Monday, January 25, 2010
Gong went the show
No point trying to sleep, I still have to come down, this stuff should count as a class A drug! So let me update the blog instead. Where to start from? I arrived at the Comedy Store pretty early, I didn't know if it was already open to the public so I told the bouncer at the door: "I'm going to perform tonight". And he went all sarcastic: "Really? You are going to perform? Good luck, mate!". Great, heckled by the bouncer, such a start! The next step doesn't help you to relax either, the corridor in fact is full of all the pictures and the signatures of the greats who have performed there, people like Robin Williams. And when you enter the room you can't help noticing that the walls are plastered with newspaper cuttings, so many of them that the expression "press coverage" seems to assume an almost literal meaning. Are you trying to impress me, Comedy Store? Well, you did. I register and I'm told that I'm 10th in the line-up. I ask if I'm after the break and they tell me that they should manage to fit ten and more acts in the first half. I soon realize the implication: they don't expect many comedians to last long! In fact the show starts and the first couple of acts last around fifty second. Then Stephen Grey comes out and he does brilliantly, surviving the entire five minutes. Good, I think, it can be done. My turn comes and I start really well, the first routine goes brilliantly, with those "long laughs" that you can milk for what seem to last ages, a mixed bless at a competition where you only have five minutes but a total bless at a gong show where you have to buy time. Then the first heckles start and I fire the comeback I had prepared for the occasion. I'm not sure if I should tell this, given that I might "spontaneously" come out with it again in the future, maybe already on Saturday. But nobody really believes that heckle comebacks are really improvised, besides they are the "open source" of the comedy world, in the sense that they are the only jokes that are freely shared among comedians. So here is my contribution to the community. I shouted back at the hecklers: "I have no idea of what you said, we speak English in this country"! Thinking of it, I still can't believe that I had the guts to say that! But it paid off really well, I got a really big laugh and an applause. Then I moved to the idioms routine, the second joke has a long set-up so part of the audience became impatient and started booing. I became more and more confrontational, with jokes about me having "stolen" their job or about the opportunity of starting a fight with an Italian, every time going down a bit along the slippery slope of cheap stereotypes. Part of the audience were still with me, but the booing part were booing more and more loudly and it was more and more difficult to get the jokes across. When it became impossible for me to get heard the gong went off to liberate me from my misery. I had been on stage four minutes, maybe more, and I had one of the most amazing roller-coaster experiences of my life. For more than half of my set all went really well and I felt really close to the five minutes finishing line. I'm not sure what went wrong afterwards, not the being confrontational bit, that was more of a desperate effect than of a cause and the quite confrontational heckle comeback worked beautifully anyway. I'll think about it. In any case during the interval somebody came to me and said that he was the promoter of the Chuckle Club and that I was the only act of the first half he liked (sorry, others). So he asked my number to book me for a spot! I have just been to check their website and they have some of my comedy heroes on the bill, people like Milton Jones and Robin Ince. To whoever booed me tonight: what about THIS as a comeback?