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Friday 5th August 2005

TonightÂ’s gig was a real cracker in many ways. It was pretty much sold out which was an enormous relief and the crowd seemed to be going for everything from the start. I did notice a middle aged man in the third row who looked like he was asleep at the very start. He had his head bowed and was not reacting to anything. I donÂ’t think he was sleeping, but he looked miserable pretty much before anything had happened. Maybe he was a massive Rudyard Kipling fan. Nearly everyone else seemed to be having fun, so it didnÂ’t bother me too much.
With a buzzing room and lots of laughs I had the confidence to ad-lib a lot and ride the laughs. I was leaving pauses and getting that delightful thing of people laughing more a second time a few seconds after the initial laugh as they followed through the implications of some of the lines. I did this a bit too much to be honest and sensed that I was probably going to run over.
About three or four minutes into the yoghurt bit a man walked out. It is very difficult to leave the venue without being noticed, and it wasn’t helped by the fact that he was sitting at the back at the end of a row with no exit on the side he was at. As I was getting into my rant I could sense people having to get up to let him out. It was distracting for me and for the audience just at a crucial bit of the routine. I broke off to comment that it was weird that this was the bit that would offend him, “I didn’t mind any of the other stuff about the Pope or monkey fucking, but this yoghurt stuff is just going too far.” It was though just the exact wrong moment to lose the momentum of the yoghurt bit, which relies heavily on mood and following an uninterrupted flow.
Then a few moments later, just as I was getting going, the man who looked like he was asleep and the people he was with all decided to leave as well. It was as if it was only now they had realised that leaving was an option. Assuming they had been offended by the religious stuff I made some comment about how you only needed one Christian to do something and all the others would blindly follow. The rest of the audience really seemed to be behind me still and my ad-libs were getting great laughs. But in my frustration I did swear at the people leaving too, which is always something I regret afterwards, especially if I had managed to be witty previously. I think I asked if anyone else wanted to go, aware of the fact that the movement was distracting everyone and slightly spoiling the show. Everyone else seemed good.
I was a bit thrown by all this as I hadnÂ’t really expected it in Edinburgh and in any case there was so little more to sit through. I sometimes see shows I donÂ’t care for, but I canÂ’t imagine I would ever walk out, especially in a place where you couldnÂ’t do it anything but blatantly. I checked my watch to see if I had over-run and thought that I had ten minutes left. As it happened I had misread the time, and was actually five minutes over already, which in hindsight might explain the desertions as people often have tickets for another show.
Moments later another man got up. The audience laughed at my obvious exasperation. I began to wonder if Dom Joly was orchestrating all this. This man was just going to the toilet. But even nearer to the end two men with rucksacks also got up. I should have said, “The blokes with the rucksacks leaving there, and the people sitting next to them now relaxing for the first time all night,” but I just couldn’t believe this unusual series of events, so was about to swear at them again (because I am rubbish) until I looked at my watch and realising I had already overrun by over ten minutes. This was doubly bad as I needed to catch a train to Glasgow at half nine to do another gig. I really hadn’t realised how far over I had gone and it’s bad to do this, for the audience, the venue and the next show. But I’d been having fun and then having to deal with an unhappy minority.
I sped up and finished the show. The rest of the crowd were if anything more behind me because of the difficulties and I did make some amusing remarks about it all and I think it was still a good show. But upsetting people or having them not like you is always unsettling and I was annoyed with myself for the one or two bits of rubbish adlibbing, even though thinking about it most of it had been quite good. I was also worried about the knock on effects of over running for the venue as well as fretting that I might miss my train. I dashed off.
I made the train with five minutes to spare. Worried I had jumped on the wrong train I said to the conductor, “Is this Glasgow?”
“No,” he replied, “this is Edinburgh. The train goes to Glasgow though.”
This time of year everyone is a comic and every space becomes a venue.

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