Paul Savage

Comedian, host, cartoonist, astronaut, occasional liar

Weird gigs what I have done recently

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Warning: This is stupidly long. It contains clanging namedrops of acts I’ve worked with who said nice stuff about me. It also contains a powerful fantasy about murdering Larry Dean written as fact. Oh, and the best story is at the end, so if you get bored, just skip to number six.
Before all that, I probably should explain where I’ve been. Nowhere, really. There are 4 draft ones sat here. Two rounding up weird gigs, a scholarly work on the role of resident compere, and something mocking Ben Van Der Velde’s face (which has now been published at http://asidewayslook.wordpress.com/). It’s been a lot like that recently in my comedy, as I try and move myself up the circuit. There was cartoon a few years back in Private Eye, which showed the property ladder as a big ladder with only 3 rungs all the way at the top, and no rungs near the bottom. Sometimes the comedy circuit feels like that.
My diary’s been filling itself, slowly, to the point I haven’t needed to do the big email ask around and then I looked at my diary, realised I have sod all in for the next 6 months and I do have to do the big email ask around. So, instead of sending it out blindly, I actually read it. I hadn’t changed it in about 3 years, just adding promoters I’d worked with as I worked for them. Ridiculous, really, as I was asking for gigs off some of the country’s biggest and most well respected promoters and one of my references was Mad Johnny Arseface at the Village Idiot open mic night in deepest darkest who-gives-a-toss-shire. (for any comedians reading, there’s no such gig, before you ask me who books that).  Also, I realised my videos don’t represent me in the best light as I have made efforts to slow down my delivery. AND IT ONLY TOOK 5 YEARS OF YOU ALL TELLING ME. I’ve been trying since December, and since then it’s really worked, to the point where I was MCing in Plymouth (at a dry ski slope, in case you’re wondering exactly how my career’s going) as I rode the laugh on one of my jokes for ages, it felt like cheating. Because it is.
Anyway, I needed some new videos, because my style has changed enough, so I offered my servcices for no money in exhcange for them filming me doing a set at a burlesque gig, and then the gig was lousy and so I didn’t want the video until I realised I still need the video and so I did another gig at a burlesque night for no money in exchange for a video and it was, if anything, worse. The burlesque girls didn’t even take their clothes off, most of them. Stupid. Then the promoter who recorded it sent it to me on a CD which he posted with insufficient postage, so i had to drive across town to the sorting office at rush hour to pay 17p to get the video, only to find out it bizarrely pans to the ceiling every 2 minutes for no real reason and is less than useless.
I did take a video on my phone of me closing a gig in St Alban’s, with loads of great laughing and such, but the audio quality wasn’t amazing. Plus, because HTC are bellends, they had hidden the video in a stupid folder (where would you save a video to, if you had one folder called “my videos” or one called “/mnt/sdcard/DCIM/100MEDIA”? If you picked “my videos, perhaps you should be in charge of development at the world’s 4th biggest smartphone maker instead of the prick they have now), which took literally 3 days and several internet searches to find.  So, essentially, what should have been a one day task snowballed into week’s worth of faffing around with video editing software and other nonsense before I sent it to a comedian who won’t book me for his gigs and he said he couldn’t hear the material properly. Yeah, but you could hear a sound you wouldn’t normally hear, mate. It’s called the audience’s laughter.
Soooo, anyway, I’ll just round up some weird gigs and that’ll have to do you.

