Monday, 8 September 2008

Trainee Stand Up

Note to That Joke Isn't Funny Regulars...I wrote this for the new Myspace Comedy UK site I'm currently working for, although I don't think they're going to use it. I figured I may as well sling it up here too. Normal service will resume shortly, now I have more time to actually watch television. The Myspace blog also has review of Fringe shows wot I wrote. If you're, you know, interested.

As a result, please excuse the foray into the self indulgent waters of first person. I hate breaking my own house style.

Marc B

I suppose it was inevitable. I've worked in Comedy getting on for two years, I've been obsessed with it ever since I can remember (I had the entire series of the Young Ones memorised by the time I was about nine), I've been quoting bits of other peoples stand up ever since I was old enough to know what it was. I've seen hundreds of comics and I go to gigs all the time. Basically I love stand up comedy, and I've been pretty passionate about it for a pretty long time.

I was going to have to go give it a go.

Let's get this out of the way now. I wasn't going into Stand Up expecting to be any good at it. I wasn't going on stage to succeed…I was doing it to see if I could pull it off at all. To not-fail, rather than actually succeed: these are two very different things. It was an experiment. I've had some loose material knocking around my head for a while now, and it had gotten to the point where I just had to know if it was any good. I'd reviewed and booked and worked with hundreds of comics. At the Edinburgh Fringe I was watching them all day, and maybe every fourth comic I saw made me think "with some work I reckon I could do that". Just (admittedly every other comic I saw made me go "Damn. I'm not clever enough.")It got to the point where I had to give it a go.

So I asked a comic-friend who put me in touch with someone, and bang…5 minutes at the Tron in Edinburgh on a Thursday night. Simple as that.

Oh. My.

At which point I realised I was actually going to have to write some material, get the stuff out of my head and on to a page. So I wrote it all out. I said it out loud. I crossed most of it out. I wrote it again. I said it out loud.

Bugger. There were no jokes in it.

What I'd written was a reasonably engaging comic story about looking slightly younger than I actually am, with a reasonably funny ending. I was sort-of happy with it, but there weren't enough gags layered through the whole thing, they were all stuck at the end. Watch any half way decent stand up and you know they win or lose an audience in the first 30 seconds of their set…my best bit wasn't until minute 5. So I did a little rewriting, and worked on performing it a little. It was…okay. Stand up convention dictates you should start by voicing whatever the audience is probably thinking when you hit the stage…it pre-empts heckles, and gets a cheap laugh at your own expense in the first 5 seconds. For example… "I know what you're thinking…Paedophile" (Daniel Kitson), "I know what your thinking…the body of Peter Crouch and the head of Postman Pat" (Tom Wrigglesworth), or "don't worry…I've never heard of you either" (Stewart Francis). I had one of those, but decided not to kick off with it, because I wasn't sure it was strong enough. I insterted it about a minute in. To be honest the opening gag was the thing that had me most worried. I'd got the rest of the act –such as it was- into a reasonable condition. Other things did occur to me, but I thought I'd best stick to what I'd got for now.

The night of the show approached, and still I wasn't quite there. I had the timing right, I took the night off, I made sure no-one knew what I was doing (if I was going to fail at this I was damned if anyone would ever know about it), but I still needed some tweaking. The day drew on, my stomach twisted itself into knots.

On the way to the venue I thought of an opening. It wasn't a great opening, but it was okay. I'll keep the details to myself in case it never works again.

I got to the show, met Sean the compere –nice bloke-, there were only 17 people there. Fine by me. Then two things happened that weren't supposed to. First of all I had to follow James Dowdeswell, whose been in Extras with Ricky Gervais and is a very funny man. Then there was Nick Doody who is an exceptional stand up, then right before me was Shazia Mirza whose been on Have I Got News For You and everything. Okay, this isn't going great. I'm not going to compare…I hastily re-wrote my opening to "hello, my names Marc, and yes I am the first act tonight whose not actually been on the telly".

The second thing that went wrong, and for my money the very last thing I expected, is an old friend from University walked in, and was delighted to see me. And even more delighted to know I was performing. Great.

But you know, I'm a pro (natch) so I ignored the distractions, and waited my turn. The nerves actually settled, and having someone to talk to sort of helped.

I did it.

I've left that sentence on its own, because it's a small achievement by itself. I did it. I did 5 minutes of stand up comedy. And you know what? It wasn't bad. Okay, it wasn't by any stretch of the imagination actually good…I doubt any of those 17 punters will remember me except for a faintly amusing sorbet between two proper acts. But I wasn't bad. I got laughs…small ones, but I expected that. It confirmed that my material didn't really have enough jokes in it…as I suspected it was a reasonably compelling comic story, but didn't provide enough laughs. I was surprised (okay, read disapointed) to find it was the cheaper gags that got the laughs, where as the funnier moments of my story warranted mere politeness and some giggles. But it proved that I could, just about, do it. Sort of. It was something worth perusing.

I'm not saying I'm looking at Stand Up as a career, or even thinking about doing it a lot. But that one gig went okay, if nothing else it proved to me I should do another one, and then another. Just to see. At the very least I can say I've had a go.

It'll be easy. I just need to write some jokes.

Marc is coming to a comedy club near you. Except he won't be telling anyone before hand, in case he's rubbish.


Amanda said...

That's incredible, Marc, jeez. I'm ... I'm just so darn proud! Well done! I couldn't do stand up in a million years. Well done.

Jeffers said...

I dont know you but I know Manda!!

I would say well done for doing stand up....need to have a lot of material and it must be very lonely up there!!

keep it up