Sunday, 14 April 2013

Brawling and Loling

A lot of people seem to think heckling is what makes stand-up comedy unique, and in some perverse way appealing - because a meticulously rehearsed twenty minute set just wouldn't be the same without wistful and intelligent audience insights such as;

If you are one of those people who shout out in comedy clubs then you are obviously an arrogant, egotistical, megalomaniac.  Your misguided belief that anyone actually gives a f*ck about what you think or what you have to say is completely unfounded - in fact the more I think about it the only real difference between you and the person you are heckling is that they have a microphone.

My mum has watched me performing only once, and on that occasion in what was a particularly supportive and appreciative room she was the only one to heckle me.

For those who are regular readers of my blog you will be aware there is a back story to this.  My mum keeps trying to tell me I'm adopted, my dad - Akbar - assures me this is nonsense.

Usually heckles are just semi-conscious gargling noises, and, on one pleasant occasion, projectile vomit.  I can say from experience that reacting to someone throwing up during your set is not easy.  It's like vomiting while making love do you stop and acknowledge it or continue performing?

What really annoys me is the sheep-shagger thing.  The level of ignorance is incredible, I have seen hecklers accuse Aberdonian comics of sheep shagging, which is ridiculous, Aberdonian's don't shag sheep, that's just what woman from Aberdeen look like.  'Sheep-shagger' is a common heckle for comedians from rural areas so when it occurs you need to have an appropriate put down prepared.

Bringing the mothers into it isn't big or clever but then again neither are those people who consider 'sheep-shagger' a particularly humours heckle so it is at least a little justifiable.  On most occasions I use this put-down it gets a good enough laugh, the heckler takes it in good grace, and we all move on - to my sheep shagging material.  There was one occasion however..

If you're reading this and you find that response shocking then you obviously went to the school where no one says 'yer maw' - did you go to school with Will's and Harry?  Everyone else should be familiar with the use of 'my maw's dead' as a standard retort, a disabling tactic used to try and put your adversary on the spot.  Now I'm not sure if this guy's mother was in fact dead or not, but I do know he certainly wasn't the result of an immaculate conception - hence not affecting the jokes validity - and if she was dead he was probably the one who killed her.  Either way, the fact I'd just insulted the local maniac in a room that resembled a BNP rally in a basement where gentlemen go to exchange videos, meant that I kind of killed the gig for myself at that point.

You meet some weird and wonderful people through comedy and travel to some weird and wonderful places - hello good people of 'Dove Holes' in the Peak District, I apologise for suggesting your village sounds like a synonym for anal sex.  In the time I have been performing comedy I have met some bizarre people and found myself in some even more bizarre situations; I have gigged with a self-confessed Nazi-sympathiser, performed to one man in Glasgow, shared a bill with a male stripper selling sex toys, had a lady ask me if I wanted to go home and 'stay' with her daughter, witnessed a headline act singe his pubic hair on a table candle and put a crisp packet up his arse, gone on a gay bar crawl, had someone vomit and several fights break out during my set, and, on two separate occasions, been offered heroin - stand-up comedy is basically just like a night out back in Dingwall.

Throughout my short comedy adventure I have endured some horrible, haunting, sweat-inducing stage deaths more cringe-worthy than that time you called the teacher 'mum'.  In this respect the gig that still keeps me awake at night took place in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis and was for the islands 'Volunteer of the Year' awards ceremony.  I came prepared with my best fifteen minutes which at that time involved some jokes about the Taliban, an a-z of female contraception, and a comparison between WWF wrestling and pornography.  To my horror I had been billed as an after dinner speaker with 'a few words on volunteering'.  The event was being hosted by the head-boy at the local High School and in attendance was a sizable proportion of the islands Free-Church community.  So, I decided to dispense of all controversial material and dropped any swear words, I wanted however to remain a little tongue in cheek, this inevitably turned out to be more foot in mouth.  I opted for the comedian's death of choice, death by one-liner.

At no stage did I mention volunteering - although I'm sure I wouldn't have been short on volunteers wanting to give me the Wicker Man treatment.  That gig took at least five showers to get the smell of failure off.

On the whole audiences respect the barrier between the performer and themselves.  Even when the comedian is so obviously dying on their arse, most audiences will allow them the opportunity to do so with what little dignity they have left intact.  That's most audiences of course, there are those gigs where you just can't help ending up in a fist fight covered in jam and beer.

The true inspiration for this blog entry was a fundraiser I did for a bike club just before Christmas.  It was perfectly pleasant until the compere started handing out raffle prizes.  A group of local lads not associated with the club entered the raffle and were obviously delighted when they won a jar of rhubarb jam; other equally impressive prizes on offer that evening were a headband, a water bottle, a water bottle holder, a keyring, and a bottle of lube - for your bike chain, naturally.   Perhaps it was the group's level of intoxication, or just their love of jam, but they were pretty excited about winning and increased the evening's joviality by lobbing the jam at each other.  When a sizable portion of jam ended up on my face and person I politely suggested to the group that perhaps this was not the most suitable behaviour for a comedy club.  They disagreed, insinuated I interfered with sheep, and threw their pints at me.  At this point I felt I had exhausted diplomatic efforts and what ensued was chili con carnage.  Drinks were thrown, along with punches, and a battle royal broke out between me and the jam loving, inbred, jakie-fuckwits.

The next morning I awoke with a swollen wrist - I had won the lube.  Despite having a background in martial arts - I am lethal with a paintbrush - that altercation with the jam and beer throwing baw-bags was, to my recollection, the first time I managed to successfully hit someone.  That is not to say I haven't been in my fair share of scuffles, most of which have been pretty farcical in nature.

When I was at university I managed to get in an altercation with two massive rugby guys in the weights room at the uni gym.

After that I had to change my exercise habits for fear of running into those roided up maniacs ever again.  It wasn't all bad, if it wasn't for those guys chasing me with dumbbells I wouldn't be the dab-hand I am now at Pilates.

I was once held at knife point at Scotland's annual music festival/NED fest 'T-in the Park' thanks to some pretty garish attire I happened to be wearing at the time.

For those who don't know the history or politics of Rangers and Celtic just know that if they ever see each other out and about they tend to get stabby - the best way to stay safe is to assume all Glaswegian's are out to stab you.
It's not often you can say you've got a lot in common with Humpty Dumpty but I too have managed to get myself in trouble sitting on a wall.
Sometimes something as simple as ordering a beer can descend into violence, particularly if you're abroad and especially if you find yourself in one of America's 'agro-States'.

I'll never understand the animalistic, knuckle dragging nature of the alpha male who seeks out violence and confrontation.  Stand-up comedy provides all the misogyny I need; stand-up isn't that far removed from a brawl, sometimes it feels like it is you versus the audience like you're somehow trying to 'win' the gig, and as I have alluded to in this blog often punching yourself repeatedly in the face would be more pleasant.  But it isn't all gigs in Fritzil style basements to audiences of questionable personal hygiene and patience.  Most of the time people don't vomit mid-set, and you are rarely accosted by jam lobbing lager louts.  When it goes well it's great, really great; you know, like all those times you managed to have sex without vomiting.

No comments:

Post a Comment