Sunday, 4 December 2011

Gigs No.8 & 9 - Daylight come and me Wan go home



I don’t know how to be a stand-up comedian. But About.com knows how to do everything. About.com is like MacGyver if MacGyver was a motherfucking robot or some shit. A robot MacGyver sitting in a library, checking out Wikipedia on his iPhone whilst listening to In Our Time on his iPod (please note that other smartphones and MP3 devices are available but they’re shit so just buy an iPhone and an iPod and have done with it).

About.com has compiled a list of 'Ten Tips on How To Break into Stand-Up Comedy'. And now… now I’m going to have to take a wry and ironic look at them whilst reflecting their facile nature whilst acknowledging their intrinsic truth whilst making light of that fact whilst highlighting that whilst it’s easy to mock them most comedians actually don’t follow these simple rules whilst mocking them.

Prrrrrrrr.

There’s a moment in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest where R.P. McMurphy fights the bullying porters for the umpteenth time, to protect the weaker inmates. Previously he’s been strong and given a good fight. But this time he, their hero, is weak and sluggish, slow and jaded. Bravery isn’t enough this time. He’s trying. But…

Now. I am not comparing myself to R.P. McMurphy or any other kind of heroic, over-relied upon yet under-appreciated hero. I’m just, saying, that, that, it might be nice if one or two of you, from time to time, would take on, you know, instead of just standing there gawping, if you could just… Ah forget it.

You think I wouldn't like a con-con-vertible and a guh-guh-girl friend? But did you ever have people l-l-laughing at you? No, because you're so b-big and so tough! Well, I'm not big and tough.


About.com… take the floor.

1. Get On Stage Now
Basically, it’s like sex, they’re saying. No amount of grasping one out over internet pornography is going to prepare you for what Harriet Harman calls ‘full sex’. Same goes for comedy, same goes for skydiving, same goes for war, same goes for applying for Britain’s Got Talent… Wanking will help none of these things. Well, except applying for Britain’s Got Talent. And War. And skydiving. And comedy. But it DEFINITELY does not prepare you for what Harriet Harman calls ‘full sex’.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Bomb
Sure, sure, get straight back on the horse. Good advice. But it’s not that simple. In the case of bombing at an open mic night, it’s not just akin to being thrown off the horse. It’s as if the horse has bucked you off, and then has sat you down in a cafĂ© near your house, and then stared obliquely into the middle distance for an age, and then started saying things like ‘the thing is…’ and ‘look, it’s not as if… oh god this is so hard’, and all the while your coffee’s going cold, which doesn’t matter cos you haven’t even touched it yet and who gives a fuck about the coffee, and the horse cries a little bit and you say ‘what is it?’ even though you know exactly what the fuck is going on and you wonder if you’re going to become the first couple in history to break up in total and utter silence. Don’t be afraid to bomb, get tae fuck. Of course I’m afraid. So are you.

3. Keep Up With Your Old Stuff
Oh what, the Old Stuff that Bombed? Thanks a chuffing lot, About.com.

4. Don’t Steal
Oh, what, you can’t…? You mean, you can’t just…? From another comedian’s…? Oh. Oh shit…

5. Stick to Your Time
Yeah, true that. Particularly if you’re rubbish (note to self).

6. Tape Yourself
S’what I told the missus, fnar fnar (sex joke!). Although in all seriousness, when you do tape yourself, it’s horrific to watch the tape back of a time when you thought you did really well and see all the horrible faces you pulled and the stupid poses you threw yourself into and realise that you were nowhere near as good as you thought you were and the response you got was a lot quieter than you imagined it was at the time (am I talking about comedy or sex? Who knows?! That’s the joke! Of this bit! Not of all of it. But definitely this bit! HAHAHA).

7. Hit the Clubs
Networks your tits off, they say. I mean, this is genuinely great advice. It’s just one big fucking boys club out there. Not a ‘Fucking Boys Club’, that would be something totally different and wildly inappropriate. An *expletive* boys club. Like the Scouts. Although the Scouts are unisex now aren’t they? Mind you, so is stand-up comedy. OR IS IT? Answers on a saucy seaside postcard, ladies.

8. Make Nice with the Audience
Again good advice. People don’t pay to go to open mic nights and be insulted by nobody comics who aren’t even very good. Then again people don’t pay to go to open mic nights. Hang on, there’s something in this. WHERE’S CONFUCIUS WHEN YOU NEED HIM? Probably still looking for that cat, the fat bastard.

9. Carry a Notebook With You
No.
10. Be Yourself
Oh this is… Have you ever met me? Well then.


Gig No.8 - Comedy Virgins, The Cavendish Arms, Stockwell Tuesday 22nd November 2011

With About.com‘s golden rules rattling around my brain like a frozen pea lost in a conch, I pitched up at the Cavendish Arms for what I’d been told was the ‘best open mic gig in London’. To cut a long story short, it’s a great gig and it was a lovely evening. Supportive audience, good MC and a strong line-up of comedians.

To add a bit of fun to proceedings, Comedy Virgins has a random line-up - you could be on first or last. You get roughly 20 seconds warning that you’re going on, so you have to be ready to storm the stage at any moment. I was on near the end, and lemme tell yoo son, it’s terrifying. I had also, earlier in the evening, eaten a bowl of the Cavendish Arms famed 'Disco Fries', and lemme tell yoo son, they’re terrifying. It’s an artery-atrophying deadweight of chips, various cheeses and onion rings. The upshot was that I spent the whole evening nervously anticipating my entrance onstage whilst my sorrowful guts churned away with such grim, stodgy determination that once or twice I went blind due to the nausea.

As if that wasn’t enough extra fun/pressure, the audience also crown one comedian the winner at the end of the night. The acts who get the best reaction are invited back onstage for a good old-fashioned clap-off. My set for the evening was a weird experiment which involved me starting off by brandishing a mask of Gok Wan whilst singing songs by The Smiths. The audience were good, strong people and had had a good evening (and a few beers) by the time I was on, so they were happy to go with my Morrissey/Gok mash-up. I then wore the Gok mask and got ‘Gok’ to tell some pretty shit jokes. Again, the audience caught the mood and went with it.

For whatever reason(s), everything clicked into place. People seemed to laugh at any little thing I said, or any little face I made. It seemed easy. What a massively confusing thi business this is.

As such I was invited back onstage at the end for the clap-off. Which I lost to the brilliant Pat Cahill, who was subsequently disqualified for being the headline act and a real, actual stand-up comedian.

So I won a three inch plastic trophy. By default.

YES.


Did I achieve this thanks to About.com’s top ten tips? Let’s see.

1. Get On Stage Now
YES, done. Tick. Thanks, About.com.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Bomb
My act was to wear a mask of increasingly unheard of TV personality Gok Wan, sing songs by an increasingly obscure cult band from the 80s and tell deliberately bad jokes. Hell, I was afraid just to BE there.

