I posted some uncharitable comments on Twitter tonight. I wasn't in the wrong, but I wasn't in the right either.
Quick bit of background: comedians sometimes do double-up gigs. This is where, theoretically, you can earn twice as much in one night by agreeing to do two gigs. Given that my previous gig had paid me £5, which was £5 more than I was expecting (it was a preview, I was doing it for the try-out of material), I wasn't expecting money from my agreed double-up tonight. I was just proving to myself I could do it.
The problem with double-up gigs is that they're actually quite hard work. The first gig has the shadow of the second one hanging over it, and then there's the inevitable rush between venues. In Edinburgh, I managed to rush between about 3 venues doing consecutive shows, running slightly late for each. I was nearly in a situation where all three shows I was performing in were overlapping, but I think that the first had ended when I took to the stage on the 3rd... which was about the 5th or 6th gig of the day, but I digress.
So the first of tonight's gigs, potentially a nice one, ended up going pearshaped a little for three reasons:
- The audience took a while to arrive, so the room was a bit empty when I took to the stage
- The audience present were served food just before I went on, and it got awkward
- A comedy hero of mine was in the room, and I really felt more like I was making an arse of myself than a good show of myself
That said, the definition of pear-shaped for me now would have been the definition of "great gig" to the me of my early years, so it's all relative.
I sped (legally) off to the second gig and then I tweeted a few disparaging remarks. The gig was in the open bar of a venue. There was a lot of noise, you couldn't hear the sound properly at the back of the room, and the audience weren't really listening to the act before me, who was a music act.
Though I do musical stand-up, following musical acts can be an issue owing to the British tendency to talk over music, rather than admire and chin-stroke. You get that sort of thing at acoustic clubs, but the atmosphere of this night was not acoustic-clubby. I found out later than it normally is like that, but tonight was a bit crazy.
I didn't know when I was tweeting, that I would also be performing my set front stage as a band set up behind me. And when I say stage, I mean floor, and when I say behind me, I don't mean behind a curtain, or silently. I was basically standing in the middle of a melee of people setting up and even trying out drums.
I acknowledged it a bit, as the drummer knocked four times (he will knock four times) and then realised that I had the perfect set-up for a "badum-tish" punchline drum hit. So I asked him to do that. He did. It was fun. So I told a crap one-liner that I'd written today and he put in the drum bit again. Burrr-illiant.
I got to my last song - the song with the long notes - and I told him to drum along when it was obvious to do so. What I should have said was "12 bar blues in A, watch me for the changes and try to keep up" but I only just thought of that. So off I went on my song and he did put a suitable drum part to it. It sounded great. Tick! another dream fulfilled. One small problem, though, I normally up the tempo at the end to make my long notes seem longer than they are while I actually don't have to perforate a lung to achieve them. I hadn't had any time to inform the drummer of this, so I just did it less and then made lots of body language to end the song, and the chappie followed me and made it work.
I tweeted "In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun" thanks to the Sherman brothers and Mary Poppins there. That's the secret. If you're a comedian, or thinking of being one, I've just illustrated how to enjoy a gig and, by definition, get the audience to enjoy it. Find something fun to focus on, to put all the silly environmental or self-doubting distractions to one side. In my case tonight, I turned the distracting drummer into a temporary part of the act and it made me happy.
So I was wrong to be so negative, but I'm glad I found the silver lining/little drummer boy.