I did a spot at Sam Rhodes Comedy Explosion this week; it also happened to be Sam’s birthday, so the mood was high, everybody was drinking more than usual (I was, at any rate) and all in all it was much more fun than a Monday night has any right to be.
As we’re sliding toward the end of the year I’ve been thinking a lot about what my next steps should be. I’ve spent most of this year grinding out variations of the same five minute set to try and get it as strong as possible, and that’s been at the expense of both new material, and other stuff that I’ve written.
Doing the We Are Funny Project challenge show the other week really reminded me what I got into this for – I never wanted to churn out jokes about being a dad every gig, that was only ever supposed to be my easy, safe material to fall back on when I need it. So I’ve decided to shelve that set for now, and focus on putting together another strong five minutes.
For this week’s spot I threw together a mix of stuff I used for the challenge show last week, a couple of old bits of sleaze and filth that I haven’t used since last year, a bit from the set I’ve been doing this year, and one completely new bit.
As it happened Ginnia Cheng, who I’ve known for a couple of years, was up before me and when she spotted me in the crowd she decided to include me in a bit of crowd-work. This was a solid gold gift, because I opened with a half-decent call-back to the interaction which got a good laugh. Unfortunately, it was one of the worst lines I’ve ever said on stage and not the kind of thing you can safely repeat outside the context of a comedy night, so it’s lost to the ages.
Still, the point is that one of the most common bits of advice people give newbie stand-ups is to “be present in the room” and I think this is exactly what they’re talking about. Pay attention to the room, to the other acts, to the audience, and think about how you can use any of it because, even if you come up with something mediocre, it will often get just as good a laugh as any of your polished material. Audiences love it when they see you thinking on your feet.
The rest of the set went well, it was all material I’ve done plenty of times before so I felt comfortable delivering it, and they were some of my best bits from the past couple of years so they all landed nicely. Except the brand new bit, which got absolutely nothing. This surprised me because I thought it was pretty good, but it didn’t even get a murmur of disapproval, just stone cold silence like they were still waiting for the punchline. I didn’t record the set so I don’t know if I screwed the bit up or something, but I’ll try it again a couple of times before I write it off.
I haven’t got any spots booked for the rest of the year, because it’s all a bit complicated planning things around various end of year piss-ups, but I’ll be trying to grab at least a couple more walk-in spots before Christmas.