My morale was pretty low in the lead-up to this gig. After the previous night’s experience, gigging the same room to a small audience who didn’t find me particularly funny, I found it difficult to generate any enthusiasm for going back there. Add in the four-hour round trip on as many buses, and the fact that money is so tight that the two £10 return fares have left me with just £23 to last the next fortnight, and I was sorely tempted to just not bother. That’d be unprofessional though, and leave people in the lurch at the last moment, and so I had no real option but to grin and bear it.
My first bus ran late, so I got to the bus station (and to the bus) literally as the door was closing – the driver had activated the closing mechanism just as I reached the open door. I asked the inspector standing there if he’d open the door for me, but he refused and my gestures to the driver were answered with an apologetic shrug. I was angry at this lack of co-operation, for all the difference it would have made to them, and asked the inspector about it. His response was to blatantly ignore me and walk away. I’m not a violent man, but at that moment I had to take a walk around the entire perimeter of the bus station because I knew if I remained in the vicinity of that ignorant fucking arsehole cunt I would be done for assault, or at the very least breach of the peace. I was livid. Insult to injury – this was a journey I didn’t want to make, literally couldn’t afford to make, and now it was a fucking hassle to make. I might write to Citylink and ask if this is what passes for customer service, more for my own satisfaction than from hope of getting a response.
In a bad mood, I boarded the next coach and arrived in Edinburgh later than intended – although still early for the start time. With a slight change to the format, there was an opener (James someone, sorry I forgot your surname) then a break, Pauline Goldsmith, me and John McGoldrick all doing tens, another break, and headliner Gary Little. Ray Bradshaw compered again – he’s likeable, relaxed, and respected as one of the better comperes on the circuit. I watched James’ set, noting that – at about twenty – the audience was bigger tonight, with a vibe about the place. I missed most of Pauline’s set again, gearing myself to go onstage. There were more Scots in tonight, as well as an Alaskan, a Spaniard, a Pole, and some English, Irish and Welsh.
I debated whether to use my Holocaust opening, and decided I would but that I’d acknowledge I realise it is in poor taste. The Handcuffs and Broo stuff went okay, a few genuine laughs, but I opted to use my “Bar Jokes” instead of the Buxton material which had lost them the previous night. The Bar stuff is very hit-and-miss, and is mostly just wordplay with not much in the way of punchlines – more absurdist than anything else. The audience reacted accordingly, with a silence that was even quieter than that I elicited the night before. I became aware that I was being flashed, earlier than expected, and so I wrapped the routine up prematurely and – rather than end with the usually crowd-pleasing Gladiators set – I cut and run, leaving the stage abruptly.
I had been recording my set again, rather than merely timing it, and when I came off and retrieved my phone I was surprised to see that I had only done seven minutes. Backstage, the promoter came round to explain that, since I had been up there getting few laughs, he had flashed me early. He saw it as a lifeline, that he was rescuing me. Part of me was annoyed that I wasn’t left to my own devices, to wrap up in my own time and finish with my Gladiators bit as planned, hopefully leaving on a high. He had denied me that chance. At the same time, he has a duty to keep the paying audience entertained, and they clearly weren’t laughing, so maybe he did the right thing. I’m not that bothered, I don’t grudge his decision. It happened.
John McGoldrick followed me, regaling the audience with his Frankie Boyle tale and lifting the room back up. Gary Little headlined, by which time there were forty people in, and he had them all in stitches. I’ve only seen him once before, but both times he has related tales in such a way that people have cried laughing. Brilliant stuff, and he has a self-released DVD coming out next month. You can find him on Twitter. Personally, I was interested to see how he came across, as a fellow Glaswegian in this cold and desolate land they call the east coast. Trying to learn from people, since life is too short to make all the mistakes myself.
As I headed for the two-hour, two-bus trip home, I felt pretty dejected. My options seem to be that I can work on new material, with a wider appeal; I can confine myself solely to the west coast where my humour is frequently “got”; or, I can just resign and give up stand-up altogether. I don’t enjoy travelling for four hours to do ten minutes (or less), especially not on dark, cold, wet, windy nights. I’m not desperate for laughter, I’ve survived until now being funny in person and not on stage. It’s nice to have that many people validate your existence, when a gig goes well, but I don’t crave it. I’ve never been a performer, which is why I gave up being onstage at thirteen and sought a career behind it instead. I still can’t get used to turning up at gigs and being given “artist” passes, when in my head I should be there to push flightcases, set up gear, run sound, and so on.
Not sure what this means for the future. I’ve been doing this for a year now, got a bit better, but had a run of dreadful gigs lately. By which I mean gigs where I was dreadful. I know I can write funny lines, clever lines, and silly lines. I know I’m funny in person, in everyday conversation. But now I’m starting to think maybe that’s where I should be in comedy too, behind the scenes – writing jokes, maybe selling them. I’ll need to think about it. John McGoldrick said to me after this gig that I “need to gig elsewhere – you can’t just gig in Glasgow.” My response is, I don’t need to gig anywhere. This is a hobby, and if I don’t enjoy it then there’s no point pursuing it. What I really need to do is work out what I’d like to achieve, and then see if I can figure out a way to get there. If I can be funny and make money without having to stand in front of people then that’s a route I would happily pursue. I sincerely hope it’s a possibility.
My next gig is this Thursday, the 1st, in Balloch. Then I’m gigging on Sunday the 4th at “Fresh Meat” at the Buff Club – free entry. I’ll probably revert to the Buxton stuff at both, and see how it fares. To find out, come down in person on either night, and/or keep reading.