This week, I had my first gigs of 2013 and they were a good example of how with audience sizes, you can never really predict what will happen.
January does tend to be a quieter month than most, particularly the first half of it.
On Monday, at my first gig of the week and 2013, there was an audience of ten people, which isn’t a bad sized crowd at all for a Monday night in January. I enjoyed myself, particularly in talking to an audience member who had told me downstairs before the gig that he had been out in the day and bought some new bath towels; but as he had come from work, he had no time to take his towels home, so had brought them with him. He hoped that having this massive bag full of towels wouldn’t lead to him being picked on by a comedian. Little did he know of my true identity, as when it came to my spot, I was onto it.
Well, ‘picked on’ is a bit strong, I prefer the term ‘talked to’. My set wasn’t entirely about towels, but that part did go well and suggested that I might have a future in a solely towel-based act, although that would require having someone in the audience who had a bag of new towels with them. Even so, it would certainly be a niche that few other acts are exploiting.
The rest of my set all went well enough, with a few new bits I tried evidently needing some work on.
On Wednesday, it was time for the gig I now co-run in Walthamstow. We were out putting up posters and building our following on Twitter (Follow us @yeOlde17Comedy. Am I on Twitter as well? Thanks for asking. I am, actually: @thisalexlove), so I thought that with it being the re-launch night, we might be able to defy the January odds and get in a decent sized crowd.
Unfortunately, my optimism was misplaced and we had an audience of five people, which is still an audience nonetheless and we gave them a show that both the audience and acts seemed to enjoy. For next month’s gig, we definitely need to up our promoting game. I am on MC duties and we are in a different room in the pub. The last time I was on hosting duties in this particular room, I was flashed at by an audience member and had to deal with some very drunk people, with some having genuine mental illnesses. So the masochistic side of me is hoping for more of such chaos.
Then came Thursday’s gig, which left me astonished. All the assumptions about low audiences in January were left in tatters when I arrived at the venue, because I couldn’t get to the upstairs room easily because of people queuing up down the stairs. I managed to squeeze my way through and checked in. The room comfortably holds about 60 people seating, but it was utterly crammed with people standing in any space they could find and even spilling out of the door. If only a handful of these people had been at my gig the previous night, it would have been a different story.
My set was fairly well received, with a few lines not getting as big a laugh as others. I am trying to get my punchiest five minutes together because not only have I stupidly entered another competition, but I have also booked myself in for the notoriously rabid Comedy Store Gong Show at the end of the month, which I am actually looking forward to.
It should also make interesting reading.
Well, we have reached the end of 2012, the world has not ended and predictions attributed to the Mayans were wrong.
Or perhaps the Mayans simply predicted Derren Brown’s Apocalypse show and were out with their dates by a few weeks.
There is always the possibility that the world has actually ended and what we are experiencing is a Matrix-like existence, where what we think is reality has all been created by a gargantuan computer.
For the moment, I’m going to carry on as if nothing has changed, but if I start getting notes telling me to climb out of windows, then I’m going to start asking questions. Then I’ll go on a thrilling adventure when I uncover the truth, which will blow my mind and then be followed by two substandard and unnecessary follow-up adventures.
Anyway, I will now give my personal review of the year that is frequently referred to as 2012.
High point of the year:
I have had some really good gigs this year, which is always a nice feeling. In fact, it has been a record year for punters buying me drinks after good gigs. I think it may have even reached double figures; you would think that I would count such a thing to give an exact figure, but you would be wrong.
But for a specific high point, I will say the final night of Love and Langton’s Dirty Laundry in Edinburgh. The show went very well; we were both on form and then made £70 in our collection from just under 30 people. It was a tiring August, we had to work really hard to get an audience due to our venue location and 11pm time-slot, but I am pleased with how it went as a whole.
Low point of the year:
Getting knocked down by a cyclist who jumped the red light when I was crossing the road. I chipped four of my teeth mildly and two pretty severely, which resulted in me visiting the dentist for the first time in eight years.
Ridiculous adventure of the year:
Going to see The Darkness in Thetford Forest. I severely underestimated the distance from the train station to the venue and ended up walking on a grass verge next to a busy A-road. A van driver then stopped and gave me a lift. I then had to hitchhike back to the train station afterwards. I got back to my house at around 4am and had to get up early to do an Edinburgh preview in Brighton. Rock n roll.
Weird moment of the year:
Performing stand-up at the top of a staircase in a Harvester-like pub in Norfolk, in front of eight people spread out across the place, including a young family with a baby in a pram.
