Steve Hall – Interview

Steve Hall (Photo BBC)

Steve Hall was finalist in the 2002 Daily Telegraph Open Mic awards, and a finalist in the BBC New Comedy Award in 2003. Since then his credits include supporting Russell Howard on tour and has just returned from doing his own solo show at the Adelaide Festival.

As part of the Sketch Group “We Are Klang” they’ve been nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2006. The TV version aired in 2009, with a follow-up show “The Klang Show” broadcast in 2010.

Why do you go to the fringe and do comedy festival shows?

I’d gone to Edinburgh as a punter a lot and had been totally bowled over by the adrenaline and activity, and it’s just a blast to involved in that. It’s obviously *the* way to establish yourself, develop new gear and raise your profile, but if I’m honest that’s all secondary to the fact that I just love it and love being part of it.

To save me from doing a lot of swearing at google, what is your history of Edinburgh shows?

2003: Three Men and a Giant. 4 hander stand-up show with Greg Davies, Rhod Gilbert and Ed Petrie – at C Venues in the days before the Free Fringe.

2004: Comedy Zone at the Pleasance with Marek Larwood, Steve Williams, Tom Bell and the much-missed on the circuit Andy Bone. Same year was Klang’s first year at the Delhi Belly at the Underbelly. 2005: Yee-HaKlang: Klang’s second show, at the Pleasance Hut.

2006: Klangbang at Pleasance Beside – we got nominated for the corporate sponsor award this year.

2007: Klang did a 4 night greatest hits showboat, and I directed Pappy’s Fun Club’s nominated show that year too.

In 2008 I did a solo show, Vice-Captain Loser, and I had to abandon plans to do a show last year due to my wife’s visa being refused and the financial ruination that followed. It was so expensive getting my wife into the country I thought the immigration service was being run by Avalon.

Do you choose themed shows or just a straight hour of stand up?

I don’t really have a set pattern at the moment. I think an hour of stand-up with a cohesive theme, arc and narrative structure is my goal, and one which often eludes me.

How do you choose a theme?

Hey man, the theme chooses you… I don’t really have a hard and fast rule. Usually around August to October time I become aware of what my brain is fixating on, and what direction I’d like to go in. Sometimes I find myself looking at my newest bits and realising that they’re all thematically linked somehow. Then I tend to do fuck all about it for a few months and ultimately have a massive panic attack as it dawns on me what a lazy pretentious wanker I am.

Looking back through my old Edinburgh notebooks I often find the phrase ‘but what do you actually fucking care about?’ scrawled in disgust.

How do you assemble a show?

By going to comedy shows loads since I was small there’s an ingrained sense of how a show can and should fit together, and it’s always nice seeing new things which make you reconsider your approach. So the gig miles and honed instincts are the foundations, which is then built on by working bloody hard, and previewing the shit out of the thing. With the Klang shows, our director Logan Murray was a huge part of putting the pieces together – his infinitely patient wisdom and precise comic mind made each June and July from 2004 to 2007 much less horrific than they could have been.

Best piece of advice anyone gave you about the fringe?

David O’Doherty once told me ‘remember it’s a month’ – and in any given month of your life you’ll have ups and downs, good days and heartrendingly shit days. You would expect that of any month in your existence, and it should be no different during the fringe.

What do you think the most common mistake acts make at the fringe?

Self-delusion.

Most effective way of selling a show?

Make the show as good as possible. I guess the key question is to ask yourself is: Are you a comedian or are you a salesman? This is a tricky one because I could potentially come across as being very sniffy about the flyering process. I should point out that I am shit at flyering, and have been extremely happy to throw money at the problem in Edinburgh, with flyering teams who are younger and more energetic than me, and also crucially have social skills. So flyering is obviously a massive, massive part of the selling process.

However, I guess it boils down to this: We’re all aware of people who have got the flyering nailed, and can consistently sell out their Edinburgh shows. However often the audiences they get are cunts, and crucially if their show isn’t as good as it can be, it fails to do them any favours. Ultimately it depends how long-term you’re selling. Flyering gets bums on seats in the short-term, but the best thing for your vocation and your ongoing reputation is to do as good a show as possible. Klang’s first show didn’t sell many tickets, but we walked in so many comics and industry that we got ongoing work throughout the next year and had built a real momentum when we came back. There are people who are good at both: Felicity Ward is most adept at flyering herself, and consistently delivers wonderful shows. However what is the most important thing for her career? The fact that she’s good at spruiking, or the fact that she’s fucking brilliant at comedy? I remember when the Conchords did the Fringe in 2002, I didn’t see much selling of the show going on, but there were so many comics talking about this amazing show that you had to see that it reached a critical mass. Naturally there are lots of other considerations, decent PR and so on, but the show is the thing.

What’s your favourite memory of the fringe?

Lots of favourite memories. That rush the first time I walk into the Pleasance Courtyard each year. Seeing Pea Green Boat. The first time Klang did Late ‘n’ Live. Accidentally revealing my monkey and peewees to a tent of pensioners on Fred Maculay’s radio show.

Seeing Luke Haines do a three night run at the Underbelly. My mate Marc winning the Daily Telegraph Open Mic award. Playing the recorder with my anus. Any show Ben Moor has done.

Least favourite memory of the fringe?

In Edinburgh 2003 I was runner-up, alongside Greg Cook, in the BBC New Comedy Awards. It was a great thing to be part of – Rhod won it and we were both doing Three Men and a Giant, so it was a nice little coup for our tiny show. I had to speak to some journalists about it, and one of the things I was asked was about the nature and proliferation of new act competitions. I replied that ‘competitions are kind of horrible because you have to compete against your friends’, and went on to discuss how they are a necessary evil blah blah fucking blah. The next day the front page of the paper had ‘runner-up labels awards horrible’ – deliberately making it sound like I’d specifically slagged off the BBC Awards (which actually were enormously respectful and fun). They also invented a quote from me, “there are so many new act awards these days that you’re bound to win one” – which I never said and never would have said as I’d never won a new act award! It was hugely embarrassing, and I got an understandably angry message from one of the producers – and even though we had a civil conversation about it, the damage was done and a bitter taste was left. That journalistic wankganza of trying to create a ‘news’ story out of the happenings in the Fringe is always rather desperate and undignified, and it was unpleasant to be caught up in it.

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