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Archive for November, 2011


Two very different gigs

On consecutive nights, I was at two gigs which could not have been further apart. In content anyway, not geographically.

On Thursday, it was a very weird comedy gig I was performing at, and on Friday it was a music gig I was watching by a band starting with a ‘D’ and ending with an ‘Arkness’.

I will start in chronological order. Thursday’s comedy gig was down in Norwood, South London. It was in the main part of a locals’ pub, with many patrons looking slightly confused and scared at what was happening when all they had come out for was a quiet pint.

The start of the night was held up by some technical issues, which were fixed by an eight-year-old child in pyjamas who presumably lived upstairs.

The stage area was at one side of the pub, with the bar in the middle and people also on the other side of the room at the bar. To make things more awkward, by the stage area there was a wall and on the other side of the wall, there was a little enclave with a table of people who couldn’t actually see what was going on.

I knew the gig would either be horrific or weirdly enjoyable; thankfully, it was the latter.

They audience were actually all really friendly, but I had to work hard to get any reaction. In such an environment, you have to be constantly adapting to what is going on around you and material alone can’t be relied on. In fact, material should mostly be avoided.

I actually had a lot of fun, particularly with the people in the enclave. With the more visual stuff, I would perform it for the main room, then stick my head around the corner to the enclave and do it a second time for the people there, then compare audience reactions.

It got me rebooked by the promoter for another venue in January, as well as an offer by a punter for a possible support slot for a 60s and 70s covered band consisting of middle-aged men . Again, this would most likely be horrible and awkward, but I’ve learnt to agree to such opportunities as at the very least there’ll be a story out of it. Plus I quite enjoy the horrible and awkward.

Then last night, I saw The Darkness for a second time this month. This time it was in London, they were excellent, and for the encore they were joined by Brian friggin’ May.

Now, in the past decade or so, Mr May has done some things I have been quite appalled by; such as his collaborations with boyband Five, Claire Sweeney and Cliff Richard, as well as appearing on a Queen-themed show of X-Factor.

But however appalled I may have been, he is still Brian May and has written and played on some of my favourite songs of all time, so he can always be forgiven.

With the gig the gig in London, surely getting back to my house would be far easier than last week’s Brighton expedition. Unfortunately, this was not the case. I went for a couple of pints after the gig and managed to get a lift to Camden, where I thought it would be easier to get back from.

I now know that there are no night-buses that run from Camden to Walthamstow, so I got the bus to Turnpike Lane and thought I’d be able to get a direct night bus from there. I was wrong and walked the 25-minute route from Turnpike Lane to Seven Sisters at 2.15am. I am hardcore. Actually, I’m not, I was preparing to run away at the slightest hint of trouble. Fortunately, there was none and I was able to enjoy my walk, shivering with just cold. When I arrived back in Walthamstow, I bought a chicken tikka roll at 3am for no apparent reason.

It has been a bizarre couple of weeks. I have seen three of my favourite things in Mick Foley, The Darkness and Brian May. To complete the set, I may have to see Mr S Lee before the month is through.

December, you can only be a disappointment.


Out of town

It’s always good to gig out of London and last night I did just that in Leamington Spa.

It was a gig I did almost exactly four years ago, when I was gigging sporadically and making little progress. It was fun then, so I was looking forward to going back.

And last night it was also a fun gig, but a bit smaller and a little weirder. There were 12 people in the audience – which is about four times as big as most audiences are at gigs I do in London these days. The audience is usually made up of friendly students, but unfortunately last night fell on the same night as a huge pub golf crawl. So there were a lot of students who did come along, but they were dressed in golfing gear and were talking quite loudly at the bar. But after a while you come to expect things like this happening in comedy and I’m always grateful for anywhere that will put me on.

Luckily I was on before the pub crawl arrived, so there may not have been a consistently audible level of laughter throughout my set, but I was fortunate enough to not have to battle against the back-drop of talking. My set went okay-ish, it was quite enjoyable – at least for me – and a new line I tried out got a better reaction that I expected, which was nice.

Following the gig and after being dropped off back in London, I found myself boarding a night-bus at quarter to one in the morning on a school night for the second time in a week. At least this time I expected it, but it still meant I only had four hours sleep again. I didn’t feel too bad today at work, having my hearing fully functional made a big difference, unlike last week’s rock gig ears. Comedy ears are much better.

In ankle news, the ankle I broke three years ago is now hurting for no apparent reason. I’ve told it to stop, but it just won’t listen; mainly because ankle ears don’t exist. Prove me wrong, science.


Tiredness and shame

I write this having done a full day’s work after getting four hours sleep last night. More on this later, it’s just a slightly better intro than ‘I did a gig the other day…’

I did a gig the other day. Monday, actually, and I am utterly ashamed with myself for being far too harsh on a heckler. He was a drunk old man, who clearly wasn’t all there, but was harmless.

