers’ Trust. We also did a 12-hour telethon for the Carers’ Trust and so far, all-in-all, we have raised about £50,000 for charity during lockdown.

JOHN: You branched into other merchandise…

JANEY: Well Ian Adie and I just clicked. He said: “We’ll do gin; we’ll do candles”… Then my daughter Ashley came up with this beautiful range – Neural Funky – because she was diagnosed with autism during lockdown… which was quite hard for her because we had always just thought that she was (LAUGHS) a bit weird… But, y’know…

JOHN: So now you have Janey Godley merchandise, Ashley Storrie merchandise and even Honey your dachshund has merchandise.

JANEY: Yes, Honey is now an earner. She cost us £8,000 when she nearly died the year before last, so…

JOHN: You’re on a roll. You survived having zero live comedy income for the last year and…

JANEY: My agent is very good. Every single day now we have to have a morning meeting where we go through the various offers that have come through. This morning (NAME BRAND) wanted me to do an advert for (A NOT INCONSIDERABLE SUM) and he said: “No, it’s not enough.”

I go back on tour in the Autumn, have one day off and then go straight into rehearsals for (A NOT-YET ANNOUNCED PROJECT).

JOHN: Penguin have just re-issued your 2005 autobiography Handstands in the Dark with a new cover, you have the new audiobook of Handstands in the Dark out now and your first novel is published by Hodder & Stoughton next year. Penguin must have suddenly realised how good you are if they’re bringing out an audio book after all this time.

The new unabridged audio version now on sale, read by Janey

JANEY: No! The audio book is published by Hodder & Stoughton. Penguin didn’t want to do the audio version, so Hodder said We want to do it! and bought the audio rights from Penguin.

JOHN: Penguin are mad. You are on a roll not just in the UK but in the US because of your Trump sign.

JANEY: And Hodder want me to write another book.

JOHN: Fiction or non-fiction?

JANEY: Fiction.

JOHN: You should do a sequel to your Handstands in the Dark autobiography. It ends on a cliffhanger. You could go from the end of the first book to some new climactic point – the Trump Is a Cunt sign maybe.

Janey’s iconic comment went viral and is now available as a greetings card from her online shop.

JANEY: I don’t think I want to, John.

ASHLEY (IN THE BACKGROUND, FROM THE KITCHEN): Mum! We keep getting people saying: When’s the next book in that series coming out!

JANEY: (BIG THEATRICAL SIGH)

ASHLEY: You have the distinct privilege that you can talk about the changing fucking dynamics of women in stand-up comedy from the 1990s to now. You have the excessive privilege that you can explain that to people who don’t understand it. You can explain what the fuck you had to go through so they can now get upset about an ‘inappropriate’ man brushing their arse!

(PAUSE)

JOHN: Anyway… The novel you’ve written which is coming out next year – Was it easy to write?

JANEY: It was so hard to write it in lockdown. For one thing I had just had shingles. Plus my confidence was shot-to-fuck and I was really, really busy doing all the other stuff. I couldn’t focus on being creative because I kept on panicking that We’re all gonna die! So I was writing bits but kept on fixing bits and kept on fixing bits and…

Then Ashley and I were stood in the kitchen one night and she said to me: “Just fucking write it! If it’s shite, just write all the shite out of your system. It’s a vomit draft. Get it all out!” So I did.

Janey Godley and Ashley Storrie – the dynamic duo of Scottish comedy (Photo: Andrew Laing)

I sent the ‘vomit draft’ off to Hodder and they got back to me after a week and said it was one of the best first drafts they’d ever had. They said it was publishable as it was, but the editing process since then has been really good.

Epilepsy Scotland gave me their offices to write it in and I got a researcher, Caitlin, who was fucking great.

Another Janey Sunday Times bestseller

JOHN: And, in the meantime, you published Frank Get The Door!

JANEY: I didn’t think it would sell but, fuck, did it sell! It was in the Sunday Times bestseller list. 

JOHN: Your videos go viral, so presumably there are sales of Frank Get The Door! worldwide because you are now known worldwide.

JANEY: And I’m about to write a Honey book – a family-friendly book.

JOHN: You will make Honey immortal.

JANEY: (LAUGHS) How are you now, John?

JOHN: Same as before.

JANEY: Can I be the headline act at your funeral when you die?

JOHN: Sure.

ASHLEY (FROM THE KITCHEN): Would you not rather have me? I’ve got TV credits. I’m just saying I’m in three upcoming television series.

JANEY: Yeah. You might be better with her headlining your funeral.

JOHN: How about you both as joint headliners?

ASHLEY: I don’t share my billing, but thankyou for the offer.

JANEY & ASHLEY: (LAUGHTER)


Janey’s main website is at http://www.janeygodley.com

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Comedian Julian Clary and tell-all hack McG linked via sexploitation horror film

I get sent loads of PR bumph (I feel you can never get too much) including the generic PR interviews that are sent out to one-and-all in the media to plug upcoming events. Indeed, I wrote one myself a few months ago to plug a comedian’s UK tour.

