For a long time I had no desire to try stand-up comedy. Even working as an improviser and writing and performing sketch comedy for many years didn’t change that. It’s not that I didn’t think about stand-up, I did – especially as people frequently assumed I was a stand-up comedian when I told them I did comedy. The general lack of being able to discern the differences betwixt the comedy disciplines used to annoy me. Not any more.
Last night I did my very first five-minute set, and the whole thing has turned around – now I’m feeling like it’s somethng I want to do a whole lot more of.
There were 20 improvisers at The Miller on Tuesday, trying their hand at stand-up. For most of us, it was our first time. Everyone killed it – largely because the material was sharp and diverse. Acts ranged from dangerously manic to dangerously zombified, from medium-brow to morbidly scatological – you couldn’t have programmed a greater variety. Compere Chris Mead did an admirable job keeping the event rolling, ensuring the crowd was noisy and appreciative throughout.
Of course his job was made that much easier by the fact that approximately half the audience was more-or-less terror stricken at the thought of taking the mic and facing down the audience, despite their apparent friendliness. It was a perfect venue, organized by Steve and Edgar of Hoopla.
Between last week’s launch of Marbles, and this week’s launch of my stand-up career, I’ve got a lot to thank Hoopla’s Tuesday Night’s for.
I wasn’t nervous until about an hour before the show. And then I got all anxious and pacy. It was a bit strange to think about doing five minutes of stand-up, as I’ve got a bunch of performances of Roman Around, a kind of full-length stand-up-cum-history lesson, behind me. And yet, I was nervous. And excited.
And the years of performing improv and sketch. But still, stand-up was a distinctly different thrill. Same great taste, but a different kind of satisfaction once my brief few minutes were up. I covered such important topics as kittens, scarecrows, and bike theft, then it was done.
I understand why it’s addictive – having a great set (as we all did last night) and you’re keen to get another fix of audience laughter.
And presumably, when you’ve had a terribly show – walking on to frowny hostility, and leaving to stony silence – you’re just that much keener to blast your comedy bolts at the next audience. Either way, once you walk off the stage you’re just looking for another chance to get back on, grab the microphone and tell some comedy jokes.
For me, that time will be sooner rather than later.