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Thursday, July 5

Rock Jumps

My life is weird. I like it like that, so that's ok... but it's still beyond normal. And so it was that I left the office yesterday evening, heading for my Birmingham gig. I spent the entire journey in moderate, but bearable, traffic, listening to comedy. I started with the second half of Dylan Moran's "Monster". This made me roar with laughter at times. He's the master of "being funny" and finds ways of tickling the audience around a single thought. Amazing.

Then I followed it up with the somewhat drier Bob Newhart. I used to have a Bob Newhart CD before my CD collection was stolen in 1996. I recall some of his monologues and their being good. I'll be honest, they have both stood the test of time and also fallen into antiquity. On the one hand, they're still relevant, often being set in the past anyway. In some cases, they seem almost prescient in their accuracy. However, the style is exceedingly dry and contrived. It doesn't sit well with the sort of comedy I normally listen to. I'd pretty much had enough of listening to it when the last track of disc 1 finished. However, it's still a good illustration of the craft of making funny.

My find of the night, though, was Chris Addison's "The Ape That Got Lucky". This is the perfect radio series and I have 10 minutes of it left to listen to, having continued my listening, appreciation, and out-loud-laughing on the journey home.

I'll be honest with you. I arrived at the gig early but in the perfect mood. I even made some amusement ringing the plasterer. His wife answered the phone and I asked "Is that Eddie?" without really thinking about what I was saying. Then we had a laugh about it. It was a stupid thing to ask. What a silly billy. However, it was an ice breaker and Eddie soon rang back and we arrange for him to do some plastering, which is nice. It's what he does.

The promoter arrived, we chatted. The mood was good. The soundcheck was good. The other acts came. There was more chatting. That too was good. The night started and was great, even though the audience numbers were a little on the mean side.

The newest act opened the show and gave a solid performance. Then came another act, whom I've seen before. He was more solid than a solid thing and it was a delight to watch. I'm impressed with his abilities and slightly jealous (in a positive way) about how easy he makes it look.

I was on after the break and after a couple of shorter spots, which both went well. The audience were tiring a little, but the compere kept them on side with some big hitting material. He is an excellent and compelling performer.

I took a glass of coke onto the stage with me and raised it to the audience as I went to get my guitar. Then I blethered myself into an opening song, dealt with a little inattentiveness of the front row, all positively, and then did my opening song. The applause came before I'd quite finished. This is almost in the category of spontaneous applause, but not quite. It's certainly appreciative.

I was emboldened by this and basically spent the next 25 minutes messing about. I did my set, but I interspersed little bits of new stuff, old one liners, and anything else that occurred to me to say. I told the audience how the stage was excellent for "Rock Jumps". I demonstrated that. It was amusing. It also gave me something to do in a quiet moment. Just do another "Rock Jump". It was spontaneous and fun-filled... as a result, I was constantly in the moment and looking forward to the next bit.

I got a request for "The Rainbow Song" from the audience, which I duly fulfilled. It's nice to have "fans" in. Yikes.

Basically, I had a really good time and loved the audience and they gave back in kind. I made someone spit his drink out. That was fun. I even found a small topical joke. Now they've freed Alan Johnson, perhaps his "Free Alan Johnson" campaigners are redundant. Maybe they should start a new campaign: "Thanks!". It's not a brilliant joke, but I threw it in.

Last night, I relearned something about making a tried and tested set seem spontaneous. I allowed myself to horse about on stage and though it may have loosened some sections of the prepared material, it also made the audience more involved and, more importantly, put me firmly into the present tense.

I listened to the recording on the way into work this morning. It made me smile a lot. I was happy that my enthusiasm on stage was infectious, even when heard by my harshest critic* (me) on a recording the following day.

* Ok, maybe I'm my second harshest critic, compared with the "comedy expert" on another blog. Still, I suspect I've effectively criticised more of my own performances that he'll ever bother to, and I'm supremely more qualified to have a go at myself, so I win.

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