Unusually, I’m going to write about something that happened in my male life. It’s not something I do very often, but here goes. Those of you with good memories may remember I did some stand-up comedy last year. I enjoyed it so much, I thought I’d have a second go. It’s been a struggle to find any open mic nights in my area, but as luck would have it, I found one and got myself booked in. Before you wonder, no, I didn’t do it in Lynn mode. 🙂 I was fully prepared with lots of stories, gags, etc and I’d whittled that down to five minutes of new material. It was well practised and I knew the rules about the voting mechanism. In short, midway through your five minute slot, the MC will get some of the audience to vote on how it’s going. Get enough thumbs up and you stay on for the rest of the slot. Thumbs down? Well, you get the idea.
So, how did it go? In a few words: not well. :-/ But at least they didn’t boo me off stage – which they did to one poor guy.
I was on half way through the evening and by then, the audience seemed warmed up. It was a young-ish crowd and it seemed the only folk around my age, were some of my fellow newbie performers. The lights came on, I took the stage and went into my routine. Three jokes in – which I used on a difference audience – and…. nothing. I could have been a talking clock. I changed tack and launched into the other elements. I remember during the training last year, that if something fails, just move on. Keep hitting them with what you’ve got and hope something will stick. It didn’t. I came to the end of my second theme and I saw the red lights come on and the get off you’re done music came on.
I felt very let down and to an extent, I do now, although a few night’s sleep have worn the sharper edges of disappointment off.
Where did I go wrong? That’s what I keep asking myself. I think the problem with dying on stage – to use a well loved cliché – is that it really knocks your confidence. I guess I’d been hoping that the gig would be like the one I did previously. I mean, the people in the audience seemed good natured, I’d practised and practised, stuck to the training (don’t ramble, keep it sharp, etc) and yet…. instead there was the slow whistle of air rushing by, no whumpf of a parachute opening at the end, just bang…. and stop.
Was I doing the wrong material? Was my delivery off? I think it had been so long that I was more nervous than I should have been. I asked for some feedback when I got home and the vendor put simply: your material and presentation need work. Hmm. Yeah, well, I kinda guessed that. 🙂
Speaking to a few stand-up mates who where there. They said that what I’d done was okay – I could hear them chuckle as one had kindly video’d it for me – but would probably have gone over the heads of most of the audience. That sounds like I needed to know who I was performing for and by not having enough ‘back catalogue’ I couldn’t turn my act to something they wanted. Which, judging by what my mates said, seemed to be more about sex and close to the knuckle observation / sexism. Whereas, I’d gone for slightly surreal and nothing too rude. Wrong material and wrong crowd and iffy nerves. Altogether, not a cocktail anyone would want. Oh well! :-
So, I guess one of the questions – other than why did I do it? – is what was I hoping to get out of it? Truth? I was hoping for it to go as well as it did the first time. I was hoping that I would finish my set and it would make people laugh. That’s the only two things I wanted out of the evening. There was a final where you’d do a 60 second performance to see who’d be King of the Hill, but I wasn’t there for that.
A work mate who is into comedy asked me a little more and asked me if I was looking for validation. I guess I am to an extent. I mean, why stand up in front of a group of strangers and try to entertain them?
The Ever Lovely Mrs J said that she was worried about me – before I went – and was both empathetic and understanding when I got home. She asked me what I’d wanted out of it. Again, I repeated it was just for fun and she said something along the lines of it doesn’t sound like you had much fun. Do you really want to put yourself through this to get a good night? As usual, Mrs J is the wise one. 🙂 She said that I’m a bit of a dreamer, and that’s true; I am. I’m not dreaming of the lights, nor a career. I’d just like to be good at it.
But, I guess the real question is this: do you persist at something because you fancy a go at it? I mean, my temperament (I wear my cynicism as armour ) is ill-suited to rejection and much as I might be able to make folk I know laugh, or entertain an audience at work, am I actually suited to doing stand-up? How much pain have am I willing to put myself through when really, I’m not hungry for success. Maybe it’s better to enjoy what I’ve got – chuck in occasional gags during training or presentations, and keep my thoughts to this blog.
In short: do you stop when it hurts?