There is nothing like performing stand up when you're unwell. I have agreed to go to the Middle East and perform for our troops in the next few weeks and have been given all my vaccinations just a few days ago. Now after a very healthy start to the year that has included little drinking, no partying and avoiding annoying people, I am now sick. In hindsight I wish I'd had a hookers and cocaine night to justify how I'm feeling today.
I flew from Melbourne to Brisbane in the afternoon and ploughed through the first quarter of Michael Chabon's "Telegraph Avenue". The number one joy in a long flight for me is being able to read without interruption or guilt that I should be doing something else. It is a stupid guilt as I am a writer and reading is part of the ongoing curriculum of all writers. Why would reading ever be deemed as anything but important? Do other people feel this way? I've begun setting aside at least an hour or two a day to do nothing but read and feel all the better for it. Anyway, a digression for you to ponder and feel free to share your thoughts here or on my official Facebook page.
By the time we had begun our descent my ears began to block and my head began to ache. I was feeling pretty confident I was near the end of my cold but by the time we had landed and I was out of the airport my head was still completely blocked. I was convinced I was talking like an old man who doesn't bother to acknowledge that while he might be deaf nobody around him has any issue in hearing his bellowing.
The Sit Down Comedy Club has been looking after me for a number of years now flying me to Brisbane for gigs and putting me up in their apartment. These next few days I'm sharing the place with my friend Michael Goldstein, an American born comedian living in Australia since 2000. This is a nice surprise and a relief because there have been times when I have been sharing this place with comedians who are...different...in the way they choose to live their lives. That is the most diplomatic sentence I have ever written. See me at a gig and if you buy me a drink I'll dish the dirt.
The two of us had to drive down to the Gold Coast where our first gig for the week was situated at Jupiter's Casino. This is not the easiest of gigs. Check out the photo below of Mike opening the show and I'll explain the reasons this gig is not suited for a night of stand up comedy.
First of all most gigs in front of medieval walls are usually a sign that maybe the comedy isn't the most important aspect of the show. The stage is up quite high and the closest person sitting next to you is roughly three steps away. Comedy works better with the audience as close to the stage as possible, your jokes skipping across the surface of the crowd and hitting the back of the wall with as much strength as possible. This venue also has a high ceiling which allows all the laughter to go straight up and dissipate before you have any opportunity to hear it. You spend most of the gig watching the audience enjoy your set rather than hearing it. For young comics try to remember this when you perform in similar venues. Often you can feel like you died but what really happened was you just didn't hear the audience enjoy your gags. Watching the audience is just as important as listening.
The audience is spread out to such an extent that there were quite a lot of people at the gig but it looked like you were trying to nail a tight five at a wedding. All it needed was a gushing bride, a bemused groom and some matrons of honour in yellow/aubergine numbers and it would have been perfect. To top it off the audience is also way too well lit. An audience likes to sit in the dark because when you believe you can't be seen you laugh with less restraint. As soon as the audience can be seen it adds a barrier to the performance as they subconsciously know that if they laugh properly they'll be a target for ridicule as their mouth opens wide enough to engulf a flying squirrel.
So the gig is not set up to succeed but this is why I enjoy performing there. I like to put as much new material in as possible to get a real handle on how the gags work. If it can work here it can work anywhere. Constantly performing in rooms that are designed to succeed can make you lazy so I always relish the opportunity to flex some muscles. It also pays and dude gotta earn a buck so he can work the smaller rooms that have little budget.
Mike did a great job up front and another mate Damien Power did a ten minute support. I enjoyed Damien's spot as he was attempting to work on a different approach where he didn't work out a setlist and worked out what routines to use from the energy of the room. It is always a good sign when you see a comedian attempting to nut out a new skill and Damien's spot was a good reminder of the different goals you can set yourself before each gig.
My setlist was following a similar pattern of late:
Breaking Up Through History
Not Tall Enough To Be 40
Car Crash in Adelaide
Invite Who You Want To Parties
Being An Arsehole
Little Boy Joke
Tripping and Farting
Fix Your Flaws: I Over Think
No Need To Share All Your Opinions
This was not the set I intended but one of the issues I found onstage was that I couldn't hear myself in the room. Coupled with being sick I overreached on some jokes and strained my throat early. I could feel my voice fading as the gig continued and I changed a few of my intended routines while on the fly. I also don't think the first routine was a good way to start the set in this room. It was a little too high concept for an opening routine and while it still elicited some laughs it was difficult to gauge exactly how it went at the time. I should have begun with something more direct and I knew this about a third of the way into the routine. I think later in the set it would have been fine but as an opener in this venue it lost a bit. That is how it felt onstage anyway.
Here's a little interesting insight into the mindset of a comedian. While the audience were laughing hard at the Gastro routine I could see one girl lose interest in my performance at this point. You can be nailing a whole room but your eyes are always drawn to the one person who appears to not be enjoying the gig and I found myself directing more material at her for the rest of the set in an attempt to win her back. I can't tell you if I brought her back from the edge but she at the very least watched until the end. I believe a story about a guy thinking about necking himself as he deals with a six day gastro was possibly a little dark for her...but we'll never know!
After the gig Mike and I returned to Brisbane. We caught up with comedian Lindsay Webb, watched some TV and finally managed to get to sleep quite late. I'm feeling worst today. A delightful mix of being ill and bitterly annoyed by it all. I also found out that a cat that I loved had to be put down yesterday. His name was Tiger and he lived next to Mum in Adelaide. When I stay with Mum he'd often pop over from next door and meow to let me know he was there. Mum's cat had a strict policy of where he was allowed in the house and I would sneak him past this checkpoint so he could sit with me and provide us both with some company. Tiger was old and unwell. It has made me very sad this morning to know that I won't get an opportunity to catch up with my furry friend next time I'm back in Adelaide.
14th of February, 2013