Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I Wanna Meet Shatner

If a week is a long time in politics, it's certainly a bit of a hike in Stand Up Comedy. I did two very different gigs on Thursday and Monday, and completely misunderstood a booking I made which meant I didn't do a gig on Saturday as I expected. As I write this, I'm wondering how many times the word gig, or derivations thereof, appears in this rambling blog. At least four times I would imagine. Also, I often mistype imagine as imahine.

I think I'm prevaricating to avoid talking about Jesters on Thursday. So, deep breath. I died on my hole. A proper big time, spectacular death of a proportion I have not experienced in a very long time. I had no nerves before boarding the stage, and the crowd had been pretty good for the support act, Mr Adam Crow, but I still had a suspicion that I'd find it more of a struggle. It wasn't a self-fulfilment thing, they just hated me. Batman, got nothing. Except a heckle that Robin was a rodent not a bird - twunt. Beckham, got nothing. Plus I fumbled the punch by tripping over an important word. My new joke got feck all, but by then I knew it wouldn't, and threw it in only to walk myself through it once more. I could hear them blinking, but for some reason, I wasn't particularly phased.

So, here I was, on the verge of a lengthy six minute piece that requires rhythm and performance to hide its actual lack of proper jokes - facing an audience riddled with total apathy for me. Many full moons ago, I'd have cut my losses and legged it, but it's a bit that has worked now many times at this place, so I knew it was worth the effort. I fed them a line, which got devoured. I said "I nearly died a few weeks ago," knowing full well what the response would be, and sure enough, there it was, "You're dying now!" That was my cue to address the atmosphere. I said I was well aware of that fact, that we were still only halfway through, and that we should knuckle down and get through it together. There was immediately a marked change in the mood, they shifted and sat up a bit, many of them even cheered. From then on, they were with me, in the sense that I had given them permission to enjoy the failure, and I got a huge cheer and applause at a rant inside the storm story, which I must admit, I delivered very well. I left the stage to a good response, but all in all, though it was a nice recovery in its own way, I'd rather have had a really easy gig.

Yesterday, I had the opposite experience at The Reckless Moment in Leamington Spa. I love the Moment, and I love Tom Hughes who runs it - he's turning into an excellent compere, and has some great, funny, original and quirky material. If anything, the gig was too easy, and I didn't have to work for it, but it's just what I needed after my heart attack at Jesters. I cheated a bit, because it's a new act, new material night, but I did most of my set, with only a minute or two of new material - and even then, that was it's fourth or fifth outing. That said, the new joke about being pregnant got my biggest laugh of the set. I had an odd moment at the beginning, where I was very aware of my feet. I could feel myself minutely shifting on the spot as I spoke, and as I felt myself doing it, it was like my mouth was on auto pilot - it didn't last long and I came out of it and back into the room pretty quickly, but it would explain why that bit of the performance was comparatively flatly received. After that, it was a breeze.

Just a reminder that I do have another blog, one that talks about my writing and other crap on MySpace.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Grinned And Bore It

I don't really know why I write this blog. I suppose it's a useful way to analyse a gig after the event, pick it apart, see what I've learnt, that sort of thing, but there really is no reason for me to make it public. Narcissism I guess. When I first started it, ages ago, I think I thought it would be something I'd have liked to read when I started doing comedy, just to get an idea of what it's like - but it seems to have degenerated into a list of gigs, some good, some poor, most average. I guess that's why it's called an average.

So, I've been doing a few new material nights this week, in an effort to break in some new material. This is very clever reasoning on my part. But honestly, I just need to get out of the house. Last week, I did the Grin And Bear It again. The place was ram packed with people, only seven of whom wanted to watch the comedy. The rest were students who were gathered for their sports society social event. This meant the noise was unbearable, but Mr Nik Hill went on first and worked his socks off. He did an excellent job of making the audience feel like an audience, and managed to get them laughing and enjoying themselves in spite of the circumstances. At the interval, most of the pub left, leaving just the people there for the comedy, which meant I lucked out. I went on and had a lot of fun, in spite of the annoying man who kept talking to me at inopportune moments. I aired the new bits from the Hatchet the previous week, and they mostly worked, especially the one joke I want to become part of my regular set.

At the start of this week, I wandered across the bridge to Cardiff, where, as is tradition on any trip to Wales, it snorted it down with rain on me. The gig was at The Social, a massive room that could easily hold two hundred people, but played host to only twenty. And eight of them left during the act before me. I ostensibly headlined, but I used the gig to continue bedding in the new material, and it seems to be starting to slip nicely into the rhythm of my usual stuff, which is encouraging.

