I performed in a competition yesterday. A stand up comedy one, obviously, not one of those ‘eat as many pies as you can, in an hour’ type competitions. Although I would easily walk that; I’m a monster with a quiche. It was a New Comedian of the Year competition in London and the Quarter Finals. I had already gotten through the heats, which in itself was a fluke. There were only two audience members in attendance and eleven acts; I think I got through by default of the fact I’d travelled furthest. There’s nothing worse than pity votes but I’ll still accept them; it’s the only way I’ll ever win a Bafta. I may even walk with a limp up to the podium, drawing more fake-respect from the audience. I’m vain, like that. I used to get people to cheer anytime I used my potty but I stopped after a while because my university friends were never as willing to participate.
This time round it was a more enjoyable process, as there was a good handful of audience members. No disrespect to the two girls who bravely sat through a barrage of desperate amateur comedians last time, but you could hardly fill a room with their laughter. In the end it would probably have made more sense to get them to use the microphone. It was just a bit unnecessary for us; we were close enough to be heard – it was less of a gig and more of a conversation between friends, where someone had decided to bring their own amplification system along.
The problem with competitions though, is that it’s such an odd experience. The fun of doing stand up is trying to enjoy yourself as much as the audience is. Obviously you don’t crease over in blind hilarity at your own jokes, that would probably dampen the experience for others, but you can get enjoyment out of it, if it’s going well. Much as you can with a relationship. It’s very hard to elicit laughs in a comedy club or a relationship if it isn’t going well. That’s why so many marriage councillors have started enforcing a ‘no heckle’ policy; it’s not as constructive as you’d think. Competitions however, do have a tendency to raise the pressure and therefore hinder your ability to find it fun. It’s much more about having to be the best of the best. Think; The Apprentice but with more references to bodily functions. I don’t mind doing them because I know it’s all part of being a comic and progressing in that world, plus you can meet lots of nice people, it’s just that there’s an unspoken tension there. You’re always eyeing up the competition. Are they funnier than you? Do they look nervous? That guy’s wearing a blue T-shit, so am I, will it make me less funny if I go second? It verges on paranoia. And because (I assume) everyone feels the same, no one dares bring it up. It’s like when an aeroplane crashes in the mountains and the survivors have to eat each other. You’re never going to be popular if you’re the first person to stand up and say “I think we should have a nibble on Sharon.”
I was thinking about that above analogy when I was there, then I got on to thinking; ‘if something happens now, who would I eat first?’ That’s why very few people talk to me at these sorts of things. And probably why I didn’t win. I wish it had been the pie-eating contest.
From 3th October, 2012