June 15, 2013 Leave a comment
As I MCed at the Beech last night (Gig 114), I hadn’t thought about this gig at the Railway until now. Since it’s taking place tomorrow night, I’d better start compiling a set list.
The first/last time that I did this gig was way back in February 2012 (Gig 32), where my set list was:
“This shifty looking bloke came up to me…”
“Can’t Fight The Moonlight…”
“So she lost her job…”
I don’t like to repeat material when returning to a venue, so those bits are out. The other thing I need to seriously start considering is what material I’m going to need for Edinburgh. I wrote recently about how I’d be taking part at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe in the show Multi-Levelled Morons. I’m going to be doing 2 sections in the show: 15 minutes of stand up and 10 minutes as Simeon Gold. I’m going to be using existing material for the show, so I’m confident that I’ve got what I need, I just now need to work out exactly which bits and in what order. Perhaps my biggest challenge is that I usually close my straight stand up sets with “One Day in Liverpool”, but this is an integral part of Simeon’s section. I also want to pull together 5, 10 and 20 minute sets using material that won’t be in the show for any guest spots that I perform at during the Fringe, so I need to work out which bits work well together.
This is the stuff that I decided to use:
Freddie Mercury joke 1 followed by “Some Jokes” - This is the same opening as Spotlight (Gig 110). I really liked how it gave me a different approach to using my “joke book” section, and also the Freddy Mercury joke will play an important role later on.
Stand Up Comedy Poem – I’ve not done this for ages and it’s a bit I really like. It also links directly to “On the Bus” later.
Freddie Mercury joke 2 – the plot thickens.
Two Zombies – this worked surprisingly well at Gig 114, so I thought I’d give it another run out.
US Style Stand Up – another bit I haven’t done for ages. There’s a nice segue I can use from the previous bit, too.
On the Bus – last performed at Gig 110. It’s a bit that’s not always worked that well, but that I’m convinced there’s something in it.
Freddie Mercury joke 3 – the conclusion. I think this might be an interesting way to finish a set.
There’s way too much material here for 10 minutes, but I think I’ll practice it all anyway, as it won’t hurt. I really want to use the Freddy Mercury jokes and On the Bus, as these are the bits I feel I’m most likely to use as cornerstones of a set. I don’t know how long On the Bus is, so I need to try and have a timed run through of that tonight to get a better feel for it.
Thursday 13th 13:30
So, unsurprisingly, I didn’t do a timed run through of “On The Bus” last night. My excuse? I was too knackered. It’s as simple as that sometimes. However, I did have a practice on my way home from work and realised what I think the key to it working is.
The bit is based around an attempt to turn some tweets I sent on a bus journey into a stand up routine. My revelation was that it isn’t really about the tweets as much as it’s about how I set them up, and the inevitable failure of them to work as comedy. The resolution of the section is my reaction to the failure, and so this builds in a certain amount of flexibility in the timing. I have to do the set up, but then can do pretty much what I want with the reading of the tweets before I get to the conclusion. I’ll just have to try and use this flexibility to make sure I don’t over run. Fingers crossed.
Both “Stand Up Comedy Poem” and “On the Bus” contain bits that I read out, and I did manage to edit both of these documents to, hopefully, make them a little snappier.
Also, on my practice attempts, I managed to find a couple of extra angles to use within Two Zombies that I’m looking forward to trying.
Saturday 15th 9:30
Well, that turned out to be something of an experience.
I arrived at the venue at around 8:15 for a 9 o’clock start. My friend Lee Moore was also on the bill (and he had coincidentally been on at Gig 114 this week, too), and so I knew I’d be able to have a good chat in the build up to the gig, instead of just lurking awkwardly. After speaking to Tim, the organiser/MC, it turned out that 2 of the scheduled 6 acts had pulled out. He said that under the circumstances we could do 20 minutes (or even longer) if we wanted to. I knew that I had more than 10 minutes of stuff prepared, and felt pretty confident that I could do 20 pretty comfortably. It’s relatively unusual to get such a long spot, so it looked like it could be a really useful opportunity.
There wasn’t much of an audience around at the scheduled start time, but Tim knew that a number of people were on their way and so decided to delay. We eventually got started some time after 9:30, and there was a decent enough sized audience (maybe 20 people watching from the main seating area, and a number more watching from the bar at the side). The first section had two acts on doing 10 minutes each and they had both done well. There was a group of younger audience members sat at the front – who had come as a group to support one of the acts – and I got the impression that they hadn’t been to see comedy before. I wasn’t sure how they were going to react to me.
