Welcome to 2015, where everyone is obsessed with selfies, ‘food porn’, videos, pics from a night out; too busy trying to capture the perfect moment to upload to the internet, that they forget to enjoy their lives.
But as a comedian, recording yourself or having someone take photos of you while on stage isn’t just annoying and self-involved; it’s also very useful.
I first regretted not having someone film me performing when I did a drama course at Pleasance Theatre resulting in a play we devised and performed called ‘Pleasance Lane’. I assumed someone would have had it filmed, but no one did, we never performed the play again, and it was lost forever to the ether of the universe.
The next time was the first time I did stand-up. I was so excited and nervous (in a good way) about performing that I didn’t think to record it, but then afterwards I was sad I didn’t have my first ever gig on record. Although this may be a blessing in disguise, as I remember it going really well and being able to watch it back could destroy the memory.
Once you get past the nostalgia reasons, practically it is good to record yourself for two reasons:
1) So that you can improve – you can watch back to see which jokes are getting the best laughs, if there’s anything you can do better with your body language, if you are saying ‘um’ too much.
2) If it’s a good video, you can use it to send to promoters to get better gigs. This is really the only way of proving how funny you are without someone seeing you live, so it’s important to have this.
There have been various times over the last few years Sod’s law seems to have dictated that the times I don’t record seem to have been particularly awesome or useful gigs. I’m still sending promoters a video from around a year ago because I’m waiting for an amazing recent video I can use instead.
I did a gig in May at Instant Laughs in Wimbledon but because of where the audience were it was hard to set up a camera, so I used voice record on my phone instead. My set went really well and got laughs in all the right places. A few months later my phone broke and the recording was stuck on a voice record app that I couldn’t work out how to transfer to my computer, before the phone stopped working completely and when they sent me a new one the app data was gone.
I later found out the next time I did this gig (when I got Jake to hold my camera for me) that the lighting was quite bad, so the video would have been unusable, but I could have used the sound recording to enter the BBC Radio New Comedy Award Competition. (I didn’t get through with the recording I sent, but I will save comedy competitions for another blog post).
When I was at the Edinburgh festival recently, I did a gig where there were only 4 audience members, but they were good laughers and I ended up doing all improv and chatting. We found out before I went on stage that the couple in the audience were police officers and this made the gig a lot more interesting. Unfortunately my camera ran out of battery after 4 minutes so I can’t watch back the whole thing. I’ve had camera batteries run out on me before as well, so I now have a spare, and usually carry the charger, but was unprepared this time.
On our last show in Edinburgh, Jake and I were worried it wasn’t going to be that good. It was a Saturday and the Saturday before had been full of drunken people ranging from the extreme of heckling to being disinterested and unresponsive. We also hadn’t done much flyering so we assumed it would be a bit of a write off. However, it turned out to be our best night. I realised a few minutes into the show that I hadn’t started recording on the camera, but I thought ‘oh well just carry on’, but I wish I had sorted it out as I could have left Jake talking on stage while I did it. Although part of me wonders if it would have been so good if I had stopped to do that.
I also didn’t set up the camera to film any of my MCing I did on Thursday because I was busy setting up the night, but realistically I could have taken a minute to do it, as I could have sent it to people in order to get more MCing spots.
Another problem is when someone else has your recording. I would generally say don’t let anyone else film it on their phones or camera, unless you’re very close friends or in a relationship. Even then, relying on other people can be…unreliable. I know that because I myself have videos of other comedians I haven’t even sent them yet.
So what have I learnt (several times)? No matter how difficult it is to set up the camera or how much planning is involved, from now on, I will always charge my camera and always press record. Who knows? My next gig might be the one.
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