He had interrupted the first act on in the second half and I was up next. I could have had some fun and engaged him, as is my normal way for dealing with hecklers, but instead I chose to just be rude without being funny or charming with it. I won’t repeat my words, as there is a chance my mum or dad are reading this despite being told not to.

Anyway, what I did say to the heckler did make him go quiet, though. Unfortunately, he was joined by most of the nine audience; I lost them and never properly get them back. With hecklers, you can be rude to them but first you have to earn the right when the audience can see that you’ve tried every other means to shut them up.

But it is far better to learn such a thing at a free open mic gig instead of at a pro-bill where the audience have paid good money to be entertained. However, I already knew about but foolishly chose to ignore my own knowledge and wisdom.

My new material bombed, mostly because I’d already lost the audience. The night got weirder as it went on, which is normally my element, but my set was a lethargic with no energy, I was simply poor.

I had a gig the other day. This day was Tuesday. It wasn’t much better in terms of audience reaction, but at least I didn’t slap down someone who didn’t deserve it. I was trying out a new bit I started doing last week. I think there’s something there, but it needs honing.  As it’s such a potentially sensitive subject matter, I really need to get it properly written out and develop it instead of having a scrap of an idea with some rude words.

Now, onto the bit I mentioned in the intro. You’ve read this far, it was obviously enough to reel you in. Hey, where are you going?

Last night I went to see The Darkness in Brighton. They were brilliant and did an excellent cover of Queen’s Tie Your Mother Down I’d not seen before, but I had to keep checking the time so not to miss my train and consequently miss the last tube, then have to get a night bus, get in about 2am and get four hours sleep. Oh, you know how this ends. That’s right, I decided to stay for the last songs and missed the train I was meant to get back on. The rest has just been mentioned.

I wasn’t feeling totally with it when I woke up at 7am this morning, but I made it into work on time and didn’t feel too bad apart the rock-enforced partial-deafness. My tiredness caught up with me with an hour and a left to go, though, but I managed to make it through the day and was actually the last member of the editorial team to leave the office, mostly because my tired body didn’t want to leave the chair.

Tonight I will be getting an early night. The rock n roll never stops with me.


Meeting a legend briefly

On Saturday evening I went to Leicester Square Theatre to see one of my heroes, the wrestling legend that is Mick Foley.

If you’ve never read his autobiography, then you should. I would go so far to say that it is my favourite book of all time, but I can’t claim to have read too many books. Reading about what he had to go through to make it is certainly something I consider an inspiration when I’m either dying on my arse or travelling many miles to perform to three people – more on that later – and I suppose the Foley comedy persona is an influence to my own style on stage.

There are certain parallels between professional wrestling and comedy. Both involve you playing an exaggerated version of yourself to elicit a response from the audience; you’re also trying to get the audience to buy into what you’re doing even if it is all largely an act. Likewise, when it all goes wrong there is nowhere to hide. I’m just glad I don’t have to put my body through so much pain, at least not the physical pain anyway. To prove how well wrestling and comedy cross over, there was the infamous wrestling event at Edinburgh this year, which was a resounding success.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with Foley’s stand-up show, but he’s a naturally funny bloke and had a feeling it would be good.

When I got there, I was told that Mick was still doing a signing. I thought I had to get my picture taken with him, if only to please the 16-year-old me. I don’t believe in meeting your heroes, mostly because whenever I’ve previously met heroes of mine I’ve not known what to say and end up saying something stupid. But I couldn’t turn down this chance and thankfully the queue was moving pretty quickly, so I didn’t say much more than ‘hello’ when I gave him my ticket to sign.

Here is the picture:

Admittedly, it’s not great quality from the camera on my phone, but I’ll take it.

They were playing wrestler’s entrance themes on the PA before the show, some I’d not heard in about ten years, and there is something very funny about the heckles being mostly nostalgic wrestling references. The compere and opening act expertly played the wrestling-savvy audience and were frequently subject to these heckles. I laughed more in the first half because of this show than I’ve laughed at a comedy gig for quite some time.

Mick was on in the second half and I enjoyed his set. His stand-up inexperience was a slightly evident, but he did mention drinking a large amount of vodka before he arrived on stage, so this may have affected his performance. Even so, for all the damage he’s done to his body over the years for no other reason but to entertain, he can do whatever he wants. He is coming back in February and I will see him then too.

I had a gig of my own on Friday. If I wanted to, I could view my trip down to the south coast as a waste of time. I’m choosing not to, though, because though largely turning my back on a normal life I have learnt to ignore the rational part of my brain which questions why I do this strange comedy activity. There was an average of three people in the audience, but it was sort of enjoyable in a really weird kind of way. This is where the Mick Foley autobiography inspiration comes in handy. After the gig, I managed to get a lift back to London afterwards so I saved myself an hour of travelling time, which I then wasted on the internet when I got back to my house.



