Laughing Horse competition, and a bad night at We Are Funny

For most of this year I’ve been trying to focus on getting 7 minutes of material polished for the So You Think You’re Funny competition in June, but about a month ago I was told I’d got a place in the Laughing Horse competition as well, which is a 5 minute spot.

My heat was a couple of weeks ago at the Savoy Tup on the Strand. I was feeling comfortable about it, because I’ve got my best five minutes committed to memory, along with a couple of extra bits I can add in if necessary, so I knew I could at least deliver a competent set.

When I arrived at the venue I bumped into Louise Bastock, who I’ve been a fan of ever since I saw her at Funny Feckers during one of my earliest spots last year, so I had a chinwag with her and Sarah Southern who I’ve also bumped into once or twice before. Once the gig started the room was packed, as some of the acts had brought a lot of friends, so on the plus side there was a decent audience, but on the downside I knew it was going to be tough to win the audience vote.

Because the room was so full the organisers asked second half acts to wait in the bar, which kind of threw me off a little bit – hard to explain, but it meant that I couldn’t get a feel for the energy in the room. I was the second to last act, so I at least had a bit of time in the second half to psyche myself up.

When it was my turn to go up I fell foul of a wonky mic stand, which fell over as I tried to move it out of the way, and that kind of derailed my opener – I can’t really complain because all the other acts had the same issue and I was warned about it. I got back into my stride, but I didn’t do a great job with my delivery and tripped over my words a couple of times, fluffing a key punchline at one point.

I’ve got to get better at dealing with an audience that doesn’t laugh at the right time. With my good set, I know that it’s going to get laughs, but often they just come in unexpected places, and that throws me – either a usually reliable punchline will get nothing, or people will laugh at some part of the setup, and I tend to fumble awkwardly rather than gracefully moving on.

It went OK, I got laughs, but certainly not my finest hour and, needless to say, I didn’t get through to the next stage.

This week I had a spot at We Are Funny Project on Wednesday. I’d been feeling a bit sick of doing my usual routine so much and decided I’d do something else for the sake of my sanity. The problem was that because of a full on week of all the usual Real Life Bullshit, I never got around to planning out a new set.

I got to the gig a little later than the act check-in deadline, and the MC/organiser told me that he’d given my spot to a walk-in. On the one hand I was annoyed at myself, but at the same time I was a little relieved because I hadn’t done my homework. I could relax, so I grabbed a drink and took a seat to stick around for the show. I wasn’t going to fuck off early in a huff because that just seemed like a dumb move. Also, I knew Hubert Mayr was going to be at the gig, and since I’ve been chatting with him a bit online I wanted to watch his set and say hello in person.

After a while the MC told me that since I was being cool about it, he’d let me have a spot after all. I was happy, but I had fuck all material – I could have just done the stuff I’ve been practicing a lot, but I’ve done that for the past two times at WAFP and really didn’t want to do the same stuff again.

I decided to open with a bit from my usual set that seems fairly reliable, and then added a bunch of half-formed, untested bits after that to fill out the rest of the spot. It did not go well – it wasn’t the worst I’ve bombed, but it was definitely one of my shittiest spots.

To make matters worse, the MC gave me a really nice intro (“I always have to put this guy on after 9:30 because he’s so fucking dark I’m worried I’ll get complaints”) – so I just felt bad that I couldn’t deliver the goods after that build-up. Also, the thing about We Are Funny Project is that it seems to attract the more serious open mic acts, and there are always one or two professionals trying out new stuff. With that kind of audience I at least want to look competent.

Only got myself to blame though – if I’m going to break discipline and randomly try new stuff instead of polishing the tested material, I should at least make time to write it and practice it first. Life gets in the way, but so does everybody else’s. And yeah, I’m probably being melodramatic – bombing is all part of the process, everybody has shit nights where new material doesn’t work, but I still want to do better.

Hubert’s set was great, I also saw Amy Xander being fantastic again (I think she’s been at every gig I’ve done for the past two months), and Adam Flood was impressive too.

After the gig I stuck around for a beer with Hubert and Adam – they’ve been going for about the same time as me but gigging much more frequently (lucky, childless bastards). The conversation made me think about where I’m going with this and what kind of progress I can realistically hope to make given that I’m limited to one or two spots a week at best.

For the time being I’m not going to enter any more competitions, because they make me feel like I have to practice the same set over and over so I can do a good job on the night. But I don’t want to do that, I want to try out lots of different stuff and give myself an opportunity to figure out what material I like doing the most, rather than clinging onto the same five minutes of stuff just because I know it’ll work reasonably well.

I thought entering competitions might be a good idea, but they’ve kind of killed the fun of stand-up a bit for me because now every spot feels like it needs to be a rehearsal for the competition. I’d rather just have fun with it and do whatever I feel like each week.

I’m at Comedy Virgins next week.

Gig Count to Date: 38

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