The idea is that local papers etc may run the full PR interview as if they themselves had conducted it. Or edit or cannibalise it for quotes, facts and photos.

I never use these PR interviews myself.

Why bother? If I’m interested, I will chat to the person myself.

However here – below – is the exception.

PR man Greg Day is plugging the fact that the Horror Channel in the UK will be screening cult director Pete Walker’s 1976 horror and sexploitation movie Schizo this Saturday. And today Greg sent me his PR interview with the film’s screenwriter David McGillivray who has occasionally turned up in my blog before – notably in 2016 to plug his would-be notorious gay sex film Trouser Bar.

David McG is publishing his inevitably scandalous, tell-all autobiography Little Did You Know in a month’s time and I have already arranged to chat to him the day after its press launch.

But I won’t be asking him about Schizo… So here, as a teaser, in its full glory, is the PR Q&A for Schizo:


SCHIZO – “When the left hand doesn’t know who the right hand is killing!!”

Q: SCHIZO is unusual in your body of work with director Pete Walker because the concept and narrative were not of your choosing. How much of a problem was that for you?

A: Huge. I thought the script that we re-worked was terribly old-fashioned and this led to big arguments with Walker that ended our relationship.

Q: You often play a cameo in the movies you’ve written – You’re ‘Man at Séance’ in SCHIZO. Any particular reason?

A: I liked to write myself parts so that I could observe Walker at work. He was an extremely talented exploitation director who influenced the remainder of my career.

Q: SCHIZO exhibits many Hitchcockian references and Pete Walker cites Hitch as a hero. Is he for you too?

A: Yes, of course. Psycho is one of my favourite horror films.

Q: You’ve written many films for many people in so many genres, but what’s your own personal favourite?

A: My first film for Pete Walker, House of Whipcord. It was very exciting because it was the kind of film I’d dreamed of writing.

Svengali – The Rocky Horror that got away

Q: Just prior to SCHIZO you wrote a pop opera in the Rocky Horror vein for Pete Walker titled SVENGALI based on George du Maurier’s Gothic melodrama. Do you regret that project being shelved?

A: No, it would have been a disaster. Walker realised this and cancelled it almost before I’d typed the final page of the script.

Q: Your autobiography Little Did You Know is published in June. Rumour says it’s not your typical memoir though, so what’s it all about?

A: I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Suffice it to say that after its publication I will never work again.

Q: Your love/hate relationship with Pete Walker is common knowledge. Are there any more scandalous revelations about that in the book?

A: Oh yes…

Julian Clary – Never knowingly understated

Q: You write a lot of the material for a comedian. How did that business relationship begin and is this the nearest you can get to the Golden Era of the British sexploitation film you so brilliantly essayed in your book Doing Rude Things

A: Writing smut for Julian Clary is my day job. I enjoy it immensely. I have written for him for something like 37 years. In Julian’s latest show, which tours the UK before playing the London Palladium on 8th June, unsuspecting audience members are subjected to so-called ‘Heterosexual Aversion Therapy’. If you sit in the front row, you deserve all you get.

Q: You’ve announced your next film project is The Wrong People based on the novel by Robin Maugham. So you have no intention of retiring from the film industry just yet?

A: I love movies. I am fresh from a meeting with a director who bravely has chosen to take on this project. But, in all likelihood, it is so controversial that probably it will finish both our careers. If Little Did You Know hasn’t finished mine already.

Q: Finally, SCHIZO receives its Horror Channel premiere on Sat April 27th. Will you be watching?

A: I’m pleased Horror Channel viewers will get the chance to see it, but will I be watching? Certainly not. I can’t bear to see my own work, which is all dreadful.

David McGillivray – the soon-to-be-autobiographer – never a man to mince his words

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Filed under Horror, Movies, PR, Sex

PR Max Clifford and celebrities’ secrets

‘Disgraced PR man’ Max Clifford died in prison yesterday, serving a sentence for sex crimes. But I doubt if we have heard the last of him, because people can tell their stories now. And there is a risk he himself might have more stories to tell.

Stories about him abound.

For example, he used to go along to the after-show get-togethers of at least two major TV broadcasters with two, sometimes three, lovely young ladies and chat to producers, directors et al.

Let’s say he went with a blonde, a brunette and a lady of colour. People have different tastes.

And afterwards, well…

What happens happens.

Sometime later, in the general way of his work, he might invite a TV producer – let’s say one of the people he schmoozed with after the TV shows – along to his office to discuss future prospects.

When the producer arrived, Max would be sitting there in his office chair and, behind him on the wall, there might be framed photos of the producer is sexually compromising situations with one or more of the girls he had met through Max. Alright. having sex in well-shot photos taken without the producer’s knowledge.

The photographs were never mentioned by Max in his chat with the producer but it would come as no surprise if one or more of Max’s clients appeared later in one or more of the producer’s shows.

