It’s always slightly disconcerting to be told you’re the most experienced person in the room, right before being invited to co-headline.
I had only been in the main (club) room of The Flying Duck before, so was pleased to find that the smaller Kitchen Bar attached to it has a much better layout for comedy. It felt busy with twenty people in it, and by the time there were forty or fifty people in the place was packed. At three quid entry it ensured the audience were all there for the comedy too, with no disinterested passers-by making up the numbers or causing disruption.
Jointly organised by Gordons Smith and Struthers, neither of whom I’d previously met, the line-up included Iain McDonald opening, Ryan Carlton(?) doing his first ever spot, Jamie someone (sorry!), Smith compering and Struthers performing, then me with Will “Tweedy Duffer” closing – the first time I got to see his set, of the three times we have been billed together.
Gordon Smith comes across as a nervous compere, and benefitted from having the audience on his side from the off. After a brief introductory welcome he got the first act up – Iain McDonald, if I’ve remembered his name right. I’d never seen him before, and while some of his material was good it felt like it could be trimmed down so that he gets to his punchlines faster. I was slightly disheartened to hear him use a line very similar to my own, about having a mid-life crisis at thirty because in Glasgow that constitutes the mid-point of your life. Since mine sits in the middle of a few similar lines that tie together I decided to keep it in, relying on the four-comedian gap to get away with the slight repetition.
Gordon Struthers went up next, and asked me to take over from him manning the door while he did so. I missed his set, therefore, but could make out some of it from outside, and heard him getting heckled by some arsehole from the east coast shouting non-sequiturs in a falsetto voice. No idea what that was about, and I mentally reminded myself of some of my heckler put-downs. Being on so late in the bill, and with the compere reminding everyone that Jagermeister could be had for £1.50 a shot, I figured I might need to deal with some – and it would reflect badly if I couldn’t. Thankfully, that particular idiot left at some point afterwards and nobody else heckled.
After the break, Ryan went up to do his first ever spot and jesus, nobody should be that good on their first time out. Half the audience, it transpired, were his friends and family – but he had the other half laughing just as much. He did at least ten minutes, and came across better and funnier than some of the people I’ve seen who have been doing this for over a year. Seriously funny stuff, consistently so, and as long as he doesn’t peak too soon he’s definitely one to keep an eye on. I asked him afterwards how much planning he’d done – 31st January he started writing, and spent the past week honing. So yeah, for whatever my opinion might be worth, I was impressed.
After him came a physics student called Jamie (if memory serves), who suffered from having to follow Ryan. He came across as far more nervous, with a less consistent gag rate, kept referring to lines that hadn’t got the laughs he expected, and eventually just sort of fizzled out. A shame, and he might have done better if he’d gone on before and not after.
During the second break, people started leaving – some of them Ryan’s supporters – and so Gordon Smith asked me if I’d mind going straight on, more or less. I said not, and got up while there were still people outside smoking, half a dozen punters at the bar next to the stage, and others were still in the toilets. In hindsight, I should have waited five minutes for the bar to clear.
As I began, I got two or three lines in and realised the interval music was still playing under me. I asked for it to be turned off, and evidently someone was on it because it ceased immediately. I ad-libbed and said “See that, I wished for it and it happened instantly. And now for a chorus of twenty naked dancing girls!” Turns out I’d used up my powers though. My first five minutes went reasonably well, the ‘Brazilian’ line and ‘fish’ punchline got the biggest laughs as ever. I went from there into a new bit I’ve got but only half written about the overuse of the word “random”, and that went very well. From there, I went into the Gladiator/Plumbing stuff and again it went reasonably well – some lines get better reactions than others, but I still haven’t written it down let alone honed it so it’s a work-in-progress.
