Navel-gazing after my last gig of the year

I wrapped up my first full year of doing standup (nearly 18 months in total) with a spot at Comedy Virgins at the Cavendish Arms in Stockwell. It’s always a good night, and my set went down well – I got into the clap-off, but was soundly beaten by Luke Chilton who was so on fire he should have been kicked out of the club for violating health and safety regulations.

I was hoping to have reached 100 gigs this year, but I’ve only managed to get to about 70 – although I’m not too disappointed because I feel like I’ve got a lot better and that’s been reflected in feedback I’ve been given from people on the scene.

I think the best thing I’ve done this year has been to stop trying out completely new material and focus on practicing and developing my main five minute set. I’ve cut weak material, improved bits and performed it so many times that I no longer need to psyche myself up before I go up to the mic – it’s seared on my memory, and I know I can deliver it confidently every time.

And that’s not to say I’ve completely abandoned writing new stuff. By focusing on refining that one set, I’ve been able to come up with longer versions of the same bits and added related material, so now I think the whole thing could probably fill about 8 minutes, maybe more. Most of the spots I do are only five minutes, so every gig I try out a slightly different version of the set to make sure all the material stays fresh in my mind.

It’s taken discipline for me to do this, because I really, really want to try out lots of different material (I can honestly write more shit than I’ll ever have enough stage-time to perform) but I realised that I’ll only make progress if I focus on getting good. I could do 5 minutes of mediocre, untested new material every gig, but that would get me nowhere – you need to work on this stuff to make it shine.

My goal for the new year is to build it up into a watertight 10 minute set, and start trying to get some longer spots so I can get used to doing them. I’m also going to try some gong-shows like the The Blackout at Up the Creek, and the King Gong at the Comedy Store, to see how I get on with a more rowdy bear-pit style audience. I’ve already booked a Blackout spot on January 31st, and King Gong is on Monday of that week, so I’ll try to get on there too.

People keep asking me variations of “Where are you going with this?” which I don’t have an answer for. Would I like to go pro eventually? Definitely, but realistically comedy is never going to pay as well as my day job, and so long as I’ve got a mortgage and three kids, I can’t really abandon a stable career to chase my dreams.

I don’t have a real plan. It’s fun, I seem to be OK at it, and I absolutely fucking love doing it, so I’m just going to crack on at my own pace and see where the road takes me.

I keep bumping into more and more of you at gigs (“Hey, are you that basic comedy guy?”) – thanks for reading, I’m glad this stupid little thing I’m doing is in any way helpful or interesting. You’ll always find me at the bar in the break, come and say hello.

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