Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

Gig Report #43: Bottletop Comedy

When I was around gigs 5 – 15 I went through a stage of recording how each gig had progressed – inspired by the brilliant Ste Price. I lost touch a bit and became a little more infrequent, mostly because I felt for a while I plateaued at a certain level – enough to be liked but not necessarily remembered.

It seems strange now that I’ve been gigging for a year, it’s gone really quickly and I feel like I’ve grown up (comedically speaking) incredibly fast.  I seem to have two sets now, one the rampant, forceful, loud sex stories set (appropriate for tougher rooms) and the other (and my favourite) storytelling set (for nice rooms). Tonight’s gig was a storytelling night.

Bottletop Comedy is quickly turning into one of my favourite gigs, there’s something incredibly relaxing about the atmosphere and really supportive – it helps I’ve had good gigs there recently, but the regular audience who are knowledgeable and generous really make the evening fly. Where else could the audience chant to demand an extra 2 mins of material, laugh at a mic stand’s ineptitude multiple times as if it were fresh each time or genuinely get involved in a connect 4 challenge (I lost, Rob Thomas won, he is the Rain Man of Connect 4).

The set started quietly. I’ve discovered that with the storytelling I’m less anxious about getting a laugh early on and am able to enjoy the quiet for a bit. It seems to work really well to draw the audience in (the preston bit), and focus them (much like when directing plays) – the slower and more relax and conversational the opening the better the later sections go.

The story is still a work in progress at this point, but starts quietly and builds to the kiss ending. I tend to speed through the early dialogue and trample the first two or three punchlines, but then when the laugh comes I slow down. I noticed tonight that by the end I was letting laughs arrive and peak a lot more but still stamped on a couple of laughs which came in unexpected places.

The set piece relies on audience interaction so picking the male part is tricky. I seem to be adding their interaction earlier than before which makes them  more comfortable of the concept behind the piece and when the female part is added helps cement how the roleplay works.

I tried animating (almost acting) some parts further than I have in the past as well as passing lines to the audience members. Interestingly the more awkward the people taking part the better it works – confident people kill it a little. The intonation is so important as is repetition and the pauses that split two parts of connected action, enabling the double laugh and, towards the end of the piece, multiple callbacks.

The second male “am i smart enough” role needs some work as at the moment it is unnecessary and a little aggressive for the tone of the piece – indeed both of the ancillary parts need integrating in further, perhaps just as references. A few people have suggested that the ending should be bigger and more comedic, whereas I like the sweetness of the ending, that it offers a start of possiblity rather than a massive embarrassing punchline.

So, how’s it go. In a word, good. This was a 5 star gig (see my comedy page to get the explanation), and I really enjoyed it. I felt a little uncomfortable afterwards with praise – and to an extent feel like I’m cheating a little as it’s not traditional stand up.

A little work to do on the next version of the story, and then I need to start testing out some new material which uses elements of the storytelling but fits within a broader 3 x 20min narrative.

That’s all I think, thanks for reading.



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