Part of his job was getting publicity for his clients – as in the (totally untrue) Sun headlines about comic Freddie Starr eating a hamster and MP David Mellor having sex in a Chelsea football strip.

But another job of the top PR man, of course, is to keep his client’s name OUT of the newspapers if there is some scandal or imminent scandal brewing.

And it would be not unreasonable for a worried client to go to Max with a plea to avoid bad publicity and/or get damage limitation.

In such a situation, of course,  it would be perfectly reasonable for Max to ask the client to tell him details not just of what they wanted to keep out of the press in this specific case but of ALL other possible scandals which might also get dredged up by any newspaper.

So he knew not just scandals that the press sniffed around but many of the scandals hidden in major celebrities’ closets that no-one had any idea existed.

Let us hope he only kept these secrets in the back of his mind and never wrote any of them down for future use.

Max Clifford as seen in graffiti on a wall in Battersea in 2014

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Filed under Newspapers, PR, publicity stunts

Debenhams’ Black Friday discounts = dodgy dealings and PR disasterama

I’ve said it before and I will say it again.

Oh yes I will.

What is the point of having a blog if you can’t have a moan?

UK department store Debenhams are giving 20% off lots of items because it is Black Friday and – if you have a Debenhams credit card, as I do – you get an extra 10% off this week with a SAVE AN EXTRA 10% voucher.

Yippee!! You might think.

Debenhams’ card voucher

But do you get an extra 10% off?

Well, no you don’t.

For the sake of easy mathematics…

If you buy something with a display price of, say, £100 and have 20% + 10% off, you might expect to pay £70.

Not at Debenhams.

Because the “extra 10% off” is actually off the 80% price after the 20% has been deducted.

So, in fact, you don’t get a 20% + 10% reduction off the original price. You get a 20% + 8% reductiion.

This is all perfectly legal because, on the back of the voucher on line 8 of the small print (line 12 of 15, if I’m being pedantic) it says: “An extra 10% will be deducted at the till after any relevant discount is applied.”

The back of Debenhams’ card voucher

The back of Debenhams’ dark and dodgy discount voucher

It does not make any earth-shattering financial difference, really.

But it does mean that Debenhams’ attempt to court a good PR image turns into the PR image of a dodgy second-hand car dealer.

Black marks for Debenhams on Black Friday.

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Three ways to publicise an Edinburgh Fringe show without using a PR person

No 1: THE LEWIS SCHAFFER PRESS RELEASE

LewisSchaffer_poster2016

Jewish comic recommended by a Palestinian

A fortnight ago, Lewis Schaffer sent out a press release:

“New York Jewish comic Lewis Schaffer has landed a Palestinian sponsor for his five star Edinburgh Fringe show Lewis Schaffer: You are Beautiful.”

Yesterday, he followed this up with a press release headed: Lewis Schaffer to crowdfund for his hit Edinburgh Show.

It began:


New York Jewish comic Lewis Schaffer is crowdfunding for his Five Star Edinburgh Fringe show Lewis Schaffer: You are Beautiful.

In yet another attempt to come up with new revenue streams, Lewis Schaffer has entered the world of crowdfunding.

Already this year Lewis Schaffer has accepted sponsorship from a Palestinian-owned freight company that serves the Middle East, now he has set up a crowd funding site.

Benefactors of Lewis Schaffer’s campaign will get the following rewards:

Purchasing one £10 ticket gets you one ticket to Lewis Schaffer: You Are Beautiful at Just the Tonic Community Project, Five Stars in The Scotsman.

Purchasing two £10 tickets gets you two tickets to Lewis Schaffer: You Are Beautiful at Just the Tonic Community Project, Five Stars in The Scotsman.

Purchasing four £10 tickets gets you four tickets to Lewis Schaffer: You Are Beautiful at Just the Tonic Community Project, Five Stars in The Scotsman.

Purchasing ten £10 tickets gets you ten tickets  to Lewis Schaffer: You Are Beautiful at Just the Tonic Community Project, Five Stars in The Scotsman.

Purchasing 100 £10 tickets gets you 100 tickets to Lewis Schaffer: You Are Beautiful at Just the Tonic Community Project, Five Stars in The Scotsman.


No 2: ELLIS & ROSE’S BEGGING LETTER

EllisAndRoseLetter2016

Ellis & Rose gave Copstick a red letter day

This week, I was shown a red letter – literally a red letter – by Kate Copstick, the most influential comedy critic at the Edinburgh Fringe. It read:


Dear Copstick,

We’re writing this letter to try to convince you to review our Edinburgh show this year, because we can’t afford a PR person and our hard-working producer is doing our PR (and everything else) for free – but she obviously has no clout because we’ve had no press stuff in the run up to the Fringe – not that anyone really reads that bollocks anyway.

We have worked really hard on making our show this year and we think we have a chance of impressing you enough to beat the three star review you gave us in 2013.

