This was my third gig of the year, and an interesting format. Chris Stephen and his girlfriend Debbie Overell are promoting a growing number of gigs under the “versus” banner, and each sees a variety of open spots, a compere, headliner, and deciding game between some of the comedians to see which region “wins” – all good fun, novel, and the game changes every show to keep things interesting. Last time I did it, in Edinburgh, it was Countdown. I’ve done Blankety-Blank too, last week they did Would I Lie To You, and tonight it was Mastermind.
It was a beautiful day in Glasgow, warm, sunny, and record-breaking in temperature. I had the cold. Go figure. I actually wrote on my facebook that I’d be trying something new at The Halt: doing comedy with a throat so sore it hurt to speak. And also, a joke. I’d had plenty of time to prepare my set, but was pretty lazy about it – I jotted down a few notes of stuff I wanted to do in advance, but didn’t really write it up until a couple of hours before the gig. No real rehearsal either, partly because it included three anecdotes and I thought it’d be more natural to see how they came out. Which isn’t to say that they haven’t been worked on at all – I’ve told them conversationally a few times, and turned them over in my head a fair bit, trying to decide on the best way to use them.
I knew I wanted to add in a new line about Glasgow too, and I have about nine written. Some are shit, some are good, and some need work. The one I wanted to use, it’s an observation I made years ago about a local landmark (I remember who I texted it to, and that I was studying at Strathclyde at the time, so that places it around 2002). It never looked quite right, though, as a joke, and so I’ve never used it. Sitting down to write out my set in longhand, from nowhere I found the perfect structure for it, the necessary angle that would make it work. I followed it with an abstract line which has no real intent, but it contains a visual enough image that I thought might provoke a reaction. I’ve also got my joke about the clocks changing, which is only topical twice a year, and a new one on the same subject that I wrote at the weekend.
The gig was busy enough, about forty people all told, with Rod Hunter compering. He’s just run his first gig at the Comedy Festival, “Life Begins At 50”, and it sold sufficiently well that he’s going to run more shows under that banner in Edinburgh this year. So keep an eye out for those.
There wasn’t a bad act on the bill, and there were a couple of newer guys on doing slightly absurd stuff. It took the audience a wee while to “get” both of them, but eventually they went with it and the laughter built. Adam Struth and Scott Brown were on, as was my friend Ed Whitley (who once chased up an Edinburgh street after Kristen Schaal shouting “I love you Kirsten!” (sic) – I like to remind him of this more or less every time I see him, for my own amusement.) James Kirk closed the first half, his first gig of the year, and of course did brilliantly. I love how quiet, nervous, and unassuming he seems when he gets on stage, but he has confidence, excellent material, and an assured delivery that soon has everyone in stitches. He won the prestigious So You Think You’re Funny competition a couple of years ago, and he’s always a pleasure to watch. Whenever he does his second gig of the year, you should try and see him. Here he is doing some sketches with Chris Forbes and someone I don’t recognise (sorry):
Promoter Chris Stephen opened the second half, doing the “Malky Spot” – every Tuesday Malky gets up in that slot and does material about (or just discusses) the week’s events, so that the regulars get new stuff from him every week. Not always funny, but new. Scott Brown followed him, doing a set I’ve seen a couple of times, and it went well. I was on third.
I’m using the opening line from the short film I made a month ago (which is still being edited – I’m as keen to see it as you are, trust me), and which has had a good reaction the twice I’ve used it. The clocks stuff got laughs – the first time that’s happened in three outings, so I might use it again in October – and my “new” bit about Glasgow was suitably absurd that I was really happy with the laugh it got. The nonsensical follow-up line, which doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny, but which I think portrays a very visual image if you allow it to, got some disgusted laughs. Definitely keeping it in my local sets, and there’s probably a lesson in there about keeping hold of ideas/observations for future use – that one has been a decade in the making.
I threw in a silly one-liner that occurred to me earlier in the day, and then did my first anecdote. It’s been condensed to the barest of outlines, because it’s not a funny story if it’s drawn out too long, and I’ve tried to get three laughs from it. It still needs work, and might do better if I shorten it further. Two more daft one-liners, one of which is also essentially true, and then I did my Glasgow Music jokes, about bands that I claim Glasgow has given the world. It builds quite nicely, I feel, and has benefited from a couple of additional lines suggested/donated by two friends on different occasions.
The second anecdote is again a few years old, and was originally written as a blog on my Bebo site back when that existed. I’ve been trying to get the basic idea into shape for a while and have tried it on stage once or twice before, at the Victoria Bar, where it fell completely flat. It’s taken a bit of tweaking and a lot of embellishment, but it seemed to go over quite well tonight and so I’ll keep it for now. I finished with the ending from my “Buxton” bit, about the time my friend was alone in my flat and thought someone had broken in. Happy enough with how it all went, considering that much of it was new or new takes on stuff that has died before. I meant to record the audio on my phone, but I completely forgot while on my way to the stage. Oh well.
