Category Archives: Gong Show

Gig 100: SCOTY Gong Show, Maggie May’s, 4th September 2013

One hundred gigs on the local comedy circuit, albeit with a couple of them a little further away.¬† Gigs in pubs, clubs, snooker halls, the open air – playing to audiences big and small, to music audiences, to no audience. I’ve had fun and learned a lot. One of the things I’ve learned is that I have no desire to pursue stand-up comedy as a hobby.

The obvious question people have asked is: why? Why quit? I’m not enjoying it, is the top reason. I feel I am not contributing anything to a scene already saturated with okay acts. I’m an “okay” act – I’m not brilliant, I’m not dreadful. I have bad gigs, this very blog will document one of them, but I’ve also had some great ones. I could be better, and I could deliberately get better – by being less lazy and actively pursuing gigs across the country and writing in a more disciplined way. It costs money to gig though, and I have very little of that to spare, certainly not to travel miles to play to nobody. I can play to nobody without leaving my front room.

There was a debate recently, about whether free comedy nights devalued paid nights. The stand-out point, for me, was one local promoter saying he would rather see a new act trying new stuff than see some headliner who has done that set a hundred times this year. That’s when I realised – even if I was to be successful, it would be doing something I don’t want to do. When I was fourteen I moved from being on the stage (in amateur youth productions) to working backstage. I had no desire to be an actor, reciting lines in the glare of the spotlight, and found my interest lay backstage. Since then, I have consistently worked backstage in theatre (amateur and professional), studied the technical side of theatre, and graduated to also working behind the scenes in film and television. This is where I am comfortable, involved but out of sight.

The professional comedian has more leeway than an actor, admittedly. He recites from the script he wrote himself, at liberty to play with its structure and deviate from its course as any given audience demands. The two are still closely related in my mind, however, and I saw in that online comment that I would never be prepared to commit myself to that.

I’ve said before, too, that the people who attend gigs – the ones I try hard to make laugh – are the sort of folk I would avoid in the street, be annoyed at in the pub, and despise if I worked with them. Why am I trying to make them laugh, why do I care? I don’t. I know that I can make people laugh in everyday conversation, which may sound arrogant but I think I said at the very start that just about the only sure thing I know about myself is that I can make people laugh. I prefer to do that naturally, rather than standing on a stage reciting jokes.

The most fun I’ve had was the comedy podcast shows I did. There was never an audience, the idea never really took off, and the whole thing petered out. Being part of a “panel” though, able to quickly bounce off others ideas and just talk complete nonsense, was great fun. If I can find some other way to do that, then maybe it will rekindle my interest.

I am sick, too, of seeing the same traits in newcomer after newcomer, the same style evident among several professional comics too. I am very hard to please, and – having started because I adored stand-up – I have stopped watching it altogether. So, it is time for a break. If the notion takes me I can always return but, until then, there is no shortage of other capable acts to entertain you. Please keep going to local gigs and supporting the scene – it’s not for me, but there’s plenty of good stuff out there.

And so, the SCOTY Gong Show. I was on 28th of twenty-eight. After a painful couple of hours, the audience were reminded that they could go home after the last act. I had forfeited my minute’s grace period by arriving late, and so they had free rein to get rid of me immediately. Pre-empted by the bitch in the box and the cunt in the corner (pro acts Ray Bradshaw and Graham Mackie), who lambasted me in advance on account of my middle initials – two years after I dropped whatever material I had written about the fact I use them – I was off to a slow start. Having managed to switch the mic off before beginning, and taking pelters for it, I was gonged off rapidly. I lasted forty-seven seconds, and as Mackie added, “forty-six too long.”

I had considered trying to last the shortest time, just for a laugh, but was talked into attempting to do my full set. By the time I got onstage I was past caring. I made it into the car-crash compilation, at least. If you want to see a video that makes me cringe, it’s posted below – I’m sixteen minutes in. It’s not much of a swan song.

I have friends on the circuit, and still turn up to the occasional gig. Just don’t expect to see me on a stage anytime soon, unless I am sweeping it.

See you somewhere, sometime.

 

 


Gig 3: SCOTY Gong Show, The Ivory, 28th Nov 2010

Stage time is notoriously hard to come by, and with reference to advice on the Scottish Comedy Forum, I’ve decided to not turn down any gig. So, when the Scottish Comedian of the Year Gong Show announced it was open for entries, I put my name forward. The premise is simple enough, and follows the format of what constituted primetime television entertainment in the Seventies: every act gets a minute’s grace, and in the four minutes after that he can be gonged off at any point if two of the three audience gong cards are held aloft.

I arrived first, having braved the snow in the hope that the weather would have put off some of the competition. Of course, eleven other comics all turned up with the same hope. Some faces I knew, some I had seen or spoken to previously, but this was the first chance I had to spend some time in ‘comedian’s corner’ with them, waiting to go on. And therefore, also the first time some of them got to see me perform. I say perform…

In truth, I was up sixth or seventh (names were drawn from a hat to establish the running order), and got maybe five or six jokes out before the gong came. I lasted, if memory serves, one minute and five seconds. But, for all that, I was happy that I’d managed half a dozen laughs in that time, and Alan Anderson (the organiser and compere) had the decency to take the heat off by explaining to the audience after my set that it “was only my third or fourth gig”.

I’d deliberately cut the bulk of my “middle initials” bit, and thought about rearranging the order of my material – should I do the one-liners first, but maybe lose them after my minute’s grace? Or do the longer stuff first before they got the chance to gong me, but then maybe lose them before I got as far as the one-liners? In the end, I did as much of my set as I could in the same order as I did at The Buff Club a few days previously, because these things are impossible to predict anyway so I figured I’d stick to what I know. And ultimately, I was only doing it for the experience.

So I haven’t dwelled on it too much, I got some decent laughs and some stage time, met some people and some people met me, and saw some funny comedy. Ed Cassidy went through, as did YouTube sensation The Wee Man – both lasted the full five minutes, and in the cheer-off it was impossible to gauge an outright¬†winner. I was glad to see Richard Gadd and Asim Ali again, both of them entertain me greatly, and I very much enjoy Ross Main’s “Dave Reaper” character/song. It was also good to put faces to names I know from the Scottish Comedy Forum, and so overall I’m glad I took part. Good luck to all the contenders in this week’s final.