Then I thought it was about time I wrote about some of the things that are really playing on my mind, in a kind of cathartic expulsion of self-analysis. So I sat down and brainstormed the ideas out, then later in the evening I began to shape it into some coherent material. It's quite personal and perhaps too maudlin in its present state, but I was eager to try it out. That's why I went to another Grin And Bear It. I kind of wish I hadn't now. It really wasn't the gig to break this stuff in - the audience were lovely and really keen to join in, but it was to the detriment of the pacing and tone of the bit. On the plus side, it's had one airing, I've said it all out loud in pretty much the right order, and it still got laughs and reactions from the wrong kind of crowd. So, I'm hoping I'll catch a few minutes at The Hatchet on Sunday to give it another go. Otherwise it's Jesters tomorrow with tried and tested stuff, and Leamington Spa on Monday with the slightly older newer material. That sentence makes sense in my head.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Belly Aching

Three gigs of a similar ilk, but each with a different outcome to talk about today. The first was Grin And Bear It, in the White Bear on St Michael's Hill in Bristol. I didn't do a very good job at all. The mic was too quiet, and I could easily have turned up the volume of my voice, or the volume on the mixing desk, which I was stood right next to. I went on first, to an audience of Freshers who seemed more interested in texting their mates about a party they were having later - and to be honest, I couldn't be bothered with them. Met some nice new people who were performing there though.

The next night, I went down to Barnstaple with Phill Brown, who was fun company in the car. The venue was rough as you like, but had a strange gig like feel to it immediately. It's run by the lovely Mr Paul Tregaskis, who he is keen to get nights up and running across the South West, which can only be good news. The audience seemed to have no interest in moving towards the front, so we had to play all the way down to the back of the long room - though Phill did do an excellent job of cajoling some of them forward. As I waited to go on, seeing that all the laughs were coming from either strong one liners, or slightly confrontational banter, I felt like they certainly wouldn't go with my rambling material. I couldn't have been more wrong, because I had their attention, and enjoyment throughout, and I did a little longer than I had planned. I left Barnstaple happy I had made the trip.

And then, last night, I made a return to the wonderful Gagging For It at The Hatchet in Bristol. I always enjoy this gig, even if I only go down to watch. It's great seeing a massive cross section of brand new comedians, and really established and excellent acts, all reduced to a level playing field, and all thoroughly enjoying themselves. Phill has started to run the night now, and he's a really good compere - his style suits the ambience that works best there. I also got to catch up with the wonderful Mr Tom Hughes, and the equally great Mr Owen Niblock. There seemed to be a new influx of audience, so I bookended some new ideas with some more travelled material. The new stuff went okay, and the one joke I really wanted to work got my biggest laugh of the evening, so that was pleasing. I didn't quite feel like myself on stage, but I put this down to having a massive belly from too much food. Never eat a huge meal before a gig, I know this to be true, yet on a Sunday, I ignore it.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Bleak House

I'm going to talk about two gigs today, the first in Derby, the second in Wivenhoe. They share some similar traits, not least being that they were situated in two very bleak places. Apologies to anyone from Derby, but the city centre is a horrible place - it's just roads. Nothing else. One giant sprawl of tarmacadam, stacked up in layers, so as you walk along one roadside, you look down to see even more road. If Derby ever undergoes some urban redevelopment, folk from now will be able to muse about how it all used to be roads.

And so to the gig. It went. That's about as much as one could say. To be honest, the compere did a woefully poor job of warming up the audience, and consequently, the lovely Mr Tom Bell walked on stage to a very frigid atmosphere. And man alive did he try hard, but the damage had already been done, as it wasn't his job to warm them up. I went on after the break with huge contempt for the evening, so whether or not this showed I don't know. That said, from my opening line, they were awake and laughing, though they began to lose interest towards the end of my storm story. Thus, I decided not to let the atmosphere peter out, and left the stage just a few minutes early, because I thought if I was going to lose them , it would be best not to lose them on material about mortality and Alzheimer's, and bring the atmosphere crashing back down. In my mind, this was the right decision, but others may disagree.

Much like Derby, Wivenhoe Town Football Club was a particularly dreary place (sorry guys), which wonderfully housed a very lovely gig and a very lovely audience. The "complex", housing football pitch, stands and a clubhouse has fallen into a bit of disrepair, and it's dilapidation matched my bleak mood when I arrived. The toilets were ostensibly two corrugated iron sheets wrapped around a trench in the ground. Not nice. But the gig was, as was the organiser. Unlike Derby, the compere did an excellent job at the top, and I came on first to an up for it audience. Conversely though, they really didn't take to me from the start, and my short bits at the top got nothing at first. I can't explain this, because they soon began to buy it all, and the storm story worked a treat, before I went into the stuff about my Gran. This didn't get a great response, but I had their full attention, which was gratifying. I left the stage to some big applause, which I hadn't expected, and I got some excellent and positive feedback from the other acts, the audience and the promoter.
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