GIG ONE: HEREFORD

I compered a new act competition at Hereford Courtyard theatre, where rather than being held in one of the many theatre-y rooms the theatre has, was held outside in a marquee. Of the 6 acts, two were on their first gig, and none had done more than 10. I met all the acts beforehand, and sorted a running order with Grant, the lovely theatre manager. Then as we were going out to the marquee, a woman approached me and Grant and said “my husband saw this and wants to enter”. Then she beckoned over a weaselly looking 40 year old bloke, who walked up and said “yeah, I want to have a go, I’ve seen it before and it looks easy”. I swallowed that, and told him he didn’t have to do the full 10 minutes, and he replied “To be honest, I’ll probably do more”.
Now, as a compere, I always try and make sure all my acts have as good a possible gig and try not to trip them up. I never want them to have a bad gig. Usually. I could see this being an exception.
Anyway, I gave the five minute warning. There was nowhere to change into my stage T-shirt (ever the professional) and so I snuck behind the marquee which looked out onto an empty carpark, whipped off my top and and got given a dirty look by a man who had just walked out of the theatre, holding a large sign. He looked a lot like Boycie from Only Fools and Horses. The sign he was holding had printed on it a picture of Boycie from Only Fools and Horses. It was Boycie from Only Fools and Horses. He’d been doing a show in the theatre, and had come out to see me half naked behind a bush (which now I think of it, could have looked to him like I was fully naked). He gave me a dirty look and drove off. I wasn’t able to think quickly enough to yell after him that “The Green Green Grass” was crap.
I started the show with my opening joke. It is a good joke. I was given a large groan from a woman on a table in the marquee. I did my second through 5th joke and she groaned loudly at everyone. It was then I realised that that was the judges table, and I was being put off by a local radio DJ. Anyway, I brought on the first act, who had never gigged before but had a smashing time, possibly helped by the fact he was local and worked at the theatre. I also found out from Grant that the woman groaning at me was Wincey Willis, original TV-AM weather girl, and local Hereford celebrity. This did not make me feel better when she booed my next joke. And then denied it when I called her up on it.
As the evening trundled on, we got through the acts and Wincey Willis drank herself into a state where she behaved, we reached the bloke who fancied a go, who was last. He managed about two minutes when he reached into his pocket for a cue card. Not the worst problem for a comedian, I myself used to make a note on the back of my hand. But then he proceeded to read off the cards. At one point, he complained that he should have gone on earlier in the evening so he had enough light to read his cards by. I picked one of the stage afterwards, and kept it in my coat pocket for a month to amuse myself eveytime I randomly came across it.

It reads “making love now I swear at her and she moans ‘ventriloquist’ ”

I assume they are seperate jokes and he can’t punctuate, as that would be a very strange thing to yell out.
Just before I wrapped up and awarded the prize, I asked a guy in a checked shirt to start the drumroll. He looked around. “You” I said, pointing at him. He looked around. “You in the Brokeback Mountain shirt” I rather hackly added. That got a huge laugh, much more than it deserved, but mostly from the venue and bar staff. I found out later from Grant, that Grant is a gay and likes turning straight men, of whom the guy in the checked shirt happened to be, and he worked at the theatre and and everyone there knew Grant had done some gaying with him.
Anyway, Grant took me and Tom Deacon (who was doing a solo show elsewhere in the theatre) out to the bright lights of Hereford, with his ridiculously attractive female friend, who I think was a little bit confused and put out that me and Tom weren’t trying to hit on her. We’re comedians because we’re socially awkward people who can’t cope in society, petal, it’s why we do what we do.

GIG 2: NUNEATON

I did a gig in April, which was early in the evening. I found out as I got there that it had been part of the pub’s family fun day and that they had been in there drinking all day for the Grand National. There was only me and Colin Harris on the bill, and he spent his 20 minutes doing battle with a series of hit-and-run heckles and people wilfully giving him no help at all when he asked simple questions. I thought I’d die on my arse but I went up with loads of confidence, and got them onside early and they were suprisingly lovely, and I was able to take the piss out of some of them for lying to Colin. Anyway, afterwards, the DJ for the post gig disco (which would have been about half past 6 in the afternoon) got chatting to us outside, and said that he’d always fancied attemping stand up. Me and Colin said he should give it a go. Then he said “I’d have got them roaring, cos I’ve have done stuff about black people and how they are so smelly”. I’d already been paid and had my free beer and been fed by that point, so I just got in my car and went home, leaving him dangling mid racist sentence.

GIG 3: SOMEWHERE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE

I forget exactly how and why, but after a gig I gatecrashed a teaching union’s weekend conference at a country hotel and ended up sleeping on someone’s floor. Especially strange as the gig wasn’t in the hotel, and I’m pretty sure it might not have been in the same county.