One of the new guys followed me, and then Ed closed the second half, prior to the game. He was also a contestant (representing the world, and answering questions about Zelda), as were Scott (Aberdeen, Only Fools and Horses), and I (Glasgow, Iron Maiden). I’d said last week, when the topics were discussed, that Scott’s would be the only one the audience gave a flying fuck about, but with a strict time limit and a finite number of questions it would hopefully keep people entertained enough.
Scott was up first, sitting in the hot seat and with a second mic adjusted to mouth level – which was actually quite intimidating once I was in his position. He answered a good number of questions, set by Debbie and asked by Rod, even the one for which the wrong answer had been provided. The balance of opinion in the room set that one straight. He set the high score, and I was called up next.
I’d decided to wear my Best Of The Beast shirt, my first ever Maiden shirt and one I bought in Virgin Megastore on Argyle Street (nostalgia!) just after my 17th birthday. It still fits well for a t-shirt that is going on fourteen years old, and now looks “vintage” on account of how ridiculously faded the material is and how cracked the backprint has become. I also dug out “The Jacket”, a denim number that has gradually been adorned with Maiden patches. I used to add to it frequently, and wore it to almost every gig I went to for years in my late teens and early twenties. People used to admire it constantly, and although it’s now permanently consigned to the wardrobe I can’t imagine parting with it. In the formative stages of their career, I once told a new band I liked their music, and they told me they liked my jacket. That was the Lostprophets. So aye, good memories. I have a distinct recollection of wearing it in an art class in second year too, which means I own an item of clothing that has reached the legal drinking age.
I first heard Maiden when “Hallowed Be Thy Name (Live)” got played during a radio chart show, and then waited ages to hear it played again. It was only years later that I discovered they really ONLY got airplay during chart shows, if at all. I eventually went out looking for the album it was on, which was too expensive, but I found the original version on an album at an affordable price, and that’s how I wound up buying their seminal Number Of The Beast album. Throughout my teens, I picked up other albums when and where I could, on cassette and later on CD, and then when I started coming to Glasgow regularly I began buying vinyl too. I used to kill time between lectures by traipsing the (then) four shops Missing had, plus Record Fayre (both of them), Avalanche, The Seven Notes, and the shop right down Jamaica Street along from Richer Sounds. When I started the degree I finally completed, that was the time that Ebay was taking off, and so I supplemented my collection that way too. Not just albums (and multiple copies of each, on various formats), but also t-shirts, merchandise, patches, figures, badges, magazines, videos – anything with a Maiden logo, I would buy. It now stands at about 700 different items, including every CD single (even the Australia- and Holland-only ones), every vinyl picture disc, originals and reissues of every album, and some really very rare things indeed.
In 2001, I was introduced to Depeche Mode, New Order, Underworld, and The Chemical Brothers, and since then my interest in and love of metal has waned considerably, in favour of dancier or dance-based bands. I got into industrial music and EBM, and had my perspective changed by bands like Front 242, Faithless, VNV Nation, and XPQ-21. Then in 2005 I discovered Combichrist and Rotersand, and never looked back. So now I haven’t listened to Maiden in years, as my collection gathered dust in my parents’ homes. With the advent of high-quality camera phones, and the excellent connectivity they now provide, I’ve realised it’s time to finally document everything I have, item by item, with a view to finally selling it all. I’d only just started doing that when I was asked to give a specialist subject for Mastermind, and so it seemed the natural choice. I knew, and still remember, a fuck-tonne of information and trivia about the band I was once so obsessive about.
I was anticipating questions about early releases, B-sides, producers, managers, labels, artwork, general history stuff, and so I was a little unprepared for some of the questions asked. Some of them have dubious answers, or ones that confounded me. Though, of course, it is very easy to criticise when you know the subject inside out – if you asked me to compile twenty questions about another metal band, even Metallica or Pantera, I’d have to do some research. If you went for someone like Blink 182, I’d have no clue where to start asking you things. It was all in good fun anyway. Here are the questions I was asked:
Which band member is qualified as a commercial airline pilot?
An easy one to start. I could also tell you that he worked for Astreaus, and when it went into administration he looked at taking it over. He also flew the band across the world on the tour documented in “Flight 666”, having previously flown fan club members to shows in Europe on chartered flights.
Guitarist Janick Gers has a degree in what?
I guessed wrongly, but when I heard the answer I remembered I’ve read this in a few places. Happy not to have retained that information.
Miley Cyrus is one of Iron Maiden’s biggest fans, true or false?
I have no idea who that is, though I recognise the name. I guessed correctly.
According to Music Review, since Iron Maiden’s inception how many albums have they collectively released?
I said fifteen studio albums, but as I was on a time limit I didn’t add up the live albums (more than any other band, ever) and various best-ofs. Even then, I doubt it comes to 35 – depending on the definition of “collectively”.
How many of those were studio albums?
Only two people have remained members of Iron Maiden from its inception in 1975 to current times. Who are they?
Steve Harris and Dave Murray.
This is technically incorrect, Murray was fired from the band between joining it and their first recording. He has played on everything they’ve recorded though, and I got the answer right without disputing that. Told you I know a fuck-tonne of trivia…
What is the name of Iron Maiden’s mascot?
