I don't get out on stage anywhere as often as I used to. This is the trade-off I made so that I could be an active daddy with a happy home, rather than an exhausted wannabe comic with a net loss from gigging and a bedraggled family. I think I chose wisely.
In this situation you have to make every gig count. It has to count for a couple of reasons. The most business-like reason is that you don't get repeat bookings from a crap turnout. The more honest reason in my case is that I perform stand-up because I want to and I like it going well, and there's nothing much in it for me if I take to the stage with the wrong attitude and leave it without getting any laughs.
To some extent, you can't just put the outcome of a gig down to the comedian. It is also partly governed by the type of room, the other acts on the bill, the mood of the audience and the chemistry between audience and performer which can't always be constructed or faked. Put me in front of a bunch of pensioners and I'll struggle. I know. I tried.
When it works, it's worth everything, and that's what I aimed for at my gig on Friday night in Chew Magna. A lot of things were going in my favour:
- I was in a good mood
- My voice had returned
- The room was smallish and made of stone - great acoustics
- The sound guy was on the ball - good for me and my instrument
- The promoter is someone with whom there's mutual trust - so I wasn't under any artificial pressure
- The audience were there for the right reason and wanted to have a good time
Around about this point in the post I could go into some sort of a wibble about how I nailed it, smashed it, or generally destroyed it and that's not really the point. I know when I'm having a good gig because of the way I think the audience are reacting and the way I feel when on stage. It was enjoyable for me and I felt like my ancient gags were actually coming out fresh, which is probably a good measure of whether the performance was pitched right.
I got a lot out of Friday night and I wonder whether the other acts missed a trick by leaving as soon as they'd performed. This is a pet peeve of mine, one which is irrelevant when I'm closing, since I have to leave after I've been on as there's nobody else to watch. I also know when I've been gigging far from home, as I've done a lot in my time, that sometimes you need to get back after you've been on for the sort of reasons that tend to keep me away from those gigs these days - i.e. family responsibilities, long drives etc etc.
However, when you don't watch the room you've just played to get played to by the other acts you miss a chance to see how else that crowd can respond. Were you the one who got the right rapport with them? What else could have been wrung out of them? Who won the night?
That last one isn't real... except it probably is... except it shouldn't be... but it probably is. A bit. A little bit. Not for me so much, I hope!
Around 3 or 4 minutes into my time on stage, I made some silly rhyming quip, based on something the person on the front row had said, and it accidentally hit a big laugh and some applause. I said to the audience the thing which entered my head as I was waiting for them to finish reacting - to be honest, I'm not sure I can really top that joke... goodnight!
Truth is, the random chance bits are the highlights of every gig - I'm funniest when I'm both in the moment and getting lucky with a lovely audience. I hope I do more of that.