Dear audience that were present at tonight’s gig,
It’s now after the show. It’s (still) a Saturday night. My girlfriend is away on a hen weekend and I’ve been invited to a party that I was quite tempted to go to. But instead I’m already sitting at home in my pyjamas with the aim of spending the rest of this evening repeatedly wondering what went wrong with tonight’s show. I don’t think it was bad. Maybe. It was possibly…ok. I think. I remember a more experienced act (I forget who) tell me early on that the longer you do comedy the more you learn how you are able to make a bad gig ok, an ok gig good, and a good gig great. Tonight, I scraped by the first rung of gig outcomes.
Here’s the facts: It was an Edinburgh preview gig; none of you really knew what an Edinburgh preview is; there were 80 of you all dressed up for a Saturday night out; some of you were drinking cocktails; the music from upstairs was quite loud; the hand dryer from the toilets heckled me more than you did. Here’s the excuses, that I will then immediately discard as just being shit : I hadn’t worked on my Edinburgh show enough so I was still reading off unfinished notes; my blood sugars had dropped low 30 mins before so I wasn’t fully alert despite all the jelly tots I’d just crammed down my gob; I decided that you weren’t my crowd as you were walking in. Ah. The last one. That’s the one that matters. You were a nice bunch of people. A nice bunch of people that couldn’t work out how to sit down in your seats for ages. That didn’t heckle, but were just quiet. Yet I bottled it two minutes into the gig on account of how quiet you were, how unready my material was, how dressed up you were, the subjects I wanted to talk about and my own prejudiced spur of the moment decision that none of you would want to hear any of it.
So after 11 years of gigging I ignored everything I’ve learned. I raced through half written jokes at a pace that wouldn’t allow you of them a chance, checked my watch, did 10 minutes of old stuff that they didn’t like and then ran away. Which is, on reflection, pathetic. The thoughts I’ve had since that are now all irrelevant are that if it was a normal gig I’d have done different things, that I need to rearrange the order my new show goes in and I really don’t like gigging on Saturday nights anymore. I don’t want to say things to people that want to go out and have fun on a weekend. I want to talk about equality and privilege and injustices and politics and….. Ultimately all things that if I had worked on the jokes, I could tell to any audience as long as it was funny enough. To the that man came up to me to say that I had some great jokes but said them all too fast, with no pauses for anyone to process them: Thanks, but I was so horribly aware of this whilst I was on stage. I just wanted to get it all over with. I threw the gig long before any of the audience had.
I’ve been excited about writing a new show. I’ve got almost too many thoughts in my head and directions I want to take it. There is a spider graph in my room of joke ideas that link together in so many ways I can’t work out how to put it together in a sensical way. I’m secretly hoping one day I’ll look at it and it’ll all click into place. Though it’s the working it all out that’s part of the fun. It’s this sort of freedom to be creative that is both invigorating and completely terrifying every time I do it. What if it just doesn’t make sense, and isn’t funny? The problem is, you can’t tell until you do it in front of people. Often paying people. Paying people who have given up hard earned money to sit and listen to you say jokes that might not work. It’s a big ask for someone to be a human guinea pig like that. I often think about how nice it would be to have an alternative. I’m sure tonight all of you do too.
Really though, it’s not having an alternative that makes shows good. If it doesn’t work in these sorts of situations, then it probably just doesn’t work and one day I’ll learn to understand that. Not just throw gigs away because I’ve decided to. I’m fully aware I can turn a gig round. It took ages but I learned how to. Yet still a switch in my brain goes sometimes and just says ‘don’t bother with this one’ and that needs to change. So sorry to tonight’s guinea pigs, but if it’s any consolation, you’ve made me work even harder for future previews. You can consider the bullet you’ve taken from all my misfiring to be one that may save a future audience from sitting through babble. It’s an honourable thing you’ve done and I hope that after you’ve got over feeling like that was 40 minutes you’ll never get back, that you’ll feel like heroes for doing so.
All the best
PS It really was ridiculous how confused some of you got over just sitting down though. I mean, it’s just chairs. You’ve all sat in those before right? Bizarre. How can anyone not know how to sit in a chair?
PPS I really don’t think you’d have liked all the bits I didn’t do.
For all my other Edinburgh preview shows (that will now be much better), my Edinburgh run itself and my old show that you can buy and download and is all finished and actually has jokes in, go to www.tiernandouieb.co.uk