I don't get to play all the time. Gigs are play, obviously, but to make a gig possible, there needs to be work. There's the day job, which I need to do to pay for the myriad things I need/enjoy in life. There's also the driving to gigs, which is a sort of working, since it requires effort and I can't gig without the journey.
I should point out that I like car journeys. I like my mp3 player and the road for company. But... well, sometimes it can feel like a long-haul to get to the next gig. That fact that I'd only just driven this 500 mile round trip a couple of days ago (when I mistakenly went to the gig on the wrong day) meant that I was slightly weary of the road ahead.
First, though, there was the working day. This passed by very quickly, with a series of problems either solved, or chewed over. By the time I left the office, my initial overconfidence about whether I'd be able to deliver the results we needed, had been replaced by concern. We were close, but I had to consider how close. Sometimes you can work on a detail that's not all that important. Sometimes, a bit of distance can be useful to help you evaluate what you might do to deliver the equivalent of what's required in a way which wasn't obvious when you started.
A long car journey can really help focus the mind on such things. Owing to the fact that I'd left the office nearer to 4.30 than 4, I was due a long car journey - longer than Monday's, which had brought me to the gig for 8pm. Despite using the exact same route of the previous day, I was an hour later. This was caused by increased traffic and a small amount of rain. Basically, there's a fog of traffic around Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire, which occurs at about 4.15 - the longer you spend in it, the worse it gets. I would still suggest that we have wider roads and better driver training to make the most of our limited geography, but what would I know. I just spend lots of my life in traffic jams, working out why the behaviour of everyone in this country contributes to them.
With a head full of thoughts, and a throat that felt too tight for performing musical comedy, I ploughed on. I kept the promoter aware of my anticipated arrival time and made it to the venue before the show started. I'd had time for a brief break where I bought ice-cream and changed my trousers.
Last time I'd played this particular gig, we'd had a horrible job connecting the guitar. It had to be plugged into the same line as the mic, so it could not be controlled separately. However, since then I'd bought the contents of my bag of electronic tricks. This bag was brought with and quickly attached into the system. It worked a bloomin' treat. I was very pleased.
Once the sound check was done, I had time to relax with the other acts, tune my guitar, and get into the right frame of mind to perform my bit. I was on last, so what better way to rev up for it, than to enjoy a comedy night's worth of comedy.
A friend of mine was on first. Most of his material was new. It went well and he's really changed his approach. I enjoyed his set immensely.
The compere was resoundingly good throughout the show too, telling some great stories and showing a natural flair with the crowd.
In the middle there was a new act, who was very up and down with his material and the audience's reaction. However, he did better than I did on my 5th gig, so fair play to him. Beforehand he'd warned me about doing sick material, I told him that sometimes with sick material you have to know to back off, and sometimes you have to know to brazen it out. He chose the latter option when perhaps the former would have been better. He mocked Christopher Reeve, the audience went deadly quiet - his response "Ah come on, if we can't mock the dead, who can we mock?"... nice try. I thought it was funny.
After a rather long raffle, I was brought onto the stage. I've listened to my performance now, so I know that it was itself quite up and down. Overall, the audience played along, and I was able to make them laugh without only resorting to material. I was frequently "in the moment", rather than just trotting out the script. This is the sort of thing I want to be doing. The compere had given me between 30 and 45 minutes as the target. As it happened, I performed for 35 and plenty of that wasn't just material... which makes me wonder how long I can actually do. If I feel like I've done it all in 35 minutes, when I've also gone off the beaten track a few times... then how long would it ALL take if I didn't go off the beaten track? I don't know.
I stopped when I did because the audience were still responding, but it was 11.40pm and I didn't think they'd have the energy to do so for much longer. In my case, I also didn't think I had the comedic power to break through any exhaustion for much longer either.
So, some highlights, some lowlights. It was a good gig. However, there was one highlight for me and probably everyone else there. It's nice to have such a thing on record.
The random incident
A woman had been talking quite loudly at a number of points during the show. I was about to do a particular bit of my routine when her talking was clearly a distraction to the room. Not a huge one. She was over at the bar having her necklace adjusted by the barman. She had her back to him. She was talking loudly as he sorted this necklace out for her. I commented that she was talking. She didn't notice the eyes of everyone in the room pointed at her. I started singing a song about her with the line "take me from behind". As this progressed, the audience were amused and she was oblivious of the fact that she was the focus of attention. No matter how hard I pressed, she seemed unaware that I was taking the piss.
My song was getting a bit of a laugh, but I was fluffing words and the chords were incoherent, and the tune was not really there either. I had a choice. Cut my losses, or go for a solid verse two. I went for the verse two option. Now I had a coherent, rhyming, musical number about this woman, describing her behaviour. As the song neared the end of verse 2, she returned to her seat. As though it was scripted, I just sang about it. The audience loved it. I realised I'd hit a peak and so tacked on a "take it home" ending, which I then used to end the song to big applause.
As they were applauding, I tried to think of something funny to say. It's all very well showing off that you can write songs off the cuff, but comedians tell jokes... so I cracked a joke.
Yes, you had to be there.
You can listen to the recording though:
Take Me From Behind
The compere commented that it was the first time he'd ever seen a heckler put down in song. It's not the first time I've ever done that, but it's certainly the best I've ever managed to end it.
Only an idiot would try to repeat that trick a couple more times during his set... I'm the sort of person who travels 1000 miles for a 500 mile gig... so I am that idiot.
It was worth putting the effort in to do that gig. I'm glad I did it.
The drive back
I spent the return journey listening to the recording of the show. It made me laugh. I then listened to some songs I wrote back before I set about writing comic songs. They didn't make me laugh. For the most part they made me cringe. I enjoyed some moments, but in terms of writing and performance, they were wholly unimpressive.
I took a brief stop at a motorway services where I bought petrol and some milk (a text from my girlfriend had requested the latter). I withdrew the envelope of cash I'd been paid with and handed money to the petrol station man out of it. I commented "I do have a wallet" when I was using the envelope. I thought it looked weird to be paying from one. I then transferred the money into my wallet and, regarding the empty envelope thought it would be funny to offer it to the petrol station man - "Do you have a wallet?" I asked him, the follow-up gag intending to be "Cos you can have my envelope if you want". However, the petrol station man acted as though I'd just converted my role from customer to armed-robber... so I backed off... I told him that I'm the sort of idiot who drives to the same gig twice in the same week. He seemed not so much amused as relieved and disdainful. That's good enough for me.
More of my own recorded caterwauling and I was back home. I had a shower at about 3.15am and was asleep by 4. I woke about 9 the following morning.