I’ve been away on holiday for a couple of weeks, so I’m a
bit late writing up my last gig because I couldn’t be arsed doing it before I
The gig was my heat of the Comedy Virgins summer competition, with the first prize being a full year of bringer-less spots at the Cavendish Arms, making it well worth a shot. Ironically, I was struggling to get a bringer for that night so, after scouring the Comedy Performers +1 Exchange Facebook page, I volunteered to help somebody out at G&B Comedy a few days earlier.
G&B is one of those gigs that has been around for a long
time and gets mentioned a lot, but I’d never been there before so I was happy
to go and check the place out. The venue, Arch1,
is a tiny arts space, impressively squeezed into a low railway arch near West
Ham and, since I’ve been idly toying with starting a local night in my part of
town, this got me thinking about possibilities beyond the usual
It was a themed night, on the topic of growing old
disgracefully, with all acts over the age of 35, so I felt right at home. My
bringee was Lorraine Hoodless,
trying out some material before she headed to Edinburgh for the Fringe, which
seemed to go pretty well for her, and the only act in the room that I’d met
before was Dicky Wright and he
put in a solid performance too. I’ve never met Emily McQuade, although her name pops up
a lot, and she was the highlight of the show for me, so I’m hoping to see her
around some more.
So, my heat of the competition went pretty well, even though
I wasn’t one of the two acts that went through to the final. The room was busy,
with around 15 acts all dragging along at least one bringer, so by the time I
went up at the end of the first half, the energy was high.
It was kind of a weird set for me, because I hadn’t gigged
for a week and I was feeling a little rusty, so I tripped over a few words and
ended up waffling too much, I was fiddling with the mic stand too much, not
making enough eye contact with the audience, and generally not as sharp as I
know I can be.
Most of all, I really noticed (again) just how slow my
opener is, and in those first 30 seconds of my set the room was stone-cold
silent. Dropping that first punchline is nerve-wracking, because I’ve made them
wait a hell of a long time for it, and if it bombs then there’s no coming back
from it. But I didn’t need to worry – the first bit landed really well, got a
huge laugh, and then they were on board for the rest of my set.
So while I was on stage I was mentally cataloguing everything
that I knew I was doing wrong, but at the same time the audience was really
going for it. Every single thing worked well, and my closer rounded the set off
nicely. I think if I can just learn to get out of my own way (i.e. stop
thinking about what’s going wrong, and work with what’s going right in the
moment) I’ll be able to improve my stage-presence a lot.
During the break and at the end of the night I got a lot of really nice feedback from people, with a few saying that they were surprised I didn’t get through because they felt like I was the strongest act. But I wasn’t too worried about that – the acts who got through were both strong, and competitions which use an audience vote always throw up surprises. I was just happy that, despite my nitpicking, I’d comfortably delivered a really strong five minute set and got a good reaction from the audience.
Where now? I’m back from holiday and don’t have any spots booked, so I
need to get on top of that. I’m also going to make time to get some more
podcast episodes recorded, because I’m really keen to get that thing off the
I want to focus on new material too – I want to be able to feel as comfortable delivering a strong ten minutes as I currently do with my five, and I really need to find a punchier opener. At the final We Are Funny gig a few weeks back, Lenny Sherman gave me some nice feedback and suggested I open with some gentler material to really get the audience fully on-side before I dive into my darker stuff. It makes a lot of sense, so that’s something I’m going to work on.