This is easy. For no bonus points, Meatloaf was asked this exact same question on an episode of Never Mind The Buzzcocks. I have it recorded on VHS somewhere. I’m not cool. The band were using a skeletal head as a backdrop in the late 70s, and there was a joke going round at the same time about this guy Eddie, who was just a head, and his parents kept him on the mantlepiece. Come his 18th birthday, they said “We have a special surprise for you”, and he said “Oh no, not another fucking hat!”. Thus, Eddie The ‘Ead was the name given to Maiden’s mascot.
Steve Harris, the bassist, founded the band in 1975. Which movie did he get the name from?
The Man In The Iron Mask.
My mind went blank on that one, ah well. Next!
Which Python appeared in their 1988 music video of “Can I Play With Madness”?
Answered that before the question was finished. It was one of Chapman’s final performances before his death, and the video is included as an extra on the DVD of his solo tour.
Jeremy Kyle, Noel Edmonds and Iron Maiden’s bassist Steve Harris have something in common. What is it?
They are West Ham football supporters.
A second’s hesitation, then I guessed the answer – much to the delight of the guy sitting in the front row who clapped.
Iron Maiden was voted Best British Band by the readers of Metal Hammer, but in which edition?
This isn’t a great question – they get magazine awards all the time, and I’d literally spent the previous day photographing various dedicated issues of Kerrang, MH, and Classic Rock. They get frequently voted Best Live Act, Best Band, and so on – have done since at least 1996 when I started buying such magazines. A better question would have been which year did they (finally) win a Brit Award, or which year did they get the Ivor Novello award.
I guessed “the 666th”, but as MH is monthly I don’t think they’ve reached that issue yet – in hindsight, with maths, it would take about 50 years to print that many.
Iron Maiden was formed in which English city?
Another easy one. No mentions of the Ruskin Arms, the Cart and Horses, the Marquee, the Rainbow, or the Hammersmith Odeon – thought there might have been some venue questions.
How many records have they reportedly sold worldwide?
It depends which reports you read. I had no idea, and guessed twice that. It used to be 40 million, but that was before or shortly after Bruce rejoined in 1999. Since then they’ve gone astronomical.
One of their songs, “2 Minutes To Midnight”, appeared in which 2002 videogame?
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
I didn’t know that, though the guy in the front row did. I guessed “Carmageddon II” (which reminds me, where the fuck IS that??), for which they provided four songs. I forget which year, and in retrospect it was probably earlier than that, round about 1998. I’ll google it and add a link. See, four tracks, 1998.
According to their website, their “Somewhere Back In Time” Tour in February 2008 had them travel round the world in 45 days. How many miles did they travel?
I had no idea, and guessed well under. If you’d asked me about the World Slavery Tour of 84/85, I might’ve had a shot. Scream for me, Long Beach!
Sing the intro to “Run To The Hills” including air guitar, and if the crowd like it you get an extra five points.
“No’ worth it,” I said, and got a decent laugh. Grew fucking sick to the back teeth of that song, that and The Trooper. Plus, my throat was fucked, I absolutely cannot sing, and I have no real desire to humiliate myself further than absolutely necessary for my comedy. So I politely declined and, after the scores were counted, it meant I came second. Had I done it, I’d have won.
“What do you get if you win?” a friend had asked earlier, while I was on my way to the venue. “A tragic sense of pride,” was my reply. I’m content knowing I could have won had I wanted, and think I did not bad considering. No mention of Derek Riggs! Credit to Debbie, though, for the research involved and questions set – it would have been very easy to just make me play “here’s the lyric, name the song”. I actually looked at going on the real, BBC Mastermind once, with Maiden as my specialist subject. You needed to give an alternative subject too though, and I knew/know fuck all about anything else. Nothing came of it, and eventually someone else went on and used them. So it goes.
I found the clip, answered the questions, and got 17 of them right. Which is better than she did, though under much less pressure.
Ed answered questions about the Zelda videogame, and that was funny in itself because of just how trivial and nerdy a subject it was. He still lost, but the audience laughed more. Thems the breaks. Another interval, and then Les Sinclair closed the show.
It was a fun and funny night, and the format will be transferred to Edinburgh for the full run of the free fringe this year. Please go along.
There is free comedy at The Halt all this week – tonight (Tuesday) is Pop-Up Comedy as usual, then Wednesday and Thursday it’s “Being John Malkyvich” with different guests each night. Starts at 8.30pm.
My next gig is this Thursday, 29th, when I plan to do Car Crash Comedy at the 13th Note, King Street. starts at 7pm sharp, and runs for one hour. Then I’m booked to do a charity gig at Nice n’ Sleazy’s on Sauchiehall Street Tuesday, 3rd April, and another show for Debbie and Chris at The Flying Duck on Saturday the 26th. Finally (for now), I’ll be compering at The Halt for only the second time, on 1st May. Very much looking forward to that.
See you sometime, somewhere. Support live comedy. 🙂