I was worried that this blog may not apply or be of interest to you all. Then I realised, you’ve all written an hour show right? Of course you have. Everyone, at one point or another, has sat down, churned out an hour of stand-up in order to perform it to people all round the country. We’ve all panicked over how to end it, or if we’re missing any callbacks or which bits to cut down and edit or should we just sack it all in and do a shitty dance at the end? So, as writing a show is as common to everyone as feeling sad when the end bit of a Cornetto snaps off in the wrapper, this blog should be the most relatable thing I’ve ever written.
I’m writing this because I should be working on the end of my show. I have a preview in Llangollen tomorrow and things need fixing before I do it. It’s a strange thing because only a few weeks ago, I was sure this show was finished. The idea for it emerged in November 2012, where I did a half arsed new material hour with another comic, spewing just one of the ideas that made it into this show, and many many more that I have confined to my note pile for later browsing and general scowling as I can’t work out what they mean. (I have recently found a note that said ‘airplane engines roar because they have tiny lions in.’ I have no idea why this is funny, how that was meant to work as a joke or how much sugar I’d had that day.) I knew it was going to be about frustrations with other people and politics. I had a starting point but that was all. The show was then left alone for far too long, until I decided to actually write it properly for a work in progress show at the Phoenix Fringe last August. The ideas had been swirling around in my brain for ages, so I wrote the entire thing in two days flat pulling all sorts of scribbles together. I sat at my desk and scribbled and scribbled, finding it easy to link ideas and gags despite not having ever said almost any of them out loud. The preview went ok, partly due to a very forgiving crowd. There were some definite keepers, there were some definite bits to chuck and there wasn’t an ending. At all. It sort of faded out like an 80’s record until I feebly ran off stage and drank a lot of beer. We’ve all been there right?
Then I decided I’d do a tour of this show. So I worked on it again. It was impossible to get previews outside of Edinburgh season and no one having a clue who I am. The only two I managed to get were cancelled as no one showed up. So I just stupidly trusted myself to write funny things. It now had an ending. It had some callbacks. It had an overarching theme. It had the word ‘sandwich’ in it. I was happy with the show. The first few tour gigs were fun. Audiences in Exeter, Newcastle, Eaglescliffe and Darlington laughed a lot and said nice things about it afterwards. Including one man who’d looked miserable throughout then told me afterward that Thatcher had made his dad lose his job and he never found work again. He said he’d loved the show but it also made him so angry how shit the government were and how they are worse than Thatcher. Which is quite a nice response to evoke from an audience member.
Then Chris (who was supporting me on tour) said that he didn’t think the ending made sense. I had sort of known this, but as no one had told me this out loud I ignorantly assumed it was fine. But it wasn’t because there wasn’t really an ending at all. So I wrote another ending. One that seemed to definitely seemed to make sense to me and actually sort of end things. Sort of. Instead of thinking about it too much I worked on other bits that I felt needed updating due to topicality. Material about flooding became material about immigration. Material about Syria was halved and material about the Scottish Independence vote was added. 11 more tour shows happened. The show grew from an hour to an hour fifteen then back to an hour 5 as I removed some bits I didn’t like as much. I decided I’d take it to Edinburgh as it’s finished, so no stress of getting a show ready in time. No last minute panics in July. No jokingly telling people that I had nothing when I really actually had nothing. You know what that’s like yeah? Well that wouldn’t happen to me this year. This should be easy I thought.
Then I did a preview two weeks ago. Despite having toured it already, it was previously called ‘Tiernan’s Tour’ because I didn’t want it to have a title. But for the Edinburgh Fringe it had to be called something. So titled changed, I embraced the idea of doing ‘previews’ just as a way of keeping the show fresh for me and working out how to make it just one hour again to fit for festival timescales. My agent came along and said that she had enjoyed it all, but the ending didn’t make sense to her. And she was entirely right. It still didn’t work and hadn’t ever worked. There is a tone throughout the show that suddenly changes at the end. Like Leontes in the Winter’s Tale – a bit that used to infuriate me when studying it at school – there is no explanation for this mood switch and in my show I didn’t even have a bear to pursue me to cover it up. I’d been ignoring it and instead of a powerful, memorable or particularly hilarious ending, it was still just stopping abruptly and leaving people on a dull note. It was like playing someone a playlist of Rage Against The Machine with a Ryan Adams track as the last song.
So now I’m trying to fix it. Except in trying to fix it, I’m wondering if I should cut another bit and change it in order to make it all make more sense. In doing that, I’ll be throwing a lot of material I’ll never use anywhere else and don’t have recorded anywhere. I’ll also feel like I’m cheating all those people that paid to see a show on tour, that it turns out, wasn’t finished. Worse than all of this, I’m really not sure I know how to finish it now. Over the course of a year my opinions on things have changed. In fact, there are more of them and more I want to talk about and in just an hour, they just don’t fit. I now need at least an hour and a half to fit it all in. And really an hour or an hour and a half isn’t enough to fit all the ways in which I’m upset with humanity and politics and class division and elitism and prejudice. I need a week long show! But I’ve only got 1 hour. That’s it .But And I’ve only got 4 weeks to fix it. Or, before tomorrow’s show where I’ve told the promoter it’s a finished show, only a few hours. Does it actually need fixing or am I being fickle? Is deleting bits and starting again going backwards? No. I don’t think so. I think it’s the natural evolution of a show. It’s just version 3.0. Updated, and hopefully better. Then, when it’s finally finally all done and finished and perfected, I’ll finish the Edinburgh Fringe run and never do it again. Ever. What a stupid stupid job this is. Still though, we all do it right? Guys? Hey guys? Oh.
Tomorrow’s (Friday 3rd July) preview is in Llangollen with the very very funny Lloyd Langford:
Then I’m doing one in London on Sunday (5th July) at the Round Table in Leicester Square with also very funny Kate Smurthwaite:
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