On 21 August 2019 and 20 April 2020 I told the first two parts of my story on how I performed a few open mic slots to see if I could develop a comedy style and do some stand up routines. You can check the full story on my web site and on my YouTube channel but for those of you who are not able to access these resources here is the third and final episode of this particular epoch.
By mid April 2020 it was the seventh time I was due to do a monthly stand up routine at my local comedy venue at The Point, Eastleigh. It wasn’t compulsory that I performed every month, in fact the slots were getting so popular with different performers from all over the country that Richard, our organiser, ‘invited’ all the main group members to not participate but we were nevertheless allowed as we had been regular attendees on the intervening weeks.
However, my comedy performance learning process had hardly started and I had harboured a personal plan to give it at least ten gos to see if I really wanted to continue, to take it further or abandon the idea.
The problem for me was finding another form of stand up to try. Reading my previous story you will know I had tried everything from observational, through ranting to one-liner gag comedy. I had even done character comedy and wanted to do a variant of that. I wanted to find a way of delivering another monologue piece.
Writing something brand new, learning it and perfecting a performance was getting more difficult. My routines had been getting an improving response, particulary after the previous one which had more base laughs. My standards had to continue improving and this takes time and effort, something that is limited for all of us.
I considered not doing a slot, giving myself an extra month to get a routine perfected. However I knew such a break could also stall my continuity, potentially causing me to be forgotten by the audience, make it easier for the Richard to overlook me on subsequent occasions and possibly destroy the confidence in performing that I had built up.
I also had some ideas about the overall evening’s presentation. Each month one of the established performers from the group carried out the role of compère, to varying degrees of success. They were usually selected from established group performers based on who was available but at times it seemed there was reluctance to do this from some quarters. Mind you, in the end there was always somebody who carried out the role on the night.
I thought I could handle this seemingly unpopular task and more importantly actually wanted to try it. I thought maybe once I had carried out my ten performances and had amassed more stature that I might be accepted to turn my hand to this to see if compèreing was my thing. It could suit my favoured style of quick wit and unrelated gags. Plus it would mean less line learning as recalling a full, unbroken routine was far more difficult than remembering some amusing links. It was another reason I didn’t want to break my pattern of monthly performances. I needed to keep attending and performing to show my colleagues that they could have confidence in letting me carry out this important role.
But what to do? I wanted to do a monologue performance but had little time to get something together, potentially gather together any props needed then learn it to an ability to convince an audience of the character.
To solve some of these issues I had an idea that my character could just read from some sort of manuscript or book from a podium or something, such as might be seen by a vicar, a lecturer or presenter. Then once more found a solution by raiding my historic content and adapting the first part of my Podcast 009 CreationiOS. I made a ‘book’ [i.e. a modified lever arch file] into which I printed out the script. Hence a bit of preparation but not much learning needed to get it word perfect. It was so suitable I had to hardly make any changes to the text although adding the faux blank pages was inspired.
On the night the performers gathered early as usual, before the audience was due to arrive. However on this occasion there was a problem. The compère due to host the evening phoned in his absence. Richard called another to see if he was available but he too claimed to have something more important to do. Richard was getting a bit flustered and I considered putting myself forward to help out. We had enough acts to fill an evening without my particular performance and I could always do my routine on another month.
I suggested the idea to Richard, albeit a little reluctantly. The audience had now started to flow in and I had no time to prepare any lines, other than a few I had sketched out and had saved in my phone previously. And if I was to do this for the very first time I wanted to have my misses holding the phone to capture my efforts for prosperity and future learning. Also I was naturally nervous about handling such a role having only performed scripted stuff so far and had no idea how I would cope with riffing it on the fly. I wanted to get to this stage but was not fully confident that this should be the time to try it out.
My nervousness must have shown because Richard dismissed my offer and instead considered doing it himself. However a late comer act turned up to save Richard’s evening. I didn’t know Glenn West. He wasn’t a member of our comedy group and not even from the immediate area. But Richard knew Glenn and of his ability so invited him to help out as the evening’s compère. After just a few seconds of consideration he had agreed and seemed quite happy to drop his own prepared material, although used some as his introduction to the evening.
