The night I came back from the dead

New comic Rhys Jones recalls his scariest gig

Early this month I was given the opportunity to do my first headline spot and, subsequently, my first paid gig. It was only my seventh time on stage. Well, I say 'given': I earned the spot by winning a gong show the previous month; the format stated that I had to last six minutes and then win the audience 'cheer-off'.

What a feeling! Just to have lasted six minutes and heard the Hallelujah track play was good enough for me. Just to be able to say ‘thanks’ to the audience rather than ‘Sod you then’ (because who's really gracious on the inside?) at the abrupt end of my set seemed good enough. But to then hear an eruption of cheers when the compere announced my name, and then have him lift my arm in the air as though I was some white-teenage-preppy Mohammad Ali. What a feeling.

The next month I returned, with 11 extra minutes of material, a brand new T-shirt and a bottle of Evian (brand loyalty unintentional, the fact it's 'naive' backwards just seems appropriate to the story). When this compere introduced me as ‘a very funny young lad’, I snickered and muttered ‘whatever’ to myself. As it turns out - that was the best compliment I could hope for that night.

I took to the stage with a stride, high-fived the MC, moved the mic stand and began telling an heavily signposted joke about sleeping with a teacher (the twist of the joke is that the teacher is a man – Ho, ho. No). When this joke fell flat, I referenced the lack of response and swiftly moved on.

The next joke got a titter, the one that followed got a laugh and the one after that - a larger chuckle. I thought I'd saved myself from the rocky start - but then I embarked on a frankly cringe-worthy and ill-advised bit about terrorism which lasted far too long and was completely unfunny. At this point, I had died. Despite a few giggles earlier, I was three minutes in to my material and it was already my worst gig to date. It felt awful. I'd messed it up. I could carry on and hope they liked the rest of my material, or I could interrupt this frankly absurd joke about a ‘terrorist beast’ and say what everyone wass thinking: ‘This is going shit, isn't it?’

That was my line. That was my saviour. People guffawed and applauded at my honesty, One man nodded, women ‘awww’ed, my friend grinned, my parents sighed with relief. It felt brilliant. I'd defunked my frankly funky act into something quite simple, self-deprecation. For the remainder of the act I persisted to just annihilate myself on stage. It was the closest thing you'll see to a teenager have a breakdown without actually cutting their writsts in the bath. I commented on the size of my penis, mocked my hairstyle, aughed at my T-shirt, I even walked into the audience at one point and requested a better act enter the stage. No one did; people just clapped.

Admittedly, this made me a bit over-confident. I ended up lying on the floor and smashing a microphone on my head. At one point I was heckled with, ‘What are you doing on your gap year?’. I demanded questions from the audience and the show essentially became an interview – and not a funny one. I even overran by 10 painful minutes. But it was fun. So much fun.

I was invincible! Of course I was, because I was already dead. In my mind it couldn't get any worse than it started, so why not just do anything? So I did everything. My seventh gig was a triumph and disaster (probably more of a disaster for the audience), but the most educational experience of my life. It knocked my confidence, but I'm back on the comedy horse with lessons learned: 'only pace with a purpose', 'keep links as short as possible' and 'don't get on the floor unless you look really funny lying down'.

Published: 17 Jun 2009

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.