Gig 13. Where? Battersea Power Comedy @ The Grove Pub, Battersea.
Why? I asked.
Who Held my Hand? My Wino Director Friend & Soon-to-be-Wino Friend, Sue.
What Happened? I meet one of the judges from King Gong DEATH and DON’T kill him. Turns out he’s the organiser and MC. So I’m left with a choice. Slaughter and jail or more comedy gigs. Despite being attracted to the former, I’ll now sell my own grandmother for a tight 10. So I shake his hand and laugh off our sordid past like a bad trip. It’s a usual evening for me now, tubing it to an unknown part of London, trying to hide my phone as I follow Google maps to an uncertain pub cellar to meet total strangers to exchange 5 minutes of gags. I am effectively a gag dealer. For NO money.
The Grove is an FRP. A Flat Roof Pub attached to an estate. Terrifying to a white middle-class woman trying not to look like a Waitrose Mum on hard times. Inside is a treasure trove of kitch. Run by the same owners of the Lord Nelson in Southwark, there are Star Wars figures and trolls stuck everywhere. If you’re an act, you get a FREE DRINK which is RARE and welcome. I’m too nervous to drink more than a half and sit at a table decorated with frogs and toads and deal with my pre-gig FEAR by deciding which looks most like me…
There are 1000s of acts on tonight and I’m 23rd. (Actually 23rd out of 25). My two +1s arrive and I break the bad news. They start on the wine. It’s the night of meeting people. My King Gong Judge, Paul Pennant, is actually very decent. The effort he puts into MCing is enormous and I particularly love his homemade red light in a pudding bowl to warn the acts of their time. He actually doesn’t remember my Gong appearance despite being present to vote me off closely following my first heckle “WANT SOME COCK?” It disturbs me that this isn’t a memorable incident. It must just be part of the course.
I’m starting to spot some good people around on the circuit (comic talk for the Circle of HELL that is Stand-up). Jamie Allerton, fellow Scouser, stands head and shoulders above the rest tonight (not literally, he’s well short). His crowd work is like that of a seasoned comic. Then I meet a guy with an MA in comedy and start worrying I’m not qualified. I can’t help drinking from the 90 bottles of wine my +1s are buying to get through the very very long night. The venue are handing out Lemon Curd Shots. Lemon curd and vodka are two of my favourite things. Maybe I should do a drunk gig? It works on Drunk Histories…
Then this woman appears. I’m talking to an Irish comedian sitting nearby who’s set was brilliant and political and who’s been doing comedy a while. The woman hovers nearby, looking like Jeremy Clarkson in a red wig with big dark sunglasses. She’s eyeing up the Irish guy and giving me evils so I shut up and she moves in. She has a big walking stick and places it down on the table between us like a barrier “NONE SHALL PASS.” I back off, leaving an ear behind but don’t need to strain coz she shouts her introduction to him. “I’M A COMEDY PROMOTOR AND MY NAME IS MISS TRUNCHBULL.” That’s not her name, I can’t remember her actual name but it might as well be. It’s a long while before she gets round to saying she thought he was good. Then she fucks off.
Sue and I stare at each other. Comedy Promotors come here. I might get spotted and become faaaaamous. It’s an AGE before my name gets called and as usual, I’m dry-mouthed and shaking. I’m on right after Jamie Allerton. It’s a mixed thing following someone who’s that good. You feel great for them and the fact that the crowd is warmed up but then YOU have to follow it. The insecurities land on your head like roof tiles “What if they like them better than me?” “Will I ruin the audience’s night?” “Where’s my gun so I can shoot ALL COMPETITION”
The sound system’s not great so I project more than use the mic. It’s going ok. I get some nice laughs in a very long room. Then I catch sight of a figure in the front row. It’s Jeremy Trunchball. Sunglasses still on. Dead front and centre. She never moves or smiles once throughout my 5 minutes. In fact, she had the ultimate Verucca in the Pool Face. And I’m not that bad. I remember Jamie referring to a difficult front row. He must have meant her. Perhaps she’s dead. Maybe I killed her.
I get off, having survived the nerves and not done badly. Both +1s lie and say it was worth it. I drink my bodyweight in Lemon Curd Vodka.
Then a woman at the bar falls off her stool during the last act. It’s a dead faint and she CRASHES to the ground. The MC is up like a shot to assist as the poor comic carries on bravely. I blame the Lemon Curd. My Wino Director Friend has been drawing the same woman whilst bored during the night. Maybe she noticed and has been sitting too still for too long.
I make friends with Jamie and another lovely comic called Jenny. I consider this incredible networking.
No one approaches me to book me or make me famous.
Things I Have Learnt:
1. Jeremy Clarkson does not suit a red wig.
2. 23 people is hard for a bringer night.
3. At some point, I will leave the Open Mic circuit and this will get tougher. The people will get better. I keep catching a glimpse of them. They’re gathering in my peripherals. Then things will really change.