Category Archives: Promoter

Malky’s Leaving Night, Pop-Up Comedy, 17th December 2013.

After five years of promoting his signature gig, Malky decided to hand the bulk of duty over to his regular compere, Chris Henry.

I have been attending gigs at The Halt for three of those years, and have seen it go from strength to strength. Dozens of other gigs have sprung up and died by the wayside, including nights Malky himself ran in other venues, and so it is something of an achievement that the weekly free Tuesday night event continues to pack out this west-end bar. Whatever your opinion of the man, or of the reputation his stage persona has, he managed to consistently find an audience and keep them coming back regularly.

Although I have been absent from the scene for months, through comedy fatigue and a loss of love for performing, it very quickly popped into my head that perhaps I should try and write Malky some kind of send-off poem. The precedent had been set when Chris himself left, bound for London to pursue his career. No sooner had the thought hit, than rhymes and couplets suggested themselves. There was such an abundance of ideas that eventually I sat down and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. Three hours, two pages, and ten verses later, the first draft was complete. The second draft was mostly restructuring, making edits and choosing the best order for the verses to flow, and I contacted Chris to arrange things.

The first section would be a normal gig, a series of open spots performing material. Then there would be an awards section which, despite my reservations, was comparatively entertaining to witness. Finally, Chris would get Malky on stage in the third section, present an award to him, and hand over for his headline spot. I would be introduced to the stage just prior to Malky’s act, and I spent much of the evening – when questioned by friends and fellow comedians – lying through my teeth about having nothing planned. In total I confided in two, or at most three, people. The following, therefore, came as a surprise to almost everybody.

“The Malky Way.”

We’re gathered here tonight to say
Farewell to Malky, who’s on his way.
I’ve watched him gig two-hundred times,
And never seen him commit any of those crimes.
(So he’s clandestine.)
(Like a Lostprophet.)

I asked him why he’s leaving, folks.
He says work has left no time for writing jokes.
That left me buckled on the floor –
It’s never stopped the cunt before!

He’s promoted gigs near and far –
We’ve played the Bier Halle, and The Vicky Bar.
Buff Club too, and you cannot fault
The effort that man’s put in to making The Halt.

He’s been very fair, given everyone a shot.
He let Hobbit compere, and that says a lot.
He let new acts practice, he gave them the floor;
Some who got good now refuse to walk through that door.

Always on first, weekly, after the break,
He’ll do one joke, and a news stock-take.
You could never truly call him bitter,
For he delights in saying he’s been blocked on Twitter.

Whenever he compered, don’t be fooled –
As a warm-up man, he left the room cooled.
Amazingly, for all the deathly silence,
There were precious few gigs ended in violence.
(One or two.)

He took all our abuse with only good grace,
He’s been a great friend and a familiar face.
It’s gonna be weird when he’s not here –
But at least the girls can drink without fear.
(Unless Chris steps in.)
(Which is a possibility.)

Malky’s one of those old-fashioned guys.
Rohypnol? No, hoods and cable ties.
The infamous mating-call of that man
Was “Just eat the sweets, and get in the van.”

I say that he’s funny and, seriously, though,
He gets lots of laughs when he’s not here in Glasgow.
I’ve seen him do well in various places –
He’s not allowed back, but he did crack their faces.
([a smile])

But will the acts who now open our second half
Tread in his footsteps, and not get a laugh?
Perhaps in the New Year we’ll all get a shot
At killing the room in the famed “Malky spot.”

This heartfelt character assassination
Is in fact a celebration.
He’s given humour to the masses
And so I ask, please raise your glasses.
(To Malky.)

I think his girlfriend recorded my recital on her phone, but whether the video is any good or – crucially – the audio coherent, I don’t know.

Pop-Up Comedy continues to run every Tuesday night, featuring new acts and an experienced headliner weekly. You can check line-ups on the Facebook page, or continue to troll Malky on Twitter.


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 98: Vespbar (Saturday Show) 25th May 2013

I was out for dinner when, finishing up, I happened to see a message on Facebook from one of my comedy friends, asking if I could do a gig in Glasgow  that evening.