Love x
and sexy kisses
Ellis & Rose


They added a cartoon drawing of Copstick’s head saying A FLATTERING PORTRAIT OF YOU


No 3: THE LOUISE REAY FORTUNE COOKIE

LouiseReay_QueSera

Whatever will be performed wholly in Chinese

Yesterday was my birthday.

An anonymous letter arrived with my name and address scrawled on the envelope.

Inside the envelope was a sealed red sachet.

Inside the sealed red sachet was a Chinese fortune cookie.

I broke it open.

Inside the fortune cookie was a very small piece of paper with the printed message:

Do not clip your toe nails at night,
in case you are visited by a ghost.
You must enter The Caves,
Just Up The Road at 3.20pm.
It is your destiny. Que Sera 些拉 ?

That was the message in its entirety.

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Available as a comedy show consultant or director or whatever you fancy, really

5Stars

The number of unknown unknowns is unknown

In the immortal words of Max Bialystock: “Flaunt it, flaunt it!”

I am available as a Director or Creative Consultant (or whatever words you want to use) on live comedy shows in 2016 – mostly, I guess, for people who intend to stage a show at the Edinburgh Fringe, although I am open to anything.

This can include structuring a show, giving feedback and show notes on performance and presentation, advice on publicity and marketing; whatever you want short of totally writing and performing the whole bleedin’ thing.

I won’t read scripts, because you are not reading out written scripts on stage. I will only advise people or see their live performances or run-throughs or try-outs – even if it’s in a living room! Me just reading words on paper or on a screen is a waste of your time and mine.

I have been going to the Edinburgh Fringe since around 1985 and been involved in the production of various live Fringe comedy shows including ones by Charlie Chuck, Janey Godley, Malcolm Hardee, Helen Keen and Lewis Schaffer. Since 2005, I have organised the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards and, since 2006, staged annual variety shows in memory of Malcolm Hardee in London and Edinburgh, running anything from two to five hours. There will be a two-hour Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe.

If I give advice on any show that is later considered for a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award, I will opt out of the decision-making process and will bend over backwards not to show bias. So, ironically, if I advise you on your show, you are much, much LESS likely to win a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award.

2008-2010 I was UK creative consultant to New York’s Bleecker Street Theater and Green Room venue.

2010-2015 I was UK creative consultant to New York based Inbrook Entertainment, including the Gene Frankel Theatre.

I worked in British TV for around 25 years – including peaktime entertainment shows and series with performers including Jeremy Beadle, Cilla Black, Jack Dee, Jonathan Ross, Chris Tarrant et al – as well as directing/producing/writing promotion & marketing campaigns and press & sales tapes for TV stations in the UK, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Holland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden.

In print, I wrote comedian Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography, edited comedienne Janey Godley’s autobiography and edited an anthology of stories by 19 stand-up comics. My blog So It Goes – mostly about comedy – was posted daily 2011-2015 and continues sporadically, with over 1 million hits.

I have also written for Chortle, the Huffington Post, the Independent, Screen International, Three WeeksWhat’s On Stage and others. And been a script consultant for TV’s This Morning, Tricia, Turner Movies and ITV News etc as well as a researcher for BBC TV News.

In 2014 and 2015, I chaired live Grouchy Club chat shows about comedy at the Fringe with Scotsman comedy critic Kate Copstick. This will continue at the 2016 Fringe. We also post weekly Grouchy Club podcasts and host monthly live Grouchy Club meetings in London.

Quotes about me include:
“The Boswell of the alternative comedy scene” (Chortle)
“Fleming knows a bit about comedy’s extremities”(Fest magazine)
“One of the most influential figures in British comedy” (The Skinny)

My charges are:

£50 per hour + (if outside the London Travel Zone area) travel costs, including time taken.
or
£350 for up to 10 hours. For this, I have to be paid 50% up-front and 50% at the end of the consultation.

I know comedians!

CONTACT: john@thejohnfleming.com

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Filed under Comedy, Performance, show

Edinburgh Fringe. Too late for a review? When is a cunning stunt not cunning?

Sultry temptress Lynn Ruth Miller

The fascinating yet still unquoted Lynn Ruth Miller

Getting publicity and reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe can be just a case of happenstance and luck.

Just to get mentioned in this little blog… Well, lots of conversations at the Fringe are too long or complicated to put in this blog because of the time it takes to transcribe them.

This morning, I had a fascinating chat with Lynn Ruth Miller about the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp – she knew people who were sent to the camp and it is all linked up to why she became a comedian – but it will probably never see the light of blog.

What you read here – or anywhere – does not even superficially skim the surface of what is happening at the Fringe.

At the Grouchy Club yesterday afternoon, there was a discussion about the abnormally high number of performers with – and shows about – physical medical problems this year. Of course, performers with psychological problems is just taken as normal.

Yesterday, I was talking to a performer whose show I had seen and which had a full house of people adoring him/her and he/she was going on about what a terrible show it had been. “I was awful,” he/she said. He/she had not been.

