The one where I shambolically MC a show at short notice…

I’m in a busy period at work this month, and for another couple of weeks, so apologies if things are a bit quiet round here. The only biggish thing that’s happened recently is I got another shot at MCing We Are Funny Project much earlier than expected, because this week they had to shuffle some things around at the last minute so I took the reins on Monday night.

I wasn’t supposed to MC again until April, so I hadn’t mentally prepared myself for it, but under the circumstances I thought that even if I did a less than ideal job it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

The thing about MCing somebody else’s night is that there’s quite a bit of setup and admin that you need to deal with; getting the venue set up, checking in the acts, organising the running order, dealing with cash, etc. The upshot of this is that you don’t really get to sit around trying to get in the zone before you go on stage – you’re dealing with logistics, and then you need to be ready to go on all of a sudden.

So, this time around I didn’t do a stellar job of all the house-keeping stuff that an MC is supposed to do at the start of the night – how the night’s going to work, when the breaks are, what time we finish, etc. I think I just about covered the basics before doing a few minutes of material to warm the audience up. I didn’t even do the rudimentary crowd-work that’s required of MCs.

In the end, none of that really mattered because for a change there were pretty much no dropouts, so we had a lot of acts to get through and by keeping my waffling to a minimum we were able to make sure that the whole night ran to time. It helped that every single one of the acts was great – even a first-timer (Walter Thomas) smashed it – which meant that I never really needed to bring the energy back up after a bomb.

Was it the smoothest display of MCing prowess in the history of open mic comedy? No, but the energy was great and everybody had a good time. Every now and then I did a quick bit of material in between acts, when I could think of something to build on what they’d talked about, but that was more out of a sense of obligation than anything else.

At the start of the second half I did a couple of minutes of the new stuff I’ve been working on, and that seemed to go pretty well. Depressingly, however, the biggest laugh I got all night was when I tried to discretely wave my phone to give an act the light, but it slipped out of my hand and went flying into the audience.

The headliner was Gerry Bakewell, who was always going to finish the night in style – and I was really pleased that he threw in a few shots at me, call-backs to bits of my material from earlier in the night.

So, I didn’t really do much actual MCing in the end, just calling up a long list of great acts, with occasional bits of my own material thrown in for good measure, and in the end it all worked out fine.

Other than that, I’ve been focusing a lot on writing recently. Now that I’m at a point where I can comfortably trot out five minutes of safe, reliable material, I’m trying to move away from all the jokes about parenting I’ve been relying on. I never really wanted to do so much material about parenting, but inevitably, since it’s such a big part of my life right now, that’s where most of the inspiration came from and it also seems to be the stuff that worked best for me.

But I’m moving on from that now – I want to cover more interesting topics, and put together a strong ten minutes, so that’s my focus for the rest of this year.

This is my “Oh christ I’ve not updated the blog for two months” comeback gig

Trying to remember how to “comedy” at Sam Rhodes Comedy Explosion in early January, after taking most of December off.

Hello darlinks – I know it’s been a while since I updated here, so I’ll try to remember the biggest things that have happened over the past couple of months.

First up, I’ll be getting a little more involved in We Are Funny Project on Monday nights at The Jago in Dalston. Alfie, the guy who set up the night up years ago, is trying to focus on some other stuff and has got a new team to manage the show in his absence, and I’m happy to be a more regular fixture alongside the rest of the crew. I’m going to MC there semi-regularly, and generally be an extra pair of hands on deck.

If you’ve not been to a WAFP show for a while I’d recommend checking it out again because the show has evolved a bit since moving to the new venue and the new team getting stuck in.

Max Turner Prize 2020

I have mixed feelings about doing competitions because I know that I’m not really the kind of act that typically does well in them, but they’re always fun to enter because you’re usually guaranteed a decent audience compared to a typical open mic night. So if you just treat it as any other gig, and don’t focus on the competitive element, they can be great.

The Max Turner Prize at Comedy Virgins is an annual favourite – the venue’s easy for me to get home from at the end of the show, it’s a nice place where I always bump into some friendly faces, and the vibe is just generally great.

I did my first heat towards the end of January and was happy with my set – a mix of newer stuff that’s been working well and nuggets of old gold. I delivered it well, the audience went along with it, I even threw in a bit of off-the-cuff crowd work which went OK, so I walked off the stage feeling like I’d given it a good shot.

But I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t get through to the next round because every single act was fantastic. I kind of miss the time when I could go to any open mic night and at least a third of the acts would be terrible, it was good for my ego, but these days everybody seems so much better than a couple of years ago. It was a good night, but my war was over.

Until the next morning, when I got a message telling me I’d been put through to the next round as an MC’s wildcard choice by Twix who is a QUEEN AND A LEGEND AND MY EVERYTHING.

Unfortunately I let her down by completely flubbing my second round performance. I had a good set that I’ve performed a lot recently, so it was fresh in my mind and I knew it was working well, but I did a few things wrong.

  1. I tried to change too many things too late in the day. I already had a half-baked idea to throw in a topical bit about something in the news that day, but hadn’t really thought it through or practiced it properly. Also, I bumped into an act I knew in the bar before the show and had a mild panic that one of my newer bits might be too similar to some stuff I’d seen her do before. Not wanting to risk stitching her up if I went up before her, I did a quick mental re-hash of the bit to make sure it absolutely couldn’t be interpreted as being too similar to her material.
  2. For my bringer I dragged along an old school-mate, so I was kind of obliged to have a beer and a chat with him before the show, which meant that I wasn’t focusing on getting my set right in my head before I went up.
  3. I volunteered to go up first, knowing I was unlikely to go through to the next round I didn’t mind taking the bullet – but it also gave me less time to work out my plan.

In the end I completely shat the bed. I wasn’t as smooth as I’d been at other gigs recently, including the previous heat, I tripped over my words, fluffed the new bits, and once things started to go wrong panic set in and, instead of delivering the decent material I’ve been using recently, I regurgitated a bunch of older stuff that only really won me a few stilted laughs.

I felt annoyed with myself more than anything else – mostly because I knew quite a few of the acts in the room and it felt bad to do such a crappy job in front of my peers. For the past couple of months I really felt like I’d been stepping up a level, so to put in a performance that I would have been embarrassed by even two years ago dragged me right back down to earth with a bump.

But onwards and upwards. Now that I’m at a point where I have 5-10 minutes of mostly good stuff that I can (usually) make work, I’m focusing on building it into a rock-solid 10 minutes (with some backup material in the bag). Last night I was back at WAFP, and I threw in a couple of minutes of new material about my relationship with my dad, which is an area I’ve been wanting to dig into for a while because it’s a bit of a goldmine. It went well for a first outing, and I got good feedback, which I was pleased by because I completely forgot to deliver the main punchline to the new bit, so there’s definitely something to work with there.

One of my goals for this year, other than doing more MCing, is to spread my wings a bit further and do some spots outside of London. I live near Epsom, so getting out into Surrey and Sussex is easy for me, and there are a bunch of places out there where I can get spots, so I’m starting this week at Stand Up Horsham.