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Wednesday, October 15

Oh What A Feeling

Some gigs work and some gigs don't. This is the nature of the beast. A good gig is the drug that keeps you coming back for more. It's the reward for the challenge. It's the reason you do all the other gigs, and the vindication that the whole thing is not just a big fat waste of everyone's time. A good gig has good cheer pouring out of everyone involved and it's a joy to behold. Good gigs can come for free, with an up-for-it audience, or they can be bought at considerable expense by ploughing on with an audience that aren't quite sure, and then reaping the rewards when they fall in on your side.

In short. Good gigs are great. Of course they are. That's why they call them good gigs. They would call them something else if they were awful.

Bad gigs on the other hand are a strange thing. While you can be inspired by a good gig, a bad gig is a lesson of sorts. It can also be the losing bet that makes the gambler double the stakes for next time. This is a bad simile, but I worry that it's also accurate. Generally speaking, you learn from a bad gig. You also, usually, get some sort of pain from doing one. Every joke that falls flat takes some of your credibility with it. Since stand-up is really about duelling egos, this is not necessarily a good thing - no, it's bad. So the result is that you feel your cheerful energy getting drained and you feel like you've died, except in body.

After bad gigs you can feel like writing something as soporific as this, which is no good thing. But it's a learning experience.

Tonight's gig was weird. Of course it was. We're on the start of the rainy season after a bright bit. Nobody knows how they feel when the weather's like this. The football's on. The crowds weren't in force. The night was fairly low on features with just an opening act, the MC (me) and a closing act. There was the distinct absence of the Sketch show, for which many of the audience had been accustomed to coming month in, month out. Generally speaking, something was bound to be afoot.

Note: this already reads like the self-exonerating excuses list that I bemoan other stand-ups producing when a gig goes wrong for them. Let me add some chest beating to this.

I had drunk too much coffee, so I was wired. My energy levels weren't in the right place. I didn't really prepare for the gig so much as talk crap at the back of the room with the first act. I didn't really engage with the audience and let them know that stuff wasn't quite working as it failed. As a result, I found all manner of awkward moments, which I sometimes managed to wring laughs out of, and sometimes managed to amplify by being genuinely knocked back by them. Some of my "quips" were worthy of the across-the-desks-office-banter, which I've always pointed out is awful. In short, I wasn't feeling it as the show started.

When the first act was eventually allowed a go, it turned out that it wasn't just me. I'd done my best to give him a fair audience, including distancing him from my poor performance. It was hard. He asked me to time him and provide the light when he reached his time. I did and I wondered how much he'd be hoping for the light to go. The time really creaked by.

I red-lighted him at 20 minutes, but got a laugh from the audience, as I back-announced him, by telling them that I'd make him run to 25 because it wasn't going well.

This is the thing. I got laughs after his set. I actually snapped out of my bizarre frame of mind, relaxed, found the funny and made the show work. From that point onwards, it wasn't a bad show. This is where the curse of the MC didn't hit me. If you die on stage as an MC, then it can become increasingly uncomfortable to return to the stage. Tonight, I was really after another crack at the audience, and though they could never have been described as "mine" or in the palm of my hand, they were enjoying me towards the end of the night, so I feel like I somehow redeemed myself.

I didn't take a fee or expenses for the gig. I reckoned that, as my expenses were zero, I could walk away from charging, as I would prefer not to have to have charging for my first half's performance on my conscience.

I have a conscience? Apparently so, but it can be assuaged with money.

In other me-news, I continued to write computer software today. It's what I do. It won't last. Someone will make me do "organising" again!

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