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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