Last week I was in San Francisco for a work trip, so I checked out the open mic scene before I went and planned to do some spots while I was there. In the end I only managed to do one spot – a combination of jet-lag, catching a cold on the way out, and a busy work schedule meant I couldn’t get to as many gigs as I’d hoped.
I landed on Sunday afternoon, checked into my hotel and then went to an open mic night called OMJG, run in a gay nightclub called OMG on Sixth Street close to my hotel. The gig started at 5:30pm so I got there on time to make sure I got a spot, but I didn’t need to be so punctual. In contrast to the way London gigs work, acts just drifted in and out of this place throughout the couple of hours it ran, and nobody had problems getting a spot.
I think the locals must treat it as a warm-up before they go to do other spots later in the evening, and there doesn’t seem to be a problem with acts leaving the gig once they’ve done their spot. At first the place was pretty empty so I thought I’d just be performing to a handful of other acts, but eventually a group of four boisterous gay guys came in and sat in front of the stage, so there was at least a small audience.
To be honest I was so spaced from having only just got off a 13 hour flight that I pretty much gabbled nonsense at them for five minutes. I tried to address the fact that I was a Brit by opening with some stuff about Brexit (“I was going to talk to you guys about Brexit, back home we’ve got a problem with mad old racists taking control of the country and fucking everything up for us, but I suppose Americans wouldn’t find that stuff relatable in any way…”).
It didn’t really get much and I probably should have just gone straight in with a punchy opener instead, but I think they gave me a break because I was obviously out of my element, so they were friendly enough. I fumbled through some of my usual material but did a shitty job of it, got a few laughs and a couple of groans at the nasty bits, but it was undeniably a complete car crash. I think the audience were more impressed with my accent than my material.
The other acts were friendly and I stuck around to the end of the gig, although by that point I was pretty much the only person watching the final spot as everybody else drifted off.
I got out of there at about 7pm, and the next gig was at a nearby Irish bar at 9pm. I didn’t want to sit in a bar by myself for a couple of hours so I went back to my hotel room; a fatal move because once I sat in the armchair I was done for and couldn’t summon the energy to go back out. I told myself I’d do more spots later in the week, but I didn’t get a chance to slip away from work, so that was that. I’m glad I did at least one.
Back in London this week I did my first spot at Sam Rhodes Comedy Explosion in Dalston. Unusually for an open mic it takes place in the main bar of a pub on Shoreditch High Street, rather than a side room, which means that even though it’s not a bringer night there’s still a half decent chance of a proper audience showing up.
It’s a nice gig, Sam plays MC and keeps the mood bouncy with his own up-beat material, and the random audience element makes it more fun. The night is split into three sections, and while you know which section you’ll be in beforehand, where you are in the running order for that section is the luck of the draw. I prefer this to the nights where you get called up completely at random, because at least you have a rough idea of when you need to mentally prepare to go up.
I went up towards the end of the middle section and, while I didn’t kill, I did get respectable laughs for most of my stuff, even if my closer flopped a bit. I think I need to do a bit of writing, because I’m getting comfortable with my current chunk of material and I’m starting to sense where it already works well and where it needs to be tightened up. My closer used to get a couple of big reliable laughs, but it’s not working as well these days, maybe because I’m not delivering it with the same gusto.
I was listening to an interesting podcast recently on the topic of commitment in comedy, and how being really committed to a bit can help you make controversial material work, so I think I’m going to try that before I do any major re-writing.
I bumped into a few people I recognise at the gig:
- The majestic Ruby Carr was aflame, and I both hate and love her for being so good at this.
- Micah Hall, I’ve seen around quite a bit recently and it’s nice to see how well his act is developing.
- Ginnia Cheng, we’ve been chummy for a while now and she gets better every time I see her.
Also, Vanessa Hua, introduced herself during one of the breaks because it turns out she’s a reader: *waves* – a few people who read the blog have introduced themselves at gigs and they always start by saying “I know this probably sounds a bit weird, but I read your blog…” Honestly, it’s not weird, I like saying hello to you lot.
I’m still not happy about only doing one gig a week, but life’s changing at the moment – so it might be a bit easier to step up to a couple of gigs every week soon.
I was supposed to be at the Cavendish this Wednesday, but I’ve had to cancel that due to a work thing, so my next gig is back at Comedy Explosion next Monday.