A sneaky little gig that, although it nearly didn’t go ahead, turned into a great wee night.
This was all arranged last minute, when I replied to a post on the forum when I got home from seeing Fast Romance last night. It’s finished its run a week early, so if you missed it you’re too late, you’ll have to wait for the DVD. I knew Malky was heading up to Balloch so figured I’d stick my name in knowing I could hopefully cadge a lift or at least get some company on the train journey up. We arrived at 7.45pm to be met outside by Gary Black, whose gig it is. “The owners are on holiday, they’ve booked a psychic for the lounge and are charging £15 a head, so we’re in the main bar – which has no PA or mic, so we might just cancel it.” We headed in to assess the situation.
And it was fine. We moved tables and stools into the main open area of the bar, with a corner of the bar perfect for us to sit in, and perform in front of. An amp arrived, and the remains of a microphone were located. Both worked, more or less, but by the time the gig started the amp had started buzzing and so, with an intimate audience of twenty sitting right in front of us, it was decided to go ahead without it. Which is a weird experience, doing stand-up and having both hands free. I put mine in my pockets mostly, though it probably just looks slovenly.
Iain Todd opened, after compere Gary Black had encouraged the audience to shout “Wooo-oooo” to spook those next door listening to the charlatan. I’d say psychic, but I know a bit about cold reading and find the whole deception fairly despicable, the trading on hope and blatant profiteering from grief. Charging fifteen quid (ten, if you take off the price of the included meal) to deliver messages from loved ones, but actually devised from things you have ascertained beforehand. Fuck off. That’s why I love Shirley Ghostman (played by phenomenal character actor Marc Wootton) – he sends them up mercilessly to unsuspecting punters.
Anyway, I was on second. I did my new stuff again, for the fourth time, and decided before leaving the house that the second “half” of my set would be a return to my Gladiators bit. With plenty of time available to me, I decided to finish by retelling the anecdote from Tuesday about my weekend, including the relating of my Mortiis and Combichrist sets, in context. I am now firmly of the belief that these sets are best directed at their audience only. The Mortiis set gets a few laughs, because people can relate to the events depicted and general observations therein, but the Combichrist set gets nothing. You really need to be familiar with their image, attitude, persona, lyrics and following to laugh at the (anti) feminist jokes, I think. I knew they were walking a thin line when I wrote them, and without that knowledge of the band and their audience, and without knowing me personally and my general attitude/demeanour, those jokes just don’t come across very well at all. So that was a weak point to end on.
Overall, though, my set was brilliantly received – loads of huge laughs, some applause, and really, if I’d been smart I’d have quit while I was ahead and bailed at the end of the Gladiators stuff. Or at least at the end of the Mortiis set. Lesson learned. Was still a great night though, and I’m very happy with the reaction I got. I realise this sounds like I’m blowing my own trumpet, but I do try to relay objectively how I feel my sets go. I won’t lie and say they all go well, they don’t and when that happens I try to suss out why not. But nor do they all go terribly, and tonight – considering the gig was nearly pulled, there was no PA, and I was playing to just 20 people – my set was well received and left me feeling happy. Well, until the inevitable post-gig comedown anyway…
After a short break, Malky followed me and did fifteen minutes. I was interested to see how his material was received out of town, because he gets a bad rep in Glasgow for having the same material, unrehearsed material, a dodgy persona, and no punchlines. Some of which is true, but he always does new material every week so inevitably some hits and some misses. Lately, though, he’s been doing really well with audiences – new sets that are more anecdote than pun, and having finalised in the Fife Stand Up of the Year competition too it seems that people are more willing to give him a chance. None of which phases him in the slightest, he just does what he does and enjoys it. The audience tonight were up for a fair bit of interaction, both with him and with each other, and it was a very lively set.
Gary followed him, doing a character act that revolves around panda material. I can’t say too much without giving away some of the surprise, but what he’s doing (and only for the third time) is different and highly entertaining – he had people unable to breathe for laughing so hard, and the timely arrival of a former work colleague only added to the hilarity. Martin Byron followed him to round off the night, with some cracking anecdotes including a new tale about a misunderstanding over a shooting(!) which was very funny – although it might only work in this part of the world.
All in all a really enjoyable night, with the line blurred between performer and audience by the proximity of the two and the lack of a mic/amplification to make the distinction clear-cut. Given that it was nearly cancelled before it was even given a chance, I’m glad it went ahead. We all enjoyed ourselves.
I was due to be on this Sunday at the Bier Halle, but the gig’s been cancelled. Keep checking back for new dates, at the moment the next gig is my heat in the Scottish Comedian of the Year competition, at the State Bar on 30th July.