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Monday, November 27

To Be Or Not To Be Funny

A debate is currently raging over on Chortle, the comedians' website, regarding what constitutes a night of comedy you can charge people for, or at least can bill as a top quality night of comedy. This interests me greatly, since I've recently performed at three very different gigs, where the audience has paid a fiver to get in, where I've been the headliner and where I've left the evening with a sum of money and a sense of disquiet.

I should probably put aside a little of the disquiet, since I'm going through a comedy crisis at the moment. I am not finding myself all that funny, which explains why it takes me all my energy to convince an audience. Where to go from this place, I am not too sure. I'm working on it.

Anyway. What does is take to make there five quid comedy nights so difficult? I think that I can provide a set of tips for making the night into a bastard without insulting any individual club and without necessarily biting the hand that has been so generous in feeding my ego with another chance to appear in front of a live audience.

So, the tips are.

  • Don't book good acts - the less capable and experienced the acts are, the more the night will spiral out of control.
  • Book too many acts. The average comedy night can sustain four acts plus a compere, so try booking 8 or so acts if you want it to go wrong.
  • Compere it badly. This is a perfect way to make a room in downhill. Avoid telling the audience that they heckle at their peril. Avoid telling them about the beer breaks that avoid them having to go to the bar during the show. Avoid telling them that talking will disrupt the show. The perfectly bad compere will have such a poor relationship with the audience that they will be talked over and cheered off stage. Also, try announcing administrative things like mailing lists before bringing an act on: that will focus the crowd. . . Not!
  • Pay as little as possible. This is the natural result of having a small audience in a hired venue where you have too many acts, most of which you pay something to. Where a comedian might reasonably charge 120 to headline a small club, aim to pay around 20. This will cover petrol.
With the above tips, an audience could enjoy themselves, and an act could be forgiven for questioning themselves as they pour their evening's taking back into the petrol tank, exhausted after working a difficult room that couldn't be bothered with them.

If I'm sounding like a prima donna, then I'm not making myself clear. I don't expect to be paid more. I would prefer an easier job on stage, and I'm very dissatisfied with my capabilities at the moment. I know I could do better and I know that the above is more a list of excuses for why I've found aspects of recent gigs so tough. The above are needless barriers, though. Without them, I'd have no excuse for "fail[ing] to shine" - Three Weeks.


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