Stand-Up and be Counted

Funniest heckle? “I left a funeral early to come here! The funeral was funnier!”

FTR Darby on StageSome of you older readers out there will remember the TV show, Animal Magic, which was hosted by a lovely old gent called Johnny Morris. I loved that show as a kid, but now, whenever I hear the theme tune, I get a tight feeling in my gut. All because of stand-up comedy.

The aforementioned theme tune was the music that was played at the start of every comedy night at the Crazy Chicken Comedy Club in Swindon where I started my brief comedy career as an open-mic act, but was asked back to host the show on a weekly basis.

During those early days I travelled around the south of England performing at all sorts of venues, big and small, and got to work with some really talented comedians, such as, Bill Bailey, Sean Lock, Marcus Brigstocke and Lucy Porter.

After a few months of gigging around, I realised that I was never destined to open at The Apollo or headline at the Comedy Store, but I was good enough to enjoy regular work and earn a bit of extra cash.

The downside to this seemingly jolly, comedic world is the travelling, bad gigs and a fair amount of underlying stress (my five stents can attest to the last).
There is, of course, one huge upside… the buzz! That fantastic feeling you get when people not only get your comedy, but find it funny. Every piece of material that’s previously failed, every bad gig, every hour spent writing and re-writing stories. All of that is forgotten in that moment when the audience laugh long and hard at something created in a moment of inspiration and jotted down on a scrap of paper.

Things don’t always go to plan of course, particularly when the audience decide to join in, with a heckle or even intervention! At a gig in a particularly rough area, a drunk audience member approached the stage, which was an area elevated by about six inches, and grabbed the microphone. There followed a tug-of-war, ending when he was dragged away. Unfortunately, I was pulling the mic. so hard that when he let go, it flew back and hit me in the eye. I did the rest of the gig with a closed over black eye. All for 80 quid, a ham and tomato sandwich and a glass of warm Diet Coke.

The biggest audience I ever played to was just over 300 in a Hilton Hotel. events room, and the smallest audience was just six people in the event room at the back of a pub when the pub manager had advertised the wrong night.

Funniest heckle? “I left a funeral early to come here! The funeral was funnier!”

Strangest moment? Being told my own joke by a chap in a pub twelve years after I’d written it.

So, can anyone do it? Absolutely! But just remember, when you get up on to that stage, you are all by yourself. It’s not like singing or playing an instrument where you can blame the sound at the venue or your bandmates for a bad gig. You stand alone, the lights come on, you face 150 people all looking at you, challenging you to make them laugh. It’s usually around that time you can’t remember a single word that you wanted to say. Scary but fun… go on, give it a go!

(Feature: Stand-Up Comedy)

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