Sometimes the good nights take you by surprise

I had a great night at Battersea Power Comedy last week, against all the odds. It was the hottest day of the year so far, so I was expecting the mood and the turnout to be low, but as it happened there were no dropouts so we had a room full of acts and bringers, and plenty of energy.

I was glad to see a couple of my favourite acts in the bar beforehand – Thea Downey and Hubert Mayr – and a few other faces I recognise showed up too, Sam Dutton, Micah Hall and Ginnia Cheng. I enjoy doing this stuff all the same, but it’s more fun when you start getting to know the other acts and regularly bump into people you like, it really builds a sense of camaraderie.

I went up fourth – I chose a spot close to the beginning because it gave me just enough time to ease into the night, but not so long that I got distracted by the other acts and forgot my material. Another problem I have with going on later in the show is that it gives me too much time to start second guessing myself and mentally reworking my routine, instead of sticking to the plan I prepared and practiced. I like to get it out of the way early on and then enjoy the other acts.

I tried out a mix of old stuff, new versions of old stuff, and completely new stuff, and it all worked pretty well – even with an audience member dropping and breaking a glass halfway through my set I still managed to keep the room on side. I felt pretty good about it all after I got off stage. Most of the other acts did really well too, and hanging out in the bar afterwards there was a really good atmosphere. One of those good nights that took everybody by surprise.

Listening back to the recording I really notice how much I waffle in some of my bits when I could get to the punchline a lot quicker. That said, I’ve tried doing this before and sometimes the bit just doesn’t seem to work as well, even though all of the key elements are still there. Maybe the waffle is all part of the style and storytelling? All the same, I still think I need to find a way of being more economical with words without breaking the material.

There’s not much happening this month because I’m away quite a bit in August. The next gig I’ve got is back at Battersea Power on the 16th, followed by the Cavendish on the 22nd.

Gig Count: 48

I’m not racist but my baby is…

I’ve done a few spots so far this month, a couple at We Are Funny and last night I was at Comedy Virgins at the Cavendish Arms, trying out some new stuff that feels a bit hit and miss.

Most of the material I’ve been using for the past year is based on the theme of parenting . It works well most of the time, but it’s not really what I wanted to do and it’s kind of limited because if I get a younger audience they’re less likely to go along with it.

So I’ve been trying out some different stuff, talking about bigger issues, with mixed success. One of the topics I’ve tried to write about is race; I don’t know why, other than I live in a multi-cultural city and it seems like a good subject to mine for comedy.

For example; when one of my kids was very little we noticed he’d cry whenever a black person picked him up at a social gathering. That, to me, was funny – the idea that an innocent baby could be racist and the social awkwardness of that situation, so I’m trying to work that up into a bit. That’s the kind of angle I’m trying when I do material about race.

The problem is that it’s risky. The audience often gets nervous when it’s a white guy talking about this stuff, even though (I hope) I’m not punching down.

After I did some of this stuff last night (without much success, to a largely white room) the MC, Twix, hit the nail right on the head when she said to the audience “I feel like you were all looking at me while he was saying that stuff, to check whether it was OK.”

This is what I’ve come to realise about this topic. Whenever I’ve done material about race and it’s gone well, it’s always in front of a mixed audience. When it’s gone badly (and it has gone so badly on some nights) it’s been in front of a mostly white audience. It’s as if white audiences feel like they need permission from people of colour to laugh at this stuff – when the room is more balance, it somehow feels OK for them.

I already know where this is leading to – it’s just one of those skills I need to learn, read the room, understand the audience, adjust the material.

It feels fucking awful when this stuff goes badly. Bombing is one thing, but bombing because the audience thinks you’re a racist hack takes you to new depths of self-loathing.

But it’s worth it. When it’s gone well, it feels amazing – you’ve tackled a sensitive topic that a lot of other acts are scared to touch, and won over the entire room. The few nights when I’ve managed to do that gave me a tiny glimpse of greatness – and I want more of that, no matter how many times I have to bomb to get there.

Gig Count: 47