This gig turned into another example of Mental Things That Happen To Me. In a good way, mind.
I walked down from The Halt, turning my set over in my head and trying to work out the best way to lose three minutes from a routine that was neither particularly routined nor rehearsed – I had nothing written down, save a handful of keywords, and was doing my set from memory and in a conversational, off-the-cuff way. There were obvious cuts to make – the ipod broo story for one – and places where I could trim the set down, by not opening with a quote of Uberbyte’s lyrics for instance. I decided to keep in the Uberbyte Intros bit, but just deliver it as succinctly as possible. The “tattoo” story would work, I would just get through it as quickly as possible and then the “four handcuffs” bit HAD to stay as it was a sizeable chunk of the set and a bit that has started proving itself straight off. The broo bit would also use a good couple of minutes, and then I would just ditch the 3D Films bit at the end.
I arrived just as the first section drew to a close, and I wish I’d caught Joe Heenan’s set in full. Sitting backstage, having dumped my shirt and obtained a glass of water, all I could hear was something about racism in Star Trek, or the absence of it, and the audience were laughing uproariously. At the break, the acts filed in and a fair few congratulated him on it. I’ll definitely need to catch it next time. It suddenly occurred to me to check the running order and find out where I was in the second section (I’d requested a spot later in the bill, to allow me to “double-up” and play the Halt beforehand). I also wanted to see who else was on with me. Matt Winning was to open, just like the last time I was here, then Andy Todd – who had been bumped up the bill for whatever reason – then me. And then, after me – wait, what? Frankie Boyle. He was the surprise guest headliner last week, when I was in – on a whim – as a punter to see Darren Connell and Scott Gibson. It was reported in, I think, The Scotsman that Boyle had played this gig to the surprise and delight of everyone who had paid the £2 entrance fee, and so I didn’t expect him to play the venue two weeks running. I certainly didn’t expect him to just be placed in the bill and not be headlining, and I absolutely didn’t expect that he would be the very next act on straight after me. At the suggestion of Andy Todd, I photographed the running order for posterity.
I went out front to watch Matt’s set, which was mostly new and a departure from his Steph E. Graph character. He had some brilliant wordplay and callbacks involving Robert Mugabe, and read extracts from his “diaries” – very, very funny. I missed Andy’s set, as I headed backstage to prepare myself mentally. Frankie, since the name has been dropped now, seems amiable enough and far more approachable than his stage persona would suggest – which I had heard anyway – and he was talking to two of the other acts about their multimedia degrees, and the lack of opportunities in Scotland. I was prepared to chip in with my own experiences as a propsman/carpenter, but compere John Gavin alerted me to the fact that Andy’s time was nearly up, and that he’d be bringing me straight on with no preamble. I’d taken the time to ask him to introduce me with my middle initials, which had been dropped from my name on the running order, and he obliged.
I went straight into my material, beginning “I compered a music gig on Sunday” and rapidly running through the three intros I’d done, with “then I walked on and had to cheer for myself, which was awkward” added after each one, before triumphantly proclaiming that I’d achieved the hat-trick and got the indifference. The “tattoo” bit went well, they laughed a little as I explained the premise of the joke, and more when I explained how the joke was ultimately on me. When I told them about the way I used to dress, with the four pairs of handcuffs on my belt, that built up to a huge laugh, and I think if I’d paused it might have got me applause. I was conscious of my time though, and continued rattling through my set. The broo stuff went well too, and will definitely form part of my new set as I work towards the next five minutes (or maybe tens) – the time has come to retire the “Random” set for now, as I’m happy with it and have refined it over several months. Time to start building something else up instead, and work further on developing my stage persona.
I hadn’t noticed the red light flashing, and knowing my 3D Films bit was short I went for it, introducing it “I just gigged at the Halt and over-ran, and now I’m here and think I’ve run under.” I always introduce my last bit as being the last bit, especially at The Stand, because there is a little leeway and I think it benefits me to alert the sound guy to the fact that I’m aware my time is finite and am wrapping up. It means I hopefully won’t be cut off mid-joke during a punchline only I know is the final one.
