This was one of the toughest crowds I’ve played to yet, and I’ve done the Victoria Bar.
It was also a tough heat, as at least three people said to me independently of each other during the week, when I told them the line-up. When I pressed them on how they qualified this, I had it explained that there were no clear favourites, and nobody that you could expect to fail. Pretty much everyone competing tonight is capable of confidently delivering strong sets with high gag rates.
It was a beautiful day, sunny and hitting 20 degrees, and so by half past eight the basement of The State was like a sauna – marginally hotter than the surface of the sun. It was unbearably hot from the off, and so – despite being on early in the first half, when the audience were still warming up – I hoped that the audience would get so hot and uncomfortable that by the second half they’d be paying less attention, and that that might work in my favour.
Rod Hunter opened, and I was on second. After having my introduction lengthened by a man going to the bar and being chatted to by compere Scott Agnew as a result, I took to the stage with my set. We were allowed to do seven minutes, but due to the removal of the under-age Dan Petherbridge from the bill, promoter Alan Anderson had given us up to eight minutes each. I’d timed my set in the house, and it came in at around six minutes without laughs. And that’s exactly how it went: without laughs.
I’d decided to do my “Random” set, which has gone done very well in the Bier Halle and The Halt, and then follow it with my honed “Gladiators” bit since that worked well for me in my previous gig, in Balloch. I have previously ended with other anecdotes, and had thought about doing an untested one (on stage, anyway – it works well in conversation) or re-telling my story about Mortiis. The video of that gig, at The Halt two days after I compered the Combichrist gig, has just been uploaded and so, watching it back, I see that I can definitely use the Mortiis set in future. The bit about CC doesn’t work if you have no familiarity with them, I realise, but the bit about Mortiis has merit – if I’d had more than a day between seeing the video and having my heat I’d have transcribed that bit and used it tonight.
I could have resurrected an old set from one of my Stand gigs, but the “Random” stuff has (so far) always got hugely positive reactions and the Gladiators stuff never fails to go well so, pressed for time, I linked them together. Unfortunately, the audience really didn’t go for any of it – even my “Brazilian” line, one of the biggest laughs I ever get, fell pretty flat. The row of booths at the back of the packed room laughed raucously, but there were only sporadic titters from the rest of the crowd. I even threw in my ad-lib by looking at the list on my hand and doing the line about “You think I’d know what I hate” – but (unlike the past two occasions I’ve used it) it got almost nothing at all.
All of my material about modern parlance fell flat too, which I attribute to the audience tonight being older. That stuff works really well with the 18 – 35 audience who populate the Halt, Bier Halle, Stand, the Balloch gig, etc, but it bypassed the 35 – 55 audience at this gig. The Gladiators stuff went a little better, but not much. My overriding memory of this gig is the silence I was met with for much of it. I finished with my “Jesus” line, my much-loved opener for so many of my gigs, and even that only drew a tired groan.
Chris Scoular went on after me, but I have to admit I listened to little of his set, instead standing in the stairwell where it was slightly cooler. Eddie Cassidy opened after the break, doing material I’ve heard before and which always works for him. He ended with some topical jokes about Amy Winehouse and the Norway shootings, which turned the audience against him and ended on a low note. Personally, there was one I found hilarious – but then last week when my friend turned to me as the news broke and said “Amy Winehouse is dead” my immediate reply was “Was she in Oslo?” Apparently that really was “Too soon.” I’ve never seen anyone’s jaw actually drop in shock before 😀
Scott Gibson followed Eddie, the pair of them my favourites to go through in this heat, and he eventually won it with Eddie coming second. Third place went to Jim Hobbit, who followed Scott. The night was rounded off by David Black, but by that time the overwhelming feeling I got from the audience was that they were too hot and too drunk to care.
The audience vote decided the winners, and Scott, Eddie and Hobbit now progress to the semi-final in September. To be honest, that’s my 30th birthday weekend so it suits me to not have it tied up with a competition heat. And the final is the same night as the Uberbyte gig, at which I’ll hopefully be compering, plus it’s being held in the Pavilion Theatre. I used to work there and, to put it extremely mildly, the boss and I don’t see eye to eye. You can ask anyone in Scottish theatre about the Pav and you’ll soon discover it doesn’t have a good reputation, because of him. Anyway, my point is it suits me to not go through in the SCOTY this year, and I wish the best of luck to all those taking part.
The most frustrating part of the whole evening was, this was only the third time Anderson has seen me gig. The first time was my first time, and so pretty dreadful. The second time was at Dram during the comedy festival, where he seemed to enjoy my set and actually remarked to the audience about how much progress I’d made. And then tonight I had a shite gig, which led to him asking me at the break “What happened there?” Since I’d like to get more gigs from him, it would have benefitted me to get some laughs tonight. It felt like a tough room though.
Still, on my way home, I passed Anniesland Station and found a ten pound note lying crumpled on the road outside it. So it’s swings and roundabouts. My next gig is at The Stand on Tuesday, and I plan to use my “Random” set and see what kind of reaction it gets. Hopefully I won’t be playing to an older crowd who have spent the day in beer gardens, and who now find themselves in a room so hot that the 17-degree outside evening temperature seems cool by comparison. Because, as I found out tonight, my set doesn’t get much response from them.
Onwards and upwards.