28th February 14:08 – On the train
Is there a more fitting way to commemorate my 100th gig by travelling to Edinburgh to perform? Erm, I don’t know. 100 is only deemed a number of note because we happen to have ten fingers. If you take that into account then you realise that it has no more significance than any other number. As such, it’s probably not appropriate to commemorate it in any manner. So there.
With the humbuggery out of the way, I’ll tell you about my upcoming gig. You may remember that I progressed in the Laughing Horse New Act of the Year competition in Gig 94, so it is for the quarter final that I am heading North.
Most of the quarter finals are down in that London, but I’ve got friends (Tim and Ellie) in Edinburgh so it seemed an ideal opportunity to combine the gig with a visit. Luckily, I was able to swap my original offer of a London date for this and that’s why I find myself sat on a train.
I’ve decided to go pretty much with the same set as I’d used in the heats, so I spent the early part of this journey pulling the bits together and having a run through (in my head). I think it makes sense to go with familiar material when you’ve a) only got 5 minutes and b) you’re being judged.
Yes, I am travelling to Scotland to do 5 minutes. Yes, I know it seems mental, but this is the world of stand up comedy and it’s perfectly normal. Don’t worry.
Anyway, it’s a beautiful day, so I’m going to enjoy the view, listen to a few podcasts, and, oh yeah, probably run through my material again.
2nd March 10:26 – On my sofa
So, let’s get it out of the way: I didn’t go through to the next round.
I was met at the station by Tim at half past four. I had to be at the venue at 7:45, so we had plenty of time to drop my bag back at his place, get some tea and catch up. The plan went somewhat awry. By the time we’d stopped for a coffee, taken a leisurely stroll to the flat and had a cup of tea (we’re not barbarians), we hadn’t really left enough time to get over to the other side of town and to stop for food. Worry not, food fans, all was not lost. The venue sold food, so, you know, we ate there. Yeah, I know. Not the greatest anecdote, but it is true. We didn’t have long to eat, though, so my superhumanly fast consumption of ham, egg and chips did mean that I’d have to endure some pretty impressive indigestion. Lovely.
The gig was held in the classic “room above a pub”, which held about 50, but with an actual audience of about 12. It was strange to compare it to my heat in Bury which had been a surprisingly large venue, which was full with an audience of over a hundred. It felt slightly anti-climatic, but I was still looking forward to performing (despite the indigestion). There were 11 acts on the bill (out of a scheduled 14), so the night was split into 3 sections. I was on third in the middle bit.
The set I had settled on was:
“This shifty looking bloke came up to me…”
Arnie from Wigan
One Day in Liverpool
In the heat I’d also used “Telephone Books”, but I cut this for time. I guess I must have overran by quite a bit in Bury. One of the main features of this performance was just how aware of the time I was, and how this affected me. My opening bit worked as planned : it starts out being a bit ambiguous as to where it’s going, which helps heighten the audience’s reaction when I reach the punchline.
I usually segue into “Joke Book” by using the device of playing up the audience’s uncertainty of the opening section. I’ve become less comfortable with this approach because as I’ve learned to deliver the material better, it works with the audience better and so I’m increasingly working off an audience reaction that isn’t there. I think this is the first time where I’ve felt overly conscious of it, and so my transition into telling the jokes didn’t feel real.
From this moment on, I always felt a fraction off. Some of the bits of material didn’t quite get the same reaction that they usually would and it felt like a constant battle to keep on top of it. What made this more difficult was the pressure of keeping to 5 minutes. It’s generally good practice to make your spots the length that they’re supposed to be, but this is even more true in a competition where you can have points deducted or even be disqualified if you overrun. Because I knew I was already cramming my material into my allotted time, I didn’t feel like I could let my act properly breathe, as I usually would, to get things back on track.
This isn’t to say that I went down badly with the audience, and I did get laughs in most of the right places. There were a couple of points that didn’t get the laugh they usually do, but I was able to pull this back with an additional line. However, if I compare myself to Bury, which was the same set under similar circumstances, I know that I wasn’t as good.
The votes were counted and four acts went through to the semi finals. As you know, I wasn’t one of them. Deep down I wasn’t really bothered, but as the names were read out, I felt an unexpected pang of disappointment. I suppose it’s only natural. It’s really hard to judge how it went. I felt like I got lots of laughs, which was confirmed by Tim and Ellie (who I am assuming weren’t just humouring me), but I clearly wasn’t liked that much by the audience. If I had been on top of my game it’s possible that the outcome would have been different, but we’ll, obviously, never know.
Anyway, I had a lovely time in Edinburgh. It was great to see my friends and throw a gig into it for good measure. As I came off stage, I felt really aware of where I hadn’t been great and where it could have been improved. Hopefully this is a sign of me developing as a comic and something I can use to improve.