Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

Crash and burn

I guess it was bound to happen eventually, that moment of quite spectacular failure, and yes, tonight was the night I had it in full force. I was in Preston for the Frog and Bucket Comedy Club’s Beat The Frog show, where you get 5 mins to avoid 3 cards being held up which end your turn. The evening started badly for me at Liverpool station where every train to Preston was cancelled. “Ah shit” I said, as I panicked and got on the first train to Manchester and then Preston, worried I’d miss my slot. It took two hours twenty to get there in the end, and I got minorly abused by some Czech students for sitting in their seats, but that’s beside the point.

The Frog and Bucket in Preston is an interesting place, probably the first commercial stand up venue I’ve been to that caters for the weekend drinking audience with shows (I’ve been to the stand and Edinburgh venues but that’s different). A big room with a long bar, stage in the middle and lots of tables of people. The compere had a tough job to start with, rousing the crowd but he did really well, a very likeable comedian and I really wish I could remember his name as I’d recommend him! There were two acts trying new material, one was greeted with some laughter while the other struggled, although with very raw new material.

After the interval was me, on second after another comedian from Wigan.

He stormed it. Punchline after punchline rolled off his tongue, the crowd who had previously been very quiet were roaring with laughter and he easily completed his 5 mins.

Then it was me.

To say it went badly would be somewhat of an understatement. I think it must be rare to see a “comedian” get no laughs at all but tonight was one of those nights. Similarly, it must be rare to see the comedian ask to be carded because it was going so badly. And yes. It happened. And it was quick too, after a mere 1min 54sec I was evicted from the stage. A loser.

For reference with all the travel taken into account, it’s 2 hours of travel per minute performed.

So what went wrong?

So much.

Firstly I didn’t have any great opening jokes that get the audience onside, instead relying on talking to the audience a bit (which they hated). I rushed everything and wasn’t very funny and had a look of desperation as I searched the room for a friendly face, and… Well that’s it, there’s only so much you can learn in 1min 54sec. The grim reality was that I was terrible, maybe worst than terrible, appalling, horrendous, devastatingly bad.

I think the problem lies in that I worked really hard on my 15 mins for the first gig I did and that and the following two were okay, but I’ve not added to them or refined or tried to get more laughs – it has structure and poignancy, but it needs more laughs. That’s the essential bit, more laughs, I’ve just been glossing over the fact that people ain’t been rolling is the aisles. I need to come up with a much better, funnier, more interesting 5 mins of material before I start dicking around.

As you can probably tell I’m pretty devastated by the experience – I mean I knew it’d happen – I was told on Sunday by another comedian “don’t take it personally“, but it’s very difficult not to. On the train home I was cursing myself, questioning why I bothered. It’s all natural I guess, the problem is that I don’t want to be good as something that doesn’t excite me – I want to be a great artist not a great marketeer, and certainly not average, which is how I feel sometimes – average director, average writer, good marketeer, and now terrible comedian.

My next gig is on Monday, also a 5 min gong show and I have the weekend to create something good or god help everyone when I’m blogging on Monday night.

A rough night, but if I learn from it, maybe worth it.



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2 responses to “Crash and burn”

  1. Dominique Shaw Avatar

    Don’t feel too bad Sam, when you are starting something new then you can’t win every time.
    Each wedding I learn something new and berate myself that I could do better but it’s how you learn. You will come out stronger than ever, have faith. X

  2. Ian Avatar

    Everyone I know who is successful now has had this moment. Some many, many times. I guess the question is, “how much do you want this?”. Bit early to be talking yourself up as the Pascal Cygan of Comedy 😉

    I empathise with wanting to be a great artist rather than a good anything else. Got to let go of the safety rope if we’re going to get there so much respect for sharing this 🙂