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Thursday, June 19

A Bridge Too Far

I finished work at a perfectly normal time and headed in the general direction of my gig. I would normally head in the actual direction of the gig, but tonight I'd decided to add egg to the pudding. This is a metaphor (just in case you have Asperger's syndrome). After recent contact with a friend whom I've not seen in ages, now living in the Telford area, I decided to hook up with them at the next gig I was doing in their general direction. Tonight was the night.

The journey was fairly uneventful. The reasonably open road, some radio, some Radio 4 specifically, a stop for a coffee and a couple of apples - yeah, apples are just like muffins, except cheaper and lower in bad things. Tonight was also to be the first weekly weigh-in of the new regime. Regime!? Pah. It's just returning to eating habits that I know are better for me, and doing some exercise to prove that man and bike can be a powerful duo in combination. I was only slightly worried about not having lost any weight since my first weigh-in... so I had some apples. Lunch had been a bit more white-bread/butter than I would have preferred.

But I digress. The Sat Nav took me accurately to the wrong location, but it proved to be only a mile or so from the correct location. I picked up my friend and her friend, and then I took these two ladies in the "bitch mobile" (I didn't mention the term at the time, it would have put them off) to my gig in Cradley.

Now, there's something I should tell you about the gig in Cradley. I had to tell the ladies in the car, and it's important to set expectations for these things. This gig is not showbiz. Far from it. This is a pub which is not in the category of "nice". You don't take a girl to this pub on a date. You also don't go to this pub expecting to have a fight, or be poisoned or have a miserable time. It's got tons of character. It's just not salubrious. That's not how it works. Also, the night in question: it's a new act night. Audiences fluctuate, the audience can be a bunch of bastards, or lovely or disinterested, and there's no guarantee of their number. The acts can also be good, bad, ugly, or utterly mental. From this description, it sounds like I'm not keen, but nights like this are always worth attending. There'll always be fun to be had. Plus, they've been really nice to me and I've always enjoyed it.

So, disclaimers having been shared with the people in the car, we headed to the gig telling tales of crazy people and crazy nights past.

We arrived just in time for the opening act. I'll now stop detailing the night blow by blow. It wouldn't be fair to review the acts specifically. I can reference the fact that there was a guy there who is always very nice to me when we gig together, and who can be hard to follow. He was on good form. I will say that I watched some acts start out looking weak and then come along with tons of good material and delivery, leaving me worried that I wouldn't be able to follow them. I also watched the clock... as it ticked inexorably towards "too late to get back home at a reasonable time" and then beyond.

Of most note was a character act. Well two. It was one person doing two rather over-written characters, neither of which particularly worked, the second of which was simply totally mental. I think Catherine Tate has a lot to answer for in terms of giving people the notion that a prop-laden grotesque is, in itself, inherently funny. Though eating doritos and cornflakes with beer from a bowl... well that's quite odd.

I wouldn't normally pick up on another act's "act" like this, but I felt like it was distinctly in need of rethinking/editing, and I felt like the performer might have learned something about the art of comedy had she stuck around and watched the rest of the show. I don't really like it when newer acts turn up, go on, and then sod off. You learn more by watching.

Conversely, the gig was in the middle of nowhere and I suppose it was only to be expected that some people would want to get home. I would certainly have considered leaving early had I gone on at anywhere other than the end of the show. Having said that, I would probably have apologised to the other acts for leaving early. It's how I am. A comedy-chum of mine wrote something quite inspiring on a comedy forum. He described that one of the ways to determine if you're serious about comedy is to see whether you actually watch the rest of the show.

I watched much of the show last night. I laughed when I thought it was funny. It was a night out for me as well as a gig.

Apparently, I had "fans" in the audience. About 3 people had turned up specifically because they knew I was on. I was out to impress by car-load of women, then this would have looked like I'd rigged it. "Ooh, Ashley, you're famous in Cradley Heath" they might have cooed.

Yet the clock was saying a bad thing when I actually got onto the stage. It was 11.50pm. I made some gag about it only just being the date I was booked to appear on and then did about 30 minutes of Ashley gold. Well, that's not true. About 10 minutes of Ashley gold was peppered with other stuff. And you know what? I enjoyed myself. If you're going to take yourself to a stupid distance from home on a weeknight in the middle of nowhere with an audience that's dwindled to the hardcore "fans" and the people too pissed to have anywhere else to go, then you have to make it fun for yourself.

I had a laugh.

Then we got the hell out of there.

I dropped the ladies home after a very girlie chat in the car - for a second time in the same week, I concluded that "men are bastards" and felt like I meant it.

Then the long drive home. And it really felt like a long drive. I texted Janice Long to ask her to mention me and she did. That was a bit of a pep. Given the weigh-in and the general weight control plan, I didn't want to stack up on calories to keep me awake. Being mentioned on the radio always amuses me. I used a tip that Terry Wogan implied in his auto-biography. He'd always play requests that were for "something nice" since it allowed him to choose the track. Equally, knowing that Janice is based in Birmingham, I reckoned she'd relish the chance to correctly pronounce the name of Cradley Heath. So, I told her where I'd been - "a late running comedy night in Cradley Heath" - and asked her to play something fun. It was meaningless, but I was amused. It's strange to hear your words coming out of someone else's distinctive mouth.

Eventually, having gotten to the stage where I was counting the 0.1's of the last 49 miles - it's a bit like counting sheep, only you stay awake and time moves quicker, I got home, ready to smash up any car that dared block my drive. None had.

I stripped and got on my bathroom scales. Shit. I'd lost 6 pounds. Good. Brilliant.

I munched on two apples and hit the hay. I will pay for this excessive lack of sleep at some point. Even though I went to sleep last night after 3.40am, I can't actually sustain so many late nights.


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