Gig no 17. Where? The Fighting Cocks, Kingston-upon-Thames
Why? Answered a FB ad
Who Held My Hand? No one. Kingston is friggin MILES away.
What Happened. I F*CKING STORMED IT. I now know what that’s like when comedians say this. I may never experience it again but I can now say I STORMED A GIG. ONCE.
This entire night was an accident of course. I responded to a plea on a Facebook Comedy Group for a charity night. The bribe was a 10 minute spot so I leapt at it. As I NEVER have any idea what I’m getting myself into, I didn’t know the organiser, Toby, was in fact 12 until he introduced me to his dad in a room FULL of drunken students. His actual words were: “This is Lizzie Hopley, she’s a proper comedian.”
It was then that my bowels decided to leave the building.
Drunk student girls are TERRIFYING. The loos are full of them. I feel like a mum from Asda (I’ve dressed down coz the pub is called The Fighting Cocks and I don’t want to get glassed). It’s a biker-y, student-y, in-your-face type pub. The comedy bit is a decent space that has seen a lot of student band sweat, blood and god knows. There’s no lighting but there’s a mic.
I’ve asked to be in the first half as I want to get home. Toby, as compere, is adorable and very natural in front of his audience. A BAYING audience, the first 3 rows of which are very beautiful young women. The first act is horrendous. an extremely young student who is stoned (but I think he’s acting). He is fighting nerves with arrogance. I know this coz I do it too. When he gets off, he stands near the stage on his mobile, talking loudly over Toby’s next material and the following act. I’m not experienced enough to deal with this. I may have to throw a chair at him. What if I get angry in front of 50 students? Will they glass me for being menopausal??
The 2nd act is a sketch act with Toby and his mate. They’re funny and likeable. Then comes some other guy I vaguely remember from a Rose & Crown in Kentish Town gig (my hated venue of choice). He’s terrible. Sorry but he is. And I feel bad but him being terrible is giving me confidence. I’m now dying to get up there. (This is not necessarily a good thing. If I ever do move on to high end talented gigs, will I start dry-mouth shitting myself again??)
Then Toby comes on and gives me the most unexpected build up EVER. That’s when I realise he has a completely different idea of our text transaction. In posting on a FB comedians’ site, he was being cheeky. He has literally been surprised I even got in touch and is now building me up into the unexpected PRO GUEST ACT he clearly thinks I am:
“Now, I’ve got a treat for you. An actual real comic…”
Bit mean on the last guy but…true.
“…She’s a proper grown up…”
F*cking ouch. But again, true.
“She’s been on tour and everything.”
Huh? Have I?? There are students in the crowd turning round to stare at me.
“And she’s hilarious. Please give an almighty welcome to our headliner…”
My feet move me towards the stage as the student crowd of 50 go fucking wild. I clamber up repeating the mantra: “present yourself like a comedian, present yourself like a comedian…” Not out loud you mentalist, in my HEAD. And I begin. There’s a sea of little lovely merry faces below me FULL of trust. Coz I’m old and coz someone told them to.
Every single line gets an amazing response. They are listening and loving it. I can taste the adrenaline in my mouth as I speak. I’ve written letters on my hand to remember an acronym I want to include. I notice it at some point and have no idea what it means. No matter, I move on. The drunk girls are joining in but it just helps. I talk to them all, acknowledge them all. The cocky 1st act is off his phone and watching avidly…
I have one bit about fat women turning men gay (from an article written by a Moscow Journalist who visited Canal Street, Manchester) where I need to stand near a guy:
“I was thinking, how come d’you have to stand for it to take effect? And if you’re more pear-shaped, d’you just turn ‘em bi? What if you’re carrying a few pounds, time of the month? It’s a weaker signal…”
There are no men near me. I walk off stage and find Toby. He plays along. We’re having a ball in this room. The Theresa May v Manc Fat Girl joke brings the roof down. Students LOVE politics. I AM MARK THOMAS.
Then I’m done and finish to deafening applause. And if all this sounds like blowing my own trumpet and me being an arrogant f*ck, read my other blogs. This is my FIRST TIME and I will REVEL in it.
Toby can’t thank me enough, students now off to the bar are stopping me with lavishing praise. The cocky 1st act (suddenly not stoned) says: “That was brilliant. I was watching, thinking “I must work harder, I must learn from this.””
I don’t say: “Mate, you’ve most likely done more gigs than me.” Because it’s TRUE.
I take the long train home. Maybe I can f*cking do this? Maybe only to 50 drunk young people once in a fighting cock. But hey, I’m down with the kids man, back off.
What I learned:
- Headlining is fun, especially by accident.
- All students are young enough to be my CHILDREN.
- This comedy lark is the biggest, toughest and BESTEST rollercoaster I’ve ever been on. EVER.