Back to Writing Rather Than Acting
Posted on October 28, 2011
The euphoria of actually spending five minutes on stage in front of an audience of strangers has now passed and it is now time to start considering my next gig on the 22nd November. I can’t do the same story again, I would like to, because I know it can be improved quite a bit, but now the punch line is open knowledge, the suspense factor has gone. It certainly can’t be used again at the same venue it just wont work, so in my spare time I will have to start trawling through old blogs to try to find what will work and what wont, it is all about trial and error I suppose, along with being prepared to have good and bad nights in a search for a zone I am most comfortable in.
Basically, the type of comedy I am trying to replicate is to have the ability to engage with the audience and bring them in to the story and feel part of it and have empathy with it having had similar experiences. Billy Connolly is brilliant at this, I went to see him in Hammersmith years ago and his connection with the audience made me think he was talking directly to me, such was the personal deliverance of his stories about Scottish Grannies, swimming in the North Sea and misguided attempts at teenage sexual relations. To tell a good story and get a good laugh eye contact is critical, along with the ability to exaggerate mannerisms and physical actions, in effect you are acting out a scene as well as telling a story that will create laughter, it is not an easy thing to do, otherwise Billy Connolly wouldn’t be a multi-millionaire…….but I don’t think it is impossible either.
I hate to drag up the book Bounce once again, but if anyone wants to be a stand-up comic of any note, it all comes back to the old theory of practice, practice and more practice, it is about having the ability to overcome failure and to be able to accommodate a dismal performance as the same part of a learning curve as a good one. I saw first hand the other night how a potentially good set can collapse with one gag or word out of place, it really is as difficult as that, an experienced old comic can retrieve a situation from a fading story, a new one has yet to gain the speed of thought or nous to change direction. We have all told a story in a pub that has turned in to one of those tales that end “I suppose you had to be there at the time….” You can’t get away with that on stage, it is humiliating enough telling your pals a shit story, imagine it be replicated in front of strangers? I did it years ago (I mentioned it in the last blog) and it is a horrible experience thinking you will make people laugh only to discover they actually consider you a bit of a twat. However, part of the learning curve is the acceptance that you will have bad nights along the way, it is impossible not to.
So after the experience I had, why am I putting myself at risk of humiliation again? Well, as a first performance, the other night went reasonably well, but it could have easily been better, there was so much I could have improved on that will come with more time in front of the microphone. If I had thought that the performance I put on was a flawless piece of comic genius I would have a major issue, but what excited me most is that I instantly knew the areas where I had fallen short because of lack of experience and understandable first night nerves. Firstly, I tended to look above the audience rather than drawing them in, secondly, in a bid to force the story I over acted a bit more than I would normally and this may have bordered on looking false, and finally, I finished ahead of schedule meaning the pauses were not long enough. However, I still got laughs, so the exciting bit is that I can make my stage presence so much better and get more laughs!
So now I have to come up with new material for the 22nd November, I have loads of it, I have been writing blogs for years with plenty of compliments on the type of humour it contains, so I know the basics of being funny when writing, the art is finding what is funny when delivered orally in front of people waiting for you to make them laugh. This is a huge challenge, I constantly chop and change the words of blogs in an attempt to add to the comic value, you just haven’t got the time to do that on stage, you have to think on your feet. I have plenty of ideas, the next bit I suppose, is to try and create them in to an on stage performance and hope they work, some will, some wont, that’s the beauty and the difficulty of comedy I suppose. I am addicted to it now though, I loved meeting new people the other night who I would have never met before, these nights are sociable, affordable and most of all, a bit of fun. There is also something incredibly thrilling about hearing someone laugh at what you are relaying to them.
If you are intrigued, join me at the Cavendish Arms in Stockwell on the 22nd of November, I may be great, I may collapse, I just don’t know, but it is a fantastic journey to be on.