The Edinburgh Fringe: you may have to make your own rainbow

In Edinburgh, you may well have to make your own rainbow

I chatted to another performer who was having full houses every day but who had not yet been reviewed. Unless there is massive word-of-mouth, it is now probably too late to set reviewers’ imaginations alight to the extent that they will completely re-arrange their schedules. To be really effective, the press releases had to be sent out at the point the Fringe Programme was published and just before the Fringe started.

I am seeing around seven shows each day and, as far as I know,  publications like The Scotsman worked out which shows would be reviewed before the Fringe started (with gaps to add-in shows which unexpectedly developed strong word-of-mouth).

A third performer was complaining on Facebook that his audiences were not laughing at his material and blaming the audiences specifically and Edinburgh in general.

Once the Fringe is in full flow (and it is over the halfway point now) there is not much performers can do to change the ongoing flow. Just keep plodding on and build the word-of-mouth and pray.

Meanwhile, one agent/promoter was telling me he had a stunt to publicise one of his acts which he reckoned was going to put all the traffic in Edinburgh into gridlock and he was trying to persuade me this would be worthy of an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award nomination.

But this would be more likely to get the act thrown out of their venue, him prosecuted and the show loathed by locals rather than an award nomination. For another, if you were to bring Edinburgh traffic to a stop, with a Sky News helicopter filming it all from above, it IS a stunt, but the word ‘cunning’ might not be appropriate.

Possibly a cunning stunt in the streets?

Possibly a cunning stunt in the streets? Depends who did it.

A definitive Cunning Stunt would be Malcolm Hardee writing a rave review of his own show and conning The Scotsman into publishing it because they thought it was written by their own critic….

A stunt but not a cunning stunt would be getting loads of ginger-haired people marching through Glasgow to plug a named show. It is not cunning. It is a photocall.

An interesting publicity stunt this year is the fact lots of cardboard sheets with odd slogans and the hashtag #MBGS have appeared among the general Fringe show posters.

These obviously but obliquely promote Miss Behave’s Game Show and would possibly be eligible for a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award on the basis they promote the show without, as such, saying the title of the show or where/when it is. It is a good cunning stunt to get people’s attention.

However, Miss Behave swears blind neither she nor her cohorts are putting these up – that it must be an unknown fan. If this is true (and who am I to gainsay her?) then it is not eligible for a Cunning Stunt Award because it is not a cunning publicity stunt, merely graffiti by someone who gains nothing from the show.

If someone unknown to me does a brilliant cunning stunt which promotes The Grouchy Club shows, I cannot be nominated for doing the stunt. It is nothing to do with me.


My three show highlights yesterday were:

Matt Price: The Boy With Cake On His Face
Matt reckons he will not get onto television regularly because he does not have the right look. I am not so sure. His personality and charisma scream pure TV ‘natural’.

Joey Page: Catastrophe Party
Former Malcolm Hardee Award nominee Joey has the cliché looks for TV and has been on Never Mind the Buzzcocks et al and there is no reason why he is not on more often except the whims of producers.

Wilfredo at the Gala

Stu Turner’s Big Charity Gala
…for Autism Initiatives Scotland. This pulled-off that rare Fringe trick of not just attracting Fringe-goers but also getting-in ordinary Edinburgh residents – I suspect readers of the Daily Record rather than the Guardian.

The fact it took place in the 400-seater New Empire Bingo Hall may have helped.


Oh, by the way, this blog has now managed to get over 1 million hits.

It means nothing, but it is worth a mention because the Edinburgh Fringe mantra is: It’s all about self-publicity. You have to build your own luck, build your own rainbows.

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Lewis Schaffer knocks himself. Cocaine is a Nice Little Earner for Jason Cook.

After yesterday’s blog appeared, Lewis Schaffer – a man who knows a thing or two about effective promotion using ‘self-knocking copy’ – issued a double press release:


LEWIS SCHAFFER TO BE A LEAD IN A PLAY (??!)

One Giant Leap for Lewis Schaffer

Giant Leap – one small step for Lewis Schaffer

In what has to be the most insane move of the year, Lewis Schaffer, the failed old New York Jewish comic now living in Nunhead, Southeast London, has been cast to co-star in a play making its debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

He will be co-starring with comics Tom Stade and Phil Nichol in the new play GIANT LEAP at The Pleasance. He is in every scene of the 70 page script, has lines on over 60 of the pages and is to be paid money and accommodation.

This is to be Lewis Schaffer’s first live acting gig since he appeared in The Odd Couple as a 17 year-old at Great Neck North Senior High School on Long Island, some 41 years ago.

Lewis Schaffer is to play a failed old New York Jewish comic.

*   *   *   *   *

LEWIS SCHAFFER TO CHARGE ADMISSION AT THE EDINBURGH FESTIVAL FRINGE 2015 FOR HIS SOLO SHOW

Lewis Schaffer’s tour poster

Lewis Schaffer – the current national tour poster

In a shocking announcement, Lewis Schaffer star of the the Free until Famous brand, is to charge admission for his formerly free show, the first time in seven years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015.