With about ninety minutes’ notice, I settled the bill, went home, changed, grabbed the notes from my last couple of sets, and headed into the town. Vespbar was reasonably busy, being an intimate venue and one currently running a deal that includes pizza, drink, and comedy for two for about a tenner.

Johnny Thompson was compering, and did a commendable job. I gigged with hime, as I recall, at one of my Stand gigs a couple of years back. Obie was on the bill too, and a couple of guys whose names I didn’t recognise byt whose faces I did.

I had agreed to open, a slightly daunting prospect, and had jotted down what i thought would be about ten minutes of material. I didn’t get through all of it before being flashed off, which suited me – it meant I did pretty close to my time. The material went okay, although I prefaced the whole thing by apologising about the short notice I’d been given and for the fact I was having to keep checking my hand to see which order I had decided to do the jokes in. Obie told me off for that afterwards, and not for the first time – better to be confident, even arrogant, than to apologise. Embrace the failing, address it head on, but don’t be meek about it.

I found out that my “Running” material is, as I knew it would become, less funny with the passing of time. One specific punchline works less well now that I need to follow it by reminding people about Oscar Pistorius.

My gig went okay, people laughed either at the material or at the ad-libs off the back of the occasional punchlines that didn’t hit. I put in an effort to entertain paying punters, and to justify the beer voucher that was mine in return for my time and abilities. I felt I largely did both, as best I could.

Vespbar has comedy every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Check it out online if you’re interested in the deals and promotions they have going on.


Gig 97: The Halt Bar (Friday Show)

The Halt management decided to start a comedy night on Fridays, without (as I understand it) committing a budget to book the calibre of act who can attract, control, or hold a Friday night audience.

Malky is an experienced promoter, and I do not wish to do him down by speaking badly of this gig. The first of anything is usually questionable, that is how we learn – by doing, failing, doing again, failing again but failing better. There’s a reason it’s called a Learning Curve.

There were six open spots on, five of them were shite. I include myself in that. Booked on the strength of recent gigs, most of the acts deviated from the tried, tested material and did new stuff. Almost all of us over-ran. I did the second part of my “Fuck The Tories” material, which I had begun at my last Tuesday gig, and found it to be less funny than intended and more political than the audience wanted.

After a long and painful couple of sections, during which (unbelievably) none of the audience left, it was time for the headliner. Malky called him to the stage, discovering that he was not in the room. If it is near your stage time, you are closing a gig, and you are not in the room at the time, then you are not a professional. As there was already a guitar set up for the closer, I was prejudiced anyway against watching him.

A girl left the room, Malky presuming that she had gone to find him. She returned alone. Asked if she had seen him, she informed us that “He’s outside smoking, chatting to some lassie about how he’s on stage soon.”

That was my cue to leave – it had been a long night, most acts died, and now this guy was nowhere to be seen but did have a guitar waiting for him. Not for me. I left.

I heard later that he, too, deviated from the set that had got him this booking, too drunk to make sense and too reliant on his Irish accent to coast him through a lack of material.

I am not sure if the Friday night gigs are still running, and I kind of hope not – as Malky was already aware, you need a budget to book acts on a Friday. It’s very different to a Tuesday night new-act crowd. maybe if the bar plough some money in and give it six months, it will fly. Personally, I don’t see that kind of investment coming from them.

Whereas the Tuesday night shows are going from strength to strength.


Gig 96: Podcast Recording, Halt Bar, 12th May 2013

I arrived to find the other acts and the few regulars all sitting around a notebook in the main bar. It seemed we had no audience, not helped by the pub’s blackboard advertising the Sunday night quiz rather than making any mention of comedy. Some of the regular panel members had also been waylaid, and so there was an impromptu meeting to decide on ways we can improve the format.

As I said to Chris, one of the driving forces behind this project, if I could think of an entertaining and engaging take on the panel show format, I wouldn’t be pitching it to him – I would be trying to pitch it to BBC Scotland.

