One thing I’ve noticed so far on my perambulations through the garden of comedy is that you need to maintain momentum. If you pause to smell the flowers for too long you’ll soon look up and find it’s winter (and by that I mean old fashioned winter, with snow and stuff, not this mild nonsense we keep getting in the 21st century). The sky is grey, the grass is mud, and your fingers are blue with cold. And no, before you ask, there won’t be any late/early blooming posies in this garden. You’ll be all alone with a twig in front of you and no one around to share it with.
An odd metaphor perhaps, but regular readers will know by now that I am a bit of an oddball. What I’m saying is this: I’ve realised I need to be getting – and doing – more gigs. Standing up, being funny, and enjoying the process.
My previous post related the painful but necessary rite of passage of doing the Comedy Store ‘King Gong Show at the end of November 2011. Although I took a hammering from the vituperative crowd, I didn’t feel unhappy with my efforts. I lasted over two minutes! Most of the acts that night barely passed the 60 second mark. That wasn’t their fault. The crowd demands blood at such nights; they make sure they get it.
The week before Christmas I did an open mic night called Pearshaped in Fitzrovia in the basement of the Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street. It was, in a word, dismal. There were approximately eight people in the audience, six of whom were the other acts. No one laughed (aloud). Thank God for James Veitch (comedy buddy from Chris Head’s course) who also performed that night. We consoled one another afterwards. It’s hard trying to be funny in a silent room. It’s a bit like that philosophical conundrum about the tree falling over in the forest. Can a comedian still be funny when no one laughs?
Discouraged, though not entirely unsaddled, I fell a bit by the wayside. Christmas came and went, trampling its muddy boots through the calendar. Work priorities meant not having much spare time to research the good open mic nights, let alone write new material. I neglected my blog. Things began to slip…
But last week something happened to refocus and inspire me all over again. A gig I’d booked yonks ago came along in the diary. This was Five Minutes of Fame (AKA Free and Funny) at the Camden Head in Angel, Islington. I’d almost forgotten about it – indeed, I tried pretending I’d forgotten about it and told very few people until the booker reminded me it was a “Bring-a-Mate” night. No bringing of mates = No standing up.
I felt ambivalent towards the whole thing. Others from the course told me it was a big night, a busy crowd, well worth doing. But what if I was crap? Without the safety net of doing the showcase and having that camaradarie of “We’re All In It Together” behind me, let alone the crowd of supportive friends and family who came and, well, supported me… without that, could I still get up and do it? Frankly, I was having doubts. I felt frumpy, grumpy and unfunny. (And then I felt Sneezy, Dopey and Doc. But that’s another story.)
Well, there was only one way to find out. I’d mentioned the gig in passing to a few people and they said they’d come… so I was obliged to at least go through the motions, wasn’t I?
Day job commitments were pressing (I work in a dry-cleaners) but I cleared the decks (I also work on a yacht) and spent the afternoon of the gig rehearsing. Scribbling one-liners and asides. Practising glances and vocal inflections that might lend some colour to my set (I also work in a TV repair shop).
Anyway. I’m pleased to report, it went quite well. In a packed room I raised some laughs from a few of the 80 people there. It was good to perform again; this was more like it! You can watch me doing my bit here:
All this gave me the impetus to keep going. Last Monday at The Plum Tree bar on the Farringdon Road, just beneath Holborn Viaduct, I did another pre-booked open mic gig at Jester Jesters. A smaller venue it nevertheless held a fair crowd of perhaps 35 people, not all of whom were other acts. So hard on the heels of the Islington gig I felt relatively fresh. I’d reviewed my act and made some minor changes. Some worked, some didn’t. Learn from doing. This editing and pruning, polishing and resting of material is essential. Practise makes better.
Watching a subsequent recording from the Jester Jesters night I’ve now noticed the verbal ticks and mannerisms that pepper my act, some of which are fun and interesting while others which are distracting and irritating. (For instance, I say “um” a lot. This annoys me. Once or twice is ok, but not every 15 seconds. I must work on this.)
So I’ve got back into gear, finally, and am trying to keep the momentum going. This Saturday 28th January 2012 I’m taking part in the heats for the Laughing Horse New Act of the Year Award at the Cricketers in Kingston-upon-Thames. And next Monday, 30th January, I’m returning to the Comedy Store for another stab at the ‘King Gong Show. (Why?! you may ask. Because I’m stubborn, I reply. And a comedian.)
I have a couple more gigs in February and two more in March, including Downstairs at the King’s Head in Crouch End, my home patch. Those are the booked nights. I should try turning up and getting a slot as a walk-in too. It’s all valuable experience – even nights like the Pearshaped gig have their own inherent lessons – and I’ve worked through the block.
In the meantime, I am hanging on to my day job. In Greenwich.
Meantime. Greenwich. Geddit?!