He will be interrupting his unique and amazing Free until Famous tour to ask for money in advance. His tour is at over 45 of the largest and most prestigious theatres and arts centres in the UK. Dates include 23rd July at Exmouth; 24 July in Guildford; and July 25th at Barnsley.


Jason Cook A Nice Little Earner

Jason Cook on to A Nice Little Earner

That is one way to promote a product. Another way is to take the Jason Cook route, which is to buy me breakfast at a cafe in Borehamwood.

Jason is heavily dyslexic yet has just published A Nice Little Earner, his third book in a gangster quadrilogy. Yesterday morning, over bacon & beans, he told me:

“We’re launching a competition for the new book. You have to answer a question about Vinny Jones – all the details are on the website – and you win copies of all three books, signed by me. And I’m going to be doing signings again at WH Smiths and Waterstones in August.

“Five months after that, we will publish the fourth book – Cocaine: The Devil’s Dandruff. And, in the meantime, we’re working on the film scripts.”

“There were,” I said, “only going to be three books?”

Jason - “Elements have been changed to protect ourselves"

Jason – “Elements have been changed to protect ourselves”

“Well,” Jason told me, “the editor looked at the third book and said: There’s two books in here. What do you want to do? So I said: Publish it as two books. So we cut the third one into two books. The four of them can be read separately or as one story.”

“How do I describe these books?” I asked. “Fictionalised reality?”

“They’re based,” said Jason Cook, “on a real-life story, but the elements have been changed to protect ourselves and other people.”

The central character running through the books is called The Cookster.

“Remind me what the four books are about,” I prompted.

Jason Cook’s first two semi-autobiographical crime books

Publicity for Jason’s first two semi-autobiographical books

“The first one,” said Jason, “There’s No Room for Jugglers in My Circus, is about a young boy who grew up in Borehamwood and how he gets involved in criminality – drugs and gun crime – and is used as a chess-piece in an international smuggling ring. It’s set in London, Borehamwood, Marbella, Colombia and Jamaica.

The Gangster’s Runner is about how organised crime works and who’s involved – the trappings – fast money, power, cocaine, guns.

One way to publicise yourself: your own money Jason Cook

One way to publicise yourself: print your own Cookster money

A Nice Little Earner is about the main characters in the drug smuggling, about Mr Niz, his smuggling of the cocaine and about the ‘firms’ in London.

Cocaine: The Devil’s Dandruff will bring it all to an end and how Mr Niz was involved. He was actually nicknamed ‘the milkman’ because he was able to deliver cocaine in any country.”

“So,” I said, “overall, the books are about…”

“They’ve got,” said Jason, “police, gangsters, villains, a grass, prison, plenty of powder and connections to the football and boxing underworlds.”

Say hello to Jason Cook's little friend

Wanna publish? Okay. Say hello to my little friend. 

“Connections?” I asked.

“Organisations,” Jason said, “with regard to boxing promoters and football ‘arrangements’ and bribery and the signing-over of a Premier football club… allegedly.”

I asked: “Not a player? A club.”

“A club,” said Jason. “And there’s a football player who gets blackmailed. The footballer’s being blackmailed by the footballer’s wife.”

“His own wife?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

Jason has plans to film his books

Jason – plans to turn his books into movies

“Because he’s fixing matches. Obviously, we have protected all the names. A lot of it has already been in the news, but you’ll read about it first hand in the book.

“The Sun newspaper sent a reporter down to talk to me and took pictures three months ago but, after talking to their solicitors, they decided not to do the article because, they said, they ‘didn’t want to open a can of worms’.”

“I would have thought,” I told Jason, “that you should be more worried about the consequences to you.”

“I talked to my solicitors about what I could put in the book and talked to a lot of of the people involved.”

Even so…

If true…

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How to promote an Edinburgh Fringe show – plus some Cowgatehead irony

Kate Copstick, ploughing through the press releases

Kate Copstick assesses the very worst of Fringe press releases

Yesterday ended surreally with (after his show ended) a member of the audience asking marriage advice from Lewis Schaffer.

This is a bit like Peter Buckley Hill (the PBH of PBH Free Fringe) giving advice to a comedian on how to develop and handle a PR strategy at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Earlier in the day, I had gone round to comedy critic Kate Copstick’s home to record our weekly Grouchy Club podcast. Sometimes we record this not just in audio but on video for YouTube and/or we stream it live on Periscope.

Yesterday… no visuals, because of her face.

“I woke up this morning,” she told me, “a horrible puce. Normally I don’t look in mirrors, ever. They crack, of course. Either that or there’s no reflection to see. But this time it was an horrific sight. Massively puffy. Eyes like currants in a dumpling. But a red dumpling.”

So no pictures of her from yesterday.

