'I walked out of there thinking that I was about to change the world' | Sally-Anne Hayward recalls her most memorable gigs

'I walked out of there thinking that I was about to change the world'

Sally-Anne Hayward recalls her most memorable gigs

Worst journey to a gig

I had just left an agent and felt a little alone in the world (dramatic).  I lived in London and my first gig out of the fold was for £70 in Plymouth. I was meeting the driver in South London with another act.  The three of us were to be driving to Plymouth and returning the next day. 

The driver (let's call him Jason) told us that he had a car accident the day before.  He drove us out of London via the scene of the accident. 

The radio was tuned In Between stations.  He spent five hours telling us the story of his crash over the crackle of the radio, turning round to include me while occasionally grabbing this hot red electric thing that he was holding to the back of his neck to calm the pain a bit.  I put my seatbelt on. 

We approached Plymouth and he missed the junction.  He pulled into the hard shoulder and started reversing up the motorway.  I told him that we could get off at the next junction.  We found the gig.  The A-board said that he was MCing.  He thought he was opening.  He was panicking.  The panic was accompanied by the after shock of the accident.  He spent the rest of the journey asking us, quite manically, if it was OK he if just cut his set up a bit.

We found the guest house.  We arranged to meet out the front in half an hour. 

Act two, let’s call him Gerald, came to meet me.  'Jason' was vomiting all over the room they were sharing (thank God for my gender!).  He couldn't make the gig. 

The gig was unmemorable.

The next day, Gerald agreed to drive.  Jason had been moaning and vomiting throughout the night.  Jason lay on the back seat moaning throughout the journey.  We stopped at a service station. Jason went in.  He was in there for ages.  Gerald and I eventually went in to find out where he was.  The cashier said that she was about to call the police because he had bought a KitKat and a lighter and she thought he was taking heroin.  He came out and we continued the journey.

We arrived back in London and took Jason home.  Gerald and I walked to the nearest train station.  We took the train to our homes.

Jason was fine. He needed to rest.  Gerald then started writing me emails, involving stories about how he had fallen in love with a comedian.  My detective skills worked out that said comedian was me. Just by the description of the clothes really.  Where he had met her and more crucially, her name.

I didn't take this as ‘crossing the line’.  I think it would be today.  It was quite sweet really.  The love wasn't reciprocated.

First gig

Officially my first gig was as part of my drama degree.  We did a module in stand-up comedy and as part of that module we had to perform 5 to 7 minutes at a gig.  It was, however, quite a safe haven, as it was all friends and very supportive. 

My first gig out of the safety net of university was wonderful.  The gig was called Hersterics and it was at the Tut and Shive pub on Highbury Corner in London.  It was compered by Laura Shavin.  It was only women performers.  I even improvised with the pictures hanging int he venue and I had the balls to do a callback from the comedian who was on before me.  A lady from Radio 4 approached me after the gig.  I walked out of there thinking that I was about to change the world. 

The second gig I did was at the Purple Turtle in Islington.  I died horribly.  With all my friends there.  A man in the audience advised me to cut it short.

Best gig as a punter

So many, but memorable ones are: Steven Wright at the Dominican in London.  It was short and sweet and there was no fat on the bones whatsoever. I wanted to pause him after every joke so that I could let it settle before I was hit with the next laugh.

Tig Notaro at the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago.  I think she overran so was probably fined but it was utterly worth it.  Hilarious.  

The Comedy Store in the 1990s.  I went on a friend’s birthday with no intention to pursue it as a career.  I laughed and was astounded and mesmerised from the minute the compere set foot on the stage. I just loved every ounce of the night.

Worst gig

In Reading on the Friday before Christmas.  Free to get in.  In a pub.  The microphone broke immediately. The gig was done using the microphone that the pub normally used to called out food orders. 

During the first half, the punters were dancing to the words of the comedians – literally dancing.  One act was worried that he wouldn't catch his train.  He wasn't getting paid anyway.  I said I wouldn't even bother with the gig if I wasn't getting paid. 

The interval was called.  I expected that the rest of the gg would be called off. I hadn't left because I wanted my money.  But it was carrying on. 

I decided to forfeit my money.  The owner of the pub nearly cried when I said I wasn't going to do it and they didn't need to pay me. She pretty much picked up every disruptive audience member by the scruff of the neck and hauled them out of the pub and into the back room.  Everyone who had wanted to see the comedy stayed.

I went off microphone and actually the gig ended up being playable.  So not really the worst gig but was looking that way.

Least welcome post-show comment

‘You've upset me and my whole family.'

• Sally-Anne Hayward: Comedienne-ess, Just The Tonic @ The Caves, 19:20

Published: 20 Aug 2018

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