Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The News At Kate 2010

(This post stays at the top of the blog all fest - scroll down for new news!)

This year's Edinburgh Fringe shows are as follows, please come along if you're in town!

The News At Kate 2010. My one-woman solo show. Politics and comedy and feminism and a sock puppet pornographer. Really. 9th - 27th Aug (not 17th) at speakeasy@voodoorooms (venue 68) 8.25pm FREE!

The Comedy Manifesto. Hugely popular political comedy panel show hosted by me. 7th - 28th Aug (not 17th) at The Beehive on Grassmarket 3.45pm FREE!

The Midnight Hour. Late night showcase of talent from around the fest, again hosted by me. 7th - 29th Aug (not Sundays) at The Canon's Gait, Canongate 12midnight FREE!

I'll also be hosting and appearing on lots of other things so keep your eyes peeled (or if you see me - ask!).

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Record Breaking Stuff

Press release that has just gone out (sorry too busy to actually write about this right now, but hopefully makes sense):

Largest ever live audience for a Fringe show – more than 300,000

Comedienne Kate Smurthwaite broke an Edinburgh Fringe record in the early
hours of Wednesday morning by performing to a live audience of more than 300,000!

The 100-plus audience at The Midnight Hour show at the Canon's Gait venue were joined by hundreds of thousands of BBC Radio Five Live listeners around the country and the world as Smurthwaite performed a joke from the stage simultaneously on the microphone and on national radio via her mobile phone.

The Tony Livesey Show attracts a regular audience of three to six hundred listeners. The joke was one of many submitted via text (also breaking the record for the most popular text-in to the programme ever) and was not well particularly well received with a brief cheer and then some groaning and booing and one audience member audibly shouting "awful!".

Smurthwaite is a regular guest on Tony Livesey's late night chat show and had been on the programme earlier in the evening discussing declining standards of politeness and modern etiquette when Livesey challenged her to perform one of his listeners jokes live on air at her late night Edinburgh Fringe show. The gag - chosen by Livesey and his team from thousands of submissions was: "A dating agency for chickens has been forced to close. A spokesman said they couldn't make hens meet!"

Later in the programme an audience member - comedy promoter Paul Haslam from Urban Comedy - joined Livesey on air to provide a review of the show saying "Kate is marvellous. She's just so multi-talented. She can ad lib, she can do gags, she can improvise and of course she's fantastic eye candy". Asked about PBH's Free Fringe in general he added "Down here in Edinburgh, at the Fringe, for free I have seen guys who are every bit as good as the comedians who have their own Saturday night BBC shows."

Speaking about the incident Smurthwaite said “It was really exciting to be actually performing to such an enormous audience, knowing we were breaking a record. It’s just a shame they didn’t send me a better joke – I would rather have been performing my own material!”

Additional info: Kate Smurthwaite’s Edinburgh show is called The News At Kate 2010 and is an hour of political satire and humorous tales of political activism. It’s on daily until Friday at speakeasy@voodoorooms at 8.25pm. She also appears in political panel show The Comedy Manifesto (3.45pm to Saturday at The Beehive and late night show The Midnight Hour (midnight to Saturday at Canon's Gait). All shows are part of the award-winning PBH's Free Fringe, the organisation founded by Fringe veteran and Edinburgh Comedy award winner Peter Buckley Hill which has been bringing free shows to the festival for the last 15 years.

Kate Smurthwaite is a regular guest on many BBC talk shows including the Tony Livesey Show, the Jeremy Vine Show, the Stephen Nolan Show, Women's Hour and the Richard Bacon Show. She is also a political activist and blogger. Her main blog is www.cruellablog.blogspot.com and her festival blog is www.thenewsatkate.blogspot.com.

The Tony Livesey Show is available on BBC Listen Again for the next six days.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Dear All The Journalists At The Fringe...

So I managed last night to bump in to the (as far as I know) one journalist who has been to my show. And he tells me he was just watching my show for fun and had no intention of reviewing it. Which of course he is quite within his rights to do, and he bought me a beer and offered to ask his colleague to try to find the time to review the show. Lets hope he does - otherwise I am at serious risk of doing a full Edinburgh run of the best show I've ever written and getting no reviews at all. That is seriously depressing.

