Losing the room at Sam Rhodes Comedy Explosion

Robbie Fox/Neuroses – photo by Aaron Shipper

I did a spot at Sam Rhodes Comedy Explosion last night, although Sam himself wasn’t there and Basil Jamm took over MC duties. It’s always an interesting night because the show usually takes place in the main bar area of The Cornershop, in the middle of Shoreditch, so even on a Monday it’s busy and you get a random mix of drinkers alongside people (mostly acts and a handful of friends) who are there for the comedy.

Sometimes this goes well, sometimes not so much, and that’s all part of the fun – pro comedians have to perform in all sorts of situations, so the quicker we get used to handing difficult rooms, the better.

I was the penultimate act of the night, so by the time I went up the room had thinned out a bit and people were ready to go home, but there was still a bit of life in the place. The real problem was that that the back of the bar a bunch of drunk guys were talking loudly, heckling the acts a little bit, but most just having their own conversation and distracting everybody. Because it’s a bar and not everybody’s there for the comedy, you can’t really do much about it. People asked them to quieten down but they weren’t interested, and a few of the acts really struggled with it.

On top of this, the front row consisted of a French guy who was there with a couple of English girls, all three a bit drunk. This was a mixed blessing – they were into the comedy and played nicely when acts tried to do crowdwork with them, but they got drunker throughout the night, and one of the girls kept explaining the jokes to the guy. Towards the very end they stopped paying attention entirely and started snogging each other, which was kind of weird when there was a guy shouting jokes into a microphone less than two meters away from them.

So the room was in chaos when it was eventually my turn to take the mic. I had planned to try some new material mixed in with my current set, but by that point I was only really focused on trying not to die horribly – although after watching other acts flounder I wasn’t hopeful.

I didn’t have any plan for dealing with any of this other than steam-rolling my way through. I kept the mic close to my mouth to be as loud as I could without distorting too much, and launched into my set with as much energy as I could muster. It seemed to work, everybody shut up and listened, or if people were still talking I was drowning them out.

I’ve been trying to get better at leaving pauses to give my punchlines time to land, but last night I didn’t leave any space for the hecklers to get a toe-hold, using amplification and pace to power through. It was a pretty messy set, my delivery wasn’t great, but the material was strong enough to get me through and I think I did OK under the circumstances – people listened and they laughed at some of it. I tried one new bit and completely fluffed it, and my closer fell flat, but I didn’t feel like it was a complete disaster.

I didn’t recognise too many of the other acts; I know Mouch and I’ve been bumping into Mike Lash on and off since I started last year. I hadn’t seen Aziz Vora before, but liked his stuff, and the same goes for Arnold Chukwu, but I think the highlight of the show for me was Robbie Fox doing his Neuroses character.

So, bit of an odd night, but those are the breaks. This week’s lesson – figure out some ways of dealing with noisy rooms where people aren’t paying attention to the show. Shouting over them sort of worked, but others have suggested getting them on side with some crowd-work, so that’s something I’ll need to work on.


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