The audience laughed at the set-up of the first joke, which meant it got two laughs, and then the second joke (about porn) got a huge laugh. It sounded like people on my right laughed harder at it, and so I ad-libbed to the audience as a whole that “That’s the side where the perverts sit.” Just as I did the third and final joke, I spotted the red light shining at me, and so I’m very very happy that my delivery, although rushed, meant I did a pretty tight five minutes – and that I didn’t run over. Excellent reactions from the crowd, plenty of laughs packed in, and I’m extremely pleased at how well it went. I’d like to kid on it’s because I’m great, but I think serendipity is more likely, and believable.
Frankie followed me, doing some of the material he’d tried out last week as well as more new stuff. He’s doing some shows later in the year, having written enough new material to justify it and make it worthwhile. Brilliant stuff, as near the knuckle as you’d expect and all so new he had his notes with him on a clipboard. The cheers and applause he got were deafening.
At the second interval, which followed, I decided to go back up to the Halt and rejoin my friends. I wanted to see headliner Mark Nelson, but I saw him during the Comedy Festival in April and decided that I’d rather not be the guy standing on his tod in a packed room while all my chinas were up the street without me. I said bye to the people I knew (and had “bye” shouted at me by someone I didn’t – sorry, I didn’t mean to appear rude) and left. Matt Winning took the time to tell me he liked the bit about how I used to dress, and had enjoyed it at the Click gig last night too. He says it builds and builds with more and more detail, and as long as people are paying attention they are interested to find out where it is going – which is why the pay-off gets such a good response (based on these two gigs). His view is, when I follow it with further detail about working as a civil servant I am detracting from the big laugh that has already come, and it feels a bit like an add-on. I explained that it’s a very new bit, so it will undoubtedly be worked on in the future and I’ll bear that in mind.
When I got outside, I met an American girl and her friend at the top of the stairs, who stopped me to say they’d really enjoyed my set. They then said the bit they liked best was – guess – the very bit Matt had told me minutes earlier he considered to be a little weak in comparison. I took great pains to explain that too many people laughed at it, a bit that can be construed as “rapey” (I fucking hate that word), and that’s why I’d immediately followed it onstage with a smile and a reassurance that “that’s a joke.” Have to say that this proliferation of light-hearted rape jokes/acts/insults/putdowns in the scene really does nothing for me. In the context of a prison-based character act I don’t mind that joke getting a laugh – I’m representing a prisoner, and although it’s not expressed as such, the implication is that I’ve served my time for whatever crimes I’ve committed. It’s kind of like the Alice Cooper stage show – Alice commits all these misdemeanours on stage and then has to be publicly executed in order to redeem himself. So if I say “I’m a prisoner, I did this” you go “well, he’s in prison, so he’s got his comeuppance”, whereas if I do that joke as myself it just makes me a little reprehensible. I don’t want to be reprehensible, I’d rather have fun and maybe make some valid points. So I explained that a little too much, and then didn’t get her number because I am appallingly bad at chatting to women. Or too good at merely chatting to them. Meh.
On my way out, I’d seen Sarah Cassidy at the entrance area, and she thanked me for using her dropping of my middle initials as the basis of some of my material last night at the Click. I explained that it wasn’t just her, and (again, serendipity) pointed to the running order that was on the wall right behind her to illustrate that everyone just leaves out my middle initials. That’s three times in as many nights/gigs. Anyway, when I wrote it I wasn’t sure if it was funny or a rant (“A rant,” she said) and since it was an experimental night I decided to try it out. Geoff too, once I’d arrived back at the Halt, came over to clear up the misunderstanding whereby he’d interrupted my set to challenge something I said about the flyer design. We’d discussed it in the pub last week, but that’s when I realised my error – I discussed it with Geoff, the Australian, in the pub. Ah. Anyway, I consider the air cleared – they’ve all thanked me for doing the gig and I’ve thanked them for inviting me to participate, since I did genuinely enjoy it.
Asim Ali headlined the Halt and did a really good set, far funnier than he would have you believe as he’s very self-deprecating. And that’s it, four gigs in three nights, new material at or from all of them, fuck-all sleep, sufficient laughter, some videos in the pipeline when the people who did me the favour of filming have time to upload them, and no more gigs until October. Brilliant. With the character act done, I no longer have to open my laptop every single day and pretend I’m going to write for it before wasting the entire day fannying about on facebook. I can start watching the massive backlog of birthday DVDs, read my new books, and continue to fanny about on facebook at my leisure. It’s 7:40am and I’m declaring my sleep pattern null and void. See you out there somewhere. 🙂