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....

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