Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A bunch of fives

Hello, chums. Sorry for the lack of blog recently but I’m currently writing this whilst eating a Sunday night dinner of a bowl of Alpen and a G&T, so I’m not exactly the most reliable of people, am I? No. Anyway, onwards…

We love the word ‘five’. Don’t we, eh? Everything important is in fives. 5-a-day. Five fingers, five toes. The five Pillars of Islam. Five senses. Five tastes. 5-Alive. Johnny 5. Five is the magic number. There are five days of the weeks. Jesus had five disciples. There are five letters in the Greek alphabet. Hi-five. Lo-five. Bunch of fives. A ‘fiver’ (what is that?). The number five.


Say it. Five. Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiivvvvvvvvvveee.

We’re bloody obsessed.

Oh and you think the world of open mic stand-up comedy is different, do you? Well, that’s where you’re wrong, sadsack. In the crazy world of the open mic circuit, the Tight Five is king. ‘Getting your Five’ is a mantra injected into everyone’s fat lips.

A good, solid five minute set is your calling card. Getting it perfected is the equivalent to the moment that an amateur cricketer feels sufficiently emboldened to buy his first bat. Armed with your Tight Five, honed on the keen edges of the open mic audience’s cruel laughter, you can travel the world, making strangers (and a handful of other comedians who’ve seen your material more than they’ve seen their partner's genitals in the past few months) laugh with the same jokes over and over again.

It was time, thought I, to get me a Tight Five. Which essentially meant flogging the same dead horse night after night, losing the glorious safety net of performing ‘new material’. So, for a few gigs I selected what I thought was my best five minute set and performed it, making only small changes from night to night. And here is how it went. DO YOU THINK IT WENT WELL? You know me so well.

Gig No.13 - Tuesday Camden Comedy Session, The Camden Head, Camden
Tuesday 10th January 2012
A quiet gig. Ideal, thought I, to try my Tight Five for the first time. I ad-libbed my opening and told the audience that my set relied heavily on an intimate knowledge of British Olympic rowers 1988 to present, and that were they without this knowledge they ‘may as well go to the bar’. This got a laugh. In fact, this got the biggest laugh of my set, as it really does turn out that if you don’t have an intimate knowledge of British Olympic rowers 1988 to present you ‘may as well go to the bar’. Ah. Hah.

I also told another act that I’d ‘loved his set’. He told me that he ‘hadn’t been on yet’. Ah well. I tried.

Gig No.14 - Comedy Virgins, Cavendish Arms, Stockwell
Tuesday 17th January 2012
Armed with the knowledge that all other humans may not necessarily share all of my frames of reference, I decided to tweak the beginning to help my material make more sense. However, I decided to do this by opening with an entirely unrelated joke about Ofsted that I had made up on the bus on the way there.

It went as well as you’re currently thinking it might of went.

Gig No.15 - 5 Minutes of Comedy Fame, Rudy‘s Revenge, Holborn
Wednesday 18th January 2012
Right. So, er, I stuck with the Ofsted joke even though it has nothing to do with the rest of the material, and it takes so long that it compromises the rest of the material by the fact that it steals two vital minutes away from it, thereby forcing me to cram five minutes of obscure jokes about Steve Redgrave into three minutes.

Tight Five, yeah? TIGHT. FIVE.

Gig No.16 - Comedy Virgins Away Day, Prince of Wales, Tooting
Thursday 19th January 2012
BEGONE JOKE ABOUT OFSTED. That’s right, I mercilessly chopped that joke that I thought up on a bus in south London, despite thinking it was quite good, for the sake of clarity. Five minutes, a Tight Five, all about the various health complaints of Sir Steve Redgrave. How will the audience resist?

Well, somehow they did in the main. It went down well in some quarters but a fair chunk of the room held the expression of someone watching their pedigree pooch methodically chew its own leg off. No matter, for making a few people (who have excellent knowledge of British Olympic rowers) I won the South West London Ladies Dart League Premier League Sixes Runners-Up 95/96 trophy. Don’t ask.

