“What are you thinking about?”The West Wing
And here we are once more. It is almost precisely 1 whole week since I was here. Not “here” as such. It’s been 23 days since I’ve been “here.” Here, today, is back among the beanies, beards, bugaboos and birkenstocks of Surbiton at the oh-so chi chi “SURBITON GRIND.”
It’s 12:38pm on Sunday 10th Oct. Which means the following:
- I haven’t typed up anything in a week. And given the last thing I wrote (in the pub opposite) was essentially a fearful take-down of the whole comedy thing – rather than a handy typed up guide to “finding stand-up gigs in the SE England region,” I haven’t moved on much.
- I’m out of the house again. Claire has a Psychosynthesis Weekend course going on (as she does every few weeks or so) and therefore needs the dining table, room to talk, room to express and room to learn without the thought of a gangly Richard snoring in the room next door/listening in/making her all self-conscious/banging and clattering and making a disturbing racket.
- I am now, technically – as Ross repeatedly told Rachel – on a break. My 2 weeks of time off/annual leave has begun. I am free, to a greater or lesser extent, as a Big Bird after Sesame Street got cancelled due to a disappointing sweeps week. (I know its on PBS, shut up). 2 weeks off. Not back to the office until Monday 25th. 15 Looonnng days away. Whatever will I do with myself.
Well here I sit, lovely viewer. Remnants of a bacon and tomato toastie at one elbow, dregs of my first latte at the other. Laptop out, I tippy tappy and jab and prod, much like I imagine Tyson “Furious” Fury did last night in Vegas. There was a fight. The firm I work for offered over-night ITV subscribers tech support. I dodged having to go into the office. I will now check the result, about which frankly I couldn’t give less of a minge: Well lahdidah! Apparently it was quite the bout. Fury knocked down twice, but stood back up again (like he was a ChumbaWumba frontman) and stopped Deontay Wilder in the eleventh to keep hold of his title. Gene does name his kids weirdly.
So it’s Sunday lunchtime and I am back in the café (same spot). Big day today, as I have to prep my final 5mins ready for tomorrow night’s Showcase appearance. Plus I would like to get to the gym for a second day running (well, running and rowing-machine-ing). Plus Claire and I have plans tonight for burgers and tickets for the new Bond. How’s that for a Saturday.
Have all the time in the world so let’s talk about the gym.
I am sat in trainers (proper Nike sport ones, not “fashion pumps”); a standard Stallone-inspired “grey marl track pant”; plus a running shirt (slimy fabric, meant to help) I was “awarded” after a distant half-marathon about 5 years ago; navy “hoodie” (I know…) and denim jacket. On top of this, almost literally, is a burgundy coloured beanie hat with a Converse All Stars logo on the front. So I look like a basketball cyclops. The satchel next to me hold 2litres of water in a used Sainsbury’s bottle and a hand towel. This is unnecessary guffola that signals a trip to some kind of gymnasium.
Oh and a smartphone currently loaded with the boomingly stern 4min warning tones of Allen Carr’s “The Easy Way The Stop Smoking” audio book. (currently 40hrs since my last Camel).
Paging a therapist? Mid life crises expert to table 5? It’s that guy. In the beanie and the Nikes next to half the bacon sandwich. Him? He’s nearly fifty. Quite…
I sort of feel like writing about this today. Rather, perhaps, than typing up my stand-up notes. Although, given that’s the project that will be coming to fruition in 31hrs time, perhaps I should keep that for another time? Hmn. Yes. Let’s.
Let’s go back to 2 weeks ago, when I was in the Prince Of Wales and having a minor panic about the idea of “trying to get comedy gigs.” I was sharing what I had learned from Jenan, who one assumes (have yet to check) is a successful jobbing stand-up who knows the open-mic scene.
She was talking about Gaelle Constant and her FB page. Remember? This blog is weird. One has to start at the bottom and keep scrolling up a bit to find the next chapter. It’s a bit Japanese.
I haven’t been near this since we were last chatting. But as I say, it appears to be a very helpful guide to new clubs, new nights, new promoters etc, designed for the new open-micer or budding 10-minuter to use as a “planner” to give them the contacts and details to start building a career.
