Your browser (Internet Explorer 6) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.
X

Archive for November, 2021

Post

Doing a gig

I had an actual gig on Thursday night. I was in Ashton Keynes, which was another area that my local paper used to cover. But it was my first time there as it wasn’t a patch I covered, or even remember much about. Still, it’s a nice place.

The gig was run by the blokes from Barking Road, who ran that gig I did in Cirencester in August. They know how to run a good night and fill the rooms with a good audience.

I was opening the show and did pretty well. The room had about 40 people in and they were up for it. Most of my punchlines got a decent response, with a couple of newer ones almost expectedly falling flat. But I think for a free night, that sets the tone nicely. I.e. there’s going to be some good stuff tonight, but not all of it is going to work. And you haven’t paid to be here, so just be grateful. Admittedly, this might not be the best calling card.

The thing with not gigging much is that it becomes really difficult to hone new material. And I find I often forget what I’ve written and want to try out. For example, none of the new material I tried on Thursday was about Smallville, which I was attempting to write jokes about last week. The stuff I have written about that is not ready for public consumption and may never be. But doing more gigs would certainly help the chances of a public airing.

You typically need to try a line out a few times on a few different audiences before you know it works. Sometimes it works instantly and you don’t need to do anything to it, but these occasions are rare. The majority of comedians’ material is the result of hard graft and trial and error over several gigs.

On a technical note, but I’ve got a new microphone technique where I hold the stand and not the mic. I obviously still talk into the mic.

I was always told to take the mic out of the stand and that keeping the mic stand up creates a barrier between you and the audience. But it feels so much more comfortable and I’m not going back to the old ways of doing things. Unless there is no mic stand or a mic.

There is a risk with this new mic technique because stands aren’t always reliable. I remember performing in one of the afternoon shows during my first visit to Edinburgh Fringe in 2010, I was using the mic in the stand for a bit when I would play Let’s Get Ready to Rumble from my phone into the mic. It was a bit where I would stretch my resemblance to both Ant and Dec out for about three minutes longer than was really necessary.

The 2010 gig wasn’t going particularly well anyway. But when I put the mic in the stand to try and play the tune, the entire mic stand fell apart in what was a handy metaphor for the gig. It was met with pitying and bemused stares what had been an apathetic audience up to that point. So, that was at least some progress.

I now don’t have anything booked up until the new year. And with a new Covid variant about to weep across the country, I could see live comedy gigs shutting down again within the next month or so.

I hope that doesn’t happen, as people’s livelihoods depend on it. Going full-time was always one of my goals in doing comedy, but I’m incredibly fortunate that I’ve managed to keep my Plan B running in parallel with comedy. In fact, Plan B has been much more successful and hasn’t involved travelling to all the far corners of the country to perform in front of rooms full of strangers in the hope that they laugh at the stupid things I have to say. So, my lack of success actually happens to be success after all.

Post

Somebody save me

I have a gig on Thursday, which will be my first one for a month. Even if there are last-minute petrol shortages – and I know I risk causing one by using those two words – I have about 200 miles more in my tank than I need to get there and back. So they’ll have to lay on quite the detour from road closures for that to happen – and I may have also risked that happening by using those words.

It could very well be my final gig of the year. I don’t have anything else booked up until January and am almost resigned to the fact that I won’t have any in December.

Anyway, a gig being on the horizon has spurred my dormant joke writing skills into action. I’ve returned to a subject I’d trying to write jokes four years now with little success. I am talking about the TV show Smallville, about the life of a teenage Clark Kent, played by a man in his late-20s.

For the uneducated, the title of this blog comes from the Smallville theme tune. It is not a cry for help, at least not intentionally.

Admittedly, I haven’t tried very hard with the jokes about it after a couple of early attempts didn’t fly, which is actually appropriate for a show that actively aims to stop Superman from flying.

But the reason I have come back to it is that I have the waste of time factor gnawing away at me. My belief is that if I’ve spent so much time doing something, I might as well try and get something out of it. Ideally, a joke. This was my reason behind writing jokes about giant squid, which ultimately led to me developing a show that did rather well at Edinburgh Fringe and allowed me to travel the world.

And I have watched 216 episodes out of 217 of Smallville. The one I’ve not seen was about witches and looked awful. You’ve got to draw a line somewhere. I should add that I watched these episodes over ten years, it’s not something I’ve been doing on the sly this year.

I don’t have many jokes to show for it so far, but what has helped is one of the cast members was jailed in real life for being second in command of a sex cult. That was definitely a secret identity I never predicted.

The other thing is that I don’t remember too many of the episodes. Again, this is also appropriate, as convenient amnesia was a recurring plot device to stop people from remembering Clark’s secret.

Time will tell if jokes about Smallville do lead to another sold-out run at Edinburgh. I will admit, I have my doubts. But to know for sure, I will have to start the trial and error process from the stage. And I am fairly confident there won’t be many other comedians performing similar material, probably for a good reason.

Post

Crowds

Yesterday, I went to Twickenham to watch England play Australia in the rugby. It wasn’t a great game and it definitely wasn’t cheap. England won, but my frustrations with selection and tactics of the Jones era persist.

Being in a stadium with almost 82,000 people felt a little weird with a pandemic still at large. I remained masked up for most of it and was certainly in the considerable minority for this amongst the rest of the crowd.

But it was good to experience the roar of crowd in a stadium. There’s nothing that really compares with that. Well, there are recordings. But they’re not the same thing.

The worst thing about the entire experience was getting the train back after the game. The police had been holding back the crowds from entering the train station, so a good couple of hundred people were queuing up.

Then police opened the barriers and through the crowd went to the station, slowly moving on it as people got on the available trains.

Surrounded by hundreds of people, many of which drunk and singing, isn’t something I’d enjoy when sober pre-Covid. But that feeling during a global pandemic was horrendous. I am grateful that it was a rugby crowd and not a football one, which would almost certainly be messier.

And then it was back to my small and grotty room in a Travelodge in West London, which was also ridiculously expensive.

Rubbish game and extortionate prices aside, I’m glad I went – provided I haven’t picked up Covid, that is. Either way, I’ll have still paid a heavy price.

Post

Unblocking

Part of being a writer is writer’s block. And I certainly have that this week. I don’t know whether it’s the four pints I had this afternoon or something else. Actually, it almost is certainly something to do with the four pints I had. I met an old friend I was at school with at the local brewery. And those four pints just kind of happened a little too easily.

But then writers and alcohol have been a natural combination historically. During the glory days of Fleet Street, newspaper offices would have designated dry out areas where many a leathered hack would be able to sleep off their time in the pub. Working for a national newspaper was considerably less colourful by the time I got there. It’s just as well really, as I definitely wouldn’t have been able to sleep it off then go back to work. Once I fall asleep, that’s pretty much game over – and thus job, too, in this case. Even having a pint at lunchtime has been known to dramatically reduce productivity in the afternoon.

The other side of it is that I haven’t really done a massive amount during the past week. I haven’t done any comedy gigs this week, and don’t currently have any until towards the end of the month.

Mainly, I have just been settling into my new job. And it’s all going pretty well so far. Not having to commute makes a miraculous improvement to everything, notably stress levels and expenses. And despite having a box full of beer cans immediately to the left of my desk, I haven’t felt an urge to open any during a lunch break. It is still relatively early days though, and I also have somewhere available to sleep it off if needed.