But we did, in the course of the 39 minute podcast, get round to discussing her job reviewing comedy shows for The Scotsman newspaper during the Edinburgh Fringe and to PR strategies for Fringe comedy shows…


COPSTICK
There is a kind of firewall – which I think is tragic – of paid PRs who can all get to the editors, who can get to the journalists, who have a budget to take them out to lunch or whatever and who, in some cases, have the tenacity of a moray eel once it bites into your leg: it’s just not going to let go.

JOHN
We’ve all been there.

COPSTICK
And it’s hard… I always give out my personal email because I’m happy for anyone to contact me. A lot of reviewers don’t. But I find myself drifting off if I start reading one of these standard It’s all marvellous! – Whoa! – One of London’s top… No! You’re not. If people up here (in Edinburgh) haven’t really heard of you, you’re not one of London’s top anything.

I much prefer – as I’ve had – a few little emails saying: I’m bricking it, terrified, blah blah blah… That is much more likely to appeal. That shows the right attitude. It shows – No 1 – a respect for the Edinburgh Fringe, which is a monumental entity in the comedy industry now… and an acceptance that life – much less the Fringe – much less the press – owes you nothing at all. It is what you make of it.

So, if you’re an individual, some corny pro-forma press release with all the usual buzz words in it is not going to work. A direct e-mail – for me – is much more likely to work. Not a press release, just an e-mail.

Then, once you get up to Edinburgh, play your little heart out, paper your show, just get people in to see it. If you’re on the free Fringe, just try and get as many people in as possible. Because, if you are any good, every single one of these people is a human flyer and you are sending them out there. They are a talking, walking, smiling, reminiscing, sadly often joke-quoting flyer. And they will do you more good than bits of paper.


Much, much more in the online podcast, including Copstick’s e-mail address and one of 21 things you did not know about pornography.

See? Marketing is all about teasing.

Meanwhile, to round off this blog – which started with a humorous suggestion of Peter Buckley Hill giving advice to a comedian on how to develop a PR strategy at the Edinburgh Fringe…

In the continuing saga of one of the worst examples of Fringe PR in recent years, the Cowgatehead saga trundles on. New readers will have to refer to previous blogs, as I am not going to plough through the whole sorry mess of a background again.

Suffice it to say that I have been contacted by an act performing at the PBH Free Fringe “probably for the last time ever, because of the way the Cowgatehead debacle was handled”.

The latest e-mail received by this act from Peter Buckley Hill apparently ends with:

“Here’s to an excellent Free Fringe 2015. The more co-operation there is between shows, the more excellent it will be.”

The act tells me: “I find that kinda ironic.”

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Just some of the many oddities I tripped over at the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday

Joz Norris doing a passable impression of Hunter S Thompson

Joz N doing a passable impression of Hunter S Thompson

Publicity is difficult at the Edinburgh Fringe. Acts hand out flyers to people in the street. And try to get articles and photos in the press.

Two days ago, I went to a photoshoot for clowns performing at the Fringe. Apart from the clowns, I was the only person there.

Yesterday, on my way to the Grouchy Club, I had a chat with ever jolly japester Joz Norris who told me about a photoshoot held two days ago for clowns performing at the Fringe.

These were two separate photoshoots. Clowns should talk to each other more.

The one I went to involved clowns sitting on a taxi and running through it as if they were all coming of it.

“What was the one you went to like?” I asked Joz.

“The idea,” he told me, “was to see how many clowns we could fit in a car. There was supposed to be loads of press interest with loads of photographers but, when we turned up, there was nobody. Only about four of us bothered to turn up, so the answer to the question How many clowns can you fit into a car? was The normal number – four. We grabbed some random flyerers in beekeepers’ outfits and got a man in dressed as a tent and pressed our faces against the glass.”

“I went to the other one,” I said, “and I think I was the only non-clown there. People just looked at me as being a bit under-dressed.”

“Did you wear one of your bright shirts?” asked Joz.

“I was still out-coloured,” I admitted.

There is a video on YouTube of Joz’s clown video shoot

At the Grouchy Club yesterday, extraordinarily OTT New Zealand Maori cabaret act Mika was reunited with Scotsman critic Kate Copstick, who saw and raved about his show around a decade ago and has emotionally never been the same since.

Kate Copstick and Mika at The Grouchy Club

Copstick & Mika at Edinburgh’s Grouchy Club show yesterday (Photograph by Garry Platt)

Mika told her: “I’ve brought a show here this year – Salon Mika – because I’m going to make it into a feature film.”

Bizarrely, the New Zealand Arts Council did not fund his trip to Edinburgh. All the acts they funded were white non-Maoris. But Mika’s show has already got a 5-star review and – surely only by coincidence – Mika told us: “The entire Arts Council of New Zealand and the Minister are meeting me a 5 o’clock tonight, here in Edinburgh.”

Mika was strangely not really complaining; he was more bemused.

Bemusement is not something common in Scotland. But protesting is. Though badly.

