Thanks – I’ll have a look at that. Bit of a long one coming up but just putting some thoughts down as I go.....
I’ve finished the Frank Skinner book and loved every word of it.
Cliffs: he’s a Catholic comedian who has a very jealous girlfriend. Prior to meeting her he had a different girl every night on tour and mostly shagged them up the arse. He never reads any reviews of his shows because he obsesses about them and he has an enormous inner critic which means he is never satisfied with any of his work. His total belief in his religion yet his scant regard for morality surprised me. (Cue all the catholic priest jokes)
My secret comedian crush is on a well-known comedian who is a Christian and I’m sure part of his appeal to me is that I was thinking he was a good boy who didn’t have a girl in every theatre. I may have to rethink my obsessive crush and rather than just worship him from afar I should stalk him and see what he’s up to. It’s a bit of a double edged sword that one; if I find he is a good boy then no amount of me following him around will probably change that, and if he is a complete slag on tour I don’t want to know him anyway. I don’t think anyone wins that one.
Back to the Skinner book…..As a woman I was so pleased to read about a man opening himself up to self doubt and worry about a relationship, I didn’t think that men did that. And if I had been his girlfriend I would have stopped being jealous once I’d read the book, it was an homage to how much he loved her and wanted them to be in a committed relationship. At the end of the book he gave her a key to his flat. It was like a real life Bridget Jones moment.
The downside of the book is the complete lack of confidence Frank has in himself and I could feel myself mirroring this as I got deeper into the book. All I kept on thinking was ‘if he gets nervous what hope have I got?’ Not just because of his book but I know I have a much greater lack of confidence now than when I started in November.
It reminds me a bit of when you first start playing poker. In the beginning you win because you have no fear, mainly because you don’t know the difference between good and bad, and that inner confidence carries you through and convinces the table you have a hand so they fold and you rake in the chips. As time goes on you realise how little you know, the confidence wanes a bit and the results drop too.
I have more trepidation about going on stage now than before and this gets communicated to the audience who react accordingly. An audience needs to have confidence in you from the moment you step out. At the moment I am still coughing well from a cold I had a few weeks ago, sometimes so badly that at regular intervals I may, as ladies of a certain age do, leak a bit when a particularly violent coughing fit takes over. So on Sunday, when the hot room had done its worst and I had coughed my guts up in the dressing room I’m pretty sure that the audience could sense my nervousness not just from the look in my eyes but from the unmistakable smell of wee that had seeped into my jeans.
Before the comp started it was nice to find that I know a few people now, one of the guys from the Richmond gig came over and starting chatting, he then introduced me to some other people and before I knew it I was in a temporary clique. I sat listening to them all measuring each others ball size as they compared notes as to who was doing what at Edinburgh. I am learning to take some of this with a pinch of salt, one of the guys was boasting that at a gig he did on Friday he got approached by a promoter who has offered him some paid work. As I was at the same gig, no promoters were in the room and he and I left at the same time. Good try buddy.
Having heard his set on Friday and Sunday it was exactly the same and got very different reactions each night. I remember thinking on Friday that one of his jokes deserved a better response and on Sunday it got it. I think to an errant gambler like me the uncertainty of the audience’s reaction and the testing of new material is as close to playing poker as it gets. One day aces are a certainty to win and the next night the flop gives the other guy a straight. It’s a fascinating and addictive hobby.
Sundays gig was at the Hen & Chickens in Islington. It was raining, a lot. I got there first time sans the sat nav as it hasn’t arrived yet. Probably lost. As always you have to judge a venue by the loos although with my cough/weeing issues I don’t need to visit them as much as I used to. In this case the coughing is a benefit as the loos are 2 small cubicles without locks or loo paper. The electric hand dryer looks out of place as there isn’t any soap but I run my hands under it in the hope that some of the air might waft down to my groin area.
This was a competition, well organised, filmed, bookers in the audience, a good gig run by the Ann Robinson of comedy, Hils Jago. As previously mentioned I like her direct approach “comedy is a business”. Her pre performance brief opened with “Don’t put your bags on the floor, there are mice in the building and we have seen at least 1 today in the dressing room”. I had a half eaten Mars bar in my bag and I didn’t know whether to eat it straight away on the grounds of health, safety and hygiene or to keep it for the journey home.
Ann warned us that the lighting was set up for a play that was running during the week and it was slightly weird. In most gigs I have done you can either see the audience as if you are in your own living room with them or the lights are so bright that you perform to a wall of darkness and listen for the laughs or rustle of the mars bars wrappers to judge how you are doing. On Sunday it was a wall of darkness apart from one man on the left, 2 rows deep who was perfectly lit as if he was a contestant on a game show waiting to hear if he had been eliminated or had got through to the next round. As I write this I realise that I should have opened with this observation rather than hitting them hard with 2 mins of blow job anecdotes, even Frank softens them up with a few family laughs before bringing the smut in.
In an effort to conquer my fear of the audience I talked at him, (the man in the audience not Frank Skinner) and he didn’t crack a smile throughout my set. In fact halfway through it would have been quite ironic if my spotlight had gone out and just left him lit as I’m pretty sure he could have done a better job. That’s not to say I didn’t get laughs, I did. But I used some new untested bits which seemed funny in my head, some of it was not everything. The golden rule is never use new stuff in a competition but as the blowjob stuff hadn’t gone down as well as it should have done (no pun intended) I think it was wise to miss out the labia lips stuff and try something new. Trust me on this, it was a good call.
All in all it was ok, but I needed time to regroup and rewrite so I dodged my next gig on the Monday. Good decision. This week I have emptied my house, had one very large bonfire, sorted and chucked a lot of stuff and cleaned the house from top to bottom and them moved. I think another 4 hour round trip to do 5 mins was a bit ambitious.
Before I left Islington I asked Ann how I could help myself with the fear of the audience. She asked me how many gigs I had done and when I answered ‘7’ she looked incredulously at me as only Ann would do and said “put a nought on the end of that and them come back and ask for advice’ If you are still scared after 70 we’ll have a chat’. In other words just get on with it.
On another positive note I forgot about the Mars bar until the next day so it was an unexpected bit of chocolate which always makes it all the more enjoyable. Unlike the scheduled chocolate breaks that I put in the diary which are more of a retirement plan, I have to have regular excessive amounts of chocolate if I want to be a diabetic, have a leg removed and get on the social. As a self employed person without a pension I have to plan ahead.
Frank describes going on stage as ‘Dr Theatre’ as the adrenalin keeps any illness at bay until you come off stage. It’s true, when I’m in front of an audience I don’t cough at all. Tonight I’ve done a wash of all that needed washing, put the heating on so that the radiators can dry it all. The irony being that the house is now too warm, causing me to cough and we start all over again.
I have a fair few gigs in the diary, I’m going to try for some nearer to home and we’ll keep plugging away.