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Archive for January, 2012

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To the student basement

Yesterday, I travelled to Norwich to perform a gig in the basement of a student house.

I had no idea what to expect, but I’ve found it useful to prepare myself for the worst in such situations and I had visions of performing bear pit full of drunk, rowdy students. I put myself forward for the gig because this is secretly what I wanted to face, but then I am a masochist.

It turned out that my concerns (/secret hopes) were unfounded and it was a really nice gig, if a little weird towards the end. There must have been about 30 people in the small room, which had an abnormally long sofa that stretched about five metres. There were also a lot of people sitting on the floor who it was difficult to avoid stepping on when clambering to the stage area.

The promoters wanted to run a good night and had even gone to the trouble of selecting songs to play for each act, as they walked to the stage area, which was a corner of the room. The theme was supposed to be related to surnames and I think they had quite an easy job with my surname, which appears in many songs; although never in the context of a surname. Without evening knowing that I am a huge fan of The Darkness, they selected a song close to my heart in I Believe in the Thing Called Love. Appropriately, when the music  stopped, I began my set with my joke that starts with “Give me a ‘D’” that was inspired by Justin Hawkins’s trademark crowd interaction when I saw the band reunite in June.

I was on second and really enjoyed performing there and it would seem that a large proportion of the audience did too, with a few lines getting some applause. Not everything got a laugh, but most things did. When I was standing around waiting for the second half to start, a drunken audience member, who I spoke to in my set, pointed at me and said: “He was the funniest one.” But I later learned that this very same man had been released from prison a year ago after serving 12 months for hitting someone in the face with a bottle. I started to worry when he picked one up and I was close by. Things got weirder the more vocal he got, but they didn’t turn ugly and he isn’t back in prison. At least not that I’m aware of, he might be.

Anyway, it was a fun evening and I was really impressed with some of the students who were also performing on the bill. Keep going, lads.

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Due ‘South’

Disclaimer: This entry has nothing to do with the enjoyable Mountie TV series from the 1990s.

Since the last entry, I have performed two more gigs.

The first was on Thursday at the students’ union in Southend. I had to battle on through PA issues and work hard for my laughs; and although it was by no means a death, it was hardly a resounding success either. Nevertheless, my last bit of material did get a round of applause, which is always nice for the ego, even if it’s the most hack thing I do. Another boost for the ego was for a joke I debuted at Ruby Tuesdays two days previously going down really well, I think it might well be a keeper.

Next up, with the brief interlude of my day job that actually pays me, it was off to South Norwood. Now, the more regular of my four reader readership will recall that back in November, I performed at the very same locals’ pub. It was weird then but enjoyable. However, this time it had been moved from a Thursday to a Friday and I anticipated problems with a busier venue and people drinking who didn’t have to get up for work in the morning.

But it didn’t turn out to be quite the blood bath I expected, the audience were friendly, but with the bar effectively dividing the pub, and more people on the opposite of the room to the stage area, it was never going to be the easiest of performances.

By my own admission, I was poor and I’m sure that several of those paying attention would agree. In such an environment, you need to hit the ground running to show and hit them with your good stuff.  I just hit the ground with a splat then attempted to get up and walk. Here I’m being metaphorical, but had I actually done this then it would have probably been received much better than my material. It was very easy to lose peoples’ attention. They responded to balls and rude jokes. Unfortunately, I misplaced by balls and haven’t written enough rude jokes yet. In the end, it was audience apathy that won the day during my set. Despite my failure, quite a few of the other acts fared better and for that I commend them.

Anyway, onwards and upwards – or perhaps just onwards – I have another gig tonight. To avoid falling into the potential trap of only performing in gigs starting with ‘South’, tonight I am off to Norwich to perform in the basement of a student house. This will be interesting.

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Losing half the audience but doubling the enjoyment

It was the monthly Ruby Tuesdays gig last night and upon arrival I was informed that I would be MCing.

This was unexpected, as Langton was due to be hosting but due to a spell in hospital over the weekend he resembled a decrepit old man. I shouldn’t have laughed at his plight, but I’m afraid I could do no less.

The show went on and we had an audience of six people, which is not the smallest we’ve had in the two years we’ve been running the gig for, but it is some way short of the largest. Admittedly, it is only about one or two away from our average audience.

As you can imagine, it started quite awkwardly and my opening jokes were the sacrificial lambs, with a good 90% bombing. Despite me being off-form, the acts in the first-half all did really well and were rewarded with audible laughter for their efforts.

However, during the interval, we lost 50% of our audience (three people); they had come to watch a friend, the friend had been on, so they refused to come back upstairs for the second half.

But the show went on and the second half was actually a lot of fun. There was no pressure, everyone tried stuff out and it turned out to be really enjoyable, with some genuinely big laughs from our three audience and ten comics alike. I opened the second half doing some untested new material, or an untested version of a story I initially tried to perform twice 18 months ago, but dropped after I didn’t feel it worked. The revised version was pretty well received, which more than made up for my tried-and-tested material bombing at the start of the night; the new stuff still needs some work, but the signs are very encouraging.

