Gig no: 60 (1st MC gig)
In which I struggle on the ropes, compete with a stray dog and ** spoiler** WE COLLECTIVELY SMASH IT.
Where? GET BOOKED! @ Old Bookbinders Pub, Oxford
Why? My gig, my rules.
Who Held My Hand? My Partner in Crime, pub manager Josh. And Oxford-based mates: Connie, Kidd & Skinner.
I haven’t woken up this excited in AGES. Don’t tell my husband. I started a brand new stand-up comedy gig and tonight is our DEBUT NIGHT.
Why Oxford? It’s not that far away and it’s NOT LONDON. London has OODLES of stand-up nights, some great, some terrible. It’s been fascinating seeing what works and what doesn’t. In Frank Skinner‘s autobiography, he says he learned loads by doing regular MC nights. He also amassed new material quickly out of necessity. I can’t commit to more than one a month but it’s a staaaaart.
I’m proud of our debut line-up. One of the 1st names to approach me was Aaron Simmonds, BBC New Comedy finalist 2017. And the guy who FLOORED me at King Gong by backing his wheelchair up the steps to the stage and shouting “Parkour” into the mic.
Also on the bill is Hannan Azlan, who I spotted in Edinburgh and who blew me away with her complete lack of innocence. This is one of the best things about curating your own night. Nicking talent and proudly showing off your HAUL.
Josh, who runs the Bookbinders with his dad, is half-way up a ladder when I arrive, sorting out a sparkly curtain which he’s hired for the night. I can’t say too much about Josh, he’s my secret weapon, he is a GOD amongst men and every comedy promotor will want to STEAL HIM FROM ME.
In just a few weeks, Josh has invested in a new PA system, mic, stage lights and a starry curtain. He’s designed flyers, sorted out a Green Room for the acts and is just about to print out audience vote slips. I might divorce my husband and take him on as a WIFE.
I had no idea how enthusiastic he’d be when I suggested this madness to him a few months ago. I’ve always adored the Bookbinders – great atmosphere, not far from the station and POPULAR.
Josh already runs an open mic music night every Sunday, I fully expected a big fat NO. He bit my hand off.
In a matter of minutes, we’d agreed to charge for tickets and promote the bejeezus out of it. We just needed a name that reflected the pub…
GET BOOKED! was born. Ta daaahhhh!
It’s taken a while to spread the word to comedians and I had to push to find the girls out there, I’m determined to make this a 50:50 gender-split night which is an inclusive as possible.
I’m also aware I have to MC. Not a fan of courses, so I Google it. There’s lots of advice out there for free: Don’t talk to the audience too early, you’ll frighten them off. / Explain the format. / It’s about the acts, not you. / Don’t do chat after the headliner, let people go home. / Mop up the blood.
Much of it is common sense. Most of it I reckon I’ll learn on the job.
Have forgot a mop…
It’s not been without teething troubles. All 3 of my 10 minutes cancelled on me, one of them this very AFTERNOON (welcome to the world of comedy booking).
So, lovely Hannan is a replacement, as are Matt Chadourne who runs a few comedy nights in Oxford already and the awesome Sam Rhodes who has his own successful night – Sam Rhodes Comedy Explosion – in London.
Sam is an ace MC, bags of energy and original as f*ck. I’ve been doing my homework. Working on stuff about Oxford, aware that I’ve got to be TOPICAL, CLEVER. They’re clever, Oxford people aren’t they? Oxfordians?? Oxen???
Some supportive faces turn up and I nearly CRY. Kidd (brilliant actor and one of the funniest people I know), Connie (ditto) and Skinner (books comedians for TV for a living and funnier than ALL OF THEM). I’m aware these funny people are yet to see me do stand-up and that I might die on my ARSE. Ah well, there are other names on the bill…
Well, let’s HOPE there friggin are. FOUR of them, including Sam Rhodes and OUR HEADLINER are currently stuck in traffic, their ETA getting closer and closer to 8pm.
Meanwhile, the Bookies is filling up. Most are people Josh doesn’t even know so something has worked. We’ve even had online bookings. Now I’m getting nervous.
New jobs seem to wangle their way on my MC list: Greet acts, make acts feel comfortable, give acts all the info they need, manage TIME-KEEPING, work out cues to signal end of acts, create a good atmosphere for the audience, copy and display the running order, stress about half your acts still being on the motorway…
Did I mention Inspector Morse had a pint at the Old Bookbinders on the telly? Coz there was a MURDER right opposite.
There might be another body in the canal if NO EFFING COMICS SHOW UP.
I drink my body weight in lime and soda and leave my book of important MC info in the TOILET.
At 7.55, the London Faction arrives, thanks to Dylan Dodds, our driver and competition comic. I start counting the drinks I’m going to have in the 2nd interval. Ok, the competition:
Our night is in 3 parts – a format mostly nicked (with permission) from Quantum Leopard, a London gig I like:
Part 1: A competition with 5 newish comics doing 5 mins. It’s an audience vote and the winner gets a 10 spot the following month.
Part 2: 3 x 10 spots, more established.
Part 3: Competition results, followed by a paid semi-pro headliner.
The aim is to make the audience part of it, encourage and reward new comics, make it worth the ticket price and make it worth travelling to Oxford to perform. Whaddya reckon?
Well, aside from a nervous steaming pile of awkwardness that is my first 5 minutes of MC’ing, it goes like a frickin DREAM.
Contrary to Google, an MC should NEVER NOT speak to the audience in the 1st section. No matter how funny your jokes are about Hilter and Oxford, a nervous crowd is sitting in the dark going “who are you what is this and why should we CARE.”
A few minutes in, I’m aware of hideous whining coming from the street outside. It could well be the Comedy police come all the way to Oxford. Turns out it’s a stray dog going mental. Josh goes out to ‘deal with it’. Josh is a dog lover so at least we know ‘deal with it’ didn’t mean Morse-like in the CANAL.
As the nerves dissolve, I get better at improvised funny stuff and it all starts coming together. The 5 spot competition is brilliant, our 3 middle 10s are a riot (people ADORE Sam), Conor McReynolds becomes our first winner and Aaron ends us on a high.
Josh supplies me with a bottomless glass of red wine as we pay the headliner, cover the starry curtain expense and I go home with more than twice my train fare.
My best paid gig yet. And I started it.
What I Learned:
- Jokes about Hitler don’t go down well in Oxford.
- Jokes about pushing cyclists in the canal do.
- I have a lot of MC curve to learn.
- GET BOOKED! is a f*cking awesome comedy night.