Lift it off the page

The other week I did a gig at Downstairs at the King’s Head on the Thursday night. This is one the best open mic nights in London that you can do, as it usually gets a good audience, and there is an opportunity to eventually progress to weekend gigs there. I had a fairly good gig and afterwards I asked for feedback from Peter who runs the night. He said that my joke writing is strong and has improved over the last few years, but that I need to sound less rehearsed. I asked whether I sound like that all the time (wondering whether even the newer material sounds like that) and he said yes – I have a certain rhythm to my voice when I’m on stage.

I’ve had this feedback several times and I know it’s something that I need to work on. When I gigged with Russell Kane a while ago he said the same thing – good material but I need to sound more natural. I then watched him do about half an hour (maybe longer) that he had done 100s of times, yet he made it look like so fresh and off the cuff. He suggested I MC more to improve on this, which I have been doing, but as I don’t tend to do much material when I am MCing, this doesn’t really affect how I sound when I do my actual jokes.You can hear the difference when I go into a pre-written joke. I also tend to inflect at the end of my sentences to the point where I have been asked if I am Australian.

I think my problem is that I have to learn my material so well otherwise I will forget it that I end up learning it too well. So what can I do about it? An acting teacher suggested that I try to tell my jokes to a friend like we are having a conversation, or to try and practice my set in different voices so I’m definitely going to try this out and see if it has any effect. My  friend Alana (who is actually Australian) is staying with me at the moment so she is going to have to listen to this.

Does sounding too rehearsed matter? Anthony Jesilnik (one of my favourite comedians) has a very specific rhythm and tone when he does material, and he’s very successful. (Yes I just compared myself to Jesilnik, and what?) I guess it just depends what suits your act. But if sounding less rehearsed means that I have more of a connection to the audience and therefore have a better gig, and get booked for more gigs, then that can only be a good thing.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to win a comedy competition

Last week on Thursday, after writing a blog entry about creative rejection, I went to put myself up for the ultimate creative rejection – a comedy competition. I’m not sure why I keep entering them, but for some reason I do. I’ve done okay in a few in the past, sometimes progressing to the next round, and I even came third runner up in What The Frock! Newcomer Award 2014. I put that down to the fact it was on the day I had found out my dad died. I’d already dealt with a massive life event that day, so getting on stage for a competition somewhat paled in comparison.

But generally I get more nervous than usual, put pressure on myself and then don’t put in my best performance. Alternatively if I have put in a good performance and I don’t place in the competition, or progress to the next round, I find it takes the edge off the fact I’ve had a good gig, which is annoying. I’ve been advised by other comedians to just treat them like just another gig, so I decided that’s what I would do.

I arrived at the gig, a small dimly lit back room (but with no door so you could still hear noise from the bar). A blue hue surrounded the space, which also matched the temperature of the room.

The comperes were a surreal pair – two men dressed in matching suits, one of them played the drums while the other told old fashioned jokes about killing his wife or having a sex doll. Cymbals were hit to indicate punchlines. The drums player also sometimes did political songs on a banjo. The opening act (not part of the competition) warmed up the crowd a bit more, but I was not optimistic about how the night would go. This was a self-contained competition, with no future rounds, so only one person could win. I remember thinking 1 in 10 is not great odds.

I was also thinking about the fact that I was the only woman on the whole evening, and the fact that it can make it look to the audience like female comedians are some sort of rare anomaly. Sometimes it’s better to have more women on with you, so it doesn’t feel so much like tokenism. In retrospect, this probably made me stand out, so it could have been a good thing.

I was on second, and thought I did pretty well. I decided to go for it and do a couple of my darker jokes, which I probably wouldn’t normally do in a competition, but the crowd seemed to like it. I didn’t know whether I had done enough to win, but I was pleased with my performance.

At the end of the night the comperes called out two names they had thought had done the best to come back onto the stage and my name was one of them! The other was an older man called Jimbo who was a bit of a character, and did a set involving bodily functions when you get older. I was surprised that Ben Clover had not been called, as I thought he had done really well.

One of the comperes said my name to get the audience to cheer and they cheered a reasonable amount, I thought the other guy is definitely going to get a louder cheer, but then they said his name and the crowd cheered even less!I had won! I had finally won a comedy competition! Plus 50 quid prize! And a little trophy! They gave me the microphone  to say something, but I was a giggling happy wreck and just thanked the audience. Twice. While grinning insanely.

Does this mean I will be entering more competitions in future? Maybe. And if I do, I’m sure I will be more confident, and remember to treat it just like any other gig. I am also going to prepare a mini speech for next time. After all, this is closest I will ever get to winning an Oscar.

carmen-ali-with-her-quipster-awards-trophy