From there, I told them I was going to do some comic poetry. I think this is where I kind of punched upwards with my left hand to get everyone to go “yeah!”, because there had been no reaction when I announced that this was my intention. Then I ad-libbed some more and asked if the upward punch got a “yes” would a downward punch get a “no” – it did! So I got them all to cheer once more and launched into it. Like I said before, it was great having such a receptive audience there purely for comedy, and the fact that they went along with my pantomimical request to get them all joining in. I might keep that in. I have always shied away from beginning my set by saying “hello Glasgow!” or asking “how we all doing?” – the first seems twee, the second has no real answer that can be shouted in unison. And when you’re only doing five minutes and three people have already opened the same way, I prefer to go straight in with a joke. Presently, I say “Jesus welcomes you with open arms” and then separate mic and stand, placing the stand off to the side before delivering the punchline. When I started I’d separate mic and stand before speaking, which was a mistake and made me look (and feel) awkward, so I quickly learned to give them a set-up, get rid of the stand, and then deliver the punchline, free to continue on unhindered.
So yes, I might keep that cheering bit in just as a way of incorporating some audience interaction. The third poem was the one about the Nazi bus driver. Since I had time (I’d checked if it was okay to go a wee bit over: answer “Sure, that means I have to do less!”), I related the full story of getting chucked off a bus for being 30p short on my fare. This was the anecdote that made me over-run on Wednesday, but tonight I told it in full, adding in extra details and generally enjoying myself. It got a great response, so much so that I’m about to write it down so I can keep using it. Of course, this immediately proved the point Chris Conroy made the other night, that I should be recording myself for this very reason. Since I had to get back into poetry after going on this sizeable tangent, in future I will open with this poem and structure it: material, poem, material, poem, poem, poem. Which just seems a tidier way to do things rather than starting poetry, going back to material, then continuing with poetry. Trial and error, I’ll be working on this and also trying to decide what of this ten to fifteen minutes I now have I’ll use in the five minute slots which are all I mostly have lined up. Hopefully after the Comedy Festival I’ll be able to start doing ten minutes with Pop-Up Comedy, at least.
My friend Rebecca, who has seen me once or twice before and who encouraged me to go into comedy in some shape or form, told me later that she thinks I seem much more confident on stage and have improved since she last saw me (in January) – partly that was all the ad-libbed audience participation, or the fact that as “co-headliner” I felt I should up my game, although it could be the fact I have honed my old material since then and added in new stuff. Whatever it comes down to, I’m glad I seem to be improving. She also knows that I prefer straight-talkers, so I can rely on her to not just be pandering to my ego.
Tweedy Duffer rounded off the night, a character act whom I’ve seen at two gigs previously – both of which got pulled before he got the chance to go on. He satirises a Tory Minister with many and varied pop culture references, and I enjoyed his set. His routine is better rehearsed and flows much better than mine, so he comes across more professionally and made for the better headliner tonight.
With gigs lined up every Saturday for the next three weeks, it will be interesting to see the calibre of acts that are on the bill – I certainly didn’t expect to be one of the more experienced turns tonight, and one of the Gordons admitted this was only his third gig. After my experience in Penicuik, and the wider opinions expressed as a whole on that topic, I’m wary of seemingly-inexperienced acts* putting on shows and charging entry fees to see other inexperienced acts – but on the basis of tonight, they might wing it. It also helps, I suppose, that since it is a cheap Saturday night out in the middle of the Comedy Festival people might be more willing to take a punt on it. Unlike in Penicuik, for example, where one bad experience paying to see “substandard” acts could have a serious knock-on effect when it comes to other promoters trying to put on “proper” comedy bills. Once bitten twice shy, and all that.
* By “inexperienced acts” I mean just that – acts who haven’t had much stage time. It doesn’t mean they are bad acts, or unfunny, or that they are bad or inexperienced as organisers or promoters. The ‘problem’ seems to arise with people setting up gigs purely to get the stage time no-one else will give them, without doing any real research into how to run a comedy night. For the avoidance of doubt, I’m not saying that this is the case here.
I half volunteered and was half invited to play here again next week, when Gordon Struthers will be compering and (presumably) Gordon Smith will be performing, so I look forward to that. Not sure who else will be on the bill, but that helps make it quite exciting – tonight had some really good acts on as well as a couple who suffered for one reason or another. At just £3 to get in, you should come along on Saturday 26th at 7.30pm and find out for yourself.