Brackets is a late show that plays at the Butterfly Club on Friday nights and is the perfect venue to attempt new material. The producer of the show Clayton Steele invited me down to head line and I took this as an opportunity to ad lib some ideas that hopefully will turn into new material. I didn't work out any set list and with so much work going on with The Shelf and other projects it was the perfect situation to get the creative juices flowing. The night was well hosted by Nellie Wight and Jack Druce continued his excellent form of late in the support spot. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the two of them work a smaller crowd late on a Friday night. It isn't easy to work your material with a small crowd and I thought both of them showed excellent skills in knowing how to pull their acts back to suit the surroundings.
I watched both acts and wrote down some notes that I took onstage with me allowing me to begin the gig with some gentle riffing. Just before I was about to be introduced onstage I sneezed quite violently and spat phlegm onto my crotch. Class move, right? It was not only disgusting but also potentially embarrassing. I have been sick for a while now and this felt like the last vestiges of that cold all blown out of my system in one all mighty sneeze. I cleaned myself up and as I did so I realised I wasn't embarrassed at all. In fact I was surprised at how calm I was about the whole situation.
With that in mind I decided the worst way to begin the gig. Talking about something that is quite graphic and disgusting would be the perfect way to alienate a crowd. Better to begin with something generic and once you've won them over you can take them in different directions. So what did I do? Started with the phlegm story. Where would the fun be in starting safely? The set list was as follows:
Phlegm On My Crotch
Too Much Effort in Sex
Your Face Is A History of Fun
Jack Druce Is Too Polite
The Porn Father
We're Dancin' Guy
Homeless In New York
How To Hurt People
Destroying A Nerd
World Wardrobe Nightclub
As you can see from all the routines in bold that is a lot of brand new material attempted for the first time. It was an interesting set that produced a lot of different ideas with my trip to America stories wedged in the middle to give the gig some balance. It is always difficult to read a smaller crowd and I'm not entirely certain how some of the material went down. I've listened back to it on my recording and there are definitely laughs all the way through the spot but I'm not certain all the ideas are worth another crack.
Funnily enough a topic I have steered clear of in recent times seemed to inspire the most interesting stories. So many caucasian male comedians like to talk about porn that I find it all quite dull but when Nellie and Jack talked about it they both had fresh takes on the topic that inspired me to join their gang for the night only to see if I could also bring something new to the table. This reminded me of a story from year 8...that's right, 28 years ago! Yowza! It was a funny story and seemed to have some legs, at least enough that at my next smaller gig I will probably give it another run.
The opening story was a weird way to start a gig but it did give me something to battle against and I definitely enjoyed the challenge. What a yuck story to have in the first place and it is one I once upon a time would never have shared until a few years from now. To make myself uncomfortable was a fun way to start my show. Also the chat I had with Jack from on stage about his material is quite clearly a bit that will only have existed in that room on that night.
That is what I love about stand up comedy. The idea of the gig existing in the moment in the room with the people who are there for that one show. You can't replicate those conditions and therefore every gig is inspiring because you can never be too certain where it is going to go. I feel like I re-learned some skills at this show and hopefully have kickstarted a wave of potential new material. I can't remember which comedian originally said this quote (and therefore I will be paraphrasing): our desire to kill in front of 40 stops us from killing in front of 400. You should take more risks in smaller gigs because there is less on the line. Also there is more chance you can get the gig back on track even if you're flying off the tracks. It is easier to win back a few than a big crowd so you have to take your chances where you can. That was my approach to Brackets and I believe that will pay dividends in the future.
10th of August, 2013