3. Keep Up With Your Old Stuff
It can barely keep up with me, to be honest.

4. Don’t Steal
Well, whilst the style of my act might not have been amazingly original, I thought I was on pretty safe ground with my Smiths/Gok Wan crossover. However, after the gig one audience member inquired whether I knew a friend of hers, who had been making a similar joke on Facebook just a few days previously. I believe she was suggesting that a) I had nicked it, or b) I was woefully unoriginal. There we are.
5. Stick to Your Time
Hmm, I went a teeny bit over, I think. But within the parameters of decency. Time is elastic.

6. Tape Yourself
Didn’t do this but my girlfriend did take some fantastic, shaky, grainy pics on her phone (thanks, love) - see above. See my shame at winning. SEE IT.
7. Hit the Clubs
So, this gig is amazingly ideal for a spot of networking. And, clutching the trophy, I was in prime position to press the flesh with confidence and impunity. However, winning the tongue-in-cheek prize had made me feel that all the other performers and their friends would think I was some kind of arrogant tosser who was too good for them. So, I hid in the corner for a bit which made me look like some kind of arrogant tosser who was too good for them.
8. Make Nice with the Audience
See point No.4. I didn’t punch her in the face. So, mission accomplished on this one.

9. Carry a Notebook With You
No.

10. Be Yourself
Mainly I was Gok Wan.


So, I achieved comedy glory by following just two out of About.com’s ten tips. Imagine how shithot I’m gunna be when I nail all ten.

Gig No.9 - Party Piece, The Queen‘s Head, Kings Cross Tuesday 29th November 2011

As I made my way home from the Cavendish Arms, clutching my mini-prize in my clammy fist, I wondered what would happen if the audience hadn’t been so good? So generous? So up for it? After all, I was ballooning onto stage, belching out a bad Morrissey impression whilst waving a Gok Wan mask about. What would happen if the audience just didn’t want to go with it?

The answer I found in the slightly stunned, mildly offended but mainly just plain bored expressions I talked at for five minutes at the Queen’s Head one week later.

Performing identical material resulted in by far my best and worst gigs. Sadly, at the moment I don’t have the bank of material to choose from, or the required skills to engage different types of audiences. But I do have a Gok Wan mask. Baby steps...

Monday, 28 November 2011

Gig No. 7 - After the first death, there is no other


Here’s one for ya. When I was a kid, I used to make up jokes all the time. My favourite one was this…

What’s purple and waves?
An aubergine with an arm.

I was 7 when I made that joke up. It genuinely has been all downhill from there.


Gig No.7 - Gong in 60 Seconds, Kings Place, Kings Cross Thursday 17th November 2011

The rule of thumb for open mic nights is that you will (generally) be protected from the dark side of an audience. The watching crowd can drown you in silence but nothing more. There is no heckling, booing or stoning.

The audience at these gigs is comprised mainly of other performers and their friends. Any ‘real’ punters who aren’t aware that aggressive audience participation is frowned upon will be reminded at the top of the night by the MC. These gigs are intended to be safe havens for new acts or established acts trying out new material. Nothing will be gained from heckling and so on.

'Gong in 60 Seconds' is the open mic circuit’s audience’s revenge. Boy/girl/best friend dragged you to one too many ropey comedy nights? Have you been forced to sit through endless gags about growing up in small Home Counties towns where they only had one nightclub and it was called Tits and it had a sticky floor? Do you now visibly flinch when you hear the words ‘hello! How are we?!’? Well, then, this gig is for you. This is your moment. This is payback.

For you, dear audience, you can get rid of an act whenever you want. Shaky performance? Can ‘em! Dreadful puns? Begone! Suspect they might be a gag writer for Tramadol Nights? Off with their heads!

And no one will judge you. This is stand-up comedy at its most raw, at its most brutal. This is a Jacobean bear pit where only the strong will survive and the audience’s affections can switch quicker than Edward Norton’s character switching between his two personalities in that film with Richard Gere that I can’t remember the name of. Primal Rage? No, that was a beat-em-up on the Megadrive involving dinosaurs. Bloody great that was. There was this giant monkey character (not a dinosaur obvs, but I think he might have been the Abominable Snowman - hang on, I’ll Wikipedia it… wait there… ah, turns out the big monkey guy was the almighty God of Good and Virtue. Turns out they were all gods, actually. Fair enough. Am I still in these parentheses? I am. Ok, here we are) Primal Fear! It was Primal Fear!

Basically, each comic has to try and survive for five minutes. Four flags are distributed randomly around the audience. Once the comic has used up 60 seconds, the audience members can lift their flags if they want the comic gone. If three of the four flags are raised at the same time (audience members obviously have the right to lower the flags if the comic improves) then the comic is gonged off to jeers, boos and heckles. Those plucky few who survive the five minutes are pitted together in a brutal laugh-off, where they get a further 60 seconds to impress the audience, who will then vote for the winner.

It's bloody.

I was suitably terrified.

Sadly, on this occasion the audience didn’t really get into the spirit of things and were very shy when it came to flag-raising. Individual members of the audience didn’t want to be exposed or seen as ‘mean’, so the first flag would generally be raised 3-4 minutes into a set, regardless of how well the comic was doing. The result was that too many acts made the final and the evening had a peculiar atmosphere. It’s a very odd sensation to see benevolence and kindness sour an evening.

As for me - I put in an exceedingly below-par performance and the audience treated me with the kindly, flummoxed silence that I deserved. What they did not do, however, was flag me off. I lasted the full five minutes.

‘Huzzah!’ I hear you cry. Well, no. Actually, far from it. It was horrible. I have experienced an audience watching me silently, not even a vague smirk in sight, wishing that I would leave the stage as soon as humanly possible. Tonight, I experience that. Coupled with an intense incredulity that other audience members hadn’t voted me off. It was a dose of double-hate. ‘Not only are you rubbish and unfunny’ thought audience member X, ‘but I actively resent you being onstage a second further.’

I was the Janet Devlin of stand-up. Not entertaining anyone, not talented enough to succeed. And yet I remained, to the shock and horror of onlookers, in the competition. Hell, I stood a chance of winning it.

But I didn’t.

Dear everyone. Lift those flags, eh? Put us out of our misery. Enjoy the execution. Revel in it. Allow the power to go to your heads. Hell, vote someone off because you don’t like their shoes. We don’t mind. That’s the game. We don’t get to play it very often, so we may as well all enjoy it.

And who wouldn't want the chance to tell a gobby attention-seeker to shut up? I know that I certainly wou-

What's that?

Ah. Ok.

Shutting up....

Monday, 21 November 2011

Gigs No. 5 & 6 - The English are waiting and I don’t know what to do


‘We have failed, that's all. We are bad comedians, we aren't bad men.’
Graham Greene, ‘The Comedians’


How many amateur comedians does it take to screw in a light bulb?

12.

One to screw in the light bulb. The other 11 to watch him screw in the light bulb whilst secretly hoping he makes a total fucking botch job of it, so that they can go and screw it in themselves. To rapturous applause.