GIG FOUR: ELGIN

I did a gig in Elgin which is in the toppermost part of scotland, and easily a 16 hour round trip. I broke it up by staying in Edinburgh with a mate on the way there and the way back. I got a message on the day asking if I would give a lift to Tom Stade, one of my comedy heroes. I of course said yes. I picked him up, and within 5 minutes he had sparked up a joint and bellowed “I Loooooooove weed!” out my window at passerbys. So I had 4 hours in the car with me, Tom and my friend where he would ask me to tell me my jokes and he would workshop them. Absolutely awesome to see how his mind worked up new stuff and to listen to his stories. We stopped at a service station, and within 2 minutes, he had pissed off a coachload of Everton footballers who were also in the petrol station, pretended to be a confused tourist so he could subtly mock them (“are you guys the youth team? No? So you’re the B-team?”), then instantly whipped it up into a story, then rang 4 of his mates to workshop it into a proper routine.
The gig was properly lovely, and Tom Stade complimented my act loads and asked why I didn’t have an agent when I was clearly good enough to require one (No. he actually did).
As we were leaving, I said goodbye to Larry Dean who had been MCing. then I went back to have a pee, and said goodbye again. Then Tom had left stuff, so we went back in again, and I said goodbye to Larry again. Then we walked out to the carpark and got in our respective cars at the same time, so I said goodbye again. Then we went to Tesco for supplies for the journey home, and then I met Larry Dean again, so said goodbye again. Then I stopped for petrol, and who should turn up but Larry Dean. I was getting sick of him by then, so I took a shovel from my boot and stoved in his face on the forecourt. I dumped the body in the Cairngorns somewhere. I was going to burn it, but petrol was £1:40 a litre, so we just let the crows have him. (Being an unburnt corpse above the wall, it’s entirely possible he’s become a white walker). It was all caught on CCTV, but no one’s been in touch from the police or his family, so I can only assume it was a victimless crime.

GIG 4: KENDALL CALLING

Ages ago, someone offered out gigs in the comedy tent at Kendall Calling, a festival in the Lake District, with payment of free tickets to the rest of the festival. When I saw that a bunch of my comedy mates, including Rich Wall, Lain Johnson, Ruth Cockburn, Tony Basnett, Jay Hampson, Rich Massara, and Danny Sutcliffe were on, I jumped at the chance. If nothing else, it would be fun to spend the weekend getting drunk in a field with that bunch of reprobates. I drove up on the friday afternoon, taking Jamie Kilday in exchange for a mix CD for my car (which he made but didn’t work) and petrol money (which he forgot, or possibly even “forgot”, to give me). We got there at 2, set up our tents in the artist’s field, and then proceeded to get quietly drunk whilst wandering around the various fields. We were all on at 6, so we had a potter around, drank a few beers, and got ourselves aquainted with the lie of the land. Alan Anderson turned up, dressed in a kilt, to do an hour long show about whisky that involved whisky tasting, and found that his audience was mostly under 9s as Kendall Calling is a family friendly festival. So he abondoned the whisky element and compered them for half an hour by just being daft. As he was on his way out, he realised he’d left 9 bottles, each with about a half pint of really expensive single malt whisky in, but he gets them free from the distilleries, so he told me to have them and share them with the other acts. I didn’t need telling twice. The rest of the weekend passed in a bit of blur. A woman heckled me with “Err can I just say…” and then didn’t say anything. For some reason (ie: alcohol) I told her to shut up, as it was “my time to shine”. Jamie Kilday asked why I’d addressed her, and not the fact the soundman was crawling along the stage fiddling with the amps. I don’t think I saw him.

Other things that happened

  • Danny Sutcliffe kept threatening a group of lads dressed as Bananas in Pyjamas.
  • Tony basnett started drinking at 10:30 am.
  • We got told off by the people at the Jagermeister bus for banging on the door to get served before noon.
  • Whilst dancing outside at an all night bar, we dragged a metal chair from somewhere into the middle of of group and started running up it to try and get it to topple over in a smooth movement, like in musicals. which worked for a bit, but then it stuck in the mud, and got metal fatigue and started coming to pieces. Which is when Danny started kicking it to bits in a crowded area. So I moved him out of the way, picked up the chair and lobbed it out of his way. Which kinda suprised the people I’d not seen, who were going for a late night stroll when a chair descended from the sky and smashed to pieces in front of them.
  • Colin Manford doing half an hour sober, then getting battered and coming back with no material. For some reason, he took off his shirt, wore Basnett’s girlfriend’s cardigan, then proceeded to be really bizarre

“Give us a cheer if… (stares into middle distance for a minute whilst wobbling slightly)       … just gve us a cheer”.

