Saturday 10th 15:32
I’ve not been gigging as much recently, and in some of my blog posts I’ve mentioned that I need to renew my efforts in sourcing them. Well, like the clichéd buses of lore, this week 4 gigs have arrived at the bus stop that I call me. Given that these 4 gigs are on consecutive nights – Monday to Thursday – it’s more than likely that I’ll have some kind of meltdown, so I thought it might be prudent to write about my preparation for the week as I do it. This should help pinpoint the exact moment when I lose it. It’s also a kind of clever trick to try and guilt myself into actually doing the preparation. Let’s hope that it works.
Prior to Thursday evening, I was pretty sanguine about the upcoming week. At that point I only had 3 gigs lined up, and a pretty clear plan about how I was going to approach them. As happened last month (Gig 80 and Gig 81), Monday’s gig would be Magical Animals followed by me MCing at The Beech Inn on Tuesday. I was going to follow the same plan of preparing some new material to try at M.A., which I could then use as my contingency material for use at The Beech. I would also need to write my ‘monthly report’ should I need it for Tuesday (I would need to do it if I end up being one of the acts as well as MC).
The third gig was due to be Open For Laughs in Huddersfield on Thursday. I’ve played this night a few times, so it seemed like the ideal venue to try some newish material. The plan was to re-use any of the new stuff I’d performed at this month’s and last month’s M.A./Beech that I liked, bolstered by some older stuff. I figured that I could pretty much pull a set list together by Wednesday morning, which would give me a couple of days to run through my selection.
Last Thursday evening, I got a text from Jeff Downs asking if I could be a last minute replacement for Moviejokie. Under normal circumstances, I would have said yes in a heartbeat, but I feared the addition of a fourth gig might just push me over the edge. The main problem would be that as I didn’t have anything prepared for MJ, and had no ideas lined up for it, it would mean that I’d have to conceive of the ideas, write them and practice them all by Sunday evening, or I wouldn’t get chance to. It would also mean that my day of practice for Open for Laughs would disappear, adding more pressure to that gig.
Despite my doubts, I clearly said that I’d do it; I’m not one for turning down gigs. This means that I need to get cracking on preparation. And, yes, I am aware of the irony of me wasting time by writing about the need for preparation. Oh, and that it is now nearly 4 o’clock on Saturday and I’ve nearly wasted a day. I’ll try and wrap this up quickly.
So far, I’ve written, but not practiced, my material for Magical Animals, which I’ll use as stand by for the Beech. I’ve written about 400 words of my monthly report, but it really needs to be closer to 1000.
To do: Practice material for M.A. Finish monthly report. Do everything for Moviejokie. Come up with set list for OFL. Easy. And by ‘easy’, I mean ‘shit, I better get cracking’.
To make matters worse, I’ve got to go out in 45 minutes for a haircut, of all things. I definitely need to get cracking.
So, I’ve had about 35 minutes to work on stuff and I’ve got 10 minutes before I have to go out. We’re way overdue an update:
I’ve written about 50 more words of my monthly report, but I have a good idea of what I need to write to complete it.
I’ve firmed up the material for Magical Animals, and have written the bullet points of the set list onto an index card so I can practice on the way to the hairdressers (and on the way back).
I’ve pulled together the bits that I want to try at OFL into one Word document. At a glance, I reckon there should be 10 minutes worth of material, but I ideally need to try a timed run through at some point, and, crucially, I need put it all into some kind of order.
I’ve made a start on Moviejokie. I decided pretty much straight away that I should do Casio, as he’s worked well there before and if all else fails I can just be filthy. I still need a concept for him, though. Jeff – the brains behind Moviejokie – suggested that I try a British stuntman character, and I’ve decided to give it a go. He’s going to be called Barry at the moment, but I can’t think of a suitable surname. Being a stuntman, there’s plenty of opportunity for physical stuff and getting the audience involved, which, as discussed previously (see here), are essential for MJ. I’ve had a few ideas, but they’ll need serious fleshing out. Right, I’d better go.
Home. I managed to run through the material while I was driving and, as always, it proved really useful. It’s all well and good coming up with a joke, but the key to making it work is all in the phrasing and the only way to really hone that is by saying it out loud and trying it in different ways.
