Monday, January 31, 2005

Tea And Coffee Making Facilities

When you have a really good gig, it's very hard to take a step back, analyse it and come up with something constructive to say about it. I was in Corsham last night, revisiting a club I played a few years back. It's a little different now, with a proper stage and lighting, but the hospitality I remembered so well was still present.

I had them with my first line. It was a bit too easy really.

What was most fun, aside from the actual performance, was the excellent tea and coffee making facilities in the room where we waited. There was also a double bed, a TV and DVD player, plus an iron and ironing board. The kettle was pastel yellow, and the mugs were New York sized. There was a pot of Nescafe Gold Blend, three packets of sugar, and several packets of ordinary Nescafe. There was however, no milk. This was soon rectified, when a glass of milk was passed to us. Unfortunately, it was a little too late, as I had already gulped back half of my black beverage. Shame.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Double Headed Comedy Beast Of Old Clifton Town

Ah, the perils and pitfalls of doubling up two gigs in one night. I've done this once or twice before, and it never went well. I always did badly on the first one because my mind was on the second one, and badly on the second one because my mind was on the first one. So I was determined to avoid that tonight. Two gigs, both at student unions/halls, within short walking distance.

Gig one, at the Mandela Bar, was for a student birthday party, and was a pretty informal affair. Nice room, low ceiling, fairly good PA, nice crowd who needed warming up. There was no MC, just a quick, please welcome Simon, he's going to do some stand up. So I needed to do a little MCing to enliven and energise them, but to my surprise, not as much as I thought. Managed to get quickly into my set, which went along nicely, and I even adlibbed a new line in an old bit.

Gig two, at the Clifton Hill Halls, was in the JCR bar, but had a proper stage, lights and sound system. They put on plays there, so the set up was fantastic. I got there midway through the first half, and the crowd were well up for it. They'd had the pleasure of an excellent MC, Iszi Lawrence. I was on after the interval, and I meandered out from the wings and had a really good time of it. I tried the new line from the first gig, and it worked again, well, so that's a keeper. I closed with a new bit, which I think might be something I stick with for a while too.

And it snowed between gigs. So, all in all, a nice night. Which inevitably means something had to go wrong, which it did. I got pulled over by the police who thought I might have stolen my own car. So now I have to go to a police station and show them bits of paper that demonstrate it's mine.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Curse You God For Making Me This Way

The title is a little tribute to Mr Richard Herring, whom I had the pleasure of seeing on Tuesday night at the Richmond Spring. Comedy junkies really are spoilt in Bristol with the number of excellent acts they get to see for ridiculously stupid and low prices. For this we have to thanks Mr Mark Olver. Anyway, Mr Herring was excellent, or atleast his new stuff was which I had not heard (look out for Nine Yoghurts), and his more familiar material sat very well in the flow of things. Also saw Mr Russell Brand who I must admit irritated me everytime I saw him on TV, but live, he is much more palatable, even great at times. Love his use of language, not so keen on his pants flashing shenanigans.

I've just got home from an intimate little gig in Bath. Haven't performed for a room where the comedians outnumber the audience for a very long time, but it gave me a chance to road test some very embryonic new material. But this is why God should curse me, I forgot to try out some of the bits I have in my head for Genesis of a Joke, and this would have been the perfect opportunity. So angry with myself. I even knew I had something to do all the time I was on, but it just eluded my tiny little brain.

I did manage to air what I hope might be a new opening gambit though. I'd been avoiding doing it for a bit because I'm convinced it's a little too Bill Bailey-esque, but that may just be because I'm some kind of comedy geek. It got more laughs than I had anticipated, and my propensity to draw out the joke at the end amuses me, but not anyone else it seems. It might be possible to make that extra mile work though with some tight language and lyrical lilts.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Stockard Channing

Rizzo from Grease, and Mrs Bartlet from The West Wing, have absolutely nothing to do with anything right now. I just like the lilt of the words, Stockard Channing. It also sounds like it might be the name of a small west country shire.

Anyway. I did what is technically my first official supporting twenty last night. It was for Mirth Control and was in Exeter at the Havana bar. For me, that's a hard place to do a milestone gig, as the opens I have done there previously haven't always exactly gone well. Massive audience, all seemingly pretty up for it. Very quiet back stage in the Blue Room. I asked a question about how to actually play the odd shaped room, as I have never quite got my head around it, except accidentally I think on my last open there in August. Mr Martin Davis offered some excellent advice, which I tried to follow, but I think I was still a little too far forward up the stage.

