Further to my previous blog, I have decided to withdraw from my heat in the Laughing Horse New Act Competition, which was due to take place this Tuesday. I don’t like cancelling gigs but, as was evident in my last post, I was in no way looking forward to this one – and since I am presently just doing this for fun, it makes no sense to proceed with a gig that is bringing me down.
As I have said – and fully documented on here at the time – when I did this competition last year it was hellish: the weather was brutally cold; the audience numbered nine acts, three judges and my friend; I ballsed up my set quite magnificently, leading the compere to say immediately afterwards – publicly – that “some people are participants rather than competitors”. I went on second and had to sit in the front row throughout seven other acts, when all I wanted to do was leave the room and go downstairs to the bar and get heavily drunk. Of the acts that went through, one was dreadful – it felt like he crammed twenty minutes of material into five minutes, none of it made sense, it wasn’t funny [subjective, yes], and furthermore, the compere introduced him as being a good friend and someone she’d seen many times and oh how wonderful and funny he is. I may inadvertently sound bitter here, but I’m not – I was shit, truly shit, so I don’t feel cheated in any regard – it just seemed like blatant cronyism. On top of everything else.
When my friend and I went downstairs to indulge in cheap Jagerbombs, we were invited by the promoter to come upstairs to watch the second heat of the evening free of charge – in the absence of any paying audience members. We declined, partly because I had no desire to sit through another hour of acts in a room I had spectacularly failed in, and partly because my friend now lives in Canada and I only get to see her once or twice a year.
This year, I applied early through the comedy “networking website” the promoters have set up. I was annoyed that, when I logged in using the details provided, my home address and mobile phone number were available for – as far as I could ascertain – all to see. There are reasons I strive to keep my mobile number and personal/contact details off the internet – those who need them have them, those who don’t can contact me easily enough via social networking sites and email. Before I entered the competition I deleted all of the information they had posted online for me without my permission. If I cared enough, I would investigate further as to who had access to this information and where it leaves the promoter in terms of the often-quoted and frequently-misunderstood Data Protection Act. But I have a delete key, a verbal/written outlet for my anger, and the bitter experience that not every boat is worth rocking. So I just submitted my application instead.
Since applying, I have done a heat in the SCOTY Competition, which was also an audience vote. Whoever coerces the most friends to attend thus wins, and my plan was to merely be funny enough to win over all their friends too, rather than bring my own audience to ensure I would go through. It didn’t work, and in fact my set wasn’t very well received – but that’s by the by. What it made me realise, and it has been compounded by the Chortle article I linked to in the previous blog, is that there is little merit to these competitions. People often (not always, I generalise) win their heats and progress by selling the most tickets and not by impressing an impartial audience. This, I have since found, doesn’t interest me.
I have been vaguely, in my head, working on my set for this coming heat, but I am aware that it will cost me £20 to make the two-hour round trip. Money is tight, as we all know far too well right now, and I have slowly come to the realisation that I do not want to invest time, money and effort in a gig that has been – I now see – gradually filling me with dread. On top of this, on Friday a post on the Comedy Forum asked specifically about the venue and mentioned “there was no audience at all last night, for the laughing horse.” My friend Marion summed it up best for me: I see why you ain’t going to the city of England, you’re pretty much paying money to tell jokes to biased people and feel uncomfortable, what’s the point?
What is the point? There is no point. I’m not subjecting myself to this “experience”, I’m going to keep the twenty quid that travel would skin me and use it for crazy things like bills and food instead. On Tuesday, if I want to see some comedy, I will go to the Halt or the Stand, where my friends will be in the audience and where there is guaranteed to be an audience. Those venues are also forty-three miles nearer to my flat than Edinburgh, with friendlier atmospheres and cheaper bars. I have just sent the email informing the promoters that I shan’t be competing this year, with due apology for waiting so late to let them know. I also suggested a willing replacement, in case there isn’t already a waiting list of people who applied too late to be placed in heats.
It genuinely feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders, I actually feel happier knowing I’m not subjecting myself to this gig. As it stands, I only plan to compete in local competition heats from now on – this may seem naive or narrow-minded, but I know many acts that I respect who don’t do competitions at all. And they seem happier for it. The way I see it, I have no interest in crossing the country to gig to nobody when I can gig to nobody without even leaving my front room.
If you are doing this gig, I sincerely hope it goes well. I genuinely hope there is a receptive audience, and that you are happy with how your set goes. It’s just not for me. On Tuesday I’ll be in Glasgow instead, enjoying myself.
Peace all y’all.
[Please remember this is merely a statement of opinion, it may be flawed or naive, and you are welcome to disagree with me. I’m willing to accept I could be wrong, but this is my perception as it stands.]