I can't do this every time, but it's nice to optimise.
Tonight's gig was a definite highlight of the week so far, though I happen to know of more enjoyable events just around the corner. Everything about the way the gig worked was good for me. I had a trouble-free journey to Sutton Coldfield. I had a chance to stop off in the official motorway services of my stand-up comedy touring - Warwick - and get a coffee and a change of clothes. This was a total change of outer clothes too. Normally, I wear the gig shirt to work and just change into jeans. In this instance, I felt it would be more appropriate to take last nights worn-for-four-hours gig shirt in the car and switch from work attire to the whole outfit. Why not, eh?
I didn't drink too much coffee.
I didn't buy any cakes or muffins, because I'm trying to be good.
I got to a venue, helped myself to the sound system, got things set up rather well in my view, and then relaxed.
I didn't even have the all you can eat Thai buffet that the venue offered, even though the manager shared his first name with me, which is surely a sign that I should eat enough for two Ashleys... right? No? Ok.
Looking around the room, it seemed like this could be a hard gig to play. But everyone was really positive about it, and I chose to discard the fact that I'd be standing in a glass-surrounded box, looking into a kitchen, with audience on each side and very few in the catchment area. I'd have to leave it to the PA system to help me fill the room. The PA system that I'd set up for the gig... so it would be my fault.
I didn't really get particularly worried about it. I knew some of the acts on the bill, in particular one guy who has done this gig a few times and was really positive about the experience. So we just hung around shooting the breeze. I wanted to write that we shot the breeze, but that doesn't make sense. I'm also reminded of the joke I wrote for when a friend of mine and I went to Paris last year and hung out in a cafe with guns and cheese, just shooting the bries. I digress.
When it was time to go on, I went on and did my thing. It was lovely. The last minute heckle didn't seem to do anything except shoot the heckler in his own foot. If you asked me how I managed to handle it, the answer would be a rather pompous "experience, dear boy". Yet that's basically how I putted the heckler's remarks back to him. I'm putting it in that golfing term, since it was a gentle tap, much like you would do on the putting green. At this stage, I should point out that I don't play golf... except crazy golf, which befits a crazy cat like myself. Chatting with my friend in the interval, he had overheard people wondering how I had appeared to be so quick in my reactions to the heckler. The answer is pitifully simple - I just followed a long-established method of dealing with the heckler.
Step 1: ask him to repeat himself
Step 2: listen to what he has to say, and listen to the audience reaction
Step 3: choose from any stock lines that may flash up in front of your eyes
Step 4: react yourself if necessary, without making a joke
Step 5: if a joke is needed, you've had steps 1-4 to think of one
I sometimes thing of the film "The Terminator" when I try to describe what happens in my head in moments like this, or in moments when I'm working out what I want to do next. It's like my mind becomes the terminal screen that overlays The Terminator's vision. A series of options flash up for things to do next. I then select one. It gets highlighted and then goes into action. Sometimes, I select one, think twice and then discard it. I really pulled my punches with the heckler tonight, for instance, because it didn't need a show of force; it was all good natured. Also, I was on my best behaviour, since I had promised that I would keep things fairly clean for the audience.
They were eating Thai food, so I suppose I should not have been too filthy - they wanted to continue enjoying their food and not sick it up.
Bizarrely, I drove home with the radio playing and work on my mind. A strange way to end a gig night, but the way it goes sometimes.
Last night's mini gig breakdown was pretty much behind me.