Gig 6. Where? Freedom Fridge at the Rose & Crown, Kentish Town
Why? Googled them. Emailed them. Bingo.
Who Held My Hand? My Director Wino Friend. This gig reeeally tortured her. I put her on a Sauvignon drip.
What Happened? Yep, it’s a ‘Bringer Night’. You bring a friend and you stay to the end. The bitter end. Of ALL the ends. When you cry wine from your FACE having become an alcoholic in ONE NIGHT coz your selfish whinge of a wannabe comedian friend says “No, honestly, it’ll be fun. It’s COMEDY. It’s people being funny in a pub. I’ll buy all the drinks. Don’t make that face. IF YOU LOVE ME YOU’LL SUPPORT MEEEEE.”
Sometimes all the drinks aren’t enough…
Bringer nights are great in theory (see Comedy Virgins who are Masters). IF you follow the rules. No plus-one, no gig. And stay to the end or get shot. (Comedy Virgins only enforce one of these).
Well the guns weren’t out at Freedom Fridge and it was leaking bodies all over the place. The compere didn’t manage to ignite the audience and the audience comprised a dwindling bag of comics and a pitiful clutch of the ‘Brought’, chained up at the back.
No reflection on the venue. The Rose and Crown downstairs is a perfect Open Mic space, a mini underworld of secret doors and saggy leather sofas with access to booze and food. It was just a night where the sum of the thingies was considerably less than the whatsit. However, it is my COMIC DUTY to transcend anything and be funny – even if it’s to 12 wannabe comics and one girl’s dad.
As it was, I succeeded in not entertaining everyone who hadn’t escaped. Ohhhhhhhh, comedy is HAAARRRRRD. I was too loud for the venue, popping the mic, addressing people in the audience with a familiarity I hadn’t earned. I wasn’t in my skin, I wasn’t in my BODY. I was aware of silhouettes giving me secret evils in the dark and of my wino friend sinking dangerously into a broken leather sofa. I was playing the part of a stand-up, not being a stand-up. I opened with:
“I’m actually from Liverpool. I know. I’ve been assimilated. I only get Northern now when cornered.”
This got one MASSIVE laugh. From ONE PERSON. The Fridge’s resident MC, Andy Onions. It was the only time he or ANYONE laughed. Onions had been on first in the 2nd half just before me. He was excellent. The one living thing onstage that night. He had energy to BURN. He acted like a decent compere and the audience was warmed up. Then the actual compere came on, talked for 5 minutes and the Fridge died again.
I was trying new material about Uniform Dating, a topic Sara Pascoe and her mates encouraged when I mentioned it to them. (YES I’M NAME DROPPING PASCOE AGAIN GET OVER IT) A topic I thought was HILAAAAARIOUS.
“Why uniform dating I hear you CRY. Well, they had an ad campaign with cartoon police and firemen and who didn’t like a bit of Fireman Sam growing up? Not so much Postman Pat. Word of warning though. Most people have a veeeery loose idea of what a uniform is. A TABBARD is not a uniform.”
See, hilaaaarious. Afterwards, my weeping wino ‘Brought’ said “I just don’t know why so many women have to talk about being single.” I reminded her my set was about dating. She nodded into her glass of tears and Sauvignon. “Haven’t you got a disabled brother? Can’t you talk about that and benefits and stuff?”
She promised me people had laughed at Postman Pat but that I was too alarmed and appalled to actually hear them. Not hearing laughter onstage is a weird phenomenon. I’ve seen performers complain during their act about the audience being quiet when they’re actually laughing. Acoustics? The danger is, if you stand there bollocking on, thinking “it’s just the acoustics” when actually everyone’s f*cked off coz you’re shit…
What I Learned:
1. Don’t rely on an audience to give you energy. That’s YOUR job.
2. The job of compere is HARD. Good MCs make it look easy but you need clever brains to talk to a crowd, improvise, riff on anything and work in your own stuff as well as test out new material, oh and SEAMLESSLY. Maybe on another night, this MC would have soared. I certainly felt something was catching in that basement.
3. People use stand-up as therapy. Oh, have I mentioned that before? Coz I’m REALLY mentioning it now.
4. I MUST DO MORE GIGS.
5. I must be more clever and political and write about disability and benefits and stuff. I’m gonna phone my brother, he’s funny…
6. Don’t leave your card behind the bar at a gig. Invariably, you’ll be making a run from the venue. Then it’s a tough decision at the tube: run back to face all 12 of your audience again or open a new account.
More about the Venue: The Rose & Crown, Kentish Town (that rhymes). Lovely cosy pub with an underground dungeon, nay, cellar where Comedy happens on various nights with various different names. This venue has a great reputation which on this particular night, I helped ruin.