Ah no, this is uncharitable.

How many amateur comedians does it take to screw in a light bulb?

12.

One to screw in the light bulb. The other 11 to watch him screw in the light bulb whilst secretly hoping he makes a decent enough job of screwing it in, but just stopping short of being able to make it light up, so that they can go up and easily finish screwing it in themselves. To rapturous applause.

Oh come on now, this isn’t fair.

How many amateur comedians does it take to screw in a light bulb?

1.

To screw in the light bulb. To rapturous applause.

Gig No.5 - Comedy Bin, The Old School Yard, Borough Tuesday 1st November 2011

Below is a rough approximation of everything I said onstage during the first two minutes of my slot, along with my thought process.

* - action
() - thoughts
- words

*Walking towards the stage area during my intro, I notice a bizarre and enormous green bottle directly behind where the stand ups have been performing. In lieu of anything even approaching a decent opening to my set, I decide to remark upon this to begin with. For some reason, once I get to the stage, instead of taking the proffered microphone from the outstretched arm of the MC I decide to turn to the audience and hold my arms aloft in victory. This is largely involuntary. I seem to get away with.*

(God, I hope I don’t trip over anyone on the way to the stage. Shit, what the hell am I going to say once I’m onstage? I have no idea. Ooh, look at that massive green bottle. I’ll talk about that. Good. Right, let’s grab that mic from the MC and talk about the massive green bottle. What am I doing? WHY AM I HOLDING MY ARMS ALOFT IN VICTORY AT THE AUDIENCE? They seem to be accepting it. Why? Idiots. Right, I’ve got the mic! Result!)

*Pointing to massive green bottle*

What the hell is this?

(Oh fuck please laugh. Please please please. They laughed! A bit!)

Seriously, what is it? Anyone? It’s mental. What was it for? What was kept in there?

*Approaching poor audience member in the front row*

What would you keep in there?

(YES. This is exactly the kind of bollock-swinging bolshy improv a decent stand-up might do. The audience think I know what I’m doing. I don’t! Hahahaha!!! Oop, the audience member looks annoyed and unhappy. Shit. I’ve ruined his night. I’ve ruined everything. Is he going to shout at me?)

You don’t know? No. I don’t know. None of us know.

(THEY’RE LAUGHING. I AM BASICALLY A GOD. Now time to do that stuff about gravy I made up on the way here. IT IS TIME.)

On the way here tonight, and this is true, I heard two guys talking on the tube. And one of them said, in reaction to a question, ‘yeah, it was all gravy’.

And I thought.

What. Was? All gravy?

(They’re going with it! It’s four years out of date. These guys are idiots!)

He seemed really pleased about this, he said it in a positive manner. Had he been somewhere that was all gravy? Entirely gravy? Everything.

(I’M LIKE A LAUGH CONDUCTOR)

Cos he’d be covered in gravy if that was the case. Had he just had a meal that was all gravy? Every bit of it?

(Shit, this is great. I’m even confident enough to try this next bit which is very low on laughs and needs the audience to really go with it.)

The only way he could use the phrase ‘it was all gravy’, in a positive way, is this. ‘Oh hello, how’s your Sunday roast?’ ‘It’s good thanks.’

(They’re not laughing. This is fine. It’s all part of my plan.)

‘Oh yeah? What’s good about it?’ ‘Well, it’s good because it’s part meat, part vegetable…

(Ah-ha! I heard a knowing groan! A KNOWING GROAN! They are totally onside! I love these guys, I want to have sex with all of them. Can I do this? I probably can. I’ll ask at the end.)

…part potato. And. Part gravy.’ ‘Oh great. And how’s the gravy?’

(They’ve laughed pre-emptively!)

‘That. That is ALL gravy.’

(I am totes Facebooking all these guys later)

*The rest of my material glided along nicely. Comic and audience were as one. All was well with the world.*


Gig No.6 - Five Minutes of Comedy Fame, Rudy‘s Revenge, Holborn Wednesday 2nd November 2011

Below is a rough approximation of everything I said onstage during the first two minutes of my slot, along with my thought process.

*Walking towards the stage area during my intro, I notice a bizarre and enormous cartoon directly behind where the stand ups have been performing. In lieu of anything even approaching a decent opening to my set, I decide to remark upon this to begin with. For some reason, once I get to the stage, instead of taking the proffered microphone from the outstretched arm of the MC I decide to try and shake his hand. He doesn‘t shake my hand. I force him to shake my hand. This is largely involuntary. I don‘t get away with it. The audience are already perplexed and, understandably, hostile.*

(We-he-he-hell, last night’s ‘lookie here, what’s this then?’ schtick went down a storm. So. Naturally. That trick’s going to work again. Hey hey, there’s a big weird cartoon. Shit, they’re going to love this. WHY AM I FORCING THE MC TO SHAKE MY HAND? Wow, that’s created a weird atmosphere. I’ll pull it round with this big weird cartoon, you just wait…)

*Pointing to big weird cartoon*

What the hell is this?

(They‘re going to laugh at that. Deffo. Ok. They‘re not laughing. Why not?)

Seriously, what is it? Anyone? It’s mental.

(Ok, these guys are idiots. When I pointed at the big green bottle, people laughed. If anything, this cartoon is funnier. I‘ll point some more.)

Look at it. Look at the cartoon. Who’s this guy? And this one here?

(Oo-kay. Not, er, not going with the cartoon material there.)

Oo-kay. Not, er , not going with the cartoon material there.

(Woof. Ok. I won’t go as far as saying you could hear a pin drop in here. But that’s mainly because the sound of bored sighs and shuffling chairs would drown it out.)

‘For gods sake, do some material, Chris.’

(Why did I say that like Alan Partridge?)

Why did I say that like Alan Partridge?

(WHY AM I JUST SAYING THE FIRST THOUGHTS THAT POP IN TO MY HEAD? Right. Breathe. Do that sure-fire gravy stuff that went down really well last night.)

Right, er, I’ll do some material then. On the way here tonight, and this is true, I heard two guys talking on the tube. And one of them said, in reaction to a question, ‘yeah, it was all gravy’.

And I thought.

(NOW comes the payload, people. No one can fail to laugh at this.)

What. Was? All gravy?

(Bollocks.)

He seemed really pleased about this, he said it in a positive manner. Had he been somewhere that was all gravy? Entirely gravy? Everything.

(They‘ve rumbled me.)

Cos he’d be covered in gravy if that was the case. Had he just had a meal that was all gravy? Every bit of it?

(Shit, this is awful. Oh god, what’s going to happen when I do the ‘low laugh’ ending to this bit? How can they laugh less? Perhaps they’ll start crying. Well, that’s a reaction, I suppose. It’s something. No, no, look at their impassive, glassy expressions. I couldn’t move these people even if I had a MASSIVE hand.)

