Gig #13: 20/11/11 Wits End, The Princess Alice nr. Brick Lane
Witt’s End is a really nice gig to do. They’ve got a great room, attract a big(ish) audience, and have a nice (and funny) emcee. This was my second week in a row doing this gig. This time was slightly unusual as the pub had had a power cut. They had a small generator to run the speakers and keep the fridges operational. Everything else was turned off and the bar was illuminated by candle light. It made the bar feel very cozy an intimate, unfortunately the gig couldn’t be run in the usual private room so the gig was set up in the main bar meaning that some of the audience had just come out for a drink and were not expecting comedy.
I was up third. I did the same material as Wednesday’s gig at The Alchamist. I’m beginning to feel comfortable using the new material. I know where the laughs will come and I’m confident to pause for long enough, I’m also experimenting with the performance aspect, really trying to compliment the material with voice and body language.
I’ve also been experimenting with more sustained eye contact. I’ve noticed that when I perform I tend disasociate from the experience. I make fleeting eye contact, but in my mind I have constructed a mental barrier and I am just running through my material as if the audience isn’t there. This time I picked individuals and tried to keep eye contact for a few seconds, especially when I was delivering a punchline. This was pretty difficult. Whenever I held eye contact for more than about a second I felt uncomfortable and had to fight the urge to move along. There’s also the added pressure that you become more aware of people’s reaction (or lack of reaction) to your material.
There are a few traites that I have noticed in some of the better open micers that I would like to incorporate.
The first is a calm stillness. I think when people are nervous they tend to pace around on stage and avoid eye contact - quickly jumping from person to person. There’s an obious difference when a more experienced comedian comes on stage. They are completely relaxed. Their shoulders aren’t tense, they pause and there movement is deliberate and never unnecessary.
The second trait is a tendency towards quick fire personal jokes at the top of the set. I am currently telling personal stories, but they are set pieces and don’t have much flexibility for improvisation. I’ve noticed that many of the better comedians will begin their set as a kind of conversation where they are “introducing” themselves to the audience by throwing out facts about themselves (apperance, background, family, career, opinions) and following them up with punchlines.
The third trait is acting out the emotion of the joke. If they are angry/upset/happy they will emphasise that through body language and tonality. This really enhancese a set. Five minutes of the the same monotone voice can get very boaring (unless it is a character and done to the extreme).