I kicked this week off with a trip to the Comedy Store on Monday night for their monthly open mic night, the King Gong show. I hadn’t been able to reserve a spot but I wanted to scope the night out to see how it works, and there was a chance I could still go up because the MC asks for audience volunteers on the night. I didn’t bother volunteering, as it turned out, because I realised quickly that I needed to rework some of my material to do well here.
It’s a much bigger night than any of the mics I’ve done so far – the Comedy Store is obviously a big venue and it was absolutely packed with hundreds of people. That doesn’t bother me so much, but it’s a very boisterous audience with much more heckling than a typical amateur night, so you need to be mentally prepared for it.
There were 31 acts with booked spots, plus about 4 people from the audience. Each act gets five minutes, but three random members of the audience are given red cards to hold up if they don’t like the act (with vocal encouragement from the rest of the audience). Once you get three red cards, the MC will hit the gong and your time is up.
Some of the worst acts were gonged off in under 30 seconds, and a lot of good acts didn’t last more than a couple of minutes. A handful of really strong comedians made it to the end of their five minutes, and their reward was to perform another minute at the end of the night, with a clap-off to decide the winner.
It was a fun night but completely different to anything I’ve done before. The audience gets bored quickly so you need lots of fast paced punch material – not necessarily one liners, but definitely something that captures their attention straight off the bat. A lot of decent acts struggled because they spent too long on meandering setups.
I’m feeling mentally prepared for it now that I’ve checked the night out, so I’m going to try for a spot at the next one in January, which gives me plenty of time to hone five minutes of my punchiest stuff.
On Wednesday I did a spot at Heavenly Comedy in Shepherd’s Bush, run by the excellent Njambi McGrath. Nothing particularly exciting to report about that, it’s a pretty small night in the basement of a pub and not a bringer, so the audience was mostly other acts.
I did the same set of new dick jokes that I’d debuted last week, but don’t think I did a particularly great job. At this point I’m just trying to do the set enough times to memorise it so I can deliver it with more confidence, and to figure out which bits I can tighten up and which need to be dropped.
It went OK, they laughed at most of it, but a few bits that went well last week got nothing this week – including my closer. I was so surprised when it bombed that I didn’t even remember to use my trusty recovery line that always delivers a decent laugh to get me back on track. All the same, it was a fun night and a good opportunity to practice the set – it gave me some ideas for how to improve it.
My comedy-comrade Pauline Stobbs did a great set on the same night – she really seems to have mastered the art of looking comfortable in front of an audience. Probably all the ketamine she does.
Next week I’ve got a spot at We Are Funny in Dalston on Tuesday, where I’ll try the new smut again, and then on Thursday I’m going to try for a walk-in at Comedy Virgins – if I can get on there I’m thinking about revisiting the political stuff one more time to see if I can make it work.
Let’s be careful out there.