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Archive for January, 2013


Something to do with death

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.


Flying solo

This week, I received some bad news. My Edinburgh show partner, Paul Christopher Stephen Langton Esquire, has dropped out of this year’s Fringe.

Logic, finances and real-life have got the better of him. Fortunately, I have learnt to switch off the rational part of my brain when it comes to doing comedy.

I will miss Paul this year, particularly during the inevitable lows and for someone to blame when things go wrong. I have had his company at every Fringe I have been to, including three Brightons, so it will seem very strange without him.

We treated Edinburgh as being us against the world. I knew I could always rely on him, even if his on-stage form was patchy by his own admission last year.

For me, not doing Edinburgh was never an option. So, I was faced with a choice.  Either I find someone else to do a show with, or I do one on my own.  This didn’t take me too long to decide and I can announce that I will be doing a solo show at this year’s Fringe.

It will all be massively different. But when I was thinking about this year’s show before Paul dropped out, I did feel that doing another two-hander for the third year with the same person would not really be pushing myself.

A solo show will definitely push me outside my comfort zone, which is something I have always tried to do with Edinburgh. In 2011, it was about doing 15 minutes longer than I was used to. Then last year, it was about telling stories, as I am not a natural storyteller.  And now it will be me on my own.

Stand-up comedy is very much a solo journey and I am looking forward to the new experience, even if it is a pretty daunting prospect.


The competitive element

I have said for some time that I would not be entering any comedy new act competitions again. However, in desperate search for January gigs and in two isolated moments of weakness, I have entered two.

I told myself that I would just take them as gigs and nothing more. I don’t get any enjoyment out of the competitive element being introduced into a gig, hoping that you do better than everyone else in order to progress.

Despite the microphone not working, I had a pretty solid gig and got some decent laughs. But it was a strong heat and several other people did very well, so I resigned myself to not going through. With the clock not too far from 11pm and the results yet to be announced, I chose to leave to get some sleep as I had to be up for work the next day.

However, when I exited the tube station near my house, I received two messages from friends also performing congratulating me on getting through.

So, after three years of regularly doing stand-up and more than 400 gigs, I have made it past the first round in a new act competition and I wasn’t even there to bask in my ‘glory’.

I am pleased that I got through in what was a pretty tough heat, although I didn’t enjoy the competitive element. However, in the grand scheme of comedy things, getting past the first round for me means very little. I have another gig out of it and will see how that goes, but I’m not getting carried away. Comedy is all about short-term pain for long-term pain and possibly some petrol expenses if lucky.

The other competition I entered is later on this week.

In other comedy news, I have been asked by Adam Oliver if I would like to dress up as a penguin for his Edinburgh show. Naturally, I accepted.


A Giant Squid Poem

The recent footage taken by the Discovery Channel inspired me to write this:

The Giant Squid,
Look what he did.
He attacked a fish
And then went and hid.

The fish was some bait
Left by a TV crew.
The squid was camera shy,
So said: “Thanks, but no thank you.

“Just stay on the surface,
You stupid land dwellers.
You think I’m a woman,
I’m really a fella.

“I’ve got ten friggin’ legs,
Two of them are really long.
You think that’s another leg,
It’s actually my schlong.

“I’ve got a beak
Seen on giant birds.
And out the back of my head
Is where I send all my turds.

“Leave me alone,
I don’t want to be filmed.
I don’t need to be on TV
To feel I’m fulfilled.”


Confounding expectations

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.