Comedy Store King Gong and Heavenly Comedy

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.

All new sleaze and filth at Comedy Virgins

I had my first real experience of bombing on Tuesday when I tried to do some edgy political stuff at Rising Stars, so for Wednesday’s spot at Comedy Virgins at The Cavendish Arms I wanted to repair the damage to my ego by getting some easier laughs.

A friend came to watch me and she hadn’t seen any of my material before, so I was tempted to do my original five minute set to make sure it was a good show. But I promised myself I’d keep trying out new stuff, and I didn’t want to go back on that, so I pulled together a bunch of so far unused smutty material that I had lying around on my hard drive and smushed it all together into a vaguely cohesive five minute set.

I was about the fifth act of the night, following some pretty strong comics, including the excellent Akin Omobitan and Ania Magliano-Wright.  Even though my confidence had taken a battering the night before, I was having to use notes because the material was completely unpracticed, and I was following some great acts, I was feeling kind of zen-like.

I’m getting more comfortable on stage every week, but this week I slipped into genuinely not giving a fuck about being up there, and it felt good. The new material went down pretty well, they laughed at most of it even though my delivery was rough because it’s the first time I’ve done this stuff.

It feels like the set has got legs, so I’m going to keep working on it for a while. Thematically it’s not too far removed from the five minutes I’ve already been doing, so I should be able to mix it all up a bit when I need to.

Next week I’m on at Heavenly Comedy in Shepherds Bush on Wednesday, and I’ll be trying to get a walk-in spot somewhere else if I can.

Bombing hard at Rising Star – open mic #14

After trying out some new material at Lion’s Den last week, and it going reasonably well for a first pass, I wanted to use two gigs this week to tighten it up a little. Last night I performed at Rising Star in Holborn – things did not go well.

Firstly, I still haven’t memorised this material, so I was using a set list and I couldn’t really deliver it with as much confidence as I’d like, so that didn’t help matters. The first couple of minutes went OKish, I was getting some laughs but a lot of the stuff that worked well last week just fell flat.

Then about halfway in I did a bit about race which got a big laugh at Lion’s Den but landed really badly with the Rising Stars audience, and that just killed the energy so that there was no coming back. The rest of my set was an uphill battle to win back any shred of respect from the audience but they were having none of it. A few titters here and there at best. I’ve got a saver that I use when a joke falls flat, which reliably gets a decent laugh, and I used that as my closing line to try and walk out of there with a little bit of dignity, but even that only got a half-hearted reaction from them.

I’m glad this happened because I think bombing is all part of a baby-comic’s development, so it’s good that I now know what it feels like to die on stage. It’s not the end of the world, you get off stage, watch the rest of the acts, then slink away home to regroup and get up again as soon as you can.

The worst bit, however, was that the MC felt the need to apologise to the audience for some of my material – I didn’t think it was too far over the line, but that made me think I’d badly misjudged my tone.  I don’t know what to do with the set – I know that some bits work, some other bits work with different audiences, and some of it is massively fucking offensive to some people.

I’m up again tonight at The Cavendish, and I think I’ll resist the temptation to fall back on my polished, easy material, but I’m not doing the stuff from last night either. I’ve got some new material on safer topics, which I think I can deliver pretty well, so we’ll see how that goes. I don’t want to abandon the political stuff entirely, but I probably need to rethink a lot of it before doing it again.

Open mic spot #13 – New Stuff

I’ve been slipping in one or two new bits in my set during my past few spots, but I’ve really wanted to try out a completely different five minutes. I’ve got a bunch of different sets sitting on my hard drive in various states, and it took me a while to decide which one I wanted to wheel out this week.

I had thought about trying to do a clean five minutes as a challenge but it’s not what I’m about,  so I settled on some political material because that was really why I started doing this in the first place before I got distracted by dick-jokes. The set is a bit of a mish mash of different bits covering politics, brexit, racial issues, and it doesn’t really tie together brilliantly just yet, but I think it’s got potential.

I performed it for the first time at Lion’s Den Comedy Car Crash this week, and it didn’t go too badly.  Lion’s Den feels like a good place to try out really new stuff that I’m unsure about, because it’s a friendly environment and, frankly, the place seems to attract such a random selection of misfits that you can get away with almost anything.

I’ve got to the point with my original five minute set that I can be sure it’s going to work well every time I do it, so going back to completely untested material is a bit of a wrench. Back to using notes and not knowing the material well enough to deliver it with confidence, back to having no idea if people will laugh at any of it.

