Audiences are fickle. Tonight I say fuck em*. There, that’s almost alliteration for you.
The great thing about stand-up comedy is that when you’re sucking up the room, audience-wise, there will always be a group of your fellow comics standing at the back, laughing their asses off as you sweat it out onstage. As brutal as it used to be when I did the Velveeta Room open mic, I would have loved those schadenfraude laughs at the Hyde Park theatre tonight.
I was pretty excited about tonight’s show. For the first time ever I made Fronterafest Best of Fest for Kevorkian’s Cat. Erik was going to tape it and I laid off coffee (sort of) and cheese today so my mouth wouldn’t go all cotton-wooly. I ran my lines while driving around, brushed up my cod-Russian accent and dug my show shirt out of the laundry basket. Oh and I bought another Snickers bar to replace the one I accidentally ate last week during a chocolate binge.
I watched the first two pieces on the bill tonight, both great, funny and full of energy. Then me.
As soon as Cat started talking I knew I was in trouble. For those that haven’t seen the show, I play Cat, along with the main character Vicki, who interacts with her unseen husband (played by a wheelchair). Confused? You won’t be. (Oh Soap, you were one of my first introductions to American TV).
Going back to my stand-up comparison, it didn’t matter too much if your opening material sucked, you could generally get them back with a quick ‘hey Austin, who likes pot/pussy?’ line. Note: this approach does work better with men than women. ‘Hey ladies, who likes sucking lollipops and cocks?’ wasn’t generally as effective.
But the Fronterafest audience started out quiet and they weren’t going to change their minds. Who knows, maybe it was the wheelchair (always blame the inanimate object first). It’s funny the way people react to a wheelchair, especially those who haven’t been into a nursing home or had to interact with someone in one. I’m very familiar with them because of where I work but it was different when I brought one into the house and asked Erik to sit in it. It was terrifying to imagine him like that and he had the same reaction with me in it. (note: we did briefly contemplate posting a Facebook picture of Erik in the chair with a caption about how much he’s been improving recently, but our better judgement, and fear of his family fortunately stopped us).
Whatever it was, it rattled me. And yes, I know all the lines about every audience being different; that they didn’t necessarily hate you; that they may not have known that they could laugh. Oh that last one really gets me. Funny is funny, laugh if it is, don’t if it isn’t, no-one needs to give you permission. Unless you’re at a funeral, in which case probably best not to even ask. I know this show can be funny, I’ve got my first performance of it to prove it. Though only in my head as I was too dumb to ask Erik to tape it.
In stand-up, it’s all too easy to blame the audience. I’ve seen it millions of times, onstage and off. You know, tapping on the mic “hello? is anyone out there?”, or “fuck you, that’s funny”. And afterwards, complaining about a shit audience. There was a moment tonight when I was starting to get so rattled that I wanted to just stop. But instead I just said fuck it (fortunately only to myself) and decided to forget about what they were or weren’t doing and just focus on myself.
After avoiding eye-contact at intermission, I came home and told Riley that this just proves how much better dogs are than cats and she agreed, even though we both knew it was a nonsensical point and that Riley just wanted an almond. Then Erik came home and we had an argument because I wouldn’t stop with my repetitive post-mortem and my demand to know what happened and why.
The simple answer, though one that would have rendered this blog entry rather short and pointless, is I don’t know. It just was what it was. Now the trick is going back on Saturday night for the final show without any expectations, good or bad. And beyond that, not getting onstage again for another 3 or 4 years.
I remember a few years ago having to go on that Dudley and Bob radio show to promote a set I was doing at CapCity. It was awful. It’s hard enough for me to be on form when I’m actually in the club, let alone in a studio at 7am. The feelings between that twat and myself were mutual. As I was leaving, he said without any feeling, ‘you did fine’. Which of course we both knew wasn’t true but it was enough to draw a line under a hideous morning.
So tonight is now done with. Over. Floating around in my head right now is that line from the film Babe. ‘That’ll do pig”. Yeah, I suppose it will.
*Naturally I am exempting my always brilliant friends who came to see the show and who always support me, no matter whether I was ‘fine’ or not.