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.