Thursday, 26 March 2009

Critical Reaction

There are three reasons why I was worried about doing last nights gig. Firstly this was my first gig since this time last week, and that had been half poetry which obviously I don't tend to include in my normal set (I'm hoping I can marry the two at some point, but just now it comes out sounding like Tim Key, and I can't do Tim Key better than Tim Key does). This is the longest I'd gone without doing a gig since kicking off my stand-up 'career' properly at the end of January. Secondly this was a Gong Show, and I'd never done one before. Gong Shows are nerve racking affairs where the audience can boot you off whenever they think you're lagging. Heckling is generally more accepted than usual and a couple of duff lines in a row will end your stage time pretty smartly. I'm not sure I'm quite prepared for the scrutiny and disapointment. Finally due to yesterdays pervasive lethargy, I had yet to follow the example of Spandau Ballet and get some work done, rearranging my set into a more Gong-Friendly version, nor really written anything new.

This in mind, it was a slightly nervy me that wandered down New Cross Road yesterday, looking for the venue. As it turns out none of the above turned about to be huge issues, though the gig wasn't exactly an ideal experience. Read on dear follower.

As any comic will tell you some gigs are just fucking weird (although none quite as weird as this one recently endured by the excellent Tiernan Douieb), this is especially true on the new-act circuit, mostly consisting as it does of near-as Open Mic nights where the promoter books 15 or so comics and relies on them to bring in a couple of mates each, making a decent sized audience. Fairly often the 15 or so comics will actually be the audience. Which is always a bit disheartening but can create quite a nice little atmosphere of camaraderie and support, and anyway at this burgeoning level where stage-time and experience is valuable whatever the crowd, any time in front of a mic is worth the effort.

Pretty much as soon as I walked into the New Cross Inn I knew it was going to be a comics-as-audience sort of gig. The promoter/MC, Karl Edrik, was excitable and friendly enough and introduced everyone who walked in to everyone else, but admitted straight away that he had no-idea how many people were going to turn up, as the venue had done the promotion, not him. The gig was due to start in 40 minutes and the pub was completely empty. It was quickly decided to ditch the Gong element, which is pretty sensible as no-one wants to gong off another act, and just go for it. There were a couple of familiar faces lurking round, including Johnny who runs the Saturday night 'Looks Like We Have A Comedian' open-mic in Picadilly, which is a really lovely gig, and Alistair Grieves who runs 'Comedy Lake', which I'm playing next month. Both great blokes and good acts. There was also some free beers and everyone was taking things in their I said gigs like this happen fairly often.

I decided seeing as it was a crowd of comics (and 4 genuine punters. And the bar staff) I'd try and stay away from my usual set for a while and play off the top of my head. It's not something I get to do often, and I was genuinely interested in how I'd cope off-script, just to see where my mind would take me. So I ranted for a little while on my wonderful experience in the job centre on Tuesday, which yielded some good bits I might use again, Karl had brought me on as "fresh faced" so I dug out a little of my "I look younger than I actually am" bits from the first routine I'd written, and did a gag I was quite proud of about the green and pink lighting making the gig best enjoyed using 3-D glasses, finishing up with my "God's Cock Shame" routine. This last part, which i've done at all my gigs for the last month, irked me a bit as it felt quite unrehearsed and sloppy compared to last week, highlighting the need to look over my material when I have a week off gigging. It all went okay, if not extraordinary.

What happened next was a bit of a surprise. I took my seat feeling it had gone sort-of okay considering my aim was to see what came out when I opened my mouth. The PA was really loud so it had been hard to hear the audience response, but I'd gleaned enough of what had and hadn't worked and felt reasonably happy with what I was taking from the experience. Which is what it's all about at this stage, really. Which is when Karl stepped back up to the mic. Of all the things you expect to hear an MC say after you've done your bit "well you started out well" isn't top of the list. What followed was a short critique of my set, words I shouldn't have used, things I shouldn't have said, and an admonishment for making his job harder to come and pick up the pieces after me. I was, frankly, a bit stunned. Is this normal? I've not done all that many gigs after all (last night was gig #12) maybe new acts are entitled to some good-natured advice from the old pro's. I honestly don't know, but something tells me it was a bit of an odd move. Not really sure what to do I pulled my notebook out and pretended to take notes, which drew a small laugh, then I sat down. He did the same thing to the next act.

Okay, I'm not saying I'm above criticism. I've asked people for honest opinions after pretty much every gig I've done. I'm a New Comic, I need the feedback have always listened eagerly to any advice my big brothers in the comedy world have to bestow. It's just I think I'd have appreciated it a little bit more had this particular elder sibling given his opinion at the bar in the interval, or maybe via email after the fact. Not smack in middle of the second section, from the stage in front of a bunch of other comics.

I left the gig a little earlier than I normally would. Some gigs are a bit too weird to stick around.

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