A Night of Stand Up!

Posted on October 26, 2011

I went to Stockwell in London last night to do a five minute stand up gig in the Cavendish Arms Pub…what an experience that was, like nothing I have dealt with before. To tell a story in a pub with your drinking buddies or to write a blog with a few giggles here and there is one thing, but to actually walk from a seat in the audience, get up on to a stage and then proceed to try to make people laugh with a microphone in your hand is quite another, it is both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time, but I am so glad I have challenged myself to do something I have always been curious of, I would have terminally regretted it if I had bailed out.

I got on the train at Basingstoke about 4.30pm, I was on my own, feeling a terrible sense of loneliness and fear of failure which flipped to excitement and then back to mild panic again which was causing major bladder issues (too much info?) as the Costa Packet train station coffee went through me like a sieve. What the fuck was I doing this for anyway? The humiliation of failure seemed to far outweigh the unlikely prospect of a glorious career on stage. I am not good at humiliation, back in 1991 I told a joke at conference that had reference to the word contagious sounding like cunt ages, it fell flat on it’s face and had me waking up screaming in the night for years after. I can still remember the bowed heads, the tutting, the shocked middle aged women and one Geordie bloke right at the back pissing himself laughing, whether it was the joke or my high profile descent in to oblivion that thrilled him so much I am still unsure.

As I arrived at Waterloo Station I tried to put this previous failed attempt at comedy behind me, assuring myself I would be fine and that I had a well rehearsed gag, but this still didn’t stop me spending 90p in urinal fees in just under 45 minutes as I awaited for my friend Gav to arrive. When we finally met up (rather romantically) under the clock, I immediately felt more upbeat. I had not seen Gav for four years so there was plenty to catch up on about kids, friends, work and the fact I was about to make a 24 carat tit of myself. As it happens Gav is a script writer and a decent one at that, he told me that he liked my story, it had suspense, laughs and critically, a dramatic build up to a funny ending, it could work if delivered with passion and no little drama, almost as if I was telling it to mates down the pub. Could I pull it off though? Could I relax enough with strangers and just imagine them as old friends? That was the key to success, it was the only way it would work.

We arrived at the pub early and the events guy was good enough to show us around the stage area at the back of the pub. Gav liked it, he said it was cool, I didn’t know what I was thinking, my mind was racing, I was going to be up there soon!!! We settled down and I had half a lager and a cigarette (stupid boy) to calm down, the pub was empty, no acts had showed up and no customers had either…..oh no!….what a disaster! Then a flow of people started arriving including my other fans Stuart, John and Pete as well as the other acts. They were all chatty and friendly, but it soon became apparent that I was the only genuine virgin, some of these guys (and one girl) had done this over twenty times before, Jesus, they were either pretty good or they had a strange perversion that involved being chased off stage. However, every one of them offered advice and comfort, it was dawning on me that amateur comedians are lovable breed.

The evening got under way and I was to be one of twelve acts doing a five minute spot, but I didn’t know when, it was random, so when every act finished I had to try and mentally prepare to go on, before hearing someone else’s name, it was unbearable. Some of the acts were good, some not so, some verged on collapse, but every one of them had the guts to get up there, I just didn’t want the best one just before me! The interval came and went….then it happened, I heard my name from the microphone………..it was my turn…….I was on……..AAAAARRRGGGGHHHH! Then it happened, an early laugh, then a chuckle, then a louder laugh, people weren’t rolling in the aisles but they were getting it, it definitely wasn’t tumbleweed quiet, I had them listening, bringing them in to the story whilst creating tension. I was doing okay and there was no way I was going to get stuck, I was remembering word for word the story…it was working!

I delivered the finale to decent laughter and applause, but to be honest, I was just glad to have done it and a wave of euphoria came over me. What must it be like to have the Apollo rocking with laughter? It must be amazing, better than any drug. I had finished half a minute earlier than I expected which suggested I must have hurried and left bits out, I know I didn’t make enough eye contact with the audience, but for a first time I was delighted with my effort. Gav said I “nailed it” which was great praise even if it may have been slightly inflated, but also I got plenty of compliments from fellow performers and the management who were a great help all night long. If you are going to do this, The Cavendish Arms is a great place to start, performers and customers are willing you to be funny, they want a great night out and they want you to have one too. One thing I will take away from that is that people are coming to these nights to laugh, not to heckle and embarrass, they are on your side. All first timers need to know that, it is of great comfort. The greatest thing was being asked if I would like to come again in November.

When I got home euphoria was replaced by anti-climax, after a week of building up to this it was over, I needed more!!

To read the story my sketch was based on, read my blog here

1 Reply to "A Night of Stand Up!"

  • Trevor and Amy
    October 26, 2011 (11:40 pm)

    Superb Bob – would loved to have heard it. You must have huge cojones mate, I'm not sure I could have faced the prospect!

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