At my gig in Walthamstow last night, I was due to honour an agreement made the previous month to down a pint of Guinness on stage. Despite anyone there barely remembering me making this pact, I had to fulfil it nonetheless.
The last time I downed a pint of Guinness, I ended up in hospital with a broken ankle. It wasn’t just the downed pint that hospitalised me; it was joined by a ridiculous amount of alcohol and other circumstances that I won’t go into for legal reasons.
But still, I was slightly apprehensive about something going horribly wrong, even if I am perfectly comfortable with public failure by now.
The downing started off well, but it got more difficult when I got to the final third and encountered foam at the bottom of the glass.
I pushed through the unpleasant foam barrier and achieved my objective, much to the delight of the 20 people in the room who were cheering me on and had mostly come back for the second half to see me attempt my feat.
It also gave me an idea for my Edinburgh show in the film section, where I talk about trilogies. My idea is to down a pint of beer to a (hopefully) cheering crowd. Then I down a pint of Guinness immediately afterwards, which proves that sequels aren’t usually as good as the originals – but they are darker. Then for the third, I try in vain to get something out of the two empty pint glasses, but it doesn’t amount to anything and I should have stopped at two.
I think there is something in this idea, but don’t know if I could literally stomach downing two pints every day in Edinburgh during my show. So I may film it as a sketch.
When it comes to 7-12 February, I often think back to what I was doing in the year 2000.
I was 15 years old and had somehow landed the lead role in a school production of Return to the Forbidden Planet, largely because so few boys were willing to do it.
I had about four months of after-school rehearsals for it, and for the first three months I could barely speak. If you are unaware of the production, it is essentially Shakespeare’s The Tempest with bits of his other plays spliced in and a load of 1950s rock n roll songs in it.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to sing but I was really struggling with the script. If I wasn’t swallowing words, then I was talking at such a low volume that you could barely hear me on the other side of a classroom. I wanted to drop-out, but I hung on in there because I knew that I wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to talk to a certain girl.
Then a couple of weeks before the opening night, when the teachers must have been worrying frantically about how awful their Captain Tempest was going to be, something just clicked into place and everything started working for me. I think it must have been my ridiculous outfit that helped, consisting of an Elvis jumpsuit, a Biggles flying jacket and hat, a scarf that stuck out at an angle and a very large false moustache. It transformed me from an insecure teenager into an intergalactic clown.
I played the role for comedic effect and getting big laughs from such a large audience was definitely a deciding factor in making me want to pursue comedy.
It was certainly the highlight of my time at school. For a brief period, I was hot property and people wanted to talk to me. Two weeks later, I was back to reality and returned to being ignored. Fame is fickle.
It is quite weird thinking that 15 years have passed and I am now double the age I was then, but it remains a fond memory. That young fool has a lot of terrible things ahead of him in the next decade and a half, but I think he’s going to be alright.
Oh, and nothing ever happened with that girl. I last saw her a few months ago sitting across the aisle from me on a train back home. Her head turned towards me and I was getting ready to act surprised and say hello, but then she got up and moved carriages. I just hope my 15-year-old self doesn’t find this out.
I’ve had my first three gigs of 2015 this week and if they are any indicator of how my comedy year is going to be, then it’s going to be a weird one without too many laughs.
On Monday, I was doing one of my regular gigs in Aldgate that is reliably terrible. I enjoy it because there is no pressure and as most of the audience aren’t there for comedy, no-one really cares how well you do. However, when something does get a laugh then it is can be an indicator that it’ll do well in front of a proper comedy audience.
This gig was particularly weird for two main reasons. The first being the opening act receiving borderline-racist heckling from a posh old man sitting at the front. The comic left the venue immediately after his set and the posh old man followed him down the street.
The second weird instance was later on in the first half, a comic was in the middle of a joke when a very drunk middle-aged man stumbled into the bar and walked straight up onto the stage area and told a joke about a goose and an aeroplane that no-one could really understand due to the slurring. He then tried to sing some Elvis and then walked straight out of the venue to the streets from whence he came.
There wasn’t much to report from the other gigs two I did, other than me mocking an audience member on Thursday for having dreadlocks due to apathy and poor hygiene than style. Then my night in Walthamstow on Friday was a little strange and drunken.
In other news, I’ve had my venue and timeslot confirmed for Edinburgh Fringe already. It will be exactly the same as last year, 6.15pm at the Kilderkin. It’s nice to have it all sorted so early and I know the venue can work really well. But in the back of my mind, I am concerned about trying to replicate what worked well previously. To avoid this, I am intending for it to be a lot of new stuff. The good news is that it’ll likely be much better than my gigs that I’ve started the year with.
It has now been five years since I moved to London. I came here without a job or any real idea what I was doing, a bit of luck helped me on my way and it has turned out rather well.
