Don’t text him first

I have a joke that goes ‘I think one of the main problems I have with men, is that I like to do a lot of the chasing, and guys don’t like to be chased – unless they’re playing Grand Theft Auto’. I know – it’s not my best, but it introduces another longer joke about women being thought of as psychos when they pursue men, but men being thought of as romantic when they chase women. It ultimately relies on hyperbole, but I’m also making a point.

Why do men think women are crazy if we are forward, or honest about how we feel about them? I have lost count of the number of times I have heard a woman say she’s not going to text back straight away, or seem too into him in case he runs a mile., Myself included. I have in the past deliberately ‘backed off’ or tried to downplay how much I like someone because of this. This is a real struggle, as I find it very hard to play it cool. But why should I?

When I first met the guy I am seeing right now, I had already been told about him by our mutual friend and shown pictures of him, so I knew who he was. My opening line was basically ‘Hi, you’re the Tory twat aren’t you?!’ (which is my weird idea of flirting), and we went from there. I made it very clear that I was sexually interested in him, and at one point he caught me sucking on a straw while looking at him in a very provocative way…eventually we ended up all over each other and outside the pub kissing. In conversations since then, he has said that he liked my confidence and that made me glad that I had pursued him so confidently.

After the first time we met, and our first date, I did wait a bit for him to text me first (although on both occasions, I was going to message if he didn’t). The next time we saw each other we had sex for the first time. Normally I would wait for the guy to message first after that, but I didn’t want it to be this big thing…so I messaged him first. And guess what? He didn’t think I was mental! (At least not because of that).

I feel like so often we are forced into this fine balancing act – let him know that you like him, but not too much. It’s such hard work! So I’ve decided screw that. I’m breaking all the rules! Sometimes I text him back straight away, sometimes I even double message! Sometimes I invite him to stuff and tell him it would be awesome if he came along! If letting a guy know that you are interested in him makes him less interested in you, then maybe he wasn’t worth it in the first place. Hopefully this one is worth it. Even if he is a Tory twat…

 

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

 

They just weren’t ready for you yet

Last night I sent an article, I had written a while ago and just edited, to an online women’s magazine and got an email back just a few hours later to say it hadn’t been accepted. This is the same website that I applied to work for about a year ago and was not successful, but they encouraged me to submit articles on a freelance basis. It upset me that they were not taking it, and reminded me of all past creative rejections in the past (including their previous rejection) so I felt it even more strongly than if it was just a single incident. I may have cried a little, while listening to ‘You just haven’t earned it yet baby’ (the Kirsty MacColl version).

The article I wrote is not really in my usual tone of writing – it’s a bit more adapted for the tone I have seen their articles written in – way more cheesy  women’s magazine style than I generally write. That’s why I sent it to them. It’s frustrating when you see articles that you think are of a similar standard (or even not as good), and you think ‘if they take that, why won’t they take mine?!’

I recently went for an interview for a marketing job in a theatre and I didn’t get it – they said I was great but there were people with more specific experience. I wasn’t as bothered by this, as I knew only one person could get the job, and I know there wasn’t much I could do about it. But the writing rejection annoyed me because they publish lots of articles, rather than just a situation where there is one job available.

It’s the same doing stand-up – sometimes you see people doing gigs that you can’t get on that you don’t think are funnier than you. That’s the problem with writing and doing comedy. Applying for the same job over and over, and then comparing yourself to other people. Ah, high expectations followed by self-loathing.

I read something recently that said you should aim for 100 rejections a year because you will surely get accepted by some of them. I like this logic and plan to follow it more, for both writing and applying for gigs. I know I shouldn’t be so sensitive as well – J K Rowling received loads of rejections before Harry Potter was published!

Maybe I will also not try to change my writing to fit a specific style that I think someone wants, and just be myself more. Then if people hate my writing or my comedy at least I know they will be hating me for who I am.

I went to a life coaching class once and they taught us this mantra to console yourself when you are rejected from a job, or an opportunity, or a romantic partner – ‘They just weren’t ready for you yet’, and I have to try and remember this when I feel like I’m not good enough. Because if i keep going, there will be people who are ready for me. And I will be ready too.

Date with a Tory

On Friday, I did my first half an hour show as part of Laugh or Cry Presents Cruel Brittania, and I invited a date. I had met this person the week before at a friend’s birthday and we had some pretty good chemistry. Mainly because, well, he’s a Tory Brexiteer and I’m a Labour Remainer.

