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...