A lot has changed, but I am happy with where I am and where I’m going. It’s certainly a much better place than six years ago, when my year began in a Swansea hospital bed with a broken ankle and a shattered mind.
My gamble has worked out, but I am not done yet. I still have much more that I want to achieve.
For the year ahead, I have not set myself any stupid or tedious targets as I did in 2014. I am amazed that I still have most of my sanity after the ordeal that was #Joke365.
Over the next 12 months, some more paid 20 minute spots would be nice, but my main goal is to just become a better comedian.
I want to do more than 150 gigs this year, which should be fairly easy to achieve if I am organised.
I have also made it a goal of mine to get something comedic I’ve written onto the radio, either a joke or a sketch.
In August, I will be doing my second hour show in Edinburgh with mostly new content in How To Win A Pub Quiz II: Advanced Edition. I have started work on this already and it is coming together nicely so far.
In other news, I am proud to announce that I have tied a tie for the first time, almost correctly as well. When I was a reporter, I wore a tie every day to try and put me in a professional mindset. What no-one actually knows is that my mum tied it for me. So, tying a tie is one thing I have achieved this year already. Hopefully there’ll be more achievements to follow, otherwise it is going to be disappointing.
With the remnants of 2014 fast slipping away, I will now summarise the past 365 days. Also, I am still back home and am running out of things to do.
The past 12 months have seen me dress up as giant inflatable penis, be God, and do my first ever hour show for the full-run in Edinburgh. All of these relate to comedy. Obviously, I have done some other stuff in the real-world, but that shouldn’t be of any interest to you if you value my mystique.
As with most years, 2014 began with January. I fulfilled a long time ambition by performing at The Stand in Edinburgh. The gig also happened to be a belter.
Ruby went, then came back and then went again. I have a feeling it’ll be back every now and then, sooner rather than later.
The highlight of my year was my Edinburgh show. Doing a solo show was all new and I had no idea how it would all turn out. Although it could have been improved and the final show was an anticlimax, the whole run went much better than I can have ever hoped.
In other good news, I am now a matter of hours away from being rid of my #Joke365 curse. If I’d actually had the time to sit down and write every day, I would expect to have written a better standard of jokes. A lot of what I have churned out has been poor and they have often been written just before I am going to bed. I have been deprived of sleep for this stupid challenge, but probably have a handful of decent jokes that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
This year, I have learnt a lot and had some really great gigs. I have also done some horrendous gigs, but sheer belligerence and delusion usually has seen me find a way to enjoy most of them.
2014 has been a very good year for me. I intend to do all in my capabilities to make 2015 even better.
At the start of this year, I set myself three comedic targets and am only likely to meet two of them with the days of 2014 now dwindling.
As Meatloaf once said, two out of three ain’t bad. At least, I’ve been informed that it was Meatloaf who said this, but I have never heard this particular song. My knowledge of Meatloaf’s back-catalogue is fairly limited to the greatest hits of his greatest hits, and his brief cameo in Rocky Horror. And don’t blow this all out of proportion on social media and claim that I’m slagging off Meatloaf, because I’m not. I do not wish to enter a public feud with Meatloaf, it would just be unnecessary.
Out of the three targets, it is the one of doing 200 gigs that I look set to fail. Mathematically, this could still be achieved if I were to do five gigs a day for the rest of the year.
I am currently on about 130 gigs for the year, which is roughly my annual average. However, I am including gigs that range in length from my phenomenal 20 seconds at the Comedy Store gong show, to the hour-long Fringe shows in this tally.
I was pinning a great amount on being able to do a good chunk of these during Edinburgh Fringe. But when Edinburgh came around, I actively did fewer gigs than I had booked to avoid exhausting myself or feel an urge to drink.
But what is the point of having targets if you’re always going to hit them? I don’t know what sort of an excuse this is, but I like it.
The second of my targets was to write 30 minutes of new stand-up material, and I probably have done this, even if I have dropped large sections of it. I wrote a massive amount for my Edinburgh show and didn’t have time for about half of it. I have achieved this goal, so there. I also said nothing about the 30 minutes of new material actually needing to be any good.
My other target was to write one new joke every day and put it on Twitter under #Joke365. I was regretting doing this by the 2nd of January. Nevertheless, I have managed to keep it going even, if I have had to bend the rules slightly by letting me still eligible to write the previous day’s joke at 6am the next day before I properly wake-up.
The proportion of jokes that have actually made it into my set is probably much lower than the 10% that I thought would be decent.
The point behind all these targets, whether or not I actually achieved them, was to force me to improve as a comedian. I think I have done that over the past 12 months, but the year is not yet through and I may dramatically regress.
This week, I have gigged in Nottingham and dressed as a giant penis.
I should add that they were separate events and I was in my normal clothes when I gigged in Nottingham.
Why was I dressed as a giant penis, I hear you ask? Frankly, I don’t think you’re showing enough respect to Nottingham.
