Thursday, September 23, 2010


I killed at the comedy club tonight. By which I mean I killed the audience stone dead. After eight minutes, there wasn't a sound to be heard in the room.

On reflection, it wasn't such a good idea to start the night with five minutes of rabbit based material on a completely cold audience - it's worked before, but when the crowd is warmed up and ready to play along.  If they're sitting there in their seats, five minutes into the show, and somebody is talking in an incomprehensible accent about arcane parts of the analytic tradition in Western philosophy and the bearing it has on the plausibility of a story about a rabbit, then some people get a bit uneasy.  And when they're confused, they're not sure whether to laugh at you or not, so I carried on baffling them and then brought up the first comedian to a dead room.

And the second comedian, and the third.

Once Jami pointed out that the audience were mostly college kids, and that I should dumb down and just work the room, things pepped up - I started getting laughs from stupid stuff, like telling a guy in the front row that he had nice hair, and every time I did something that worked, I felt happy, but at the same time betraying the intellectual tradition that I'm trying to follow.  Ruddy students.  You'd think they'd be the ones with the most open minds.

I suppose if you spent your day having knowledge pumped into your head, you wouldn't want to be exposed to more of it in the evenings.

On the positive side, I've learned lots of things.  On the negative side, I've learned them again, but I suppose it's good to have a refresher course every so often.

Cater to the audience: they did pay to sit there, so you've got to do something for them.  And if they're not laughing at your intricately-crafted twenty minute rabbit disquisition ...
Have an escape route: once I'd got onto the rabbit material, and nobody was laughing, I didn't feel I had any way to get out of it and go in another direction.  Thinking about it, I should have abandoned it a minute or two in and gone off on a tangent, instead of ploughing on.  I just hoped that I could turn the audience around on it, and it turned out that I couldn't.  Better to cut your losses and run.
If you're the host, host. So you need to be working the room more (if nothing else than to warm them up for the other comedians, and extract all the salient details about who's in an embarrassing relationship, who comes from an exotic country, where the best targets are for everyone else to shoot at).  But I'm still a bit gunshy about this, after self-destructing back in May.
You're not your idols: maybe Stewart Lee could carry off something like that.  But I'm not a veteran Oxford-educated comedian with twenty years of experience, a good line in intellectual endeavour and a grumpy demeanour.  I've got one thing on that list though, but then at least the Lee would make sure to only have people in the crowd who wanted to see him before starting on that.  Or I just wait eighteen years and see where that puts me.
Get some sleep: that's the final one that's foxed me.  All day long I felt bafflingly tired (and I'd had a good nine-and-a-half-hours sleep this morning).  But I think too many late nights, too many early mornings, and not ever eating properly have exerted their toll on me.  If I hadn't been so tired, I wouldn't have been so crabby today (including a low point at about six p.m. when I was inexplicably aggravated by my dear girlfriend sitting on the floor1). And if I'd been a bit more with-it, maybe I'd have swapped tactics on my own, rather than having to rely on Jami to point the way.  Lucky I'll be getting lots of sleep in the next few weeks.  Er...

So, that's that.  Apart from feeling guilty about squashing the life out of the room for all the other comedians tonight, at least I can be happy that I've roadtested the rabbit material, and found it might not work under these circumstances as well as I'd hoped.  Now I just have to figure out what I'm going to do for the comedy competition.

Especially as I promised everyone I invited a good seven-and-a-half minutes of rabbit related hilarity.

1 Just sitting on the floor.  This is a sign that I'm under some sort of mental strain, if the mere act of not doing anything can put me in a rage.


Anonymous said...

Better luck next time, maestro!

Mr Cushtie said...

Thanks, ma'am! Maybe it would help if I was wearing a rabbit costume while declaiming my set...we'll soon find out

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