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Archive for February, 2012

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To the sick bed and back

Last week, I had to pull out of two gigs last week due to flu commitments.

I have just about got over whatever this illness was and have done four gigs in three nights; predictably, I am now feeling rather tired. So, after having had an underwhelming Chinese takeaway, I will now spend my Friday evening recounting this week’s experiences while I listen to film scores by John Williams.

My gig week began with Ruby Tuesdays, the night set up in November 2009 with a group of comedy friends that is dwindling by the month. That has also been replicated by the audience numbers, this month we started the night with four people and finished with two. It is fair to say that the night has seen healthier days and it would be sad for it to go out on a low with all the highs that there have been since its inception, so I think some emergency surgery is needed to breathe some life back into this former gem. Myself and Langton are meeting up with the venue’s management next week, so we shall know more after then. Anyway, I had also seen healthier days and was going to drop out of this month’s Ruby in favour of an early night. But I went along to see everyone and you know how it is. You go to a gig, one thing leads to another and before you know it you’re on stage and doing a comedy set. And although I was quite a way from full strength, there were some encouraging reactions from the small but attentive crowd.

On Wednesday, I had two gigs and how I fared at both can accurately be described as meagre. At the first gig, I was opening and perhaps doing a new routine in front of a handful of comics scattered across a bar was not the best gauge of its quality, or was it too kind on the soul. But that’s the thing with new material; you can either bottle out of doing it, or go through the pain barrier in the quest to get it into shape. I have obviously gone for the painful option, as I know no other way. At my second gig of the night, I was on towards the end and could feel the audience were tired. I started off the second gig fairly strongly, but then things took a dive and my set finished with little more than a whimper.

And then last night, I performed at a very nice gig in Oxted, which I hadn’t been to in two years. My rider was a bowl of chilli and a bottle of beer. I was opening the show and didn’t do too badly at all. I started off pretty well, dipped slightly in the middle and picked up again towards the end.

I hope that I am now rid of the flu, although it is quite hard to type while having to keep touching wood.

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A change in the pattern

I have a positive report about some new material for once; it was actually met with some decent laughs.

As I’ve written on here of late, my trialling of new stuff hasn’t been going so well. But this particular material was based on something I was testing in the first few weeks of the year and hadn’t been very well received on its few outings. But that is the nature of this new material beast, sometimes giving it a break then going back to it can work wonders.

I’m not going to get too ahead of myself, one decent gig does not make a good routine; but it is encouraging, nonetheless. Tomorrow night I have another gig, where I shall try this material again. It’s a night where everyone performing has to do their set to particular theme. This sort of gig is a good idea and I don’t know of many others of a regular kind in London that do this. This week’s theme is Love. That also happens to be my surname, you know. Do you see what they’ve done there by booking me? Actually, it was my idea to do this particular night.

Somewhat disjointedly to the flow of this entry, after my gig last night I went to see Tony Law performing at London Bridge. He was brilliant, he blew the room away. I am a total bandwagon jumper with Mr Law, as I only went to watch him after he’d won an award and on recommendations from others. But I would thoroughly recommend jumping on this particular bandwagon; it is a lot of fun.

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Trial and several errors

This week, I have been mostly trying out a new routine.

It has been the second and third time I have tried this material out; and based on the responses from both gigs, it is apparent that more needs to be done before it is up to scratch. At both of these gigs, the audience were there for the taking as they had been very responsive to other acts but most of my respective sets fell flat.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to break-in new material; sometimes you get it right first time, but these occasions are rare. It is often a case of failing several times and making changes as you go before you have that breakthrough; keeping the bits that get laughs and either rewriting or culling the bits that don’t.

If I believe something is funny, I try and stick with it using this process. Although, sometimes trialling new material and dying a total death can be such a painful experience that I have been known to drop it completely immediately afterwards and denying it ever existed; as well as burning my clothes and washing myself in bleach to try and cleanse me of the bad gig stench.

The first time I did a now tried-and-tested routine about charities, I died a death; but there was one thing I said about a head-set that made one person laugh loudly in a small audience of about 15 people. Had it not been for this one laugh, I would have probably been reaching for the paraffin and Domestos. I stuck with the material, tested it at several more gigs, died a few more times but made some progress and eventually had a decent routine. Nevertheless, I would hardly say that this routine is perfect; it still fails me from time to time and even though I’ve been doing it for the better part of a year, I’m still making changes to it.

