Having previously enjoyed my gig at this venue, tonight it revealed its true colours – which were more in keeping with the previous review I’d read on the forum than with my own experience. For those who remember attending or reading about the infamous Victoria Bar gigs, it turns out that Retrospect is similar, but less receptive and more hostile. I think the real measure of a gig is if, on the way outside at the end of the night, you have to walk past two drunk sixty-year-olds who sat at the bar all night battering each other in the doorway.
My hopes were raised upon arrival by the presence of Adam Struth, Ross Main and Geoff Gawler – established acts of a calibre not usually attracted to the bearpit of this night. With a few exceptions, the weeks I have been here it has largely been populated by very new open spots. They’re not necessarily bad, but they are indisputably new and consequently inexperienced. None of those three opted to perform though, and left early into the evening. I had gone to spectate again, thinking I might wing five and then do three if the mood took me, but promoter and compere Allan Park invited me to do ten minutes, and open the show. As the list of willing participants grew, he told me to “just do five.”
After a brief introduction, playing to fifteen or twenty people (inclusive of acts, and four drunks trying to stay upright in the corner), Allan welcomed me to the stage. I said right away that I hadn’t expected to do anything, let alone do ten minutes, let alone open the show. Best to warn them I might be shit, and shit I truly was. I opened with a new line about my hair, having completely shaved my head since the previous gig, and doing a pretty insensitive joke about Concentration Camps. I accompany this with a fairly graphic mime, which only fellow act Hamish Tennant laughed at.
The Buxton stuff, I had tried to sequence it fluidly but spent so much time trying to remember the order that I forgot the actual anecdotes. This was frustrating, since they all genuinely happened. While bumbling my way through this debacle, I was flashed from offstage. It was at this point I realised that “just do five” wasn’t a suggestion or a compromise, but an instruction. Thrown, I abandoned the Buxton stuff in favour of my “Gladiators” bit, to leave them on a high. I hadn’t done it for a while and, flustered and unprepared, I ballsed it right up. Firstly, I told them my brother-in-law is a Gladiator. He’s not, he’s a plumber, and the entire routine hinges on that key difference. Secondly, after the first few jokes I told one out of sequence, completely threw myself and literally just abandoned the whole thing. Shrugged off my performance, apologised and handed back to Allan. I debated whether or not to even write this blog, or just dismiss its existence as a gig.
After the next three acts all over-ran, we were treated to a dig at “people who don’t know what a flashing light means” but I’m not sure if it was explained. In some places you get a light with a minute or thirty seconds left, and another to get off. Some places just flash you to get off. Usually it is agreed or made clear beforehand though. The second half featured more of the same, new comedians being heckled by loud drunks and established comedians shouting at them to be quiet. Sara Hunter did her second gig, seeing it in the way I saw the Victoria Bar when I did my early gigs there – inasmuch as, if you can make them laugh you can make anybody laugh. Obie agreed. Her set was tighter and funnier than the previous one, and still delivered with confidence. Again, if you are interested in doing a comedy course there are at least two running in Glasgow – Charlie Ross’s and Viv Gee’s. Sara is on the latter, as is Scott Brown, and there is a showcase gig at The Admiral Bar on Waterloo Street this Tuesday (29th). You can also still make her deliriously happy by clicking “like” on the fan page that inspired her set.
Other sets were by newcomers and/or regulars Ray Zambino, Tony Coffey, Hamish Tennant, Pat Mulholland(?), and more. Allan told his favourite joke, which was duly interrupted several times by the big lout in the corner necking bottles of Bud, and which resulted in my favourite outburst of the evening: an angry “Guys! Gonna shut the fuck up this is the punchline!”
Obie headlined, getting heckled across the bar by two drunk sixty-year-olds, and rattling through his set so fast there was no real room for interruption. This may also have been due to time constraints, as the night was over-running and the bar shuts at eleven. His set-pieces were well received, and he added in a fair bit of improvisation – the highlight being when he pointed to “the shittest karaoke in the world” before singing all of the promo drink offers that flashed up on the adjacent TV screen.
In summary, the venue is dubious, I was shit, and the regulars aren’t interested in anything but the cheap bar prices. As a concept, it’s reasonably sound – pay a quid, get stage time. The Halt waiting list is six weeks, The Stand is six months and they’ve now stopped taking applications. So to have a gig where you can just turn up on a whim and be guaranteed stage time is good, and the fee – though not ideal – is nominal. However, after a series of poor turnouts and heckle-fests, Allan has decided to pull the gig pending a change of location. Hopefully he will find somewhere suitable, as the few punters who were there for the comedy seemed to enjoy it.
My next gigs are in The Shack, a new venue in Edinburgh, on Friday and Saturday the weekend of the 25th. Hopefully no fighting in the doorway will occur.