storytelling, with cheese

Last night’s Scurvy Wednesdays show was interesting and strange. We had a big crowd in (in part courtesy of our friend Carrie, who did a great little open spot) and everybody performed well, but for some reason there were very few big laughs and the whole thing never quite went off the way it often does.

This makes it very difficult to tell whether what I did was actually any good or not; it only got a few really good laughs, but then so did all the other acts and they were all doing good stuff. 

But it’s particularly annoying because I was trying something totally different:  I’d had quite an interesting few days last week that led to a genuinely surreal and funny conclusion where I ended up in a strange part of Coventry with a santa outfit and a reblochon cheese. So I thought it might be fun to just tell the story – with a few made-up details, obviously – in a very rough, unwritten (but not un-thought-about) kind of way. But I was conscious that for the story to work, I’d have to put in a few narrative bits that weren’t funny, or at least that I hadn’t yet had the writing time to make funny. So the narrative was fine but the punchlines were deliberately a little more sparse than they usually would be.

The trouble is, the usual way of judging whether a piece of stand-up has worked is the number and size of the laughs it gets. And what I did got some laughs, but it felt like they weren’t quite as loud or as frequent as they ought to have been, and there’s no way of knowing whether that was because of the act or because of the room. Basically, there were too many variables for it to be a fair test…

(I possibly didn’t help matters by starting out saying that what I was about to say was true, which explains why some of it wouldn’t be funny. That was intended to be a kind of ironic self-deprecating joke in itself, but I didn’t quite pull off the delivery and the audience, many of whom were friends of Carrie and had never been to a comedy night before, took it at face value, expected not to laugh, and then often didn’t. Even at some of the things I’d thought were pretty funny.)

Still, when I watched the video back this morning I realised that I didn’t bore the audience at any point – they were intently following the story all the way through; and there were even a few big-ish laughs for some bits which I may try and appropriate for my normal stand-up set, if I can get them to work out of context.

So it wasn’t a complete waste of time. But whether it was worth bringing the cheese along to demonstrate how smelly it was – and thus going round carrying a bag which smelled of cheese all night – I’m not sure I’d do that again…


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