Sam Freeman

Theatre | Comedy | Marketing

Tag: Paul Smith

A Scratch Night

I’ve always had a bit of a weird relationship with theatre I think. When I was first getting into it I wanted, like many, to be an actor, to claim the limelight and let it wrap around me smothering my insecurities. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work like that, turned out that I couldn’t learn lines at all which, unfortunately, led me to accidentally change the plot of a show (“No I Killed Him” instead of “But He Killed Him”)entirely improvise a characters lines (at the Stephen Joseph Theatre no less) to cut a monologue down from a 5 min scene  to a two line moment and hack down Greek tragedy to make it easier and shorter to learn. It was okay though, I accepted this and did writing and directing and then moved into marketing and producing, quite comfortable that there were considerably better people equipped for acting rather than a skinny, ill looking man who mumbles, can’t keep a straight face and shakes horrifically when he’s holding a broadsheet newspaper on stage.

This carried on for a long time until the last 2 years where I’ve been doing standup and improv. The improv came first and was, at the time, to get me out meeting people – since then I’ve got to do a few shows which has been great and while I don’t feel great at it, I do (when I’m not ill with migraines and bad-tempered) enjoy it. Equally the stand up has been happening and I’ve been feeling like I’ve been finding my feet for a while if not necessarily my voice.

I had a good conversation with comedian Paul Smith over a pint and he suggested that he saw me a “show comedian” rather than a “club comedian” which is a really interesting concept (and a starting point for loads of heated argument I’m sure). So I did a scratch night. So it was weird to be doing a crossover type show, one that has improv, theatre, comedy and storytelling in it – and to be doing it in a theatre. It was a scratch night and I was doing 14 mins of the idea in front of 60(ish) people. All material that hadn’t been seen before (apart from one joke) – 98% brand new and will a slightly different tone & persona.

I think it went okay, but the weird bit was how I felt afterwards – a little confused inside. It’s strange, I’ve never really felt like I fitted in particularly well with actors and artists, and after the show I felt a little bit like an imposter, amongst some genuinely strong work. I’ve got a real insecurity about my work I think – I suspect because in my head I imagine that everyone thinks it’s shit but is nice to my face – mostly because having worked in theatre for a while I know that 99% of the time people are very polite.

However there is still that 1%. There was also a slightly crushing moment after the show when someone came up to me to offer feedback and described the opening minute as good but the rest, and I quote, as “disappointingly average”. They said that they sat back disappointed. Wow. I mean, just, wow. The thing was they were so nice about it and genuinely wanted to help. A friend (Mike O) said they were clearly “a bit of a dick”, but, in retrospect, I think they had a good point badly explained. He said that the material felt like material and the opening felt like me and there was a divide between the two – which is about comfort within the material and knowing what’s next – and hiding the gaps, making everything seem like a thought in the moment. There was a part where there was a noticeable drop, the hit rate passed off and it needed more balance between the personal (stuff about me) and the political.

Where next? I’m not sure. I’d love to know your thoughts, please comment below, or tweet me @mrfreeman1984 or even send me a facebook message. Should I just set a date to do a scratch of the full show and hire a venue or wait? or WHAT? Anyway, thanks for reading, do say hi (and join my mailing list by clicking here).


Gig #10 – Rawhide RAW

rawhiderawI really didn’t want to do this gig if I’m honest, I think I’d had a rough week at Beat The Frog where I got my bi-monthly assassination and was losing the love for stand-up a little. I’ve never been particularly good at dealing with disappointment and tend to beat myself up when something’s not perfect so Preston (as it was the first time) was particularly galling. Anyway, it was nothing to do with the show or people, it was that I had another BTF based mauling in my mind and so walked to the gig with severe trepidation and a real sense of fear.

So, how did it go? Well it was  a quiet gig, but probably one of my favorites so far. Their gong format is much friendlier to acts and more supportive – as usual I was a bag of nerves up to the moment I hjad the mic in  my hand and then I became my alter-ego and everything was fine. I decided to use my clapping opening as a preamble as I was worried about filling the time – which is weird as I’ve recorded the full set and it runs at 23mins if I go fast. Anyway, I finished the pre-amble and was just about to start on my material when I ran out of time.

I didn’t win (and didn’t deserve to – the guy who was on first was phenomenal as was Mike Edge who was also on) – but it felt like a strong showing and I’d love to go back there and do a 10min slot and really explore my set a bit more. Everytime I get onstage I feel better and better about it and more confident – I was chatting to an act in Preston who’d done 70 gigs and I can see why each one must count for something. I need to develop my first 20 seconds onstage, probably a one-liner to get me in a bit more, although I don’t know if that’d run against my style? Also I get distracted too easily and go on a tangent… Must stop that. I think I learnt a lot from watching the compere tonight, he was excellent, a different style to Paul Smith, but really kept a small crowd motivated and engaged. I’d love to give compering a go, get my stage time up in an improvisational role.

Right, pretty late now as I completely redesigned my blog before writing this!

Night! xx

Gig #7 – Hot Water Comedy Club

So here I am again, writing up a gig, and my good performance average has gone up from 16% to 28%.  Yes, nearly one third of the time I don’t die onstage in a long and lingering silence.

Gig #7 was at my comedy home (or the place I did my first gig), Hot Water Comedy Club in Liverpool. Some comedians I’ve spoken to have found it one of the tougher venues, and granted the audiences can be brutal and heavy drinkers at time, but I love the atmosphere that they get and even if the audiences are brutal they still come up to you after the gig, shake your hand and thank you, which you don’t get in many places, including Preston.

