Gig 48: Covers Night, Halt Bar, 30th August 2011

The premise for tonight’s gig was simple, summed up in the tagline Malky posted online.

“Fed up doing your material night after night to crowds at the festival? Come down to the Halt Bar and do your mate’s or fellow comedian’s. You know his stuff and you know you can do it better.”

I’ve been saying for as long as this gig has been mooted that I wanted to cover Darren Connell, as he is one of the funniest acts I know but also one of the most humble, and everyone loves him for it. Which was the problem, as when the date was finally set for this gig there was an influx of wannabe Connells, which I learned from Malky early enough to change my mind. Rather than risk treading on the toes of people covering other acts, I decided, mostly on a whim, to cover someone outwith the scene. Specifically, Rowan Atkinson, whose one-man show was one of the first “stand-up” videos I ever saw. I put that in inverted commas as it’s more a collection of live sketches and character monologues than conventional stand-up. Years after I watched my big cousin’s VHS, I finally tracked my own copy down on ebay, and I think it was this show which was eventually released as a DVD a couple of years ago. Which is to say, Mr Bean and Blackadder is not as widely known for his early solo stage shows, and I thought it might be new to much of the audience. Here, to quell your curiosity, is the original skit:

I figured it would be easy to pick up the necessary props, a clipboard and set of devil horns, as I had seen both in a pound shop a few days previously. I got hold of a clipboard straight away, but what I hadn’t banked on was the intervening weekend, in which all the hen-night accessories must have disappeared off the shelves. Given the lateness of the hour when I made it into the town, my options were limited as the third Poundland in a row yielded nothing. I tried Stuff, which always carries a range of “adult novelty” shit, and they couldn’t help either. With no party shops open, or even within the vicinity, I realised I would need to improvise. Returning to the nearest pound shop, I found a pair of black devil horns on a hairband, and contemplated how to best make them red with the limited resources available (coloured paper? None. White paper coloured in red? Didn’t trust their red pens to last the length of the job. Tissue paper? No red sheets in any of the packs they had.) I eventually settled on a small pair of girls red socks, and also picked up some sellotape and a pair of scissors.

I was meeting Debby before the gig, and sat in the Bier Halle on Sauchiehall Street being all crafty as I cut the frilly tops off the socks, then trimmed the foot part down to fit neatly over the horns and meet the hairband. A bit of tape round the tops held them in place, tight to the contours of the underlying horn, and I held the bottom in place using the elasticated red sock offcuts. It didn’t look at all bad, for five minutes work and knowing they’d be seen from a distance. The only real bastards were that instead of spending a quid on a dedicated prop I’d just spent four on a bodged affair, for a sketch that only lasts three minutes when done correctly, and that I’d had to spend time being vaguely creative when I badly needed to memorise the script. The one good thing about this sketch, though, is that Atkinson holds and refers to notes on his clipboard throughout, which meant I could cheat massively and just have the words in my hand.

The unexpected highlight of the night was compere Chris Stephen, whose gamut ran to passable, hilarious covers of Chris Henry, John Purves (he had that to perfection), Obie, Adam Struth (while standing on a crate to cover the required height), Geoff Gawler, and others. John McGovern had asked if he could cover me, which was pretty flattering. Our mutual friend, film-maker Matthew Cowan, was planning to cover me and rip the piss mercilessly, but it clashed with his jaunt to America and thus McGovern took up the mantle. The first couple of acts were funny, gentle pisstakes of a Halt regular and Scottish legend Dorothy Paul (David Black in a wig), before McGovern got up to cover my set. I’ve told him to cover my blog too, and will add that into this one when I get it. He opened with the whole “hating people” line, through an abbreviated “fish” bit, into the “cunt” stuff. He fell down on that, breaking character to say he’s not a fan of using that word and “I wish I’d covered someone else.” In the spirit of humour, I chipped in with a “So do I!” and got a laugh. He ended with some of my “Gladiators” material, introducing the word bonjour and a pause to the French part of that bit. It got a laugh and I told him I’m using that. As it stands, that’s the bit of my set people seem to like most (it’s also now the longest standing bit of my current set too) and it won’t hurt to subtly expand it. While I was happy for him to cover my set anyway, I was really happy to actually get a little material from it.

Malky did a decent turn as Richard Gadd, deliberately mixing up the punchlines and adding his own spin to things. The second half opened with Debby “doing” Malky, hitting out with trademark lines and frequent references to cable ties, his van, and asking all the girls if they were single. Because I count him as a friend, and because the line is getting blurred, it’s worth mentioning that Malky is a character act, a stage persona, and that his offstage alter-ego John Mitchell is actually a good guy whose intentions are mostly respectable. If it gets too out of hand I suspect he will just drop the Malky character and associated material rather than risk being placed on the Register.

