My only gig this week was my heat for the Max Turner Prize – an annual competition run by Comedy Virgins at the Cavendish Arms. I’d checked out the line up for the entire contest and knew there were some strong acts participating, so I didn’t harbour any pretentions of winning, but I was looking forward to the experience all the same.
To all intents and purposes the night runs like a standard open mic night at the Cav, except your bringer is given a score-card to rate the acts. At the end of each night the two acts with the highest scores go through to the final.
My plan was to deliver the best version I could of my strongest five minutes. I’ve done that set a few times now and there have been nights when it’s gone brilliantly, so I felt confident I could pull it off. Things didn’t really line up the way I’d hoped though – I wanted to run through my set a few times that afternoon to cement it in my memory, but work was busier than usual so that didn’t happen.
So when I went up I had to try a bit too hard to remember my material, and that meant my delivery wasn’t as natural as it has been before. It felt more like my fifth gig than my 22nd. The audience bought into a lot of the bits, but it was a young crowd and my parenting jokes didn’t land as well as they do with more middle-aged audiences.
I also made a stupid fuckup and completely forgot to do one of the strongest parts of the set, so when I got to the end I checked my watch and realised I was a minute short. This threw me a little because I couldn’t understand what had happened. My closer worked ok so I should have just walked off on a good laugh, but instead I panicked and made a shit joke about finishing early because the audience didn’t laugh enough.
All that said, under normal circumstances I’d be happy with how the spot went – it was far from my best performance, but people laughed enough to convince me that the material works, I just need to practice it more so that it becomes second nature. It was a great night too, the winning acts were very strong ; Fatiha El-Ghorri, and William Stone.
The experience has reinforced a couple of things I already kind of know. First, I need to get better at practicing my sets before I go on stage – I can only do one or two gigs a week, so I need to practice saying my material out loud more often at home to help it sink in. Also I need to work on more new material – most of my best stuff right now is about parenting, which obviously isn’t going to work on all audiences, so I need to be able to pull some other stuff out of my bag of tricks.
I’ve got a couple of gigs next week – Rising Stars (where I bombed horribly last year after trying to do some political stuff) and then back to the Cavendish.