In the old days of course, before the Web spun and choked everything around it like a big e-spider, these details were purchased from a weekly edition of Time Out. The London “listings” magazine where Mark Kermode first blagged his way into a “listings job” before becoming….well, Mark Kermode. One purchased this fat papery mag once a week and it simply was THE guide to every gig, show, concert, performance, dance, poetry, exhibition etc in the London Area. Lovingly put together and almost faultless in its accuracy. If you wanted to know what was playing at the Prince Charles Cinema at midnight next Wednesday, or which amateur poets would be shouting into a microphone upstairs at The Redan pub on a Tuesday lunchtime…Time Out told you.
Of course the best thing about the magazine was the contact details. Occasionally after a comedy club listing, it would have printed “new acts call Geoff on 0181 555 7676.” This was the holy grail, as it meant you might – if courage up-plucking was a thing – get through to a bloke who’d “stick you on to do an unpaid five” in 6 weeks time, somewhere in Balham. Getchaself two dozen of these spots in your year planner – I believed – and you could say you were “on the circuit.”
Time Out has gone the way of the Tyrannosaurus (by which I mean it’s been replaced by a much more efficient digital version) so it’s all online booking now.
There are also, it appears, facebook collectives and groups for new comics. Comedy Forum (as apposed to “against ‘em”, I assume) and such. These I need to investigate. If I’m going to do this.
The idea of not doing it. I mean, even not even turning up to tomorrow’s show, still flitters mothlike about my shoulders.
Open mic nights naturally still exist in London and the surrounding world. Apparently – and this I can only see as a plus…or MASSIVE MINUS…clubs now require you to “enquire for a spot” via email. And include a YouTube link. So the promoter can “check you out” presumably and see if you’re gonna bring the mood up or crashing down.
Blimey. I mean…blimey.
It makes sense of course and was naturally de rigour in the music biz, when one would hastily jiffy-bag up a “demo tape” with accompanying letter and glossy 4×6 b/w off to clubs and such to get gigs. And sending a “link” to your show is certainly less humiliating than having some twerp on the phone grumpily asking you “are you funny? Make me laugh…” when you bothered him over his afternoon Frosties.
So the show reel, as it’s called in the acting biz. This, I assume, is what I’m hoping to get from tomorrow night. Erich will be taping the show infront of, I hope, a welcoming crowd. Monday night, rather than Friday night, so less boozy blokey bellowers. Also clearly a “new act showcase” so one would imagine a “forgiving” and “generous” crowd. But that’s a lot of pressure for your FIRST five minutes to become your calling card for all your other gigs for the next year. Unless you fuckin’ SMASH it of course. Hope hope hope.
It’s 1:18pm as I type. And God I write weird. Just occurring to me now. If one was to try and fake my prose “style”, it would be a matter of just typing: I expect, frankly, I suppose, essentially as you’d imagaine, to a certain extent – or rather not – I guess, presumably, one, dear reader, I assume agrees.
Christ it’s tedious. You can see why I never really appear as “assertive” in business environments.
So. More advice on gig-getting: Try everywhere once. Look for “helper gigs” who will essentially (see! I can’t help it) give you stage time in exchange for manning the door, staying late to clear up, set out chairs, flyering the street etc.
Once – again, according to the very very knowledgeable Ginan – one has a few of these open mic 5-minute slots under the belt, time to step up. Infact, it seems, your tight open-mic 5 mins should only really be the greatest hits of your equally excellent 10mins that you already have written. Worst case (as I discovered back in 1992 when I did my second ever gig), the promoter immediately likes you (This was the Craic Comedy Club hosted by the legendary Dolly Dupree in Wealdstone) and asks you back NEXT week to do 10mins.
Fuck. I only had my 5 (mostly puns and jokes about dinosaur penises) Which I could sort of stretch to 6 if I gurned and twitched a bit. What I didn’t realise (and why doing a course like this 30 years ago would have been amazing) was Dolly expected me to get up and do my strong 5, adding bits along the way to get it to 10m.
