As a comedian (and for reference I still feel very uncomfortable using that term to describe myself) you get to perform in a variety of towns and cities. You also get to play in an array of spaces – from the back room of a pub to the well-prepared, well-run comedy club, from a student bar to a disused nightclub. I once asked a professional comedian, Markus Birdman (read it here), about the types of places that make good venues – “I think the most important variant is the room layout and how the audience have been treated by the people running it. If you treat people badly they usually behave in kind. And vice versa.”
I think this statement is absolutely true, the tone set by the owners for the audience defines expectation, mood, atmosphere and ultimately the success of a night.
With this is mind I performed at a bar in Bramhall, Stockport. Bramhall is a trendy, nice area with an array of nice bars and restaurants. I arrived at the venue though and my heart sank however. There was no compere, a DJ playing dance music with lazer lights over the performance area (think Phoenix Nights), a speaker setup that meant parts of the bar couldn’t see who was onstage, a revolving cake stand in the corner of the room and food being served. Worst of all it was noisy, and not just slightly, it was a bar filled with people going on a night out with no intention of seeing any comedy.
So how did the night go I hear you ask…
Well, the acoustic guitarist who was playing before us was ignored by all but a few of the audience. Then came the comedy.
My first problem was the family sat to the right of the stage with an 11 and 13 year old. I popped over and said to the parents “look, i’m onstage next, some of the stuff might be inappropriate”. They replied that they’d heard it all before, “no” i said, “i mean for the kids, it’ll be quite, well, graphic”. But the parents too no notice and stayed sat down.
Two other acts had been up before me and struggled (not their fault at all – a brutal room). So i had a quick chat with the sound guy asking him to put the PA as loud as possible before it feedsback.
So I started with the people closest to the stage and worked around, saying hello to everyone, very chatty, pointing out the lack of ideal circumstances this was taking place under. Then widened my circle trying to draw more and more people in..
Then I mentioned the family.
The great thing about a family who should leave but don’t is that they lose the right to be angry at you when you talk about them – I mentioned that it was going to get crude and that the parents weren’t bothered on the mic and suddenly i see a family making a sharp exit across the stage.
That kind of got people’s attention. I mentioned that now the young kids had left I could tell the really darkly filthy jokes. It was never going to be a gig for subtlety so I threw most my set in the bin and focused on the filthy material, the eating out joke, a 3 part joke that gains (if it works) equal laughs as groans.
I finished (bad term…) strongly, but with a terrible sense of selling out my material to suit the crowd. So swings and roundabouts. The best moment was after the 2nd part of my main joke had got a groan and a slight lulled silence came into the room, an anticipation… Beautiful. I didn’t take advantage of it enough, but it meant that I could get offstage to applause. I felt proud not of my material but merely that I’d survived.
But alas, as I came off stage the family walked past me. You see they’d tried to leave the bar but had walked the wrong way out so had ended up in a bar cul-de-sac where they were surrounded by teenage drinkers grinding against each other and soundtracked by my voice booming through the loud PA system. The kids had heard it all.
Oh and Louise (my other half) came to see me perform, I suspect she was more nervous than I was.
This is a terrible write up by the way, don’t judge me, i’m really tired. To be honest I’m not sure if i’m going to continue doing these gig reviews and maybe try putting some ideas on here and that sort of thing… Let me know what you think.
Bye for now. Sam