Sunday afternoons with Grantham

“When you’re alone and life is making you lonely,
you can always go…”

DOWNTOWN – Petula Clark

And here we are one sunny Sunday later.

A beautiful sunny afternoon and it’s all very British right here. The back door is open and a summery breeze wafts through the flat, fluttering the papers on the table. I am 3 cups of coffee in, after a blow-out of sausage, egg and cheese muffins. A sort of “McMuffiny” attempt to recreate that perfect salty takeaway breakfast.

I think the mc breakfast is an absurd greasy treat. Double sausage n egg, with coffee, juice and a piping hash brown really does something to the tum on a cold winter morning, especially if one has gone to bed without supper.

So I sort of make my own version, although it was a struggle to finish. I made 2 y’see. I made a couple for Claire also. And this has resulted in us lying prostate, bloated and groany, infront of episodes of Downton Abbey on Netflix. Man I can see the easy, chocolate box Sunday tea-time appeal of this fluffy Jeeves n Woostery upstairs downstairs Victoriana. Jim Carter is a fucking treat. His VOICE! Jesus.

I am something of a parrot when it comes to accents and idioms. Unable not to repeat them back to the TV when I hear a good one. But fuckideedoo I would have to go and bury my testicles in a sewer before I managed the bass baritone thunder of Carter’s grovelling gravel. Could listen to it all day.

Met him once. He was playing “Sire Chiffley Lockhart” in a production of Ben Elton’s GASPING, which I went to see 3 times. Twice with Hugh Laurie in the lead, and once with the gangly and charming John Gordon Sinclair. This would have been 1990. At the height of my fanboy fandom of all things Alternative Comedy.

1991 was the hieghts of this when my sister and I got tickets for the AIDS benefit charity comedy night “Hysteria 3.” A glittering showbiz night when the legendary Eddie Izzard launched himself on the London stage and stand-up changed forever.

He’s here at 41 min 50 secs

Anyhoo, it’s 4pm-ish. I was meant to be jumping into this much earlier but tea and breezes and Downton and a comfy sofa has kept me from the desk.

I have 2 things to do today:

  1. Take the “best bits” of last week’s stuff from the Stand-Up Course and create a tight 5mins.

 2. Create a 2.5hr pub quiz.

The quiz won’t take long, I have the questions written, I just need to choose and format and stuff.

The creation of my “act” however…well.

Hmm. Let’s think about that.

So last week. Usual Monday night but a poorly one if you recall from my entry (GAGGING ON EMPTY) which I was tootling around with from my sick bed last week.

Am looking back on the notes I made from the session last week. They’re a little sparse to be honest. Mainly because the nights have got more about “performance” and “polish” than about theory.

We discussed what we had all thought of our videos: how we have felt; what went well; how we appeared; what we learned.

Then it was up on our feet for a warm up. An improv’ game, much in the manner of Who’s Line Is It Anyway? A conversation that is ONLY questions. Professional comics and improvisors can do this with it:

These guys nail it every time. It’s a skill I don’t have.

Much like a lot of my delusions as a teenager, I would watch shows like this, (the UK one and later the US version) for hours and hours and hours watching these speed-of-light synapses firing with wit, shock and wow. And it spoke to me. I was – like most backseat drivers or Monday morning quarterbacks – convinced that, with a bit of practise, it would be something I could do.

Well I tried it properly on Monday. And y’know what. Blimey it’s tough. It really is. Sarah has a knack for it, as she’s done what used to be called “theatre games” before. So she has that 90 degree angle, spin-off, take it somewhere new, instinct. I’m quite ploddy with mine. Something I enjoyed but boy oh boy leave it to the pros. Stuttering and stumbling…

Next up we had to tell a story, just to warm us up and get our mic technique ready. Simple one. An embarrassing story. I didn’t really know what to tell so I over-did a tale of an embarassing fart/follow-through/turtles-head/runny poo incident that happened…not as long ago as I hoped. Pub. Friday night. Dicky tum. One too many real ales… Anyway. Told the story. Added as much anxiety and pathos by putting myself in a “hitting on a girl” scenario, which ramped up up the humiliation.

At which point it was material time. Again, we gather as an eager front row around the raised stage. Erich bounds on and whips us up and announces us one at a time. Up we jump, striding up to the microphone, elbow-bumping Erich, taking the mic stand and launching in.

So. What I’d done to prepare for this (it’s coming up below, hold your horses) I had waded through my black file of every one-liner and idea I’d ever had. Any joke that could be buckled,, bent, bruised and bundled into a “life story” topic I plucked with a Ctrl C Ctrl V and put in a new file. I then went through and scrawled out any that I felt I just couldn’t pull off. Perhaps old, perhaps tired, perhaps corny, perhaps too much of a stretch.

