Architect of my own doom

I am nearing the end of my gigs for 2011 and have done two so far this week, with another to follow tonight.

Tuesday’s gig again had five people in the audience, which seems to be a pattern for me at the moment, but they were very friendly and the gig was enjoyable. I have written some new bits for a routine I’ve been doing a while, which I think has a lot more I can do with it. Some of these new bits worked, other bits didn’t, but it was a nice atmosphere.

The same can’t be said for my gig on the following night. For the record, I rate this particular night as up there with the very best open mic gigs in London; it is well run and can be a tough room to play, so if you get  a laugh with a new joke then it counts for a lot.

Unfortunately, my set just turned out to be a disaster and I have to accept my significant share of the responsibility for that. There is a bit in the routine I previously mentioned, where I go into the audience and mimic the motivational speech they give you when starting a shift in charity call centres. I enjoy doing this; it gives me a chance to improvise as well as interact with the audience and makes a change from just standing on stage saying things.

Without giving too much away, the third person I speak to is the victim of the punchline. I must have performed this routine more than 50 or 60 times so know it works; there were several times in Edinburgh when it was the part of my set that got the audience onside.

However, on this particular occasion I chose the wrong victim and suffered the consequences. I was slightly limited for space, so chose a comic, who has consumed a fair amount of alcohol and had been disrupting the show. I thought the audience would respond well to them being the punchline and my set would then be plain-sailing, with the new stuff I wanted to try out to follow.

Unfortunately, I completely misread the room and the person being the punchline received no reaction from the audience and just aggravated said person. This resulted in them shouting ‘vermin’ several times at me, as well as other words that are ruder and with less letters. It created the weirdness in atmosphere I don’t like, in one that is largely awkward. This end of the weird spectrum is not the one I revel in.

I supposed I was the architect of my own downfall and with five minute sets, if the first three or four go badly then there is very little you can do to recover. What I have learned though, is that this particular gig is not one for going into the audience and interacting; it is very much one where you just do your material on stage and it either gets a laugh or it doesn’t. Should anyone throw a curve ball your way in your set, then you should react, but I wouldn’t suggest going into the audience and encouraging that curve ball to be thrown at you.

But my disastrous set didn’t really leave me reaching for the biscuits and Queen albums, if anything I just felt slightly indifferent about such events. Obviously I care about doing well at gigs, if I didn’t then I shouldn’t be doing comedy, but I have developed a pretty thick skin in the past two years so that such things don’t really get to me – at open mic gigs anyway, such events at a festival or a paid gig would surely send me in the direction of Jammy Dodgers and Freddie Mercury.

Tonight, I have my final gig of the year and will hopefully see 2011 out on a high; otherwise sales of biscuits will go up minimally.

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