Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

A tale of three gigs

It’s inevitable over the course of doing something that you will have moments of great highs, moments of great lows and long periods of bumbling around in the middle desperate to achieve the former and avoid the latter.

The same, of course applies to gigs, although, it has to be said usually the three instances are more spread out rather than occurring over a four day period.

The 4 days opened with Bottletop Comedy where I had my best ever gig, closed with Southport Comedian Of The Year where I fell to the worst death imaginable and sandwiched between was the semi-farcical yet still strangely fun at points charity night for Alder Hay Hospital.

The charity gig I was compereing and was an evening with everything in it – rubbish PA, noise from everywhere, aggressive hecklers, performers going on sans-microphone, the organiser hilariously telling the audience to behave, local lad smashing his first gig, headliner destroying hecklers, a borrowed guitar amp & mic to make it work and £1,200 raised for a good cause.  To be honest I felt terrible after the gig – I’d not got chance to do some good compereing etc… However it was always going to be an against-the-odds gig so with that in mind retrospectively think I may have helped rather than hindered the evening.

Tonight’s gig however was a different story. I had five minutes, did about 4, and died hideously throughout. It was a quiet audience but that’s not really an excuse, my attitude going on was all wrong and my head wasn’t really in the right place. I went on very aggressive and arrogant rather than my usual bouncy overly friendly style. I’ve noticed I have a habit of doing this when I’m tired or just not in the mood, but this felt a bit different. I guess I was feeling a little shit from the night before but mostly it was that I wanted to do different material.

I was talking to a friend about another mutual friend the other day (both comedians). The friend we were talking about has had a few tough gigs recently and we were saying that it felt like he’d fallen out of love with his material – the energy and excitement of performing it had maybe turned to routine. I felt the same a little, the material I used has been superseded by stuff I enjoy doing more, material that is more fulfilling that I actually feel has a point.

I’m increasingly starting to think that there must be a third way. I’m not a natural comedian, i don’t write great one-liners or have that at ease presence to be able to ad-lib and take an audience away, but equally I’m no actor and cannot play outside myself. However the points I feel best are when I am telling a story, a genuine story, that has a point or a message.

That’s why I’ve fallen out with my older material – it’s not terrible but it’s purpose is superfluous, the only aim is the laugh through the now slightly contrived ending and that feels like a cop out. It doesn’t feel honest or genuine or heartfelt, that’s the problem – my material talks about my insecurities in a relationship – problem is for the material is that it’s becoming gradually less true – the insecuries are fading and with them the ability to deliver the material.

It could, of course, just be a bad gig, a reaction to a failure onstage, but maybe not, maybe I should follow this a bit, find the storytelling and the stories I want to tell, and hope they’re funny.

In the meantime, lessons to learn:

  1. Not every gig will be good.
  2. Approach each gig with the view to make friends with the audience not confront them.
  3. Avoid arrogance – it makes me into a tit.
  4. Smile more onstage.
  5. Slow down a bit onstage and compliment audiences.
  6. Follow stories through – this is from compering – the moment I felt most connected was when I let an interaction with an audience member run riot in my head and mix together with other ideas – it felt like a moment where ad-libbed material really worked and connected – just need to be a bit braver and do it.
  7. Never go to Southport again. (unlikely to happen, pretty sure they hate me.)
  8. Add ‘competitions’ to the list of things to avoid (alongside ‘gongs’) – they’re not fun, they feel pressurised regardless of how the night is set up and will rarely leave you with a warm glow*.

Tis all for now.

Night xx


P.S. – In other news I’ve still not got GTAV or Fifa14. It’s killing me, no lie, absolute agony. Nor has my playwriting progressed at all. Stuck at 473 words.

*unless you’re James Oakley.



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