10 Minutes at Comedy Explosion

I did a ten minute spot at Sam Rhodes Comedy Explosion last week, gig number 98 by my reckoning. The weather was hot and I was on at the end of a long night, but despite that most people stuck around, even though the energy was flagging.

I’d spent most of the night sitting at the front, so a few acts used me as a crash-dummy for their crowd-work bits, and I tried to riff on some of that stuff at the beginning of my set as a kind of improv/callback/crowd-work thing, playing back to the guys who’d called on me earlier. For example, one act asked me to guess her age and was surprised that I got it right, so I made a crack about me spending a lot of time creeping on her Facebook page – and I think it kind of worked because it seemed clear from our interactions on stage that we both knew eachother, and I’m old enough to be her dad, which made it extra awkward.

None of it was particularly strong, but it got a bit of a reaction from the room even though they were understandably half asleep by that point. I think audiences will generally reward you for trying that kind of thing, and it doesn’t need to be killer material, it just shows that you’re present and paying attention to what’s happening in the room.

That all burned up about a minute or so of my time, and then I reeled off most of my current five minute set, with some new extended bits thrown in. They laughed at some of it, but everybody was hot and tired, and my new bits were very rough around the edges, so it was all really just a bit of a dry run and I couldn’t judge how well the new stuff works.

I think I did considerably less than ten minutes, despite running through much more stuff than usual, because there weren’t exactly a lot of laugh breaks. But I finished on a decent laugh, my current closer seems pretty reliable under most circumstances. Either way, Comedy Explosion is always a fun gig, and there were a lot of acts on that I really like: Steph Aritone, Will Hitt, Ginnia Cheng, Jacob Hatton, the legendary John Sharp, and a great act I’ve never seen before, Steve Vertigo. With a line-up like that, who gives a shit how mediocre my own set was.

I’m at a bit of a loose end until the end of August now – I have a couple of weeks holiday coming up so I’ve held back from booking any gigs, apart from the Comedy Virgins summer competition on Monday 5th (I need a bringer if anybody’s free for that – drink and a pizza on offer).

I’m not going to book any gigs until I get back from holiday, because I plan to spend a bit of time getting some more podcasts recorded, even if it means not performing for a bit, and I want to spend a bit of time writing too. I’ve done a couple of 10 minute spots recent and I’ve been woefully unprepared for both – I know I’ve got plenty of material to build up a solid 10, but I haven’t been disciplined enough to work on it.

A friend offered me some floor space in Edinbugh, if I could get myself up there with a sleeping bag, but much as I’d love to go to the Fringe it’s kind of hard to work around family and the day job. Maybe I’ll go next year, but if I’m going to invest time and money in getting there I want to be on top form to make the most of any gigs I do up there, so I’m not ready yet.

The Final We Are Funny Project Gig

I’ve done three great gigs since my last post, which has left me feeling pretty good about this ridiculous endeavour.

First up Sam Rhodes gave me a 10 minute spot at his Comedy Explosion night. Those nights are run in the public bar area of the Cornershop Bar in Shoreditch, which means you get an interesting mix of people who are there for the comedy and random drinkers.

As it happened, one of those random drinkers was a guy I know through work, who was there with his girlfriend. They were sat fairly close to the mic, so Sam and some of the other acts did a little gentle crowd work with them, to the point that most people in the place were aware of them.

This gifted me an easy opener – I told the room that I was living every open-mic comedian’s worst nightmare, because somebody from work had randomly stumbled into one of my gigs. It wasn’t particularly strong (never mind that most people from work have already been to one of my gigs anyway) but it was a genuine, and funny enough, coincidence to get a good reaction.

This was a couple of weeks ago now and I can’t remember exactly how I filled the ten minutes, other than running through my best five minutes at a more relaxed pace than usual, with extended versions of some bits, and one or two new lines. I deliberately avoided using my two old standby time-fillers (Racist Baby, and Vasectomy) because I’m kind of done with them for now.

