The ghosts of the past

Last night, I was performing back on home soil. Well, not quite home soil, but soil that is ten miles from home and also the town where I worked for 15 months as a reporter for the local paper.

I previously performed in the gig venue about five and a half years ago when I was doing comedy on an ad hoc basis, and as I was so inexperienced, I died on my arse. So I was keen to atone for my failure and lay the comedy death spectre to rest.

More than half a decade on, much has changed; I have been gigging solidly for two and half years, have more than 300 gigs under my belt and a piece of metal in my ankle, which has nothing directly to do with comedy but is something that has changed nonetheless.

There was a really good turn-out, with 90 paying punters in to watch. There were a few quite drunk and heckley people, whose vocal contributions added very little value or gave much to work with, but it was never malicious, just unhelpful.

My opening reference to me doing no work at secondary school had a particularly local significance, because a handful of the people in the audience attended the same place, albeit at different times to me.

The set went pretty well, I managed to get some big laughs from what had been a fairly tough audience to get going, although they were friendly.

My anti-diabetes bit wasn’t particularly well received again in its half-formed form, and someone in the audience actually had diabetes. It did allow me to do some research into it to find out how accurate the joke was, but this didn’t lead to any laughter.

It was quite a long room, which was shut off from the main pub and had the stage area at the far end. And during my set, I was totally oblivious to two things; one was Deech, MC for the night and now Edinburgh flatmate, signalling to me to do longer as the headliner hadn’t turned up. The other was some sort of ruckus had broken out in the main bar and the police had been called.

Even so, I had a decent gig that I’d give 7.5 on the gig-o-meter and kicked the comedy death spectre in the groin. This obviously wasn’t a physical action, I didn’t recognise someone from the previous gig I did there as being this phantom then assault them. But someone else may have done, which would account for the mêlée in the main bar.

In a strange coincidence, when I went back into the main bar and discovered what had happened, the song Young Girl by Gary Puckett was playing. Now, I should explain that his song, for all its legally questionable lyrics, has a particular significance for me and comedy. Not because of the well-worn paedophilia area of comedy material, although the second ever joke I wrote was one of these. But because this particular song features in the musical Return to the Forbidden Planet, which I had the lead in when I was 15 and it probably the only worthwhile thing I got out of my secondary education. Playing the fool and the feeling I had from getting big laughs from audiences of 200 people for five nights were really the catalyst of setting me on this comedy path, even if it took me another five years to make it to the stand-up stage, and ten years to actually pursue properly.

The venue wasn’t that far away from where I used to park my car when I worked in the town, so I parked in the same place. The area brought back lots of memories, none of which were especially happy, but I did go and have a look at my old office just for old time sake. And as I drove away, I knew that taking that massive gamble three years ago by quitting my job to move to London to pursue comedy was definitely the right choice.

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