day 5: what gets lost and what gets kept

At lunchtime yesterday, we did the comedy equivalent of eating a pile of spinach, sweetcorn, some greasy big macs and a pint of strong coffee and then did a huge shit on our audience.

Except that doing that would at least have shown a reasonable amount of commitment to what we were doing.

We delivered the whole show, all three of us, as if we didn’t believe in it – and after the previous day’s inspiration from Nietzsche, it’s a pretty easy to deduce that this was never going to convince an audience to believe in it. What started as a lukewarm response became near-silence by the time Tony was doing his ‘Monkey with AIDS’ bit at the end. And Tony’s ‘Monkey with AIDS’ bit is genuinely brilliant. It was unfortunate, in some ways, that this was the day my sister and her husband turned up to watch.

Afterwards, we discussed what the problems were and what to do about them. Tony was initially reluctant to abandon the show, and I had thought at first that if we went out the next day at least pretending to believe in the show, and delivering it with punch and pace, then we could convince audiences that it was a good show even if it had weaknesses in the content. Lawrence was pretty sure that he wasn’t going to be able to believe in the show even if he pretended to, though.

The problem was twofold: firstly, the show was under-rehearsed and the script just wasn’t as good as the previous year’s (though these things could have been improved by some more work and by doing the show every day); and secondly, the whole format wasn’t working, largely because there was just a big lack of energy – the previous year’s show had been almost Pappy’s-like in its pace, with so many frenetic costume changes and mad props that it was hard for the audience not to get carried along by it – they enjoyed themselves because we looked like we were enjoying ourselves. By contrast, this year’s show ended up being the three of us standing around awkwardly with the mood dominated completely by Tony’s deadpan, downbeat persona.

It was a problem that we had completely not seen coming – Tony’s dark, deadpan stuff, which does so well in his stand-up, really is very very funny, and we all had enough faith in it to believe that it would work. Tony had persuaded us, with reasons that made complete sense, that he should play the central role in the show and throw stuff out to Loz and I; I’d only been hesitant about that at first for dumb egoistic reasons, and Tony was very persuasive, especially because he was doing very well, been a competition finalist etc, while I’d had two or three average-to-bad compering gigs at Scurvy Wednesdays and my confidence was shot to bits.

In the end, though, the slow, downbeat mood and the slightly more vanilla tastes of the lunchtime crowd just meant there wasn’t enough movement or fun in the format for lunchtime audiences to go for it. In short, Lawrence was right: the show was doomed and it had to go.

So, we’re doing it as a variation on a pretty normal three-hander now: Tony will come on, do some crowd work, bring me on, I’ll do a set and bring Loz on, he’ll do a set and bring Tony back, and then Tony will do some more stuff before we all come back to do a song at the end. (If it seems unusual to have one act both opening and finishing the show, it’s mainly because Tony can’t really do his more risque stuff at the start of a lunchtime show, but is also keener to do the show-opening crowd work than I am. Like I said, I had a few bad compering gigs at Scurvy Wednesdays, which was partly bad luck but largely my own fault and due to a lack of preparation – plus Tony has been making pretty disparaging comments about my crowd work, many of them not innaccurate, since about January. So any confidence I used to have at it is pretty much gone – and compering, more than anything, is about confidence. At the moment, anyway, I don’t really want to do it – I just want to be doing the best sets I can.)

Anyway, as if to prove Tony was right about doing the compering, his compering in the evening gig was excellent – the best I’ve seen him do – and the show was great. Everyone got laughs, James Sherwood headlined and the whole thing was the best one yet. The only downside for me was that I had to cut my set very very short to get James on quickly; by the time he got on there were only 9 minutes of the show left and Sherwood had to do his last song at record speed…

When I got home, though, I couldn’t sleep at all. I have so many thoughts…ugh.

(On the upside, a few of those thoughts were about a brilliant play I’d seen between the shows – A Respectable Wedding, which is on at C Venues and which everyone should see. It’s a play by Brecht, translated by Rory Bremner, and performed by a group who with apparently infinite energy and who really seem to be able to get the best out of each other. Five stars from me. Or at least, they won’t be dropping any shits on their audiences. )

Circling the Drain: Audience – small; Performance – almost abominable (2/10)

Scurvy Standup Showcase: Audiences – medium; Performance – good (7/10)

Other stuff: Edinburgh is messing with my mind. Get me out of here.

Overall: LOSE

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