Furthermore it makes no sense. Reviewers this fringe have been vicious in calling out and criticising a lot of the boring repetitive sexism being pedalled by male acts - so why not come and see a female act who actually talks about feminism? Keith Farnam's "feminist" show has come under fire for having good intentions at heart but ultimately falling back on sexist punchlines to maintain the humour. My show doesn't do that, it doesn't need to, because it's funny about the sexists. The Scotsman has criticised burlesque at the fringe for failing to really break through conventional beauty myths and stereotyped gender roles. My show discusses all this. While being really funny. Finally the panel show The Comedy Manifesto had one review last year: five stars from Broadway Baby and one review his year: five stars from Scotsgay. Don't you think the woman who devised and wrote and hosts that might be worth reviewing herself?

People are bringing me flowers, putting £10 and £20 notes in my collection bucket and writing to the BBC to demand I be put on everything from QI to Question Time so why are journalists overlooking me? I know that begging journalists to come and see my show sets me up for bad press of the "She clearly thinks this is great because she dragged us here but..." but at this stage I do not care. Please someone come and review my show. Please please please. It runs daily 8.25pm at speakeasy@voodoorooms until (including) Friday and if that doesn't work I will gladly come round your flat and perform the whole thing in the doorway to your living room to you and the cockroaches behind your sofa...

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Views and Reviews

Had a great solo show today - packed audience and went really well. Still no sign of a review from the journalist who was in the other day and I'm starting to get paranoid about whether it's going to disappear into the ether. Impossible to tell with a free show whether any other journalists have been, be gutting not to get reviewed at all.

This year the edfringe website has been magically set up so that it's totally impossible for audience members to leave reviews of free shows (which is infuriating) so I skipped over to the chortle website to see if anyone had put any comments up under my name there...

Well one person wrote something nice but then I see someone has slated me at great length for a performance I did at an awards ceremony a few months back for the National Union of Journalists. This was a gig where due to a mix up I found out I was on less than an hour before I was onstage (shower, taxi, panic) so I hadn't had time to prepare anything special. I was ill but decided to attempt to be heroic and go on anyway. The crowd - all regional journalists 90% of whom hadn't won an award - saw me in the middle of the afternoon after dinner and a lot of long boring speeches and weren't allowed dessert or any kind of break before I was on. One group at the front were ignoring me and chatting among themselves throughout regardless of what I said to them. It was never going to go well. And certainly it was the worst reception I've had in several years, an incredibly tough gig which I fought and fought to win round but ultimately just couldn't save (although there was a group of lovely people in who took the time to come and tell me they liked my stuff and apologise for the others). Why is it though when I have one bad gig someone feels the need to publicly lambast me (and not bother to mention any of the extenuating circumstances of course) but when I have night after night of really rocking gigs the reaction is minimal? If you liked my show (or performance at another show you've seen recently) please head over to chortle and write something nice. About ten nice comments would chase the nasty remarks off into obscurity on page 2 of the comments and cheer me up enormously!

Lee Camp and Tobias Persson at Midnight Hour tonight and I'm actually going to go out and have a few beers afterwards for once!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Entering Review Purgatory

Had a reviewer from Scotsgay in my solo show last night. I was very happy with the show so I'm optimistic. Still now stuck in limbo of checking every ten minutes for the review to appear. Of course journalists are not super-heros, they can't be expected to write reviews in ten seconds but the sooner it's published (if it's good) the sooner it can affect my audience numbers. So catch me now quick before the review comes out and the queuing starts... or not.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Things I Didn't Plan To Do On My Day Off

Well yesterday was my annual festival day off. I had big plans to go to Leith Waterworld but ended up feeling ill and staying on the sofa all day watching TV and napping. Still better to be ill on that day than a day when I have 3-6 shows to do! Sadly my restful day ended abruptly around 1am when I discovered that my Midnight Hour show, the only one still running without me - with a guest compere - had run into trouble. An act (David Whitney) had had his set ruined by a persistent heckler. This is not all that surprising at a late night show when the audience can be pretty drunk (though often such people get chucked out if they're ruining the show for others). However the act after coming off stage decided to exact revenge by head-butting the guy. The police arrived and Whitney (quite rightly) spent the night in a cell. We won't be re-booking him.

