I did my 10 minutes for Paramount's "Edinburgh and Beyond" at the Bloomsbury tonight. They were recording two shows and I was on first (after the incomparable Al Murray had done his MCing duties). The place was packed (I am not sure it's ever been completely full when I have played here before, but it certainly was tonight) and I was uncharacteristically nervous before I went on. I started thinking about how bad it would be if I messed my opening line up. And though it's a joke that I've been doing for a couple of months now I suddenly found myself slightly unsure of the wording. Would this self doubt turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy and leave me fucking up in front of what must have been 5 or 600 people, who would then all think I was an idiot who couldn't do the simplest part of my job which is to simply speak? Even though my confidence in the medium of stand up is growing every month and even though I am feeling more at home than ever on stage alone doing this crazy, beautiful job, there is still a little part of me that feels that I don't know what I am doing and that I am about to be finally found out. Maybe the small boy from the emporer's new clothes will stand up in front of the crowd of laughing people and say, "What's going on. He's not funny. He's got no jokes!" and the mote will fall from the eyes of everyone else and they'll boo me and throw things at me and knock me to the ground and lynch me from the balcony.
But luckily when I got on, the words came out in the right order and the audience laughed and the small child did not stand up and dob me in (probably he hadn't been allowed into the auditorium for being too young). And the tiny voice inside me was silenced as things went really well. Of course it would be hard to fail in such circumstances - you would have to be really bad not to make a full theatre of people who are really up for comedy and who haven't even paid. But then the fact that I succeeded does go some way to proving that I am not really bad and thus maybe deserved my place up there.
When the producer of this show came to see me I was performing to six people (including him), which is a properly hard thing to do. If a sixth of them laugh then it sounds like your joke has failed, but if a sixth of the people in this theatre laughed you had 100 laughs. It's mathematics.
The lights were up on the audience and the human brain being what it is, the only person I really took notice of was a bald bloke in the seventh row who was yawning. But his yawn was swallowed in the sea of laughter and no-one but me knew about it. Unless the director decided to zoom in on him and him alone and keep repeating this shot every time I got to a punchline. If he could take off everyone else's laughter and just cut to that shot then he would more than do the job of the tiny wise child who had failed to get in. I would quite like to see a version of the show that was just that.
But I doubt that is how they will edit it and I was very pleased with how it all went. It would be nice to play to this number of people a little more often, but you know in my heart which performance I enjoyed most - the televised one in front of 600 people or the one in the experimental theatre with only six audience members? Yes I think you do know. It's pretty obvious really. You don't need a small child to stand up and tell you that do you?