Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

Gig #11 – The Millstone, Bolton.

I’d never been to Bolton before so when Nigel Needham asked me to play his gig I was excited for two reasons. Firstly I had no gigs lined up and it would be great to get some practice in before Hot Water Comedy Club, and secondly I’d never been to Bolton and wondered what it was like and I was intrigued as to whether they’d only like Peter Kay style acts?  So technically three reasons.

So Bolton seems like a lovely place, a solid northern town filled with pleasant people a great city hall and fountains (I love a good water feature). Admittedly I saw it only briefly at night but I seemed the antithesis of Preston, somewhere where bile and hate were not core to the operation of the town. The venue is a nice pub with a huge backroom. I travelled by train with the lovely and ever energetic (how does he do it?) Binty Blair, and we arrived in advance to an empty room. We were soon joined by the other acts and our 6 audience members and the night kicked off.

Stephen Armstrong compered really well for such a small low energy gig and kept the tempo of the night high, he was funny and enabled the acts to get to the stage with expectation in the right place. Nigel Needham was on first. It was the first time I’d seen Nigel perform and boy is some of it dark, I found myself laughing then feeling guilty, some of the laughs are very wrong, but I found it very funny, reminding me a bit of Norman Lovett’s work. It’s a brave man who really drags out the silences and plays with the room in that way, not something I could do, but Nigel did it well. Then it was me…

So, how did it go? Well okay I think. I ranked this as a 4/5 performance, a short slot meant I could try new material (about Preston) which I was pleased to see worked. I continued the development of my opening, more audience interaction. However I started to rush when I realised that the opening aperitif of my set had completely overshadowed anything I’d do in the fish, main or indeed pudding courses. It’s fair to say (to continue the metaphor) that the audience drank well during my act but singularly failed to eat at all. I used my deliberate failure ending again, such a cop out as it means I don’t have to find a good point to hit for a final laugh, but the material I had in reserve all lasted at least 5 mins and would have taken me well over.

This was followed by the brilliant John Briscoe, Binty and Nigel’s poetry-off (very surreal) and then we had to leave to get the epic train back to Liverpool. So I need to develop my 10 min set, not enough big punchlines in there (or any punchlines in there), I’ve thought about how I can talk about the awesome stuff people aren’t getting, maybe look at a section about having written a joke but never get round to telling it, perhaps in the end simply telling people the punchline but not the setup. Just saying a random phrase “Nuclear Power”, waiting for the laugh and then apologising my way offstage. As a tiny note, the failed ending works less well when I can’t actually leave the room… Anyway a good gig and I’m tired now!