After a quiet start to gigs this month, I now have three more on consecutive nights. One is student’s union, one is in a locals’ pub in South Norwood and the other is in the basement of a student house in Norwich. There will surely be some tales to tell.

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Best gig of the year

Last night was my best gig of the year, but then I have only done three so far. It was an enjoyable evening with a friendly crowd – I’ve not written that for a while.

Although I did start to worry when just before the show kicked off, two men came in and sat at the back and when the MC was opening proceedings, they insisted on heckling at every opportunity and didn’t seem to be put off by being put down by the compere. They weren’t being malicious or nasty with their heckles, but even so, sometimes people like this can derail a gig and I began to fear that my set would be continuously interrupted.

I was on first and it wasn’t long into it before they started making themselves heard; not heckling, just talking amongst themselves. I decided to engage them and went off on a bit of a tangent, but it was all good natured and I managed to get laughs from mocking them. I continued with my set uninterrupted, so I think I won.

I didn’t do too badly for opening, I got some good laughs but bottled out of the new stuff I’ve been trialling of late in favour of the older stuff that has served me well, I did slip in a few unfinished new bits, but I still need to find a better way to end my set.

In non-comedy news, I have discovered that the building used for Gotham City Police Station in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films happens to be 30 seconds walk from where I work. When I heard that they had been filming the next one nearby last summer, I found a map of where I thought it would be but this lead me about 15 minutes walk on the other side of town. Today, I discovered that it was actually just around the corner from my office. I wouldn’t make such a great detective, certainly not Gotham’s greatest.

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And we’re off

I have now started the comedic year of 2012, with lots of writing and a couple of gigs.

The good news is that I have generated about 15 minutes of new material already. Unfortunately, the bad news is that based on the gigs where I tried five minutes of this out, it would seem that there is much more work that needs to be done to this material before it can actually be considered comedy material and not just a collection words.

I’ve had two gigs this week where the new material was debuted and tried out again respectively. I think there is certainly something there with it amongst the dead wood, but it needs refining then testing several more times. That is the beauty of open mic gigs, they exist to try stuff out at. I never thought I’d say ‘open mic’ and ‘beauty’ in the same sentence, it should be added noted that there can often be a lot of ugliness at open mic gigs and I have contributed to this ugliness many times when trying stuff out.

But anyway, I am getting progressively busier throughout January and I’m hoping this roll will continue on into February and beyond.

In non-comedy news, I have been engulfed with lurgy in the past ten days or so. Just when I think I’ve got rid of it, it comes back. This partly accounts for my lack of activity on here, as when I did get around to sitting at the computer to write about my gigs, I was too tired to do anything. However, I didn’t take any days off work to get over it, when I probably should have done. I am a trooper, or just an idiot who stretched out the recovery from illness longer than I needed to.

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Welcome to 2012. Oh, you’ve been here for three days already.

I am back from my New Year’s weekend in Wales. It was a lot of fun, but my liver is not very pleased with how he has been treated. But never mind, I’m sure he will get over it. If he doesn’t then I’m in trouble.

On the final of four nights, we had a pirate-themed murder mystery, which I meant I could dress like an idiot and it would be socially acceptable for once.

My character had four different identities and had made a lot of powerful enemies. To diminish any hope of winning the game further, he had a voodoo spell put onto a girl to make her fall hopelessly in love with him. Classy guy.

It was inevitable that my character would not make it through to the end of the game. I survived several duels, but ran out of luck in a brutal game of rock, paper, scissors thanks to someone who shall remain nameless challenging me by mistake. But I had a fun weekend and successfully managed to avoid the trampoline, which would have inevitably lead to me trying to show off, which would likely then have gone horribly wrong and I could have spent a second New Years Day in a hospital.

So , onto 2012 matters; I wonder what the next 12 months have in store. One thing I did find out this morning is that my tube fare to work and back has gone up to a now ridiculous £6.20 a day. So thank you for the New Years present, Boris Johnson, you massive arse candle.

In comedy news, I can announce that in August, I will be returning to Edinburgh Fringe for another show; it will be with Mr Langton again and is entitled Love and Langton’s Dirty Laundry. It will feature us both admitting to things that we are embarrassed by and ashamed of, with hilarious consequences – or so we hope. It’s going to be good to have a theme this year that I need to write to, instead of doing a set of cobbled-together, unrelated things. I have started writing it already. I’ve not got any gigs until next week, partly due to poor organisation and partly because a lot of gigs in early January are often pulled because of audiences choosing to tighten their belts after Christmas, albeit up a few notches. So next week, when I return to the comedy stead, I hope to have enough potential Edinburgh stuff together to try out.