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A tale of two gigs

On consecutive nights this week I have compered two open mic gigs, both being similar in experience.

On Tuesday I was on MC duties at a night set up with me and a dozen or so friends two years ago, which has seen numbers significantly dwindle from the gang we started with. This dwindling had also been replicated in the audience count despite it being a central London location.

We started the gig with eight people, three left after the second act was on and the group of four – out for a birthday – would have left if we’d called an interval. So we made the decision after the gig had started for everyone to all do shorter sets and run it without an break. It started off quite awkward, with a chasm of empty chairs on the left half of the room. But things picked up as the night went on and by the end everyone was enjoying themselves.

The next night we were faced with a similar experience. Despite the bar being busier than usual, it proved pretty much futile to try and persuade people to come through for a night of free comedy. We left it until the last possible moment and had an audience of three – one of them was the venue manager. Three people came in as the show started but left 15 minutes later, then three girls who were quite drunk came in at almost exactly the same time. We again decided to run the night straight through with everyone doing shorter spots and no interval in the hope of keeping our audience. Two of the three girls kept chipping during acts’ sets and I had to tell them that it wasn’t a conversation or a forum. The night wasn’t a complete disaster but hardly a resounding success. It’s a weekly gig but just isn’t getting enough people in, so we are now thinking we’ll run it once a month and hope this will at least let us get into double audience figures.

Apparently I’m not the only one who has noticed a fall in punters lately at open mic gigs. There are a few nights around the capital that insist that you only get a gig if you can bring a friend or two; while this is not the best practice as a promoter, when you try and promote your night using the old fashioned way  – Time Out listing, Facebook event, flyering – and it gets you nothing then you can see why this practice is used. But even getting friends along these days is getting harder, is the economic climate making people in London opt to stay in to avoid watching free comedy and inevitably buying a few drinks? Quite possibly.

Up until five years ago, London used to be the place to come to if you wanted to get anywhere in comedy and although you can still get a lot of gigs when you’re starting out you’re not always guaranteed a plentiful audience. Now I think the best way forward in comedy is to get out of London to gigs where there are actual audiences to perform to.

Back in the real-world, I am still struggling with the flea situation where I’m house-sitting. I vacuum daily and spray when I can but they just won’t go. I am currently writing this while sitting on a wooden chair, on a wooden floor with my socks pulled up over my trousers and parcel tape around my ankles. I look cool. I’ve only another week of this until I can escape back to the comfort of my flea-less rented house.

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