This year, I did two shows a day for the month. In hindsight - I
think two shows was one show too many. Whilst the shows were a
success in many ways - I think having two full shows to write and
organise meant that I couldn't focus on one of them with as much
enthusiasm as I should have. I have ideas for next year's show
which will combine the two shows a little better and hopefully
enable me to turn two good shows into one great show. So, what
actually happened this year?
Owen Niblock: Twisted Whimsy
I did a 50 minute show at the Voodoo Rooms. I love the Voodoo
Rooms. The bar staff are always lovely and it feels like a family.
3:40pm isn't the best time in the world but it wasn't the worst.
Numbers were fairly similar to last year although fuller on the
full days and quieter on the quiet days, I think in total numbers I
did about the same. Twisted Whimsy was a lot of fun, I did a load
of old material, a load of new stuff and just messed about. When I
got my crowd, it flew. A few times people hated it but they were
wrong. A few times people loved it and they were right. It totally
feels like time to draw a line under a load of my old material so
I'll be working on a load of new songs for 2014 with the intention
of doing nothing from this year's show after Christmas.
Owen Niblock: Calculating Comedy
This show was interesting, it got good press (more on that later)
but bad numbers. I had to pull 3 shows during the run because
no-one turned up. Ryan's Bar was lovely (both the venue and the
staff) but it was hard to get people to go that far (at least
regular fringe goers). Maybe I was targetting my flyering badly.
The show itself needed a hasty rewrite after the first few
performances - Fringe audiences weren't going for the same stuff as
they were in the previews. I had to take out a load of stuff about
how the system worked and increase the joke quotient. Later on I
put some stuff back in about the system and think I got the line a
bit better. Next year, I might do a one-off non-comedy show talking
about the project without the need for humour - that way I can have
my cake and eat it.
5 Things I Did Wrong:
- I didn't do enough press work. I sent one email out this year. I
was lucky. That one email led to a review, which led to a mention
in the Guardian and a few interviews. If I work at it next year,
I'll probably get nothing :)
- I failed at flyering. I find it so hard to talk about my own
show and sound genuine. About half way through I started paying a
guy to do it for me. He turned out to be less than reliable.
- I had to work in my evenings. Due to some deadlines at work I
had to do some computer things most evenings. I'll try and make
sure I can dedicate my time to the Fringe next year.
- I did two brand new shows (see above).
- I tried out Facebook ads for the first time. Lots of people saw
it, the only people who saw it and came to my show already knew me.
I think I'd use Facebook Ads again - but only for raising awareness
of a video or something similar.
5 Things I Did Right:
- I wasn't in the main brochure. As far as I can tell, it didn't
make any difference to my numbers but it did save me a shedload of
- Bringing Gig-A-Tron back was totally the right thing to do. I
forgot just how much the press like the concept. There are a few
other people doing similar stuff now and I think I'd be at a
disadvantage if I hadn't bought her back this year.
- I drank Bitter & Twisted (they had it on tap at Ryan's Bar.
Nom nom nom).
- I emailed one person in the press about Calculating Comedy (I
decided I wanted to keep a relatively low profile this year - which
I think was the right thing. I got enough press to make it
worthwhile but didn't work for it).
- Returning to the PBH Free Fringe. An institution. And a good
one. Long may she reign.
- 3* Scotsman Review.
- what I take from this: the voice is good enough that he didn't
realise it was TTS. He would have preferred the first 2 days of the
show which other people didn't like.
- not as advanced (hardware-wise) as RoboThespian - but hopefully
makes up for it with quality of comedy. We have slightly different
aims and they seem like good guys - robotic comedy is the
- Tom Wrigglesworth interviews me and The BalhamBot (AKA Arthur
Smith) interviews Gig-A-Tron. Great fun and a highlight of the
fringe for me.
- Interview with BBC Scotland which made it into a feature on the
I also got interviewed by The Wall Street Journal but I've not
seen anything since so I guess that's not seen the light of
I had guests on at Calculating Comedy. It was a privilege to
invite some old friends, some amazing acts and some new comedians I
am really excited about. I managed to get such a great mix I was
really pleased. So thank you to:
James Cook, Kate Smurthwaite, Howard Read, Sarah Keyworth, Mab
Jones, Alex Hoyle, Obie, Pete Dobbing, James Hately, Tom Taylor,
Maxine Jones, Clare Furgeson, James Ross, Peter Buckley Hill,
Richard Pulsford, Jollyboat, Legion of Doom, Lovdev Barpaga, Paul
Pirie, Kier McAllister, Tez Ilyas, Matt Price, Nigel Needham, Nick
Hodder, Liberty Hodes, Oscar Jenkyn-Jones, Jo Coffey.
Until next year.
