Gig 12: Beat The Frog @ Frog & Bucket, Preston – 28th September 2011
September 29, 2011 7 Comments
Preston. Frog & Bucket. Beat The Frog. It’s a gong show. You have to try and last for 5 minutes. 3 audience members are given cards. If they all hold them up then you’re off. Last night there were 8 acts. 6 of them managed to “beat the frog”. I lasted for 2:09 (yes, two minutes and nine seconds). The other chap who didn’t make it lasted for 3:40. I was officially, and by some margin, the loser.
It’s been a full two months since my last “straight” stand up gig (see here), and it wouldn’t take an expert to tell you that this is far too long a gap. So, what better way to get back into the groove than a gong show? Errrrr…. probably any other way at all.
Stand up is terrifying enough under normal circumstances, but the added danger of being kicked off stage for ineptitude adds a certain spice to the mix. I had plenty of time to prepare and thought about how to approach it. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my openers tend to be a little obtuse, but even I’m not stupid enough to try this in a gong show. I decided to keep things snappy throughout – and this suited a lot of the new material that I’d come up with (which I was looking forward to trying out).
I got to the venue around half past seven and was a little baffled as there just seemed to be a small bar area (I’d never been before). It was a few minutes later that I peeked through another door and saw the, already busy, larger room. There were over a hundred people in attendance and so it was certainly the biggest gig I’d ever played. The format of the evening was 2 acts (previous winners of BTF) doing 8-minutes each – break – 4 BTF contestants – break – another 4 BTF contestants. I was the second act on in the final section, following on directly from Clean Dave - a hard act to follow under any circumstances (more on him later).
I’d been suffering with nerves throughout the day, but they were pretty much under control as I went on stage. The trickiest part was that, as it was a proper venue, there were very bright lights in the performers face – something I hadn’t really dealt with before. I was conscious of trying to work out where to look; you want to appear to be engaging the entire audience even though you can only see the front two rows.
I started with my Loyd Grossman joke, which is a out-and-out gag, and which I’ve done a few times before. It got a groan when I said “keyhole” (which hasn’t happened before, but I actually would have expected it to) but then the actual punchline seemed to get a good enough laugh. I followed this up with a knock knock joke (with a non-punchline). I had a bit of trouble getting the lad on the front row to help out with the “who’s there?”, but it seemed to go OK. I’ve done this joke before, although with a slightly different (non-)punchline. I then went into a series of 3 new Dragons’ Den jokes. The idea behind them (and why I find them funny) is that they are ridiculously convoluted. I did worry beforehand that this idea might be a little obtuse, but since they were still “gags” then I thought I’d try them anyway. I’d hoped that as each joke progressed the ridiculousness of them would come over. This plan didn’t work, and I ended up bailing on doing the third one (I just said that I didn’t think I’d bother doing the third). Apparently I had one card up at this stage. I then did another new joke (which I think is great) and it seemed to get a decent laugh, but it prompted the other two cards to go up. It seemed a bit of a strange point for me to get booted off (and Dave also said the same, so it wasn’t just my ego talking), but that was that.
I wish I had held my nerve and gone with the third Dragons’ Den joke. If my intention was that the jokes weren’t actually that good as jokes, then I should have played up to this idea. I would have more than likely got carded off at this point anyway, but it’s at least made me think about how to present the material so it comes across as intended.
I think it’s only human to be a little dispirited by the experience. Not only did I do worst out of the 8 acts, but six of them lasted the full five (two of them being first-timers), so it wasn’t exactly a harsh audience. It’s hard to think otherwise than that I wasn’t any good. When people try and console me they’ll suggest that my material isn’t mainstream and so it’s going to be harder for me. There’s probably some truth in this – I like jokes that don’t quite work and the idea of the act being a bit shambling - but it feels like an easy excuse.
You can try and compare your style of comedy to that of other acts (especially those doing well) and there’s nothing that would make me want to change in an attempt to fit in better. You can only try and stick to what you find funny and what stimulates you. Plus, I don’t think I could do it any other way, even if I wanted to. It’s easy to try and claim that I haven’t taken the easy route (and I don’t know how “different” my material\persona really is, in any case) but I don’t want to use it as an excuse. If anything it means that I just have to work harder at it and do many, many more gigs. The hard part is maintaining your “artistic integrity” whilst gaining the ability for that to work on a random room of people.
The highlight of the evening was the emergence of Clean Dave – a new character act by legendary comedian (and Terry Alderton impersonator) Dave Turquoise. He made me laugh most, and even managed to produce one of my infamous “seal laughs”. And I’m not just saying that because he’s a mate.
P.s. – His act was only clean by his standards. I don’t think CBBC will be knocking on his door any time soon.
I’ll end with a worrying thought. The more open-spots that you see, the more you see acts who you are mystified why they’re persisting with it. When things go badly, how do you know you’re not one of them?