It was a very full evening. The popularity of the monthly performances was increasing along with the number of acts coming from far and wide, many who were bringing their friends and families along to support them, a normal thing in Open Mic sessions.
Glenn did his piece and the evening got underway. I was scheduled to start after the interval so relaxed back to enjoy the other comics which were the usual mix of abilities and styles.
The audience were numerous so the atmosphere was growing nicely until a confident young guy delivered a fairly audacious routine including gags about his private parts. Unfortunately a middle aged woman became offended and started to heckle. The guy was able to pick up on this but his witty retorts met with further noisy, interruptive, comments which basically continually called him out on whether he thought what he was saying was funny. He tried to move on but she persisted, despite the audience starting to turn against her.
When the comic finally finished his routine Glenn stepped in to introduce the next act and remind the audience, or rather the heckler that it was a polite group, an adult audience, that no one has the right to expect to enjoy every act and everyone was free to leave if they didn’t like what they were witnessing. Unfortunately the heckler didn’t leave although some others did, embassed by the growing tension.
Other acts followed and each got shot down once more by the woman, hysterically asking whether they thought their comments suitable as soon as the remotest personal detail was discussed. And a lot of that sort of stuff is infused within amateur comedy. After all it is easier to be rude or shocking than to write an actual joke or funny line. This jostling went on until the interval, with Glenn trying to assist the sometimes newby acts and those who had no comeback lines readied. Meanwhile Richard was getting increasingly frustrated and angry with the woman and the event staff who could do nothing to physically manhandle her away. She was like a dog with a bone and noisily wrecking the atmosphere.
The womans’ friends could do nothing to stop her, even attempting to walk out but she refused to move. In the end a group of other woman stood up to create a barrier in front of her to shield her from the acts but still she moaned and groaned.
Everyone was glad of the interval and we all hoped the heckler would go home but amazingly she stayed put, despite the pleas and reasoned arguments of the group, other audience members, the staff and her own friends.
Although annoyed and a bit destabilised by what was going on I thought at least my routine didn’t reference male members so I might get away without the heckling when it came to my turn. After all how could a highly strung and seemingly over sensitive woman possibly be offended by an act which parodied Genesis from The Bible and mentioned bright red bums on baboons!
After the interval Glenn continued to do stirling work in attempting to maintain the peace whilst simultaneously assuring the less practiced performers and eventually it was my turn.
I settled in quickly. The content of my narrative was not the least bit rude and having a large file in front of me made me look less like a typical in your face stand up comic. In fact I didn’t notice much heckling at all, just a bit of unecessary general muttering. Afterwards my colleagues mentioned that she had been rudely talking all the way through but this doesn’t get picked up on the recording.
In hindsight I was glad that this evening wasn’t my first attempt at trying out being a compère. It would have been a total baptism of fire. But Glenn did stirling work that night.
On top of all this going on during the interval I received a call from my sister, Dawn. She advised that our mother had been admitted to hospital. I considered about whether to rush to see her but she had been admitted before and from what Dawn was saying I knew there was no real hurry so I carried on. My mother did eventually deteriorate, then my father got sick as well and joined her in the same hospital before getting out a week or so later.
Mother never recovered and died a week or so before our next open mic night. As you can imagine I had no enthusiasm for comedy that month and called Richard to explain my absence. As expected he said I should take my time. But I never really got back into the swing before the summer break so as a result lost contact with the group.
In all I had done seven consecutive monthly stand up routines. Each written especially for the genre, each unique, each trying out a slightly different form. Not once did I repeat any of the routines, nor tried any other venues or sought any other audience. I never refined any of the performances. Had no chance to redo any script or to make sure all the lines were delivered as written with suitable laugh points checked off. I took no opportunity to get fresh feedback and so improve my act.
It wasn’t the last time I did stand up but this period for me was over.
Author: Vince Poynter
You can view the routine by accessing my YouTube channel, the link being https://www.youtube.com/user/Vinceunlimited
This article was adapted from my website entry within the Videos Section section dated 18 May 2020 where a transcript of the set is available
My website can be found at vinceunlimited.co.uk/index.htm or if you are on a mobile device and want a more suitable reading experience use vinceunlimited.co.uk/mobile.htm