Tuesday 11 December 2007

Some people call me the space cowboy..

On Friday, I have my first gig since I can't remember when.

Last year I had set a target of doing 50 gigs and met it with minimum fuss. No target was set for 2007 and it's just as well for, unless the target was 7, I would have failed miserably.

If my memory serves me correctly, I have just 5 gigs under my belt since January - one at the start of the year, 3 at the Kilkenny fringe in June and a final one around September/October. This shameful statistic is due to a reluctance on my part to "get the finger out", contact the people who run the various gigs about the country and arrange dates for myself. The lethargic reluctance is in turn driven by an irrational animosity for the material which served me so well last year.

I like performing it - I know it almost inside-out and it is generally received very well. The problem is, the more you read something like that, the more you rehearse it, the more you say it in your head in the days and hours before the gig, the less funny it seems. While this is to be expected, it can be very hard to convince myself that my audience will find it funny when I don't. If I am unsure of the quality of the material I will, by extension, be unable to generate the level of energy needed to ensure a sufficiently lively delivery.

I should explain that, in my opinion, I am probably one of the last people who should be standing in front of a room of strangers trying to make them laugh. I am a relatively shy, very self conscious individual and in order to perform stand up comedy to any reasonable level it is necessary to be more or less completely uninhibited. You need to mimic accents, make exaggerated gestures, convey mock rage and present outlandish suggestions as reasonable ideas. I am barely willing to try that in the presence of close friends for fear of failing spectacularly. This is why, in the 10 minutes before I take the stage, you will generally find me outside repeatedly asking "Why do you do this to yourself?"

In the early days I tended to start my set quite nervously until I got that first laugh. In some cases (most cases actually) this is the worst thing you can do - the audience sense your mood and draw a conclusion that you must be terrible. An air of unease then descends upon the room as everybody waits to see some poor sod die on his arse. So begins the vicious circle where the performer senses the unease of the audience causing their performance to deteriorate and the audience grow even more uneasy.

I discovered pretty quickly that the best approach was to fake the required level of confidence - a kind of bouncy, assured ease -just enough to get me to the first laugh. After that, I feel more confident, I can settle down and start to enjoy making people laugh.

So today begins the battle to remind myself of how good the material can be and to generate some level of enthusiasm for Friday. I also need to decide which different bits of material I will use and how I intend to link them. I must have 40 minutes worth of material which I can chop and change. Some bits I like more than others, some bits are stronger, some work well at the start, some better at the end and some depend on the night, the audience and the general mood of the place.

Generally this can all be squashed into the few hours before the gig - but, given my recent hiatus and that fact that I will more than likely have to learn some of the material again, I suspect it will take longer this time.

Wish me luck.


Stonedog said...

You'll do great ;o)

sheepworrier said...


Medbh said...

How very exciting, BA.
I have much admiration for people brave enough to do stand up. I do okay in front of a crown teaching but that's only because students can't yell "Boo" and abuse. If I suck they have to remain polite until the evaluation form at the end.
Break and leg as they say and all the best.

Caro said...

Good luck! Could you not YouTube yourself for us? Ah g'wan...

The Bad Ambassador said...

Stonedog - that remains to be seen. Will tell you all about it on Monday.

Sheepworrier - cheers. Love that name by the way. Are there many nervous sheep where you live?

medbh - Thanks to you also. Its funny when you think about it - if you have to sing in front of people you inevitably think "these are all going to laugh". Perform stand up and you think "Nobody's going to laugh". Maybe I should try to sing funny stuff?

caro - thanks and... ummmm... that's not going to happen any time soon. Actually I've been meaning to have somebody video one of my performances so I can see it from the audience's perspective and check if i have any annoying subconscious ticks, gestures or phrases that I use repeatedly without thinking... well either that or for the Christmas DVD.

Stonedog said...

I look forward to it ;o)

sheepworrier said...

BA: Thousands of the sexy little bastards...

The Bad Ambassador said...


That reminds me of a comedian I saw (their name escapes me at present) who claimed that the main cause of paedophilia was sexy children.

One of those ones where you laugh initially and then are feel bad for laughing.