I stumbled my way through the set and it felt very rough, a lot of it fell flat, but I got a few decent laughs from some bits. There were a couple of bits that didn’t work and I’m not sure if it’s because the material just isn’t good or if they need more commitment in the delivery, so I’m going to have to try doing them with more conviction a couple of times before I write them off.

The bits that got the biggest laughs were for the racial material, which I found interesting because I wasn’t sure how people would take a white guy doing those kind of jokes , but it went better than expected. I got some good feedback from people too, which encouraged me to believe the set has got potential.

Also this week I went to watch my friend, Pauline Stobbs, at Funny Feckers in Camden. Every time I go to that night it’s absolutely hysterical – never seen a weak act, always end up laughing my cock off the whole evening. Too many good acts to name them all, but my personal favourites were Madeline Campion, Hassan Dervish, and Micky Overman.

Next week I’m at Rising Stars in Holborn on Tuesday and the Cavendish in Stockwell on Wednesday.  I’m aiming to work on this new five minutes as much as possible, but on Wednesday I might have a bunch of friends who haven’t seen me perform before, and if they show up I’ll probably just  do my good set for them rather than subject them to the work in progress material.

Open mic spots 11 and 12 – adding in a little new material

I’ve done two spots over the past couple of weeks – a walk-in at The Cavendish Arms last week, and a pre-booked spot at We Are Funny Project yesterday evening. I’ve been itching to try out a new five minute set, but I’ve been too busy/lazy to work out exactly what that routine should contain and spend some time drumming it into my head.

Instead, on both nights, I just tried opening with a couple of new bits that don’t feel too out of place alongside my current material. On the one hand, this makes life easy because I don’t have to try and remember an entire new set, and it means I can still finish strong on reliable material. It does feel lazy though, and I find that it kind of messes up my flow so that nothing works quite as well as it did when I was just delivering my polished material as a complete five minute set.

I think what I really need to do is go through all the new stuff I’ve written and try to craft it into an entirely new five minutes that works as well as the old one. I’m not sure of the best way forward – I like the idea of having a lot of different bits that will work well regardless of what other bits I use in the same set, but it’s starting to feel like working on entirely separate standalone five minute sets will be more successful.

Also, I’m aware that I’m still new to this, so I’m probably over-thinking it and should just keep churning out new material however I can – once I’ve got 100 gigs under my belt I can start worrying about how I fit longer sets together.

Anyway, both nights were pretty good. The first night I performed at WAFP, the place was half empty and it felt like an uphill battle, but last night a first-timer decided it would be good to bring all of his friends along so, along with a decent number of randoms who wandered in from the bar, that meant the place was packed and we had a respectable audience size.

I went on second, after a strong opener, and benefited from a crowd who were still up for it. Most of my stuff worked, but it was quite a young audience and the laughs came in different places, sometimes with more of a slow-burn than usual, and I struggled to get my rhythm – especially since I had changed the set around to accommodate the new bits. This also meant that I hadn’t properly judged the length of the set, and I think I finished at around four minutes rather than using my full five, but I’d got a decent laugh for one of my older bits and decided that was an appropriate time to leave the stage.

At one point I felt like a usually reliable bit had bombed, so I started to wheel out a line I’ve got to help me bounce back from a dead joke, but as I was speaking the original joke started to land and they were laughing over my recovery line, which itself ended up getting a decent laugh once I got it out. I can’t complain – at least they were laughing and now I know that my recovery line works.

A couple of acts stood out – Timothy Banks was good, my kind of sleazy, and I liked Sean Patrick too.

The previous week I was at the Cavendish Arms again – a friend was in town and wanted to see me perform, but I didn’t have anything booked so I thought this would be my best shot at getting a walk in. I got a spot but unfortunately I went up so late that my friend had already had to head off to get his last train home. All the same, it was good to be there, especially since I hadn’t done anything the week before, and I bumped into a few acts I’ve met before.

The feeling was the same as last night though – I’d been too lazy to properly write and rehearse a new set, so I just kicked off with a couple of new bits and then did as much of my old material as I could squeeze into the remaining time.

Notable acts included James Meakin, Susan Steed, and Akin Omobitan.

I’m on a business trip to the US next week, which means I’ll have lots of time sitting around in planes, airports, and hotels – I plan to use that time to sort through all the material I’ve written and put it into a completely new five minute routine. I’ve got spots booked for Rising Stars and the Cavendish on 21/22 November, and I’ll be trying for walk-ins during the rest of the month. My plan is to start doing two spots most weeks – at present I’m averaging about three a month which isn’t good enough.