All gigs teach you something | Abi Roberts recalls her Unforgettable Five

All gigs teach you something

Abi Roberts recalls her Unforgettable Five

First gig

My first stand-up gig was in a room of other comics in a room above a pub in North London. It smelt of old beer and farts.. much like my material back then. 

The landlord was an Irish version of Terry-Thomas and the promoter was harsh with the acts. 

When you first start out in comedy, you have no idea how to write jokes..the structure, timings and so on, and learn by doing gigs.  I was probably a bit harsh with the audience.  I think I had a tendency to waffle which I think is very common in new stand-ups, but you quickly learn not to.

Best gig

My best gig was in a little speakeasy comedy club in Moscow last year when I performed to a room of about 150 Russians and some expats in English and Russian.

I hadn’t been back since the 1990s. It was an emotional gig as the family who I lived with when I was there came to the last show. At the end of the shows they all shouted ‘Ura!’ and slapped their thigh.

I drank a lot of different flavoured vodka shots afterwards.  

Worst gig 

I was invited to do corporate comedy gig at a big birthday party at a golf club. When I arrived I realised that this was actually a school reunion and they a) hadn’t seen each other for 30 years and b) had been drinking since midday.

Also all the flower arrangements were so big, that whichever direction I moved in, I couldn’t see the audience.

So I took a deep breath and went among the crowd and chatted to them table by table. I got to about 35 minutes (I’d been booked to do 40) and got to a table of distinguished looking gents, one of whom turned out to be a forensic dentist.

I said ‘Ooh, wow that’s very CSI.. any interesting cases?’ He replied: ‘Yes, I worked on the Fred West case’. Fucking hell.

So I said to the man next to him ’And I suppose you’re going to tell me you sell patios for a living.’ Nothing.

I counted the money on the way home for solace.

Gig that taught me the biggest lesson

Gosh, that’s a tough one. I’d say that all gigs teach you something. I film all mine and watch them back as much as I can. I think it was probably at Jongleurs ages ago when I over-ran. I got a deserved bollocking from the headliner. I’ve never over-run since. My lilac vibrating watch is my ‘lil friend’ (best said in Scarface Pacino voice).  

Gig that changed my life 

After one of the shows in Moscow a lady beckoned me over and I thought she was going to tell me off for having a go at Putin or something. She pulled me close and said, with tears in her eyes,  ‘Abi, you truly have a Russian soul. Thank you for your talent’.

Gigs that change my life usually involve the reaction of the audience. That is who makes a difference to me. Not the critics. 

Abi Roberts: Anglichanka is at Underbelly, Cowgate at 18:40

Published: 18 Aug 2017

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