I’m working on something…

 

A red button with the words "Take action" on itI won’t mince my words: I’m working on an idea for a web series.

‘Why do you care?’ you’re probably asking yourself. Though ‘why do I care?’ would be a more obvious wording choice.

Well, to be honest with you, this blog post isn’t for you. It’s for me.

I’ve spent a great deal of this year (and the last couple of years) working on different ideas but lacking in any sense of decisiveness. So this is me nailing my flag to the mast. I need to make something. I miss it.

Some will know, but most won’t (or won’t care): I used to do stand-up. Did it for nearly four years. I loved performing. I loved writing jokes and standing up in front of an audience, trying them out, refining them and, most importantly, getting laughs.

There are few things I love as much as comedy (my wife mainly) it has always been my passion. If anyone tells you heroine is addictive, tell them to try cracking jokes about Ronan Keating to an assorted crowd in Newcastle on a Wednesday night. They haven’t lived!

stand-up

I quit stand up a couple of years ago because, amongst other things, my passion for it had started to wane. I loved the moment of being on stage but found myself fed up with a lot of the ‘other stuff’.

My goal has always been to write and perform on television, and stand-up seemed like good training for that. But I soon realised that for many, stand-up isn’t training. It’s the real deal. As I wasn’t shitting, I decided to get off the pot. Make way for others that wanted it more than me. That way I could focus on writing and performing in the things I love.

After a few small successes and some near misses and I find myself here: without much to put my name to and be proud of. I want this to change.

I’ve lost a lot of confidence in my own ability over this last couple of years. Creativity is always a tightrope walk between moments of inspiration and the realisation you’re a weird bloke in a stupid wig filming yourself in the bathroom. For some reason a lot of my ideas recently have been plagued with doubt. Worries it isn’t funny, or will be too difficult to pull off, a sense that someone else will be able to do the same idea but better. I never used to be like this but now I am and it’s exhausting.

So I’m working on a web series because I’ve always wanted to do one, and now I have an idea that I like and think will work. It may not; it might fall flat on its face. But if I don’t make a determined effort to make it work, I’ll probably end up wasting more time and energy worrying.

I’ve been inspired by a lot of great people on Twitter recently – I really recommend checking out Match Not Found, Cops and Monsters, Mina Murray’s Journal and Dear Jesus. All staggering achievements and it would be nice to make my own little contribution to the world of web series.

So I’m working on something. And I couldn’t be happier.

Competitive Streaking

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

The worst gig I ever gigged…

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.