.. you’re not interesting.
That was the advice from a wonderful teacher, Van Brooks, in ‘The Mastery’, a class I took a few years back. The advice worked for the most part and resulted in me taking my stand-up more seriously, writing my first solo show and sometimes intentionally risking embarrassment.
While I still appreciate the sentiment of the line, my thinking is now more along the lines of ‘if you don’t fail you must be doing it right. Well done you.’
Last night I felt like I failed, but not in an interesting way. My solo show opened on Thursday night and it played reasonably well. We had an audience of around 40 and they seemed to like it, even if the laughter was a bit muted. But good reactions afterwards and I felt like I’d held my own in relation to the second part of the show, Zell Miller’s brilliant performance in B-Boy Bluez.
Last night we had another reviewer in, but only about half the audience. I felt a lot more confident going onstage but the audience didn’t respond in the way I expected. Lines that got decent laughs on Thursday night got a few chuckles and a lot more were met with silence, or so it seemed. I felt awkward, which was maybe appropriate given the nature of the show, but it wasn’t helpful.
It was like when you go out drinking with a bunch of people you kind of know and at one point in the evening you become all confessional and say stuff you’d never normally reveal, expecting the others to do the same. But they don’t and you feel like an idiot, you feel exposed and promise never to do that again to yourself.
I think part of my problem is that I’m not really sure what kind of show I’ve written. My original intention was to tell my story using comedy to create its highs and lows. I wanted to communicate a lot of conflicting emotions and to sometimes make the audience unsure of how they should react. Well I certainly achieved that last night. When I first performed this piece at Fronterafest, I think it was lighter, or at least more of the laughs were upfront. I think there’s even more humour in it now, but maybe it’s even more honest too.
Talking with friends that saw the show, I’m having to accept that this isn’t a comedy, it’s ‘bittersweet’ as one said. Another one called it ‘pithy’ but none of us could quite figure out what that meant. However, if the words ‘pithy’ or ‘solid’ appear in either of the reviews then I promised to buy him a shot. I also think that I’m so used to doing stand-up that I’ve come to depend on laughs, I feed off them, they make me feel powerful.
I feel like I failed last night because I put my all expectations onto the audience. I judged myself by them and their reaction and it was unfair to us both.
Tonight will be different. There’s no reviewers in and I’m bringing a laugh track with me.