Tuesday, 10 August 2010

back to school


So I enrolled at one of my local colleges for an introduction to stand up comedy. I kid you not, there is such a class...who knew!

The class was taught by Charlie Ross, a very funny local Glasgow comedian who has a bizarre dalek fetish. Nuff said.

The class was a lot of fun, and taught me a few things that hadn’t even occurred to me. It was only about 10 weeks long, and at the end of it was my very first gig in the basement of a bar (Maggie Mays) The timing was great, as it took place right in the middle of the Glasgow comedy festival. Most of the people on the course with me seem to have disappeared, so I assume they didn’t continue to try after their first gig. Oh well, just me then.

But the class was an odd experience. We started off with about 20 people, and ended with 7 - a high attrition rate. It seemed that a lot of the people in the class thought comedy was going to be easy; one even said he was ready to do his first DVD already....like I said, disappeared without a trace. One of the people also seemed, for some reason, to think that their routine was going to be written for them, like it was some sort of stand up experience ride at a shitty theme park!

The class was interesting in many ways, but excruciating in others. Some people do not only think they are funny when they are clearly not, but also some people think they are geniuses when they are in fact morons. Let me explain. The way I see it is that most of the people who are funny in the pub will not be funny on the stage. If you think that a joke begins with something along the lines of "a black guy, a Jew and a Irishman" then trust me, shoot yourself...it’s all for the best in the end. One guy’s set was a joke based entirely around the fact that his wife was a slut. We hadn’t met her, but we all still knew that was probably the case. And then there was the "intellectual" type who kept saying things like "When I played the comedy club" or "when I was on stage with *insertnamehere*" over and over, but as soon as you questioned him on any of this he found an excuse to not talk about it. We in the class had a special pet name for him - we called him the egotistical bulls**ter (seemed appropriate).

I won’t bore you with the details and I won’t pick on anyone on this blog as, well, I’m a gentleman - but I will say that of the 7 who finished the course most, including me, were at least OK!

Every week more and more people went missing from the class. I battled through snow to get to the class, and moved house in the middle of it, and still attended - such was my dedication - but some just couldn’t be bothered once they realised it was actually hard work.

After the third week, we were encouraged to write our own 5 minute set, and almost everyone did just that (except DVD boy, who assumed he was just organically funny). Then every week we ended up performing and refining the idea until we had something that Charlie thought would work. This was a great experience, but didn’t really work. You see, it’s quite soul destroying to do the same set week after week to the same people who have heard it soooo many times that they all stopped laughing weeks ago. So, by the time the night of my first gig arrived, I was utterly convinced that I was about to witness my total and abject failure. I was fourth on, so sat in the “green room” (so called because of the mould that grew on the sofa I assume) and waited with - to my surprise - no nerves what so ever.

The gig started with local comedian Scott Agnew doing the compering, and doing a great job as always. Everyone was relaxed and enjoying the evening. Someone was talking during his introduction...“So, please don’t talk during the show…” Scott hinted. Someone was still talking “…or I will have to chuck you out” he added subtly...still talking…


He was right to do it; it was necessary. Guess whose friend she was?? DVD BOY! Suddenly it all becomes clear.

It did however change the mood of the room a fair bit.

First up was a very posh young lad with an accent that made the queen look common. He stood up and started his set. All was well until someone in the sound booth managed to play my intro music over the top of him, but to his credit he dug down into his Britishness and kept calm and carried on. His set was over in what seemed like seconds. Next up was a little old lady whose attitude was great - she said, I might as well try this, I could be dead in a minute (nice one!). Her set was based around being as common as muck, which was a nice counterpoint to the previous guy. After her, a young girl who did a character act playing a very ditzy bimbo (oh jeeez, I hope it was an act). Then it was me.

My music came on and Scott introduced me. I heard my name being spoken over the PA system for the first time and walked with more than my fair share of confidence onto the stage. I squinted for a moment at what I could see of the audience and started my set. I say squinted - it would be more appropriate to say I walked on stage and was blinded as a green light scorched my retinas to dust! I started talking and like some sort of verbal diarrhoea my full set came tumbling out. I was told later that people laughed, but I couldn’t hear a thing. Seriously, it was like I was deaf - I couldn’t hear myself...I couldn’t hear them...all I could hear was my heartbeat and a voice in my head that was calmly and serenely suggesting:


I strode about the tiny stage with more of that faked confidence and suddenly I realised I was nearly at the end of my set. I had even managed to ad-lib a few bits with the crowd as they groaned at one of my more groan-worthy jokes. It was almost done...I finished my final punch line...silence...oh shit...I did say that bit, didn’t I? I thought to myself. ”Oh come on, it was worth at least a little bit of a laugh”, I tried to joke as my hearing, sight and soul re-entered my body just in time for me to die on stage!! They laughed, I said good night,.they clapped. I walked off stage totally forgetting to shake Scott’s hand (sorry Scott, I left you hanging…very embarrassing). Someone in the crowd genuinely slapped me on the bum as I walked past them to get back to the “green room area”, so it must have been at least ok. I sat down on the mouldy sofa and my legs went numb. My heart, which I assume had stopped at some point during my gig, started hammering in my chest my hands went sweaty, I became dizzy and if I’m totally honest with you I very nearly fainted. Why this happened I’m not so sure.

Charlie walked up to me as the next act was introduced onto the stage. “You know why you didn’t get a laugh on the last punch line?” he said, smiling. “No...what did I do?” I asked “You moved away from the mic...no-one heard you”. Sh*t!

The interval was up next so I had a chance to go and talk to my girlfriend and our friends who had turned up to support me. Everyone was more than polite, people wanted to shake my hand and talk to me about what I’d said and how I did. It was very strange - I tried to enjoy it but it was very, very freaky!

After the interval one of the acts dropped out (what a waste, all that way to bottle it at the last minute), so next up was another young girl who did an act and referenced one of my gags while doing it (ggrrrrrrrr), but she was at least funny. Then it was DVD boy. In all honesty there was no love lost between the 5 of us and him. He was loud, obnoxious and so unbelievably not funny. He had disappeared for the first half of the gig and when he did walk on he walked onto the stage like he owned it, and tried to start his set. I assume his mind went blank as he suddenly started to babble and waffle in an almost incomprehensible way. Nothing he had actually rehearsed came out, just random words that may or may not have linked in some way in his head. Then he snapped out of it and we all started to miss his babbling, as his main jokes seemed to revolve around sex and beating up a homeless man. A small group in the crowd whooped with laughter (his mates) but for the most part he got very little from anyone else - right up until the point that he managed to pop the jack plug out of the mic and it went nice and quiet. Turned out DVD boy had gone off to get stoned before his gig and was busy drinking all the way through. Hoh hum.

Baptisms eh!

1 comment:

  1. Wow - that sounds scary as hell! (If hell existed ;) ) Really interesting to read an honest and amusing account of your first experiences in stand up. Made my stomach churn with nerves for you but sounds like you did really well. Fascinating to read about the other types on your course too.

    Keep blogging.