Just a quickie.
I went to an Oxford comedy gig last night, I wasn’t performing but Alex and Matt both were so I was keen to catch up with them and cheer them on.
I don’t want to write too much about it as I think it’s unfair to analyse a gig I didn’t actually take part in, but I did want to talk about the only act that completely bombed. Obviously, I won’t name him, but he was an intelligent, funny and charismatic guy. Apparently his second gig. He started fairly strongly but then got caught up in his own material. He lost the thread – which is very easy to do, especially in front of a crowd you don’t feel comfortable with. The crowd were foul. Dominated by a group of the worst type of Brookes students – thick, stuck-up yuppie larvae – who sat in disdainful judgement and enjoyed their own personal in-jokes far more than anything on stage.
Anyway, a good guy, and he lost the thread. His material stopped making sense within a minute and he consulted his hand for notes but clearly couldn’t decipher them. So he stopped. And stared at the crowd. It was electric. I sat up in my seat to watch him closer. He just stared at them, kind of hatefully. One of the sloaney girls returned from the toilet and walked past him. He looked her up and down as she passed him and held her in cold regard. I immediately thought his opening piece had been a set-up and that he had lulled the audience into a false sense of security. He looked like he was about to go to work on them. Then he shook his head profusely, apologized and left the stage – heading straight for his seat, where he grabbed his coat and fled the building, friend in tow.
I wish I had a stills camera. There’s an amazing moment when someone bombs which I would love to capture. It’s so intense, it fools me everytime and rather than thinking ‘this guy is dying’, I tend to think ‘this guy is getting into the zone!’
So much of stand-up is artifice and patter and well-rehearsed punchlines that it’s very rare to see a flash of reality on that stage. Last week, Josh turned a set that was crashing around him into something incredible by acknowledging it and firing his anger back on the audience. I’m starting to think the best comedy must come from what is going on in those moments.Where you drop the act and respond with honesty – be that vitriol or apology.
I really wanted to jump up and do an impromptu set, I’m seriously thinking about not rehearsing an act for my next one and seeing where spontaneity takes me. I’m realising that although my favourite comedians – Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, Stewart Lee… have always had rehearsed ‘bits’, they are delivered with honesty, often differently each time and all engage the audience rather than perform to them.
I’m glad I realised this.