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Archive for October, 2012

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Opposing journey

The journey for last night’s gig was almost a complete reversal of what I used to do when at university.

I took the train down to Southampton for a gig, instead of getting the train from neighbouring Portsmouth when I was a student up to London to do five minutes in front of a handful of people. These journeys at Uni were infrequent and thus rather pointless in developing my act, but it did at least make me feel cool when I told people I did stand-up.

This time, things were different. I was booked to do 15 minutes, but the number of people was still in the handful region.

There were five people to be exact, with two more casual observers hiding at the bar. I was on first and I thought it was going to be awkward, but it actually turned out to be far more enjoyable than it should have been. Although the audience were small, they were friendly and engaging.

The bulk of my set was material I’d not performed since Edinburgh and had dismissed as not being right for a comedy set away from the Fringe context. But it actually went down much better than I expected. It still needs a bit more work, but it has made me reconsider its shelf-life and potential.

In non-comedy news, I have decided where I want to go for my newfound holiday next year. I will be going to a small town in Switzerland and to a dam, which I shall then jump off with a bungee cord attached to me. It is the same dam used for the jump at the start of GoldenEye. I chose this destination as I was thinking about things that I would like to do, and I thought I would like to cross another thing off my to-do list by doing the world’s highest proper bungee jump. It has also been more than five years since I jumped 134 metres out of a cable car. Sitting on a beach just doesn’t do it for me.

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Untitled entry IV

This past week, I have most had two gigs. At one, I was trying out new stuff, which went down quite well. At the other, I was performing allegedly tried-and-tested material, which fared a little patchier.

Wednesday was the one with the new stuff, and what I thought was nearly four minutes of new material turned out to be slightly over two minutes. It wasn’t met with a rapturous response and there were some obvious areas in need of work, but it received enough of a reaction to suggest that there is something there I can work with.

On Thursday, I fulfilled a lifelong ambition and performed in Staines. It would be easy to make a cheap-shot about Staines, but I will choose not to; although with the ‘lifelong ambition thing’, I think I already may have done so. Regardless, the limited amount I did see of the place was not enough to form an opinion of it. At best, I am apathetic to Staines. At worst, I am indifferent.

I found the gig quite hard work, which was largely my own fault for failing to grab it by the ball-sack. I was on first and evidently didn’t engage with the audience enough. They laughed a decent amount in the first part of my set, but really didn’t go for the stuff that followed. The final quarter picked up a bit, but not really enough to consider it a success. But never mind.

In other comedy news, at the moment I am strongly considering not doing Brighton Fringe festival next year. The thinking behind it is that as I have to book holiday off at work, it would be nice to use it to go on an actual holiday. At the moment, we are considering perhaps doing two weekends, but I think it is safe to say that we won’t be doing a consecutive week-day run.

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Marching

I attended my first ever political march yesterday to protest at the Government’s inept handling of the economy.

I have wanted to attend marches in the past, particularly to protest against the conflict in Iraq, but have never been around to take part.

This Government, as well as previous ones to an extent, have shown repeatedly that they don’t listen to anyone who has a difference of opinion. As a result, there are many who question what good marching will do when this is the case. But there is nothing more dangerous for a democracy than apathy and I don’t think anyone but a select group of very rich people and deluded idiots are happy with the way things are going in this country.

So I was one of around 150,000 people to actively express disapproval for Cameron and his cronies’ disastrous tenure.

I am not part of a union and don’t have too many politically active friends, so didn’t know anyone else attending. But I often go to the cinema solo, so the prospect of marching in a crowd on my own was not enough to put me off. However, quite bizarrely, when I was walking around at the start, I bumped into a friend from university who I hadn’t seen since we graduated in July 2006. So I had Lucy and her family for company for the three-mile trek, with a free sandwich thrown in.

Marching was a good experience and I will do so again whenever I agree with the motive of one. Again, how much good it will do, I don’t know. But if enough people express the same opinion, then a difference can be made; and I’m looking forward to voting in the 2015 election. How good the alternative will be, I can’t be certain. What I do know is that it really can’t be any worse than what we currently have, and that’ll do for me.

Following the march winding up in Hyde Park, I went off to catch a train to Margate for a gig. This was the third time I have performed at the venue and it is always a pleasure. I was hoping to have a stormer, and in the end it was just quite good with room for improvement. A few lines fell flat that haven’t been getting laughs for a while. So I am now going to do some rewriting, proof again that if enough people express the same opinion then a difference can be made.

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Lost and pound

As last night’s gig, I was heckled several times by a dog.

This was the fourth such occasion I have had a canine in the audience at a gig; and although the crowd was small, it would be inaccurate to describe it as ‘one man and his dog’.