At one point, he got another comedian, Freddy Quinne, onstage and then got 3 girls out of the audience (which was now dwindling heavily as he babbled on) to play “Blind Date”. But the premise of blind date is that they can’t see the contestant, but have to ask questions. Instead, Colin flat out asked if any one of them would shag freddie for a tenner. They all refused. Apparently, he did it the next night, reduced the shagging to a kiss, and one girl said she would do it. Which is when Colin realised he didn’t have a tenner, so had a whip round the tent, and counted out the money onstage and had a strop when they only raised £8:60.

  • Stumbling across Chris Brooker and dunkenly clambering on him like a climbing frame and then Basnett climbing both of us.
  • This conversation:

Danny: I’m going to bed

All of us: No you’re not

Danny: I am. I don’t care if you make loads of noise, or try and shake the tent. I’ll sleep through

Me: Can you sleep in a burning tent?

  • Basnett getting the audience to bottle him off, and them enthusiastically responding with quite a few full cans., and some people taking a run up to launch them at him.
  • Me trying to follow that.
  • Basnett’s girlfriend doing that thing where you blow raspberries on people’s stomachs. Then she tried to do it to a geordie girl, except she was wearing a dress and so therefore couldn’t get to her stomach, so she did it to this girl’s cleavage, which I heard the loveliest sound of all, a geordie girl crying out in shock “Ahh, she’s mooooaator-boooated us”
  • sharing with everyone my nickname for Basnett: Spaznett.

GIG FIVE: ALL DAY FEST, WOLVERHAMPTON

I got into bed in my tent that night at 4am. I woke up at 7, packed down my tent, and drove back home to Wolverhampton, where I fell asleep for an hour and had a horribly vivid nightmare about walking round a post apocalypse Nottingham, whilst German tourists tweaked my genitals. I’ve never been more glad of an alarm. I then went over to The Stile, where I run a monthly gig, and had foolishly decided to run an all day gig full of hour long shows. Because the best thing to do whilst hungover, shattered and losing your voice is to run a ten hour gig. Nobody turned up for the first show, so me and Jon Robins played darts. Then the next act turned up, and there were kids in the audience. I politely asked them to leave. Their mum said they were fine, and they heard worse at home. I told the act this. He said his show was look into his fetish for being dominated by fat girls and it definitely wasn’t suitable for kids. I said this to the mum, she said it was fine, which is when the act, who suffers from anxiety, had the beginnings of a panic attack and refused to go on. So we took 5 minutes, calmed him down, and John did 15 minutes of compering and the act did his club 20, which was fine. It also included a lovely bit of bitchiness, when he was trying to plug the next show, he got distracted and ended up talking about another act from the circuit onstage.

“horrible dead eyes he’s got, like a shark. If he’s not done a murder, I guarantee he’s been there when one happened”.

The other acts, Tiff Stevenson, Sally Anne Hayward, and Caimh McDonnell were all great, especially Caimh who was exceptional. And Mickey Sharma stepped in at the last minute. Literally the last minute, I’d got my timings wrong and he told him he needed to be there an hour after I actually needed him. I rang him up and said “get there as soon as you can”, and he did, turning up and previewing his half written 2013 edinburgh show “20 minutes of ethnic stereotypes, 25 minutes of silly noises” (my suggested title), which was rapturously recieved. I realised at that point I hadn’t eaten all day, I’d had about 4 hours sleep in the last 48, I was surviving on adrenaline and caffeine and I was in danger of hallucinating and that I really needed bed. Which is when I remembered I’d recieved an invite to the afterparty of a poledancing competition. So I went to that instead. Seriously. It happened. The only thing I can think to prove I went to a poledancer’s afterparty was the fact it was in Wolverhampton, and the woman who ran it served curry and chips for the girls who’d performed. That’s the kind of detail I don’t have the imagination to make up.
GIG SIX: THE WEIRD ONE

And finally, weirdest of them all. This gig. I won’t say when or where it was, or who it was for, because of the sensitive nature of it.

