Paul Savage

Comedian, host, cartoonist, astronaut, occasional liar

Archive:Jan 2010. Something a bit weird

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I wasn’t supposed to be doing this gig. a few weeks ago, a new act I have been working with a bit called Jack Kirwan emailled me and asked if I was free to do a charity gig raising money for Compton Hospice, a very worthwhile cause, in memory of his late uncle. I of course said I’d look, hoping I’d already be booked in so getting the instant karma of being able to make encouraging sounds of wanting to do it without having to actually do it.

I was supposed to be doing a gig in mid-Wales for proper money. Hooray, no charity gig for me. Sadly this got then pulled the week before as no tickets were sold. Does my name on the poster mean nothing? Do the people of Mid-Wales have any idea who I am? Surely they would get in their cars and travel from miles around to see “the juice comedy club stafford performer of the year 2009”, wouldn’t they? The answers are as follows: no, no, and of course not. but promoters reading this should still book me.

So when I saw Jack still looking for an MC on the west Midlands Comedy forum, and me without a gig saturday night, I did the nice thing and said I’d do it. This may or may not have had something to do with the fact he runs a gig where I have a recurring role as resident MC, where my job is to turn up, drink as much beer as possible, get paid and walk home. Best keep him sweet.

I was gratified to learn 2 very solid acts were on with me, Tom Roche and Dave Powner. Both have had little resurgences in form recently and are performing the best stuff they’ve ever done. Jack Kirwan was also on the bill, and had rightly taken Tom’s suggestion that the comedy be on first, before the disco and certainly before the *shudder* cabaret.

So, comedy whilst they are still soberish and not used to talking over music, then cabaret, then the disco. There would, no doubt be a raffle at some point, where we observe Brooker’s Law Second Law of Comedy (c) “Do not fuck about with the raffle”.We were going to go on early, do the gig and get out. With it being local, I could go and get drunk afterwards, a rarity on a saturday in recent weeks as not only is saturday a busy day in the comedy calender, people keep having the temerity to get married on saturdays.

Then fate stood in the way. Fate was being played in this production by a bossy old cow. I’ve no idea of her name, but she seemed to be the matriarch of the club and shot down Jack’s suggestion. Suddenly, we were on an hour and a half later, my post gig plans lay shredded like so many shredded post gig plans (too tired to do similes). That and the fact that my friend I was supposed to be meeting had cancelled as she had a Nan sitting issue to deal with. What happened, Nans of the world? I though we had an accord; I’d let you spout racism whilst I tutted halfheartedly, you’d occasionally gift me small sums of money and sweets. Now your blocking my drunkening? Fine, bring it on. I can survive without free Werther’s longer than you can without complaining about how it was better without “them” coming over.

Anyway, I rocked up at the venue at 9:30. I peered through the windows (slatted blinds, the voyeurs friend) to see something scary. Only one thing worse than no punters is a gig full of the wrong punters. I could see the types there. The middle aged blokes who want you to “tell a proper joke”. The alpha lads who will heckle to amuse their mates but won’t talk to you if you ask them a question. The middle aged women who tut at the slightest use of bad language, sex, meanness. All these paled into insignificance to the worst thing of all. Kids. Loads of them. Hyped up on sugar and fireworks (watching, not ingesting), running around the dancefloor doing skids whilst their parents could supervise them from the bar. I have a fully clean set, suitable for kids. I have a drunken weekend club MC set, for dealing with whatever I can get thrown at. they do not share many thing in the Venn Diagram of my comedy

(i don’t have an actual venn diagram. Yet. I am exactly the kind of person who would have one, though. I love Venn diagrams*. I intend to one day chronicle the whole comedy circuit. you could say “Nice bloke, does material about drinking, drives, spent time in prison, your friend on facebook” and I would be able to pluck out 3 names instantly. I can do that now, I don’t need a Venn diagram yet).

Anyway, this gig. I went in, and the child bouncer (he can’t have been more than 15) said “are you one of the comedians?” finally, the prophet is recognised in his own land. Probably recognised for the fact I had an unhealthy sweat on at the thought of dying in front of a hostil, rammed room. And the fact I had my man bag. I found Jack and Tom at the bar, and we were shown to the green room, which was actually white and full of 8 year old playing with cardboard instruments. I had my post gig beer beforehand, as we sorted a running order. Tom first, jack in the middle, Dave closing. Hopefully mine and tom’s upbeat silliness would break them down before Dave’s brand of clever filth. Hopefully they’d also be kind to Jack, as you can never tell what a crowd of family and friends will do. They could absolutely love him, or they could be proper dicks.

