On 30 January 2006, a naive 21-year-old student took the train from Portsmouth to London to perform at the spot at the Comedy Store’s King Gong show.
He had done nine gigs in nine months and thought that he knew how to do stand-up comedy. He was mistaken.
When his name was read out and he took to the stage, he stumbled over his words and the baying mob of 300 people smelt blood. They unleashed a torrent of abuse and boos, with a man in the front-row resembling a furious Jesus. 46 seconds later, the blood sacrifice was over and the 21-year-old left the stage, covering his face with his left hand to hide the shame.
What became of this idiot? I couldn’t tell you. Some people say he couldn’t handle the public humiliation and went to live in a forest. Others say that he moved to Preston and ran a chain of furniture shops.
Although, if I was to make a guess, I’d say he carried on doing stand-up gigs irregularly for the next two years, then quit when he got a job as a reporter at a local paper, before quitting that too to move to London.
Mind you, this is only a guess. There are rumours that he has returned to the circuit and now has a large beard.
By the way, this is best read with the soundtrack of one of Ennio Morricone’s westerns. Ecstasy of Gold or Harmonica from Once Upon a Time in the West are the best ones to use. Try reading it out loud in a Texan accent.
Now, I’m going to shock you. That 21-year-old was me. There, you didn’t see that one coming did you?
The music and Texan accent are now optional for the next bit.
So, almost seven years to the day since my Gong Show brutalising, I returned. In a cruel coincidence, it was my tenth gig of the year.
The Ennio Morricone thing is relevant, because I’d spent much of the day whistling his western scores. These are often soundtracks to tales of revenge and confronting the past, which is exactly what this was.
My nerves kicked in three hours ahead of schedule and around 5pm, my hands were starting to get clammy at the thought of what lay in front of me. There are few prospects as unsettling as facing the bloodthirsty gong show audience.
I thought I had a decent-ish chance of beating the gong. I have some 400+ more gigs worth of experience than my 21-year-old self, as well as material that has served me well many times.
For those not in the know, you have to reach five minutes of stage time without being gonged off. There are three random audience members who have a red card. If they don’t like you, or are detecting the dislike from the audience, they can hold up their red card. When all three red cards are up, you are gonged off.
I was on fourth and without any exaggeration, my opening joke blew the roof off. My second, third and fourth also received large reactions. But then one joke bombed and a bit of audience interaction missed the mark. After the stumble, I just about managed to get back on track, but was on borrowed time. All it took was the mention of the website Adult Friendfinder to seal my fate and I was gonged off after 3 minutes 30 seconds.
So, it was a vast improvement on my previous personal best of 46 seconds; but also annoying because I cocked up and was rightly punished.
But never mind. It is done. I will return, probably sooner than another seven years.