MCing at The Beech is a really good way of forcing me to write new material, so I’ve been consciously taking more notes over the last month. As a result, some of the bits don’t really fit into my usual style; specifically I’ve written a topical bit (about the U.S. election) and a “my girlfriend said a funny thing” bit. Through my practicing, I’ve pretty much worked out how I’m going to approach them, but they still feel really alien coming out of my mouth; in a very similar way to my “Personal Bit” which I dropped some months ago. These gigs are great opportunities to try something a bit different, though, and it would be useful to have a different type of material in my metaphorical back pocket.
Sunday 11th 15:28
Well, it’s mid-way through the afternoon and I’m finally sitting down to do something. I’ve only just got home because we’ve been out to a farm shop. Yes, a farm shop. Deal with it.
Following my final update from last night, I finished off the first (and possibly final) draft of my monthly report. I checked last month’s and it was 800 words long, so I’ve pretty much exactly matched that. I then sat down with a notebook whilst watching telly and came up with some ideas for Moviejokie. I came up with a name for the stuntman character, “Barry Muntstan – The British Stuntman” (I love a spoonerific character name, e.g. Barry Garlow, Jack Michaelson). I also came up with an idea for what Casio is going to get up to; making an audience member act out a famous scene from a film. It’s a relief to know I’ve got something, but I think it’s lulling me slightly into a false sense of security. I need to firm up some of the ideas, pronto.
When I was in the bath earlier today, I was thinking about what I had to do, when I suddenly remembered a dream that I had last night. I was performing character comedy and it wasn’t going particularly well. The problem was that I was either ‘in character’- getting the voice and mannerisms correct – or I was concentrating too much on improvising material, which was funny but not really related to the character. Now, I don’t usually put much stock in the meaning of dreams, but even I had to admit that this looked like my subconscious sending me a direct message. There’s a good chance that I’ll have to do a lot of improvisation at Moviejokie and perhaps it would be more successful if I were to do this as a character I was comfortable with. This has made me think that I might be better off doing the stuntman as Terry Dowling. It would essentially be all the same ideas that I had for Barry Muntstan, but it should be easier for me to make them funny as Terry.
It’s just coming up to quarter to four and football is starting shortly. I’m going to have to make some decisions sharpish. Magical Animals should be pretty much ready to go, although I’ll need to spend a few minutes tomorrow to prioritise what I’m going to do. The Beech is more or less covered off, although ideally I’d like to do another draft of the report, which I should be able to squeeze in on my dinner breaks on Monday and Tuesday. Thursday’s set is going to be a lot more adhoc than I would have liked it, but I’ll have to go into with the air of a new material session, and possibly have an index card set list with me as backup. What I really need to do today is finalise as much of Moviejokie as I can.
I managed to write up my notes for Moviejokie and get them into good enough shape that I roughly know what I’m doing. As I’ve mentioned previously, the key for MJ seems to be to have a simple gimmick and/or audience participation. The ideas for both Casio and Terry make use of both. I wouldn’t say I’m completely happy with what I have, and I haven’t rehearsed them in any way, but at least I’m not completely panicking.
Or, I wasn’t. I quickly e-mailed Jeff to mention the basics of what I had planned, mainly to confirm that part of what I had planned for Terry wouldn’t clash with the other acts. As it turns out, the main set piece that I had planned for Casio actually clashes with something else. Poo. This means that I’m going to have to think of another film scene to use.
I’ve actually got one in mind, and it could work quite well for audience participation. The main problem is that it’s a very 80s film, and so a lot of the audience might not have heard of it, let alone knowing about the, admittedly once famous, scene. Oh well, at least I have something I can use, assuming that I don’t think of anything better.
I’m not feeling that well this evening – I’m going to euphemistically use the term ‘upset stomach’ – so I don’t feel like doing too much more tonight. This is basically an excuse to not think about it and assume that everything is going to turn out OK.