Here are the guests at my show Calculating Comedy (1:15 @ Ryan's
Bar) - please do come along :) *
3rd - James Cook as Johnny Wreck, Kate Smurthwaite
4th - Howard Read, Sarah Keyworth
5th - Mab Jones, Alex Hoyle
6th - Obie, Pete Dobbing
7th - James Hately, Tom Taylor
8th - Maxine Jones, Clare Furgeson
9th - James Ross, Peter Buckley Hill
10th - Jollyboat, Richard Pulssford
11th - TBC, TBC
12th - TBC, TBC
13th - DAY OFF
14th - TBC, TBC
15th - Nigel Needham, TBC
16th - Kate Smurthwaite, TBC
17th - Peter Buckley Hill, Obie
18th - James Cook as Johnny Wreck, Alex Hoyle
19th - TBC, TBC
20th - TBC, TBC
21st - James Ross, Pete Dobbing
22nd - Kate Smurthwaite, TBC
23rd - Jo Coffey, TBC
24th - TBC, TBC
* Acts may change at short notice, or they may remain the same
at even shorter notice.
I'm doing two shows in Edinburgh this year. They're both part of
the wonderful Free Fringe and so free entry with a
collection at the end.
CALCULATING COMEDY | RYAN'S BAR | 1:15PM
3rd - 24th (not 13th)
Can a computer be funny? Will computer comedians ever replace
humans on the stage? Owen Niblock looks at these questions and more
as he delves into the fascinating world of Computational Humour.
With special guests (both humans and computers). 'The master of all
This show is a study of comedy as an art-form, a look at
computational humour (a branch of AI) and an introduction to the
reboot of the gig-a-tron project (a long-term project attempting to
create a robotic comedian).
TWISTED WHIMSY | VOODOO ROOMS | 3:40PM
3rd - 25th (not 13th)
Music, comedy and oddity intertwined. Take one slightly geeky
outcast, add poetry, mix in jokes, sprinkle over some doodles and
simmer until laugher ensues. Et voilà, a magical world of
one-liners and songs. 'A very funny man,' (Russell Howard).
'Inspired and offbeat,' (Chortle). 'Ground-breaking,' (The
My cabaret/burlesque set extended and twisted into a 50 minute
romp through my warped little mind.
I always forget to update this thing. Current news in a
Man from Three: "Blah blah blah"
Me: "Please give me my PAC code".
Man from Three: "Blah blah, why? blah blah".
Man from Three: "Mutter mutter, phone you got rubbish, blah
Man from Three: "Waffle waffle, here's a better deal than I
offered you when I didn't think you'd leave, waffle waffle".
Man from Three: "Blah blah, with a phone you don't even want,
...and so on
I did eventually get my PAC code although a 2 minute
conversation took 20 minutes.
P.S. I'm loving my HTC One SV despite what the reviews say. In
your face Mr Man from Three.
So it's that time of year again (the beginning) and this year
I've decided to make a few resolutions. One of which is to blog
more (hence this post!)
Make my family my priority
I can be a very driven man. I have a long list of things I want
to do with my life (a very long list) and sometimes in my drive to
achieve these things I forget to commit enough time and love to the
things that really matter in my life. This year, I'm going to try
and put J&J first - there'll still be time for everything else
- I just need to get my priorities right.
I'm going to be concentrating on Mach & Ed festivals again
next year but I also want to do more Music Festivals, Burlesque and
Cabaret gigs. I've already started with a database of Burlesque
promoters - next is the festivals for the Summer. Festivals are
good - because J&J can come (see above :))
Aiming for once a week - alternating between Diary, Pooters,
Comedy & Music.
Write more songs
I miss writing songs with Jem - so it scratches several itches
at once (fnarf).
Start on my book
I've been planning a novel for a few years now (and wanting to
write one for over a decade). I've got an idea I really like and
some notes, just need to start writing the damn thing. I imagine
it'll take me another 10 years to write but I want 2013 to be the
year I start.
Drink less coffee
Hahahaha - yeah right.
There are lots of other things I want to do, I want to sort out
my website, I have a business in the early stages (very early but
very promising), I want to sort the house out in Wales, I want to
win the Funniest Computer Ever competition (I came second in 2012).
So much to do! Not everything this year - but as much as I can
without neglecting my family.
Happy New Year everyone.
It's been far too long since I last updated this. One of my New
Year's resolutions will probably be to update it more often. So
what's been going on?
Well - I got a contract working for JCB for 6 months (now 12
months) so have been away from our beloved Wales for ages! Should
be back next year at some point - hopefully *after* we sort the
house out. I'm working on some really cool stuff, all APIs and
I bought an iPad. Please don't judge me.
I did a show at the Edinburgh Festival - it went well. Not
spectacularly well but well enough. I should be back next year.
I have a todo list as long as my arm:
There's more but 13 will do for now (lucky for me). It's hard
finding the time for other things between being a professional
geek, an unprofessional father and a unmitigated disaster of a
husband :) but if I work hard it'll all get done. The last year or
so has taught me that:
Time for bed, I'll try and get back to updating this with a bit
more frequency - hopefully if I have more to say!
Now I've had a bit of time to play with it - I thought I'd sit
down and write out how I'm getting on with Google+. I have to say,
so far, I really like it. They seem to have learnt a lot from their
previous mistakes and even at this early stage it feels much more
like a product than Wave did in the early days.
