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!