This was a last minute gig, which I was invited to participate in at 1pm on the day, in aid of (as Google quickly told me) a Cot Death charity. So my first port of call was to post on my facebook that I’d “decided not to use Alice Cooper’s “Dead Babies” as my intro music. DON’T WORRY, this is a JOKE. It starts too slowly to be used for intro music.” Sometimes I hate myself for coming up with such inappropriate comments, because I was genuinely worried that, having thought it, I might accidentally say something hideous on stage…
With something like 130 tickets sold, at £15 a head, the gig was packed and already on course to raise a lot of money for the cause. Standing in the audience during the first section, it was clear that many of the attendees were using the night as a social opportunity rather than being there specifically to watch comedians, and there was a fair bit of audience chatter and not much anyone could do about it – “Could you please be quiet?” “Fuck off, I’ve paid my money to charity and now I’m gonna catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while.” So although it wasn’t the easiest gig, that wasn’t the point of the evening so that’s okay.
Billy Kirkwood MC’d, the first time I’ve met him, and the show got off to a strong start with Chris Conroy, Tommy Reid, Ross Main (doing a new set) and – closing the first half – Eleanor Morton with her ukelele. Musical comedy can be a cop-out, because it is guaranteed applause regardless of how good it is (or isn’t), but Eleanor’s asides during her songs set her apart and got the first applause break of the evening. There is a reason she made the final of the Funny’s Funny competition earlier this year.
The second section opened with Julia Sutherland, followed by Martin Byrom (who had booked the acts for the evening), and both of them had absolute control of the audience. Without wishing to do either a disservice, their material mostly centred around sex and weight, and definitely seemed to find the level of the audience who were, as one, paying attention to the stage throughout their sets and laughing heartily. I had to follow both of them.
I’d been asked to do ten minutes, and had hastily assembled a set that afternoon that – although untimed – I estimated would last about that long. The “Random” stuff is a five minute set, I can add the “Gladiators” stuff and pace it to be a seven minute set, and so I decided to both of those bits and some of the material I did at the Click, the Halt and the Stand last week. Specifically, I opened with my bit about handcuffs, and the way I used to dress in my early twenties, which segues into some material I have about the ineptitude of the jobcentre. From there it’s an easy leap into hating people, and that sets up the “Random” bit very well. As Graham Mackie put it when I came offstage, “you had them at the start.”
And I did – the opening bit got good laughs, and then a sudden dip when I mentioned the broo. It hadn’t escaped my notice that there were a large number of “suits” at the back of the room, so maybe that’s where I lost them. The “Random” stuff went kind of okay, but nothing like the response it’s capable of getting, and the the “Gladiators” bit struggled too. I don’t really know quite where or why it went wrong, but it felt like it did, and Billy Kirkwood had to do some material after me to get the energy back up for James Kirk coming on. Even he had a reasonably tough gig, inasmuch as it took the audience a wee while to warm to him. Mackie then headlined and got the best reaction of the night, on a par with Julia and Martin.
Standing at the back in the second break, someone came up to me on his way to the bar and said he’d enjoyed my set – which is, as I keep saying, always gratifying and makes me think maybe there is a reason for doing this after all. Nobody is obliged to say anything, so I always appreciate it when people tell me they liked my material. It happened in the middle of Ross telling me how much he hates comedy, because it’s so pretentious – “Everybody shut up and listen to me now.” It’s something I’ve realised myself, comedy only works if people listen, and if they don’t want to listen then you’re intruding. You can chat over background music, bands, or open mic acts in pubs and clubs, but if there’s comedy on then chatter is really distracting – but if people aren’t there to see you then you can hardly say: shut up and pay attention to me. “Fuck off, talkin tae ma pal.”
Anyway, all said and done, it was announced that over £3000 had been raised in the course of the evening, which was the point. We also got a few free drinks for our trouble, and the experience, so I’m glad I did this gig and would happily do something similar again. I’m happy to note too that I successfully abstained from saying anything truly distasteful.
My next gig is my heat in the Laughing Horse New Act Competition this Tuesday, the 11th, which I really, really can’t be fucked with. Last year, I absolutely died on my hole in front of an audience that numbered 9 acts, 3 judges, and my pal. It was a horrendous experience, and the thought of spending £15 on a two-hour round trip to a city I hate (Edinburgh) to gig for nobody… Yeah, I really can’t be fucked. It’s also an audience vote to decide who goes through, and you can read here why this is a really shit way of doing things – essentially, the person who cajoles the most people into coming along is guaranteed to go through. I deliberately make a point of not asking anyone to come and see me at a competition heat – it costs money, lines the pocket of the promoter (whose show the acts are promoting for them), and you can see me do the same set (or longer) for less money or even free at other venues. I figure if I ever go through, it will because my material is strong enough to win over the audience. If I don’t go through, who cares. I’d rather make it on my own merits than get somewhere by haranguing friends and thus rigging the vote.
After that, I’m compering the Halt for the first time on the 1st of November – the 365th day of my first year doing stand-up, and the night after Halloween – and I cannot wait. My plan is to be upbeat, enthusiastic, chat away to everyone, do no material whatsoever, and just have fun. Come along to that, I’ll be onstage on and off all night, being myself, hopefully being funny, and it’s free entry.