Tonight I got my first ever disgruntled “tut”. It was highly audible in the absolute silence my joke got.
This was a charity gig in aid of the SVA (Student Volunteer Association, I think) – I was doing it for stage time, personally. It was also a tough gig for most of us – Graham Mackie would later suggest that this was because they were here to support the charity, rather than out of any desire to see live comedy.
Ray Bradshaw compered, and did a fine job. He warmed the audience up nicely, before introducing the first spot – my current gigging partner (so it seems) Eddie Cassidy. I was looking forward to seeing the same set he’d done at the Victoria Bar last time, with the addition of the line I gave him – it’s a very funny routine, and having told me that line works for him I was naturally keen to see this for myself. Unfortunately, his material, which usually goes so well, fell flat. Whereas last time he was getting laughs on every line, tonight they barely even laughed at the punchline. And so it continued, for ten minutes (or maybe nine), before Ray went back up to do a few minutes before my spot.
I had been asked to do five minutes, and planned to do The Stand Set, as I continue to refer to it on account of the fact it was honed and tightened for that gig and I haven’t had/made time to work on it since. Just before leaving the house, I decided I’d do a couple of short poems to end on and grabbed my sheet of paper – even though I now know them by heart. Owing to the lack of a printer (or, more specifically, ink) I have handwritten two lots of poetry from the two nights in January when Malky asked me to do some – I wrote out two separate gig’s worth so as not to repeat myself a week later. These sheets still remain stapled in two separate bundles, and so when I got a text explaining that someone had pulled out and would I like to do ten minutes, I only had half my poetry with me. Which annoyingly meant I couldn’t do the dark AudioTwat stuff.
“Jesus welcomes you,” I began, to little reaction. That was how it stayed. Some laughs, the biggest when I called myself a fanny, and a resounding groan at the ‘fish’ bit. No laugh at that, and so I used the follow-up lines. Further to Sandy Nelson’s suggestion, I have now decided that – if I get a laugh and round of applause, I will end there. If I get a groan I will use them. It seems to work, so far.
The set went kind of alright, but I really felt I was struggling. I’d had hee-haw sleep the night before, and had been out all day, so I was a bit under-prepared. I interjected an anecdote just after the halfway point, explaining “This isn’t in the script. I say script – if you look closely you’ll see it looks suspiciously like the back of my hand.” My brother-in-law is a plumber, and he’s putting in a system for a woman he discovered was a Gladiator in the TV show of that name. “Not one of the good ones, like Jet or Wolf or Nightshade, one from the new version nobody’s seen. I said where’s your boiler? She said ‘up there’ – it was up a fucking Travelator. Have you ever tried to mend pipes while being beaten with a pugil stick?” – that got enough of a response, and has sufficient nostalgia attached, that I plan to work on it and try and get some more material from it. I did once queue up for two hours at a gala day in Hamilton just to get Jet’s autograph. Turned out that’s not even her real name.
The tut came from an older guy sitting down the front. I said about the shop near me with the sign “Cat and Dog Grooming Service” – “I thought it was bad enough when they were just grooming children.” To be blunt, that’s the least offensive paedo joke you’re likely to hear. It’s just a silly play on words, and compared to some of the material I’ve heard recently it’s nothing. Still, maybe he felt that was the tone lowered, like my nine uses of the word ‘cunt’ hadn’t already dragged us down. Fuck it. Can’t please everyone.
My poetry then went abominably, I was so fuelled trying to get laughs that I forgot the words to the poems I knew, my pages were open in the wrong order, I can’t even remember why I was “Sieg Heil”-ing while waving my notes in the air. Desperately trying to get laughs, obviously. I think it was an inadvertent gesture that I then called attention to and expanded. Anyway, I regret not having my really dark stuff with me, I think they’d have hated it. But I enjoy reading it just for the reactions it gets, as people squirm and wonder where the hell the joke is – it’s rather graphic. I just sort of fizzled out instead and then went straight through to the bar afterwards – “Is it true there’s drinks available for comedians who have died on their arse?” I asked the barmaid. Yes. “Excellent, I just died on my arse, give me a bourbon and coke please.”
Derek Baillie opened the second half and did quite well, helped by his two comic songs – clever lyrical reworkings to age-old Sunday School Songs. I’d never met him before tonight, though he did have a go at me on the forum just the day before. There has been mention of open spots with mouths bigger than their abilities should permit, and I had just replied to a question asked. My answer, based on my observations, was later expanded upon by someone with far greater experience. Derek had a go at me for expressing an opinion and for the way I worded it – rather than having any apparent issue with what my stated opinion actually was. I replied as succinctly and light-heartedly as I could, and in the cold light of day he backed down. So it was good to meet him in person so soon afterwards and have the air cleared. You can read our brief conversation on the forum here.
With the crowd now getting into it properly, Andy Learmouth went up to close the second section. He did brilliantly well – I’d never heard of him previously, but he displayed great skill in winning the audience, in keeping them laughing, and had great material. When he rejoined us at the interval he too said he’d found it a tough crowd and really hard work to keep them onside.
Graham Mackie headlined, and did very well. I’ve only seen him a couple of times and I still enjoy hearing his material and seeing how he adapts to a room. I had the presence of mind to ask him later how he’d found the audience, and he said that the laughs kept dropping and he kept having to pick it up – that for the size of room and size of crowd [fifty or so] usually the laugh would last longer. Tonight the laugh came, and then died almost as quickly.
So it was a good night, and a good experience, despite being a bit of a nervewracking gig – I managed to sink something like five Bulleits and Coke and since I was tired and don’t really drink that did it for me. I’d only planned to drink water too. As I later posted on facebook: “Nothing kills the intention of sobriety like the words “there’s a bar tab for the comedians.” I hope you enjoyed not laughing at my jokes as much as I enjoyed not paying to get drunk. :-)”
I then had an unplanned hour-long facebook session generating material about endangered turtles for my next gig, another charity thing on Wednesday. This was with my friend Marion, who is to blame for my ‘peanut allergy’ line, and who probably has a sense of humour closer to mine than anyone else I’ve met. Some of the stuff she came up with was so good I asked if I could use it, and she kindly agreed. When I’m rich and famous I will buy all the people who have helped me nice things. Tonight though, when I went to collate it all into a script, I heard from the organiser that it is not a night dedicated to saving endangered turtles after all, it is in aid of the Student Hardship Fund and he’d been fed the wrong information as the friend he is helping works for both causes. I told him fuck it, I’m doing turtle material anyway. Like I said to Marion last night “It’s gonna be ten minutes of turtle-specific material that’s topical for one gig, and then ten years telling people about this gig I did to save turtles just so I can use it again.” If you don’t like it don’t snap at me… [that’s a new one, might keep it.]
Next gig: Wednesday 16th (tonight!) at Qudos, QMU, Glasgow Uni. From 9pm, it’ll be three or four quid or something to get in I expect. Come down to support student welfare, and hear totally irrelevant material about saving endangered turtles. 😀