Tonight turned into a really good one, despite a slow start – for two hours I was the only person in the bar. Owing to Malky’s absence (he was participating in the Fife Stand-Up of the Year competition, and made it through to the final) I was running the gig. To some degree anyway, since he’d already set up the PA and banner, and had left me a list of performers. My part was just to arrive early, write down eight names, and see that the necessary people got their fees. Having never structured a running order before, but benefitting from a knowledge of seven of the eight turns, I tried to mix it up a bit and place people next to folk who would complement them. Not sure how successfully I did that, but the audience seemed to enjoy it.
John Walker opened, using some of his lighter material (with Frankie Boyle as a key influence, he has some pretty harsh gags in his repertoire), finishing with his bit about leaving facebook. Having deactivated my account a couple of times, I find this spot on and also very funny. He was followed by James Bolland, a newcomer who lacked confidence but who had some good material. Having no familiarity with his style, it was unfortunate that his plethora of wank gags were delivered at the same time as the closest table were tucking into their dinner. Pitfalls of performing in a restaurant, I guess. I had already vetoed my Nightbus Vomit anecdote in advance, on the grounds that nobody eating pizza wants to hear about the pavement pizza. That’ll have to wait for a regular pub gig.
Ray Bradshaw is an excellent compere, who has a number of ways of engaging with an audience. His style is different to Chris Henry’s, but just as beguiling. Chloe Philip opened her set with some new material which I really liked. I can’t remember any of it, but I remember that I liked it a lot. Chris Grady then ended the first section, again introducing new material into his set too. His writing is always very well structured, probably due to his day job as an editor, and his new bit relating to a dead goldfish is very entertaining. Both Chloe and Chris feature in the Comedy Unit‘s series of “Rough Cuts” podcasts, which showcase new writers of sketches and comedy songs. It’s available free, and you can download the first episode here. Five further episodes will be released over the next ten weeks.
Jamie Dalgleish began the second section, also doing new material. His confidence has improved since I first saw him, and he always has a combination of mental anecdote mixed with precise observation. This was no different, and he delivered a hilarious anecdote, based in religion and weed, to an appreciative crowd. There was some banter with a few Celtic fans at the bar, but thankfully it didn’t amount to any more than that. Sarah Short followed him, being interrupted by one of these Celtic fans leaning back against a ledge and setting his hooded top on fire on the candle that stood there. After some uncertainty as to the claim made by his friend (“Yeer oan fire”), he hastily removed his top and smothered the glowing embers. Watching him poke his hand through the hood, it was evident that if it rained on the way home he was getting wet.
I had some new material too, so much of it that it wasn’t until I got home that I realised I’d totally forgotten a routine I’d meant to do. I opened with my Brazilian joke this time, letting it stand by itself rather than in with its usual counterparts, and then launched into a daft play on words that takes a very old opening line from a thousand jokes and goes wandering. It still needs work, but for its first airing it did not bad – some lines are better than others, some references were (I think) lost, but overall I think it went okay and I’ll continue to work on it. My second routine is the true anecdote of a former work colleague who has his own name tattooed on his arm. This needs a lot of work, despite it being the subject of many jokes over the years, and wasn’t helped by the fact I had to keep referring to the notes scrawled on my hand – we came up with so many jokes during our time working there that I wanted to make sure I got them all in, at the expense of a smooth flow as it turned out. I suggested that maybe he got it done owing to forgetfulness, catching myself and getting a laugh when I pointed out that I’d had to write that on my hand so I didn’t forget to tell it. A wee irony there.
I ended with the Gladiator Plumbing stuff, because it gets a good reaction and I wanted to end with something I know works. This was the first time I’ve done three routines, usually I do a routine, a series of one-liners, and then a second routine. It felt good doing something different, and I think the opening bit is the closest I’ve come to writing in the style in which I speak – short, silly, nonsensical ideas routed around a series of related puns. In the documentary “American: The Bill Hicks Story” it is mentioned that a great comic is one whose outer voice matches his inner one. I try to be true to myself anyway, and having heard throughout my entire life that my sense of humour is variously weird, strange, unique, and so on, I hope to eventually write material that only I can write. If I keep this blog up, we can find out together whether or not I have the ability and talent to do that.
After posting on the comedy forum on Friday about problems I (feel I) have when trying to write, Jo Caulfield tweeted me some really useful advice and recommended a few books for me to check out. They’re due to be delivered this week. She too, having watched my latest video (” = good”) and further to everyone I mentioned at The Stand, advised me to drop the Cunt stuff, and like me she has noticed that it has thoroughly saturated the Scottish comedy circuit. She was able to add a further five or so names to the five or so I already know of doing such material, confirming my decision to drop it. I am hyper-critical of comedy anyway, and feel annoyed and frustrated when I hear manifold versions of the same observation. There is another doing the rounds, that I’m keeping close to my chest though you’ll definitely have heard it, which has infiltrated every level of comedy and which drives me mental – I have an anti-version of that which I’m working on, which will end up in sketch format if I finish it.
Julia Sutherland followed me to round off the second section, and she had some Malaria gags (an expansion of her current material) which I hadn’t previously heard, one of which made me laugh a lot. I always enjoy hearing about the time a first date took an unexpected turn too, it’s a funny tale well told. Later, she mentioned that she’s noticed my confidence has grown – as ever, I’m grateful when people take the time to compliment me, or to acknowledge that they see improvement.
Viv Gee moved seats prior to her headline spot, accidentally leaning back against something that was no longer behind her during Ray’s introduction. After suffering that indignity, hilarious as it was, she picked herself up and delivered a cracking set. I’ve only seen her compere before, and it was unfortunate that time was against us and she had to curtail her act slightly. She ended with a very nicely written and well-delivered poem about “chat” and, as the old adage goes, left me wanting more. I hope to catch her again soon.
The pub emptied fairly sharpish, and I stripped down all the gear for Malky to pick up tomorrow. I enjoy the set-up and take-down of equipment, I’ve been doing it in some capacity since I was 13 and worked backstage on my first school show – although I’m happy helping others out rather than trying to run a gig myself. Fair play to anyone who takes on that responsibility.
No idea when my next gig is – August is my next booking, but I suspect something will crop up before then. Meantime, it’s time to write up the other new bits I’ve got, and hone these ones I did tonight. Onwards and upwards, my friends. 🙂