But I got about seventeen one liners. Ranging from the old:

We had a lot in commons as a family. For example, my brother and I both grew up with terrible inferiority complexes. His was great obviously, mine was shit.

To the new:

I have a niece now. She’s into PAW PATROL that’s her thing. Which for years, I thought was the follow up to BENEFIT STREET.

You get the idea. So I wrote them all down, recorded them into an MP3 recorder on my phone and played them over and over…

Here’ me bashing them out to…shall we say…mixed response…

So. What can we learn here.

Well in watching it back (which isn’t exactly a fun thing to do, as one is very aware of silly expressions and errors and stumbles), I can say this.

2 or 3 gags got nothing. I mean, not silence. But not that CRACK of laughter when the punchline hits. Of the remaining 14 gags, only about 9-10 got the response I was hoping for.

So that’s about a 70% hit rate. Not too shabby.

As I write this now, I’m uploading the videos and dividing the script into “yes/no/maybe.” Hoping there’s a good 5mins in if I ditch the weaker stuff.

Am I putting too much emphasis on the responses I’m getting from 5 strangers in an empty club? And 5 strangers who are, to all intents and purposes, “comedy writers.”?

Well maybe. But perhaps if I raise the bar only to the material that lands solidly, I can see what I have.

So everyone else did their “life stories” too. But it’s fair to say they did it “properly” and actually talked about their lives. Finding jokes and ideas in their life, rather than twisting the joke to fit the life.

We got some feedback which was good. Mine appeared to be, by and large, “good.”

But it was great to be able to discuss what worked and what didn’t. And more importantly, why.

Example: The dogging joke.

It got barely a laugh. Until I repeated the “splashed out” bit which triggered the memory and got a bigger response. The feeling was that ending the punchline on “second hand Vauxhaul” is confusing. Ending the feedl-ine on “car he’d splashed out on…” Works better. Which I then tried again to greater success.

I don’t like it as much that way round. I think it’s a bit “spoon feedy.” But I need the laugh.

Anyhoo, that sort of thing. Great to hear.

Then it was a fag and a break and some more Lemsip.

And back in to deliver our “actual 5mins.”

Our actual 5 mins.

Now with this, I had just pulled together my favourite lines from the “my life story” bit, and then added some “50 Shades Of Grey” stuff slightly extended. (Thank the lord for the double entendres of “paddle” and “shit creek.”). And I closed with a more extended bit about laundry racism. Again, thank the lord that Jews sounds like Hues and Airing sounds like Aryan.

I climbed up and. With the help of my notes, I banged these out. Which would work, which would not…

Here we go

First thing, naturally, is that I’ve trimmed down all the errs and uhmmms and the scrabbling around with bits of paper as I forgot most of the order of the routine. Not the jokes, but just which ones followed which. I’d focussed too much on learning the “My Life Story.”

Second thing to notice is that, even with the uhhmms cut out, the fucker runs 8mins 58 seconds. Which is about double the length of the 5mins I;ve got.

This is good I think in most ways. It means I can pull together ONLY the jokes that land. And probably still have 5 mins.

Christ 5 mins is no time at all.

Other notes:

Apparently a “racist” observation – even when jokingly attribute it to an aging snooker commentator for comic affect – is still a racist comment. Calling a Chinese player “the tricky yellow” as an example of old fashioned 1970s prejudice crashing into the 21st century is STILL a troublesome observation. So that comes out.

Also, “hues” sounds enough like “Jews” that it doesn’t need the addition of “6 million” or “Solution” to hammer the point home.

So now – at 5.42pm on this Sunday evening – I have the “pleasure” of going through both of these videos and seeing if – with only HITS – I have 5mins worth.

I tell you, it beats the hell out of a blank sheet of paper with “Stand up routine?” written at the top.

Tomorrow night I have the pleasure of getting up and delivering a solid 5mins. So that’s my evening now.

Its exactly how I thought I would enjoy my life, to be fair. I mean, as Sunday night’s “evening’s work” goes, beats the living crap out of Excel or Powerpoint.

Oh, and a call to my mother which is overdue.

And a pub quiz.

Perhaps a shower next, a call to mum, and then the quiz. That’ll give me a couple of hours to pull an audio track of the “set” together for me to learn for tomorrow.

Thanks for watching. In 25hrs I’m gonna get up and smash out the act-proper and see what the hell happens. I think there might be a special guest joining us. About “getting gigs” and such.

Anyway. Until then, not too shabby for a Sunday

Back soon x

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