I’d been offered a gig by a friend who used to run gigs about 3 years ago, who I’d kept in touch with. He asked if I could find another act and do a suited and booted gig for a group in a village hall. It all seemed relatively normal.

The weirdness started earlier on the day when the promoter’s mum sent me a text to say he was in hospital. I rang her and asked if the gig was going ahead and to see if he was alright, and she gave me the venue phone number (who didn’t respond), and what was wrong. She said ‘he’s tried to do too much, worn himself out and hasn’t been taking his medicine properly” which I assumed was a physical ailment. I thought the gig was cancelled, but he rings me a couple of hours before show time, says it’s still on.

I drove two hours over to this town, taking as support act the excellent comedian Tom Allsopp in the car with me. The promoter asks us to pick him up from a postcode. We say fine. It turns out to be a building on the hospital grounds called “the Ian Wilson building” or whatever. We park up outside, and he saunters towards the car, gets in, and we’re off to the gig.

It was about 5 minutes later, and he’s babbling away at this and that, when he was mentions he was reading Chekov in the garden and the amount of Diazepam he was on making the book dance, and that’s when the penny dropped, and I realised this wasn’t a normal ill man. This was a very severely mentally ill man we had apparently just jailbroken from a psychiatric ward, and we were his getaway drivers. (And that a severely mentally ill man was better read than me). I caught the eye of Allsopp to get a reassuring look. Which considering Tom’s eye was covered in purple glittery eyeliner, and his pupils wide with fear, wasn’t that reassuring.

We got to this little village hall to do the gig, which had been cancelled due to the promoter’s hospitalisation, but the committee rushed around and tried to make it a gig.
Everyone was sat outside a village hall in the last of the sunshine, so the decision was made to do it there. Not by me, I might add. I didn’t want to do the gig at all, but when this mentally ill guy’s stood there talking at a group of people around picnic tables with a penny whistle promising comedy, you might have to provide it.

So, we stood in a doorway, under the security lights, right next to the bins, whilst a load of middle aged and old people stared at us. Just trying to do our time in the vague hope we’d get paid enough to get our petrol money for the journey home. Every so often the promoter would chip in with unintelligible heckles. Later I found out he’d told them it was clean comedy and we’d been swearing, and he was trying to tell us not to. By this point he was so altered (not helped by the fact he was going round minesweeping the bits of beer people had left in the bottom of their glasses), and they’d already refunded most people their money, so instead of paying us the full amount that he promised, they passed a bucket round and we got just over 30% of our agreed fee. I didn’t feel like quibbling, I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

I texted his mum, asking if she wanted him at hers or at the hospital, and she was frantic, because he wasn’t supposed to be out. There had been a fight on the psychiatric ward, 3 patients had escaped during the melee, and he was one of them. They’d caught the other two, but there were police sweeping the area for the last 4 hours.

So we started driving him back to the hospital, but I was having problems with my sat nav and couldn’t just ask the other act to google the hospital in case it freaked out the promoter and he tried to bolt. So we drove round the outskirts of the town for a bit whilst sure that we were having the police looking for us, all the while he was babbling on, asking us if we knew people off the ward, and recommending pubs he could run gigs in that we could be rebooked for in future.

Eventually, we found the hospital, and the secure ward, rang the bell, and a woman with wild white hair stuck her head out of a a crack in the windowframe and asked us what we were doing. We didn’t want to say “we’ve got this guy and he’s escaped” in case he realised, and tried to make a break for it. And we weren’t sure if she was another mental patient. So we rang the bell again and she yelled at us a bunch. I’m still not sure.

Anyway, he went inside and then I realised he was wearing my jacket, but I was too exhausted to try and fight it, so I just let him have it.

A few days later, I wrote about this on an american comedy website and a bloke offered to animate it and turn it into a 3 minute cartoon. Which if it happens is well cool.

In CONCLUSION: I am available for non mental gigs to nice people. I promise not to get drunk.

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