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Archive for February, 2013

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Memory problems

When you have been doing stand-up comedy for a few years, it becomes difficult to remember what gigs you have done in the past week. Or perhaps that is down to my age, with less than two years left of my twenties and my memory capacity is starting to deteriorate.

On Monday, I travelled about an hour and a half to a pub in deepest, darkest Uxbridge to do a five minute spot. It was a freezing cold night and I had to get a bus to get to the venue. When I was on this bus, a voice in my head said: “Why are you doing this?”

Curse the rational part of my brain, I wish that would deteriorate instead of my memory. I instead chose to ignore it and continued with my journey, as I have frequently done in the past three years.

I thought the gig was going to be a bit of a struggle, but I was proved wrong and it went pretty well. I was using it to try out the new five minutes of material I am hoping will be a cornerstone of my Edinburgh show. For only its third outing, it suggested that there is definitely something there with it. It just needs a bit of honing.

My next gig was up in Northampton on Thursday. I took the train up and it the journey probably took me as much time as my trip to Uxbridge on Monday. To find the venue, I was following the map on my phone. When I entered some poorly lit streets I started to worry that I was in completely the wrong place, but then the pub emerged and all was well.

I was opening the show with ten minutes and it was a risk putting my new five minutes in as the second half of my set, as it could have got the night off to a bad start. But although it definitely still a work-in-progress, it received some hearty laughs.

On Friday, it was back to a gig much closer to home in Walthamstow at the night I now co-run.

It was our second night since the relaunch and it was my turn for hosting duties. The last time I MC’d in this particular room, a woman in the audience flashed at me. So I had high expectations.

We managed to get 15-20 people in our small little room, with a few people leaving, others replacing them, them leaving, then the ones who left originally coming back. They were a slightly more senior crowd than is normally seen at comedy gigs. But if Edinburgh has taught me one thing, it’s that the older audiences are often the best. There is a misconception that young audiences are what comedy is all about, but in my experience younger crowds are more concerned with appearing cool than laughing. Older audiences have no such inhibitions; and interactions with Val and George, who must have been in their 70s, in the front-row added a lot to the night.

Unfortunately, I could not sustain my 100% record of being flashed at whenever I MC’d in the room. Although at one point, I did tell George that he needed to do his flies up. He claimed that it was an accident, but I suspect that he was wanting to add to my list of flashers. I’m glad he didn’t.

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An auction encore

Last night, I was performing at a one-off fundraiser in Hertford. It turned out to definitely be one of the more bizarre gigs I have done, and I was then asked to do an encore.

It was a great room, with a proper stage, full seating for about 80, a lighting rig and a decent PA system. Unfortunately, comedy was not the main reason people were there.

The room was packed with friends and family of a man who had suffered awful injuries after falling off a balcony on holiday. The night was to raise funds for his recovery.

Comedy was planned to kick off the night, with DJs following with sets until the early hours.

There were five acts on the bill, plus the compere. The first act was doing quite well in front of an audience who, although seated were, were mostly waiting for the comedy to be over with so they could get on with partying. Then halfway through the first act, the attention of the crowd was completely diverted by the man the night was in aid of entering the room and being followed by a German TV crew.

Although the second and third acts of the night did well under the circumstances, the focus of the evening had shifted and it would be difficult to get back. There were lots of people talking amongst themselves, which is one of the hardest things for a comic to deal with. If a large number of people are not listening to you, there is not a great deal you can do.

I was on in the second section and my plan of attack was mainly to shout in the microphone to force people to listen to me and do my time. If I got any laughs, it was a bonus.

My opening few jokes at least got people’s attention and some laughter; but then when I tried to go into a routine, I lost several of those who were listening and they opted to go back to talking.

In the second half of my set, I decided to address the fact that only about three people were listening. One person said: “There’s four.” Another person said: “Five.” This was followed by two more people saying six and seven.

I decided to go with it and turn it into an auction. “Any advances on seven?” Someone shouted: “Eight.”

You can see a pattern emerging. I managed to get to about 17 or 18 and was using it as a riff. It got a lot of people involved in what was going on and became a lot of fun. After getting to 22, which were mostly the same people shouting out different numbers, I went back to my material and managed to get some audible laughs against all the odds and elements.

I did about 13 minutes out of the 15 I was booked for and chose to quit while I was vaguely ahead.

Then, when I was recovering, the MC and one of the promoters of the night said they had a job for me. They wanted me to build on my auctioneer routine and carry out an actual charity auction. I agreed because technically, it was my first ever encore.

I managed to get £60 for the first lot and £190 for two three-day passes to a three-day music festival. Then there was a third lot of the company of a girl in the front-row who had volunteered, which raised £70 from her boyfriend.

When I was drafted in as a last-minute replacement on Friday night, this really wasn’t how I envisaged the night going. But in a very weird and masochistic kind of way, it was actually very enjoyable.

To top things off, I got paid £20 expenses and in something of a rarity, I ended up being in profit by a whole £12 from the night. But it turned out to be £8.50 because on the train back, I decided that I needed a pint to get over the weirdness.

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More mirth to be mined

This week, I have been trying out some material I had earmarked for a small portion of my Edinburgh show. But it would seem that it has considerable legs.

I don’t know if I have actually given the title of my Edinburgh show on here yet. It is called ‘Alex Love: Fear and Loathing’. It’s quite a simple theme really, it’s about things that scare me and things I don’t like.

One of the best things about doing stand-up comedy is that it gives you a chance to settle petty old scores from years ago and have the final word. For the most part, these are things that the other people involved have long-forgotten.

I am fortunate that I have a number of old scores that need settling. My olde enemies may have often won the battles many moons ago, but they have no chance of winning the war because they are unaware that it is even still going on. And when they do realise what’s happening, it’ll be too late. The damage will have been done and they will have been defeated.

Anyway, I tested a brand new five minutes out on Wednesday. It was very far from being polished and definitely needs tightening up; but, although they weren’t consistent throughout the set, there were some of the biggest laughs I have received from totally new material.

I tried it out again on Thursday and it definitely feels like there is a lot more mirth I can mine from it.

Last week, I could have written another entry if I wanted to. We had the magnificent Tony Law along to headline Ruby Tuesdays, and on Thursday I was performing on a radio mic over in a large bar where there was no actual stage area, with several cavernous spaces around the place and the PA meant you could be heard everywhere by people who were having a comedy night forced upon them. It is the entry that never was.