Gig 57: Compering at Halt Bar, 1st November 2011

Good evening, motherfuckers!

That’s one way to welcome people to the gig, and I decided ages ago that that would suit me to the ground. I kind of wish I’d put a bit of thought into what should follow it, in hindsight – my preparation extended to a few ideas, some intro music, and that opening line. The rest I would wing on the back of the fact it had just been Halloween weekend, the clocks went back, and I had two new jokes and some anecdotes semi-ready to go too. One of which I forgot to tell. Hi, my name’s Jordan and I will be your resident numpty for this blog. Welcome, where you from?

I had big plans (by which I mean half-developed ideas) for this gig – intro music, something a bit different, no reliance on or use of material unless warranted, plenty of crowd interaction, lots of energy, no lagging between acts (just a constant flow). Some of this worked, some of it will never be repeated. I spent a long time choosing my intro music, weeks. Something upbeat; something to get people clapping; something that kicks in before the 20-second mark; something that is suitably “me”; something that I like. Weeks. After narrowing the shortlist down (and without sifting through all 163Gb/26,621 tracks in itunes) I settled on one of my favourite songs, a song which introduced me to a band who soundtracked and influenced a significant part of my early twenties – Kill II This. Their song “This World” was my introduction to them, and its spoken-word intro would suit me just fine, before kicking into a heavy but melodic riff. I had it all worked out…but, you know, best laid plans, etc…

Theory was, Malky would announce “comedy will start in two minutes, your compere will be [me]” and then leave the stage. Two minutes later, without further introduction, the intro would start (louder than the pre-show music) and cut through the air with the solemn proclamation: “This is a public service announcement. The world will explode in ten seconds. Nine seconds. Eight seconds.” After “One second” the music kicks in, and that’s when I step forward, clapping in time and encouraging the audience to join in, before the music fades out at the first verse and I shout “Good evening motherfuckers!” Sounds good, right? Different, an element of humour, recognisably me. I wish it had worked.

What happened was, Malky announced me at the two minute mark. So far so good, so what. Then, maybe through miscommunication or habit, instead of just pressing play, he introduced me again and then hit play – so people were applauding expectantly while I stayed offstage and out of sight waiting for the appropriate juncture. The volume levels were out, either on my ipod or on the desk, and so quiet that by the time anyone could hear the countdown it was at “Nine Seconds” and everyone missed the “World will explode” bit at the start that I thought might be funny/explanatory. Malky stayed onstage to kill the music, as that is where the sound board has recently been relocated, except (due to the way it was set up) the volume control also killed the mic. There was a bit of faffing and he worked out that the volume needed to stay up and the ipod stopped for the mic to work as it should, while I shouted unamplified hellos at a room full of bemused people. It definitely, one hundred percent, ran smoother than that in my weeks of daydreaming about it. Still, fuck it, slightly flustered and looking incompetent I launched into my opening few lines – an introduction to me, to the night, and a bit of audience participation that few participated in.

I thought people would have some cool Halloween stories, about parties or costumes, but nobody volunteered any and I lacked the confidence/skill to question any one person directly. I got about one minute out of it instead of the hoped-for ten. My anecdote about my Halloween last year was (I think) entertaining enough but – crucially – not funny. I forgot to tell the other anecdote, even though it was part of my first ever set and video of it exists on this site. It was, tonight, the 365th day of my first year in comedy, but the audience were less enthralled by that fact than I was. I floundered a lot, resolute in my decision to draw material from the crowd rather than rely on any of my scripted stuff, and unprepared or too inexperienced to casually revert to tried and tested material when that failed. Lesson learned. I got laughs, but not as many or as frequently as I’d hoped. It was, in my defence, my first time compering a comedy gig. Eventually I got the first act on.

I was running a tight ship as warned, timing all the acts and equipped with a torch to flash them to get offstage. The Halt has been regularly over-running for months, and from a punter’s perspective I find it really long and drawn out when the compere kills a good act’s buzz with a slow (and sometimes unfunny) bit before getting the next act on. Then acts go over too, especially the stoned one who did twenty minutes instead of five, the joke competition drags on for a week and kills everyone’s will to live, then suddenly the headliner goes on about 11.20pm playing to a dwindling crowd as people leave for buses, trains, or bed, and then he runs into last orders. My intention was to keep it short and sweet, keep things moving, keep the energy level up, and finish on time. If nothing else, I successfully achieved that much – there were ten acts on the bill, a headliner, a joke competition, me in between, and the gig came down at 11.20pm. I’m not sure if I can replicate that feat, but a few regulars later expressed pleasant surprise that the gig had come down earlier than (has become) usual.