As for the performance. Went pretty well. I tried a new joke, which bombed, and made me have to work a little harder to get them back, which I mostly did, though I could feel them losing interest in my longer material towards the end. It was alright.

Then I stuck around to watch the middle spot, Mr Peter D, who I thought was amazing. He should gig much more. Lovely persona, great written and improvised material and very assured on stage. Glad I stayed. It was a treat to watch.

PS: Keep an eye out for what I hope will be a continuing series of entries charting the development of a new piece of material I am about to write. I think I might call it Genesis of a Joke.

Genesis Of A Joke - Part One: Inception

Okay, so the title sounds a bit too much like a Doctor Who episode, but who cares? I'm not entirely sure how this is going to work, but I want to chart the birth of a piece of material, talk about its development during writing, and then see what happens when it's performed before being re-written.

Inception: I was driving home from a good night out and my mind began to wander. I thought it was about time I wrote a nice new chunky piece to perform, a good ten minute routine. So, I began to consider being a bit more disciplined about it all, and decided that imposing a structure upon it would be fun. I still didn't know what it would be about, but I knew I wanted to use my script writing techniques on it. I wanted a three act structure, with a hook at the first and second act breaks, plus a midway plot point. And my age old favourite, a good plant and pay-off, or in stand up comedy parlance, a Callback.

This is all pretty anal for a bit of stand up I know, but it should be an interesting exercise. So, I have a structure, I just have nothing to hang off of it. Which is backwards to the way I normally conceive stand up material. I normally have the idea then develop it into a cohesive form.

I was nearly home when the actual content began to form in my head. What about a love story? Yeah, that sounded like it had legs as a longer routine. How could I work in the three acts without it getting too wordy, too lengthy? Treat each act as a separate bit, with a structure all of it's own. Thus, a narrative device began to appear, and it seemed obvious in my mind right then that it should be a story through time. A story in three stages of my life. The opening line wrote itself:

"I've been in love with the same woman three times throughout my life."

Home by now, I left it at that, and went to bed, letting the thoughts fester in my head for a while. That's always a good way to write I think, just let it all form a haze in the back of your mind, and ask your subconscience to write it for you. And I do mean actually ask it. Out loud.

Two days later, I sat down immediately after waking up and began to scrawl thoughts onto my pad. I wrote the opening line down, then decided the three points in my life should be aged seven, aged fourteen and aged twenty one. I remembered an incident from someone else's life that might provide a fun place to start aged seven, and so I need to ask them if it's okay to use it. That then gave me the callback I wanted for the end. It's not written yet, so I won't report it here.

A few other lines got scrawled onto the pad, one being "she was the kind of pretty that makes your elbows burst into tears," which will probably end up being the first in the list of three 'kinds of pretty', as though I like that image, I don't think it will get a laugh.

Then I put the pad down and went to read Harry Potter.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

I Was In 'Nam

Cheltenham. Which isn't nearly as interesting as Vietnam of course. Much less jungle, napalm and Wagner powered helicopters, and much more Ikea furniture. That said, there wasn't any Ikea furniture in the Slak Bar, which is where I was.

Nice room. Nice guy running the night. Good line up of acts. Audience seemed well up for it again, which is surprising given it was Bank Holiday Monday night, and everyone was probably headed back to work the next day after their Christmas holiday. Either way, I was certainly in the mood for it, but I think my mind was elsewhere beforehand. Maybe that's paradoxical.

Mr Paul Kerensa did a wonderful supporting twenty minutes, and the crowd thoroughly enjoyed him and were enlivened greatly. I stood at the back, ready to go. Mr Rufus Hound, their compere for the evening, stepped back onto stage, and everyone got up to get beer, urinate and hunt down the Viet Cong. The bar has been running a regular comedy night for a long, long time, and it seemed the audience were primed for an interval. For whatever reason, we had decided earlier that I would go on before the break, and so Rufus did a sterling job of filling time and waiting for people to return to their seats, but I think ultimately, they needed some time out.

Ridiculously, this thought dented my confidence, and I was ill at ease as I performed. Got laughs, but nothing like the energy Paul had elicited. He's obviously a more accomplished comedian than I, as I seem to lack the tools to bring an audience back on side. Most tellingly, I got my biggest response from a heckle retort. It wasn't even particularly clever, so I wasn't happy.
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