'The audience thought it was hilarious, but it was terrifying!' | Andy Smart recalls his most memorable gigs

'The audience thought it was hilarious, but it was terrifying!'

Andy Smart recalls his most memorable gigs

First gig

My first paid gig was on December 28, 1981. It was in the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, in the basement. Supercharge, the band, were playing and Albie Donnelly, their saxophonist asked me to read three comic poems at the start of the second half. I got a few laughs and a fiver.

A local 16-year-old lad did two poems too. It was his first-ever gig, his name was Craig Charles, whatever happened to him.

Strangest audience member

After The Vicious Boys – a double act I did with  Angelo Abela –  finished in 1990, I went back on the circuit as a stand-up. Most of the time I compered, as I liked seeing the arc of the whole evening, and setting the room up for each comic.

One night I was compering at the East Dulwich Tavern on Lordship Lane. I had just started the evening off when I noticed a man in the front row with a golf bag. I asked him if he had had a good day on the course and why he had brought his clubs to a gig. He unzipped the hood to reveal that the bag contained a petrol-powered chainsaw! It took me ten minutes to get it from him and have him thrown out. 

Best heckler

I was compering at The Garage by Highbury and Islington Tube station, and I was a little hungover. As I returned to the stage after the first act I saw a punter weaving through the tables toward me. I was a little concerned until he reached up and gave me a bottle of Lucozade, and headed back to his seat.

Hardest gig

Last January the Stephen Frost Impro All Stars were performing on a cruise ship (Cruise Line Is It Anyway?), from Bermuda to the Azores.

The crew said it was the second worst crossing in 20 years. A force nine gale, and waves of 40 metres. We were doing an afternoon show in the theatre in the bow of the ship for about 800 passengers.

Five minutes from the end of the show the whole ship went down into a trough and leaned 45 degrees. We shot off our chairs across the stage into the wings. The audience thought it was hilarious but we were hanging on for dear life!

Best gig

My favourite gig of the year is the Comedy Store Players at the Globe Theatre in London. We have done it for more than 20 years now. There is a spot near the front of the stage where you are no more than 50 feet from anyone in the audience, all 1,400 of them. When they all laugh together it actually knocks you backwards. It is a tremendous feeling. 

• Andy Smart is performing Forty Years Of The Edinburgh Fringe at the Gilded Balloon at 13:15 from July 31. His new book A Hitch In Time has been released by AA Publishing today. Order.

Published: 25 Jul 2019

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