Sunday, May 20, 2012

Open mike in Singapore

After a day where I was alternately productive (adding a chapter to my Hong Kong novel) and indolent (lying on the floor playing games on the Xbox) we walked over to China One on Clarke Quay to watch the open mike there.

I assumed from the name that China One was an enormous megaplex of concrete and glass, containing car parks and swimming pools and all sorts, so we almost missed it completely, as it's just another bar in Clarke Quay. We paid to get in, and then James Lee and I were pounced on by the host, who asked us if we wanted to perform. I didn't really feel like it and my wife was looking daggers at me, but James said he'd only do it if I did it, so the die was cast.

I got a pen from the bar staff and scribbled my set on the back of an old receipt. My wallet is enormous because I never clear out all my old receipts, but this means I have space to write a set list. I wouldn't do it on my hand because you never know where a pen has been and I don't want to be the first comedian to tattoo himself with e. coli. Half an hour later I was on stage, trying out my new and untested material, and enjoying feeling a bit strung out.

Open mikes in Singapore feel a bit shambolic; a lot of people don't seem to bring their best, because it's an open mike. I never want to do that. If you're doing an open mike, you can do new material that hasn't been seen before, but you shouldn't be trying something new that you don't have rock solid in your head. It's not enough to go up there and say some random thoughts which you think might be funny. You have to be sincere in your belief that what you're saying is good. And then it might still fail, but at least you'll know it was the material's fault, not because you didn't try to do it justice.

It feels a bit hypocritical to write that when I was doing new stuff tonight, but then I knew it was funny. Or I thought it was funny, and my enormous ego makes it difficult for me to distinguish the two things. What I liked about tonight was also the shambolic nature: it's great to be there when a joke first appears and evolves, rather than when it's material you've heard a dozen times.

Plus I was rude to a Finnish man and he didn't shoot me with a Suomi submachinegun, which puts me ahead of the game. Now for next week I'm going to try to write five minutes of material on Singaporean prisons...


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