But I will address the reason for getting most of your search engine results. Of course, I donned the phallic attire for comedic purposes and not personal ones. It was to do the latest in my Q&A series at Siobhan Dodd’s variety show. As Siobhan is getting married early next year, there was a hen-do theme for this month’s show. And what hen-do would be complete without a novelty effigy of the male genitalia? I don’t know the answer to this. My hen-do knowledge is fairly limited.
The costume was a complex piece of engineering and was essentially a flesh-coloured cagoule with a fan inside to inflate it. Getting suited-up was a complicated process and I required assistance from two people. I was waiting back stage and shocked several bar staff who opened the door to find a giant cock on the other side. An amiable ‘Hi, alright?’ put them at total ease.
The gig itself was fun and it is refreshing to perform not only in a ridiculous outfit without having an material prepared. I will stop short of improv, because I shudder at the thought of that and I have the decency to admit that I have a few ideas in my head about what I want to say before I go on. I can’t pretend that performing as a giant penis was ever on my comedy to-do list, but I can definitely cross it off now if it ever finds its way on there.
The next night, I was in Nottingham to audition for a fairly respected Edinburgh showcase. I did okay in my set, but it felt a bit rushed as by the time I got on, I had about ten minutes before I needed to leave to get the last train.
So I am fairly confident I won’t get selected. And that’s fine. I don’t know if I’ll be able to commit to two shows a day in Edinburgh next year anyway, as I expect I’ll be working remotely for almost half of it. So there. But seriously, we can negotiate.
This week, we said goodbye to Ruby Tuesdays. Well, we said goodbye to the ‘Tuesday’ part in October 2013. This week, we said farewell to the rest of it.
We decided that with ever-growing commitments elsewhere, the night’s fifth birthday would be a good time to end it.
To keep a monthly club in central London going for five years without relying on other comics to fill the room is quite an achievement. There have been times when we have had extremely low audiences, but we never pulled a show when perhaps we should have done in hindsight.
There have also been times when we have had full rooms, and Monday’s show was perhaps our largest ever audience with more than 40 people crammed into a room that seats about 35.
I was co-hosting the night with Paul, in possibly the final ever outing as Love and Langton. We thought we’d put all the years performing together to use by attempting hosting duties as a double-act. This ended up going very badly and our ill-thought out opening of the show got next to no response from the audience. It wasn’t hard to see how we got a one-star review together.
We probably should have planned what we were going to say better, but I doubt this would have made a great deal of difference. I take some comfort from the fact that I now know that I work best on my own and that there is no future in the Love and Langton entity.
I then hosted most of the rest of the night on my own, with Paul chipping in bits here and there. It felt much more comfortable this way. The other acts we had on all did much better than their hosts and I think everyone who came to watch will remember the night for reasons best left undisclosed. If you want to know why, then you should really have come and only have yourself to blame for not attending.
The night was initially set-up in 2009 to give a bunch of us a regular gig once a month. It evolved in order to survive and we went on to have some of the best comedians on the circuit perform on our small stage.
We may bring it back a few times a year, but Ruby’s as a monthly club is no more. I will miss it, but everything has its time and it’s nice to go out on a high.
I have made a return to regular gigging after taking it easy in September to recover from the Fringe and settle back to working full-time in the real world. Fortunately for you, I already have a gig tales to tell.
Last week, I performed where most performers dread: in the main area of a pub. Worse still, it was a free gig, with many of the punters not there to see comedy, there was nowhere at the front of the stage for the audience to sit and there were a disproportionate amount of bar staff working who were talking very loudly.
Fortunately, this is exactly the type of gig I enjoy doing. I went up and started berating the bar staff to get them to be quiet and then I demanded I be given a shot. Incredibly, the manager obliged and I received some vodka.
I managed to get some decent laughs out of the room and towards the end of my set, I demanded another free shot from the bar. Amazingly, this worked a second time. When they asked for money, I told them to put it on my imaginary slate. I genuinely don’t know I got away with this, especially as there was a bouncer around, but I did exactly that. If I didn’t have a microphone and wasn’t on stage, I expect I would have been thrown out.
To make things even more ridiculous, someone came up to me afterwards and wanted to book me a paid gig. I don’t know if this will ever amount to anything, but I am still willing to take it as a gig win.
In other ridiculous news, I played the part of God in Q&A at the same variety night where I portrayed the physical embodiment of the 1990s back in February. I used a bed sheet as a toga, used white face paint on my beard and eyebrows, and had a bath mat on my head.
They were quite a rowdy crowd; so I just played it shouty and sweary, very similar to my 1990s persona. I also made threats to strike people down with arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome, then told someone dressed as Jesus that he was a disappointment to me. It was all very stupid and a lot of fun, proving for the second time in under a week just how much enjoyment can be had from berating people on stage.
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