Gig No.17 - The Freedom of the Fringe, The Torriano, Kentish Town
Thursday 26th January 2012
Went fine. Became consciously bored of repeating the same material. Real, actual comedians work sets of material dozens or even hundreds of times. I’d done my five times and I wanted it dead. DEAD.

Gig No.18 - 5 Minutes of Comedy Fame, Camden Head, Angel
Thursday 2nd February 2012
All you need to know about this gig (which was brilliant, busy, fun, go to it) is that the nice chap before me killed the room (in a really bad way), thereby robbing me of any momentum, atmosphere or goodwill that the gig had generated up until this point. The audience, who had previously been joyous and giddy, were now stunned into a horrible silence. Now, a good comedian would have been fine in these circumstances. They would even have rung laughs from the awkward situation. I am not a good comedian.

How to describe how it went?

When I was walking on I overheard someone say ‘oh god, this is going to be so hard for him’. That’ll do.

So, in what shape does my Tight Five now find itself in? At best it’s a Smooshy Four, at worst a Viscous Sludgy Six. Back on the treadmill, Five.

Next week - competition time! How will I fare?! Help me I’m drowning!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Raise high the roofbeams, carpenter boy

Happy New Year, hope you had a nice Christmas, get anything nice?, oh really that’s good, oh yeah party at your mate’s house was it?, best thing really innit, always a let down, Noo Yeer eh, best to stay in and watch Jools Holland’s Shoutathon or whatever the fuck that thing they film in November is called.

On with the public humiliation!

Now. I don’t wish to bite the hand that feeds me (unless it was feeding me coal) and I promised myself I wouldn’t slag anyone off….


It’s generally accepted that bad-mouthing your fellow comedians, or someone’s comedy night, or venue, or whatever, is bad form. Besides, it’s a small-ish community. What goes around, comes around and other clich├ęs.

However, last month I encountered a gig so effortlessly, painfully and fist-chewingly awful that it is worth recording. In the interests of fairness/niceness/cowardice/me ever getting another gig again, the gig and all involved will remain anonymous (sorry, rubberneckers).

But first, here’s a joke to kick off 2012...

What do you call a giraffe?

Necky! Geddit?! Cos of the neck? Oh fuck off then…

Gig No.10 - Comedy Virgins, The Cavendish Arms, Stockwell Monday 5th December 2011

Tried a form of comedy that I’m not 100% sure isn’t cheating - I read out a list of things I had found on the internet. People laughed though. That’s the whole point really, isn’t it? OR IS IT? Yes, it is. BUT IS IT? Yes. BUT. Stop shouting.


That’s better.

Gig No.11 - Freedom of the Fringe, The Torriano, Kentish Town Thursday 8th December 2011

Tried a form of comedy that whilst not being 100% sure isn’t cheating, I was now 73% sure it was ok anyway - I read out the same list of things I had found on the internet that I read out in my previous gig. People didn’t really laugh. Which isn’t the point, is it? NO. Fair enough. AHAHAAHAAAA.

I wonder if you all find these prose conversations I have with myself as tedious as I do?


Ah. Fair enough.


Gig No.12 - ??????, ????????, ??????? ?????????? December 2011

Right, this is what you came for…

A total pigfish of a gig. That’s right, a pigfish. I wanted to call it a pigfuck but my spellcheck automatically changes it to pigfish, as if that’s anymore fucking sensible. Jesus.

There’s a thorny issue out there in that thar open mic world, and that is the issue of ‘bring-a-friend’. Some gigs insist you MUST bring someone with you or you’re not going on. Some gigs will scowl at you if you don’t, but let you on anyway. Some ask you nicely to but won’t get upset if you don’t. Some don’t ask you to bring anyone at all.

