dance, monkey, dance

If weird gigs are the norm, then last night’s was more normal than most.

It was the first night of a new club being run by Sophie Sweatman in Kentish Town, and the room is absolutely great – a cosy little basement with lights and PA all in there already and a slightly kooky atmosphere with a big gold Buddha sat behind the ‘stage’ area.

There was even, for a first night, a nice little audience: a little group from RBS and a few randoms. (The rest were acts of course, but it made the small room feel almost full.)

So the night was running fairly straightforwardly until the interval, when I found myself chatting to some of the RBS group. One of them, a little cockney-sounding girl called Ingrid (I wouldn’t have guessed her name in a million years) asked if I was here to watch the show. Perhaps foolishly, I said I was in the show. She said, “really? I’m going to heckle you!”

Finding out I was headlining just seemed to stiffen her resolve: “Oh, I’m definitely going to heckle you! I am SO going to heckle you!”

I didn’t quite know what to say to that, except to say that with that kind of determination, she should go heckling at more gigs and perhaps one day she’d be able to go professional. She didn’t really get it, so in a hamfisted attempt at reverse psychology I just made her promise that she would actually heckle me and went back to sit through the second half wondering if that would actually happen.

The two acts on before me were called, respectively, Jackson and Bink. They’re both fairly new to the London circuit and were both funny and charming to watch, but were both a little bit odd: Jackson spends a lot of time lying on the floor and Bink is, well, what you’d expect from someone called Bink Strange. By the time I was introduced there was a definite surreal air in the room.

And then I walked onstage and before I had even got a sentence out, a little cockney voice from the front yelled, “Oh, it’s my friend!…OI, GET OFF!”

Which I then felt I had to explain to the audience, otherwise they would all think either that she was barking, or that I was going to be so bad that even my friends didn’t actually want me to perform.

Fortunately my explaination got a few laughs, which gave me the chance to get a bit of material out. That was going fine until, at one point, a joke that normally get a big laugh got nothing. I pointed out that they were right not to laugh because it was a really bad, hacky joke (it’s a pull-back and reveal that I’m actually a little bit ashamed of). And then one of the girls with Ingrid shouted, “I like bad jokes! Do more!”

“Really?” I asked, (thinking of my ‘big butts’ routine), “because I’ve got a LOT of bad jokes I can do…are you sure you don’t want some genuinely funny material though?”

“NO!” cried the audience as one, “BAD JOKES!”

“YEAH, DO BAD JOKES!” yelled Ingrid.

“Right,” I said, “I’ll do what you want, like I’m some kind of dancing monkey…”

And then a voice came from the back, “YES! Do a monkey dance!”

“Yes, dance like a monkey!” shouted Ingrid.

At which point I began to feel like I might be losing control of the gig.

But the voice from the back got more insistent. “Monkey dance! Monkey dance!” and I realised it was coming from one specific man, a stocky little chap with a big orange beard,who wasn’t an act but was clearly mad. So I took a risk.

“Okay,” I said, “if YOU come up here and do a monkey dance, I’ll do it with you.”

At which point the normal response, I would have thought, would be for him to refuse, look coy, and shut up so I could do some jokes. But this was underestimating the bearded man’s madness. In a flash, he was onstage, dancing like a monkey. The audience were loving it, and I could only stand and watch with a comically stunned Bill Cosby-style expression as he finished his monkey dance by licking his finger and sticking it in my ear, explaining that you have to finish the Monkey Dance by giving someone a ‘wet willie’.

Then he returned to his seat, leaving me with a damp ear, a gobsmacked look and an audience gigglingly anticipating what I would do.

There was only one thing I could do. I had to top that madness with even greater madness. I announced that yes, I could do all that AND do a bad joke, and launched into the most elaborate monkey dance I think I have ever done or will ever do, which I finished by giving a ‘wet willie’ to Ingrid (which I think must be my best heckle put-down EVER) while delivering one of my all-time best bad jokes; and when I hit the punchline (‘that’s PC gone Mad!’) I pulled my moist finger from Ingrid’s ear, punched the air and declared myself ‘the winner’ to a huge laugh and applause…

Before the gig, I’d wondered if I should video myself. No, I thought, nothing unusual or special is going to happen here.

I won’t make that mistake again.



  1. […] it seems a shame that gigs like my ‘monkey dance’ gig from the other night – which felt so spontaneous and natural and…alive! – could be rarer […]

  2. Charlie, that’s the best review of a gig ever! What a blogger you are. I’d like to share it on Facebook.
    I was laughing a lot at my memory of your gig with those mad people.
    Would you like to come back and do another gig at Torrianos. We still get real audience, mad people and the night is still zany. Buddha appears sometimes too. (Not sure where he’s hidden rest of time).
    If you’d like a 10 min slot, please email me on with GIG in subject bar.
    Thanks again

  3. Charlie, that is so well written you make me want to check out this ooky little gig.
    Great blog

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