I’m back and so is this blog. Frank Blunt and his documentary team are back in town, too – but they’re not letting on when or where they’re going to film next. It’s to do with their ‘fly-on-the-wall’ psychology bollocks. (Who came up with ‘fly-on-the-wall’ in the first place? What fly? Whose wall?) Anyway, I’ve told them that they should come along to tonight’s SUCK show here in Barcelona, where it all began.
So … where was I? Friday 19th October last year was the day of the Barcelona International Comedy Festival’s ‘newcomers’ final. The winner would be supporting Rich Hall, the American comedian, writer and musician, in his one-man show in Madrid and/or Barcelona. It would be my fifth time only at trying stand-up, having practised my bee-sting spiel during 2 open-mic nights in New York (on top of the day job, of course).
Before heading to JFK, I’d dashed into a Barnes & Noble store to buy a couple of comedy CDs to listen to on the plane. I grabbed one by a guy called Louis CK (I promise that I’d never heard of him) and another by Jim Gaffigan (nor him). Why? I liked the look of the CD covers. I have never laughed out loud so much on a flight … but that’s another story …
I arrived at Barcelona airport at 7am on Weds 17th October. I then had to spend two days in Madrid and returned to Barcelona yet again by 5pm on the Friday. It was raining. The final was to be held at the Auditori de L’Orfeó Gracienc in the heart of the Gràcia district of Barcelona, starting at 10pm. I got there by 9pm.
The theatre held around 240 and apparently it would be a ‘sell-out’. I was well aware that a group of friends from my home town of Sitges were planning to come along to support me that night. I am not going to mention names but there were about 18 of them in the end – amazing – I will never forget that support, that friendship. There were colleagues from the original Logan Murray course, too – and other faces that I recognised from the final heat that I’d entered. Even my ex had sent me a good luck message. I replied to say that it would be great to see her there but it didn’t happen. I knew it was impossible.
I didn’t feel nervous, not at first. Probably because I’d struggled alongside Jerry, Josh, Joey, Jared and Jay at the NY Comedy Club and then bombed atrociously in front of the Bronx and Harlem dudes at the Broadway Club, I now felt that I could come to little harm in the Gràcia district of Barcelona, where the audience, at least from the wings prior to the start of the show, sounded like they were out to enjoy themselves. I peeped out at one point and saw all my friends from Sitges. Then I felt nervous. I also felt a responsibility to not let them down, or myself. They’d come in to Barcelona especially to see me … and in the rain! Would my bumble-bee spiel be enough to not bugger up their precious Friday night? No, is the answer. Which is why it was great that one act in particular stole the show.
There were 9 of us in the final: Matt, Dan, Robert, Noah, Pamela, Kayleigh, Josep, Daniel and me. I have nothing but utter admiration for each and every one of them. It’s odd, but it now being my fifth time, I’d now come to feel and understand the comradeship and mutual support that goes on behind the scene. You can only congratulate and encourage another person doing stand-up. You know what they are going through or have just gone through, before or after their act. I was set to go on third from last, in the second half. All acts before me were going well, but one in particular, Josep Catala, the only Catalan amongst us and performing in English, was hilarious. As soon as he walked out, the applause was immense. When he started his spiel about the lyrics of a Lady Gaga song, delivered in his slow Catalan-English accent, ‘Don’t call my name, don’t call my name, Alejandro … I’m not your babe, I’m not your babe, Fernando,’ the audience were in hysterics. I think ‘backstage’ there and then, listening to it, the rest of us all knew he’d won. In a sense, I think it took the pressure off. I relaxed. Eventually Stephen Garland, the MC, introduced me to go on stage. I walked out, holding a bottle of water. There were 200 people clapping and cheering, hyped up by Stephen. I heard a couple of people shout my name. But I couldn’t see anyone. I could only see the front row. They were smiling. They wanted to have a good time. So did I. (to be continued)