Daniel Webster covered Raymond Mearns while wearing a dress that barely fitted, and I followed him with my less-revealing costume of devil horns and clipboard. I was in a shite mood by the time I took the stage (in truth, for various personal reasons, I’ve been in a few shite moods this past week), and had to adjust the mic stand to the right height, as I needed both my hands free and wouldn’t be able to just hold the mic as normal. That done, I reintroduced myself, and began. I didn’t attempt to mimic the accent, delivered my own interpretation of the necessary gestures rather than giving a verbatim rendition, and enunciated properly. I tried to get the inflections right, and I got some decent laughs before eventually stumbling over the parting line of the script and giving up on an attempt to correct myself. It essentially ends with a succinct “bye” anyway, and went okay considering that – with all the running around looking for props, resulting necessary handiwork, it not being my first choice, and just personal shit in my head – my heart wasn’t really in it. Thankfully, the night promptly took an upturn…

I was followed by Allan Park, Gareth Waugh and Rod Hunter all doing their incarnations of Darren Connell. Allan looked closest to him, Gareth got the voices almost perfect, and Rod got some mileage from being the third in a row to do the same jokes, and from being roughly twice Connell’s age. All very funny, and there was an audience vote straight afterwards to determine the closest resemblance. Gareth won, amid the audience protestations that the real Connell looks nothing like himself.

The rest of the night is a bit of a blur, which I attribute to the fact that after the gig I coerced Sarah and Ed back to my flat with the lure of booze, where we sat up til 7am killing a litre and a half of rum and watching music DVDs. Like everyone who has ever been in my flat at any time ever before them, I made them watch the greatest stage effect in the history of ever – the moment when Alice Cooper runs out of a video and onto the stage, like this:

Anyway, with occasional breaks in character, Jim Hobbit covered George Carlin, Connell covered Hobbit, Will Setchell covered Ross Main while wearing a tape beard and moustache, Ross reciprocated spontaneously with the quick delivery of a wank gag, Obie covered James Kirk, Ed did his take on improv duo Garry and Stu, Rob Kane covered a couple of local acts and Rhod Gilbert, Scott Brown covered Billy Connolly, and other people covered other people, probably. The upshot is, it was an anarchic but fun night, busy and upbeat. It’s also pretty unique in the comedy calendar, and a welcome distraction for those fatigued from the fringe. The audience vote to determine the three finalists was boisterous, and McGovern got a louder cheer than I did. He pointed this out to me later, saying that it means I “am therefore funnier than Rowan Atkinson”. I can’t help but feel that that logic is deeply flawed…

I’ve got four gigs booked for September – the first in Liverpool on the 11th. It’s one of the few major English cities I’ve never visited, and that’s also the last day of my twenties so I hope it’s fun and I don’t die. Metaphorically or literally. If you are in the area and able to come, let me know – be good to see some familiar faces, and I’ll link you to a three-quid-ticket offer.

I’m then booked, barring cancellations or cold feet, to compere the Glasgow Uberbyte gig at the Classic Grand on the 25th, which will be my first such undertaking since the Combicompering I did in London. The night after that I’m guesting in The Impenetrable Click sketch show, probably doing part character act, part double act with myself, since they requested “experimental comedy”. Then on the 27th I’ll be at The Stand’s Red Raw night, doing five minutes of my current set. Three nights, three very different gigs.

For now, I’ll leave you with this sentence – which will be replaced with McGovern’s contribution to this blog, when I get it. Bye.

John McGovern covers the blog:

Aye so as part of my covering of Jordan’s set on Tuesday I also now have the opportunity to blog about the gig. To be honest this seemed a much better idea with two units of alcohol in hand and many more in my system, but what can you do…

Before the Gig

I was much less nervous before this one, probably the most relaxed I’ve ever been so far. Granted that’s not exactly been long. Nevertheless I was for once able to actually converse with people before going on stage and this time without once resorting to a scream like pitch. Well that’s not strictly true there was one small screech, but its practically the pre-show ritual now. If I’m honest the reason why I was so much calmer was probably to do with the fact it wasn’t my material, it was Jordan’s, whats more it had been lifted from several videos of Jordan (available for your viewing pleasure on this very site, somewhere) so I already knew that the material was clever and funny. I think that simply because it wasn’t my material, I was able to relax, I wasn’t worried about whether people would get my sense of humour.   Its no longer quite so personal if nobody laughs. That’s complete bollocks, all of it killed when Jordan did it, the material’s funny I was just able to delude myself. Never underestimate the power of self-delusion.

Despite watching a lot of videos of Jordan I never properly formalised a set. Partly due to how busy I was and partly due to the fact I was wanting to try a new way of working out and remembering a set.  Usually what I do is write out every single word I might possibly say, check that at least I think there is a joke every third line and then memorise, word for word. However a few conversations with other far more established and far funnier acts have led me to believe this may not be the greatest idea. [editor’s note: it’s about 24 minutes into this podcast]

Now having tried out this new technique of just writing down buzzwords I have to say. Not a fan. If I was telling you face to face I’d probably shake my head in that annoying way I do on stage just to emphasise my lack of fanhood. The one other thing I really wanted to focus on this time round was speaking slowly. Soon as I’m the least bit nervous I fire out words faster than… well something cliched and renowned for firing things out quickly.

During the Gig

Looking back I see I titled the last bit “Before the Gig” which kinda now locks me into some three part thing… fuck it I could go back and correct it but no, I’m writing this on paper. Too much effort.

Aye so during the gig, shat myself as usual but I think I got away with it. Which in the end is all that matters. Also at this point I should apologise for a fair majority of this post’s content. Pieces were written while the author was rather delirious from, well actually I’ll spare you the graphic details. I was ill. It was messy.

And that’s why this was late Jordan

Thanks for reading,
John McGovern

P.S. I know there’s no “After the Gig” section, I got pissed, no real surprise there.

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About Jordan

I try to write engaging, witty, clever things. Sometimes I manage. I've done some low-key stand-up comedy, & I post blogs about true daft experiences. View all posts by Jordan

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