The only way he could use the phrase ‘it was all gravy’, in a positive way, is this. ‘Oh hello, how’s your Sunday roast?’ ‘It’s good thanks.’

(They’re not laughing. This is fine. Laughter now would just be weird.)

‘Oh yeah? What’s good about it?’ ‘Well, it’s good because it’s part meat, part vegetable…

(…tumbleweed…)

…part potato. And. Part gravy.’ ‘Oh great. And how’s the gravy?’

(They‘re just utterly confused, aren‘t they? I have grappled a room full of people into bafflement. WITH NOTHING BUT WORDS.)

‘That. That is ALL gravy.’

(I am totes Facebooking all these guys later. To apologise.)

*The rest of the material was greeted with what can only be described as ‘complete, utter, unbridled yet silent hostility’. My favourite kind of hostility. Comic and audience were as one - I thought I was shit too. The world can fuck off.*


Yep. So, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, yeah yeah yeah. Hubris, blah blah blah, shut up.

The next gig I’m doing gives the audience the chance to vote comics off the stage at any point during the set.

Waddya reckon? 5 seconds? Too generous?

Gizza cuddle, someone. I'm a bad comedian. Not a bad man.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Gig No.4 - Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys


Did a fourth gig, didn’t I? But first, please enjoy these messages.

My amazingly superficial research (via Google. Thanks Google! Please note, other search engines are available. But they’re totally pointless. Thanks Google!) I have discovered that it’s known as Dead Baby Comedy. That is, comedy that’s intended to shock, appall, gross out and so on.

Having played at and attended several open mic gigs of late, I can confirm that this style of comedy is very much live and kicking. In the past 3-4 weeks I have heard more rape, paedophilia and dead baby jokes than in the rest of my life put together. This isn’t from a bunch of blokey blokes in the pub saying things like ‘eh, here‘s one for ya, what‘s 12 inches, blue and makes women scream?’, this is from intelligent, savvy young people who have thought about, written and prepared their material for an intelligent, savvy young crowd (which, a lot of the time, turns out to be ‘eh, here’s one for ya, what’s 12 inches, blue and makes women scream?’).

Now. I’m no Mary Whitehouse. I believe everything can be ripe for comedy, if done in the right way and handled correctly. I’m not a great fan of making jokes about sexual assault or child abuse and I believe that if it’s done it has to be handled with a huge amount of skill and deftness, otherwise it is just gratuitous. But that’s not my main complaint. The main problem here is the sheer laziness of the material. Not only are these jokes three times older than the comics re-hashing them, they’re just so weak.

And what do they want from us? People can’t genuinely laugh, because the jokes are so shit. People can’t be shocked, because the jokes are so old. I suppose the comedians want us to think ‘I can’t believe they said that! How bold!’. And, amazingly, that is exactly what I think. I can’t believe they’ve repeated an old, thoughtless, cheap gag from the 1970s. How bold of them to come here and expect an experienced comedy audience to have any other reaction than walking out in massive disappointment.

Dear other comedians. Have you any (first or second hand) experience of a) rape, b) child abuse, or c) infant death? Have you got anything new or interesting to bring to the world of comedy about these subjects? Have you got a joke on these subjects that hasn’t been told several thousand times just this calendar year? No you fucking haven’t, so fuck the fuck off.

I’m taking a rape alarm to the next gig and will be setting it off every time someone makes a ‘shocking’ joke that’s so shit it feels like I’m being violated. I’ll take spare batteries.

Ooh and one more thing. If you tell a ‘Dead Baby’ joke and the audience don’t laugh, don’t say ‘ooh, bit much for you, wasn’t it?’ or ‘woarh, that’s shocked you, hasn’t it?’. Don’t say that. Say this.

This.

‘Oh. I can see none of you are laughing at my joke about my dad dressing up as Santa and forcing me to perform oral sex upon him at Christmastime. I imagine that’s probably because not only is my joke deeply offensive to every living being, let alone children who have suffered sexual abuse, but it isn’t even really my joke. It’s a well-worn shock tactic that’s been used by comedians for, possibly, centuries and this is just my own desperately lazy interpretation of it. In fact, if I’m being honest, I don’t even find it funny myself, I just don’t have enough confidence in the rest of my material and I’m worried about what would happen if you didn’t laugh at it. With this ‘Dead Baby’ material, I can at least hide being the tiny cloak of being shocking or controversial. I’m sorry. I really am. I won’t do it again. If any of you in this room have been affected by any of the sensitive topics that I have so dully and cheaply sent up, then I can only hope that you never have to hear such cockwash ever again.’

Say that.


Gig No.4 - Party Piece, The Queen’s Head, Kings Cross
Tuesday 25th October 2011

So, I tried out all my best rape, paedophile and dead baby jokes and they went REALLY BADLY.

Only joking.

This gig was in the delightful Queen’s Head (good beer, well done) and was remarkable for two reasons.

Firstly, the pub is just one room. Which means, when you play, you play to the whole pub. Like it or not. Whether people came for comedy or not. I had got very used to scurrying upstairs to a private room with a bunch of other geeks, and reading out our funnies to each other and then scuttling out before the ‘normies’ worked out what was going on and lynched us or something. When I arrived I spent 20 minutes trying to find the stairs to the room above the pub where the comedy would be. I even wilfully ignored the stage and microphone staring at me at the back of the pub. Probably for something else, I reassured myself. It wasn’t.

Doing stand-up comedy to a whole pub filled with people who have come to drink and not watch stand-up comedy is very much like making love to a beautiful woman.

Like making love to a beautiful woman in a pub filled with people who have come to drink and not watch you make love to a beautiful woman. And then realising that you’re not actually making love to a beautiful woman at all but, in fact, you’re just wanking over a copy of Reader’s Wives. Wives of the people who have come here to have a drink and not watch you imagine making love to a beautiful woman whilst actually, in fact, wanking over a copy of Reader’s (who are in fact the drinkers) Wives (their wives, in fact in fact) inside of which are, in fact, their wives.

It’s actually nothing like that. But it is a bit weird.

And secondly, I was the first comedian onstage. Yes, with a whole three gigs under my fraying belt, I opened the night. I imagine the MC took one look at me and thought ‘THIS GUY will slay them, he must open. I like the cut of his jib, I like the way he walks, talks and chews bubblegum at the same time, I like his swagger, his strut, his way with women, his confidence, his POWERFUL JAWLINE. Ah, hell, I just like him.’

Or.

He just did the whole thing in alphabetical order. Either way, it made me poo myself.

Hey ho.

The much misunderstood Animaniacs had a great feature called Good Idea/Bad Idea. Let’s revive it.

Good Idea - spending 1-2 minutes interacting with the audience, to get them onside/warmed up and laughing.

Bad Idea - spending 1-2 minutes interacting with the audience, to get them onside/warmed up and laughing at the start of a tight five minute set and then attempting to mash the five minute set into the remaining three minutes.

WILL I NEVER LEARN?

