It’d be lovely if touring was an excuse to catch up on some sleep, but I wake up early these days regardless of where I am and found myself alert and unable to go back to sleep at 6.15am. I had plans to go to the gym and maybe have a look at the first episode of AIOTM or even maybe just read a book, but in the end I just vegged out in my room until about 3, when we had to head to Barnard Castle. But I think given the amount of stuff I’ve been doing, a few hours of entering the wakeful coma that is Civilisation II is probably justified.
From a look at the early sales I had expected Barnard Castle to be attended by at most 30 people, but in the end the seating was full (about 175 people in - amazing turn out for a place I’ve never been to before) and it turned out to be another good, if slightly strange gig. I wasn’t sure if Barnard Castle was even a real place and I wondered initially if I was part of a very long form prank played by Jeremy Beadle, in which he had faked his own death to lull me into a false sense of security and then spent the next decade building a theatre and a town that were not real, and peopled it with actors. I was waiting for the big reveal at the end, but in the mean time there were a few mini-pranks to keep me going.
The seating was set up in quite an unusual way, a bit like a football stadium with two sections of raked seating at either side of the auditorium and then a big gap in the middle, with the one entrance being at the end. It made it a slightly odd room to play as the view in front of me was just the entrance tunnel and door and there was a big space between the two parts of the audience. It’s preferable to have them grouped in the middle.
But it also meant there was only one way in for latecomers and indeed one way out for people who needed a wee. They also basically had to walk across the stage, which is always a bit distracting.
Also when latecomers arrived it meant my view was of them entering, realising that there was no easy way to sneak in and then planning how they were going to make an entrance. It made me laugh, especially with on late couple, coming in at a crucial part of the Ferrero Rocher routine, who went in and out, then snuck in and then realising the jig was up, then announced themselves with the woman telling me it was her birthday. I had broken off from the routine (and not for the first time) to provide a running commentary of what was happening. But as with the phantom hyena in last night’s audience, I didn’t allow it to phase me. Tonight the shenanigans added considerably to the gig and I was quietly impressed with myself that I had managed to maintain control and focus.
I continue to improve as a comedian and though I haven’t found the job nerve-wracking (usually) in the last ten years, I certainly seem to have reached a stage where I am relaxed through almost anything. Keeping calm and in control of every situation is a good chunk of being a successful comedian. Tonight, with an audience that certainly had some fans in it, but also had a good proportion of newcomers, I performed with skill and playfulness and it was one of those gigs that I’ve had on and off every six months since 2004 where I think, “Oh right, now I get it. NOW I am a good stand-up. I was useless before.” There will be another in six months. And that’s a good thing. This is a learning process and the lesson can never be completed. You can only mark yourself absent.
I will be just over the halfway mark of the tour at the end of this run of six gigs and I think this is going to be a tough week to get through, but hopefully I can fill my days with work or video games (or maybe even some exercise - I might finally be well enough) and not pine too much for home. I’ve come a long way since the lonely life on the road of ten or so years ago, where I drove myself, often to play to fewer than 50 people. Now I have something to return to, it’s slightly less lonesome and tragic, but it also helps that audiences are more often in the 200s and 300s than in the 30s. I have worked hard to increase that audience and having worked my way up I appreciate what I’ve got.
I was almost sad that I didn’t exit through those doors and find Jeremy Beadle ripping off a false beard, covering his actual beard. But I got to sign the programmes of some people who’d clearly had an enjoyable night. And though I mainly got into this business in the hope of being Beadled, or failing that Gothcad, it’s a pleasant enough consequence to have entertained some people in a made up town for a night.
Upcoming gigs are Salford on Sunday - not many tickets left
Newcastle on Monday- very limited availability (may be sold out by now)
Edinburgh on Tuesday - SOLD OUT
Glasgow on Wednesday - still quite a few left, but selling fast.