“Indian Night” was conceived some months back. when Nix – our friend and long-time supporter of Pop-Up Comedy – was deported/extradited/asked to leave the UK and forced to return to her native Canada. Of Indian heritage, Malky decided to hold what quickly became known as “Casual Racism Night” in her honour and in her absence. The line-up consisted of people with dubious Indian affiliations – Joe Hullait, with his material about being half Indian, Asim Ali whose heritage is actually Pakistani, I believe, Rik Carranza, Dee Custance and others for reasons only Malky knows, and McGovern and I on account of the fact we have (or had at the time) both got mohican haircuts. Indian night also covered Red Indians, see. Jim Hobbit compered on account of the fact “he’s a radge!”
When the date was finally set, it clashed with my Red Raw booking at The Stand. Malky was happy to let me do both gigs though, and I arranged to do this one first and then head down the road to do the other. This, as it transpired, was quite a serendipitous way to do it.
Having slept for two and a half hours before getting up for a meeting, I finally managed to get some sleep when I got back home at 11am – I’d say my sleep pattern is fucked, but to describe it as a pattern is mistaken. I could have curtailed my social activities this weekend, knowing I had to do four different gigs in the space of three nights, but I didn’t. I had fun. It did mean, though, that I woke in the afternoon with no real idea as to what material I should do at either gig – it seemed a waste to go back to the “Random” set which has been honed over the past two or three months, since I’ve just written new material for, and got material from, two totally different and unique gigs. With a tight five minutes maximum, I had to decide precisely what aspects of these gigs, or their sets, I would have time to do, and would enjoy doing. I quickly scribbled down a few keywords and settled on the anecdotal tale of handcuffs, and the “tattoo” joke that sort of backfired (told almost exactly as written in the previous blog), the reaction I got at the Uberbyte gig, some new stuff about the broo [jobcentre/dole], and the 3D Films bit. It’s all worked fine in conversation, and so I knew that, despite not timing or rehearsing it properly, I could at least deliver it fluently.
Because I was on at The Halt first, and in fact literally on first, I was able to ask Malky and Sarah to time me so that I had an idea of how much I’d have to cut or tighten. Malky allowed me some leeway with my stage time, which let me run over a wee bit, as opposed to the Stand who cut the mic, play the music and bring on the compere if you go over – their bills are much tighter as they close earlier, and it also encourages professionalism.
Hobbit opened the show, welcoming people in as he relished his shot at compering – something he’s expressed interest in doing for a long while. He cracks me up and, standing at the end of the bar waiting to go on, I accidentally spat out a mouthful of water laughing at his rendition of “Gentleman in Red” to a guy wearing that colour shirt. I just read the best review of him I’ve seen so far, on the Comedy Forum and written by Jamie Andrew, with whom I gigged in Edinburgh.
I have never, EVER laughed that hard at any comedian – not on the circuit, not on DVD. I had tears streaming down my face, and sore stomach muscles. The Hobbit prowled the performing area like a crazed, dishevelled savant, shouting out a series of gags, insane ramblings and non sequiturs, which almost literally floored me. I don’t quite know how to describe what happened, or how he did it, or whether aliens beamed down and stole my thoughts or horribly violated me. Whatever you think of The Hobbit’s joke crafting, or technique, he was genuinely, genuinely fun and entertaining to watch last night, and off-stage a lovely, endearing, interesting, chatty wee fella to boot. Mental on-stage, though, like, genuinely mental, but I fucking loved it.
So, yeah. After playing sitcom theme tunes on his kazoo for us to guess, he began my laboured introduction by saying I’m a man he could only describe as “tall, wearing a black t-shirt, and standing at the end of the bar.” As descriptions go, I’ve been called far, far worse. He asked me to the stage, but paused to ask me to whisper him a theme tune for the audience to guess. Just prior to this, either Will Setchell or Steven Halcrow had quietly suggested “Allo Allo”, so that saved me thinking of one and I just passed it on. Funnily enough, they guessed it immediately…
I opened with an Uberbyte lyric – “You came here for a show, so come on motherfuckers, let’s go!” and related my experience of the gig on Sunday. It’s much the same as written in that blog, the three different introductions I gave myself while battling audience apathy, but with the addition of “If I could sum it up in one word, it’d be: silent.” I also thought to add in a bit about people wondering what was happening, while peering from a distance – “Is that the band? Why is it just one guy with no instruments? I hope it’s not an unplugged set, they’re an entirely electronic band.”
From there, I spoke of the prison-based character act and the “tattoo” on my knuckles. I told it exactly as I wrote it in my blog – the joke didn’t work as it was dark and the audience were too far away to see what was written, and then the joke was on me when I realised the ink I used won’t fade for three days. That helped lead me into my anecdote about the clothes I used to wear while working as a civil servant (it was a temporary contract, eight years ago) and that got a great reaction again. I’d related the anecdote to Malky a while ago and he laughed, as did someone else (I forget who) another time, but the Click gig the previous night was its first audience outing, and it was really well received. I mentioned the four pairs of handcuffs, made a reference to Malky on account of his character’s reputation, and then did a Harry Hill-style punt into the audience as I triumphantly said “easy joke!”
At some point, one person applauded alone and I thanked them – “One person liked that, or there’s a seal in” – and at a pause in an anecdote somebody off to my right said something inaudible. I turned with an off-the-cuff “I don’t know what you said, but it was probably less interesting than where I’m going with this” and gave him a smile so he didn’t take it personally and kill me.
I’d say that much of my set was ad-libbed, except there was no lib to which to add. The tales of the broo are based on my personal experiences, and while one of them was – it turned out – too drawn out and not very funny (I was asked to remove my ipod “for health and safety”), a short one-liner about their security personnel went okay, and then my experience of being on one of their computer courses served me well. I could feel myself getting increasingly irate and just went with it, properly shouting in anger and releasing some of the frustration I’ve long felt while signing on. With reference to the “Random” set, which many in the crowd have seen, I said “hating people is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg.” It’s probably the most passionately I’ve ever delivered a set. Not probably, it IS the most passionate I’ve been while doing material. Nobody is truly incompetent until they work for the government. I think it’s time to put this bit into my set, and develop it – and with it, my stage persona.
I finished with my 3D film jokes, of which there are three, and then just announced that I was going to “fuck off” – I seem to have said that a lot this week, closed sets by saying “I’m going to fuck off now.” Maybe I’ll keep it as my ending line, since it’s different from the usual “you’ve been wonderful” accords and more in keeping with, well, me. I left the stage and walked past Malky, who held up his phone as I passed and I clocked that it read 7:36 or so. Heading to the back of the room, Setchell caught me at the bar to say he’d really liked the “four handcuffs” bit and told me he’d missed it at the Click gig. I thanked him as I made to leave, due at the Stand imminently, and as I passed Sarah she too let me read her phone’s timer display and I saw she had me down as doing 7:44 – this meant I needed to trim three minutes off my set, and had about half an hour to work out how.
And so it was that I made my way down Woodlands Road, mentally preparing for the second gig of the evening…