day 13: a question of discipline

We started the day sending an angry email to Just The Tonic, which to their credit they responded to immediately with an assurance that the venue staff would be switched around that night. Also, we would get an apology from the drunk boy who, because he had ‘fessed up straight away, had not been fired. That was a bit of a disappointment, but hey – guess you can’t go around firing people just because they hang around their workplace drunk and make a nuisance of themselves in a way which costs the organisation and its clients.

Anyway, since there was no showcase that night, so I took Jen and Nan to see two shows: Imran Yusuf at Espionage and Pappy’s at the Pleasance courtyard.

Imran is one of the hardest-gigging comedians I’ve ever known, as well as being a truly lovely man, but he’s always been such a high-octane performer that I was worried an hour with him might be exhausting. So it was a genuine delight then, to see how well he’s pitched the hour, with stories and honesty and so much gentle charm that the time flew by. Maybe he’s just got less energy with it being Ramadan and all, but the pace was just perfect. (He might have made a little too much of hitting on a woman in the front row on that particular performance, but otherwise the show was pretty much spot-on.)

Afterwards Imran said he’d started the run just trying things out and keeping to less than 50 minutes so that he wouldn’t be eligible for a best newcomer award; but now he’s getting 5-star reviews he’s going all-out for it. It’s a gamble – no free show has ever got an award nomination before – but if anyone deserves it through sheer graft and self-discipline, it’s him.

With Pappy’s, too, discipline is everything. I’d heard rumours that they were going off the boil a little (and I could understand why after five straight years of shows and the loss of a member, that could be understandable). But as it turns out, they are still the best sketch group in the business. Their imagination and cleverness about what can be done with the genre is incredible; they have the sheer nerve to make up for being a man down by doing things like having Matthew walk offstage and then walk back on again almost immediately, introducing himself confidently with the line, “Hello, I’m a different character…”

It’s also, I think, a testament to the kind of discipline they have over themselves (and each other) that they are able to sometimes appear wonderfully undisciplined. So much of Pappy’s best moments come out of Matthew’s will to control Tom’s behaviour onstage, and means the whole thing feels like a lot of fun. Perhaps we’re just getting to the point in the Flashback when that’s possible for us too.

None of which did very much to dispel my anger from the previous night, and by the time we got to Just The Tonic, I was ready to dish out bollockings if they were needed.

And they were, but not to the level that I thought might be necessary. When we got there, we found that the previous night’s door staff had been replaced, and we given back a chap called Keith, (a genuinely brilliant and very efficient young man who deserves to be working in far better conditions than he is).

The drunk boy from the previous night came to apologise as promised, but was pretty easily despatched with a teacher-esque line along the lines of, ‘you know you should have been fired don’t you?’ from me, followed by Rik suggesting that if he wanted to come and see our show as a gesture of no hard feelings then he’d be very welcome. Psychologically crude, but effective.

The bigger problem was that even though Phil, who does the previous show, had started on time (the Big Value showcase before him had even finished early) he still overran by fifteen minutes. The guy is clearly a genius and a truly amazing clown, and he totally deserves the award nominations I’m sure he’ll get this year; but that has just made it even harder to tell him that he needs to stop fucking our show up by overrunning. Still, he apologised and said he was sorry that his show’s too long and he needed to cut stuff. And I said yes he did. Which probably came across as arsey, but at least it was clear.

Then I felt bad. Ugh.

Fortunately, we had really enthusiastic audience who, unlike on other nights, didn’t seem to mind starting late. They got really into the show and it was one of the most fun we’ve had.

It’s horrible to think that Nietzsche might be right about the value of discipline and harshness. But then, most of the things Nietzsche is right about are unpleasant to accept. If only that made him wrong…

Flashback: late but good

Overall: DRAW

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