They let me on in the end, upstairs at The Camden Head in Islington last night. I apologised as soon as I arrived that I was without a guest, but Katerina Vrana (a brilliant Greek comedian and the ‘Free & Funny’ MC for the night) put me on 5th in the first half … and I think it went OK, even though I say so myself. They were all great comedians (Francis Foster, Amy Wright, Candy Gigi Markham, Lindsay Sharman, Tim Renkow, Kevin Witt, Alexandra Stone, Rhys Haslam, Alison Shippey and Linus Lee) – some were clearly professional – but I felt that I held my own. I was very nervous but it was a good crowd, about 100 there, a ‘generous’ audience with some loud laughing … and then there’s nothing better than 6 or 7 complete strangers coming up to you afterwards to congratulate you. What a difference to bombing at the Torriano on Thursday night. Someone asked me how long I’d been ‘gigging’. I said it was my 14th time. He told me he’d done 200 gigs – had been paid for the last 40 or so of them – but if he’d performed the 200th gig in the same way as I’d done my 14th, he’d be a very happy comedian. Frank Blunt should have been there with his film crew, of course. He’ll never believe me when I tell him how well it went.
At my very first open-mic experience at the New York Comedy Club last October, there’d been about 20 of us, some with several guests, some not. I went alone. We each had to pay $5, which gave us soft drinks – and then they closed the doors, dimmed the lights, shone a spotlight at a small stage where a microphone stood … and my guts screamed, ‘Get me outta here right now!’ But it was too late. The ‘etiquette’ was to stand-up and each do 5 minutes of comedy, accept any feedback or advice that the others wanted to offer, and then stay until the end to watch each act and to also offer feedback. The girl MC warmed up the proceedings and introduced each person to the stage in turn, getting us all to cheer and clap in order to create a ‘real’ comedy night atmosphere. I was set to go on 6th, and as I watched the first 3 or 4 acts, my guts were now begging me to get us out of there, and fast. I mean, the guys on before me were … young! Not just young, they were half my age! They were funny! They had fast, quirky, squeaky, sit-com-Friends or American-Pie-style accents! They all looked like young Jerry Seinfelds, or young Jerry Springers, or young Jerry Somethings – in fact they were all called Jerry or Josh or Joey or Jared or Jay and I thought, what the f*ck am I doing here with a name like Timothy sodding Parfitt? – even as I heard it being called out and I had to finally stagger onto the stage …
Jerry, Josh, Joey, Jared and Jay before me had all performed ‘comedy’ which had centred more or less around the size of their own big cocks, or the size of some ex-girlfriend’s gay brother’s tiny cock, or the size of some current girlfriend’s mother’s tits, ass, mouth, tongue, lips or big black vibrator. I, however, talked about getting stung on my top lip by a bumble-bee in a forest in Suffolk, England, whilst out walking my black retriever dog called Barnaby. And they laughed. I don’t know if it was through sheer pity … but they laughed. Afterwards, the ‘feedback’ I received from one of the Jerrys (and I promise you) was that when I did my swollen-lip/bee-stung voice, I sounded like ‘Jay Leno’ … and so maybe I could build that into my routine, and make it funnier by saying something like, ‘and then the bee stung me and I started to talk like Jay Leno … ’ ‘Thanks,’ I said. ‘I’ll bear that in mind.’ Then an older guy at the back of the club put his hand up and asked if I was aware I was doing more ‘storytelling’ than ‘one-liners’ – and ‘not that it wasn’t working’ but that it was ‘newer for them in New York’? I shook my head and he told me that we ‘should speak afterwards’ … (to be continued)
But it is now 4.15pm and I am signing off from this blog to psyche myself up for the King Gong at the Comedy Store in London. Here are the rules from the email I received:
‘The idea of the show is for you to have prepared five minutes’ worth of comedy material and to see if you can last the full five minutes without being gonged off! The Compere hands out three red cards to three sections of the audience – the red card holders are changed from time to time (at the whim of the Compere!) – and when three cards are held up, the contestant is gonged off. Those who last the five minutes, usually about five or six contestants only, are brought back on stage at the end of the show for a ‘clapometer’ style final – the two contestants most obviously appreciated by the audience do another one minute ‘joke-off’, and again audience response decides the winner.’
In other words: hell.
Wish me luck.