I'm starting to really enjoy the challenge of being the opening act. Especially at the lower end of the ladder, you don't always know what sort of start or thread you'll be given by the emcee so there seems to often be an added responsibility to help get the night off to the right foot. Last Friday (19th May), I travelled up to RAF Henlow with some very funny people to do a show at the lovely little theatre next to the RAF base (see picture). The show was an Edinburgh preview for TNT Comedy Explosion – an exciting looking variable bill extravaganza. When we arrived Nigel, the organiser and compere for the evening told me I was to be first on. Well, I almost bricked it so I did. Only kidding, well a slight amount of apprehension is always a good thing I think – personally I feed off this energy really well in a performance; it helping to keep my mind sensitive to the comic possibilities surrounding me. Having a wander around the theatre to start with really got a good buzz going, then as the not-quite-capacity crowd filed in, I tucked myself out of the way, stretched and did a few improv exercises to get ready. Nigey baby (as he's affectionately known) warmed the crowd nicely with some small-talk and and gave a friends son an unforgettable birthday present for his fifteenth birthday – a pack of three prophylactics. (I just like the word 'prophylactic'). This gave me something nice to play with at the start of my set. Hey, that didn't sound right! What I meant was, it gave me an idea to tell the lad to stick the condoms over an exhaust pipe, then hide and wait for the car to drive off – being an RAF base, it would probably start World War 3! This went down really well. Next I had some nice banter with the sole old lady sitting on the front row, before tucking into a few minutes of material. All in all a lovely experience and I hope I helped get the night off onto the right foot!
Last night at the Round Table, despite our best efforts flyering, cajoling and what can only be described as unashamed begging quite frankly, we didn't really have enough audience to do a proper show. Hell, the weather had been warm all day, the FA cup had just been on and the pub wasn't very full. What can you do? At 9pm, we decided to pull the gig and gave our potential mini-audience their money back. Because we had a very strong line-up, we asked everyone if they wanted to stay so we could have a play around and try out material. We had three live-wires in our audience of five (not including comedians), one of which wanted to banter with the comedians throughout. In a bigger room, this would have been a nightmare, but it turned into a night with an interesting dynamic. It helped make the interaction much more of a conversation and allowed you the flexibility and freedom to riff on certain elements of your existing material, in a much more relaxed environment. Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't pull a gig, just that sometimes you get the opportunity to make something good out of an almost hopeless looking comedy situation and when you do, it can make for a magic night. Or a hostage situation.