'I get a surprisingly large amount of women dressed as cats in my shows' | John Robertson recalls his Unforgettable Five gigs

'I get a surprisingly large amount of women dressed as cats in my shows'

John Robertson recalls his Unforgettable Five gigs

First gig

It was in 2003, at an open mic competition in Western Australia. I did OK but the show was run by a terrible comic who later went to jail for pouring gasoline into ATMs and blowing them up. Why they arrested him for that, and not his stand-up, I’ll never understand – this was a crime that hurt far, far fewer people. 

Worst gig

Jongleurs Birmingham, 2011. 

300 boozed-up hens and stags! But I didn’t feel like controlling them, so perversely went for whimsy. After a mere two minutes of my 11-minute ‘Sad Camel Talking To A Horse’ routine, everyone’s night was ruined and the room wanted me dead.  

To fix this, like King Arthur drawing out Excalibur, I reached into my bag and pulled out my ukulele. ‘Let’s sing a song about socialism!’ said I.

It turns out the trick to not being booed off is you just refuse to leave. 

Strangest audience member

I get a surprisingly large amount of women dressed as cats in my shows. Most are cute. Some are cute and will chase things if you throw them.

Some, however, are the 67-year-old Glaswegian grandmother who heckled so viciously and so poorly that she ended up being carried out by security while I shouted vague terms like ‘worming’, ‘neutering’ and ‘feline leukaemia’. 

The gig that changed my life

Perth Convention Centre, 2012. I was performing at Wai-Con, this beautiful anime convention. In the middle of my stand-up set, the whole crowd heckled, so I improvised a bit of fun about old video games and how cruel they were. I called it The Dark Room.

We turned off all the lights in that 3,000 seat theatre and played an improvised game for 40 minutes. That game’s been a huge part of my career ever since. Sadism + retro games + audience interaction = you can sometimes pay your rent. Who knew?   

Most exotic gig

Out in the far-flung reaches of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, there lie two wonderful shows. One is in a crumbling bar where geckos dance in the flickering green light of the exit signs; the other’s in the burger restaurant where they made a sandwich to tie in with The Dark Room – the bun had black bread and, in keeping with the show, was filled with an unexpectedly large amount of alarming crap!

John Robertson: Dominant at Stand 5 at 18:15; and The Dark Room For Kids at Just The Tonic @ The Community Project at 16:30

Published: 10 Aug 2017

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