I'm feeling better and will be back at The Midnight Hour tonight where hopefully things will be running a bit more smoothly. Just hoping the press coverage makes it clear that in three years this is the first time there's been a problem at the show and that it happened when I wasn't there.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Festival Meanderings

Yet to have any reviewers in to see my solo show and I'm not in that much of a stress about it cos really I know the show's good and I'm more bothered about "real" people seeing it. The woman who runs Edinburgh feminist network saw it two days ago and recommended it to the rest of the group. She told me today she's already had two women specifically thank her for the recommendation. Another person who enjoyed it was Jes from the blog Circuitous Meanderings. She writes:

"The evening ended with the hideously underused, under-recognised and generally talented Kate Smurthwaite with her News at Kate in the Voodoo Rooms.

"What I cannot understand is why with comics of the calibre of Kate Smurthwaite and Susan Murray and Helen Keen and all the other funny women around, we are continually subjected to banal, sexist, unoriginal and frequently offensive male comics dominating TV programmes all week long. And without going into the full "I pay my licence fee too" rigmarole, it's undeniable, I and my demographic are completely failed by programme producers who play it safe with the same old faces on every panel game and sketch show."

Thanks Jes, glad you enjoyed the show!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Critical Faculties

It is mean and horrible as a comic to revel in the bad reviews that others get. And if your show got one star and it said it was under-rehearsed, badly written or poorly delivered I feel for you. We've all been told these things at one time or another and I would urge you to take it as an opportunity to rehearse more, write better and work on your delivery (Maybe take the brilliant stand-up comedy course at City Academy...). And anyway just because one reviewer doesn't like it doesn't mean there aren't people out there who will love it - play to them and enjoy it.


Yes however.

I often feel that there is a lot of comedy out there that is not only unfunny but actually offensive. Not clever-offensive, trying to shock in order to make important valid points or even just a bit crude and rude and childish but just dull out of date stereotyping and general awfulness. Sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism, etc. And it always annoys me when the critics don't pick up on it. So ten out of ten (five stars) to Julia Chamberlain at Chortle and Ian Mitchell at Scotsgay for these two well deserved drubbings (linked to their names). Maybe the future's brighter than we thought...?

On a side note a woman at my show today came up afterwards and thanked me not only for the show but for my protest at Sebastian Horsley's funeral (see my main blog if you don't know the full story). That was cool.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


Oh yes! My afternoon political panel show The Comedy Manifesto got it's first review of the fringe today from Scotsgay magazine: five stars! Not as surprising as all that - we got five stars last year for the same show from Broadway Baby so we know it's a great show. In case your computer is slow or index finger tired here's what it says:

The Comedy Manifesto
The Beehive

Definitely proves that just because a show is part of PBH’s Free Fringe doesn’t mean it’s rubbish. Nor once you get a good format do you need to change it, for I saw this show last year and went back for more.

The idea is simple, Kate Smurthwaite, a brilliant comedian, hosts two teams each of two comics. Each team is led by the same people each day, Jules Constant and David Mulholland, and there are two guest comics each day. After a witty warm up by Smurthwaite the comics are asked to tell us a bit about themselves. They are then asked a series of questions about things in the news and have to come up with witty and accurate replies. They are then set a challenge, on the day I was there it was to come up with a test of Britishness. The penultimate part of the show is to come up with a new law they would like to see enacted, and finally they are given a chance to sell their main show.

Audience participation is encouraged – the audience can get points as well as the panel – and is helped by the small intimate size of the crowded room.

This really is a superb show.

The Burlesque Debate

So after I put my little sign up outside the show last night (which worked great by the way), this morning I have an email from one of the burlesque performers saying, well actually I'm not going to go in to what she was saying, but essentially engaging me in debate about burlesque. Initially I replied and she responded suggesting we continue the debate in person. Well honestly I don't see the point.

