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Monday, June 21

Inscrutable

"No, you're not what I expected, either." It's one of my favourite opening lines when the comedian hits the stage and the audience applause dies down. A nice ice breaker. Sometimes an audience's perception of what they're going to get and what is laid in front of them are at loggerheads.

I did a show last night.

Let me quickly point out that I owe a big debt of gratitude to all who came, gave of their time, money and laughter, and that it was really really appreciated that people got each other to come along and generally filled a room in a way that other publicity and my name alone simply couldn't have done.

Now I'll give you a list of the sorts of audience members that any comedian would find difficult to play to. The reason behind this comes down to the lack of the audience-performer tension that needs to exist for the comedian to be funny. This doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with these people, it's more a transactional analysis of the situation. For the roles to work, the following archetypes can make things harder.

So, the comedian's perfect tough crowd:
  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Any individual who is two generations older
  • People who aren't sure what they've come to see
  • Those who are unaware of the cultural references
  • People for whom the language of the show is not their first language
  • Anyone who has seen the comedian naked
  • Anyone who has looked after this comedian when they were a child


This tough crowd would be magnified to unplayable if the audience were small in number, say under 10, and made up exclusively of the above.

I'm not describing last night's audience in every detail. However, it's fair to say that it was a most unusual crowd, with more of the above elements present than I'm used to playing. It was in a large arts centre, with a high raked seating. This also takes some playing - you need to lean backwards to play to the whole room. It was a big challenge.

And we got through it.

Just.

I've got plenty of editing to do of the show before Edinburgh, and last night showed me some of the strengths and weaknesses of the piece. This can only be considered a good thing.

The last few weeks of show-obsessed warbling have come at a cost, to my levels of energy, sanity, and stability. It's proving harder than I expected to do this. I think my ambition to really milk this opportunity to make the most of it isn't making my life any easier. It's the right thing to do. Doing it by halves, or treating it as a done deal, is too complacent a way to make something of a sufficient quality. But to quote Coldplay - "nobody said it was easy".

Why did I just quote Coldplay? Nobody knows.

Last year's show seemed easier. This may be because it was simply aiming at a lower standard, or that it was a less sophisticated show, or maybe it was that we had twice as many people in the writing and editing process, so it ended up being stronger. Maybe it was even the case that the other person was the strength behind the script and I can't do it alone...? Actually, I've no idea.

My instincts tell me that I'm close to a core show that I can be proud of. My instincts are also telling me to ditch various things which were originally what the show was built on... while other instincts are shouting "noooooo... not thaaaat biiiiit". It's an inner turmoil, for sure.

If I don't change some things quite drastically, Edinburgh won't work for this show, so there's work to be done. Last night's show overran because I waffled my way through it, trying to customise it to the audience and soft-soap them through the tricky bits. Tonight's show will have to be tight and polished, like Mr Sheen's wooden arsehole.

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