No. No I won’t and you can’t make me. Bah. As the MC for the evening said (not unpleasantly, I should stress), I made them laugh twice. TWICE. Two times. x2. Doublelaugh. Deux. Dos. Dau. Multilaugh. Laughplural(s). Ambilaugh. Both the laughs. A pair of laughs. A brace of laughs. How many laughs for you there, sir? Oh, a couple of laughs please. Duolaugh. Laughtwins. HA and HA.

With thanks to Tom Webb for letting me come and play, and to MC Nelson de Gouveia. Please note that the above Dead Baby rant was not intended to be related to Party Piece. Thanks!


Soooooooooo. Got a gig coming up Tuesday 1st and Wednesday 2nd. I’m aiming for three laughs per night. Triplelaugh. Laugh hattrick. Thricelaugh. Ah, you get the idea…

Bye! Love you!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Gigs No. 2 & 3 - Sometimes he did this, sometimes he did that


Ok, I’ve worked it out.

Stand-up comedy is like the Gauntlet event from Gladiators (2nd series).

BUT CHRIS HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT, STAND-UP COMEDY AIN’T NOTHING LIKE THE GAUNTLET EVENT FROM GLADIATORS (2ND SERIES) I MEAN OH MY GOD WHAT TH

Shush, pretty eyes, shush. Allow me to explain.

With the best will in the world, the aim of the game isn’t to be successful. It isn’t to ‘do well’.

BUT WAIT A MINU

I said shush. Shush. It isn’t to ‘be the best’. The aim is to survive. To get to the end. Your prize is that you get to go home in one piece.

Oh sure, when you’re all pumped up on Lucozade Sport, and you’re dressed head to toe in red lycra, and you’re a systems analyst from Reading called Thomas, and you’ve got Jonsson and Fashanu hollering in your ears, then THEN you feel you can not only survive but succeed. Why not? You won a triathlon in Bedford the other day. Susan from accounts said you look in ‘great shape’. You may be 38 but BY GOD you look a rakish 36.

But then, faced with the Gauntlet, your ambitions are immediately scaled back. Those steroid-inflated brutes look like they mean business. What the hell were you thinking stepping into this arena? This is going to hurt. A lot.

Success can wait. Today, sweet Lord, I want only to survive.


Gig No.2 - The Freedom of the Fringe, The Torriano, Kentish Town Thursday 13th October 2011

So, I took some steps forward.

I didn’t clap myself onstage. I didn’t try and mash together two random five minute sets of material. I didn’t perform a frightening tango with my pint glass before getting onstage. Well done, me.

It went ok. Not everything landed, and there was a good minute of confused silence during the middle, but there was enough to be happy with.

I got round my inept performance style (I’m still subconsciously wedded to the pacing-about-like-I-need-a-piss and sex-attacker-vocals schtick - how do I stop doing this?) by making the bulk of my set ‘conversations’ between two people. This meant I could ‘act’, which is several hundred million times easier than trying to be yourself.

There’s a not a great deal to say about it. It went as well as I could expect it to at this stage. The odd thing was I never felt in control of what I was saying, or of the audience. Sometimes they laughed, sometimes they didn’t. The two biggest laughs I got was when I said ‘Guildford’ and ‘fizzpops’, two words I had no intention of saying at any point. There we are.

And as I wended my way home later in the evening, I could look back on a relatively satisfying evening. What was that feeling? Ah yes, pride. I felt proud of my modest efforts.

Now. What is it again that comes before a fall?

Gig No.3 - The Freedom of the Fringe, The Torriano, Kentish Town Thursday 20th October 2011

Filling in a cancellation, the nice chaps at The Freedom of the Fringe let me come back the following week.

BUT WAIT A MINUTE CHRIS WHAT ABOUT YOUR IRRITATING AND NOT PARTICULARLY WELL THOUGHT THROUGH GAUNTLET ANALOGY?

I’m glad you asked. Let’s say that after Gig No.2, I was midway through the Gauntlet. It hadn’t been pretty but it involved a lot of effort, grit and preparation. The previous week’s material had been carefully written and structured. I knew it well and I was confident in it. Gig No.3 found me in a good position.

Having muscled past Rhino and, er, Savage or someone, I inexplicably stopped. I started to walk at a leisurely pace. I lit a cigarette and blew smoke into the faces of the sweaty behemoths in front of me. I did a roly-poly.

Not through overconfidence you understand, not because of cockiness. Far from it. I was rigid with fear. Because, to complete the Gauntlet, I had decided to change tactics. The new tactics were untried, untested and, most pertinently, probably rubbish. I brought a flan to a gun fight.

The main problem was that I still didn’t know what material I was going to perform as I was walking up to the mic. Should I just stick with last week’s tried and tested stuff? Should I blast through the new stuff I had cobbled together? In the end, I did neither. Never change your mind at the last minute, is what they tell penalty takers. Good advice.

Oh I was woeful. I was a three-piece suitcase set of nerves and hesitance. Literally as I was introducing myself, I decided to start with some entirely different material to warm myself up. This material would be 30-60 seconds and would help me to settle in before the longer set. However. It took me about two minutes to set the bleedin’ stuff up. I had actually opened with the line ‘I’m not going to tell you any jokes…’. Two minutes in and the audience were starting to suspect I was going to come good on my promise.

But, BOOM!, there it was. My first funny line. And, fuckyfuckyfuckfuck, I love this audience. They could still remember how to laugh. And I was off. For one minute, and one minute only, I said funny things with my mouth and that made other people make laughing noises with their mouths. It was a mouth party! All our mouths were doing the right thing! Mouths!

Having clawed the set back from the very brink of oblivion, I then had the opportunity to milk the last couple of minutes and spin this material out. The audience were enjoying the concept of what I was doing, I had room to play, why bother with the other material I had planned?

BUT CHRIS WHY WOULD YOU MAKE LIFE SO SIMPLE FOR YOURSELF?

Well, indeed. With two minutes to go, with the audience as interested and confident in me as they were ever going to be after my inauspicious start, I moved into the original five minute set I was going to do.

Within roughly four seconds, I knew it was a mistake. So did the audience. Did I back out? WOULD ANDY MCNAB BACK OUT?

You know that thing where you decide to go into your housemate’s room without knocking and as soon as your hand touches the door handle you have a sudden jolt of realisation that they’re probably wanking but you decide to go in anyway as if you hadn’t realised that cos by realising that and backing out then they’d know that you know and the best thing to do would be to feign total innocence and just charge on in despite that fact that it’s the worst idea you’ve ever had?

Yeah?

Well, it was a bit like that.

Realising I had to cram five minutes of material into two minutes I rattled through, treating it as a ‘best of’. I stuttered, I muttered. I needed shooting. Just to make sure the audience really really knew that I was a nervous, incompetent newcomer, the five minute timer on my phone started beeping. Very loud. ‘What’s that?’ I said, thinking I could wring a laugh out of it. ‘Is that someone’s phone?’ I had, in fact, forgotten I had set my timer. I genuinely thought it was someone’s phone. It was. It was my phone. It beeped and beeped and beeped and beeped.

