Gig no: 56 & 58. Where? Cafe Mode, Covent Garden

Why? Got asked! Twice.


PART 1: In which I try a new set about disability and make a small room of people, most of them German, very uncomfortable.

Who Held My Hand? Wino Director Mate.

Sean Sellers. Comedian. Not Serial Killer. As far as I know…

What Happened? Sean Sellers, comic not serial killer, has seen me a couple of times now and asked me to do a spot. I’m conscious that I’ve been relying on the safety of Mr Tickle recently and Wino Mate AND Sean have both seen it so am trying something new.

I’ve been shaping some material about disability for a while – trying to get the right tone for it. Despite growing up with disability in my family, I’m still nervous as what I’ve come up with is dark.

“If you don’t know what cerebral palsy is, think Stephen Hawking in the bath with a toaster. Helpless… but busy.”


I’ve got 5 minutes and ideally, this needs 7-10 to unpack it right. It also doesn’t have a big flourish at the end so I spend the tube journey into town trying to think of one…

Comedy is doing things to my memory. I have a SHIT memory. Names, facts, what I did yesterday, what I came in the room for – most people wait for Alzheimer’s for this. But comedy material seems to stick, I hardly ever write things down now which is potentially dangerous. I am relying on a thing that never helped me ONCE through O’Levels.

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Dunno what that green thing is. But I’ve spent loads of time standing by it rehearsing terrible jokes.

I meet Wino Director Mate in the Cafe beforehand. Rookie mistake. Wine before a gig. This is my first time at Cafe Mode, a cozy Italian restaurant tucked away off Shaftesbury Avenue with a pitch black DUNGEON in which comedy happens every night.

Tonight is Wednesday, an in-between night with comics who aren’t exactly new but not names. Which now means me. I’m already having second thought about the disability stuff. I don’t want to offend anyone or be a dick. It’s written in support of people with disabilities to illuminate how f*cking hideous it is. I know that. Will anyone else?

Headlining is Rik Kieswetter who I adore. I snatch a conversation with him beforehand – he says I should try my new material, it has to come out some time and there’s no substitute for a live audience. Now I’m nervous, coz Rik Kieswetter is going to see my stuff. 

Rik Kieswetter. Don’t fancy him at all.

I’m on third. Sean Sellers is slick, funny and has maaaarvellous hair. There’s also a funny ginger guy I remember from King Gong. The 2 other women on the bill are self deprecating which is a shame. I’m glad I’m doing something different that relationships and body image for once.

I’m called up and start ok:

“They send me the SENd kids at work. SENd, a new umbrella term for disability. We had one of those in the 70s. It was ‘mong’.”

This gets far more of a laugh than I was expecting. Most of the audience it turns out are here on a ‘Meal + Comedy’ Wowcher, which means a third are German tourists who may just think ‘mong’ is a funny word.

The cerebral palsy stuff goes down well:

“My brother has cerebral palsy. Very badly. Actually he has it very well. If they gave scores from 1-10, he’d get a 12.”

It’s hard to get all this into 5 minutes. There’s a lot of stuff needs unpacking and I just don’t have time. I have to move on to my comic point: “kids pretending to have disabilities to get away with stuff.”


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Dark material. Dark venue.

This is where it goes wrong. I do an impression of a kid having an anxiety attack. Look, I can’t help it if I’m such a good actress it’s too real and sets a tone of pity and awkwardness in the room.

There are lines between comedy and no go areas. I may have just crossed one. I tell them to stay with me, it’s hairy material and get a laugh that is distinctly a release of tension.

The trouble with a 5 minute set is no one knows who you are. They’ve no time to find out who you are AND go on a big journey of ideas. You have to establish something with an audience before they’ll follow you to the dark side.

Funnily enough, although I have stopped being funny and have fully entered the underwritten part of the set, I’m excited rather than embarrassed. Ok, I’m a little embarrassed. But I know I haven’t done this to be clever, to be shocking, to punch down – I’m trying something that is important to me, that needs joking about. I just need better jokes in the 2nd half of it. And longer than 5 minutes.

What I Learned:

  1. Your dark side can be too dark.
  2. Or too WELL ACTED. Shut up.
  3. I slightly fancy Rik Kieswetter.

PART 2:  In which I try reeeeally rude jokes, am racist to Irish people and ruin a 1st Anniversary.

So yes, for some reason, probably coz he’s got no comics and needs to fill a Sunday night – What am I saying PROBABLY? That’s absolutely why – Sean Sellers has asked me back.

He’s promised a very small turn out. In his words: “if so, we can all just do our sets to each other and go get gelato.” There are two of them.

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Down the eeeeevil dark stairs I go to do Cafe Mode comedy…


So why am I doing this? Well, it’s a rare offer of 10 minutes and I need to try some MORE new material – yes people (one PERSON who reads my blog) I have another 15 min Dogstar (postponed but still happening) AND my first ever CORPORATE GIG to amass jokes for.

You ‘eard. CORPORATE. I am a sell-your-granny corporate joke merchant who has wangled a PROFESSIONAL AGENT to sort this gig out for her. MORE ANON. This particular corporate is for the annual dinner of the Pipe Industry Guild (PIGs) for short. And if I can’t make jokes up about that, I’ll be GUTTED. (Guttering? Pipes? Got this SORTED.)

Back to Covent Garden. I have rehearsed this material in my kitchen this very afternoon. It’s smutty stuff. I tried a rough 5 minute draft of it a while ago in Islington and it died on its ARSE. But, reworked and attached to 2 other new bits, I have greater hopes.

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The Wowcher offer. Note the “exciting possibility of TV comedians”.

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Our 2 audients are together and on their 1st Wedding Anniversary. God. Help. Them. I’m learning more about this Cafe Mode Wowcher thing. Not a bad offer. They do Wowcher and Groupon nights: pizza, booze and comedy.

Like Jongleurs, comedy is billed 3rd… The guys who run the restaurant are lovely but audiences vary hugely. They’ve not invested 100% in the stand-up, it’s a bolt-on after they’ve drunk the ‘unlimited prosecco’. Sean is full of horror stories from the night before involving mass walk outs and a racist meltdown. Why haven’t I had unlimited Prosecco?? 

Alex and Lewis, our newly-marrieds seem lovely. I’m well aware I’m going to ruin their night. It occurs to me that I might be better off doing old tried and tested stuff…

But where’s the fun in that?!

“You’re not going to like this story but then I didn’t like it much when I was 8 years old. Don’t worry, it’s not a paedo thing. I’m not, like, Frankie Boyle.”

What follows is a true story of when me and a friend found hardcore animal porn in the glove compartment of her dad’s car.

“All I could think of when he was carving that chicken was – am I going to get pregnant by Karen’s dad?”

Lovely Alex and Lewis are brave, vocal and Alex in particular is not phased by anything, especially the last section when I give Irish accents to sperm. I’m not sure if the tightness in her face is an effort not to look prudish or a precursor to the bollocking she’s going to give Lewis for handling the anniversary itinerary.

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What I Learned:

  1. I find terrible stuff funny.
  2. There is a tie and a pace for terrible stuff.
  3. It might not be Cafe Mode.