When I first started, I thought that the ‘bring-a-friend’ policy was the most reasonable thing. After all, a comedy gig needs an audience and, if we’re honest, who the hell else is going to come? However, once you factor in that the really keen comics will be doing a minimum of 5 gigs a week, it becomes untenable. Even your most devoted friend/lover/spouse is going to draw the line at once a week. Basically, you quickly run out of friends. It’s a tricky one.

However, there are drawbacks. Such as when you have 12 comedians and two genuine audience members. Like we did at this gig. Not the end of the world, you might think. Of course not. However, lob in the fact that most of the 12 comedians treated each other with a U.S. foreign policy-esque disdain and the fact that the MC didn’t so much as alienate the audience but construct an enormous perimeter fence around them with the words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ slapped across the iron gates, and you get a perfect storm. A pigfish, if you will.

What the gig needed was a warm, charismatic MC who helped everyone overcome the tiny audience, odd atmosphere and have a good gig regardless. What we got was very, very different.

The MC, oh oh oh the MC. He opened the night by saying (unironically) 'right, let's just get through this then' and then proceeded to tell a string of jokes about how fat he was and how small his cock is (I am making this material sound a lot better than it was, most of his jokes consisted of him saying 'I'm so fat I can't see my cock but then again that's cos my cock is so small!').

Despite his best efforts he got no laughs but he did get general goodwill from a small, just about friendly, audience and a few polite titters. This wasn't enough for our fella, who grew visibly unhappy and kept saying things like 'WOW, you guys don't like jokes, huh?' after yet another of his fat man/small cock gags sank like the fucking Lusitania.

He kept this up for OVER TWENTY MINUTES and only stopped because the first act pleaded 'can I come on, I've got to get to another gig'. Despite all this, after three acts the audience were doing their best in very trying circumstances. The acts had battled, almost triumphed and the atmosphere was still positive. However, MC Fatsmallcock decided we hadn't laughed enough so marched onstage to berate us. 'You've had 15 minutes of comedy and I've heard half a laugh, once'. Not true, old boy, but good shitting luck getting a laugh out of anyone now.

But worse than any of this was his relationship with two blokes who had come to support one of the acts. Very early on he decided that these guys were the reason the gig was bombing and constantly harassed them for it. Not in a funny way, not in a fun way, not in an interesting way. In a genuinely upset way. Lines he used on these two poor blokes included 'Ah you guys are sucking life out of this room' (they weren't), 'Do you guys need laughing lessons, or something?' (they didn't) and 'Ahh, there's no point even trying to talk to you' (there was).

None of these were delivered with anything approaching irony or good humour. Worst of all, at one point he broke off and told them off for talking… 'ah no no, let's hear what you've got to say, you clearly don't find anything funny onstage so maybe what you're saying is funnier, let's hear it. Come on. No?'. It couldn’t have been more awkward if… well, it couldn’t have been more awkward really.

HOWBLOODYEVER, all needn’t have been lost. We comedians could rally together. Support each other. Make it a worthwhile gig. Sod him. Sod the lack of audience. We’re all in this together, we’re standing shoulder to shoulder, we’re fighting them on the beaches, raus raus!

Sadly, the other performers treated the whole night as a major inconvenience. One refused to clap at any point. Two left at the break. Another lay down on a sofa and stared at the ceiling the whole time (apart from during his set when he expected the rest of us to be attentive and alert to his shit mumblings).

It’s worth noting that, out of all the comics that night, I failed in the biggest way onstage. However, I was a FUCKING GREAT audience member.

Am I trying to make a point here? Oh yeah - MCs, be nice, for Christ’s sake. Or be funny. Start with being nice and positive, then work towards funny. The audience, both acts and non-acts, need to feel like the whole evening is worthwhile. The MC is the rhythm section of an open mic gig. If you’re out of time, it doesn’t matter how tuneful the rest of us are, the whole shebang will suck harder than Natasha Giggs at a family barbecue.

And, dear other comedians, do as you would be done by. That’s all.

Happy 2012. HAHAHAHAAA.