My wee cousin and her boyfriend came along, the pair of them being our audience. They are former regulars of the Tuesday night comedy, and as we are all friends and the room was otherwise empty, I invited them to sit on the stage with us. Our opposing team had not shown, and so we had the most streamlined set-up yet – Malky hosting, and me sitting with my usual team-mate, Jimmy McKee.

I had, as every week, gone through the script and jotted down two or three answers for everything. A lot of the news stories angered my moral and political sensibilities, and I had decided to announce this week’s podcast as “the one where Jordan gets angry.”

I always write two or three answers for everything, and then move on. I put in running gags where I can too, and try to put in absurdity and silliness as much as any political or salient points. Nobody remembers every thought they have, and as I move on as soon as I have jotted down my first thoughts on each topic, some of them are still new to me when I come to read them back from the stage a few hours later.

I found out tonight that Jimmy hadn’t realised the script was published online in advance, which helps explain why every week I turn up better prepared than most of the other three panellists.

We ran through what we had, which was a truncated version of the show we record – no headlines round, and no photographs to caption. The camera crew were unavailable to film this evening either, and so it was a short and very informal gathering. It has been decided to use many of the same questions again next week, when we have cameras and – hopefully – audience.

To that end, the plan was hatched that we will try and arrest the attention of shoppers by staging the panel show – now called the Scottish News Quiz, in a further change of name – in the middle of Buchanan Street on Sunday afternoon. I think we said 2pm.

This is a terrible idea, absolutely awful, and so I agreed immediately. The last time I did comedy outside, I was heckled by four mounted police and nine riot vans (Kelvingrove Park, the day of the Royal Wedding/riots.) The last time I said something was a bad idea while simultaneously agreeing to it, I ended up compering the London headline show of my favourite band.

This week has a lot to live up to.


Gig 95: The Halt Bar, 7th May 2013

I did what I often do – spent weeks thinking about what material to do at a far-off gig, and then spent the whole afternoon hurriedly writing it. This was made easier, in some ways, on this occasion, as everything I wanted to do is based in fact. Facts by themselves are not funny, however, and so I endeavoured to write frequent, regular punchlines to go with them.

I knew that I wanted to try and be more political, not least because I have recently taken to protesting against the increasingly-unworkable policies of the Tories. Based on the eight articles I have written over on my other (and now preferred) blog, Embrace The Absurdity, I sat and wrote nine pages of story and jokes. Then I went to the library, printed them off, and jumped a bus to the gig.

I was down for five minutes, and had been hoping to extend that to ten. Even ten wasn’t going to be long enough to cover everything, I quickly realised. The bill was particularly full, a great line-up of reliable acts (ones who can especially be replied upon to turn up too), and so there was very little room for maneouvre. Chris Henry, compering to a reserved crowd, agreed to give me what leeway he could. He allowed me seven minutes, and even speaking as fast as I did and wrapping up as soon as I saw the light, I still managed to overrun.

As I said later, I didn’t run out of time so much as just used my time less well than I should have. However, for a first outing, I am happy with it. It is just unfortunate that the really funny stuff is in the second half of this routine, and I don’t think I got as far as the halfway mark.

It was summer this day, Glasgow’s one and so far only day of warm sunshine this year. As a result, the dark bar was quieter than usual while the local park and beer gardens flourished. It felt like the audience didn’t really wake up until the second section, and while I drew some laughter I also had a fair few silences where I had anticipated a reaction. After further testing, I may look at cutting swathes of it in order to get to my points faster, allowing me to move onto the latter part which  feel is funnier.

As it stands, I think this could easily fill twenty minutes, or at least fifteen – but that is an amount of time not available to me, and so I will have to do (and hone) each of about five different stories in turn. It will then be ready to combine and hopefully have my first twenty done. It probably lends itself more to spoken word than stand-up nights, so I might have a look and see if there is anyone willing to let me try that out. Otherwise, maybe I will finally have something I am willing to punt as my first solo (or maybe joint) show at next year’s Comedy Festival. Time will tell.

In the meantime, here is the very first outing of my all-new material. With some laughs, a couple of jokes incorporated from my previous sets, and a wee bit of laughter too.