Category Archives: SCOTY

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 99: SCOTY Heat, Dram, 29th June 2013

I really want to announce my plan to make my 100th gig – if not my last – then definitely the last one I will blog about.

I worry, though, that such a decision will be enforced upon me in a permanent way. We all remember Father Ted, and how Dermot Morgan decided to make series three the end. He dropped dead within hours of shooting the final scenes, ensuring in a sadly infinite way that it was to be his last show.

I want to keep writing jokes, and no doubt will. I would like to get paid for writing, and preferably for writing comedy, but I can take or leave the standing on stages trying to engage with small crowds of people I would happily ignore in almost any other circumstances. A hundred gigs seems a good number to have done, and I noted here a few blogs back that I am bored of documenting each gig. I prefer to channel my creative energies, for now, into writing about other true life encounters and anecdotes, which can be read here.

Tonight’s gig was my, I believe, fourth annual attempt at progressing in the Scottish Comedian Of The Year competition. Last year I was wild-carded into the semi-finals, and this year (as previous years) I hoped to be voted through on my own merit. Yet again, it was a forlorn hope.

I carefully chose my material, as ever, hand-picking my favourite jokes. Instead of one-liners, I decided to go with stories, absurdism, and menace. Stuff that I know to be funny, based on past experience, and suitably different from what I expected of the other acts in my heat. I chose well, I got laughs where I expected them, and on an ad-lib when one physics-based joke failed. The promoter laughed, and told me he had enjoyed my set, but it was not enough to secure me a vote into the next round.

A handful of us had, post-gig and pre-vote, correctly predicted the first two places. Chris Dinwoodie won outright. You can argue about the perceived fairness of having a magician in the Scottish Comedian competition – you can, I cannot be bothered. With audience volunteers on stage, a couple of stock lines, and magic in addition to material, it is hardly the same category as the guy who gets up there armed only with self-penned jokes. Don’t get me wrong, Chris is undeniably good at what he does and he is extremely entertaiining – whether that solely justifies the title “comedian” though is open to debate.

Second place went, without wishing to do him a disservice, to the guy who brought the most friends. This happens at virtually every SCOTY heat, and is no surprise. It is simple logic – whoever brings the most audience wins (or at least strongly biases) the audience vote.

Third place was tightly fought between Paul McDaniel – regular readers will know his personable surrealism makes him one of my favourite acts at this level – and Adam Struth, with whom I have gigged on countless occasions. Paul went through, with Adam a contender for one of this year’s wild-card places.

I had a good gig, despite misjudging my timing and running under, but it proves once more that it always, always, always comes down to what the audience likes. And every audience is diffferent. I can do decent material, get consistent laughs, and still not progress. I think what I need in my life right now is not something as fickle as stand-up comedy.

Never say never, and none of us can know what the future holds, but with my next gig (wherever and whenever it may be) being my landmark hundredth, don’t be surprised if it starts winding down after that. It seems a good stopping point for this blog too, even if I do continue to gig. We will see.

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.

Gig 2: The Buff Club, 25th Nov 2010

My second gig, again courtesy of Pop-Up Comedy. By this point, I’d reorganised my material from the first gig and changed the delivery of some of the lines. I also had to drop some of my opening jokes about being my first gig, since they were only relevant the first time. Tonight was a strange affair, with an audience numbering…two. Two paying punters, nine or ten comedians, a barman, and maybe four or five people who had come along to support their friend/partner.

That said, it was a great night – I got the chance to do my new set in full and uninterrupted, and got a laugh rate I was happy with. I changed my second joke at the last minute to one about a story in the paper that day – VisitScotland had put out a press release saying how great for shops Glasgow is, naming twenty such as Versace, Gucci, etc. But as the Evening Times noted, almost all of them had shut or relocated. Some of them had even been shut for five years. So I mentioned this and added “VisitScotland have since put out a new press release saying: Come to Glasgow, it’s near Braehead” – I’ve used that three times now and it always gets a laugh, although I realise it’s relevance is probably finite. The front page of the paper is DEFINITELY finite, I’m not sure how much more folding/unfolding it can take before it starts to disintegrate…

A fun night, headlined by Ancient Annie – she was one of the first comedians I saw and spoke to on the circuit, and it was great to see her go through to the final of the Scottish Comedian of the Year. Her set always gets a good reaction, and tonight she did it without a mic – it died right before her set, but the intimate nature of the gig meant we all heard her just fine.

A good night, and a very enjoyable second gig.