Monday, August 01, 2011

More or less a first gig. Maybe more less than more.

Curiously, I'm reading Robbie Williams's authorised biography, 'Feel', at the moment. I don't know why I'm reading it but even more curiously I'm hooked. And it's not a biography it's more like a documentary, with the author following him around for a year. It's very well written and Mr Williams is an odd but engaging character with bon mots galore. I wasn't really expecting that when I picked it up in the library.

Any road. He has a good couple quotable sayings on pages 299/300 of the hardback:

"You're not brave unless you're shitting yourself." 
"The colour of adrenaline is brown."

Robbie Williams: Let Me Entertain You

His dad was a stand-up comedian. Hang on, was? Okay, yes, he's retired. I'm sure Williams like Noel Gallagher could probably do a better job than many many of other people who do comedy for a living. Talent is transferable. Or that is what I hope.

So there I was on Thursday. Thursday was my birthday. Hurrah. Happy Burpday to me. What should I do? I'll send off some emails to venues and see if I can get a gig before September or October, I'll do that for a few minutes and then probably go out.

I applied to a venue and an hour later they wrote back and said, hoopla, come tonight, you're on the bill. Ermmm............ Seriously?

First gig. On my birthday. With 4 hours notice. I will admit I was nervous for half an hour or so. Then I did some exercise and went for a run and was very calm. I am annoyingly calm about these stage things. It will come back to haunt me. I'm only nervous if I'm trying to remember something (well, thus far). If I don't have anything I quite like that as it means my brain has to provide. And it should. I give it food and books so it should do some work occasionally.

So I cycled into town - like you do when you're a showbusiness person. And went to the venue exactly on time. Cos I'm like that. I'm on time. I don't know why. And I got a free drink. So I had the most expensive thing on the menu. A cold Guinness it was very nice. And I started chatting to another guy on the bill. An Irish comedian called AJ Johnson (I don't think he has a website). He's done 50 odd gigs and had done 13 in the past 11 days in London and Birmingham and y'know, all over. It was a tour. I changed the subject when asked about my gig totals. "Not that many!" was my response. That sounds better than, "none". Or, "Two. About 18 years ago, but so long ago I'm not even sure." Yeah, not very many. Like there weren't very many people at the venue. When I say, not very many, I mean, none. That's the thing. None. Then my friend turned up - MANY THANKS, MUCH APPRECIATED. And then AJ Johnson's friend turned up - an alarmingly beautiful singer in a band who I may have fawned over too much. And the compere turned up and wasn't happy.

The compere wanted there to be an audience and if there wasn't he was going to cancel the gig. But AJ Johnson had come all the way from Belfast and it was (secretly) my first gig. We didn't want a cancellation. We persuaded him that the show must go on. My friend expertly corralled 6 French students to come down into the cellar for the show. It was like the start of one of those British films where the situation is absolutely shit but eventually they will make it to fame and stardomhood. It was like that. The microphone didn't work. The compere tried to make ironically insulting remarks to the French people. Politely they didn't leave immediately.

However, the French people - basically the entire audience did leave at the interval. As did the beautiful singer/friend of AJ Johnson and the compere. And in the 20 minutes wait for my go I was thinking up all sorts of mimes and jokes about Dominic Strauss Kahn, Sarkosy, Marcel Marceau. I was practicising my French. I was really up for the challenge. I was listening to the jokes, yeah, I was, but my brain can do two things at once. Sometimes. Weirdly, I thought the combination of stupidity and intellectualism which comprises my 'act' might actually appeal to some French students more than it would some regular Englishers. But no, they had seen enough and not understood enough, and so they left too. I tried to persuade em to come back but nah, they weren't havin it.

And AJ Johnson had to go too but politely stayed for my set, standing by the door waiting for me to finish. Waiting for me to finish? Really, I just recited my memorised act at 110 mph and looked out at the 5 remaining people. It was all a bit odd.

I didn't feel any nerves but then why would you? I was too too fast. And I didn't adlib but why would you? It was more important just to remember my stuff. I did remember my stuff. Some people were occasionally amused. No bad things for me and actually amusing and memorable as an evening. After I finished there were only 4 of us left and another guy had a go with 3 of us in the audience. Steve Price, very surreal, he reminded me of Frank Sidebottom just without the papiermache head. He blogged about the night here: Pour Some Gravy On Me

The compere was very angry on the Manchester Comedy Forum about the issues with the venue and the lack of a crowd, which is fair enough, but to me it was amusing, but then I'm easily pleased some times. Less so at others, as I found out the next night..... I am not the best at watching comedy... I need to think about why that is...


  1. Wowsers...that's what you call a birthday. I didn't realise that you only had an hour's notice! Do you think that the late notice made you more or less nervous? My fourth gig (details on my blog...quelle surprise) was at extremely short notice. I was at the venue as a punter and they needed someone to fill in for 5 minutes because someone didn't turn up. I found myself agreeing to do it. The gig didn't do well, but agreeing to perform gigs in ridiculous situtations is a good habit to have. As we found out on Thursday.

    Anyway, I'm properly waffling now. Have you found your second gig yet?

  2. I have potential 2nd gigs in October. But that seems like a while of. And I've signed up for a gong show in September, purely for the experience. I will need some quick and agressively simple actual jokes for that though I feel.

  3. I've not done a gong show yet. Part of me would like to do it as a challenge but I don't know what on earth I'd do! I've never even attended a gong show as a punter, so I might have to go along and see what works and what doesn't.

  4. I'm going to Beat the Frog a week on Monday to have a look at that. That's a gongy type thing and as I've signed up for the gong show at the Comedy Store I really should have a look at that. I expect to be horrified but perhaps people are quite polite and forgiving. But then in a post-Simon Cowell world everyone likes the idea of being a harsh critic... for shame.

    It does seem like the sort of situation where someone hold up a "get off the stage" card just cos they don't like the cut of your jib