I was a little ill coming into the gig, and, 10mins before I was on felt properly faint and sick, not nerves this time, just faint. Anyway, Binty’s crisps (thank you Binty!) and the Mars Bar in my bag and lots of water got me over it and I went onto stage at about 70% my usual energy.

It was the second time out with my new material and it worked similarly to Gig #6, the clapping opening was okay, I perhaps rushed it a little and didn’t spend as much time as I’d have liked dicking around and pretending that they’d ruined it for everyone by forcing me not to start my set.  I had a moment of panic where I fell off the stage and for a split second thought I may land head first in the condiment tray in front of me. Luckily I regained my balance and continued. I was shouting at some members of the audience, accusing them of being rubbish clappers and bad members of society, I was faced with the choice, go san-mic into the audience and make an example of them, or return to the relative safety of the stage. I chose the second option that I regretted – I would have loved to push it further to see what happened. I was also slightly undermined in assigning sexual practice to types of clappers because I’d been watching the show and slap bang in the middle of the section I usually label as “naieve, insecure and nervous lovers” was a woman who claimed to be a dominatrix… I played with that a bit to limited success and reminded myself that I need a bit of flexibility in my ideas and maybe should have moved my groups around the room a bit..

My second section, or ‘The bit about my sexual insecurity bit’ as I have now named it, is showing promise but isn’t quite there, a great comedian suggested it’s missing a step for the confidence section, I do my two sections a little too quickly and more emphasis is needed. I managed to choose members of the audience to play this to which seemed to help, maintaining the connection with the audience is so important to stop them from relaxing and going into automatic/turning off. I also added the idea of an “ex-librarian with benefits”, not sure where that came from but it got a laugh and will be staying.

I also need to pause occasionally for laughs. At the moment I plough through my set at hyperspeed and I like that, but maybe a moment for getting my breath neatly timed after a punchline would be good. I think I rushed because I wanted my set to be 10 mins, I suspect it was closer to 13/14 min, not too bad considering when rehearsing (admittedly to my lampshade in my room) it tends to top out at 24 mins…

The “eating out” section I developed further into gross out territory, initially the 3rd part of the three course meal I’d glossed over, but by really exaggerating it i think it helped build up the foulness of what I was saying – also I really enjoy pointing out the structure of the joke (perhaps a little too much), but I found myself trying to say those bits to the back of the room (where other comedians sit) and the sexual odd bits to the front of the room.

The ending, a development of what I did in gig #6, claiming I’d ruined the gig by failing to have a punchline is my favourite bit. I have to admit I feel like an arrogant prick, standing there, telling them what to do, that clapping isn’t permitted before orchestrating my own exit, but both times it’s worked surprisingly well and puts a different (and hopefully memorable) dynamic onto the end of the performance.

Biggest thrill of the night was a member of the audience coming up at the interval to shake my hand and telling me I was good – that was a great feeling.

I was really happy with this show and can’t wait for my next one – which was due to be Mon at Beat the Frog in Manchester – unfortunately I’d been hit by Louise’s illness in full force and was sent home from work. So on the trail of more gigs now, I need experience, 7 gigs is still a pitiful amount, but I want to be doing 10 – 15 min slots rather than gong shows as my material and stage persona don’t work in those formats.

That’s all for now, other than to say I’ve just built myself a new desk which is motivating me to write this and thank you to all the comedians who were performing on Sunday, genuinely the nicest bunch of people around – supportive, constructive and funny people – can’t wait for my next gig (if you’re reading this and want to offer me one then please do!).

Thanks all!

p.s. as always this blog is for my personal record only, so it may be pretty incomprehensible, but I want to write stuff down to ensure I’m progressing and learning from my vast numbers of mistakes.

My first gig…

So, didn’t tell everyone because I was really nervous about this, however now its been done I can talk freely about it. Tonight I performed my first stand-up gig, doing around 12 minutes (I think, may have been more, possibly less).

It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for years but have always had the fear about. I guess I’ve always had a little fantasy about being a stand-up but never thought it could be possible, I suppose that’s why I started running comedy nights and booking comedians.

I decided to take the plunge because I’m staring at 28 and wondering whether what I’m doing with my life matters enough. You always want to make a difference, effect people, maybe seek a bit of attention, a bit of ego-stroking – so this was a chance to give it a go, in a safe environment.  I took a course with Hot Water Comedy Course which gave me exactly what I needed, a kick up the arse, opportunity to stand on-stage and try to be funny. Paul Smith gets a special mention as the most supportive man ever, and Binty for his boundless enthusiasm. Sometimes it’s the support of people you don’t know that pushes you through this barrier.

So how did it go? It’s difficult to know, as a playwright I know that it’s difficult to take people’s opinions at face value, they always mean well  but people invariably sugar coat to help and protect you (and I’d do the same for a friend).  However I think it was okay, I’m not sure I was any worse than any of the other acts (apart from Paul Smith and Adam Rowe, who were ace as always), the first 10 was good, I maybe became overly conscious of time so pushed through the second half. Maybe the set needs a few more second half jokes rather than aiming for poignancy. I was also thrown a little by the diversity of the audience, last week when I watching it was 80% students, tonight there was 1 in!

Will I do it again? Maybe, I’d like to, i’m not really sure where, or how, or if I should, or if I should work up an incest joke to make the ending more hilarious. So yeah, if you’ve ever thought of doing stand-up and haven’t then give it a go, it makes a change to your personality, I feel more confident, happy and excited there might be more to the world than marketing… Well, maybe…

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