day 15: a good day

Yesterday had all the ingredients of a terrible day. I hadn’t had much sleep; My students’ A-Level results were out in a year when comprehensive education was supposed to have failed; I had a booking to do a slot at a show which has been consistently unfunny; and when I was leaving the house, Tony emerged from his room looking like a zombie and said he hadn’t slept at all and wasn’t going to be able to do the lunchtime show. This was added to the fact that myself and Loz both had parents visiting, which was going to severely eat into our flyering time. Basically, the day was set up to be a disaster.

And yet somehow, it turned out to be my best day yet.

First, the exam results came in. The students I spoke to as I walked into town had mostly got A or B grades, which was a pretty great start.

Then, Tony’s unavailability meant Loz and I had to fill the best part of an hour between the two of us, which seemed impossible until we got on stage and did it. There were two thoughts in my brain just before we started the show: the first was the Nietzsche aphorism I wrote about last week, about appearance becoming content; and the other was Logan Murray‘s mantra that ‘none of this matters’.

So when I got out there, I found myself doing the whole ‘opening the show’ thing with a lot more confidence than I thought I would and after a short while was genuinely enjoying talking and laughing with the little crowd. Loz was tired but dragged a really good performance out of some last reserves of energy, and before we knew it we’d filled 45 minutes with laughter.

After a few hours having a rest and quietly celebrating the morning, I saw James Sherwood‘s brilliant show with my mum, forgetting that we’d booked him to do the evening show. One of the great things about Sherwood is he seems to be able to tailor a set to his mood and the mood of the crowd, and the audience lapped up his ‘jazz set’ like thirsty cats. Tony didn’t make the evening show, either, so I compered again; again, I wasn’t magical but I felt confident and competent enough to make sure the audience enjoyed the show, and I even to got a few people to hang around afterwards to watch me do a slot in ‘The News at Ten-ish’, the topical show which follows ours.

Now, before I say anything about the News at Ten-ish, I should say that I really admire Gill Smith for what she’s trying to do. Good topical comedy is very hard to write, Gill is a good comedian, and she is providing an opportunity for a lot of acts who wouldn’t normally be challenging themselves to give some topical stuff a go.

Unfortunately, as Tony pointed out to me last week, the concept is flawed. To my knowledge, none of the acts that are booked to do a slot on the show are full-time professional topical comedy writers. We are mostly open spots, the best of us being open spots who are working really hard to hone ten-minute sets of tried and tested, written and reliable material. Getting acts at our level to try and do ten minutes of jokes that we’ve just written that day about things that are in the news is a great challenge for the acts, as I say, but it often isn’t very entertaining for the audience. Again, props to Gill for giving it a try, and perhaps I’ve only ever seen it on rough nights; but I don’t think the format is providing great entertainment.

So by the time I did my slot, a full room of about 40 or 50 people had been more or less silent for about half an hour. They were bored and annoyed and were starting to get heckly.

And then I realised how much progress I’ve made in the last two weeks: before the festival, I would have just wanted to go home. But last night, I was itching to get on stage because I knew I could fix it, I knew I could make the audience laugh if they only had something really good to laugh at.

And when Gill announced me onto the stage, I walked up with confidence, and even though it wasn’t really topical I did my ‘fisting’ opener bit that has been working so well. And it got a huge laugh – a laugh of relief, perhaps, but I could almost feel the whole room relax. I went into a set that had some bits from my normal set which were framed in a topical way, mixed with a few jokes from the papers that I had really just written, and it all got good laughs. And when I left and went out into the night, people were congratulating me and…I know it’s only temporary, and there are ups and downs, and I’m heading for a massive fall if I carry on like this; but it was an up that made me feel really happy.

And then I topped the evening off with a trip to see George Ryegold, which is a work of genius.

And after that, I got a crepe with sugar and lemon.

It was a good day.

CTD: Audience – small but friendly, largely flyered by my Mum; Performance – good (7/10)

SSS: Audience – medium; Performance – good, solid compering (6/10)

The News at Ten-ish: Audience – full; Performance – see above (8/10)

Other stuff: Good exam results, nice to see Mum, nice rest in the middle of the day, made friends with Loz again in the evening…just a good day.

Overall: WIN

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