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Friday, December 8

Comedic Impedence

When I moved down south at the end of last year, I contemplated what this would do for my comedy "career". Would I be in an area where I knew noone and couldn't get any gigs? Would I end up trotting round free open-spot nights in London picking up the dregs of the comedy scene? Would I be starting afresh? Would this be a benefit - a new face, but one with plenty of actual experience and, thus, a better new face than the other new faces. I didn't know.

Over the course of the year I've been up and down with comedy. I think that last night may have been my last gig of 2006. Unless any last minute stuff happens, then that is definitely the case.

Last night's gig was very odd indeed and I decided not to play it for real but, instead, play it as befitted the situation. It was an "X-factor-style" competition-style gig. There were three judges. Each act had 10 minutes in a small room with a small audience, which waxed and waned in number over the evening. After the performance, the compere handed over to the judges for voting. As a result, there was more of a schoolroom atmosphere to the gig, like it was a masterclass in comedy. It was easy not to tune in and I found myself watching the TV that was on in the side of the room from time to time. The majority of the "audience" was made up of other acts, judges, or friends of the judges.

Had I gone out there and done my usual schtick, I think I would have felt more at risk of getting an ego-bashing from the judges afterwards. So, while a part of me was taking a risk by ditching the guitar and doing my "straight stand-up" some of which might actually be ok, when I come to think about it. I was probably also protecting myself. I was playing the role of "the Ashley who didn't do that many gigs and never played the guitar on stage". This is probably the sort of open spot I would have been in later 2004 if my musical stand-up and "The Musical!" hadn't happened. It's the alternative route which I cut off because I found laughter with the guitar and latched onto it in the hope of achieving greatness that way.

I was quite nervous (well, more so than usual) of what would happen - would I forget my set? would I get any laughs with the bits I'd done only once, twice or no times before? I was also able to take the whole thing a lot less seriously than normal. I would go out there and do this 10 minute thing and if nobody liked it then it doesn't have a huge bearing on my act.

I lost the audience in the middle. I performed too hard for such a big room. I went at a huge pace and accidentally stepped on laughs as a result. I was trying to cram a 15 minute set into 10 minutes and, as a result, had to cut some material to get to some semblance of a finale. It was, frankly, in need of editing, rehearsing and, in some places, cutting. But I didn't care. I had a go and didn't feel like it was a washout. The judges made some comments. They thought my delivery was bigger than my material - that's probably a good thing. One judge wondered whether I mightn't try being more deadpan like Jack Dee... well, if Jack Dee is prepared to try being a camp musical act and see whether that fits him... I think there's as much chance of me being deadpan as that.

It was, indeed, a very silly evening and it had some belly laughs but not nearly enough. The guy running it clearly has ideas above his station. I've never seen anything like it. I don't know whether it will lead onto paid work. I could email them and say "I wasn't doing my real set - I'm actually funnier, and a musical act" but that would look like I'm trying to make excuses. I'll just see what happens. I'd not normally want to rush to play at a free gig with a promoter who has a reputation for not paying people what he promises. I only went to this one out of curiosity. I'd heard on the grapevine that the promoter was weird and his emails certainly gave credence to that. As it happens, he was a charming guy in person, but there was something definitely amiss.

Still, at least I was paid what I expected. Nothing.

The journey home was shared with another of the acts, whom I bored to death with comedic blether. Still, he offered me a cup of tea when I reached his house, so he was, at the very least, gracious in the face of all my yattering.

That's a good word.

It needs to be shouted by a gruff american guy:

"Hey buddy! Quit ya yatterin'"

Enough of this. I did a gig last night. I'll get over it. I enjoyed myself, and it wasn't that far away from the office or home.


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