I had a prior engagement in town this evening, which meant I was going to be (for once) on time to see the start of the gig tonight. I left the house and ran for a bus (First Bus, why do all the buses you run down Paisley Road West and Great Western Road at Anniesland Cross ALL arrive within five minutes of each other every twenty minutes??? Fucking useless.) But just as I left I stuffed my poetry and my aide-mémoire for my new set into my back pocket, just in case. I knew the line-up hadn’t been finalised, and was (as ever) hopeful that I might get to go on as a last-minute replacement. I didn’t wear my now-trademark Broken Oath shirt though, didn’t want to jinx myself…
At the bus stop, Malky texted me and asked if I’d do five minutes, so my foresight/hope had paid off. After last week’s gigs, I’ve rewritten my five-minute set in preparation for The Stand this Tuesday (1st March), and was happy to get the chance to try it out. As it turned out, Malky had planned to give me the opportunity anyway, and then one of the acts pulled out leaving him with ten minutes to fill. The Bier Halle, on Sauchiehall Street and roughly opposite the ABC nightclub/venue, runs every second Sunday at 7.30pm, and generally plays host to more established comedians who can comfortably do ten minutes. As such, this is the first time I’ve played here. I was placed third on the bill, after Geoff Gawler and Tony Hilton, and before Ross Main. The gig was compered by Viv Gee, whose name I know from the forum but whom I hadn’t previously met.
I asked Malky to time my set – I’ve already timed it without an audience and cut out about five jokes, as The Stand are strict with time limits. If you don’t get off on time, they cut the mic and play music. This set benefits from the fact that every single line has been tried and tested, and I’ve totally removed the Middle Initials stuff in favour of more, punchier jokes. Aware of my own timings, I raced through it, allowing laughs to only just fade before I hit with my next line. My new opening piece, which contains the word “cunt” nine times in about four lines, went down really well, and got a laugh on every use. It builds to a decent punchline too, which earned me a round of applause. I continued into my new one-liners, as tried out on Wednesday night at the Victoria Bar, then from that into the four “hair” jokes which set me up for all the pseudo-relationship material in (what I think of as) the second half of my set. Those went well too, though I’m only just remembering what order they go in, and somewhere in there I got a second round of applause. There are three jokes back to back which rely on the words “breakfast” and “bed” in the set-up, and that was the only slight dip in responses. I think after Tuesday I’ll rethink that bit, and take one out. I already cut three others out when I was putting this set together, and by the time it gets aired again I’ll have other one-liners I can substitute in instead.
The “Fish Blowjob” bit got the now-mandatory groan, but I’ve since come up with a line to follow that – it ties an acknowledgement of a groan (as I heard Graham Mackie use unashamedly at Dram – “I’ll take a groan.”) into an existing fish pun I’ve always used there, via the medium of some word play. So it makes the bit flow smoother, and makes the leap to the second punchline seem more natural. In my opinion. I then finish on the same joke that has consistently rounded off that bit and my act.
Malky timed me, and I came in at 4m 14s – quite noticeably under time. But I rushed through the set, aware of my own self-timed expectations, and definitely jumped into the new fish bit as mentioned above. It will undoubtedly benefit from a pause in the middle of the line, to set up the wordplay properly. If I do that, hopefully it will come in at around five minutes, bearing in mind the audience on Tuesday will be five times bigger, at around 200 punters. People keep telling me it’s better to under-run by twenty seconds than over-run by ten at The Stand.
I see it like the first day of high school – I’ve heard rumours about the place, so I’m preparing myself as best I can in the hope I can hold my own, don’t let myself down, and don’t get my head flushed down the toilets… Or worse, get the mic cut and the music played having committed the cardinal sin of over-running. It’ll easily be my biggest audience to date, and they are an internationally-renowned venue which features highly on “Best Venue” lists. So I’m nervously looking forward to it, hence rewriting my set to incorporate only my very best jokes at an acceptable rate. I’ll almost certainly hone it again before my second appearance there in May.
Stu Who tells me that the most common mistakes made by newcomers are to go too fast, and to try and squeeze ten minutes material into five minutes. I could almost certainly lose a joke or two and allow longer laughs, but as I’ve only used this set the once it’s too early to be sure. Like I said, if I allow a pause towards the end of the fish bit that’ll hopefully make that bit better, and I don’t want to pause too much as the pace/hit-rate seemed reasonably decent tonight. Time and testing will tell.
Bratchy (headlining), Scott Horner and Geoff all (or have) singled out specific lines they like, all different, and Viv commended me on my spot. As ever, I’m chuffed to bits because no-one NEEDS to be nice or offer words of praise, and the fact they all like different lines is heartening. Ross Main appreciated the pace I did tonight, and in turn I very much enjoyed his new material. After seeing me read my poem “S & M in M & S”, which I introduced by accidentally overexplaining the concept of S&M – aware that such understanding is required to get the punchline – he told me he’d come up with a new three minutes based on Sado-Masochism. Tonight I saw the bit I’d inadvertently inspired (at least the genesis of), and have to hand it to him – it’s a very nice play on words that then segues seamlessly into a highly-visual depiction of sex and early gaming technology. The play on words I think I may have heard before, though I can’t place who might have done it, but the bit that follows is genuinely hilarious and got him a well-deserved round of applause.
I hadn’t seen Bratchy before, and right before he went on some kind of golf-attired pub crawlers spilled in. They moved through to the back room, at least one of them spewed, and then they left again about five minutes into his set. So it wasn’t as disruptive as many of us feared. I think my favourite part of the whole evening was watching him arm-wrestling an Irishman while telling a harrowing but extremely funny reworking of a well-known joke about a horse and a pub. So, all-in-all, a good night.
And that’s me, as prepared as I can be for my first Red Raw, short of running through my material at home on Tuesday to get the order right. Once I’ve got that down, it’s just a case of deciding onstage how fast or slowly to deliver it, depending on what reactions I get. If you’d like to come along, doors are at 7.30pm for an 8.30pm start, it’s £2 to get in, and WILL sell out by all accounts. If you come and can’t get in, The Halt – just up Woodlands road – will be running free comedy as usual from 8.30pm, and I’ll be going up there afterwards to see Obie’s headline set. I’ll also be back to wearing my Broken Oath t-shirt, so say hello.