Due to some logistical reasons, the interval ended up lasting a while, and so it was after 10:30 when the second section started. Lee and I would be doing longer sets than the first section. Neither of us was entirely sure how long we were going to do; partly because we didn’t know how much stuff we had prepared, and partly because we thought we might have to bail early if the audience didn’t go for it. Lee went on before me and did 18 minutes, getting the audience onside with some great storytelling.
It must have been 11 o’clock when I took to the stage, which is far from ideal. I was a little apprehensive as some of the audience members’ attention had naturally started to wane. I decided I would try and put lots of energy into it, to try and grab their attention. I also decided to be as big and daft as possible, so that even if they didn’t go for my material they might laugh at the stupid man.
I launched off with my Freddy Mercury joke and used it to talk directly to a few groups of people, just to try and engage them early on. I then went into telling some jokes. The venue is geared up for live music, so there’s a big stage, which I ran around as a way of setting up the joke book. I usually limit this to 5 jokes (read from index cards), but I probably had 10 to choose from, and as I had longer to fill I was able to play around more. I refrained from telling some jokes by saying “you won’t get this one”, which in itself got a laugh. During this section I knew I had to be alive to what was happening in the audience. If some chatted, I would immediately address it, and my asides to the audience all became part of the act.
I didn’t really think that “Stand Up Comedy Poem” would work particularly well, but I wanted it there to link to On the Bus. I decided to totally over-egg how serious the bit was and told off audience members for not treating my ‘art’ with the respect it was due. At one point a woman was being a little noisy as she said goodbye to some friends. I, of course chastised her for this, to which she replied “but it’s my birthday”. I countered this with something like “so what? We all have birthdays…every year”. And then made fun of her for still getting excited about Christmas. She was in the process of leaving the pub anyway, to which I essentially said ‘good riddance’. It all came out quite organically, as the on-stage me was reacting as he would about someone interrupting his serious poetry, but I hope she realised that I wasn’t being serious.
I then told the second Freddy Mercury joke, which elicited the response “you’ve already told this one…” (they’re all variations on a theme). I replied with “no I haven’t” and then kind of despondently told it anyway. This set up the third occurrence better than I could have hoped.
At this point, I should probably point out that the audience’s reaction to me overall was pretty…mixed. There were plenty of bewildered/bemused/blank faces staring back at me, but then the people who were enjoying it were really enjoying it.
Two Zombies struggled a little, but I liked the way that my tweaks felt, so it was well worth trying.
Telephone Books didn’t get it’s usual reaction and that put me a bit on the back foot as I went into US Style Stand Up. Both bits are essentially playing with a different styles of comedy, and I guessed that as they didn’t go for the first then they probably wouldn’t go for the second. I decided to dispense with the usual set up and go straight into the US style stand up. This didn’t really work, but, in the moment, I started to perform the ending in a slightly different way – the words were the same, but I put a lot more emotion into it – and this seemed to really work.
Christ’s Conkers was a real slog, apart from the punchline which got the best reaction it has so far.
On the Bus was the bit that I really wanted to explore, and, thankfully, it worked better than it ever has. The realisation of how the failure of the tweets working as comedy being the key really made a massive difference. I’d already used this to work out how to end the bit, but as I performed it, it also made a big difference to the way that I read the tweets out. It’s not enough to just read them, I had to make it clear that I was hopeful/desperate to make them work. I still need an end line for the section, but it’s moved significantly in the right direction.
I closed with the final Freddy Mercury joke – “I should probably end with a joke…” – and this worked exactly as I hoped it would. The jokes in themselves are (intentionally) not very good, and I think I’ve found the right way to play each of the three.
In the end I did 21 minutes.
As you can probably guess by how much I’ve written, it was an extremely useful gig. It was a treat to be able to do 20 minutes, as I got to try everything that I wanted to and it was great practice to do a longer set. The bits that I was focused on worked really well and I reaped the rewards of MCing, as I was able to address what was going on in the moment, and improvised around whatever happened. It all sounds very positive, but there were plenty of people there who didn’t like what I was doing, and that made it something of an odd experience.
But then it’s boring if it’s not a bit odd.