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Saturday, May 19

Alternative Arts

I was due to do a gig in Chester. It had originally been scheduled for January, but I had hopefully had it rescheduled for May 19th. I say "hopefully" because I wasn't sure that I'd be able to do the gig when I booked it. At that point, I was expecting to take quite a few months off stand-up until the house was sorted. Is it sorted? No. Am I living in there with a girlfriend who would consider any form of gigging as some sort of desertion? No. The plan had changed when we split up, which is why I've been gigging solidly since February.

Anyway, plans change. In fact I was offered another chance to reschedule the gig in April when I was called up asking if I could, in fact, "come tonight instead". I was happy for the gig to remain on May 19th, especially as I've planned a holiday around it.

On Friday night, I was chatting to a friend and he suggested that I could head up to Leeds that night and buy him a pint. Though this was tempting, I realised that I had far too much organising to do to enable me to get everything sorted AND be in Leeds in time to be useful. All it would have done was steal time from sleeping and make me forget something.

So, it was decided that I would not do any last-ditch DIY on Saturday (which I would probably not have done anyway) and would head to Leeds in time for Lunch. Then I could, after Lunch, head over to my gig in Chester and everyone's a winner.

I spent Friday night doing something which I know to be deeply narcissistic. It's okay. I'm aware of it, so therefore it can't be a total act of self-admiration. What I did was produce a "best of" CD of some recent gig highlights. The purpose of this was to provide a friend with something amusing to listen to. The other purpose, I suppose, was to audit my stand-up set. How much do I actually have? The answer varies, depending on whether you're after rip-roaring quality or just quantity. The CD ran to an hour. Some of it was bankable material, some was just some stuff that happened to me at a gig once.

There was a lot to be learned from the process. I'd also received a DVD in the post on Friday of a gig I did back in March. I had felt like that gig didn't go too well, and that a particular moment was cringeworthy. Though I also had an audio recording of that gig, seeing what I do in motion was useful, and the sound picked up by the video recording was more generous.

What I'm saying is that on Friday night I managed to pack up both my stuff for holiday and also my feelings about where I'm at with my stand-up. I have an idea of how I do well with an audience and also why. I also know what doesn't really work so well, and I like the idea of the challenge to improve on that.

Saturday I set out reasonably early, for a Saturday morning, and made it to Leeds in time to take my friend out for lunch. We followed a pleasant lunch with a trip into town for some pleasant coffee. I was making comments about lesbians. I have nothing against lesbians, indeed, I have lesbian friends. I just like the word - "lesbian" - it has a lovely sound to it. I was making some silly comments revolving around the word, rather than particularly besmirching the concept of lesbianity. Then my friend suggested that the two girls in front of us in the queue might be lesbian. I then started trying to say more about lesbians in order to add to my silliness a possible slant that might demonstrate I didn't really harbour oppressive or bigoted thoughts about lesbians. I could feel myself digging deeper. So I gave up.

After an enjoyable afternoon. I headed over to Chester. I arrived in plenty of time and spotted one of the other acts in the courtyard outside the venue. The headliner was due to arrive later. Bizarrely (or not) the three of us were a large part of the bill of a gig I did back in July 2003 which was really the first time I'd ever gotten big laughs out of an audience. It was the Buzz club in Chorlton back then and I had a set which went up and down. It was the second time I ever pulled George and Zippy out of the bag to impress an audience, and the result was electric. A formative gig.

Anyway, Chester was a different experience to last time. There were fewer people in the audience which dropped the pressure a bit without dropping the ability for the audience to give their all and laugh heartily. There were a few bits of banter, some of which worked. There were a few moments where I dropped the threads, but I picked them up again and gave a fairly assured performance. I won't be writing much more on the subject - I feel like I'd learned a bit from the previous night's CD compiling and that I'd also managed to put my last gig behind me quite some. I'd been a bit worried about the fact that my previous gig had been a real stinker (in my opinion, and speaking comparatively). Now I could go on holiday on a reasonably good note.

The other acts were good and I stayed until the end. The last act had a routine which, when he revealed the punchline, made me laugh giddily almost to the point of being sick. Had I been drinked I would have spat my drink out. However, I wasn't drinking. I had nothing in my mouth. The best I could have done was be very sick, but I'm sort of glad I didn't do a sick. It would have been a big compliment, but might have precluded my return to the club. Nobody wants to book vomit-boy back. "He's funny enough, but the cleaning costs are dire."

I drove the act, whom I'd met at the start of the night, to where he was staying, which wasn't too far from the hotel I'd booked for my pre-check-in/parking requirements.

I turned in at a reasonable time in a reasonably uncomfortable bed in a room with a damp patch outside of the bathroom. On the up side, they had free broadband in the lobby.

The following day I would be heading off to Israel via Amsterdam. I'd managed to think my way up to the point of getting to the airport, soon to happen. I also had managed to think my way beyond the holiday to the point of returning and doing the necessary gigs and return journey home.

Everything else was left unwritten.

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