Film of the year:
Avengers Assemble. In second place, Skyfall.
Album of the year:
The Darkness – Hot Cakes. What else could mine be?
My hopes for 2013:
Just to try and improve as much as I can comedically and have a good Edinburgh. Getting paid some of the time would also be nice, but I’m not in this for the money – and that’s probably just as well.
It’s been almost three years to the day and 400-ish gigs since I moved to London to give comedy a proper shot. I am well aware that it is going to take even longer to get anywhere, and I may be delusional, but I feel I’m on the right track.
Away from comedy, I’m looking forward to actually going on holiday for the first time in a while. I’m not entirely sure where it’ll be yet, but rest assured it will be somewhere.
I hope the bugs on this site will all be sorted and if you’re lucky, or unfortunate depending on why you read this, I might well write more regularly.
As some of my readership of four may have noticed, there has been a period of inactivity on here for some time.
This is mostly due to two things. Firstly, there have been a few technical difficulties on this site you see before you. Secondly, I haven’t felt an urge to sit down and write what can really be summed up as: I did some gigs, some bits of material went well, other bits didn’t go so well. Then something I found something weird on the pavement outside my house and took a picture of it.
Richard Herring recently reached the milestone of having written a blog entry every day for ten years. I just about managed that for one year and now it is an effort to even blog a couple of times a week.
But it has actually been nice to not have to worry about documenting every experience on the comedy circuit, especially for the numerous nights where I’ve not done so well and want to deny the existence of.
Anyway, back to business as usual, I did a gig last week that was not a normal gig; it was in a bike repair shop and cafe for one thing. It was the same place I did a gig about six months ago, but this time it was not strictly a comedy night, it was more heavily weighted in poetry and spoken word.
Before I had taken to the stage area, I won signed pictures of some actors from EastEnders in a charity raffle. As I have not watched the show regularly in more than a decade, there were many who I did not know so I gave them away in an impromptu charity auction during my set. I managed to raise £1 million too, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the successful bidder won’t be paying up.
But I am holding onto the real gems: Barbara Windsor and Ian Beale. Although why I’m holding onto them, I’m not entirely sure.
My talent for getting lost knows no bounds and was on scintillating form last night.
I was going to Harrow and had taken a picture of where the venue was on my rickety old phone. The place of the gig was very close to the nearest tube station, so I was confident I would easily find it.
But once again, it was proven that navigational confidence is my undoing. Going by the map, I was sure that I was in the right place, but there was no sign of the venue. So I had a closer look at the map and realised that I had gone to Harrow and Wealdstone, when I actually needed to be at Harrow-on-the-Hill.
I had no idea how far away I was from where I actually needed. After about 20 minutes of walking and then asking a bus driver for directions, I managed to find the venue.
Unfortunately, my set didn’t quite replicate my form of getting lost and it was a quite hard work. There must have been about 30 people in there, which is a very big crowd for a new act night in London. I got some decent laughs and was a long way from dying on my arse, but it all just felt a bit flat.
This was partly because of a group of what you’d expect lads to look like were at the back of the room. There were about ten of them sitting and loitering at the bar, and they refused to sit in the empty seats where the audience were when asked to by the MC/promoter. They weren’t hostile, but did look as if they hadn’t been to a comedy night before, so didn’t really know how to behave and it did create an air of awkwardness. It turned out that they were all there to support a friend, which explains such behaviour.
I did learn a vital lesson last night, that a burrito with extra chilli is not the best thing to eat for lunch on the day of a gig. It creates a chemical reaction with the significant adrenaline stand-up causes and brings consequences in the bowel region. Fortunately, I managed to control it for my time on stage.
Another positive was that I found a packet of beef Hula Hoops in the main pub that had been on a table in the middle of a mostly eaten buffet. With no-one showing any interest in the leftover food, some nifty hand work saw the Hula Hoops come into my possession.
In non-comedy news, I feel that I should comment on the Disney purchase of Star Wars, as I am someone who holds the galaxy far, far away close to my heart. I think this has the potential to be great, but could easily be horrific. If they get a good writer and director, then there is no reason why it wouldn’t be a welcome addition to the saga and be a vast improvement on the last three additions. A film written by Joss Whedon and Jane Goldman, with Matthew Vaughn directing would surely be a wonderful thing. Over to you, Kathleen Kennedy. No pressure or anything.
The journey for last night’s gig was almost a complete reversal of what I used to do when at university.
I took the train down to Southampton for a gig, instead of getting the train from neighbouring Portsmouth when I was a student up to London to do five minutes in front of a handful of people. These journeys at Uni were infrequent and thus rather pointless in developing my act, but it did at least make me feel cool when I told people I did stand-up.