The first four acts went well, strong material for the most part, and I tied my Glasgow Music bit in to one set and managed to do my 9/11-specific set for only the second time thanks to part of one newcomer’s act. Throughout the night I introduced each next act over the applause for the preceding one and watched as the room slowly filled up over the course of the evening.

The second section started with me asking where people are from (generally), with a view to doing my unwritten “Buxton” material. I did it once before, at 99p Comedy, but it’s been told conversationally many times over the years and I managed to add in some wee asides that I’ve also used for ages too. I think it went well, and I’ll definitely develop that into the ten-minute set I need for the next three booked gigs. By coincidence, one girl was from Manchester (the nearest city to Buxton), so it was a pretty smooth link. The only downside was, I sometimes find it hard to initiate or sustain conversation with new people, and I feel I may have inhibited potential dialogue by being inadvertently intimidating – onstage, holding a microphone, trying to be funny and sporting a four-inch-high mohican haircut. This is stuff I have to learn, how to appear approachable in the first instance and then be able to elicit answers openly. Practise and that, intit?

I introduced a couple of the acts with specific bits – Ed Whitley is enormously energetic and enthusiastic, but we recently discovered you can break him if you make him drink pints of rum until 7am and then at 2pm go for a walk from Anniesland to Buchanan Galleries via Maryhill. I mentioned as much as I referred to him as a “close personal acquaintance”, a phrase I think I picked up long ago from a Rowan Atkinson bit. For Jamie Dalgleish  I reiterated that it was my first compere spot here, and that I was proof that “if you do comedy for a full year you can end up playing the same place but in a slightly different capacity. Now here’s a man who started two months before me and this year won the Scottish Comedian of the Year competition.” Rod Hunter asked the audience to applaud the effort that had gone into spiking up my mohawk for the evening, and Grant Gallacher eloquently related the kind of Halloween-specific fight anecdote that I’d hoped to get from the audience at the start of the night.

I personally have come to dread the weekly joke competition, which seems to unwittingly sap the energy from the room at the start of the third section right before the headliner comes on. It’s a necessary evil though, part of the evening which engages everyone and lets them hear their own jokes read from the stage. The format remains unchanged – the difference between any given celebrity and an inanimate object – and owing to the proximity of his death and his transgenerational appeal I proposed Jimmy Savile as this week’s subject. Various objects were suggested, someone said a screwdriver and someone else concurred and that was it – what’s the difference between Jimmy Savile and a screwdriver? There were a few obvious/similar jokes about “fixing it” and a vodka and orange (a screwdriver), and half a dozen that were genuinely funny: Jimmy Savile isn’t part of my DIY abortion kit; I’d rather there was a screwdriver inside my children; Jimmy fixed it for children, a screwdriver fixes it for unwanted children; Malky didn’t stab [a high-profile missing child] with Jimmy Savile; and the eventual winner which relied on Malky’s persona’s reputation and the power of suggestion – “Malky, rapist, applause.”

I held back from using material tonight to see if I could hold my own without it (not entirely) and because I thought I might need it later on to pick the room up if anyone died spectacularly (nobody did). The material I did – Glasgow Music, 9/11, and Buxton – is all pretty new or unheard, and was done according to circumstance. I can safely say that the evening really picked up as it went on, after a slow and unsteady start (on my part; once the acts started everything came together fine), and I became more comfortable on stage. I also benefited from the tightly-packed bill (ten acts, not eight) which meant I had to do little but go straight on after each and introduce the next. It felt to me like it all flowed pretty smoothly, with consistent laughter and a sizeable audience, and I really enjoyed the joke competition for the first time in a long time. I tried to keep it upbeat and succinct, and then The Wee Man went on and did possibly the best gig I’ve yet seen him do. A very fun night, which closed at a reasonable time, and Malky said he’d gladly have me back to compere again (the most I could have hoped for) – next time I’ll have a better idea of what to expect, and prepare more thoroughly. Living and learning.

Naturally, having looked forward to this gig for some weeks now, and with it the Alice Cooper show on Halloween the night before, I had a major post-gig comedown afterwards. This lasted a few days, hence the lateness of this blog, but I was due to go to Sheffield on Saturday the 5th to see Uberbyte and possibly compere that gig, which focused my attention. That was great fun too, and as my fourth music compering spot I find myself becoming more comfortable hosting those sorts of gigs. I hope that, if the opportunity arises to compere more comedy gigs, I will find my feet doing that too. Though for a first time, tonight, I think I did okay.

The Uberbyte gig was two days ago at the time of writing, so that’ll be the next blog to go up, and then I’m gigging this Saturday at The State for the first time. I’ll be doing ten minutes, there are seven acts, MC and headliner, all for just £3 entry. Please come along and support the last independent comedy gig running on a Saturday night in Glasgow.

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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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