Gig 6 – Exchange Words, Exchange Dublin, 9th October 2009
What to say about this gig… About 2 months ago I became involved in a new initiative in Temple Bar, called Exchange Dublin. It’s a non-profit collaborative art centre and represents (I think) the greatest potential resource for free creative participation in Dublin right now. At the first Exchange open spaces meeting I proposed having a spoken word event. Very quickly, without any advertising, the prospect attracted an incredibly diverse and talented group of poets, standup comedians and spoken word performers. We met weekly to plan an evening (hopefully the first of many), with everything up in the air- from the venue, to the seating, stage, sound equipment, lighting, tickets etc. Through an enormous amount of hard work on everyone’s part we managed to pull the organisational side together, and more importantly create an opportunity for folks (many of whom had never performed their stories or poetry live before), to shine.
So… After an evening like that, with children’s stories, gentle verse and but a single other comedian (the talented Gary Lynch MCing, chose not to run any of his own material on the night) performing, I had no idea whether my set (newly enfilthened) would fly.
A haze of running about trying to co-ordinate everything on the day itself, gradually settled as the team got to work in the evening, so that I had time to mentally rehearse and pump myself up back stage. Having a ‘back stage’, in this case both an offset ‘green room’, and an empty office, made a huge difference. It’s not something I’d experienced before, but every comedy club should have one, even if it’s just a broom closet. It does two things: 1) allows the performer to prepare, listen to the previous act, stretch, scream or whatever’s necessary, in private 2) affords them the possibility of making an entrance.
Number two didn’t quite work out on the night (no pun intended). I’d planned to run on and dance around for a bit, maybe do some Nazi salutes or whatever. But I managed to fall flat on my face vaulting the enormous stage. The stage had only arrived that day, so we’d had no time to build a step (or cut the supports down to size). Luckily I wasn’t too fazed, mostly because I was sure something of the sort would happen. Yeah, I know, I whine like a slapped bitch in each of these show notes about how tired I was before the gig, wah wah wah. Never the less, this was probably my most tired / wired gig yet. It was also my first gig in a couple of weeks.
Thankfully I had the excitement of being involved in the organisation of the event, the presence of a tonne of folks I knew, and an injection of caffeine to keep me on my feet. Not only that but also, some youtubed visuals and music to help create an entrance.
Since the event was only a couple of days ago, and since these overviews are growing wildly long, and since I’m tired and basically lazy… I’m going straight to watching the video.
Ok- first off. Even though my performance wasn’t necessarily as great as it could have been, other factors greatly increased the crowds appreciation: A sterling introduction by Gary Lynch (on top of some firm warnings about adult content), intro music / visuals, and one other thing…
I looked like I was there to perform. Most of my gigs so far I’ve worn sport casual togs- jacket, shirt, jeans; pretty much what I wear every day (ahaw). This time I figured fuck it I’ll go for broke, and emerged in a suit. Now it was raining like a motherfucker in Dublin that day, so my socks and sneakers got soaked. So I figured fuck it in the bum, and went barefoot. A costume is a gimmick. An accent is a gimmick. But I guess right now I’m not too proud to use such trickery- as long as they support rather than replace the material.
Aside- I want to do some audience participation stuff soon. McSavage and Aidan Bishop did a simple but brilliantly effective little skit with an audience member recently and I was absolutely in awe. Such potential, and so rarely done (at least in my experience) in comedy.
Watching the video…
Lots of rich intonation, really in character, although I slipped back into talking-way-too-quickly (and a little unclearly at times, although the mic was too low so it’s hard to judge). Movements were very congruent too.
I paused for laughs, yay.
Pulled out a new accent / character for this one. Again, stolen from the Invisible Tour Guide. A pervy Irish voice and laugh that I used in stead of my own voice. Transition worked so much better than before. I also remained in some semblance of character for the whole set, which created an unease and a tension which worked brilliantly.
The pervy laugh was also stunningly useful for when I forgot bits. I just kept laughing horribly and for far longer than normal, and it was sufficiently uncomfortable that I kept the audience.
Wandered about too much during the new ‘Terry’ voice part, and the new material, and this continued afterwards. Got to stop walking back and forth so much.
‘Little Maddie’ bit worked, yay! Didn’t know if it would. Only two members of the audience walked out. Sensitive fuckers, mwhaha. The closest I’ve come to audience participation so far came here- when I singled out one girl, walked right up to her and said ‘small blonde girls…’ Worked so well, and such a rush to play on the edge. No guarantee what the reaction will be, and the audience’s tension is palpable.
The ‘Agent 69’ bit could work better, really need to get breathy and slow down on this one, lingering on the wrongness. The what ‘she’d look like now’ bit has lots of room for elaboration too… And pausing to build the horrific tension.
I started spacing out during the ‘First sexual experiences bit’, almost blanking. Total energy flag. I realised my tie was hanging out and tried to push it back in. Very nearly had a mental. But I pulled it back thank goodness. Stopped pausing for laughter as well as I had earlier in the set. Think I went a bit OTT with the accent to compensate. The laughs on ‘claimed was her virginity’ / ‘missed my bus again’ I think came from the audiences eager for me to go back to being funny, as much as genuine amusement.
This whole section went much worse than normal- perhaps just because the ‘Little Maddie’ bit was so well received, perhaps because I’d once again started to (almost imperceptibly, seek the audiences approval).
I managed to win them back with the deep fat frier description. This is why vivid descriptions are so great (and why sticking to your guns is important too).
Aside- I need to start including more auditory and olfactory descriptions to go with the visual and kinesthetic ones. According to the ropey pseudoscience of NLP, different individuals rely primarily on distinct sensory modalities, and a speaker can best reach them by zoning in on the one most important to the listener. My guess is, in the case of an audience, verbally arousing all 6 senses (yes six, including the kinaesthetic / proprioceptory awareness of position in space) is an effective way to conjure an ‘image’ for everyone.
Another Aside- the audience really seem to enjoy being told their ‘naughty boys and girls’, ‘silly little people’, it goes well with the character, and some sick part of me loves doing it, so I’ll do it even more.
Could have finished better, but all in all, a damn fine gig.