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Sunday, September 9


Last night was my 460th stand-up comedy performance. I was totally unaware of this at the time. It is incidental, after all. What's to say that the 460th performance is any more or less significant than the 459th or 473rd or whatever? Nothing. I only pointed it out because it happens to be a fact. There. That's that.

Yesterday had its ups and downs. A bit of a downer was waking up at the sort of time I'd wake up to go to work. On a weekend day. Boo. However, an immediate up was being able to collect my outstanding Amazon order from the post office (not outstanding in the sense of extremely good, but more in the sense of "I've been meaning to pick it up for a week") and then meeting a friend and going for breakfast at Starbucks.

This friend was the inspiration behind getting up at all in the first place. He was visiting Reading in order to spend the day making music with my help. In the end, we took a song of his devising, I suggested a one word alteration to a lyric and then hit the record button as he lay down various tracks. It is a fun process and I was glad to be involved. I also got to do a few things on my computer while he was doing the bits of the recording which didn't include a microphone - apparently it's not cool to have someone typing over your guitar track!

In the end, though I was happy just to be a tech for him, I laid down his bass track. For some reason (and I think it's just generosity of spirit) he thinks I play bass better than he does. The only thing, relating to the bass, that I think I do better than him, is own one. Anyway, I did a bass part, which he restrained a little, which was probably for the best.

After the recording session we went and bought some stationery. I know. Living the rock and roll dream. Then I dropped him off at the station.

Oh. I nearly forgot to mention. For the first time ever, I managed to catch the postman. It's not that my new healthy regime has made me fit enough to run after the chap. It's that, for the first time in ever, I happened to be in when he came around delivering stuff that doesn't fit in my letterbox. Amazing. I actually got my delivery. Included in this was my new "I am a robot" mobile phone headset thingy. As a result, I'm now in the bluetooth age with my mobile phonery. This will come into play shortly.

So, I dropped my friend off at the station, mid-afternoon, and then went around to look at someone's plumbing question. It's a "how do I cap off a pipe to enable me to remove a sink" type of question, and I've done quite a bit of that in recent months. I suggested an approach and headed to B&Q to buy the necessary bits, along with some stuff I'd planned to look for for myself.

On the way to B&Q I spoke to a promoter in the North West of the country. He'd texted me, asking whether I was in the North West that night. I rang him. He said that it might not be worth my expense in coming to the North West specifically. I pointed out that my fuel is free (to me, at least), which is one beauty of a benefit of my new job. We agreed that I'd do the gig.

So, what had been a possibly DIY intensive afternoon/early evening, followed by some languishing, turned into a race around B&Q, a rush home (to gather the tools of my stand-up comedy trade, and also to gather the tools I said I'd lend to the plumbing problem people - for delivery in the wee small hours after the gig) and then a race to get on the road.

My driving regime - 100% legal - means that the only racing I can do is outside of the car. So I was keen to get on the road as quickly as possible. I was also keen not to forget anything that I would come to need at the gig.

As it was, I sat in the car for about three and a half hours, headed to somewhere near Blackburn, using my new handsfree headset thingy to talk to various friends and family members. This was a nice way to occupy the early evening. I even managed to listen to a musical I've never listened to before.

Arriving at the gig about 10 minutes before it started, I had time for a sound check and to discover that I wouldn't be on stage for a fair old bit. So, I was able to relax and get ready for the performance. The audience were small in number, which, sadly, affects any fee in a door-split gig situation, but I'd been made aware of that before I had set off and still agreed to do the gig anyway. As a result of the audience being small in a room which can hold a lot more people, the atmosphere in there was odd.

I'll say one positive thing about this crowd. They had set out to have a good time, and that really counts for a lot. They did not know exactly what they wanted to make of the various acts who came before them. I think they saw through the fact that the other acts were character comedians who came on as one character, left the stage, and then returned later as someone else. They weren't entirely sure what they wanted to do with off-beat punchlines either. But, they made their fun where they could.

Bizarrely in this situation, it was a heckling paradise, which usually is easier when the venue is less of a theatre, and usually requires the audience to feel like they have a strength in numbers. I was surprised that the fourth wall was so easily breached with them in a bi-directional manner (yes, that last bit reads in a really wanky way). Anyway, at some point during the waiting to go on, I decided that I would make use of a trick I've used before, and I also decided I would make use of the trampoline that we found backstage.

The trick I've used before is to tell the story about Cole Porter once taking the challenge to write a song based on the next words heard in the room - a butler came in and said "Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today, Madam" and a song was written from those words. So, given that I was due to go on twice - either side of the interval - I decided to pose this challenge to myself via the audience, with only the time between re-appearing to use to write the song in.

The trampoline was just an idea. I thought it might be funny to be playing trampoline while playing guitar. I tried bouncing and strumming - hard to do - but apparently it looked funny (at least according to one of the other acts). I think it is a funny thing to be able to say I did once. I bounced up and down on a trampoline, trying to sing and play a song. To be honest, I wasn't entirely in control of the situation and that was a potentially funny thing too.

If I'm brutally honest about last night's gig, though, it wasn't my finest hour. I met various challenges that the audience posed, and I managed to workshop my way out of some of the really awkward dips and staring moments. In fact, I think I got some of the better laughs from shouting my mock-frustrations at the audience. However, they didn't really like me a great deal and didn't give me respect enough to make the pre-planned comedy stuff work. In some cases, I think they didn't get it. In other cases, I didn't take control enough for them to get it... it was a reflection on how well I dealt with their particular mood.

To get 30 odd people to laugh in a room that seats maybe 200 is hard work, and perhaps they enjoyed it more than they let on, but I didn't go home with any energy from them. I had relied on my reserves, and not having had an evening meal also took its toll on me.

I ended up getting some food, so I didn't lose energy and lose control of the car on the long journey home. Good! There was even a little conversation on the homeward leg, but not enough. Car journeys are longer when alone and when cruise controlled. So, I listened to some music and tried not to watch the clock too much.

Darwen, the venue of the gig, may not be the most advanced civilisation in the country, but perhaps they got the better of me a little. Perhaps I still had more of a night than I would have done hiding at home, though.


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