Firstly this isn’t my first gig. Every year I make new year’s resolutions that are big objectives to achieve over the year – one of them for 2020 is to do 36 gigs over the year. As I a) blog and b) a few people I know read these when I did them years ago I thought that for one year I’d revive the habit and keep a log of how I’m doing.
I’ve been trying to work out what comedy and stand up means to me. I started in 2012 and was proactive for a couple of years and then, slowly but surely it became a hobby rather than a career ambition. I’m not good, not any more, I’ve stagnated at a level where, I’m unlikely to embarrass myself on a gig, but equally I’m unlikely to progress. I tried to work out what happened around 2014/15 that made me lose the dream – I was pretty good for an open act at that time, but something broke and I ended up (not entirely unhappily I should add) as a hobbiest.
I suspect now, looking back, the break, the hit was a few things – being a little bit depressed and anxious and having a huge self confidence crash that came from a couple of things happening at work that dynamited my creative confidence (I still find myself apologetic for feeling creative, as if simply having creative or artist in your title makes you a fountain of good ideas). I had a few encounters with pro acts who told me I wouldn’t make it (harsh but it’s sink or swim and i don’t begrudge them) – and I stopped doing stand up, I walked away from the stuff that was working and felt exciting (to audiences if not me) – I messed with storytelling (which in fairness was pretty good but a dead end really), musical comedy (average at best with lots of heavy bags), and trying to find a comedic voice.
I never found that comedic voice and it haunted me ever since – the closest voice I got was a low grade poor man’s Mark Watson – not unique or anything different. After a while I told myself I was happy to just do the odd gig, watching friends soar and maybe running the odd gig or two.
That’s a slightly sad opening to this blog but it’s the truth – I lost it, whatever it was, and never really found it.
Now the gig.
Tonight I was MCing. Commo is the gig I run with Pete Selwood and is lovely, chilled out and generally pretty friendly. The opening was probably the best MC opening I’ve done for a long-time – it felt fluent, I naturally went into stories I’d forgotten, had opportunity to play with the audience a bit and did one of my clapping intros that I love so much and that bring the crowd together. It was a solid opening if, as I tend to be, with a bit of shambles. No means perfect but not bad.
Next break was much harder – the fluency had gone, I found myself hitting classic MC tropes (jobs, relationships, yawn….) which came across as stale and unimaginative and my head wasn’t sharp.
I generally have a couple of pints at this gig – I’m worse when I have a beer, even just one. It’s the ability to think laterally, to notice things, to concentrate and mentally ask questions of the room, of the audience that disapates so quickly. When I’ve done paid MC work I never have for the same reason and it’s always much much better. The audience were also a little distracted – a long first section that’s very, very alternative, meant that it felt that keeping the energy and, more importantly focus of the audience was gone.
Zoomed through a bit in the final section, acts on and off, but then decided to try some material I’ve been writing for a bit about pubic trimming (yep). They didn’t go for it – I suspect because it’s a little gross and also because when I go gross, or a bit dark then I tend to lose audiences – my face doesn’t suit it, nor does my stage persona match any sort of dominant or sexual character. As Pete frequently says “you’re not a sexual being” and, comedically at least, it’s true (just only when I’m comfortable and relaxed) – talking about sex, unless expressing my naivety or confusion, loses the audience’s empathy with me and with it their willingness to laugh at and with me.
So… My performance, probably a 5 out of 10. A few strong moments in the first half, a frantic opening and some good building blocks put in place, but not capitalised on them and looked fatigued and a little pissed by the end.