Matriarch came and gave us a running order. ie about 7 other acts were on before the comedy. They were running behind and hadn’t done cabaret yet. cabaret performers wandered in and out of the green room, including 2 ladies in sparkly dresses, and one man who came in, grabbed a brillo pad sponge (you know the ones I mean?) from his bag and went back out. The DJs in their booth were ribbing each other to complete indifference from the audience. Matriarch was yelling at kids from the stage. The dancefloor was clear, meaning a huge, joke swallowing gap between acts and the audience. no chance with the gig midway through of closing it with more tables, nor moving people down. Me and Tom sat and worked out how we would get out of this best. We also agreed Chris Brooker would get a great gig diary out of it.

Tom had a quiet word with Matriarch. and got us pushed up the bill, we were after the raffle and the two ladies in sparkly dresses singing two songs, but before the rest of the cabaret. The man who had left with a brillo sponge re-entered, and all the comics’ jaws dropped. because helooked like this.

For those of you who can’t see properly, that is a white man in 2010, blacked up, with a trumpet. He’s wearing black woolen gloves because he didn’t want to get his hands dirty.There’s a joke in there somewhere.

After that, I lost all fear. I’m not being the worst act on a bill with a black and white minstrel. Matriarch did a bit more shouting and being unpleasant to the kids, and introduced me. I’d said to Tom that he could judge how much I was struggling by how many old school compere tricks i resorted to. I needed a few, (hell, I came out and said “don’t worry, you’re not what I was expecting either”) but I didn’t resort to the hackest compere’s trick in the world (c). Did some stuff about Wolverhampton, and was gifted a man who booed when I mentioned Stoke. He then became my go to point when I needed to slag somewhere off. (I even did “gimme six” which I’m sure Tom ticked off his list). Did the rules, modified the Gok Wan joke as there were kids in the audience, and got Tom on.

When reviewing comedy, Dave Dinsdale always used the phrase “laffers”, as in “a nice crowd, but not many laffers”. I finally got what he meant. There were 3 people, scattered randomly (actually randomly, students, not just slightly weirdly or unexpectedly. Like what the word actually means) through the room, with big, infectious, knee slapping laughs who made it feel welcoming. I walked to the bar at bar at the back (having nervously sank my pint just before I went on), and there were people watching and laughing quietly. If I’d have not walked to the back, I might have thought there were only 3 nice audience members.

Tom did a very short set, sensibly deciding to only do the cleanish gold stuff whilst he had their attention. Then I did more material and brought on Jack, who had a decent gig, and brought on Dave, who coped manfully with the fact a lot of his material was pitched just a bit too much for them, as it’s filled with slow pauses and clever wordplay that may not be best suited for drunks.

I had wanted to go straight away, but the punters were happy and I had nothing special to get back to, so I stuck around. The cabaret consisted of people doing kareoke whilst pretending to play instruments. ‘The Searchers’ were ok, the ‘Johnny Cash’ was really good (he even stopped between songs to tune up his guitar, even though he was pretending to play it. WTF?), doing an accurate version of “Boy named sue”. The ‘Andy Williams’ was pretty good too. Then ‘Louis Armstrong’ got up and did his song. And he did it really well. As I was watching it, a bloke next to me commented on the fact he was blacked up by saying he’d recently seen a black bloke white up to do a version of Vanilla ice. Imagine that, a black bloke pretending to be a white bloke pretending to be a black bloke. None of the audience objected, and he got a nice reception. I made my move, went home, and watched Modern Family episodes til 3 in the morning, because I can.

I mentioned up the top Chris Brooker’s 2nd Law of Comedy. I’ll have to check with him, but I think his first one is “don’t prejudge gigs”. I had a good time, got laughs, got beer bought for me, raised money for charity. I’m currently, as a bit of self improvement, trying to not to judge people so quickly or harshly. I have no idea if the fact ‘Louis Armstrong’ raised money for charity makes up for the queasiness of him blacking up, or the fact he clearly had love for the work of the actual Louis Armstrong,  or whether the fact a black bloke whiting up can be used as an excuse. I didn’t go out to gig and expect to have my morals challenged. but sometimes it’s nice to

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