To paraphrase something Richard Herring said about stand-up: Try and fail, try again and fail better.

This brings me conveniently onto my next topic, which would ordinarily be ‘in other news’. I saw Stewart Lee’s Carpet Remnant World show on Tuesday. It was brilliant, probably the best I have seen Mr Lee for a number of years. I would definitely recommend it.

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I beat the gong. Well, ‘a’ gong

On Thursday, I was booked for a gig that turned out to be an actual gig and not an obscure art exhibition.

However, when I turned up to the venue, I discovered that the night was a gong show. This didn’t fill me with delight, as my history with gong shows is appalling at best.

It was almost six years to the day when I endured my blood sacrifice at the Comedy Store; I thought I was ready for it after doing ten gigs. 46 seconds later, after facing a baying mob, I was told emphatically that I was no way near ready. I’ve not been back to the night since.

Other experiences of this format have been in two gigs in the Midlands. The first one in Leicester, I stormed for the first minute, but then managed to completely lose the crowd in the minute two and was gonged off. Then, in Derby, I fared slightly better and managed to hold on by the skin of my teeth to the three minutes mark. I told myself after then that I wouldn’t do gong shows again and would retire defeated, but not defeated quite as bad as previous attempts. That said, I am considering going back to the Comedy Store before too much longer.

Back to Thursday night in Braintree, the omens didn’t bode well for me. However, I was given the advantage of going on first. Now, at most gigs, going on first is usually the toughest slot; but at gong shows, it is generally the easiest. The audience don’t know fully know their power and you can make mistakes that would be punished later on when they are in the mob zone.

It was great venue, with a high stage, proper lighting rig and about 70 people in the audience. I started strongly and got a big round of applause for one of my opening bits. I had my watch on to time myself and I had put together what I thought was a five minutes set. However, my gong show demons didn’t let me off entirely and what I thought was five minutes turned out to be a minute or two short and I was treading water, trying to think of something snappy to keep going. I looked at my watch, but it has stopped on 20 seconds, so I had no idea how long I’d done or had to go. I said: “I’ll just say a couple more things…” and didn’t really know what I was going to say. I then fluffed the delivery a tried-and-tested line, which got silence and one audience member saying: “Boo.” I told him to shut up and did another joke, which fared slightly better. Then I heard Cliff Richard’s ‘Congratulations’ start playing and I had beaten the gong; I never thought I’d be relieved to hear Cliff.

So, on my fourth crack at a gong show I had lasted the distance with a fairly shambolic end to my set. Had I delivered the same set later on, I doubt I would have survived. But survived I did; so: in your demonic faces, gong show demons. Actually, I might take that back. It’s probably best not to provoke them.

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Not quite what I was expecting

I was supposed to have a gig tonight, but upon arriving at the venue I realised that it would not be on after all.

Instead, there was an art exhibition with a theme of expanding perceptions. When I told the person by the door that I was there for the comedy night, she handed me a surgical mask and one rubber glove. She told me that I must put them on if I was to have a look at the exhibition, so I obliged. I was also given some instructions, explaining about the exhibition.

There were various paintings around the venue, with a smoke machine regularly being turned on, as well as some disco lights and a green laser thingamy. The centre piece was a collapsible table with various brightly coloured objects on, which you will see in this picture:

I have no idea what this is. I think this is probably because my perceptions have not been sufficiently expanded.

I’ll have to be honest, it wasn’t quite how I was expecting to spend my evening; but it does at least make for a more unique entry than something like: “I did a gig last night. It was okay; I was tried something out, it didn’t really work. Now I need to make some changes to it.”

I did have a gig on Monday, all 90 seconds of it. It was the qualifying round in a competition. Some would say that it’s technically not a gig as it was in front of about 40 other comics, but it is twice as long as I lasted in the Comedy Store Gong Show six years ago, so I’m choosing to count it as a gig. It was okay; I was trying something out, it didn’t work. Now I need to make some changes to it.