Now I was terrified that the same people came along to the Wealdstone Craic every week, and so a repetition of ANY of my act would get grumpy booing and “heard-its!” So I, like an idiot, went home and wrote a brand new untested full 10mins. Which went…okayyyy. But when Dolly gave me my £80 afterwards (I know…) she said “it was a shame I didn’t do all that good dinosoaur penis material…”
One lives and learns. Or dies and learns in my case. Ooooh, Live and Learn, sounds like a Bond movie. Except it needs to have Die in it. So “You Die and Learn?” Naaaah. Perhaps a memoir titles.
Infact, perhaps the title of Tuesday’s upcoming blog, depending on Monday night goes.
Meanwhile, the idea. Yes. Have a really solid 10 minute act. Brilliantly tight and great. Bulletproof.
Hone this down to an AMAZING five and get out there and do it everywhere that’ll let you. Film solid 5 mins and YouTube it as your calling card. Send it out to 5 promoters a DAY. Get on the “Mirth Control” mailing list. (not sure what this is, will have to check).
Other tips: There are still “gong shows” where one is essentially in a bear-pit and the audience votes for their favourite, who wins a 10 minute spot. Up The Creek is one of the most renound of these, created as it was a million years ago by the guv’nor “Malcolm Hardee.” Who – despite me never having met him or even seen his act – terrified me and I imagined was a bit like Brick Top from Snatch. But drunk. The Bearcat apparenty also has one of these. Am not touching them.
Then we moved onto Festivals, at which point it all got cold and muddy and drizzly and smelt of wet denim and dogs and joss sticks and I sort of lost interest. Because I am old stick in the mud. Or would be, if I didn’t hate mud. An old stick in the hotel-reception-area. The idea is get a few comics to pull together a full hour’s show and then present it as a single event. Give it a name, pretend you’re Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson and go take Edinburgh by storm.
This was all great stuff, that I wish I had been encouraged to do 30 years ago perhaps. Hmn. No. No, let’s face it Rich, you must be honest. You were a lousy hack comic. With lousy hack material. The 1990s were full of them. They are no-where now. Hello Charlie Chuck? Hello Dorian Crook?
Oh apologies. Just googled Dorian Crook. I was on the bill with him twice in my life, back in the day. Val Doonican Clinic (VD Clinic, see what they did there?) in Hampstead. He is still a comic. And apparently an air-traffic controller. Hmn. Okay.
We finished up, almost, on BBC Radio comedy, talking open submissions to NewsJack and such. My good pal Neal did this once and give him a pint of Guinness will tell you all about it. This was when he was mingling in the same Twitter circles as John O’Farrell and that other bloke. Y’know. Him. Posh-ish. Glasses. Dammit. Very Radio 4. Mate of Dan Maer. Fuck, gone blank. Him. Anyhoo Neal tells a great anecdote about the writers room on The Now Show and a very scruffy Punt n Dennis and lots of tabloid papers and biros.
A tip, it would seem, if one wishes to go down that “route” and I think it would make an amusing blog thing to give it a try, creeping up as I am on the age where one is supposed to have already done these things (more later on this, you’ll be nauseated to know) is to follow the BBC Writers Room and just pitch and pitch and pitch. Often one will be rewarded for sheer persistence. Not a problem Gerald Wiley had, one imagines.
Anyhoo, much more to say on all this! But time creeps towards “going to the gym.” It’s an hours round trip to walk there and back. And I want to do at least an hours-worth of low-impact, remember I’m 48 years old, sweaty nonsense. So That’ll get me home for 4pm or so. Unless I stop off and do more of this on my way home. Stinking the fucking place out, naturally, as I HATE to shower in public. Hmm. Okay, well this has got me back into the swing o’things.
I’ll shove all this away and pop my Stop-Smoking earbuds in and take my walk to The Gym in Kingston where, in the words of Woody Allen, I’ll “bend and lift and squat, really dismally. Nothing grew or anything and I’ll end up giving Vic Tanny my money and ask him to walk me home nights…”
Love to much xxx