It was a week before Christmas, Tuesday 18th December to be exact, and I learned a lot upstairs at The Library Comedy Club in Upper Street, Islington. In fact I learned a great deal about the world of stand-up from then on, too – at least London’s ‘world’. Thanks to the fabulous compere James Redmond, comedian, actor (Casualty, Hollyoaks), and admittedly a close family friend, I’d been invited along as an ‘Also on the Bill’ warm-up act to appear before professional comedians, Sara Pascoe (BBC Live at the Apollo), Joe Bor (warm-up man for The Graham Norton Show and Mock The Week), Katherine Ryan (Never Mind the Buzzcocks, 8 out of 10 Cats, Mock The Week), Pat Burtscher and Paul T.Eyres. In fact I was the only one without an ‘open brackets/Mock The Graham Norton Buzzcock Week at The Apollo/close brackets’ tab at the end of my name. But … I held my own. At least that’s what they told me – especially Katherine Ryan, who seemed very impressed that it was only my 8th time. She then said she’d been doing stand-up for 5 years and that ‘we all have to do about 10 years before we’ll be any good …’ But I thought I’d cracked it. I thought I’d sussed the art of stand-up. Admittedly I had a number of “good friends and family” in the audience (who’d all been bribed to laugh), but it was the first time I’d received something in return for ‘performing’, too – OK, I admit it was only a free Thai curry, but it tasted good. “Just think,” I thought (gettit?), “I could live on Thai curry for the rest of my life … “
I was back at The Library again on 19th February, again as an ‘Also on the Bill’ warm-up alongside another group of professional comedians, Joel Dommett (Skins, Russell Howard’s Good News), Diane Spencer (Britain Unzipped), Tom Price (Bewitched, Torchwood) Brenda Gilhooly (Lily Savage Show), Jamie Glassman and Jo Selby. And of course I still had no ‘brackets’ after my name. I never will. I was still an ‘outsider’ and always will be, I guess. I could feel the others staring at me and inventing the ‘brackets’ for me, though … ‘Look, there’s Tim Parfitt ‘open brackets/The Tubby Git From Spain Who Thinks He’s Funny But He’s Not And He Never Will Be/close brackets’. But it didn’t faze me … nothing ever does … which is probably why I am OK with all this standing-up experience so far. I think the best thing I ever did was totally ‘bomb’ at the open-mic Broadway Comedy Club in New York on my 4th attempt at stand-up (see blog documentary 6). Standing there for 5 minutes to complete silence – and I mean, no-one laughed at all – after Jerry, Josh, Joey, Jared and Jay had all received ecstatic and hilarious applause … well, I don’t think anything will ever faze me ever again.
Which is just well. Because whilst the February slot at The Library went well again (yes, I had some close friends and family in the audience once more, as well as the Frank Blunt ‘mockumentary’ film crew), and I got my free Thai curry again, I’ve had several ups and downs since then – and I am sure I will have several ups and downs next week in Edinburgh, too. Stand-up is a delicate art. In fact they say it is the hardest performance art. Forgive the cliché, but doing it really is like a roller-coaster ride. When it is ‘down’, it is dire. It is cringeing. When it is ‘up’ – when people are laughing, really laughing – it is thrilling, it is a wonderful feeling – and it is something you just want to repeat … and so you forget the possible cringeing moments to search for it again. So I guess it is a drug.
In between the two Library ‘gigs’ of December and February, I then bombed in Barcelona again at Carder’s Pub on 19th January – made worse by the fact that I’d dragged my partner along to see me for the very first time. She cringed all night at the sound of non-laughter (so I didn’t need to). Again, I wasn’t so fazed. I kept telling her that it’s ‘not normally that bad’ – but I don’t think she believed me. I went back to London for the month of February and threw myself in to the open-mic circuit with the Frank Blunt film crew following me to most of the venues (some of which I have already blogged about). I did a 1-minute ‘audition’ at The Albany’s Comedy Cellar for the annual Amused Moose Comedy Awards supported by BBC’s 2 Entertain. I was hoping to get some real brackets after my name but I never heard back from them ‘open brackets/pretty unsurprisingly/close brackets’. For 5 nights running, I did up to 5-10 minutes at The Freedom Fridge Comedy Club (Torriano pub) in Kentish Town, at the Free & Funny at The Camden Head Pub in Islington, at the Pear Shaped Comedy at The Fitzroy Tavern in the West End, at ‘Comedy Virgins’ at The Cavendish Arms in Stockwell – and, of course, I lasted a full 1 minute, 47 seconds at the infamous ‘King Gong’ at The Comedy Store (that still put me 9th out of 30).
Back in Spain during the Spring, I waited for the Edinburgh Fringe to be finally confirmed – then once it was I realised I was committing myself to a full 50 minute slot (even up to 1 hour) over four consecutive lunchtimes. I have tried to practise some sections of it just twice … and only last month. Thanks to some close friends, I was invited to ‘rehearse’ my act at a tennis club dinner on 19th July … but I bombed. The ‘humour’ didn’t work, but also I should have never used props (especially having never used props up to now). It was my 21st attempt at comedy and again, almost my last (despite Edinburgh). I have since vowed to never attempt stand-up ‘outdoors’ again, nor whilst there is a table of 6 ‘late arrivals’ directly in front of me, choosing loudly what they are going to eat from the blackboard being held up high in front of them; nor whilst one of their party – fat, bald, pretty bloody ugly, actually – continues to talk loudly through my entire act or then proceeds to wave CDs in the air, offering them for sale, CDs that are apparently of the band that will be appearing after me and which he can’t wait for – in fact he is only interested in hearing them, as he stuffs his fat face quickly and then puts his fat fingers in his fat bald ears whilst I am trying to tell a story about fucking Tourette’s, the fat bastard …
But then the second time I practised (without props), it was much (or at least slightly) better. I managed 35 minutes in Carder’s Pub in Barcelona on Monday 22nd July, my last attempt at stand-up prior to Scotland, thanks to the support of SUCK (Stand Up Comedy Kills) regular Chris Groves, who will now also be supporting me in Edinburgh. At the moment I am still unprepared – but in a sense, I need to be. I don’t want Edinburgh to be too rehearsed. I want Edinburgh to be … relaxed, fun, spontaneous.
My ‘show’ is on the official Fringe website and the venue that I have been allocated is The Three Sisters (renamed Free Sisters for the Free Fringe). Described as ‘the biggest free venue in Edinburgh, quite often referred to as the Free version of the Pleasance courtyard … it is the epicentre of free fringe shows, where people come to watch shows, hang out or party away, with a huge variety of performance spaces to choose from.’ I have been given ‘Maggie’s Front Room’ there (I like the name ‘Maggie’) which is described as a venue ‘with a 60 seat capacity, cabaret style, small stage on the flat and full PA system’. The posters promoting my ‘Speedy Boarding’ spiel have been printed and we are ready to ‘flyer’ everyone we see from Saturday onwards. All I now need to do is to print off my Ryanair boarding pass to avoid a 70 euro charge for doing so at the airport …
So … Edinburgh here I come. Writing this blog has helped me to put in perspective the ‘journey’ of setting out as a ‘hobby’ on the stand-up circuit, but certainly getting hooked by it. I think a final Edinburgh ‘diary’ will be the culmination of this specific blog, or at least I believe it should be – but never say never. Even though I say so myself, I am very proud of having ‘had a go’, with or without any brackets after my name.