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Apologies to the Velveeta Room

Interesting weekend at the Velveeta Room. I was opening for Kristen Key, the one on NBC’s Last Comic Standing that’s doing alright so far. She was recording her first DVD so it was all a bit glam with cameras and lights and a fancy new Velveeta Room sign on the stage. And best of all, a sold-out crowd with people lined up outside.

I wasn’t just hosting the show, I was also the warm-up person for .. myself. The camera crew needed crowd reaction shots so I got onstage without any introduction to get the audience to laugh, half-laugh, clap, semi-clap and cheer on command. And they did as they were told, without even really a joke or humorous quip from me. Oh the power I wield. I can just imagine trying the same thing with a London audience. Silence, but for the menacing beat of the slow hand clap.

Once the film chappies had got all the crowd shots they needed, they rearranged the cameras and then I went back up to do the regular show. By this point, I was all sweaty and feeling extremely self-conscious, I’m not a ‘woo-hoo’ kind of comic at the best of times. I just felt awkward and fake as I ploughed through my best crowd-pleasing material.

But I suspect I’m focusing far more on my performance than the audience was and the rest of the show went fine. The late show on Friday night was rubbish. Biggish crowd but not there to laugh so much as to stare at a fixed point on the stage. Friday late shows have a bad reputation wherever you go and I don’t really get it. Is it a self-fulfilling thing or just a co-ordinated effort on behalf of the general public to give the comedians a taste of their own personal misery? Hark at me, did I really just distance myself from being one of the poor general public? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the stage: my innate sense of superiority.

More audience reaction shots are needed on Saturday night. So Gallant whips the crowd into a fever-pitch frenzy, or at least gets them to laugh artificially for 10 seconds and then stamp their feet in a beautifully choreographed display. I then, without them realising, made the audience withold all their laughter and applause during my 10 minute set. It was an unselfish act by me because it allowed the crowd to rest and prepare themselves for both the feature act, Aaron Baker and Kristen Key. I can’t take full credit for the outstanding audience response they both got – laughs, applause breaks and a standing ovation for Kristen. But sometimes you sacrifice for the greater good. I knew my tactic had paid off when a woman came over to where Kristen and I were talking after the show. She looked straight at Kristen and said ‘I love to watch a good female comic’, then walked away.

The final show on Saturday was great because we weren’t recording. Everyone relaxed and things were back to normal. I realise that I’ve totally underappreciated the Velveeta Room in the past. I took it all for granted – the silly pre-show music, the lights going down, Dana’s great introductions to the stage. Being a regular MC was easy. Laughs aside, it was my best set of the weekend.

And so to the big rock n roll after-show party. Yes, we could have hung out with comedian Doug Stanhope who was being all clever and important at Emo’s over the road. I was, in fact, exhuberantly embraced by Stanhope. Believing I was Kristen, he raced into the Velv to hug me. When I turned around, I think we were equally horrified. Yet we snubbed Emo’s for .. my house. Why? Because I had 6 bottles of champagne in the refrigerator and there were only 5 of us. It’s not indicative of our rock ‘n roll lifestyle, more the result of misordering for Erik’s last big birthday do. We started drinking at 2am, I think I was mildly drunk at 3am and then completely sober at 5am when the first head slumped onto the table, the international symbol for ‘hey, party’s over’. Any effects of alcohol on me were apparently overruled by my fears of something in the house getting broken, spilled, puked on or in some other way damaged and it was hard to relax. Let’s be reckless and crazy, but first would you mind if I pop a coaster under your glass?

I can’t help it and certainly wouldn’t apologise for it. I’ve lived in enough mouldy, run-down, hideously furnished London flats to appreciate now being a homeowner and I’m proud of the place Erik and I have worked hard for. But I do occasionally miss those great parties of my 20s where the carpet smelled of beer and stuck to your feet, every receptacle was an ashtray, wine didn’t need a corkscrew and no-one had even heard of a Swiffer.

Finally, if you were at one of the shows, thanks for coming out (my last duty as host) and listen out for your highly distinctive laughter, applause and foot stamping on the DVD. But please let us not speak of my ‘woo-hooing/how you all doing/lets try that again’ onstage antics. I’ll never be allowed home.