This was one of those gigs that should probably have been an outright shambles, but which turned out to be really nice.
I was asked to do a spot through a contact of my friend Ryan Carlton, and the bill had three comedians – us, and Gareth Mutch. No compere (he cancelled last-minute), no established headliner. These are generally regarded as good ways to kill a gig, as is putting the comedy on after the band. That happened too. The other problem, with it being a charity gig, is that you can’t really ask/tell the audience to shut up if they’re noisy – the comedian onstage who demands attention can easily be met with the indifference of people who have paid their ticket money for charity to get in, and bought raffle tickets too: they may feel it is not required of them to also listen to some nobody “telling jokes.”
The door takings were donated to an Alzheimers charity, supplemented by the auction bids attracted by each comedian. In a further twist to the format, each of us would do five minutes and then the audience would be asked to bid for whichever one of us they wanted to see return to the stage to do a further ten. We all had to prepare fifteen minutes, therefore, with a guaranteed stage time of five. When all of this was explained to me prior to me agreeing the booking, I thought it sounded interesting but with the potential risk of failure. Happy to be proved wrong.
During a conversation in jest about inappropriate ways to open or follow each other, I seem to have inadvertently volunteered myself to go on first – then Ryan, then Gareth. With no compere, that put me in the position of being my own warm-up man – me, with my recent “more than a hint of menace” review; my stand-offish opening lines; my oft-stated hatred of people. It’s hard to draw people in while simultaneously setting out to alienate yourself from them. It didn’t bode well and, combined with the audience all sitting in the back two-thirds of the room, and the band playing before us, it felt astute that we’d all agreed to do this gig purely for experience and the story it would perhaps give us, rather than for guaranteed laughter and affirmation. I toyed with the idea of just trying to offend everyone from the start, by comedically combining harsh swearing with insensitivity and blatant ignorance to open “Whichever of you cunts has got Alzheimers, I hope you get better soon.”
The band, Sixteen Fingers, played twenty minutes or half an hour of covers while the room started to fill up. They sounded pretty good, switching lead vocals as appropriate, but I spent most of their gig trying to get hold of friends who were coming along and writing down my list of keywords on the back of my hand. I’d decided to do exactly the same set as last Monday, at the Aberdeen/Glasgow/World gig, even keeping in the line about the clocks going forwards – close enough that I could probably get away with it, and it meant I could finally do my Etta James joke (“speaking of things that aren’t topical any more but which I have written a joke about…”). The rest of the set was the same, more or less verbatim, with the further addition of my old line about my name, by way of introduction after my opening line. It was amazing.
Considering our reservations, of which there were several, I was taken aback at the warmth and laughter generated right from the very start – a standing start, after being very briefly introduced onstage by Joanna the promoter. The song previous to that, played by the house technician over the PA during the break , was Chris Isaak’s dark and gloomy “Wicked Game” – really setting the atmosphere for comedy. How we laughed.
It went far better than I ever imagined, hell it went far better than some of my gigs in dedicated comedy clubs. Lots of laughter, two applause breaks – including one for my new line about that Glasgow landmark, only on its second outing. One line died completely – I forget which – when only Ryan laughed, but I recovered fairly quickly. It wasn’t seamless, I kept looking at my hand to remind myself what came next – there’s some new one-liners in there too – and I flagged during my Glasgow Music bit, taking a moment to remember where I was. Turned out I was still on stage. Ha, that’s a wee joke. I’m full of them… I felt so comfortable I actually finished with that proposed first line, and mostly got away with it.
Ryan followed me, trying out new stuff from notes in amongst some of his older lines. He gleefully persisted with his darker material, and has the funniest and only tolerable (though hardly tasteful) reference to Gok Wan I’ve heard. Gareth was new to both of us, and to Glasgow, but it was clear to see why he got special mention in the national comedy competition he entered – funny material, good presence, and his handling of the evening’s only heckler was masterful, the downside being that it cut his stage-time short.
We were immediately called back up by Joanna, to be “bid on” – all money to charity, and the winner would do a ten minute set. Mine was already scribbled hastily down in note form in my pocket, and I had decided to open – if I got the spot – by saying that “I’ve accidentally had a really good gig, which I wasn’t prepared for.” Instead, we were auctioned in order of appearance, and while people became accustomed to the format (that’s my excuse) it was slow to start. I attracted a maximum, and sole, bid of three pounds. From my friend Rebecca. So now I know my worth, and reflect that if she hadn’t been there I’d be worth nothing. Thanks, Rebel Yell.
Ryan attracted a higher bid almost immediately (I offered 20p, but was quickly outbid at five quid), hitting a tenner before going for twenty. Gareth also hit the twenty mark, eventually raising slightly more than that to win the chance to do another set. He finished the one he had started, to much laughter and applause.
As planned, we left for the Halt rather than staying for the band again, in order to see friends. There’s a new, older guy called Tom who has been up a few times, and last night he delivered an absolutely brilliant bit about newspapers and pubs. Allan Park had a great set too, while Malky alluded to the heckler at his show last week. I missed headliner Anna Devitt, the main reason I’d gone as I’ve never yet seen her perform, but got caught up in a serious conversation in the main bar instead. On balance, though, I’ll be able to see her any time and some things have to take precedence.
It was an enjoyable night all in, and far better than we ever imagined. I’m not sure how much was raised in total, but I’ll probably be told at some point. Easily a couple of hundred quid I expect, given the number of folk there (about 40) and the entry price.
My next gig is a competition in Edinburgh on the 15th, but as it’s restricted to ninety-second sets there’s only an audience for the third heat, in the evening. I seriously doubt I’ll make it that far, and am toying with going to see Icon Of Coil play in Ireland that day anyway. I really want to see them at Resistanz Festival this weekend, but – just like last year – I left it to the very last possible minute to decide I want to go, and the travel and accomodation are now prohibitively expensive. I also just heard it’s sold out. So, either way, I might go to Dublin or I might do a gig that you can’t come to see. I’m doing the Flying Duck on Saturday 21st, though, so you should definitely come to that. Then I’m compering the Halt on Tuesday the 1st of May.
Have a good Easter. I’ve decided that when I am God, Easter will be the same weekend every year to avoid the confusion with the dates constantly shifting. Also, when I am God, if I send you my son and you kill him, I will destroy your world by creating white people.
Until next time.