It didn’t feel like a struggle filling the ten minutes, soI think I’ve managed to build a half decent chunk of material over recent months without realising how much new stuff I’ve written. I’ve got another 10 spot there next week, so I’m looking forward to doing a more focused set, rather than just rambling through it.

A nice night all round, and it was great to bump into Akin Omobitan, who I haven’t seen for a while.

Next up was a 5 minute spot at Angel Comedy RAW. It was my third time there and I always look forward to the gig because they always manage to fill the room with a real audience, and that makes getting laughs much easier. I ran through my usual set and it went well enough, with good solid laughs all the way through, but I annoyed myself by flubbing some of my bits so they didn’t have the impact that I know they can when I deliver them well.

I’ve got a tendency to waffle and meander too much, when I know I can deliver the exact same joke in half the time and make it much punchier. I think I just need to spend more time practicing each of the bits from beginning to end, rather than just memorising the punchlines and taking the long-winded route to get to them.

I had that on my mind when I went to the last ever We Are Funny Project gig, because I only had a three minute spot there, so I knew it would be important to be focused. I did my favourite bits from my best five minutes, with one I’ve not tried before, and I really made a conscious effort to be economical with my words, while at the same time talking more clearly and slowly to give the jokes time to land.

It was an absolutely packed night, with lots of genuine audience as well as friends of Alfie from the comedy scene who were just there to watch his swansong. The atmosphere was great, and by the time I went up (fifth of the night, I think) everybody was already well and truly up for it.

Alfie handed me a gift by letting me go up directly after his 12 year old son did a spot – the last time that happened I improvised an opener about the situation which did brilliantly, so this was a good opportunity to use it again in front of a much bigger audience.

That got me off to a strong start, and things just get better – I walked off the stage feeling like I’d done exactly what I wanted, and got the best reaction I could have hoped for. Watching the video back, I think there are probably some areas that could be improved, but I still think it was one of my best gigs.

Sad to see WAFP finish, but it was a great note to end on. Here’s my full set from the show:

Taking my colleagues to a gig

Feeling a bit more upbeat this week. The other night I did a spot at We Are Funny again, and I was worried about how it would go because, against my better judgement, I’d agreed to take a bunch of colleagues to the gig as they’d been asking about coming to watch me.

I’ve been feeling a bit rusty recently, and you can’t expect much of a turnout to an open-mic night on a warm summer Monday night, so my worry was that I’d end up doing a bad set in a dead room, with a bunch of people from work there to witness the whole train wreck.

As it turned out, the room was packed with a lively audience – really not what you expect at this time of year. The night was kicked off by the fantastic Nick Horseman, and he was followed by a strong line up of acts who kept the energy high, even the one act who was doing her first ever spot.

I was given the first spot of the second half, which is a good place to be when the night is going well – the audience is properly warmed up and feeling good, you don’t have to follow another act, so you can set the tone for the rest of the evening.

I was still a little worried about being rusty, and used the drinks break to hide in a corner and think through my set a few times.

Recently I’ve been sticking with my best five minutes of material, but trying to deliver the material in different ways to see if they work better, and maybe find ways of expanding them by coming at them from a different angle. So it’s not really a problem of remembering the running order of my bits, just what version of the bits I want to do and any extra lines I want to add to them.

By the time I got on stage I was feeling comfortable about it all and I did a by-the-numbers delivery of my strongest five minutes. Everything landed well, the new versions of old bits just felt right, I got solid laughs all the way through and finished on a strong punchline – couldn’t ask for more from a Monday night open-mic. Mostly I was just happy that it was a strong night when I had some people from work along with me.

Sad to think it’ll be my last full set at WAF. I’ll be doing 3 minutes of completely new material (as Alfie requested) on the closing night in a couple of weeks, but after that it’s over.

Next week I’ve got a 10 minute spot at Sam Rhodes Comedy Explosion on Monday, and I’ll be doing 5 minutes at Angel Comedy RAW on Wednesday. I’ve been at RAW twice before and had an amazing time on both nights, so I’m feeling pretty good about going back there. Tomorrow I’m heading to Rising Star as a bringer for a friend, but I’ve not been there for ages so it’s going to be good to check the night out again.