Having run a comedy night for almost six weeks now at the Crippled Pig and Prostitute in Deptford, you’ll excuse me for saying that I know what the fuck I’m doing. Except when it comes to dangling modifiers, apparently. But in a comedy sense, that’s very much neither here nor there.
There’s a lot to be said for running your own really good gig, in a pub, like I do. For one thing you get a lot of stage time, and just as importantly you get to give stage time, like a manna from heaven (or whatever the scientific non-bullshit version of manna is) to newer comedians you think are really good.
Needless to say, everyone on my bill really appreciates that I’ve condescended to have them at such a friendly, well-run gig that is one of the very few small gigs that actually understands comedy. It does of course mean that other acts, which are - to put it politely - ‘not my cup of Chai’, aren’t quite so welcome, and I have to deal with a torrent of pleading emails similar to a Saudi Arabian court of final appeal. ('When can I play your club?' When you’re funny, asshole, I want to say to some of them.)
The truth is I bar very few people: Those whose stuff I consider racist, or classist, or misogynist, or derivative (the word ‘hack’ I consider, well, hack - I can’t believe there are so-called ‘proper’ acts who still use it). Sadly I have, just lately, needed to keep out some other people too; people with a bad comedy attitude. Comedy is an artform that we’re all responsible for, and that means protecting it, like a crystal ornament in the shape of a dolphin or something, from the sort of people who want to bring it into disrepute.
Anyone who lacks basic respect for their fellow performers, say. Like, among other things, ignoring other comics at the Gong Show last week, or dissing other comics on Chortle Forums, or being people everyone knows are actually anonymous trolls on Chortle Forums while pretending not to be, or people who won’t give other, better comics a gig at THEIR comedy night even though their comedy nights are, frankly, rubbish and a disgrace to the art form of comedy and the other better comic was just doing them a favour even turning up.
Apart from those people my policy has always been ‘the more the merrier’ and ‘come all ye faithful to the goddess of comedy’ which, after all, is a deity we all serve, right? Well not a deity but the scientific non-bullshit version of a deity.
To run a comedy gig you only need to get a few things right: decent promotion, a good PA system and an MC who isn’t running the whole thing just to make him or herself look good or score points, but for the good of comedy as a thing that is greater than all of us; an artform if you will. So you can imagine how I felt turning up at the S Laughter House in Edmonton, North London last Tuesday to find that, apparently, these things mean nothing to some people.
There was no atmosphere at all. No lighting. No stage. No microphone. No dressing room. No free drinks. No one saying, ‘Thanks for coming’. Just fluorescent strip lights and a bit of greasy, tiled floor to stand on. Horrible formica tables were set out in rows, nobody was even looking the right way, and in one corner people were actually getting their dinner served to them WHILE I WAS DOING MY ACT.
The situation was difficult, but I’ve always said there is no such thing as an impossible gig. Believe me, I’ve seen some difficult gigs in the almost six weeks I’ve been doing this, some of which would make your fuckin’ sphincter twitch, but none were impossible. It’s just a matter of reading the audience; answering that question, 'What do they want?' They were giving me nothing. I asked one guy who had a net on his head and was covered in blood: 'Why are you covered in blood?' 'Nosebleed,' he replied. So that was a comedy cul-de-sac.
Somewhere in the distance was the sound of grunting, and a weird sort of screaming like that monster made on Cloverfield, and when I asked if it could be turned down or - preferably - off, they all just looked at me like I’d farted or something. It was almost as if nobody had told them they were in a comedy club.
The person who had sent me there was nowhere to be found and, scanning the walls, there was nothing - absolutely nothing - about a comedy night even happening, just loads of stuff about workplace safety and stuff about what to do in an RSPCA inspection. When I did my stuff about veganism and how cool being a vegan is this guy said 'Is this a fuckin’ joke?' Well I fuckin’ hope it is, because it won me the Nabisco Biscuit Nearly New Act of the Month competition in March. So actually, yes, asshole, I think it IS a joke. Like, HELLO??
'What do you want?' I asked one guy, who also for some fucking reason had a net on his head. 'I want my shift to start,' he said. So that was a comedy cul-de-sac. On my way out some guy says 'If it helps, it takes some doing to be the most horrible death in this place.' So that was fine. I’d made my mark. In a world of potato-stamp ‘comedians’, they would remember me. I’d made the impossible playable.
None of this excuses the attitude of the person who set up this excuse for a gig. Out of decency I won’t name her, or even take the piss out of her mousy blonde hair or red shoes or fake Prada bag, or point out that the fifth joke in her set in the 7th heat of the Pot Noodle Comedy Trawl was RIDICULOUSLY similar to a joke by Brian Philth, who just happens to be a friend of mine.
It isn’t a gig just because you say it is. You’re not funny just because you’re talking at people. So come on, guys: stop being so fucking self-deluded. People like you are killing comedy.
- Eddie Womble runs the Fuck You Comedy Club, every Wednesday at the Crippled Pig and Prostitute, Deptford. His Edinburgh show, Comedy’s My Bitch, Brothers is at the Wanking Castle, Leith, as part of the Laughing Angry Socialist Free Festival Carnival Hullaballoo Other Alternative Fringe.