Fun gigs, not a fun commute

So far this week I have had two gig and they were both on the same night.

The first one was in Bethnal Green in a great little room, with a great little audience. There can have only been about eight people in, but I’ll take eight friendly people over the 30 apathetic people I had the other week in Tonbridge .

Then my second gig was appropriately the second birthday of Ruby Tuesdays, the gig set up by myself and a collective of 12 or so friends. The numbers of those involve have dwindled quite a bit in recent months, but there was a good turnout of the old gang on Tuesday and it was the most I’ve enjoyed the particularly night for quite some time. We can’t have had an audience much bigger than my first gig, but I had fun.

At both gigs I was trying out some new stuff that has been in my head for a couple of weeks but I haven’t had the chance to try out. It actually went down very well for a first and second outing, it still needs a bit of honing and refining, but the signs are positive.

Back in the working world, I am really hating being a 9-5 commuter. The job itself is fine, but the commute is horrible. It’s not very far, but it is always packed full of people to the extent that I often can’t get on a couple of tube trains in a row. You know things are bad when you view a small gap of floor space on a packed train as being something that raises some joy.

Today was particularly awful, with various disruptions and my journey taking me double what it should have done, resulting in me being half an hour late for work. The journey back after work wasn’t much better. I also sweat buckets on crowded trains; as you can imagine, this means I get some strange looks – particularly as I am producing plastic containers from my perspiration.

Sweating buckets – that was the joke. Admittedly, it wasn’t a very good one and I may now backtrack and claim that it wasn’t actually a joke at all and was just a wildly inaccurate fact. Yes, I’ll claim that.

To deal with my commuter frustrations, after working  I invested in two cans of beer from the off license around the corner from my house. Yes, I am classy.

Tomorrow night I am off to Chichester for a gig after work. Then it is the weekend, I now actually value weekends again after sometimes having a couple of them in a week when I was freelancing.


Finding the time… and the venue

I am now part of the 9-5 working world after a two year absence.

The early starts have taken some getting used to but by the end of the week they don’t seem quite so bad. What is seeming worse every time I experience it is trying to on the Victoria line in rush hour. It is utterly rammed. But I find the better option is to walk ten minutes to Liverpool Street and get the main train from there. I like to think I know where I’m going now, but I always get a bit lost.

Back in comedy and carrying on the navigational theme, I had my first gig since entering full-time employment. I have just realised that this was my first ever gig while having a full-time job. It’s not that exciting.

Anyway, I had to drop out of an out of town gig on Thursday as I would have needed to go an hour or so early to get my lift and didn’t really want to ask for time off in my first week. I am a bit gutted about missing this gig because by all accounts it sounded like an excellent night. Instead I had a gig in London that night. I was originally going to be doubling up but as both gigs were within walking distance of one another, I decided to get a map from one venue to the other. None of this smartphone map nonsense; I use my phone camera function to take a picture of Google Maps.

However, the first gig I was going to do was cancelled, thus creating a flaw in my navigational plan. With a partially useful map, I got off at the wrong tube stop and thought I could find my way to the second venue without so much as an address.

As you can imagine, I didn’t have much success but was convinced I was heading in the right direction. After 50 minutes of walking around posh West London and with my phone battery dying, I realised I wasn’t where I thought I was when I saw the tube station where my I started my poorly planned quest. It had taken me nearly an hour to walk in a very large circle.

I contemplated giving up and going home, but I was uncharacteristically early and thought I’d at least try and find the venue. After walking down the road without knowing where I was going, I somehow found a road that was on my partially useful map. And the venue was three minutes away.

It wasn’t a bad gig, a small audience of about six real people. But they were friendly, in stark contrast with the reception all the acts received at my gig in Tonbridge last week, where apathy was the theme of the night. At that gig I encountered perhaps the most disinterested audience member I have ever known. He was in his early 20’s and sporting an impressive mullet, presumably modelled on Mel Gibson circa Lethal Weapon 2. He looked utterly bored with everything throughout the evening and when the MC encouraged people at the start of the show to clap, Mr Mullet flat-out refused.

But anyway, I never got around to finishing that blog entry. Thursday’s gig was much more fun, I was trying out some half-written material and it went down pretty well.

Now I’m working full-time, finding the time to sit down and write is going to be quite a challenge. I took for granted the freelancing lifestyle and the ridiculous amount of time I had available to write. I’m sure I’ll find a way around it; otherwise I’ll be stuck with the same material for quite some time, which should provide me with the motivation I need.