I think there is definitely a certain category of performance I am doing these days that can be described as a cry for help. My stand-up style has always been pretty cheerful and declamatory, and that hasn't changed as I am a pretty damned jolly individual. However, the aging process, coupled with my unbelievably poor weight control, coupled with the perspective of being very happily newly-wed, has made me behave a bit oddly, regretful but high spirited.
Last night's gig was in three sections and I was closing. My set was itself in three sections as I will try to recall, recount and explain.
In the opening section of the show we had the natural ups and downs of an audience in a space that wasn't ideal for comedy - it was too echoey - but which was eminently playable, as the MC aptly demonstrated. The audience proved to be one where you needed to keep your foot on the gas to make it work. I watched and was amused by the acts and by the audience.
I even managed to spot one of my favourite types of things in a room - a thing in plain sight which nobody would have given a second thought to, but which I could joke about. It was a sign that read 'strictly no smoking' which could easily be joked about as a small town version of 'Strictly Come Dancing' replete with Bruce Forsyth impersonation... No it doesn't read funny.
In the middle section there was an excellent performance from one of my favourite comedians, Anna Keirle. She was barn-storming, and gave me a good measure of the nature of the audience as well as a belly full of laughs.
So then it was my turn to take to the stage. We already knew a lot about the audience at this stage, including the man who sold bull semen for a living, the girl who wouldn't turn around to face the stage and the way they all responded to diffent types of joke. My set, as I said before was in three parts. In the first part I hit them with gags and routines, I quipped about the venue, did my strictly no smoking joke, bantered on bull semen sales - apparently it is sold by the straw. Ick. In general, I was in control and they were listening.
However, this was the audience that needed the pressure putting on them, so then we hit a faltering middle section. By faltering, I mean that bits and bobs were kept a bit wrong and I would have to either joke my way out of it, or accept that a certain bit of material wasn't quite right for that audience at that moment. In many ways this is what the middle of the set is for, a dip before the finale. There was one odd moment, mind, when I was interrupted by some music coming from someone's phone. She hushed it, but it sounded familiar. I identified the chord and played it on the guitar to check... Then I realised what it was. She had recorded the song I had just done, my Britney Spears as done by the Rainbow puppets - it sounds crap written down. I was being heckled by myself. We had some business about that, but that was probably the point at which the balance of power started to change.
In the closing part of the set, the audience discovered that they outnumbered me, and it became a bit like a hostage situation. I was heckled with a request to reprise the Rainbow impression. I agreed and it was a fun and interesting aside. I kept fighting back, throwing gags, observations and such like at the audience, including random things I had noticed from watching them earlier, including people's names, tatoos, anything... I was going down, and I was taking them with me. It was making laughs and it was fun, but I was almost deliberately standing on the line between in and out of control.
I think the moment I started screeching 'Private Dancer' while pole dancing around the mic stand was probably the moment I knew I had to stop.
I closed on my usual closing number, was paid and left.
The rest is not silence... It was a two hour car journey home listening to podcasts with the stresses of the week burned away. I guess a bit of extreme silliness is an answer.