Friday, December 17, 2010

When Is A Gig Not A Gig?

If you're comedy type person then you've probably read the very good article by Bobby Carrol on Chortle this week. If not, here it is:


I highly applaud Bobby's sentiment and I think he makes several very valid and important points. Not least because last night I did a gig that is exactly the sort he's talking about. Now I'm not sure what the minimum requirements of a gig are, but this wasn't really, in many senses of the word, a gig. Held in a pub with no discerning barricade or wall between the gig area and the rest of the venue, this meant anyone who hadn't paid a ticket could just stand nearby and listen. Or, more likely, they would just talk loudly, play music and not give two shakes of a monkey's face about whether or not they were disrupting things for the 30-40 people who had paid. This combined with the fact that the area with the gig in was also the place where the only toilets were and a the door to the outside area for smokers, so people that didn't want to see the comedy would just stroll straight through anyway regardless. The mic kept cutting out and halfway through my set stopped working entirely, meaning that against all odds I projected my way through it. At the beginning of Tiffany's set someone was brought a birthday cake and their table all sang 'Happy Birthday' stopping her from even starting, and we received a text from Al Stick after we left saying that during his set an elderly man in a top hat wandered on stage and just started shouting jokes at the crowd. Brilliant. It was a farce. The compere/organiser did such classics as asking people what they did and then telling them there was no comedy in that and giving up, and the whole thing felt like a pointless endeavor.

Despite doing it as a favour for a friend, it felt like we should probably just walk. But most of us decided against it. The reason was not the pittance of pay, but more that the few people that had paid were very nice and they deserved to see some semblance of a proper gig or else they'd be put off going to comedy again. I ploughed through my short set and the crowd that were listening were great and despite the celebratory singing at the start, Tiff got the audience quickly on her side and did very well. Without meaning to float our own boats, less professional acts would have suffered a lot. It took some effort to seem that reasonable in that crowd. Then after all that, the promoter had the gall to pay us the lower end of the specified amount and complain that 'comedians are a miserable bunch', before giving all the excuses that it was the first night and they were just learning. No. There was no learning. Its a room that should never ever have comedy in it. It doesn't take long as an act to walk into a room and know when comedy shouldn't happen there. Such simple things make it work and yet it seems to be so hard for people to realise sometimes that you can't let noise come in from other areas, the sound needs to work, the lighting needs to be decent. All these basics would have to be covered before I'd even consider a room for a gig before embarking on all the other bits and pieces it needs.

I haven't done a gig like that in years and as Pete Cain said to me before he left, and rightly so, that if he was an open spot he'd have happily done that gig, but not if he was getting paid. Its a perfectly valid argument. There are times when as a professional act you look at a night like that and think 'I shouldn't have to do this anymore'. And I won't. That's the last shoddy run gig I do for anyone. Apart from my own of course, but that doesn't count. All I ask is that if you're thinking of running a gig, then really think about it. Go watch established nights, see why it works. Make notes and when you go to run something do it with care for the acts and the audience not just for your pocket.

Preaching over. Tonight I attempt to drive to Tenbury Wells again. It's apparently going to be a big snowy shitstorm. Its as though the Gods don't want to me to go there. I'm terrified I'll anger them and be trapped with my son Telemikus searching for the way home. Of course, somehow I'll have to get a son Telemikus, so I'm hoping rather than have to sit out 9 months while and unwilling mother caters for such things, hopefully my little car will just get there. Frostbitten fingers crossed.

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