I say 'stage'... it was a door on house bricks
My first gig was in a weird little West Indian bar called Under De Bridge"I wore a captain’s armband like an idiot and had hair like Simon Le Bon (like an idiot).
I was rattling on about how Jim Bowen lives on a train and how he was preparing for some kind of ‘Rail-friendly’ Noah’s Ark-type event, how William Shatner and David Hasselhoff were very similar and how the word ‘oats’ sounded mysterious but they are actually dull… unless you throw them at the audience. Which I proceeded to do before I left the stage. I say stage, it was, in fact, a door with the handle removed and placed on to four house bricks.
St Patrick’s Day at Up The Creek. My first paid spot at my favourite local club. The first act had gotten into a row with a really aggressive, awful man in the audience. During the break I overhead an audience member say that I ‘looked like a prick’.
I was quaking in my brogues, and drawing two faces on my hands for a ‘play’ as part of my set. The compere comes up to me and says: ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘It’s part of my set.’ He said: ‘How long is the bit?’ ‘About three minutes.’ ‘Maybe just do three minutes less.’
I went on, did well, did the weird bit of material about the hands, got a round of applause, then went on to do another weird bit about constellations and stormed the gig. Afterwards the same guy who said I looked like a prick invited me to do a set at his wedding and offered me some drugs. It was quite a turnaround.
The night after I had done a close runner-up for my best ever gig at a sold-out Corn Exchange in Exeter, I did a gig for the same promoter in Gloucester, with the same set and a pocket full of confidence.
I began to die a fairly bad death. I tried everything, short sharp easy jokes, crowd work, improvising… nothing was working. I began to improvise a bit about the journey to the gig and how it was an omen for a bad gig. I made a quip about petrol prices and with that a man who had sat with his back to me the whole gig, got up, walked to the edge of the stage, put two pound coins down and said: ‘That's towards your petrol, now fuck off.’
I repeated the line. It got the biggest laugh of my set. I picked up the coins, glanced at my watch. I'd done 17 minutes. I said goodnight and left, got in the car and spent the £2 on a grab bag of Wheat Crunchies and a Chomp at the services. That'll teach him.
Strangest gig location
As part of the Leicester Comedy Festival, I did a gig called Hotel D’Comedie where the audience go on a tour of the comedians’ lodgings, with a routine in every room. I decided it would be fun to do my set in the shower, fully suited and hatted with the shower turned on. Completely ruined the suit and possibly a poor man’s loafers. Unfortunately. nobody was brave enough to scrub my back.
Best gig as a punter
I saw Harry Hill in a 30 seater room in Peckham last year. He was doing new material but his energy, presentation and ability to win over a crowd was phenomenal. His attention to detail and the amount of solid punchlines in among the madness was just such an inspiration and a lesson to me.
What is even more special is that he turned up in a dinky little car with a suitcase full of props (like a reboot of a vaudevillian clown). I asked him if he was trying some stuff out for a tour or something and he said: ‘No I was just a bit bored and I missed gigging.’
Such a master of his craft and a really technically brilliant and exciting comic.
• Joey Page: Jowie is on at Gilded Balloon at the Counting House at 14:30.
Published: 27 Aug 2016