Monday 12th 13:31
I’m on my dinner break – corned beef butties, thanks for asking – and, as promised, I’ve just completed a second draft of my monthly report. I say ‘second draft’, but that’s being too grand about it; it was just a few minor tweaks. I’ll probably have a last look through it tomorrow, hoping to add a few more jokes.
I’ve also taken a look through my material for Magical Animals tonight. My document listing all the new bits of material was geared towards tomorrow night, so I’ve created a copy and put the stuff in a more suitable order for tonight. The material and order is:
On the Bus – I had to use the bus to get to work a couple of weeks ago and tweeted a number of times about the experience. My first tweet was: “Today I am catching the bus. Stay tuned for a series of tweets that will form the basis of a stand up set I will never, ever perform.” Before the end of the journey, I decided that I should try and turn it into a bit of material. I’ve transcribed the tweets and I’m going to read them out and attempt to adlib around them. There’s a good chance that it won’t work at all. I’m not that bothered if it doesn’t work (that’s why you do new material nights!), But I am concerned that it will chew up my full 4 minutes and not give me chance to road test anything else. This is the only section that I’ve not practiced so far, as it needs me to read it out and I usually do run-throughs while driving.
A Funny Thing My Girlfriend Said – As I’ve already mentioned, this is something brand new and a totally different style to my usual material.
4 New Miscellaneous Daft Bits – They’re all pretty much one liners, but silly.
80s Corner – The other day I stumbled across my set list for my first ever straight stand up gig. It reminded me of a couple of bits that I really liked – “Luke, I Am Your Father” and “Karate Kid/Extinct Birds” – but ended up dropping because they use pretty obscure 1980s references. I thought it might be fun to try them again and wrap them up together, making a feature of their nicheness.
Supermarket Poem – New, short, silly poem.
U.S. Election – Another brand new bit, that’s in a style I wouldn’t normally do.
4 New Joke Book Jokes
There’s no way that I’ll get through all of this, so I might end up changing the order on the fly. And that’s pretty much all the prep I’m going to do today. I’ll see you after the gig.
Just home from Magical Animals, as I managed to sneak off a bit early. I know I look a bit overly keen writing this up now, but if I don’t attempt to keep up with these posts then they’re soon going to run away from me (not literally).
On the drive over to Manchester, I thought it would be a good idea to practice how I was going to set up the ‘On the Bus’ section, even though I wouldn’t be able to read the individual tweets. By doing this, I soon latched onto the idea of me getting annoyed with myself for being arrogant enough to say that I wouldn’t do this as a stand-up set. Getting an angle on it made the material come alive, and I immediately knew how I was going to play it, and how I would end the section. Most importantly it felt like a bit of my material.
I arrived at Sandbar pretty much as it was due to start. There were suspiciously fewer people there than usual, and it looked like it would be a really quiet night, but suddenly a bunch of people appeared from nowhere (they were, obviously, somewhere). As the first few acts performed, it became clear that there was a slightly weird vibe in the room. I think that the demographic of the audience was slightly different to normal and I got the feeling that some of the people in attendance didn’t know what to make of it and weren’t particularly interested in proceedings. This gave a slightly uncomfortable air in the room, which was strange for the lovely Magical Animals. It started to make me unsure about some of my material. I think in particular I was wary of the ‘a funny thing my girlfriend said’ bit. As I’ve already mentioned, it doesn’t feel natural to me yet as I’ve not found my angle on it, and this made me uncertain of its value. Uncertainly is not your friend when you’re trying new material. Where I was worrying earlier that I’d only get chance to do ‘On the Bus’, now I was worrying that I’d have to do something else.
In the end, I needn’t have worried. The Bus bit worked better than I had hoped and it lasted around 4 and a half minutes, so I didn’t have time for anything else.
On the drive home, I had a run through of how I’m planning on opening tomorrow night and I started to think about Thursday’s set list. After tonight, I’m all for giving Bus bit another run out – although it might tank if I try it tomorrow and I might change my mind – and that would end up being nearly half my 10 minute spot. I also worked out how to tie in another bit of material to the bus bit, so I’ve already allotted about 6 minutes. Given how much other new stuff I have, it might end up being a question of what to leave out. Of course, a lot could happen between now and Thursday.
Right, that’s enough for now. Night night.