Four Moldovans & A Funeral

“We gotta go back in time…”


Okay, so we’re still here. Have moved inside the coffee shop now. Table is a bit high so I’m going to grab a cushion. One moment.

Oh, that’s surprisingly better. As I say, Claire just left. It’s just after 2pm. I have 3hrs free. No tennis on TV tonight so we might continue our exploration into the Spider-Man universe.

In expectation and preparation for the upcoming new Spider-Man movie No Way Home (released mid December), Claire and I are ploughing our way through the back catalogue. I love to do this. Recap on a franchise so it’s all fresh for the new release. Easy to do with Marvel. Slightly longer to do with Star Wars. Fucking impossible to do with James Bond.

SO perhaps tonight it will be the second of the poor Andrew Garfield efforts, The Amazing Spider-Man 3. A movie about which I remember nothing, aside from Jamie Foxx playing a feeble Electro, who looked NOTHING like the Electro I remembered fondly from my 1980s Spider-Man annuals.

Superhero costumes almost NEVER resemble their comic-book origins. I think it’s clearly that, what looks muscly and amazing in the hands of inkers such as Steve Ditko and Ross Andrew and John Romita Snr (look them up), look fucking daft in real spandex and leather. I mean look at Adam West. They did their best to model the classic Dick Sprang/Bill Finger outfit in the 1966 series. But it looked all satiny and camp.

Spider-Man has done his best to stick to his classic outfit and the current Tom Holland version is the best they’ve ever done. The Christopher Reeve Superman of the 70s/80s was also an honest attempt. But X-Men? Captain America? Oh piss off.

So meanwhile, I got an email you’ll recall. An auto response from a site called “giggag.” This appears to be a “book yourself into a comedy open spot” bit of wizardry. No need to speak to people. Just click the boxes of venues and dates and the computer spits out an available slot. This was how I heard about “the Groovy Grove” in Hammersmith, where I dragged myself two nights ago.

Well what to say. My 2nd gig in what nobody is calling, the Richardissacne. Oooh that’ll catch on. Having contacted 1 dozen venues 2 weeks ago, awaiting a flurry of bookings, I have – to date – had 1 response. And it was this.

A webcheck and a Google Images search and a Facebook whatnot told me that the Groovy Grove is a nightly Stand-Up Comedy venue, upstairs in The Grove pub about 10mins walk from Hammersmith station. They appeared to do a new night every week, each pone packed full of a set group of compares and a revolving group of established acts, newish performers and utter newbies.

So it was comedy gear on “jacket, shirt, tie, jeans, boots” to go to work in. Much “oooooh, job interview?” responses. No, I explained. Stand-up show tonight. Oooooh, etc. And the day dragged on until about 5pm when I set off. Was horribly early so had 2 quick pints in Whelans Irish pub in Kingston before clambering aboard the Richmond bound train. Richmond to Hammermsith and then a walk to the venue.

Nice pub. Ish. I mean, roomy to the point of cavernous. Lots of pale wood. Widely spaced tables.

Some eastern European bar staff of the charming and smiley variety. I introduced myself and they tried to give me the keys to open up the room. I said I wasn’t running the place. I was just a performer. Just. Ha. So I sat and got the laptop out and starting compiling quiz questions as the clock creeped from 6.45 around to 7.15.

Compare arrived, all smiles and bouncy energy. Chap called Lucien Jack. Purple suit like he was Heath Ledger. All glee and energy.

Introduced self. One by one other comics arrived. I was the oldest. And the only one eager to make chit chat. Maybe it was the 2 more beers? So there were about, I think, 7 of us? One black guy, one mixed race, couple of whiteys like me, and three women. This seems like an appalling way of describing people. And sounds like a Daily Mail column. I don’t know I decided to say it like this. 4 guys and 3 womens? Or just 7 comics? I don’t know. Maybe because soooo much of material these days is political and revolves around race and gender and identity it seems odd NOT to mention it? Or maybe I’m trying to be woke – or unwoke – or something and I;m getting myself in a tizz? Anyhoo, about 7 comics. Maybe 8.

The “room” was a chilly upstairs. Medium sized room. Suitable for a parish council meeting or some such. School dinner style tables and chairs. A mic and a banner. Everything you need.

Sparce. But workable. The comics dotted themselves about the room and we all chatted nervously, hoping some actual audience members might turn up. And thankfully, they did. About 7 of them. 3 guests of the comics. 4 actual humans bullied upstairs from their pints.

