A series of articles giving an insight to why I decided to try stand-up and looking back at early performances.
Originally published: Feb 14th 2012 @
They say everyone has their five minutes in the spotlight but after a year that drug wears off and you crave something stronger. The next fix of satisfaction can only come from more stage time and the natural progression is to double up to ten minutes. Fortunately, I’d been given the chance. What’s more it would be my first time of performing in Southend, or as I like to call it, home. How’s that for adrenaline?
Eager to please I got to the venue at 7.30 despite a kick off time of 9. Even so, with the gig being less than ten minutes from my house, I’d had the luxury of not setting out until gone 7pm. For me, this was so far unheard of. A student gig, at the University I had only just graduated from myself; the stage was set for me to shine. I was confident of success.
By nine that had all changed.
As students entered the venue one by one it became evident that this night was going to be tough for me as the crowd was comprised of 90% women. With an hour to eye up the talent prior to the gig, I noticed at least half a dozen girls that would easily score 8 out of 10. And for the first time they were girls that potentially I could meet with after the show as I wouldn’t have to rush back home.
Then it hit me, I had to go on stage and deliver that content in front of them. Social suicide. The only thing scarier than telling a cute girl your most intimate secret; telling a room full of them. Excitement turned to fear. This night was only going to end one way.
Things only got worse when I found out that not only was my name last on the sheet but also pretty much every act was struggling. I can’t remember the names of specific acts, quite frankly I want to forget the whole experience, but one guy who would have stormed most rooms came away only relatively pleased. As the night wore on, the schedule was falling further behind and, by the time I was called to the stage, the audience were ready for bed. So was I.
All night I’d been telling myself “this is going to be painful” but actually my spirits were lifted somewhat when the penultimate act, a woman, finally got the crowd on side. Maybe, I had a chance after all. I hadn’t taken into account my material.
Opening line. Silence. Second line. Silence. Third line, a slight sympathetic giggle. This was going down like a lead balloon. Lines four and five were met with the same judgemental silence. I’d had a couple of bad gigs but nothing like this. And this was my tested material! I was yet to even try the new stuff.
The pressure, the silence, and the pretty faces overwhelmed me and I choked. Not just for a second either. My mind drew a blank mid routine and I froze for what seemed like an eternity. There was no coming back from this regardless of the support offered from the other acts on the side.
I cautiously moved over to new material which if anything was probably even more ill advised than the sexual stuff. I wittled on, without humour, about getting caught short after a poo at Liverpool St station. Girls love that sh*t right?
And I wonder why the v-plates remain…
In the week leading up to that gig, I’d pictured it being a night of glorious ecstasy but what had manifested was my worst nightmare. This was a bad hit, a dirty pill. In all honesty, it was a relief when the promoter pulled me off (not like that) early. My first ten minute performance had only lasted six. A premature end; there’s probably a moral to that stroy that’ll prepare me for that first physical encounter. Unfortunately, after that shocking showing, it wouldn’t be tonight
I had gained a valuable experience. Never doubt yourself. If I don’t believe my material will work, how are the audience supposed to warm to it? I still had confidence in my original five but the new stuff was rushed the night before and, due to the lack of effort, had fully deserved the negative response. That material was binned, never to return. So even at an absolute low there was a lesson to learn, that alone makes that dreadful night worthwhile.
Although it does still haunt me at least once a week. Perhaps that is another reference to my amateur standing, the fact that a bad gig stays with me for weeks/months. When a top comedian has a bad night they assess the situation, learn from it and move on. So far I’ve mastered two of the three stages.
That night, I went clubbing with a few mates to drown my sorrows and woke up the next morning on a golf course. Yet, despite my best efforts I’ll never forget my first gig in Southend.