Gig Rock gig, giggy rock. American comic David Cross, who found fame on the decidedly average ‘Mr Show’ in the 1990’s, has a habit of opening for rock acts. I’ve no idea how common this sort of outrageous behaviour is in the states, but as soon as I heard about it I knew I wanted a go. A young, hip, and preferably enormous ‘edgy’ crowd. Groupies. The ‘rock comedian’ mystique. It sounded wonderful. Much better than a stuffy comedy club filled with tubby middle aged office clerks with ugly girlfriends, RTE sitcom DVD collections and irritable bowel syndromes. Here I would find my audience- the smart, the pretty, the outraged.
Somehow I had forgotten that the ‘rock’ culture of today bares about as much resemblance to the attitude, music and night life of my adolescence, as a flesh-light and a bucket of chicken wings does to a date with Sasha Grey.
The ‘band’, a risible bunch of professionally apathetic amateur musicians enjoying literally their first gig, had just left the stage when I stepped on. Thus, most of the club were engaged in the first conversation they’d had since Dublin nightspots realised that deaf people drink more. Fifteen people lurked listlessly in the vicinity of the stage- admiring one another’s bed head. The venue was so dark and loud that the video is an angry smudge (the screen shot above being the clearest grab I could manage), and so large that I doubt the folks on the back even knew there was someone on stage.
By the end of my set I had maybe twenty listeners, not so much actively laughing as asking aloud ‘should I be laughing at this?’
Illusion shattered. I’m not David Cross. i.e.: I’m not already famous. And ‘rock’ audiences are not my people, they’re a bunch of scenester skinnibodies who’d happily gig ‘You’re a Star’ if they thought it would give them a chance at becoming the next Franz Ferdinand.
I was coming off a self efficacy peak after Gig 6 (best so far by a mile), which let me wield the crowd a little. But in fairness, my opener is pretty ineffectual right now. I need to work on some quick bits to win over an apathetic crowd, and it needs to be something less class based, as many Dublin folk aren’t quite sensitive enough to irony for this approach to succeed. Zingers baby, I need zingers.
This is a good opportunity to listen hard to the vocal side of my set. I spoke too quickly overall, but did the accents pretty well considering the volume of conversation I was competing with. I remember trying to literally pull the crowd in by varying my intonation. I think I did the ‘Terry’ accent better here than I’ve carried it off in more recent shows.
I’d resolved not to use my ‘little maddie’ bit in this gig, as it was in aid of a childrens charity, but I was so pissed off with the apathetic crowd I whipped it out anyway. This is called punishing the audience, and it’s never a good idea.
Standup is such a naked test, such an undeniable referendum on your ability to be funny- something which is pretty important to most comedians, that I’ve been really reluctant to post this gig, or even listen to it. Bill Hicks managed to hate the audience and get away with it, but it’s a difficult line to walk, and I think I’ve been erring to much on the side of hostility in recent gigs, failing to connect, and perhaps it started here.
Anyway- back to technicalities. The small moments when I connected with the audience naturally (e.g.: the dark laugh after ‘speaking of woody allen’) worked best. Going off script is something I find difficult, simply because my memory is so incomparably shit, but I need to learn to improvise and communicate with the audience, rather than just firing material at them. That’s not to say I’m about to start asking ‘So where’s everybody from?’.
My pacing was pretty good during this gig. With good pauses- especially during the ‘Terry’ section, allowing the audience to catch up. Too often I sail right on, not allowing the crowd to grasp the persona or the linguistic flourishes.
Lost the audience during the last ‘Byron’ bit. I think it was just too complicated / over-long for the situation. The ideal routine for this situation would have been improv audience participation, flirting with the audience, physical comedy etc. There I was doing this highly verbal character stuff, pffft.
- Need punchier intro material.
- Need to be able to involve / play with the audience.
- Need to learn to improvise.
- Some fantasies are best left unfulfilled. Although I still reckon a festival crowd would be enormous fun.
- Get a better camera.