Yesterday, I accompanied a friend of mine who was gigging at a comedy venue in Southampton, which for those who don’t know, is in the South of England. My friend wanted to get out of the London comfort zone and ply his trade out of town where the audiences are different and you have to tailor your material to suit.
So myself, my friend and his partner travelled down from Waterloo in the evening. If I tell you that Waterloo is one of the busiest railway stations on the planet, then you would hardly believe what I’m about to tell you. It was a quarter full at 6 pm, hardly a soul to be seen. The Covid 19 strictures are having an effect, even six months on (is it really six months), and people are still working from home.
Nice journey down, about 75 minutes and then a short walk to a pub in Southampton town centre. My friend was really nervous when we arrived and then when he was told he was on first, he was like a cat on hot bricks. He so wanted to do well and I was glad to be there, supporting him and picking up a few tips in the bargain.
So on he went, and I’ve watched him three times now. I have to say that was his best last night. Good material, with a puppet prop to boot and several humorous references to autism and mental illness (something we both share experiences). Also, everyone loves a blooper or pratfall where someone forgets their words. This happened to my friend, but the audience laughed as they were on his side. Excellent set.
From the sublime though to the ridiculous. At the two gigs I’ve been to so far, there has been one unfunny turkey that reduces the room to total silence, like the forgotten tomb. All comedians, even the greatest ones, have had gigs where they’ve “died” on stage. It is a nightmare from which there is no escape, not only for the performer, but for the audience.
And so it was to prove. A chap came on in the middle and brought the tumbleweed with him. A series of unfunny and frankly disgusting jokes was greeted by said silence. The three of us sat there in shock. My friend showed me a message he typed into this notes “I wish I was deaf”. My reply was “Can we change the f in deaf to a d?”. Gracious me, it was terrible. And the thing was, he ploughed on, oblivious to the silence. And the jokes got worse, if you can call them jokes.
I swear at one point that the hands on my watch were going backwards. Suffice it to say, it’s part of my life I won’t be getting back. 10 minutes seemed like an hour. The applause at the end was out of politeness, nothing more. He needed a shovel to continue digging the deep hole he found himself in the moment he started speaking.
I sat there and thought “I’m funnier than him” though it wasn’t difficult in all honesty. I could have pushed him off stage and done seven minutes of my impressions and that would have been more suited to the audience’s taste, I like to think.
The night was saved by the following act, a young lady who knew how to set up a joke and follow it with a great punchline. I hope the previous act was watching and noting that you don’t have to be offensive to be funny. She was excellent and topped and tailed the first half with my friend starting off in brilliant style too.
We had to leave as we had a fair journey back and the whole trip was an impression battle with the two of us playing a game of Top Trumps. This is based on the old card game except that we had to outdo each other with a Donald Trump impression. His is better than mine, with more emphasis on the louder version while mine is a bit more measured. There were a few other impressions too, and the three of us were nicely entertained, though tired at journey’s end.
Tonight folks, I’m partaking in a Zoom online comedy gig where I will be displaying my talents (such as they are) and hopefully creating a good impression (pardon the pun). Looking forward to it as it looks as though this could be the only avenue to perform, live gigs could be under threat again if Covid gets worse again during the autumn and winter months.
That’s all from me, I’ll be back tomorrow with highlights (hopefully no lowlights) of tonight’s Zoom gig.
Yours in comedy
Ian L. Fullbrook