Dusting off some hacky old material

I was back at We Are Funny Project in Dalston last night and, while it was a little quieter than it has been recently, the room was still buzzy with plenty of audience and a good atmosphere.

I’ve been at WAF quite a lot recently so I had a bit of a dilemma about what material to do. On the one hand I’ve got a few competitions coming in April and I want to hone my best five minute set ahead of that, but I feel bad about constantly doing the same material at the same gig.

So I’ve been compromising with myself and throwing a minute of two of new material into each set, alongside the tested stuff I’m trying to practice. This time I dusted off a few old bits about porn that I first tried about a year ago and quickly abandoned because a) they were only getting a mediocre response and, b) pretty much every open mic act does porn jokes and it just felt a bit hack.

I’m not sure what made me want to try this stuff again – I suppose I wanted to put some different material into my set but haven’t done much writing recently, so it seemed like an easy solution.

Things have calmed down again at work , so I’m feeling a lot more at ease than I have been for the past couple of months, and was really up for the gig. I forgot to find out where I was in the running order and normally that would put me a little on edge but this night I didn’t really care, I just relaxed and made a conscious effort to be in the moment, soaking up what was happening at the gig rather than staying in my own head.

As it turned out I got called up to close the first half, which caught me on the back foot a little because by that point I’d assumed I was in the second half, but I was in the mood to just roll with it. My set was sloppy because I’ve not been focused on comedy recently, so I waffled a bit too much and my delivery wasn’t as tight as it has been. All the same, it went well enough. Most of my punchlines landed and because I’d been paying attention to the other acts I was able to bounce off some of the things they’d said earlier.

But the really interesting thing was that the old porn material worked really well and got me my two biggest laughs of the night, even though it was very rough because I haven’t used that stuff for ages. I think just having a bit more confidence and stage presence than I did a year ago made a world of difference, and a better developed instinct for how to tell the joke helped. It’s probably worth digging through some more old, abandoned material to see if I can breathe new life into any of it.

All in all I felt good about the set. More than anything else it was just fun to do, compared to recent gigs that have felt like hard work because of all the other stuff I’ve had going on.

I bumped into a few acts I know, Steph Aritone, Vitaly Filipsky, and Nick Everritt, who all smashed it. The second half of the show was run by a guest MC who had been through one of the WAFP MCing courses, a guy called Simon Whitaker who did a top job and had some great material.

I don’t have anything booked for next week, but it’s the Comedy Store King Gong show on Monday so I might go along to that and see if I can get one of the audience-volunteer spots.

Gig Count: 80

A fun, low-key night at Sam Rhodes’ Comedy Explosion

I did a spot at Sam Rhodes’ Comedy Explosion at the Rocksteady in Dalston this week. To be honest, I’m stressed out of my nut with work at the moment and not focusing much on standup, but I’d booked the gig and didn’t want to bale on it. As it happened it was qute nice to get to the gig early, grab a burger and pint, and spend some time decompressing in peace and quiet before the gig.

I chatted with the other acts as they started showing up – although apart from Sam and Tom Goodhead (who I’d met at a previous gig) I didn’t really know too many of the other acts. It was a fairly quiet night to begin with, and by the time it was my turn to go up at the start of the third section, it was even quieter.

I wasn’t too worried about this – Sam did his best to squeeze some energy out of the depleted room, and the mood was good. Sometimes you have to remind yourself it’s just an open mic night, not every set has to kill, and it’s fine to just get up and dick about for five minutes.

I started off by riffing on some stuff that Sam had been talking about – it wasn’t particularly funny, but it got me into a conversational vibe, which set the tone for the rest of my set. I launched into my usual material, but at a more relaxed pace – having a couple of beers in me meant that I kind of meandered a bit too, which was a mixed blessing.

On the one hand I waffled a lot and added too much fat into bits that are usually tight, but the upside was that I stumbled into one or two laughs that I wasn’t expected. For example, I have a joke about putting my kids on a vegan diet which is punchy and works pretty well, but after I did it I started rambling about how vegan jokes are getting pretty hacky. I don’t know why I did it, other than just being a bit drunk and undiscplined, and most of it was pointless time-wasting, but one thing I said got a good laugh, so I’ve written that into the bit as a tag.

Most of my usual stuff got as much of a laugh as could be expected under the circumstances, but one newish bit that I’ve been trying out landed really well and I had to wait for the room to stop laughing before I could carry on. It’s a joke I posted on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, that I didn’t think would work particularly well as a standup bit, but a few people liked it so I tried it out on stage a few times and it’s worked well on every occasion.

So in the end it turned out to be a good night – I chilled out and stopped thinking about work for the evening, and just relaxing and messing about a bit helped improve some of my material. I should do that a bit more; instead of treating every gig as though it has to be a strong performance, just have some fun and not worry about fucking up.

No gigs next week because of work, but after that things should calm down again and I can focus more on comedy.