I've had this debate before. Approximately one million times. In fact some of the many instances of the debate on this are in my show, others are on my main blog. Clearly I'm not going to convince this woman to cancel her show. Clearly she's not going to convince me to cancel mine. If we each hold our views strongly enough to make them our full-time job, what is the point of the debate. If someone wants to hire a venue and sell tickets I'll be happy to have the debate for the benefit of a wider audience. Even this though has already been done many times - on TV and radio, usually featuring me, a few burlesque acts, some "proper" strippers or club managers and some random fundamentalist Christian who keeps shouting "fornication!". It's cracking TV but I'm trying to do three shows a day and I don't really have the energy to recreate it in Starbucks for the benefit of one person whose opinion won't change anyway. In fact all I'd really be doing is giving her a chance to hone her debating skills. After all these years mine are pretty sharp...

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Downs and Ups

So I've done my first two shows now. The first one had a few teething troubles. Some feminists I half know from Edinburgh were coming along and arrived early. They headed in to catch the end of the show before mine which turned out to include burlesque complete with twirling nipple tassels! They weren't very impressed. After their show quite a lot of the audience for the burlesque stayed for my show and gave me evil stares and some mild heckling. Shortly after the show (no doubt by complete co-incidence) my posters in the bar had grown Hitler moustaches. The show was fine but didn't feel zinging like it had in preview. I felt I was rushing a bit, being less playful than I can be.

Today was much better. I put a sign up outside warning my audience that if they came in early the show before mine had some partial nudity in it and no-one came in early. Plus I did more flyering ably assisted by new member of the News At Kate team Amandine who is a young French feminist living in Edinburgh and will be on the Royal Mile now regularly handing out my flyers to interested parties. An older feminist couple (Mouse and Alison - hello) spotted me flyering with Amandine and we had a long chat, when they arrived a the show they'd brought me flowers which put me in a great mood. My friend comedienne Bianca Arlette also came along and a few friendly faces meant the show went great. Afterwards a young Polish guy told me in 5 years coming to the Fringe mine was the best free show he'd ever seen! So feeling much better now. Off to host Midnight Hour as usual tonight.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Late and Great

Did one of my more unusual (but hugely enjoyable) spots of the festival today. The Magic Faraway Cabaret show, which is an excellent show (though comes with the warning: may contain burlesque just in case that's not something you're comfortable with), has a feature in which a dead celebrity rises from the grave and performs. I was reviving the memory of one of my all-time heros: Joyce Grenfell. For afficianados - I did the First Flight sketch which is one of my favourites.

My solo show opens tomorrow and between now and then as well as the afternoon Comedy Manifesto show I'm going to be personally trained at a place that looks more intensive than I was really expecting. The website is all six-packs and athletes. Hopefully I'll still be able to walk by showtime. Please come if you're in town - 8.25pm speakeasy@voodoorooms (venue 68). It's free, collection after the show, pay what you think it's worth! Arrive in good time for the best seats.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Radio Daze

So I've done three radio shows since I've been in Edinburgh. Firstly I was on Talk Sport last night talking about Lily Allen's pregnancy. Now I don't quite understand how on hearing a woman who wants to be pregnant is pregnant you could be anything but delighted. But of course there was someone who'd been rounded up to argue with me. It was Stephen Green from fundamentalist Christian group Christian Voice. Of course he's disgusted that an unmarried woman is pregnant. But I had the chance to push him on a couple of other subjects - homosexuality for one and his group's desire to legalise marital rape for another. Fun times.

This morning I was on BBC Ulster talking about Gary Neville getting his £150,000 car towed after he put petrol in a diesel! We were just generally talking about "Doh!"moments. The flat I'm in up here has a bathroom light switch outside the bathroom and then a shower on-switch cord just inside the door and I'm proud to say I have yet to turn the shower on while nipping for a midnight pee! So far so good. First shows tomorrow - thought my solo doesn't open til Monday so I'm still fairly chilled.

And then this afternoon I was hosting my own show (with Ian Schofield) on LeithFM. And it was a lot of fun. I'm on air at Leith every Friday 2pm to 3pm, please tune in if you're in the area!

Other shows inspired by me...

The preview edition of ThreeWeeks contains an interview with the comedian Eric, who is a good friend of mine and a regular panellist at my Comedy Manifesto in London. In it he credits me (at length) for coming up with the idea behind his new show Eric's Laws of the Land, which thinking about it, in absolute fairness, I rather did... You can read the full interview here.