I’ve never had political class based banter before with someone, but it turns out it’s my thing. I told him I want him to fuck me like he wants to fuck the NHS, and he teased me for being an ‘adorable lefty’. It goes against pretty much everything I stand for, but it’s like my head says leave, but my pussy says remain.

Having a date at the gig made me way more nervous, because obviously I wanted to impress him, but I wasn’t planning to talk about him while on stage until I did my joke about steak and blowjob day, where I ask the audience if they have ever done it, and he cheered, so I took the bait and told everyone he was there. I also ended up telling everyone his political views – which were surprisingly not very popular in a North London theatre.

Everyone likes a bit of real life drama, and some of the moments were funnier because he was there, however I think it also had the effect of distracting from the show itself, and meaning I was self conscious when some of my usual jokes didn’t get as many laughs as my commentary on the situation did. It was frustrating because I wanted to get a real sense of how my show could be, but couldn’t focus fully on that.

I still think it was good to do my first half an hour, develop a bit of a narrative, and get comfortable with being on stage for that long. I also did have a lot of fun. Watching back the video, I actually wish I had abandoned the specific jokes for the show a bit more, gone further with getting him involved, and been more mean to him. I mean Tories do deserve it.

It’s also difficult writing a blog entry knowing he’s going to be reading it. My last date story I knew wouldn’t be read by the guy it was about – it was a Tinder date, I never told him my full name, and I didn’t want to see him again. But I know this one is definitely going to be reading this, so I still feel like I am trying to impress him.

If you would like to see some of the best bits of the gig, below is a video of the highlights. Sadly my phone stopped recording before the end where I said ‘right I’m off now to get some Tory dick’, which may or may not have happened later on. Gotta keep some things private…(just not the railways or the NHS).

How to write a comedy show

The longest set I’ve done is 20 minutes, but next week Friday the 16th of September, I am doing a half an hour work in progress at Laugh and Cry at The Lion and Unicorn Pub in Kentish Town. But how to do it? Should I treat it like long set, just doing more jokes than usual, or give it a narrative?

Most comedians tend to centre their shows around a theme or a story, this involves writing specific jokes to fit with that story, so is it easier for your first show just to get all your best material together and screw the narrative arc?

I thought about doing a show about my father’s death (I’m sure I heard somewhere that Stewart Lee thinks this is one of the main reasons Edinburgh shows have become hack), but I don’t know if that’s too personal, or worse, too reductionist. I don’t want to have to leave out some of my best jokes, or force the show too much to fit to a theme.

Sometimes a show’s theme or story can change along the way as well. When I went to see Bridget Christie’s preview (which was hilarious), the Brexit result hadn’t come out yet, as it was on the day of the referendum, and she did make some jokes about it, but apparently after that happened, her show became much more focussed on Brexit. I might have to see it again now.

I do think that having a ‘schtick’ or a theme can make audiences more inclined to come and see your show, but on the flip side, if it’s a good show, it doesn’t matter. Some of the best shows I have seen have had a story, and some of them haven’t. Some of them are a collections of little stories; snippets into a person’s life. I’m going to spend some time writing down all my ideas, and jokes I already have, and see what happens. Maybe a theme I hadn’t even thought of will come out of it…

Date at the Tate

On Saturday I was on my way to do Shaggers at Leicester Square Theatre when I got a message from a guy I’ve been talking to from Tinder asking to meet up that evening. I did initially invite him to the gig, although I’m quite glad he didn’t come now…

He suggested we meet at 9 and go to to Tate Modern (which is now open until 10 on Fridays and Saturdays). I thought that sounded cool and artsy so I agreed to meet him.

The gig was awesome and it was really fun being able to do all my dirtiest jokes. The audience seemed to enjoy my set, although one man did look shocked when I said the words, ‘but I don’t see you sipping out of my mooncup’. Apparently even at a sex themed comedy show, I’m still pushing the boundaries. Which I love doing. The show finished at 8.30 and I walked across the Thames to go and meet my date.

This man has spent the last few weeks or so basically being my news source. He likes to send me politics links, weather updates, pictures of the sky, and ask me stuff like who I think is going to win Euro 2016. (I can’t even remember who won now…was it France?!) Anyway, I was quite intrigued by his method of communicating and thought we might get along.

The problem with internet dating is you have no idea what a person is really like until you meet them. When I go on a date with someone, I generally know within 5 seconds if I am attracted to them or not. Which sounds like a really quick assessment. But that’s just how I am.

We meet, and I quickly realise he is not my type at all. I know that’s shallow, but I think that sexual attraction is very important, especially as I am not really looking for a relationship at the moment, more just some fun. I also don’t think that looks and personality are mutually exclusive and that when you meet someone in person you get a sense of that person as a whole and their general vibe.

