I thought I’d write down a few thoughts prior to the gig, as how it goes could change my feelings toward it quite dramatically. The last time I competed at Beat the Frog (Gig 38) was quite a strange experience. I had been dreading doing it beforehand, I enjoyed it when I was up there, some people loved it, but I still got gonged off. I didn’t quite know what to make of it in my original diary post, and I still don’t. At the time, it seemed like quite a positive experience, and I didn’t really mind getting gonged off. Enough people seemed to really enjoy what I did for it to feel good. Also, I’m deluded enough to be able to turn my not lasting the five minutes into me being some kind of comedy maverick outsider figure (I know I’m not).
That was nearly 2 months and 15 gigs ago. In that time, I’ve gone back to a feeling of dread toward the gong format. Last time I wrote:
It was perhaps the first gig I’ve done where I hadn’t had any enthusiasm for it beforehand.
It’s safe to say the feeling has returned for a second time.
So, anyway, I need to try and stay positive and give it a good go. I’m sure I’ll be fine once I’m there, and defeinitely will be by the time I hit the stage. I don’t hold out a huge amount of hope that I’ll ever win BTF – in Preston or Manchester – but I think getting to the point where I could last the 5 minutes more times than not would be a very useful skill to have. We’ll have to wait and see whether that’s at all possible.
I’m using existing material for tonight, but I’ve tried to move it around a bit – trying a new opening bit, having stuff in a different order to normal – to at least try and keep it a bit fresher for me. I also my learn something from the re-jig…assuming that I’m up there long enough to get that far!
It’s safe to say that last night I went through a range of emotions. After I’d finished my “pre-gig” write up yesterday, I had an e-mail from a friend describing a dispiriting experience he’d recently had at Beat the Frog in Manchester. It didn’t really help in my lack of enthusiasm. After work I stopped of at my parents’ and they could imediately sense my apathy. They suggested that if I wasn’t up for it that I should just not go. This, clearly, wasn’t an option. I did my duty and set off for Preston.
Now, the thing to note about BTF is that, regardless of your feelings toward the gong format, it’s a long night. The acts have to be at the venue for half past seven and the show doesn’t end until eleven o’clock. Suffice to say that this duration gave me scope for a variety of mental states. On arrival, I just assumed I’d be getting gonged off, so I just wanted to get it over and done with. Once the show had started, I went through a phase of complete calm, where it was almost like I wasn’t actually at a comedy gig (this was exacerbated by the acts being in a curtained off area, watching the show on a telly). I then went through a suprisingly nervous period in the build up to me going on. In hindsight, this shouldn’t be so surprising. In a gong show, you’re being directly judged and it’s only natural to want to do well – even if you might have reservations about it all. I’d also never lasted the full five minutes here, so I was just expecting that I wouldn’t again.
This does sound like I had a self-defeating attitude, that would become a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. I think it’s important to note that this only really applies in the build up to a gig. Once I’m on stage (and I’m sure this is the same for a lot of acts), I feel like I’m in my natural environment and I’m doing the thing that I want to be doing. There’s no way that I’d be letting my doubts stop me from performing properly.
By the time I was stood ready to go on stage – as I predicted- I was looking forward to getting up there and seeing what I could make out of my slightly re-jigged material. To cut a long story slightly shorter, I managed to last the full five minutes. I did have one card held up for about half the time, but I got really into my performance and enjoyed myself.
For the records, my set was:
“This really shifty bloke came up to me…” – I decided to try a different opener, for a change, and went with this. I dressed it up with the “phew, I just made it” conceit that I used (with a different joke) in Gig 49.
New joke book variant: “these are definitely jokes” – I wanted to go with a joke book section, but the “lawyer-advised” thing didn’t really fit with the different opening joke. Because I flagged the opener as an obvious, ridiculous tall tale, I pretended that sections of the audience didn’t understand that it was a joke. I then told them that I was going to read them some jokes – stressing that they were definitely jokes – so they could get up to speed with the rest of the audience. This allowed me to do a different type of aside than I usually do with these jokes. These gags are intentionally corny, so they’re all about the asides.
One Day in Liverpool – I was unsure whether I could get away with this at a gong show, but I really wanted to try it. So I did.
Peter Andre – This is just a nice throwaway line for linking between bits.
“And then I…” – When I was waiting to go on, I started to have major doubts about this because it’s basically a cheap laugh (I say something a bit crude). I did it anyway, because it was a cheap laugh. It needs to get re-written if I’m going to keep it.
Arnie – and that was all I had time for. I must have really taken my time with the stuff I had because I thought I’d need more (which I had planned).
So, I’d lasted the five minutes, but I didn’t win. Thankfully, there was a worthy winner – which isn’t always the case – in Chris McIlroy. And I’m not just saying that because he said that he sometimes reads my blog; he had the audience in thh palm of his hand for the five minutes and got, by far, the loudest cheer in the clap-off. I was really pleased with how I did, and I’ve actually got a really good reaction the last two times I’ve done this gig (despite me getting gonged last time). Considering that at one point I thought I’d never get anybody at that gig to even laugh at me, let alone last the 5 minutes, then that’s something. Has it changed how I feel about the format? I’ll have to get back to you on that.
Now the question is this: was all my huffing and puffing and apathy because I don’t like the gong format because of “artistic integrity” or because I didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t doing very well at them. There’s a theory that in order to progress as a comic you should be able to “beat the frog” consistently, even if you don’t actually win. I think there’s a lot of sense in this; even if you’re never going to be the audience’s favourite act, you should probably have the basic skills to make them listen to you for five minutes, regardless of your style of comedy. I think there’s a probably an element of both propositions being true, but it’s really difficult to work out how much of each it is. At least I’ve got this particular monkey off my back, and I can feel more comfortable in messing about and trying something new if I do it again.