Category Archives: Pop-Up Comedy

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.

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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.

 


Gig 94: Podcast Recording, Halt Bar, 5th May 2013

Finally, at the fifth attempt, we produced something decent. Acts, audience, crew, equipment and script came together well.

I sat with Jimmy McKee, as in previous weeks, and faced Andy MacKay and Mick Clocherty. Mick proved to be a good foil for me – equally able to take any topic or tangent and run with it while making it funny. Malky hosted, his desire to avoid being seen to be reading (rather than addressing the camera) leading to a few verbal stumbles.

 

We filmed for about ninety minutes, which was later edited down to fifteen or so. After four weeks of fucking jokes about panda repopulation, none of that made the final cut. Never mind, it is good experience to try and write topical jokes on a weekly basis. I could reuse soem of this stuff in my stand-up, except I have decided to try and be a little more political now – based on my recent experiences of protest marches.

The podcast is still a work-in-progress, we are still refining it and finding out what works, what doesn’t, and what can be made to. In this video, you can hear a horrendous chat-up line, hear big Andy’s ad-lib highlighting a possible continuity error and the huge laugh it generates, and see me get owned by the “yer maw” joke that I deliberately set up. Whatever else might be said about Malky, and there is a lot, he is good at making the leap and coming back pretty damned fast.

Watch it, you will see.


Gig 93: Podcast Recording, Halt Bar, 28th April 2013

This was the first Sunday night of the podcast, using the same basic script as on Thursday and complemented with remembered ad-libs.

We had cameras, and crew, and lights, and participants. We lacked an audience. We went through it all, playing to somebody’s girlfriend and her brother.

It was fun, and enjoyable, and the footage was completely unusable – it was too odd without any laughter on the soundtrack.

We will salvage what we can (that which remains topical) for the next show, in a week. It all came together well, and nobody was there to see it.


Gig 92: Podcast Recording, Halt Bar, 25th April 2013

This proved to be the final Thursday night of the podcast, as it will be moving to Sunday nights starting later this same week.

Tonight wasn’t filmed either, due to availability issues with camera, lighting, or personnel. Instead, we had another run-through to acquaint ourselves with format and content. I was with Jimmy McKee again, playing opposite Andy MacKay (if memory serves, some weeks later) and Chris Stephen. We began as last week, with a little bit of stand-up comedy. This was thrown on me last minute, but I had brought my stand-up notes just in case, and managed to get through it.

One of my friends had come along, for the first time, and she joined the small audience. It was unfortunate, and I still feel bad, that I had to abandon her for the bulk of the evening. Despite this, it was a good night with lots of jokes, ad-libs, and interaction.

So good, in fact, that it was decided to do it all again on Sunday – using the same script – and film it.