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Archive for December, 2011


2011: in review

Well, my last gig of the year didn’t result in me ending 2011 on a high, as I died on my arse. But never mind, it has been a year of many gigs with a chunk being very good indeed.

I didn’t end up doing as many gigs as I set myself a target of at the start of the year, but the gigs did do included a full Edinburgh run, with more than 25 sets of more than 20 minutes.

Here I will give a brief overview of the last 12 months.

Comedy high

Mine and Langton’s first Edinburgh preview, which was in an unlikely venue of a bookshop in Wood Green. Neither of us knew how it was going to go and neither of us knew if we actually had a consistently good 25 minutes. It ended up going very well indeed and gave us a massive confidence boost.

Another comedy high was the Hen Do day in Edinburgh. It was our second Saturday, I’d found the first one tough going in front of a full house. I was better prepared for the second, but minutes before we were due to start, a Hen Do found their way into our audience and took up the first couple of rows. This terrified me and Paul, but it actually turned out to be our best gig of the run.

Comedy low

Dying on my arse is always a low, but when it’s at high-profile venues where I want to do well is when it particularly hurts. One positive that has come from dying this year is that I have found my post-death remedy of eating a packet of biscuits and listening to Queen.

Edinburgh also brought its inevitable lows, with some really tough days that left me and Paul not only questioning our comedic abilities but also our very existence. Thankfully these days were in the minority and the bulk of Edinburgh was a positive experience.

Our only review for our show giving us one-star would also ordinarily be in the lows, if it was from a respectable source with some editorial consistency that is, and not from the free-for-all publication that accepts anyone as a contributor.

Non-comedy high

I’m going to have to say The Darkness reuniting and seeing them live three times. I also attended two weddings of my best friends and being on Best Man duties at one, but falling 12ft off a fire engine afterwards (long story, don’t ask) right on my arse was not my finest moment.

Non-comedy low

Any time I spent on the phone asking people for money on behalf of charities, particularly after the management put me on a performance review. The flip-side to this, is that working at this place did provide me with the biggest chunk of my Edinburgh set.

Also in lows, I would also add the three weeks I spent house-sitting  a flea-infested property and getting bitten relentlessly. During this time, I was also sleeping in bin bags with garlic in, in the hope that this would stop them biting me. Sleeping in bin bags was never going to be one of my highs.

Film of the year


Album of the year

I haven’t bought any albums this year, thus rendering this category I’ve added utterly useless.


On the whole, 2011 has been a good year. I’ve done a lot of gigs, met a lot of people and had a lot of fun. 2012 looks set to be busier still and I’ll be doing a preview piece once I’ve recovered from my New Year celebrations, which will be over four days and with 12 people in a remote cottage in Wales. This recovery could take some time. See you on the other side.



Architect of my own doom

I am nearing the end of my gigs for 2011 and have done two so far this week, with another to follow tonight.

Tuesday’s gig again had five people in the audience, which seems to be a pattern for me at the moment, but they were very friendly and the gig was enjoyable. I have written some new bits for a routine I’ve been doing a while, which I think has a lot more I can do with it. Some of these new bits worked, other bits didn’t, but it was a nice atmosphere.

The same can’t be said for my gig on the following night. For the record, I rate this particular night as up there with the very best open mic gigs in London; it is well run and can be a tough room to play, so if you get  a laugh with a new joke then it counts for a lot.

Unfortunately, my set just turned out to be a disaster and I have to accept my significant share of the responsibility for that. There is a bit in the routine I previously mentioned, where I go into the audience and mimic the motivational speech they give you when starting a shift in charity call centres. I enjoy doing this; it gives me a chance to improvise as well as interact with the audience and makes a change from just standing on stage saying things.

Without giving too much away, the third person I speak to is the victim of the punchline. I must have performed this routine more than 50 or 60 times so know it works; there were several times in Edinburgh when it was the part of my set that got the audience onside.

However, on this particular occasion I chose the wrong victim and suffered the consequences. I was slightly limited for space, so chose a comic, who has consumed a fair amount of alcohol and had been disrupting the show. I thought the audience would respond well to them being the punchline and my set would then be plain-sailing, with the new stuff I wanted to try out to follow.

Unfortunately, I completely misread the room and the person being the punchline received no reaction from the audience and just aggravated said person. This resulted in them shouting ‘vermin’ several times at me, as well as other words that are ruder and with less letters. It created the weirdness in atmosphere I don’t like, in one that is largely awkward. This end of the weird spectrum is not the one I revel in.

I supposed I was the architect of my own downfall and with five minute sets, if the first three or four go badly then there is very little you can do to recover. What I have learned though, is that this particular gig is not one for going into the audience and interacting; it is very much one where you just do your material on stage and it either gets a laugh or it doesn’t. Should anyone throw a curve ball your way in your set, then you should react, but I wouldn’t suggest going into the audience and encouraging that curve ball to be thrown at you.

But my disastrous set didn’t really leave me reaching for the biscuits and Queen albums, if anything I just felt slightly indifferent about such events. Obviously I care about doing well at gigs, if I didn’t then I shouldn’t be doing comedy, but I have developed a pretty thick skin in the past two years so that such things don’t really get to me – at open mic gigs anyway, such events at a festival or a paid gig would surely send me in the direction of Jammy Dodgers and Freddie Mercury.

Tonight, I have my final gig of the year and will hopefully see 2011 out on a high; otherwise sales of biscuits will go up minimally.


