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Monday, April 27

It's Just Different

Being a musical comedian presents different challenges to being a conventional one. I know this to some extent because I've done gigs without the guitar and I've done gigs with them. Someone who hasn't done both may be in a worse position, though they may be in a better position to comment on how it feels to be a non-musical comedian. I'm waffling...

It comes down, in some ways, to what goes through your head when you're performing or tuning the material. It's never more obvious than when improvising. If you ad-lib material as a spoken act, which is largely what I was doing on stage on Saturday (even though I had a guitar around my neck), then your main concern is over how to phrase the next line to make it have impact. If you improvise as a musical comedian, then here are some of the things which you do, in real time, quickly:
  • Choose a key and strumming pattern to play with
  • Choose the right progression of chords to fit the tune you're making up
  • or choose the right movements in the tune to fit the chords you're moving through
  • Find lines with impact...
  • ...and rhyming options...
  • ...and which rhyme with what's gone before
I remember doing an improvised song at one gig and seriously thinking "I wonder whether moving into the relative minor will truly emphasise the next bit?". It's different. Just different. Not necessarily better.

Tonight I did a gig that was a bit different. Not better, not necessarily worse, just different. To complement the gig, I was doing some new material, which is, in many ways, exactly what I should selfishly be doing at as many of the smaller gigs as I do at the moment. It's time to move forward, and new songs, coupled with the right attitude, can be a good way to achieve that.

While at the gig, I tried to dig a bit deeper and come up with some more valuable lines for the two new songs. Lines in songs take longer to sing than they do to say, so they have to be more worthwhile than the equivalent quantity of filler material in spoken stand-up... not that I use filler lines knowingly. Anyway, sometimes it's a case of throwing away a line and finding something a lot better. Sometimes it's a case of finding a new spin on the whole song.

I got a good reaction to the second of my two new ones and I think it's coming of age. The sad thing is that nobody but me cares about a significant change I've made to it. I play it in a different key. It's better that way. I care.

Such is the difference being a musical stand-up comedian.


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