I thought I’d expand on my previous post on how I got into stand-up comedy, as I made it sound along the lines of Jane saying, ‘you’d be good at standup, you should do my stand-up course, here’s where you sign up, give me your money.’
What actually happened was that, during the workshop, Jane said she thought my dry, deadpan humour and delivery would come across well as stand-up, which put the idea of doing stand-up into my head.
Jane didn’t have a stand-up course to sign up to at the time so, after the workshop, I read a couple of books she recommended:
and started to look for a stand-up course.
Ideally, I wanted to do one in-person as I find in-person workshops more fun than online ones and also because the in-person stand-up courses had showcases at the end which appealed to me.
All the courses I found looked great. However, they were all in London and I wasn’t sure I had the inclination, commitment or dedication to go to London once a week for six weeks (it obviously hadn’t occurred to me that, if I did start doing stand-up, going to London once a week would be the very least amount of inclination, commitment or dedication required).
Also, even though the course fees mostly looked reasonable, with train fares on top, it wasn’t going to be cheap (again, it obviously hadn’t occurred to me that, if I did start doing stand-up, train fares to gigs weren’t going to be free.)
But eventually, Jane posted details of her ‘Write Your First 5 Minutes of Stand-up Comedy’ course, yay.
So much yay.
It was online over Zoom but still, so much yay.
After battling with my imposter syndrome and asking Jane if it was suitable for beginners (what was I expecting her to say – ‘No, fuck off and come back after you’ve done a ‘write your first 30 seconds of comedy’ course?), I signed up.
I loved every single second of it, even though it was online and in the evening at a time when I’m usually in my pyjamas and watching Emmerdale (again, it didn’t occur to me that if I started doing stand-up, being in my pyjamas and watching Emmerdale every night would be a thing in the past.)
Each week we were given exercises and homework that built on from the week before. By the end of the 6 weeks, we did indeed have our first 5 minutes of stand-up and on the final week, we all performed our sets and got feedback from Jane and the others on the course.
I was so excited about this showcase I spent hours and hours memorising and practising my set, videoing myself performing it with a hairbrush for a mic.
I’ve got a set and I’m gonna use it
After doing my set and getting feedback from Jane and the others, it was time to take my 5 minutes stand-up set into the wild and perform it on an actual stage in front of an actual audience.
It was October and I had planned to do my debut stand-up gig before the end of the year but then my cats got ill and I spent most of my days either medicating my cats or taking them to the vet and I was stressed and tired and couldn’t be bothered to think about stand-up and anyway I wasn’t going to be funny if I was stressed and tired was I?
But then I thought, there’s always going to be an excuse why it’s not the best time and, like most things, there’s never a best time and if you want to do something, you have to do it now.
My debut stand-up gig
I also knew that if I didn’t get my first gig done before the end of the year, I’d probably never do it, so I booked myself a 5 minute spot at Comedy Virgins at The Cavendish Arms in Stockwell for 21 December 2021 – the day before my 53rd birthday.
I had, like a lot of new comedians, planned to do my first set in secret, but Comedy Virgins is a bringer gig, which means you have to take someone with you to sit in the audience.
I asked my friend Gary to come with me because I knew a) he would come with me; and b) he would laugh at my jokes. He also has a really loud laugh, so if no one else laughed, his laugh would compensate for this.
The only problem was, one of my jokes stemmed from a conversation Gary and I had about 15 years ago, which meant he would know the punchline before I got to it. I was so worried he’d start laughing before I got to the punchline, which would give me a fit of the giggles but I just did my set without looking at Gary, who managed not to laugh until I got to the punchline and all was fine.
I had no idea what to expect from my first stand-up gig. I didn’t know if I was going to love it or hate it, forget my set and run off crying or what.
I didn’t forget my set and I didn’t run off crying. I even got a ‘buy her a drink’ shout-out from someone, which meant I got through to the clap-off at the end (which was worthily won by Reece Kidd).
One thing I wasn’t expecting was the lack of nerves before I went on. I didn’t even feel nervous when I was on the stage although I was concentrating more on remembering what to say next than how I felt.
I was far, far, far, far, far more nervous when I uploaded the video of my debut stand-up gig to Facebook. I was expecting a few ‘well done,’ ‘you’re brave,’ ‘good for you giving it a go,’ type comments as well as some along the lines of, ‘don’t give up the day job,’ but I got dozens of encouraging comments telling me I was funny, even if some of them were a bit back-handed, such as:
‘I thought you’d be shit but you were really funny’ (thanks, Kay)
‘I was expecting to cringe but you were brilliant’ (thanks, Verity)
Everyone was so encouraging, it encouraged me to keep going and at the time of writing, I’ve done 17 gigs and spent shit loads of money on train fare and have a big backlog of Emmerdale episodes to catch up on.
Still, a train to London only costs about the same as two metres of fabric from my favourite fabric-pusher, Miss Gingers, and my TiVo box records Emmerdale for me, so all is good.