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.