Simon Buglass on Creased Comedy’s New Professional Night
Having recently returned from the Edinburgh Fringe after performing his package show Jocks and Geordies, local comic Simon Buglass is now hoping to make his mark on the local circuit both as a comedian and a promoter. After running the Creased Comedy open-mic night, Buglass is expanding and setting up a new professional night at The Mixer in Jesmond. Andrew Dipper caught up with Simon Buglass to find out more about his plans for Creased Comedy, his time in Edinburgh this past August, and what the future holds for the Northern comic.
AD: Hello Simon. You’re the founder of Creased Comedy – why did you set up the club initially?
SB: I was pretty much a brand new act myself when I started the club – I thought it would be good for the region to have another open-mic night for new acts to get some stage time but, if I’m being honest , the primary reason was so I could gain experience as an MC. I’d been told by quite a few successful comics that MCing was a great way of quickly honing your craft as an act. I have to agree. Being the resident MC of Creased Comedy has definitely sharpened my reflexes when bantering with the crowd. I would say this aspect has added a certain depth to my act. MCing is also a great way of learning how to handle hecklers, although my preferred approach to handling hecklers is to give them a look like I’ve just been released from prison – and that I’m not scared to go back!
AD: Obviously open-mic nights are great places to work out new material and also improve your current work, but what would you say to those who think they champion poor comedians?
SB: Open-mic nights are a crucial part of the comedy scene. Every successful stand-up you see, either at club level or on TV, will have almost certainly started their comedy journey at an open-mic night. Not everybody who does stand up necessarily wants to make a career from it. There are many folk who just enjoy the freedom and fun they get from standing up on stage and trying to make a room full of strangers laugh, and why should they be denied that pleasure? I would encourage anyone who has ever thought of giving stand up a go to just do it. When you hear that first roar of laughter or round of applause for some gag you’ve came up with, there’s no better feeling…I imagine.
AD: You’ve got a new professional night starting this month – what was your motivation for that?
SB: Money. I’m riddled with debt and can’t bare the thought of having to get a ‘proper’ job, so I thought it would be a great solution. No, that’s only partly true. I think for me it was a natural progression. I had a great time running the open-mic night but now I think it’s the right time for me to start a professional night. The open-mic gig will still be on, but I’m going to take a bit of a back seat on that one and focus on the pro night. I really want to create the best possible atmosphere and reputation for my club. I’m going to mainly focus on the student audience. The new venue is great. It’s called The Mixer (the function room above Jesmond Legion). The room is amazing. It has been totally revamped and modernised. It’s fully fitted with a great stage, lighting and a crystal clear P.A system – have I sold it enough? One of the best things about it though is the booze prices. It’s about 30p a pint (I’m probably exaggerating, but it’s still cheap as fuck).
AD: You’ve done a fair bit of acting – what made you want to go into comedy?
SB: I couldn’t really get any acting work that I wanted to do. If you look like me you’ll see I resemble a cross between a shoddy weekend transvestite and a porky, skin headed football hooligan – the type of acting roles you’re going to get offered are bound to be limited. There are a lot of mainstream actors who are getting regular work nowadays primarily because they have the right look, talent seems to be a distant second. Take Hollyoaks for instance. Almost all of the male actors in that show under the age of 30 have that same generic pretty boy look, their acting is stale and wooden and they sound like they’re reading their lines from an autocue, on the back of a toilet door, scribbled in shit. Fair enough they may have a non offensive, teen pleasing look on screen but you wouldn’t want to get stuck in a lift with one of those cretins. Sorry I got a bit carried away there..I’ll try to sound less bitter.
Basically, to answer your question, I’d always had a passion for comedy acting. I wrote a lot of comedy sketches and sitcom ideas. One day me and a friend came to the conclusion that we knew a lot of actors who were genuinely funny people; we thought, ‘Why not put on a live show and see if these sketches work onstage?’ We had great audience response so we decided to do more. Unfortunately, when you’re working as a group of 5-10 members, you may not get the chance to perform as often as you like. Circumstances such as work commitments, distance, rehearsal space etc. can really get in the way. The last show that some of us put on was a night called ‘Let’s all laugh at the BNP’ a sketch based show poking fun at womble eyed Nick Griffin and his gaggle of knucklehead cronies. In that show I took the role of host, which was probably my first taste of being alone onstage armed with a microphone – I loved it. A few weeks later I was beginning to try and put a stand up set together. I went along to Long Live Comedy at The Dog and Parrot in Newcastle just to watch other performers and see how it was done. After about 4/5 pints I asked the organisers if I could get up for a spot. It went great…I was hooked.
AD: So do you think acting and comedy have similar artistic value?
SB: I don’t think stand up is credited with the same artistic value as drama. I have found this myself when applying for funding for several comedy events through various arts councils and awarding bodies. It feels to me that I would get more financial help if I decided to stage some pretentious , obscure, musical drama piece about one man’s personal struggle to deal with his phobia of chickens than I would to gain funds to bring some of the best names in comedy to the region.
