Back to the Grind at Rats Open Mic

After nearly a couple of months out of circulation I really needed to start doing some spots again, so I could try out some new material and work on building a completely new set.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m very bored of the material I’ve already got and, even though it works pretty well a lot of the time, it just isn’t interesting to me, which has got me questioning why I’m still even doing standup. I got to the point recently where I started thinking about quitting, but I really hate the idea of not doing comedy, I just want to do better comedy.

So it’s back to square one, grinding out brand new bits at five minute open mic spots.

The first spot I could get was last night at Rats Open Mic, the first show at its new venue downstairs at Central Station, Kings Cross. Rats is run by Harry Deansway who, as far as I can tell, has been running the night on and off for a few years, first at Aces and Eights in Camden, and then more recently at the Day and Night in Islington, before moving to this new venue.

My first impression was that it’s a decent place to run an open mic. There’s no stage, but there is a professional PA system and lighting, and the whole setup of the room feels like a proper comedy cellar rather than just a row of chairs lined up in front of a mic-stand.

Rats isn’t a bringer, and Harry works hard to promote the night so that it gets a genuine audience. That said, last night was understandably quiet since it was the first show at a new venue, it was pissing down, and the Queen is still dead, so in the end we had eight acts and three audience members.

I chose to go up first in the second half – somebody once told me that’s the best spot because the audience is already warmed up but you don’t have to follow anybody who might be much better than you, or who might have sucked the energy out of the room. Good advice normally, but at a quiet open mic when half of the acts who already did their spots sneak out during the break, it doesn’t really work. Also, the running order got tweaked a little because of a no-show so I ended up going second in the second half anyway, with about eight people in total left in the audience.

Despite all that, the vibe in the room was good and everybody was up for it. As a host Harry manages the energy pretty well, keeping the mood high without overselling the night and pretending it’s Live at the Apollo.

I spent a couple of minutes trying out some new stuff for the first time, which all got enough of a reaction to make me it’s they’re worth keeping, and then I wrapped up with a couple of oldish bits – including the reworked version of Racist Baby (which is much more reliable than it used to be) as a mark of respect for the Queen.

I’ve written (alright, made some rough notes) a bunch of other new material, but doing a whole set of brand new stuff seemed a bit too much, I’d rather practice a few chunks at a time and get them commited to memory, then gradually build out a whole new set piece by piece. So for now that means padding out my spots with old stuff once I’ve done the new bits.

All in all a good night – better than I was expecting, the gig was good, the material worked ok, I’m feeling positive about stand-up again.

Rats doesn’t have a Facebook page or anything for me to link to – Harry just posts a message on the Comedy Collective every six weeks or so inviting people to email him for spots, so keep an eye out there if you’re interested.

I’ve got a bunch of spots booked for We Are Funny over the next month, but that’s all, so I need to get my shit together and find some more.

I’m still here!

Just a quick update, as I realise I’ve not posted anything since May. I’ve not done many spots for the past month or so, mostly because I had a lot going on in my day job, some minor health problems (all sorted now) and then going on holiday for a while. All of which coincided with the Edinburgh Fringe, when comedy in London tends to go into hibernation for a month anyway.

I’m starting to book spots for September, but I expect it’s going to take a couple of weeks before I can actually get on stage again.

I’d like to tell you that I’ve used this time to write pages and pages of new material, but all I’ve done is ruminate on what I’m actually trying to achieve with stand-up, why I’m still doing it, and what my next steps should be.

I’ve realised that I’m sick to death of doing a lot of my current material, and need to move on from it or I’m likely to lose any motivation for continuing with stand-up comedy at all. The last time I thought about this stuff was a while ago, and my plan was to build a solid 10+ minute set that I could rely on to get laughs, and then use that as a spring board to get more gigs and then start working on better material.

I think I got to the point where I had a reasonable 10, and it was working well most of the time, but I never got as far as trying out new stuff – I was just cranking out that same set at every gig and boring myself with it.

My plan for the rest of this year is to go back to the drawing board and come up with a completely new set (even if I have to keep using some of the old stuff as a safety net) that’s closer to the kind of comedy I wanted to do when I started this.

I’ve noticed the blog is getting more visitors than ever before, despite my lack of updates, so I’m glad people are still finding this useful – hope to see some of you out there!