It’s starting to feel not a lot like Christmas

Christmas is fast approaching and it really doesn’t feel like it should be. Judging from what the year currently feels like, it should be October.

However, these calculations are totally inaccurate because they ignore all obvious evidence, namely the calendar, and haven’t actually been calculated. So, by definition they are not calculations at all.

What an excellent start I have made to this entry. Anyway, non-calculated calculations aside, it is the festive period regardless; and yesterday at work there was the giving out of the Secret Santa presents. I didn’t want to take part in this, so didn’t put my name forward for it. But then I was asked if I wanted to be involved, I like to think this was to make me feel part of things, although it was really because they were one person short.

Admittedly, I had sort of forgotten about it and ended up buying the present in the shop down the road before work yesterday. And it wasn’t too bad a present, at least under the circumstances I had created anyway.

I wrapped the hastily-bought gift in the proofs of magazine pages I had lying around my desk; to make things a bit more festive, I stapled the package together. I do have a picture, but I won’t be posting it on here, because despite the fact that I have just explained it in detail, I’m only a Google search away from having my Secret Santa cover blown and my shame exposed. The latter word might get more traffic from search engines, but I have a feeling they’re going to be disappointed.

For my gift, I got a mug, a small bottle of wine and some chocolate. There were better Secret Santas than me.

Anyway, onto comedy matters, which I normally start with but thought I’d vary it up a bit in this entry and write. I had two gigs this week, I was supposed to have three, but Ruby Tuesdays was cancelled because actual paying customers had booked the room for a party.

At the first of these two gigs, I was trying out the new routine I’ve been honing of late. It wasn’t particularly successful, but I managed to get some sort of laughter-based reaction during the five minutes, but there is much more work that needs to be done to the material before it is up to a respectable standard. My second gig was in front of five people in Hackney and I quite enjoyed it. It was a longer spot than the previous night, so I thought I’d do some tried-and-tested stuff first to give the new stuff a chance before I rolled it out. I went off on a few unplanned tangents before I got to the new material, which saw the first joke of bomb, so I abandoned it in favour of some older stuff.

After the gig, I got lost on my way back to the station; it was raining too, so I also got cold and wet. I managed to find my way to another station and eventually arrived back to my house well after midnight. I had to be up at 7am for work, via the shops to buy the confidential yuletide gift I mentioned above.


Struggle not quite the struggle I thought, but still a struggle

Well, last night didn’t turn out to be quite the comedy train-wreck I was anticipating.

That said, I wouldn’t consider the comedy section of the punk music night to be a resounding success either and it was hard work.

The punk covers band were very good and the audience were mainly middle-aged actor friends of the band, who had come to see the music. Typically, for an audience to be receptive to comedy, they need to be there specifically for comedy. If they are there for music, they will generally not respond well to comedy. Although sometimes even if they are there for comedy, an audience can still be unreceptive. I could have probably phrased this paragraph better, but it is too late now.

Anyway, I was MC for the evening, introducing the two musical acts and then the comedy was on after the second interval, featuring ten minute sets from myself and two other acts. When this section began, I at least managed to mostly stop the audience from talking and actually listen to the words I was saying.

However, as they were not tuned into watching comedy, several of my punchlines fell flat. But when this did happen, I did at least managed to get a degree of personal enjoyment from hitting the cymbal on the drum-kit to emphasise the punchline. My set didn’t totally bomb and for my persistence I was at least rewarded with some audible laughter, even if it wasn’t proportionately very good for a crowd of 40 over the ten minutes.

Langton was up next and needed to be at his vitriolic best. Unfortunately, he’ll be the first to admit that he wasn’t. I shall say no more. Then, David Schaal was on last and actually did very well.

And that was the end of the comedy section, I was glad to have got it out of the way and proceeded to get on the beer.


A struggle in sight

On my way to work on Wednesday, I had a call offering me a gig, which will be tonight. I am going to be compering a night of punk music, with some comedy in between and then some punk music at the end.

Now, comedy doesn’t work on a music night. It simply doesn’t. The audience just aren’t tuned into comedy-mode and will likely be talking throughout the sets. To make proceedings more interesting, there will be a large group of people out celebrating a girl’s birthday, this was initially described as a hen-do.

So, what made me decide to put myself through this? I don’t entirely know, but it was partly Paul Langton’s fault. He put my name forward for it, and he’s also performing and probably won’t enjoy it. As I know from Edinburgh, when Paul doesn’t enjoy a gig, I take it upon myself to take his share of the enjoyment and end up having a lot of fun; sometimes the audience joins me in this, sometimes they don’t.

Plus, I didn’t have anything else planned for the weekend so thought I’d give it a go. I am fully expecting it to be horrific, but there is a chance that I may find it enjoyable. Stepping outside the comfort zone is always good to do. And at the very least, I will likely be having a good few beers with Langton afterwards, as well as a new gig story for you to read about here.

Elsewhere in comedy this week, I have had two other gigs. At the first one on Thursday, I was trying out an amended version of some new material I’ve been trying. I have changed a particular word, a very rude word, widely considered to be the rudest word there is. The replacement word is still rude, but sounds funnier and has actually opened up an avenue of jokes I was unaware existed. It’s too early to say if they are good jokes in this avenue, but they at least resemble jokes and managed to get laughs when debuted.

Then, last night I had another gig where I was using older material. It was also fun, but the first couple of minutes of my set largely tanked. However, it improved and from a fairly quiet audience, I was given a round of applause for some material that had never had a round of applause before. I count this as a victory.

Now, time to brace myself for tonight’s battle.