AD: Do you have many influences in the industry? Who is your favourite comic?
SB: Yeah I’ve got quite a few influences on the comedy circuit, I’ve even had the pleasure to work with a few of them. I really admire the hard working comics as that’s a quality I really need to learn if I’m going to progress as an act. Some of the acts I admire include Jason Cook, Simon Donald, Gav Webster, Sarah Millican, John Scott, Kai Humphries – the list goes on and on.
My favourite comedian of all time though has to be George Carlin. He was never really known in the UK and that’s a fucking shame. For people who don’t know him, he played ‘Rufus’ in the’ Bill and Ted’ movies. I came across him about 7 or 8 years ago and just couldn’t believe what I saw. I became an uber-geek and had to have every DVD/CD/book he ever released. I was planning to go and see him in 2009 but unfortunately he passed away in 2008 just after filming his latest HBO show. That was the only time I cried when any (I hate to use this word) ‘celebrity’ died. Any comedy fans who don’t know his work, I urge you to go and check it out.
AD: You’ve recently returned from the Edinburgh Fringe after showcasing your Jocks and Geordies package show. What was the highlight of the festival for you, and who was your favourite act to work with?
SB: The whole experience of the festival was amazing. It’s pretty hard to pick a highlight. If I had to pick one moment that will stay with me for life I would have to say being the opening act at the Pick of The Fringe show. The line up for that show featured Imran Yusuf, Sam Gore, Dag Sørås and a few other pro acts.
Luckily for me Dag wasn’t able to make the gig. I had gigged for the promoter of the show before and he asked me if I wanted to open. Imran Yusuf’s solo show (which was in another room in the same venue) had been nominated for the Fosters Best Newcomer Award the day before and literally hundreds of people had to be turned away from his show. When word got out that he would be performing at the Pick Of The Fringe show all of the punters who couldn’t get into his solo show piled up for pick of the fringe. There must have been 350+ folk crammed into the venue. I was literally shaking before I went on stage. As soon as I got up there it just felt great. I probably had the best gig of my time so far as a stand-up, the crowd were amazing – what a great feeling it was.
The Jocks and Geordies show included me, Dan Willis, Simon Donald plus guest comedians. It was an honour to work alongside Simon Donald. At my school ‘The Viz’ magazine was pretty much our Bible. I remember me and my mates hiding our Viz mags (along with jazz mags) from the teachers. We would piss ourselves laughing at it every day. Back then if someone had told me 15 years later I’d be doing a comedy show with the co creator of The Viz – ‘Err, fuck off!’, would have been my reply. So yeah, Simon Donald was my favourite act to work with.
AD: What have you learned from performing at the Fringe then? Do you think it’s developed your ability as a comic?
SB: I can’t explain just how much my experience at this year’s Fringe has helped me as an act. I think doing a full month of shows is invaluable for any new act. I’ve gained so much more self confidence on stage and I’ve got more belief in my own material. When you do the same material sometimes 2-3 times a day for a month, you soon learn what parts of your set are genuinely funny and what bits need to go. I can feel the difference of quality in my act between pre and post Edinburgh and it’s not only me that’s noticed it. Fellow comics whose opinions I respect have also said the same to me.
AD: Do you think the scale of the Edinburgh Fringe, as the largest arts festival in the world, is hampering the recognition of newer acts trying to take their work to the festival?
SB: That’s a tough one. In some ways, maybe. If a newer comic is charging £5-£10 a ticket for entry to their show and just two minutes down the street you have acts like Jimmy Carr or John Bishop doing a show for the same price, I suppose the average festival goer who may not be a die hard comedy buff would probably choose to go and see the bigger named comic.
For me, however, I didn’t have that problem. Our show was part of The Laughing Horse Free Fringe. The Free Fringe provides a great opportunity for newer acts who don’t have the experience, financial stability or ‘pull’ (such as myself) to attract a large paying audience, and even for more established acts who don’t fancy shelling out thousands of pound to take their show to the festival. As part of the Free Fringe, you don’t pay the enormous venue hire fees that you do at the larger ticketed venues. You let the punters in for free and then collect donations on the way out, I suppose the better the show the more donations you get – we made a fucking fortune! The bonus with the Free Fringe is that you are still every bit as an official part of the festival as all of the paying venues.
AD: Finally, what are your plans for the future? Are you aiming to eventually go pro?
SB: Plans for the future? Performance wise – Just to keep gigging really. As a promoter I want to put on the best possibly comedy nights I can. I’d like to build up the reputation of Creased Comedy and I aim to secure more venues and to try and bring the highest quality of acts to the region.
And as for going pro? I think that’s a long way off at the minute. Obviously that would be the dream, but only time will tell whether I’m good enough or not.
If you’re looking to see some Creased Comedy at The Mixer in Jesmond, their debut professional show is on Friday 22nd October, when Sam Gore, Christian Steel, (MC) Dan Willis and Simon Buglass will be performing. More information can be found here.