But it’s rude to say straight away ‘Sorry I don’t fancy you, I’m going home’, plus I do (usually) like art galleries, so we go into the Tate and I think ‘well it closes at 10, so I can bail after that’.

The new building has a nice viewing platform, and the sky looks beautiful. I guess it could be quite romantic if you were there with the right person. I’m more interested in taking photos though.

Picture of the London Night Sky

We go back inside and see the Louise Bourgeois exhibition I have heard so much about, sadly I think I don’t really get it. It’s full of body shaped sculptures and dolls and I don’t understand or enjoy looking at them. I do like the spider on the wall though, I think spiders are beautiful and most people look at me oddly when I say this.

Picture of Louise Bourgeois's Spider

The gallery assistants keep telling him my date he’s not allowed drinks in the exhibitions, as he is carrying round an (unopened) coke can. (I ask him later when we are going back to the tube why he hasn’t drank it and he says he found it in a Boris bike and doesn’t want it. Right.)

We look at a few more rooms and nothing really grabs my attention. We talk about how art is all about networking and good marketing. For example, how the hell do you convince someone that this is worth putting on display?

Picture of Three Blank Canvases

I feel like art in a gallery should be at least a bit better than something I could make or just buy from a shop. Apparently this is not the case.

After a disappointing hour we walk back to the tube and my date tells me about how him and his last girlfriend dated for 5 years without having sex because she was religious (but he isn’t) and she wanted him to convert so they broke up. He also tells me that he was shocked when he came to England and saw people with Down Syndrome, as in Latvia where he is from ‘disabled people stay at home’. Wtf?!

When I get out of the tube there’s a message from him saying it was nice to meet me. I tell him it was good to meet him too (I’ve had worse dates and he did make me laugh a couple of times), but that I don’t think we have enough chemistry to meet again. He then says ‘why? I liked you’, so I tell him that he’s not my type (there’s really no need to ask for more information if someone says you don’t have enough chemistry). Do you want me to text back ‘I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP WITH YOU?!’

The next day he sends me a picture of the sky and I don’t reply.

The End

 

 

Living the Single Life

Just over three months’ ago, my boyfriend of one and a half years came over and said he wanted to break up with me. My response was ‘yeah I think that’s probably a good idea’. It hadn’t been working well for a while but we had been carrying on anyway, because it’s hard when you are attached to someone to finally let go. I had been thinking about breaking up too, (I mean it was on my to do list, I just hadn’t got round to it) so even though I was sad and part of me still wanted to hold on to what we had, I knew that it was for the best.

It’s strange when you have distance from a relationship. In the initial throes of romance I thought he was ‘the one’ (Peep Show style). I don’t necessarily believe in that, or that there is that one person for you, I just mean that I thought we were really good for each other and were going to be together a while. I was sort of right – I think a year and a half is a while to be fair.

I feel like when I first meet someone I get carried away with the lust and excitement that I don’t really think about if we are actually compatible or not, and how much of our Venn diagram overlaps. I ignore the bits that don’t fit, and I think a lot of people do this – going through their lives trying to put square shapes in triangular shaped holes. Sometimes people stay together because they want to settle down and have children. Since these are not things that I ever want, I think in future I need to be more picky about who I get into a relationship with. This will mean spending a lot of time alone. Fortunately, I like my own company.

In fact being single these last few months has been really good for me. I’m pretty sure I’m a better person when I am not in a relationship and I don’t have so many expectations from another person. Plus I’ve got loads of stuff done. Remember when I said I wanted to be more organised and tidy? It’s still a work in progress, but at least now I can see my bedroom floor.

My ex has already started dating someone new. At first I was a bit taken aback by it, especially when he said he wanted me to meet her. He said he was going to bring her to this gig we were both performing at.

I was worried it would be bitchy or awkward, but she was so cool and lovely, and it went so much better than I expected. As soon as I got off stage she said she had liked one of my jokes, which of course instantly made me like her. Luckily it was a good gig – you really don’t want to die on stage in front of your ex’s new girlfriend.

It was a bit weird seeing him hold hands with someone else, and be with her the way he used to be with me, but I didn’t feel jealous or annoyed, I just felt deeply happy for them. They seem to be better match than we were and I hope they are together for a while…

Man Up

On Tuesday I did a gig dressed as a man in a night called Gender Bender.  The line-up consisted of women playing the parts of men, with a token man on the night – Hollie Would (who regularly performs stand-up dressed as a woman).