The thing I really like about it... The people who
are on here so far. I'm sure that'll change as it gets more and
more popular - but if you look at the list of people in the UK
on http://www.findpeopleonplus.com/ I'd
say 90% of them are in the geek business in one form or another.
It's like a playground for geeks (long may that last!)
I've not tried the Hangouts yet - but if they can up the number
of people watching a Live video that would enable some cool live
comedy broadcasts (something I'm very interested in at the moment).
I recon being able to share a live streaming video with 50 other
people would be enough for an online comedy-club type
So - quick round-up of my experiences so far...
It was very quiet to start with. In order to pick
things up a bit I went on the findpeopleonplus site and added a few
random people who looked like fun and spent a bit of time looking
at friends of friends and adding people I knew. I still need more
people in my circles but it's certainly helped make the G+
experience more fun. However - this did highlight another issue
(which I believe will be fixed in a new release). When one user in
your circles is very noisy or popular - they often drown out the
others, the solution is going to be the ability to disable certain
circles from being displayed in your stream - so I'd be able to
create a "Noisy Buggers" circle rather than having to mute noisy
posts I'm not interested in.
I don't find the Sparks that interesting or useful - perhaps
this will mature over time. At the moment I just don't get it.
Maybe it's because it's very USA-centric or maybe I'm just not its
target audience. If anyone thinks this is cool and I'm overlooking
something amazing - I wait to be taught :)
My Android App doesn't work. It won't let me log in. Keeps
telling me I can't until I have an invite. I clearly have an
invite. Being honest, Google+ will never replace Facebook &
Twitter as my network of choice unless I can use it on my phone. I
know other people aren't having this problem, but I am. So
The UI is lovely, intuitive and nice and clean. I really hope
they don't give too much control when the API comes out so that it
stays nice (rather than MySpace which went messy fairly quickly as
everyone tried to make their profiles "stand out").
Creating Circles is so much easier than Facebook's friend
It's easy to share posts on Twitter & Facebook with the
following Chrome extension:
It's early enough that if you join and do something cool - you
may be able to build up an audience. It feels like the start of
something special - people are going to make their mark using
Google+ and it'll be really interesting to watch that happen.
It's full of geeks!
The Things I'm Looking Forward To:
I'll do another update in a month or so I recon.
I finally got my invite to Google+ (which I am referring to as
Google++) Thanks Kim! I was in two minds about joining as I
was an early adopter of Google Wave which I liked (and look what
happened to that!)
So I joined. Because I'm a sucker for new tech. however the
problem I have at the moment (and the problem I know a lot of
people had with Google Wave) is that I can't find many people I
know on there... Possibly because I have no friends, or possibly
because I'm lazy and want it to tell me who I already know based on
existing contacts within Facebook, Twitter etc.
I'm guessing the reason why you can't search your Facebook,
Twitter or LinkedIn accounts is because they won't let Google do
so? Which is annoying as I'll have to start manually building up
contacts on there.
The other thing which is frustrating is that I can't see any way
to get a simple link to my profile (like
www.facebook.com/owenniblock) which would be nice for posting to
other places. However I will make one with my url shortner - so
there (when I work out what the actual public url for my profile
The big question is, what does Google++ give us that we can't
get from Facebook? Well it's probably better written and the UI is
certainly very nice. I'm guessing Google learnt a lot from the
initial usability and slowdown issues on the Wave and it all seems
pretty responsive so far. The video stuff looks exciting (not used
it yet) and so it's no suprise that Facebook have announced a Skype
I guess the other thing they're trying to show is
better/different is the privacy stuff. The concept of Circles is
smart and the UI is great (loving the drag and drop). Much better
than the Friend List concept in Facebook. I'm pretty sure this will
become a feature I love (much like the Labels concept in
That's my first reaction to it. Google++ seems cool, very well
written and slick however time will tell whether (a) It gets enough
users to rival Facebook and (b) They sit it out and commit enough
to it that people commit to them. If they give up on it like they
did to Google Wave I won't be back on the Google train in a
Will report back after I've been using it a while.
I would like to put forward a theory. The more time you deal
with a particular builder, the greater the probability is of
telling that builder to fuck off. I have recently experienced this
and to illustrate, I decided to draw a graph:
There are a number of noteable features of the graph:
(0) The starting probability is > 0. This represents the
latent desire we all share when dealing with a builder for the
first time. Do I trust this person? Should I just tell them to sod
off? Will they be reliable?
(1) This is the the point in the graph where the rate of change
of the probability of telling the builder to fuck off is at it's
greatest. You feel manic, constantly up and down, you're still
trying to maintain a polite and professional front but various
things the builder does is starting to annoy. You begin to
seriously doubt the decision to hire this workman in the first
(2) The probability approaches 1. You reach a zen-like calm and
at that point you tell the builder to fuck off. He seems suprised.
You no longer care if they finish the work. Maybe you can do it
yourself (you can't) or maybe you can get someone else in to finish
off (you won't). This is the point at which the job either gets
finished or it remains unfinished for months until you get a
different builder in to do some other work so you can entice him to
finish the original job at the same time.
The process repeats ad infinitum.