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Monday, July 18

After work, I had a gig in Kidderminster to go to. I was to be headlining. It had been arranged the previous month, when I'd put an advert up on a comedians' website, advertising my empty diary - some people would keep such a thing quiet, but I was looking to fill it. On the afternoon of the gig, I got a phone call from the promoter, asking if I could bring an act with me, or suggest someone to fill a 15 minute spot. I knew just the person to ask. I gig with her a lot and she'd only recently asked me to look out for the possibility of getting her gigs. So, here was my chance to come through. Anyway, she's a good act.

So, I gave her a call and got it all sorted and the lonely drive to the midlands had turned into a "road trip". This is good. I cleared it with my girlfriend. Well, I didn't quite clear it as make sure she knew about it in advance. I don't think we should get into an asking permission sort of a situation, but if someone doesn't know what's going on, then it can create tension if they find out... etc etc.

So, off we went to Kidderminster. I'd been to Kinver a couple of weeks previously and Kidderminster is quite close, so a lot of the territory was familiar. On this occasion, I was in the driving seat, with my colleague as navigator. We made pretty good time and got to the gig. Just at the end, the directions stopped making sense, so we had to get directions from the promoter's wife over the phone. This didn't slow us down very much and we arrived at the gig before it started.

There was some talk of my colleague having to go straight on, as the opening act was delayed, but he arrived just as the compere was mid-flow and he was sent onto the stage. It was the best I'd seen him in some time and he gave quite a tight set, densely packed with gags. I was very impressed. He did about 15 minutes and came off. I set off for a comedy poo while the open spot for the first section came on. This guy, by all accounts, did about 20 minutes, which is a lot for an open spot.

Middle section and my colleague did a sterling job. Another tight 15, followed by another open spot over running by miles. However, this particular open spot was victim to one of the best heckles I've ever seen. There's nothing smart about this story, but I will tell it, as it remains, for me, the perfect heckle and still makes me chuckle. To understand the story, you need to know two things. Firstly, the secret of comedy is timing. So, if you're going to heckle, you have to do so at exactly the right moment, or you may miss the point. Secondly, a lot of acts, especially newer ones, do an opening line which usually goes like this:

I know what you're thinking [insert some banal reference to one's appearance, name or similarly obvious feature of oneself that one then makes a self-deprecating comment about]

This is a dull intro, though it often works. The problem with this particular act is that he was desperately and rather uninterestingly verbose, so his opener was something like - "I am a mind reader, I can look into your thoughts and work out what you are thinking..." to which some wag shouted out, perfectly in time (as though we were hearing his thoughts) - "Tosser!". A good heckle, and the act in question probably did the right thing by ignoring it.

This act did about 20 minutes. I remarked to the promoter, in the interval before my bit
that his paid acts were keeping it short, at his request, and that he new acts were getting free run of the show, which hardly seemed fair to anyone, especially the audience. He took this on board.

The audience had been up for it and really quite excitable thus far. After a long night of comedy, though, would they go for 20+ minutes of Ashleyness? Well, apparently, the answer was yes.
I gave them 35 minutes of solid laughter. There were some moments with heckling, which I dealt with cheerily (I quite like going off script here and there) and I paused the set-up to my Star Wars bit as a woman walked across the front of the stage to leave the room. I asked her if she was ok and she announced that she just needed the toilet. Given that she was obstructing my view of the audience, I let her go. As she got to the door, she paused and announced - "I have a weak bladder", as though to excuse her leaving. I retorted "Your bladder is weak, old man" in a Darth Vader voice and then laughed hard at what had been, for me, quite a quick-witted response.

I had a really good time. I'm glad I did the gig.


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