I will elaborate more on the incident shortly, I just thought that would make a slightly more interesting introduction than the ones I normally turn in.

The gig took place in Tonbridge at a venue I had performed at previously almost exactly a year ago. As I had been there before, I foolishly thought I knew where I was going. But this is me, and getting lost is a particular talent of mine. I was so convince that I was heading in the right direction, that I wasn’t even put off by evidence such as entire roundabouts not being where the map stated and I continued to walk. When it dawned on me that I had been the victim of my unjustified navigational confidence, I had to ask someone for directions. It turns out that I had headed in the wrong direction from the train station and kept going, causing me to end up on the opposite side of town.

I turned around and headed back again and worked up a totally avoidable sweat in getting to the venue.

When I performed at there a year ago, apathy was the theme of the night; this was embodied by a young looking man, who had perhaps the most impressive mullet I have ever seen.

I was prepared this time and knew what to expect; although, sadly his royal mulletness was not present.

The heckles from the dog came at the start of my set when I am getting the audience to shout letters at me. The dog obviously wanted to join in and barked at me; and although I appreciated his enthusiasm, it hardly got my set off to the best start. I’m not going to describe my performance as a success, I swallowed a few words and stumbled over a few punchlines. But I did manage to get a few decent laughs and it was quite a lot better than 12 months ago.

Tomorrow, I am going to get involved on the march against the government’s economic shambles. This will be followed by a gig in Margate.

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Hex broken

This week, I broke a long-term comedy hex.

There is a regular new-act night where a winner is always crowned at the end of the night, and I think it is the competitive comedy element that has always put me off.

At the end of a set, if the enough of the audience shout ‘buy him/her a drink’ then that act gets bought, um, a drink. They then go through to the final at the end of the night to determine the winner through a clap-off, who receives a trophy.

I have done this night several times and had a couple of belters, but many poor showings, and have never made it through to the final.

My good friend, comedy life partner and sometime financial dependent Paul Langton is hosting one of these nights now. I am pleased for him, because I think the regular MCing experience will allow him to get even better as I comic. I am also pleased for him because he gets paid for it, so he is less likely to ask me for money.

I was trying out some older stuff I have reworked, and it went down really well. At the end of my set, there was a resounding chorus for a drink to be bought for me.

However, at the end of the night when Langton called out my name, I chose not to take to the stage for the clap-off, perhaps subconsciously because I didn’t think I’d win, but because these sorts of nights are to give new acts confidence. I have been going regularly for nearly three years, with two and a half Edinburghs under my belt and from my wallet. I would rather the winner of such nights is someone who hasn’t been going very long and need a boost.

Besides, had I won, due to my long-term association, it would have smelt worse than a toilet after a Langton post-Guinness binge.

Nevertheless, it was a good feeling to kick the hex in the crotch.

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Three gigs, one blog

I have had three gigs this week and not written about any of them until now. It has been nice to have a break from commenting on occurrences in comedy, which does not bode well on the future of this blog.

But when you are faced with an apathetic audience at an open mic gig on a wet Tuesday night, it does little to inspire the need to write. Wednesday’s gig in Cambridge was much better and although I got partially lost on my way to the venue, only did five minutes and spent £14 on the train ticket, it was a decent gig and I felt in the best comedy shape I’ve been post-Edinburgh.

Then last night, I had another gig in Bradford-on-Avon. I decided to come back home to Stroud for the weekend, with access to a car enabling me to drive there.

When I arrived at the venue, I saw a lot of people who had been drinking for a few hours and one was celebrating a birthday. I feared the worst and was bracing myself for a battle, which I tend to get a masochistic kick out of.

I was also feeling nauseous from something I’d eaten before the drive, which wasn’t a good sign and I had visions of me being sick during my set.

Thankfully, all my fears were unfounded. The birthday party didn’t come through and I didn’t vomit. It turned out to be a pleasure of a gig. The audience were friendly, if a little vocal, which allowed for a lot of interaction and enjoyment from both sides as a result.

My set went down really well and I’d rate it as a solid 8/10. A few lines failed to get a huge laugh, which gives me something to work on, but several lines got very big reactions.

However, it is all too easy to coast along on the high of a good gig and fall into the trap of thinking you’ve cracked it. A comedian’s work is never done; there are always things that can be improved. Nevertheless, it was a most pleasing night and after weeks of post-Fringe pondering over my future in stand-up, it was a sign that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to get somewhere with comedy.  Although I expect I’ll be back to apathetic open mic nights in no time.

In order to progress to paid work, I’m going to need to be driving to gigs before too much longer. But there’s no way I can afford to run a car in London. So I need to consider my options and get me a plan together. Comedian drivers are always in demand, particularly in London, and provide the most realistic route to getting paid gigs. The pun in that last sentence is optional.