I hit a small milestone this week, my fiftieth open mic spot, a little over a year since I did my first one. I’d hoped to get closer to 100 by now, but real life gets in the way so I just can’t do as many gigs as I’d like and I’m resigned to the fact that I’m only going to be able to do one spot most weeks.
I was glad to be marking the occasion at Comedy Virgins at the Cavendish Arms, because I’ve had a lot of good nights there since I got started. Last night was no exception, the room was full (thanks in part to Mouch bringing half the audience with him) and almost every act was on form, nobody bombed terribly.
I got called up at the end of the night as the penultimate act. Under normal circumstances the energy would be flagging by this point, especially since Comedy Virgins tends to be a long night, but the room was still buzzing close to the finish line.
The act before me was an Italian guy who had his moments, but he tried to do some crowdwork with me* which just ended up being awkward and went on too long, and he did a couple of slightly racist bits about gypsies which made the audience uncomfortable.
As it happens, I’ve recently discovered that my dad was of Irish Traveler heritage, and since I was on right after this guy I really felt like I should try to do something with this. So I dropped my planned opener and improvised some stuff about me being a gypsy, and while it wasn’t particularly funny I think the crowd enjoyed the serendipity and the fact that I addressed the issue, and I got a small cheer for my effort.
Last week I promised myself I wasn’t going to use a set list, but I wimped out at the last minute and scribbled just a few words on my hand to remind me of the structure of the middle bit of my set. I didn’t have to look at it much and once I got into my stride I felt a lot more comfortable than I have at recent gigs, and that made my delivery feel more natural too. The audience seemed to go along with me and I got some decent laughs all the way through.
The only problem was that because I improvised my opener my timing was all over the place and I got the one minute warning much sooner than I expected, so instead of wrapping it up with my usual closer I finished on a bit that usually goes in the middle. It’s a perfectly serviceable bit but the premise is better than the punchline, so it’s not strong enough to end a set on.
All the same, I was happy with how well it all went and I left the stage feeling like I’d done a decent job. I really need to ween myself back off hand-notes again though – I think the trick is to use progressively fewer and fewer words each gig until you don’t need anything at all.
I’m on holiday again next week, and then I’ve got spot back at Battersea Power Comedy on the 6th of September.
*Tip for newbies, if you’re going to do crowdwork don’t pick on other comedians, because they’ll just try to be smartarses and derail your set.