This time, things were different. I was booked to do 15 minutes, but the number of people was still in the handful region.
There were five people to be exact, with two more casual observers hiding at the bar. I was on first and I thought it was going to be awkward, but it actually turned out to be far more enjoyable than it should have been. Although the audience were small, they were friendly and engaging.
The bulk of my set was material I’d not performed since Edinburgh and had dismissed as not being right for a comedy set away from the Fringe context. But it actually went down much better than I expected. It still needs a bit more work, but it has made me reconsider its shelf-life and potential.
In non-comedy news, I have decided where I want to go for my newfound holiday next year. I will be going to a small town in Switzerland and to a dam, which I shall then jump off with a bungee cord attached to me. It is the same dam used for the jump at the start of GoldenEye. I chose this destination as I was thinking about things that I would like to do, and I thought I would like to cross another thing off my to-do list by doing the world’s highest proper bungee jump. It has also been more than five years since I jumped 134 metres out of a cable car. Sitting on a beach just doesn’t do it for me.
This past week, I have most had two gigs. At one, I was trying out new stuff, which went down quite well. At the other, I was performing allegedly tried-and-tested material, which fared a little patchier.
Wednesday was the one with the new stuff, and what I thought was nearly four minutes of new material turned out to be slightly over two minutes. It wasn’t met with a rapturous response and there were some obvious areas in need of work, but it received enough of a reaction to suggest that there is something there I can work with.
On Thursday, I fulfilled a lifelong ambition and performed in Staines. It would be easy to make a cheap-shot about Staines, but I will choose not to; although with the ‘lifelong ambition thing’, I think I already may have done so. Regardless, the limited amount I did see of the place was not enough to form an opinion of it. At best, I am apathetic to Staines. At worst, I am indifferent.
I found the gig quite hard work, which was largely my own fault for failing to grab it by the ball-sack. I was on first and evidently didn’t engage with the audience enough. They laughed a decent amount in the first part of my set, but really didn’t go for the stuff that followed. The final quarter picked up a bit, but not really enough to consider it a success. But never mind.
In other comedy news, at the moment I am strongly considering not doing Brighton Fringe festival next year. The thinking behind it is that as I have to book holiday off at work, it would be nice to use it to go on an actual holiday. At the moment, we are considering perhaps doing two weekends, but I think it is safe to say that we won’t be doing a consecutive week-day run.
I attended my first ever political march yesterday to protest at the Government’s inept handling of the economy.
I have wanted to attend marches in the past, particularly to protest against the conflict in Iraq, but have never been around to take part.
This Government, as well as previous ones to an extent, have shown repeatedly that they don’t listen to anyone who has a difference of opinion. As a result, there are many who question what good marching will do when this is the case. But there is nothing more dangerous for a democracy than apathy and I don’t think anyone but a select group of very rich people and deluded idiots are happy with the way things are going in this country.
So I was one of around 150,000 people to actively express disapproval for Cameron and his cronies’ disastrous tenure.
I am not part of a union and don’t have too many politically active friends, so didn’t know anyone else attending. But I often go to the cinema solo, so the prospect of marching in a crowd on my own was not enough to put me off. However, quite bizarrely, when I was walking around at the start, I bumped into a friend from university who I hadn’t seen since we graduated in July 2006. So I had Lucy and her family for company for the three-mile trek, with a free sandwich thrown in.
Marching was a good experience and I will do so again whenever I agree with the motive of one. Again, how much good it will do, I don’t know. But if enough people express the same opinion, then a difference can be made; and I’m looking forward to voting in the 2015 election. How good the alternative will be, I can’t be certain. What I do know is that it really can’t be any worse than what we currently have, and that’ll do for me.
Following the march winding up in Hyde Park, I went off to catch a train to Margate for a gig. This was the third time I have performed at the venue and it is always a pleasure. I was hoping to have a stormer, and in the end it was just quite good with room for improvement. A few lines fell flat that haven’t been getting laughs for a while. So I am now going to do some rewriting, proof again that if enough people express the same opinion then a difference can be made.
As last night’s gig, I was heckled several times by a dog.
This was the fourth such occasion I have had a canine in the audience at a gig; and although the crowd was small, it would be inaccurate to describe it as ‘one man and his dog’.
I will elaborate more on the incident shortly, I just thought that would make a slightly more interesting introduction than the ones I normally turn in.
