After the stress of the day, which is partially down to showmanship to make sure that everyone feels positive about the stuff we've been doing, I had nothing less stressful than a gig to go to. Er... that's still quite stressful. This gig was important to me. It was one of the ones I'd been looking forward to for some time. There were a few reasons. Firstly, it was an important try-out spot at a club which I would like to graduate through the ranks in, in order to become a paid act. So, the pressure was on to do well... and arrive in plenty of time to perform. (As it happens, as is often the case, I arrived well and truly early.) Secondly, I had an ever-increasing party of well-wishers on their way to witness my finest hour/greatest flop. Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, I was sharing a bill with a comedian whom I have liked for years: Richard Herring. In my mind this was a massive event.
It was the early work of Stewart Lee and Richard Herring which first inspired me to perform stand-up myself. Reading of Richard's rediscovery of stand-up on his (much better updated) blog had struck a chord with me. He was going through the same process as I had been, finding his feet on the stand-up stage. The only difference is that he's an act with 12 years' experience, good agents and, more importantly, a fan base... so it would be definitely easier for him to get gigs. He was supposed to be opening the show in Manchester at a club it will probably take me another two years to get into! However, I'm not bitter. Far from it. I was looking forward to meeting a hero (of sorts) on the same terms. Everyone's equal in the green room. Don't stare, though, it's not fair.
As I drove to Manchester, full of the joys of spring, I listened to a topical sitcom from other comedy icons, Punt and Dennis. It wasn't very good at all. It had one reasonable gag in it. The rest was fairly dull. I hoped it wouldn't blunt my comedic instincts.
At the gig I paced around. There was no sign of Richard, which helped me keep my composure, but the MC, who had MCed me at his club a few days previously, was encouraging about his expectations for how well I'd do. Somehow his encouragement seemed to make me feel a bit more of the pressure. I'm not happy to admit that I stormed a gig... not in the face of more experienced and better acts. I don't want to allow myself to believe that I have "made it" yet. One specific performance doesn't make a comedian of me.
Anyway, the opening section came and went and still no sign of Mr Herring. He was stuck in traffic. Fair enough. I did my bit and it went down pretty well. Job done. The booker wasn't present, so I got no feedback (and still haven't
in August) on what my performance might have done for my standing in the club. The only words I exchanged with Richard Herring when he arrived were a nod of agreement to (everything he said) the comment he made about the sitcom that he also listened to and a murmur of the comedian's good luck wish - "Have a good one".
In fairness, I was probably better off not sitting chatting with (at) the man himself. In my imagination, it was too big a deal. We'd sit, we'd talk, we'd fall in love and he'd involve me in all his big new radio projects and then we'd go on to right an Opera together or something. In reality, I'd sent him a few emails over the years, the penultimate of which he'd replied to, the last of which he'd ignore. The last email was on the subject of how well I'd cope with meeting him in person. The fact that it remained unanswered threw up a lot more questions than if I hadn't sent it. It wasn't stalkerish - more just a plea for mercy if I got a bit phased by sharing a green room with him. I think he would probably have understood...
Just to stop myself from sounding like an fawning fool, I should point out that I thought he didn't do altogether very well as a stand-up that night, particularly closing the show. He wasn't completely comfortable, nor was his material necessarily the sort of thing which one still does. Given that he'd spent about 6 hours stuck in traffic and then had to go straight on, perhaps some of this can be excused. Other bits of hackery have probably been dropped as he's furthered his process of finding his feet.
I returned home after a bizarre exchange with the ring-leader of the party of well-wishers, who all enjoyed the show. The ring-leader was my ex-house-mate and ex-co-star/co-writer in The Musical! I had some of his stuff in the boot of my car to give to him. It was just round the back of the venue. He refused to take it, citing that there was no time and that I should bin it all, even though he'd rather like his football boots: "But they're just in the back of the car...? No? Oh. Ok. Bye, then."