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For the past ten weeks I've been spending my Monday nights at a stand-up comedy course. I've not mentioned it here much because there's not been a HUGE amount to mention - we go to a room above a pub, Mr Chris Head tells us some things about stand-up comedy, we do some exercises and then each have a go at a few minutes of material - and also because I wasn't sure if it was something I wanted to be doing.

I signed up for it after going to that Comedy Conference last year with Mr J Dredge. I noticed that all the people over 50 on the panels were saying "The best way to get into comedy writing is by sending stuff to the radio" but all the people writing things NOW, usually in their thirties, ALL had a background in stand-up comedy and had ALL got their first break that way. "Aha!" I thought, "If I want to get my WRITING to Producers I must do some stand-up comedy!"

This had been my plan approx 25 years ago when I'd had my first attempt at this sort of thing (the attempt that ended when I got into BANDS and BEER instead!) and I'd based my entire career plan on that of Mr B Elton, so it was an idea I was familiar with and have TOYED with every now and again during this second attempt. The only things standing in my way were a) I don't like stand-up comedy very much b) I don't like most stand-up comedians very much c) I really really really don't want to have to go and do 2 or 3 open mic nights every week then spend a couple of years schlepping round comedy clubs. Apart from that it all sounded good!

Around the time of the conference John was doing a stand-up comedy course so I thought "Right! Let's DO this flipping things and once and for all give it a proper go!" and signed up for the next term. Unfortunately, approx 0.02 seconds after paying my money, I had a sudden realisation: Radio was the way to get into comedy in the 70s and 80s, and stand-up was the way to get into it in the 90s and 00s but the way people were starting to do it NOW was ONLINE! This seemed to indicate that I'd signed up to spend ten weeks doing something I didn't really like that probably doesn't work anymore. CURSES!!

Still, I'd paid up so went and DID it, even though pretty much every week I thought "Can i just phone in sick this time?" The actual sessions were fine - the other people were lovely, it was GRATE watching everyone develop and try new stuff, and much to my surprise (hem hem) i actually enjoyed the chance to SHOW OFF for 3-5 minutes every week. WHo'd've suspected THAT eh?

The main problem I had with it all was that the course sat there in my MIND all week, saying "Have you written a routine yet eh? have you?" Every time I got worse and worse at actually writing anything, so that by the last few weeks I was thinking "Sod it. I'll just do one of the stories from My Exciting Life In ROCK." Admittedly it worked out all right - I know the stories, and it turns out that half the battle with stand-up is looking as if you know what you're doing, so 20 odd years of ROCK experience came in handy - but it did feel a bit like cheating!

The final night of the course was an ACTUAL GIG, which took place this Monday just gone at The Wenlock And Essex in Islington. As per I thought "Right, I'm going to put some effort into it and write a proper set this time!" and come Sunday night found myself thinking "Yeah, I'll sort that out tomorrow." On the advice of various people on the course I ended up (mostly on Monday afternoon) WELDING together two stories - the time we supported Zodiac Mindwarp, and various things to do with Hey Hey 16K - into something that seemed OK, and set off for the gig.

By the time I arrived I was BRICKING it. It would appear that making up something in front of 12 friendly faces is FINE, but doing it to a Paying Audience is a bit more scary, especially a SOLD OUT room of paying punters. Mondays are usually one of my "5:2 Diet" days, so I've stuck to Diet Coke for classes, but this time a beer was NEEDED. Beer was TAKEN!

I was on in the second half, so got to relax a bit in the first half as people got up and did their sets. It was BRILLIANT to see how much everybody had come on - everyone had LEARNT and had GAGS and was confident in the room, it was thoroughly enjoyable. Chris who runs the course had said that this was the thing he concentrated on more than other courses - giving people the ability to interact with the audience and with whatever happened in the room, and this certainly came across as everyone made extra REMARKS and GAGS.

Come half-time I discovered that First Gigs For Comedians have one very definite thing in common with First Gigs For Bands - everyone gets their CHUMS to come but some of those chums leave when the person they've come to see has finished. Thus by the time we filed back in the room was about 25% emptyso it was a bit more work for everyone, increased by the fact that there were TWELVE of us coming onstage, one by one, and everyone was getting TIRED, meaning that the poor mug who was on LAST was going to have his work cut out.

And LO! It was ME! When I'd first seen the running order I'd gotten all excited and thought "Ooh hark at me, HEADLINING!" but very quickly realised that no, in this case it was very MUCH going on last! Still, this did take a bit of the Internal Pressure off me - I'd been worried that I was telling a STORY, which therefore had less LARFS in it than other people, but decided that if nobody laughed AT ALL then it was just because they were feeling worn out.

Happily people DID laugh and I had a LOVELY time - it felt a bit strange not having a guitar round my neck but once I got up there it all felt perfectly normal and I thoroughly enjoyed SHOWING OFF once again. QUELLE SURPRISE!

Afterwards there was CHAT and BEER and MUCH RELIEF. One common question buzzing round was whether people were going to do any more, and I surprised myself with how quickly I said "NO!" It's not entirely true - I quite enjoyed the Just Making It Up and talking to the audience stuff, so might do something else in that direction - but I certainly don't want to have to Write Comedy Sets or go out and do gigs. I always said that part of the idea of doing the course was to get it out of my system, and it certainly seems to have done that!

It was an interesting thing to do, and I met some very nice people, but I'm RELIEVED it's all over - no time for a REST though, as me and Steve start re-rehearsing the new show this week, and that's got lines I really SHOULD know properly!

posted 26/3/2015 by MJ Hibbett

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