Monday, September 28, 2009

The next Wigan?

Tonight gig was quite a sobering experience. The opening line about my name fell flat (I'm going to drop it), then I did my language material and it went increasingly well, so in normal circumstances I should have been quite pleased. But the truth is that I'm now playing in a different league, it was just 10 minutes but among professional comedians, so expectations were higher and comparisons less forgiving. I guess it's the shock facing every newly promoted team. Will I face relegation? Or, as a truly West Ham fan, will I save myself at the last gig with a joke not really mine and at the price of endless litigation from some Sheffield comedian? Or will I stay in the league and beat Chelsea one day?

Monday, September 14, 2009

My strangest gig so far

Tonight I went back to the club ran at the bar of the Theatre Royal in Stratford. It's a gig completely different from any other I know: the bar is huge, the night is free and people sit at the tables drinking, eating and often chatting, so you really need to fight for attention. The demographic is very young, very black and very very noisy, with laughter alternated not with the usual silence but with cheers or shouts of protest, American-style. Well, I had the strangest problem ever: I did very few jokes because people were laughing too much and didn't let me continue! It didn't feel as right as you might expect, though, it wasn't exciting or rewarding but felt actually very scary. I guess what made it so scary was the lack of control I was experiencing, the fact that I was getting a different and a bigger reaction from what I had bargained for. Sometimes they were even laughing at the set-ups, so if was clear that the balance between "laughing with" and "laughing at" this time was definitively screwed in favour of the second. I guess it was the opposite of a laugh of recognition: the vision of a geeky, bespectacled, grey-haired Italian with the strongest Italian accent attempting comedy in the most demographically unlikely of places was probably already enough. But fortunately there was a moment when I felt I managed to turn the tables and take control. The MC had done some jokes about Nigerians doing announcements on the tube, so I did my "learning English from the tube announcements" routine adding this time that "the problem with that method is that you pick up a Nigerian accent". That brought the house down, it was probably the biggest laugh I ever had. Now that I think of it, it's as if I inconsciously realised that I was "laughed at" for being so incongrous with the environment and I reacted by turning that very experience into its comical opposite. After the gig, many people came to shake my hand and congratulate me, so I should definitively be very happy and proud of it, but I'm also still perturbed by the experience. It showed me a side of comedy I had never experienced so clearly before. And I wonder if I like that side and, if I do, what that says about me. As Nietzsche famously wrote: "when you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you".

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The cat is out of the bag

I uploaded the first (short) extract of my Edinburgh video... click here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bipolar reviews and one more role model

Today I found two more audience reviews: a five star and a one star! The five star is a little masterpiece of criticism that should be taught at school, here it is:
Well done Hyacinth, you've spotted most of our peculiarities that make us uniquely English. Welcome to the club, and thanks for an excellent well presented show. You certainly pulled it off.
This is what I call a happy customer! And now for something completely different:
Italian software developer with a master's in philosophy (sorry, you can't hide from Google if you put your life on LinkedIn and Facebook) complaining about English Grammar. Haha, doesn't understand why we say "fucked up" and not "up fucked". Not funny. Gets fake call from his mama. Sterotypes not funny. One star (cause he was free.)
There a couple of interesting points here. Regarding the fake phone calll, the only thing I have to say is that before talking of stereotypes she should meet my mother. Regarding , instead, the fact that my problems with the English language are not believable given my master's and my non menial job, I'll give the author one more arrow for her arc: I even got an "A" in the Cambridge Proficiency Exam, the highest certification available to non-native speakers. So? You need to know the English language quite well to be able to express its oddities and if I exaggerate my own difficulties I'm just using a classic comic device. To make a comparison that is fresh in my mind, yesterday I went to visit Karl Marx's grave. He was of course a very well educated bourgeois, but this didn't prevent him from giving voice to the sufferings of the working class, to the contrary it's exactly what made it possible. Maybe I'm giving voice to the billions of people who are really struggling with idioms and phrasal verbs and that for this very reason don't have a voice, at least not in English. Broken English speakers of the world, unite!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Looking in the mirror

For three days the files of my recording have been sitting on my hard disk. The excuse for not watching them is that I was waiting for the DVD. Today the DVD arrived and I had no more excuse. What made me so terrified is that I remembered a good show, although a nervous and far from flawless one, and I was afraid of being disappointed. At the end I decided to take the plunge and I actually watched it twice. So, what's the verdict? I was definitively nervous, I stumbled on a couple of jokes and - the most serious flaw - I completely forgot the "pubs" joke, while leaving a callback that now seems completely meaningless. From a performance point of view, I was full of ticks and overplayed facial expressions, even if maybe that made me funnier. And for God's sake, I could have shaved, even if that shade gives me an almost Doug Stanhop-ish aria of neglect. I don't think I have ever looked at my own image for so long and so up close, comedy really is a journey of self discovery. By the way, the response of the audience was almost always very good, there is no dead bit and the end worked very well. Bron, the producer of the film, made a very good work. So what am I going to do with it? I still haven't decided whether I want to put it on YouTube or not.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I got booked for my first PAID gig!

Yeah! This feels great... like a breakthrough of some kind. And all I had to do was replying to the promoter's ad including a link to Kate Copstick's review, which seems to open doors like some sort of magic key. It'a Friday evening, a closing slot and £ 40, not bad for a first paid gig.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The shape of things to come

Apparently, there is (comic) life after the Fringe after all! In these few days back in London I have already a) booked a slot for another festival (Nottingham, 9th of November) and b) agreed the first line-up for my new comedy club in Bethnal Green (Gallery Cafe, 5th of October). I saw the last-minute vacancy for Nottingham in a forum on Chortle (the industry bible), I applied and discovered that being a non-free show it had to last an entire hour. So I proposed to Ashley Frieze to share the slot and he agreed! We are going to call it "The Anglo-Italian Job". So, my show will soon have a chance to see the (spot)light again. Not only, but I decided to book myself as the headliner for my new comedy club, so I will do 15-20 minutes out of it. Before Edinburgh I thought that I should play the truly professional promoter and book somebody better known and more experienced than me, but one of the reasons why I did the festival is to convince promoters that I could do longer slots and apparently I managed to convince at least one of them. Moreover, if I add a bit of schizophrenia to my egocentrism I can probably manage to become a bit more polycentric!