And we were off! Lucien has a larger than life camp onstage persona and was lively and engaging, lots of audience interaction and such. “Camp”, as it says on the poster, would be an accurate sum-up. Much material about Grindr and hook-ups and such. I was set to be penultimate act in the second half so I had most of the other comics to sit and watch.

A real mix of experience and try-out styles. One chap had a notebook he constantly riffled through. Others chatted away. There were actual jokes that worked and got middling to good responses. Some were more lively conversation, the sort that causes a fixed half-smile and nodding approval, rather than out and out cracks of laughter.

Second half however. I set up my little handy “phone holder” thing and clipped it to a front seat to try and record the show. Was told this was the best way to learn and improve. Others spotted this with an eager “oooh, if you’re filming yourself, would you mind…?” and I promised I would leave it recording for the whole 2nd half.

And then it fell apart. Not the stand. The show. For me at least.

4 of the audience members didn’t come back for the second half. So now it was an echoey room full of comics and 3 people. The 3 people were all guests of one of the comics – a young lady from Moldova – who she had brought along.

Now you can say what you like (or don’t like) about my set. But “aimed at Europeans” ain;t gonna be something accurate. Given the amount of material that requires a knowledge of very English culture, idioms, terms and slang…this was never going to go well. I don’t know if terms like “sticky fingered / dogging / splash out” mean much to the average Moldovan. But I was about to find out.

I then further arsed it up by – after being invited on stage – I began to faff and fiddle with my phone in its holder. Screen on. Screen off. Sound up. Sound down. Mic on. Mic off. Focus. Unfocus. It was all taking too long and I was getting irritated and aware of an impatient crowd. I was trying to be loud and comically “klutzy” as I fiddled with it. But seconds ticked by. Lucien offered to “invite me on again” – kindly – to make the video better. But I was all tetchy and waved him away with, which I thought was a comically-Basil-Fawltyish “no no no Fuck off, I’m fine…”

Which – according to Lucien afterwards – was when I lost the crowd. “Don’t insult the compare” he told be briskly afterwards. “It was when you told me to fuck off” you lost the audience. And of course, in the harsh light of the next day, he may well have been right. It was meant in a silly fussy fusspot sort of way. Like I was a fumbling twit. But of course, if you don’t know me, it came across – as you would imagine – as just “fuck off.” Lesson learned there. You can befriend a compare and complement his suit and act and buy him all the shots you want. But a misplaced “fuck off” is pretty much going to piss all over that.

The material proceeded to get a very lukewarm response. They’d gone off me. And all the puns and British idioms in the world wasn’t going to get them back on side. So a poor experience all round. A mix of irritability at tech, short tempered frustration, silly phones, misjudged “banter” and a set designed for middle aged middle class Britishers.

Smattering of “county cricket club” applause as I took my seat. Grumpy and self-critical. Twit.

Oh and the phone recording didn’t work. Fuck.

In the cold light, as I say? Well I may well have burned my bridges with Lucien Jack. And I deserve that. With Groovy Grove? I’m not sure, as he hinted the club might be lessening its comedy nights in the future. That is to say, not trying 5-7 nights of live comedy a week. Which one must assume, if attendance and a zero cover-charge is anything to go by, is a smart economic move.

It’s knocked my energy levels, of course. As you would think. And the whole thing made me feel very, very fucking old. Cold rooms upstairs in pubs, unpaying punters, empty chair after empty chair, echoes of no-laughs. Polite chit-chat and awkward smiles. I have moved on not one bit from 1991 when I was in EXACTLY the same position. Except I was younger, had only 1 chin, and a career ahead rather than a career behind me. Hmmm. Not exactly set me up for another one.

So what now? And I mean that in every sense? It’s 3pm. I could apply for 10 more jobs and 10 more comedy spots. Or I could have a beer and a podcast and a nap. Oh I don’t know. Reliving last Thursday has put me in a sore-headed bear grump a bit. My skin is remarkably thin. Eyelids, rather than heels.

Oh well. Tired now. I think a pint and a nap would suit me as a Sat afternoon “closer.”
So time to pay for my 347 lattes, my sarnie, and pop the headphones in for some Mayo and Kermodian podasting. Although with my luck it will be 2 guest presenters. And as I listen for the wittering, not the movie reviews, this is always a crushing disappointment.More tomorrow I expect. Wish me ….something. Now, in a lovely way, fuck off.

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