Fork Handles of Fame

Gig no: 59Where? 5 Minutes of Fame @ The Camden Head, Islington

In which I get obsessed with time, lose the ON switch and then it’s aaaaall oooohhhkaaaay.

Why? Asked.

Who Held My Hand? Not a Bringer.

What Happened? “A tight 5 or we may not book you again.” That’s what the email says so that’s what tonight’s about. This gig has one of the longest waiting lists EVER. That means one thing – a proper audience.

I should be shitting it. The email mentions a “100 strong crowd.” But, for whatever reason, I’m not feeling it today. It’s going to be one of those pull it out yer arse days… 

Fosterkew. ON.

In her Edinburgh show, the wondrous Jessica Fosterkew describes having an ON switch. I guess sometimes it has to be manual.

Email instructions say turn up before 7 for an 8pm start. I’m there at 6.47. Coz I’m soooo sad. As I go up the stairs, I see photos of proper comedians: Dara O’Brien, Tommy Tiernan, Lucy Porter – yes this is a proper comedy club. I meet the MC, Francis, who mini-interviews me – how many gigs, what kind of material, what energy, rude & dark?? “You’ll likely be in the 2nd half,” he tells me.

My interview finishes at 6.52pm. I have over an hour to wait… At 7.34 I’m told I’ll be 2nd in the 2nd. We’ve got over 40 audience members so far (I overhear), it’s not 100 but for a comedy fart like me that’s friggin LOADS.

Another comic being mini-interviewed. And me, Not ‘ON’. 

Then suddenly, it’s 7.56 and the room is FULL. There’s about 60 people here. AND IF I PHYSICALLY HAD AN ‘ON’ SWITCH AND IT WAS BROKEN, I’D BE PANICKING. BUT I DON’T. IT ISN’T. WHY AREN’T I PANICKING.

8.05 and I’ve been relegated to a stool outside the room coz it’s so crowded and there a 10 latecomers downstairs in the pub bit we have to wait for. Bit bored now actually. What is WRONG with me?

8.09 and it starts. And of course, I PANIC LIKE A TW*T. I can’t hear the MC and I suddenly don’t want to miss anything. Are there comics who stay elsewhere, out of earshot til their bit? What if you miss something relevant to your act or someone repeats your joke – the audience’ll think you’re a nob.

In Jason Manford’s Brung Up Proper, he tells the story of Peter Kay introducing him once. Manford was waiting out of earshot and literally started his act with the same one liner that Peter Kay ended on – “This dyslexic walks into a bra…” – and wondered why the audience just staaaaaared.

The likelihood of me repeating ANYTHING worthy of Peter Kay is remote. FRAMED JOKES from famous comedians line the walls of this room. Reminding the audience how good comedy CAN be.

I ask some guy if I can go in and stand at the back and he takes me down to the men’s toilets (ick) and up a fire escape to the Comedians’ Corridor. It’s like a mini-gladiator feeding room. Where the slaves waited, listening to their mates being savaged by lions, knowing they’re next. Except open to the elements.

A real audience starting to gather. Of REAL people. Not comedians. We’re all outside shivering.

I’ve been honing my Scouse Accent material to just under 5 minutes. If could hear the walls in my kitchen, they be screaming. 

The 1st half is all women and one guy. And they’re from all over the place – Holland, Austria, America. In the 2nd half there’s an Australian. Everyone’s talking about accents and that’s my entire act. Francis the MC is genuinely funny, he’s half-Spanish so we’ve got that too. He identifies a Scouser in the audience called Charlie who claims he’s a copper.

All I need is a Scouser to come on and talk about accents and I’m throwing myself off the fire escape.

I’ve completely forgotten about being off I’m so f*cking ON. I’ve got Dry Mouth and I’m shaking. Other people’s adrenaline and nerves and jokes and a live audience is the switch. Thank god for other people.

Some time after 9.15 I’m literally on. The 2nd half is all men and one woman – me. There’s a bit of an atmosphere. They don’t trust me, partly because I’m a woman, I’m sorry to say it – the women in the 1st half have been good but no one stormed it, there’s been perceptible nerves, some dead time between jokes. I devote every second of my tight 5 to pretending UTTERLY that I’m not nervous.

“Good evening,” I say as I move the mic. With a bit of sauce. Dunno where that came from. “Good evening!” Says someone from the darkness, equally saucily.

There they all are – all audiencey. I love this moment. I don’t know if they’ll be c*nts and they’re hoping to CHRIST I’ll not be shit.

It’s a strong 5 and I don’t care to say it. Coz it’s not always. I mention the United Nations of comics we’ve had, chat to Charlie, fluff my best joke and ramble through a pre-tying up section but IT DOESN’T MATTER.

That’s bit of the learning curve I’m on at the moment, it seems. If it fucks up, it doesn’t actually matter. So what’s the point in being nervous.

5 tight minutes later and – I’m gonna say this too coz it’s rare – I get the biggest cheer so far AND WHISTLES. Whistles. Maybe of relief, of “that was good for a woman” but it DOESN’T MATTER. I got whistles.

In Gladiator Corridor, the remaining guys are nice and Francis says well done. I walk to the tube feeling shattered. Which is stupid. I don’t work down a MINE.

Things I’ve Learned:

1. My next gig will most likely be shite.
2. Doing the Scouse accent onstage is a good idea. It gives me a bit of dual identity, it gives me ‘a thing’.
3. Being shattered is OLD AGE.