Gah.

Finally, having a Eureka moment, I brandished my phone. ‘It’s my phone!’ I hooted. ‘I think that means I have to go’.

But. I couldn’t leave it like that. Oh no. No no no. ‘I’ll just say one more thing’, I dribbled. Then launched into a joke I knew would take at least 90 seconds. Gripped with panic of every kind, I PARAPHRASED THE JOKE (‘well, the basically the punchline was going to be this and that’s why it’s funny so…’) and scuttled off the stage like a TWAT.

Then I got a bit drunk. And went home. With very very little pride.

There we are then. Battered, bruised, and with ego put firmly into place, I emerge limping from the Gauntlet. No dignity to speak of but at least the sneaking feeling that next time I can do better and that Ulrika will probably let me touch her tit in the green room.


Huge thanks to Rufus Penzance for giving me the slots at The Torriano (which really is a good night by the way - well worth it if you’re North London-side on a Thursday evening).

The next gig is on Tuesday 25th. What’ll I do this time? Forget to put my clothes on? Hope so.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Gig No.1 - It begins


Performing stand-up comedy for the first time is very much like losing your virginity. The nerves, the sweaty palms, the lack of talent, the fumbling, the disappointment for all parties, the debilitating performance anxiety, the nudity, the shame, the sympathetic noises, the forced laughter, the dozen other people in the room staring at you.

The thing is, when I lost my virginity, I didn’t have to write a blow by blow account of it on this blog for you RUBBERNECKERS.


Gig No.1 - East Meets Jest, Belushi’s, Covent Garden
Tuesday 4th October 2011

Listen. We all know I’m doing this because I have an overactive ego gland and, somewhere laced into my very psyche, there's the sneaking suspicion that I’m some kind of cultural polymath behemoth (I‘m probably not - probably). But, lemme tell yoo sumfink mayte, there ain’t nothing more humbling than performing stand-up for the first time. It doesn’t just take you down a peg or two, it rips the pegs to pieces, pops you into an orange jumpsuit, blasts Grindcore at you 24 hours a day and pretends to kill your family until the very concept of pegs has become hazy and intangible and faintly farcical - like dreams. Or religion.

Feeling like a little boy on his first day at big school (Mum wouldn’t even let me take Mr Flopsy with me) I sat and waited my turn. The audience consisted of nine performers, the MC, and the girlfriend and friend of one of the stand-ups. That means I would be performing to only 11 people. It was a night exclusively for new acts or new material. It was about the safest, kindest, most encouraging atmosphere you could ever possibly hope for. Everyone was, without exception, warm and lovely. So naturally, I looked at everyone with HATE IN MY EYES. Bastards. Why had they come to judge me? WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? Why should I have to make these people happy? What do I owe them? I had to keep repeating my mantra - ‘ they’re more scared of you then you are of them’.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t be flushed down the plughole. I had to make them laugh.

I was on fifth. I felt fine until the fourth performer went on. Everyone has different reactions to stress. My own unique addition to this particularly slimy puddle, is that, in times of anxiety, I develop crippling cramp in my pectoral muscles. Given the diminutive size of my pectoral muscles, and the fascinating acuteness of the pain, I can only assume my ex-girlfriend wasn’t fucking lying about the voodoo doll. The left pec contracted. The entire left side of my torso went all T-Rex (dinosaur, not band). The only possible way to relieve this is to have a good old massive stretch. The only way to do THIS was to put my arm around one of the other stand-ups. Now. I am new to comedy. I had no idea whether this would be bad form or not. So I did it.

As surreptitiously as possible, I slipped my left around the back of the chair of the chap next to me. He noticed. I played it cool. A reassuring nod here, a manly shrug there. He didn’t buy it. For some reason, I thought it would be more socially acceptable to allow him to think that I was coming on to him, than simply tell him I had cramp. Unsolicited sexual advances are one thing, muscle spasms are QUITE ANOTHER.

The upshot is, when the MC said the words ‘Ladies and Gentleman, Chris Bennion…’, I had limited movement in my left arm. My name had been said. Now, I just needed to stand up and say funny things.

It was at this stage, I started to make a series of very bad decisions. Fazed by the cramp, I decided to play it cool and take my time. It went badly. Before I stood up I took a very deliberate swig of my pint. I put my pint down. I picked my pint up. I walked two steps. I put my pint on a table that was neither near where I was sitting or anywhere near the stage. I picked it up. I put it down again. Noticing the applause was dying I CLAPPED MYSELF ONSTAGE.

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.

Half-paralysed with fear (and the other half paralysed with cramp) the last thing I needed was a mic fumble. I fumbled the mic. It probably took my 1.5 seconds to get the mic off the stand, as oppose to the 1 second it should, but in my frenzied state this minor mic hiccup felt like a mighty battle. An epic. A hero quest. Like the mighty warrior I am, a defeated the mic stand and took my prize. Forgetting that all the audience had seen was a man take a microphone out of a slightly stiff mic stand, I murmured reassuring and heroic words to mark my victory. ‘Oops. That wasn’t very good, was it?’.

My.

First.

Words.

Onstage.

Ever.

EVER.

Were.

‘Oops’

‘That’

‘Wasn’t’

‘Very’

‘Good’

‘Was’

‘It?’

And then it got a bit worse.

My plan was to stand still. And just talk the words that I had written, in a normal voice. My plan was to be myself. It turns out that this is Very Hard. What I did was pace around like an expectant first-time father whilst breathing my material into the microphone as if I was working for a sexline.

The room was so small that the mic was literally superfluous. AND. YET. I spent the first three of my five allotted minutes transfixed with the idea that I was too quiet too loud too quiet too loud too quiet too loud. You get the idea. Which meant I spent 60% of my stage time having a dreadful out of body experience which involved watching some beardy idiot grumble and wheel about the stage, mumbling nonsense about nothing, to a genuinely perplexed audience. I felt sorry for this beardy idiot. What was he doing? Why did he ever think that was funny? Why doesn’t he tell a joke?

And then, with two minutes left to go and a lovely but confused audience to entertain, I Quantum Leapt into my own body. Oh frickin’ boy, indeed.

I flim-flammed through, relying more on gurning and stupid gesturing to get laughs than what I had wroted. My material came to a close. Time to go. Of course, what I had forgotten to do was start my watch, so I had no idea how long I had done. Now, I could have looked at the MC and just asked him how long I’d done. It was a new material night, there’s no shame in doing it. However, for some reason I was petrified of both meeting his eye and leaving the stage before my five minutes were up. So, despite the fact that it hadn’t gone brilliantly and despite the fact that I had prided myself on writing a tight five minutes (HA HA HA), I decided to carry on and move onto a completely different five minute set.