Charley Harrison, who organised and Mced the gig in a suitable manly way, encouraged us all to embrace our inner man, and it was great arriving at the gig to see my fellow female comics applying facial hair with eyeliner in the toilets, and getting into character. Thanyia Moore was so convincing that one of the bartenders was initially fooled by her man-wear.

So what to talk about as a man? Some of the comedians went for specific men, such as Jeremy Corbyn, some made up their own men such as Colin the Terry-er-ist, but I decided to go for a generic man, with some inspiration from past and current boyfriends. (Side note – just to clarify I only have one at the moment)!

This involved a lot of talking about my ‘dick’, and a couple of jokes which were supposed to be subversive, but I think came out sounding a bit sexist. The most difficult part of it was keeping a straight face while trying to maintain a manlier voice. But, I had a lot of fun! It felt really good to do something different and not be myself on stage for once.  I think a lot can be said for stepping out of your comfort zone and challenging yourself as a performer. Every woman on the night rose to the occasion and Kate Smurthwaite gave us an unexpected surprise right at the end of the show.

Did I feel funnier as a man? I think because I wasn’t being me, in a way I felt more confident about just saying whatever and not caring if it was funny or not. I guess some bits were funnier than my usual set (at some points just because of the situation) and some bits weren’t, mainly because gender actually has no effect on hilarity levels.

As to what my boyfriend thought (who has previously dressed up as stripper for comedy purposes), well I sent him a pic of my man-ness and he messaged me back saying ‘hot’. Looks like I may have to dress up as a man more often…

Here’s the video of my man gig if you want to see it:

(Yes I did bang my head while walking off stage)!

Lost my Mojo

I feel like Austin Powers in The Spy Who Shagged Me. It just disappeared. Perhaps a fellow evil comedian stole it. Or perhaps I just got bored.

The problem with comedy is repetition. You have to tell a joke a certain amount of times to get good at telling it, and by the time you’ve nailed it, sometimes you don’t even want to tell the joke anymore.

I’ve been told a few times that I sound too rehearsed on stage, like an actor who knows their lines too well. This means gigging has become a bit monotonous and mundane. I thought about giving up comedy, or at least maybe taking a break and not booking anymore new gigs while I figure about what I’m doing, which I may still do, but here are some other things I intend to try to get my mojo back.

1 Watch more comedy (not just stand up)

It’s easy to feel like you are going nowhere and forget what’s enjoyable about doing comedy and making people laugh, and how it is possible to become successful at it, it just takes time, hard work and not giving up. I didn’t watch enough shows when I was Edinburgh Festival so am going to try and watch more online and go and see shows every now and then when I am not performing. Not just stand up though; sketches, comedy movies, interviews. Someone posted this earlier on Facebook and it really made me want to get back into it.

2 Watch different art forms too

A comedian at Edinburgh Festival said he deliberately wasn’t watching any comedy shows, he was going to see art like dance and circus skills for inspiration. Sometimes you are surrounded by so much comedy that you need to look at creativity from other places to open up your mind.

3 Try new jokes more often

Trying new jokes is hard. Especially when you know you have jokes that work most of the time. But what is the point of doing it if it’s not hard and there isn’t the risk of failure? I need to try more new jokes more often, maybe at least one at every gig that isn’t an important one.

4 Write more new jokes

How am I going to try new jokes all the time if I don’t write any new jokes? In terms of joke writing, my technique is generally more ‘wait until something comes to me’ rather than sit down and write, but I think even just writing for 10 – 15 minutes a day will help me come up with new ideas. Some of them might be genius. You never know!

4 Leave jokes I’m really bored of for a while

Bored of my jokes? Well I’ll stop telling them then. Particularly the ones that don’t get as many laughs as they used to, because when I tell them, I sound like I’m watching paint dry in a hospice. Well they can just die, for a while. Then maybe I’ll resuscitate them when I get bored of all the new ones.

5 Bring back jokes I haven’t done for a while

Because I’m not bored of them anymore, they will be new and awesome like the first time I told them. At least for the next 5 gigs anyway.

6 MC more

I wrote a post about MCing recently and how much I enjoy it, because of how conversational it is, so I am trying to do more of this. I’ve got one MC gig booked for March next year but am definitely going to make more of an effort to apply for them.

7 Improv more

Similar to MCing, I am going to improv more during my stand up – which can either be brilliant or disastrous, but I find when it really works, it is worth it. My aim is to be able to shift seamlessly between chatting and material, and eventually I will sound more natural on stage.

I will let you know how it all goes…

Oops I Did it Again….Forgot to Press Record

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.