I thought I’d write a post about a gig I did that was by far the worst of my so-called ‘career’.
I wish I could refer to it as though it was eons ago, far back in the early, shaky days of my stand up life. It wasn’t. It was last week.
I was performing at a gong show; I won’t state which one for fear of public embarrassment and humiliation, but a well-respected one. OK, I give in, it was Beat the Frog in Manchester. I don’t name them as though they are to blame for anything; they’re not. I have to say of all the gigs I have done The Frog and Bucket has one of the nicest atmospheres (am free to gig). Anyway, the room was only just over half full with the majority of the audience avoiding the front row for fear of getting picked on – I don’t blame them, I hate it too. But nevertheless there was a clear distance between the audience and performers and as the night went on it became harder and harder to gauge the sensibility of the audience, the compare Dan Nightingale did a great job at cheering people on but fr some reason the night never fully took off with everyone on board.
Again, this isn’t to detract blame from myself in any way, in fact I’ll admit – I was rubbish. Unfocused, unsure of which material I was going to use and unable to grasp the right way to approach the audience. In the end I was so focused on unimportant niggles that I walked on not in character. Oh, I’m a character comic incase I didn’t mention that. I walked on in full costume but my mind was anywhere other than on that stage. I ‘hit’ them with my first joke and – nothing. It fell flat. Now I don’t reckon myself to be some great comedian but I will admit I wasn’t used to that joke not getting a reaction. So it threw me. It was clear I hadn’t hit my mark or that the audience were really sure what to make of me, or the character. In the end I stumbled my way through my material with some on-the-spot editing to try to get the audience on my side. It didn’t happen. I lasted 2 minutes 35 seconds.
So that was that, the worst gig I’d ever done and I was in complete shock, I honestly wasn’t used to that complete panic I experienced on stage. I’ve had gigs where there’s been next to no one laughing but even then I’ve carried on, completed my material and got off, no panic, no fuss, just done the best I can. But this time it was different.
A friend of my was there, along with my girlfriend who’s seen me perform numerous times and they admitted that while I was certainly weak in my performance, the real problem was the audience taking an instant dislike to me. And that’s why I now view this gig as one of my best.
If I’m totally honest, I think I became a bit over-confident. Don’t get me wrong, I would hate to be regarded as big-headed but confidence is a big part of comedy, and even if you’re shy as a person; if you have no confidence in what you’re saying then it won’t work. So I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses and I know I’ve still got a lot to learn but I’m confident where I can be at my best. But this gig taught me never to relax about it, never to believe it will all be OK. I now know I have to fight for the laughs every time. This is always something I knew but I certainly forgot it that night.
The gig has also made me address some of the issues surrounding the look and performance of the character, what elements are clear about the character and what needs to be defined better. It’s helped me to see that some of the things I do act as a further barrier between me and an audience. So I am currently implementing changes to my act to see how it differs. Some of the changes might be permanent, some might get dropped after they’re used once but whatever happens, in whatever guise I finally land on, one thing is certain; I’ll be fighting for those laughs.