However, a minute into this I was struck with the horrific realisation that it was entirely possible that I had been onstage for WEEKS. Desperate to avoid the ignominy of the poor MC having to cut me down, I stopped mid-sentence, and said ‘yeah, I’ll stop there’ and walked off.

And CLAPPED MYSELF OFF.

Jesus. Shitting. Christ.

But it’s done. There were some laughs and all that but I genuinely can’t remember much about it. In future, I will be recording myself and I may even put it online for you to laugh at (in a mean way). You lucky devils.

Anyway, that’s that. I’m performing again Thursday (13th). I’ll be doing five minutes about The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (topical). I’ll tell you all about it on this here blog soon.

Huge thanks to Dan Green, the MC for the evening, for giving me my first chance onstage and for the words of advice afterwards.


So, performing stand-up comedy for the first time is very much like losing your virginity (IT IS ALRIGHT). It is (and you are) not as you good as you thought it/you would be. It doesn’t live up to your months of daydreams. It's a bit weird and boring. But it’s not all that terrifying. And, hey, even if you fucked up, someone somewhere is going to let you have another go. Right? RIGHT?

Right?

Monday, 19 September 2011

Staring down the barrel of a fucking idiot


And so it begins.

I write this on Monday evening. By Friday I will have performed my first five minutes of stand up comedy.

How can I describe the terror I’m feeling?

You know that feeling when you suddenly realise that not only have you agreed to perform stand up comedy for the next 12 months, despite having the stage presence and sense of humour of Lib Dem gerbil Sarah Teather, but also that you literally are about to perform your first stand up set within the next 48 hours despite not having written enough material or even practised the little you have actually written and that you have no idea how you’re going open your set or how you’re going to say any of the words not that you’ll actually REMEMBER the words and sweet shitting Jesus Christ what the hell are you doing and you’re just hugely aware that it’s going to be the worst and longest five minutes of your short and uninteresting life and you want to die? That feeling?

Well.

That.

Despite the terror, despite the disturbing and irresponsible lack of material, I am going to be attending comedy gigs all this week, each of which have several ‘open mic’ spots for any chump who turns up. Some require you to pay, some demand you bring friends, others will ask you to flyer for their event in return for a spot. None of them guarantee you a go but with any luck (wrrrrrrrheeelllpppmeeeee) I’ll get on this week. Failing that, I’ll get to know what kind of gigs these mirth/meat markets are.

People keep telling me I need to get onstage as quickly as possible, that it’s like ‘ripping off a plaster’. Like ripping off a plaster, a plaster that is attached my heart and lungs, then ripping off all my hair and clothes and then standing in the window of the flagship Topshop on Oxford Circus on a Saturday afternoon with my sweat-smeared scrotum pressed against the glass for passers-by to point at and then crying and then crying and then crying and then crying.

Anyway. As well as deciding on (or, writing) my material over the next couple of days, I also need to decide what kind of comedian I am going to be.

Using strictly controlled double-blind testing, I have come with the following, scientifically nut-tight list.

1) Ranty/Angry
You know the ones. They’re so ANGRY. About EVERYTHING. Even little things. Hell, ESPECIALLY little things. They shout. And it’s funny cos they’re soooooooo cross. Life is a constant chore, and everything is against them. This is very tempting for me as a) I am not the cheeriest. And b) it’s relatively easy to do/easy to fall into.

Firstly, it’s perfect for structure (‘Here’s a few things that piss me off….. And ANOTHER thing that winds me up’) and easy-ish to get laughs. You can be genuine angry (‘what the hell is it with Nick Clegg!?’) or faux angry (‘what the hell is it with croutons?!’). But you can stomp off all that nervous energy and, if the material falls flat, compensate by flapping your arms about and becoming angrier.

Reasons I might do it - easy fall-back; I’m grumpy most of the time anyway; shouting is fun and my therapist said I should let off some steam.

Reasons I might not - can be a comedic turn-off for audiences; could be a substitute for actual jokes; can be a sexual turn-off for audiences.

2) Observational
Those little curious squirrels of life. They’re always noticing things. And they’re so curious about these things. And the thing about these things is that you’ve noticed these things too it’s just you’ve never noticed that you’ve noticed them until Mr Funny comes along and says ‘have you ever noticed…?’ and you hoot ‘YES! Yes I have!’ You have, haven’t you? AHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA.

AHAHAHAHAAHAAAAAAAA.

AHAHAHAAHAAAAA. AHAHAHAHAHAHA. AHAHAHAHAAAAAAA. HHHHHHAAHHAHAAAA. HHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. AAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA. HHAHAHAAAAAAA. HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHAAA. AHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAA. HAH. HA. HA. AHA. Ha.

Reasons I might do it - easy for most audiences to relate to; a whole world/life of material.

Reasons I might not - haven’t really noticed anything.

3) High energy/octane
Ooh! They’re a bundle of nerves, talking at 100mph, jumping about, firing off ideas and thoughts at breakneck speed. They sweat. They pant. Their eyes bulge like two pickled onions trying to fight their way out of a bowling ball. They are irritating cocks, generally.

Reasons I might do it - nerves may make this an unavoidable default option; fun to watch onstage; audience can at least admire your stamina if not your jokes.

Reasons I might not - may render me incomprehensible; may forget where I am; may start crying.

4) Controversial
OH NO HE DIDN’T! Ooh, yeah, they’re the guy or gal who ‘goes there’. Previously very popular with male stand ups (‘rape!’ ho ho), controversialism seems to be the current trend of new-ish female comics (‘rape!’ ho ho).

Obviously, if you’re not funny then this can lead to trouble. If the material falls flat you’re more likely to be greeted with a series of grimace-y ‘oohs’ and slow head-shakes, than a series of he-went-there! shrieks.

Of course, if you’re dead clever and that, you can always peddle the popular ironic-controversial material (‘rape! Only kidding!’ ho ho).

Reasons I might do it - might make me look cutting edge and clever; an element of danger; rape! (ho ho)

Reasons I might not - Frankie Boyle; every other new comedian.

5) Surreal
Oohhh! Ooorrr, errrr, woo, jam and dogs and that. And little talking monkeys driving U-boats in a sea of custard. How did he even thank of that!?

Cripes, this dude’s mad. And he’s treating us to a little safari through his krayzee imadgernayshun. He’s probably bi-polar. But bi-polar in a fun way. I knew a girl like that once. I mean, most girls cry after sex with me, but with her I could pretend it was something else. (see 4)

Reasons I might do it - you can let your imagination run wild; people will think you’re fun and/or bi-polar.

Reasons I might not - don't want to; that's it really.

6) Downbeat/depressed
For this Sad Sack, life is rubbish. Everything is shit. He doesn’t even want you laughing at his jokes. Your laughter, in fact, is just making it worse. And, for some reason, that makes you laugh more. This morose, glass-half-full-but-half-full-of-shit chap is miserable but lovable. The comedy equivalent of an ‘I woke up this morning’ blues standard.