Copstick pointed out: “Scotland doesn’t do protesting very well. We have all-purpose Scottish Labour Party moaners. You get the feeling they’re just professionally disgruntled moany Scottish people waiting for the next protest to come along.

At The Grouchy Club yesterday: a bad selfie of Coptick and me

Looking on with interest from Grouchy Club Towers yesterday

“On one of the first days of the Fringe, there was a big group of them outside the Gilded Balloon protesting about an Israeli play that wasn’t even on there. It was on at the Underbelly.

“I went and said to them: Do you know you’re outside the wrong venue? Plus, if you’re really smart, you would stop with the moaning and the shouting that nobody can make out because you’re all broad Glaswegians and most of the people walking past have no idea what you’re saying. Play nice, get near the upside-down inflatable cow, get somebody with a knife and puncture it. I did not think that would escalate anything.”

At this point, Miss Behave walked in and took her shirt off.

You had to be there to understand.

She is co-running nearby venue Bob and Miss Behave’s Bookshop as well as putting on her own show.

Miss Behave and Mika compare tongues (Photograph by Garry Platt)

Miss Behave and Mika compare tongues at the Grouchy Club (Photograph by Garry Platt)

“I have,” she told us, “been Mrs Cabaret for a really long time, wandering round being very slick, so this year I’m doing a very silly game show – Miss Behave Gameshow – involving mobile phones.

“I have a wonderful assistant – Harriet – and he is becoming the star of the show. He is wonderful. It’s very silly and fun. I’m starting with an idea, it’s evolving and, by the end of this month, it will be absolutely amazing. At the moment, it is an exciting, fun work in progress, very entertaining.”

At this point, multi-award-winning Adrienne Truscott arrived. As well as winning the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award for her solo show last year (and some lesser Edinburgh prizes), she is half of the Wau Wau Sisters.

Adrienne Truscott not standing on her head (Photo by Garry Platt)

Adrienne Truscott not standing on head (Photograph by Garry Platt)

“Stand on your head!” I said.

“No,” said Miss Behave. “You have to leave her alone. She’s got a bad back.”

“I,” said Copstick, “have been dangled upside-down on a trapeze by the Wau Wau Sisters.”

“What are you doing this year?” I asked.

The Wau Wau Sisters’ Death Threats (and Other Forms of Flattery),” said Adrienne, “about doing a show that got death threats from religious fundamentalists. They sent us three letters and we had to do our whole show with armed guards in the house.”

“Moslems?” someone asked.

“No,” said Adrienne, “We had done a show which was a very cheap re-interpretation of the Last Supper.”

The Grouchy Club did not live up to its name yesterday. Everyone seemed to be laughing rather than being grouchy.

Blanche Cameron, Lewis Schaffer, Heather Stevens

Blanche Cameron, Lewis Schaffer and Heather

But then I went over to Niddry Street, home of what seems like a hundred free venues, and I bumped into Lewis Schaffer and two of his entourage. I occasionally get text messages from Lewis Schaffer saying simply: Mood black.

I tried sending him a text message once saying: Mood black – to see what his reaction was. He never replied.

His main entourage – Heather Stevens – continues to spend most of her time with her face in her hands. This is understandable.

Lewis Schaffer has branded Blanche’s bosoms

Lewis Schaffer has branded Blanche’s bosoms

But he seems to have rebranded another of his entourage – Blanche Cameron – as his personal stalker with a naked picture of himself across her bosoms.

To cheer myself up, I chatted to Chris Dangerfield, who was out on the cobbles promoting his show Sex With Children to innocent passers-by.

“I got here yesterday,” he told me. “My posters had gone missing. No posters, no flyers. Ten minutes before my first show, I was about to cancel it. Suddenly, sixty people turned up. I took £120.”

At this point a happy-looking couple approached.

Chris Dangerfield demonstrates with finger

Chris Dangerfield demonstrates with finger

“When you’ve finished with the show you wanna see,” Chris told them, “come and see Sex With Children.”

They looked slightly startled.

“Look!” he told them. “You can put a little penis on the flyer!”

He has flyers with a full-length photo of a man. They have a hole at groin level just big enough to put through and wiggle your little finger.

“There you are,” he told the couple. “Nine o’clock – in there – Sex With Children. You’ll love it.”

At this point – and this is true – I noticed the anonymous flyerer about whom I blogged two days ago.

At that point, he was handing out strips of blank paper to publicise Ben Target’s show.

The Anonymous Flyerer yesterday @markdeanquinn

The Anonymous Flyerer for ACMS yesterday

Yesterday, he told me: “I’m flyering for ACMS (the Alternative Comedy Memorial Society). It involves me standing with a cardboard box over my head and holding up a sign that says FLYER so people can take their own flyers. I do it for two hours every day and can’t see anyone who takes the flyers because I have my head in a box. But I am sure they’re the right people for the show.

“With ACMS, we also exit flyer them. As they leave, we give them flyers for the show they’re just.seen.”

“I admire originality,” I said.

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