The gig took place in Tonbridge at a venue I had performed at previously almost exactly a year ago. As I had been there before, I foolishly thought I knew where I was going. But this is me, and getting lost is a particular talent of mine. I was so convince that I was heading in the right direction, that I wasn’t even put off by evidence such as entire roundabouts not being where the map stated and I continued to walk. When it dawned on me that I had been the victim of my unjustified navigational confidence, I had to ask someone for directions. It turns out that I had headed in the wrong direction from the train station and kept going, causing me to end up on the opposite side of town.
I turned around and headed back again and worked up a totally avoidable sweat in getting to the venue.
When I performed at there a year ago, apathy was the theme of the night; this was embodied by a young looking man, who had perhaps the most impressive mullet I have ever seen.
I was prepared this time and knew what to expect; although, sadly his royal mulletness was not present.
The heckles from the dog came at the start of my set when I am getting the audience to shout letters at me. The dog obviously wanted to join in and barked at me; and although I appreciated his enthusiasm, it hardly got my set off to the best start. I’m not going to describe my performance as a success, I swallowed a few words and stumbled over a few punchlines. But I did manage to get a few decent laughs and it was quite a lot better than 12 months ago.
Tomorrow, I am going to get involved on the march against the government’s economic shambles. This will be followed by a gig in Margate.
This week, I broke a long-term comedy hex.
There is a regular new-act night where a winner is always crowned at the end of the night, and I think it is the competitive comedy element that has always put me off.
At the end of a set, if the enough of the audience shout ‘buy him/her a drink’ then that act gets bought, um, a drink. They then go through to the final at the end of the night to determine the winner through a clap-off, who receives a trophy.
I have done this night several times and had a couple of belters, but many poor showings, and have never made it through to the final.
My good friend, comedy life partner and sometime financial dependent Paul Langton is hosting one of these nights now. I am pleased for him, because I think the regular MCing experience will allow him to get even better as I comic. I am also pleased for him because he gets paid for it, so he is less likely to ask me for money.
I was trying out some older stuff I have reworked, and it went down really well. At the end of my set, there was a resounding chorus for a drink to be bought for me.
However, at the end of the night when Langton called out my name, I chose not to take to the stage for the clap-off, perhaps subconsciously because I didn’t think I’d win, but because these sorts of nights are to give new acts confidence. I have been going regularly for nearly three years, with two and a half Edinburghs under my belt and from my wallet. I would rather the winner of such nights is someone who hasn’t been going very long and need a boost.
Besides, had I won, due to my long-term association, it would have smelt worse than a toilet after a Langton post-Guinness binge.
Nevertheless, it was a good feeling to kick the hex in the crotch.
I have had three gigs this week and not written about any of them until now. It has been nice to have a break from commenting on occurrences in comedy, which does not bode well on the future of this blog.
But when you are faced with an apathetic audience at an open mic gig on a wet Tuesday night, it does little to inspire the need to write. Wednesday’s gig in Cambridge was much better and although I got partially lost on my way to the venue, only did five minutes and spent £14 on the train ticket, it was a decent gig and I felt in the best comedy shape I’ve been post-Edinburgh.
Then last night, I had another gig in Bradford-on-Avon. I decided to come back home to Stroud for the weekend, with access to a car enabling me to drive there.
When I arrived at the venue, I saw a lot of people who had been drinking for a few hours and one was celebrating a birthday. I feared the worst and was bracing myself for a battle, which I tend to get a masochistic kick out of.
I was also feeling nauseous from something I’d eaten before the drive, which wasn’t a good sign and I had visions of me being sick during my set.
Thankfully, all my fears were unfounded. The birthday party didn’t come through and I didn’t vomit. It turned out to be a pleasure of a gig. The audience were friendly, if a little vocal, which allowed for a lot of interaction and enjoyment from both sides as a result.
My set went down really well and I’d rate it as a solid 8/10. A few lines failed to get a huge laugh, which gives me something to work on, but several lines got very big reactions.
However, it is all too easy to coast along on the high of a good gig and fall into the trap of thinking you’ve cracked it. A comedian’s work is never done; there are always things that can be improved. Nevertheless, it was a most pleasing night and after weeks of post-Fringe pondering over my future in stand-up, it was a sign that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to get somewhere with comedy. Although I expect I’ll be back to apathetic open mic nights in no time.
In order to progress to paid work, I’m going to need to be driving to gigs before too much longer. But there’s no way I can afford to run a car in London. So I need to consider my options and get me a plan together. Comedian drivers are always in demand, particularly in London, and provide the most realistic route to getting paid gigs. The pun in that last sentence is optional.