Reasons I might do it - a downbeat personality would help measure and control material; I could pretend not to care about the lack of laughter; instead of material I could just sum up any random day from the last eight years of my life.

Reasons I might not - too close to home.

7) Shit
Whether through lack of experience, nerves or a genuine dearth of comic timing and not-utter-shit material, this hapless comic is a car crash. The only thing worse than watching this poor fool is being him. This is the kind of comedian that even runs out of sympathy laughs, almost as quickly as he runs out of jokes and confidence.

If this comedian was a character in a John Steinbeck novel, he’d voluntarily walk down to the Salinas river, convince himself to think of rabbits and alfalfa, and shoot his own poor, dumb brains out.

Reasons I might do this - ah, who am I kidding? Pass me the shotgun.


Wish me luck.

See you on the other side.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

I've made a huge mistake













In a moment of drunken fury and at-least-five-years-out-of-date Dave Gorman-esque whimsy, I have accepted a challenge.

To become a stand-up comedian. A successful one. In 12 months.

Yeah.

It’s this man’s fault - look at him. Look at his face. Study it. Look at his red leather chair. Study that. Where did that come from? Props cupboard probably. Forget about the chair, stop obsessing about the chair. It’s the man on it that’s important and that man is popular telly gigglemonger Dan Clark, best known for his successful BBC sitcom How Not To Live Your Life.

For almost utterly spurious reasons, I have always used Mr Clark and his show as a yardstick for shit TV comedy. Now, it’s pretty low-rent stuff but it’s by no means the highest teetering pile of dogshit in Shitville (that honour goes to Susan Nickson’s beyond deplorable Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps dynasty) but my distaste for it has resulted in an unhealthy fixation with Dan Clark.

Clark is, in all honesty, pretty inoffensive and has never done anything to me. However, I am not the kind of man to let that get in the way of my pre-packed opinion of anyone. In my head he had become a symbol of the very worst kind of cynical, sterile, bottom-feeding comedy. The kind of comedy consumed by the worst kind of people. The kind of people who would include James Corden on their fantasy dinner party invite list (even if you’re allowed dead people - I know!).

And then, to top off my unreasonable and unquenchable Clark-fury, I saw that he was doing a short run of stand-up comedy at the Edinburgh Festival this year.

I was INCANDESCENT (with rage). Oh, sure, I don’t give a toss if some crappy, lowest common denominator sitcom (the BBC‘s signature dish) is successful. Sitcoms, schmitcoms. But stand-up comedy is sacred. It‘s better, purer. ‘Dan Clark’, reasoned I in a calm and rational and emotionally mature manner, ‘should not be ALLOWED to do stand-up comedy.’

I muttered and chuntered (and occasionally defaced posters-ed) my way around Edinburgh, telling anyone who was interested (mainly flyerers and the Japanese) that Dan Clark was probably the antichrist or something and that his best joke would be about finding out that you could wash towels now he’s moved in with this girlfriend. Through a friend of a friend, Dan heard about my displeasure at his show. A text message was waved in front of my face.

‘Tell your friend Chris to actually see my show before he tells everyone it’s shit’. Ah. Ah hah. Now. This, Dan, is wrong on two counts. One, I reserve the right to slag anything off without having seen/read/heard/heard of it. I haven’t, for instance, seen The Inbetweeners Movie and I can tell you right now it’s utter bollocks. And, Two, by the time you sent that text, your show had finished. Hah! So, I win, right?

Apparently not.

One evening last week, I was drunkenly boring the ears off of my friend Gareth on the subject of Dan Clark. Gareth was unhelpful and just muttered some frankly ridiculous things like ‘that’s a bit harsh’, and ‘you can’t just say things like that’ and ‘that’s just not true, or physically possible’.

Clark, he argued cowardly, is an extremely successful comedy writer. He should be given some credit, he continued BORINGLY, for easily selling out three nights in a 320 seat venue. He also gathered some very good reviews, talked Gareth with his lying mouth, which is extremely impressive since this is his first ever attempt at stand-up.

‘But he’s rubbish’ I spouted with utter conviction despite a total lack of evidence, ‘and even I’M funnier than him.’

But, said the increasingly belligerent Gareth, at least he’s doing it. He’s up there, putting himself onstage, giving it a go. You’re not. You couldn’t sell out three nights at the Edinburgh Festival.

‘I could.’

No you couldn’t.

‘But I could.’

Well. Then. Do it.

‘I WILL.’


*sigh*


Gareth should know better. It’s basically bear baiting.

So, here it is then. I have 12 months until the end of next year’s Festival, by which point I will have had to sell out three nights of stand-up comedy in Edinburgh. In any venue. By hook or by crook. I am frightened. Someone hold me.

There you have it folks. So far, so very Danny Wallace. The only difference being that I don’t have a book deal. Oh, and I’m also not very funny when I do talking. And I hate talking in front of groups of people. And I get stage fright at the Post Office.

But I’ll still be better than John Bishop.

This blog will chronicle my attempts to learn the art of stand up comedy - expect loud gutteral sobs and a lot of swearing. I wrote another blog once, in which I attempted to find love in 6 months, something promised to me by a well known online dating site. If you have read that then you will be well-used to the sound of my deafening, flapping failure. Expect it to be louder this time. And flappier.

So, I need to write some comedy, secure some gigs and work out how to be a stand-up comedian. Quite soon. I will also accept the first gig I am offered, even if that is tomorrow and I haven’t written any material. I do this for YOU.

But first. What the heck is this stand up comedy lark about? I know so little about it, I don't even know whether to hyphenate the words or not. Stand up? Stand-up? Standup? Fear not, I’ve been doing some bloody research, haven‘t I? I’M LIKE THE COOK REPORT. BUT NOT AS FUNNY.

Can the great and good of the world of comedy assist a fledgling like me, as I ponder penning my first funnies? Mel Brooks, he was funny, he did funny stuff. Ha ha. He says that ‘tragedy is when I cut my finger, comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die’. Well, I can’t exactly do that on stage, fucking thanks, Mel. Charlie Chaplin is equally unrealistic - ‘All you need to make comedy is a park, a pretty girl and a policeman’. That’s how you make a skin flick, Chuck, but cheers anyway.

‘Funny’man and famed manic depressive Robin Williams believes that comedy is ‘acting out optimism’, which explains Patch Adams. John Cleese reckons comedy should be mean-spirited (I think I can do that), Moliere saw it as a tool for correcting vice in others (I think I can do that), whereas V. S. Naipaul feels that comedy comes from ‘deep hysteria’ (I can definitely do that). But then Naipaul also thinks that women are made from MDF, so who knows what to think.

In ocean of comedic advice, I’ll leave the last word to Roy Chubby Brown - ‘I can fart into the mic and people will love it’. Ah.


In next week’s blog I’ll be talking (talking? No, writing. Can I say talking though? I can, I WILL) talking about advice given to new stand-ups and securing your first gigs.

Anyone know any jokes?

Kill me.