I just did my first ever gig in Northampton, and it was lovely.

That wouldn’t be at all interesting, of course, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m from there; I was born and grew up in Northampton. And it’s special. Not just special for me – just…special.

Alan Moore, who is also from Northampton (and famously still is), lives round the corner from the venue. He isn’t wrong when he goes on ad nauseum about what a remarkable place it is. It is remarkable, largely because of its unremarkability (it’s an average sized settlement of averagely mixed social class, slap-bang in the middle of an average bit of England; it really has almost nothing special about it apart from its resolute refusal to have anything special about it). But…also because there’s something about the air there. It smells sweet and frustrating and parochial and kind and arrogant and foolish, and that kind of air is creative rocket-fuel for me.

The gig itself, as one of the other acts pointed out, seemed to have everything possible wrong with it; free entry, in the main room of a pub, in a fairly insalubrious part of a provincial town, with the ‘stage’ right by the main entrance, an inexperienced compere (who, while potentially a great act, just didn’t have the stagetime behind him to do the almost impossible job of warming up a room), no name acts and a generally non-comedy-literate crowd. But it was genuinely great.

Unlike a lot of London gigs I’ve done recently, loads of people turned up (including some of my best ever friends who still live in town), the room was packed, and there was so much goodwill in the room that by the time I got onstage, the audience had figured out exactly when and how they were meant to respond to show their approval. And they did. The act on before me had just done straight gags and they’d loved it, so I did a fairly gag-heavy set based around my new ‘sir mix-a-lot’ bit, which plays with the conventions of joke form (albeit in a fairly tame way) and they seemed to really enjoy it.

In the gents afterwards, a man with classically bad Northamptonian hair said to me, ‘I liked your stuff – it was really…alternative’. When I explained that that term was often used as a veiled way of saying ‘not funny or good in any way’, he assured me that he really had meant it in a good way.

And for once, I actually believed him.


1 Comment

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