Alice does stand-up comedy
“Let’s do a skydive” I suggested one day to my ginger sidekick Jane after a few too many jaeger bombs.
“Absolutely not, I’d do anything over that even stand-up comedy” retorted the freckled one.
“OK let’s do that then” I announced decisively before hiccuping up a little bit of jaeger and sandwich.
So Jane and I boldly signed ourselves up to a competition in London called Comedy Virgins for amateur comedians run out of a theatre in a spit and sawdust pub in Stockwell. The competition was on 25th April, giving us four weeks to nail this comedy lark.
The first week went by and my ostrich approach to the matter was allaying any nerves. As friends learnt what we were doing we found ourselves inundated with offers to come and watch our ritual humiliation. However both being somewhat nervous about our first salvo into the comedy world we refused to let anyone whose opinion we valued know when and where, denying family and friends the schadenfreude they were lustily craving.
So I did some research, listened to loads of podcasts and learnt that you need around 4-6 punchlines a minute! I was looking at a minimum of twenty jokes in my five minute slot – not a small task. I decided to focus my routine on dating and relationships since my love life has proved a fertile ground for humorous material over the years (see Alice is challenged to learn about love). Recognising this topic to be somewhat low-brow I sought to weave in some political humour, I penned a joke on Brexit and another one on the European refugee crisis.
Over the coming weeks, I took a notebook around with me and jotted down funny things I’d heard or ideas that came to me. I practised my material in front of Dexter and my very patient housemate and tried a few gags out on workmates when they weren’t expecting. I refined the material down and down to the stronger stuff leaving just over five minutes worth.
The day of the show
D-Day crept up on me a lot quicker than expected, I took the day off work to get ‘off script’ and spent the morning prancing around my living room with a hairbrush. Having presented on hospital radio for several years I knew I was capable of delivery but my main worry was getting nervous and having a brain fart. I left my house for the big smoke with some trepidation that afternoon.
I met Jane and her boss Rupert in Oxford Street, Rupert kindly offered to provide us with some dutch courage but I uncharacteristically opted for a coke, wanting to remain as sharp as possible before rocking up at the venue. As we walked into the pub we were hit with the smell of craft beer and buzz of general chatter. The clientele comrpised a mixture of characters, predominantly hipsters with some suited gents, middle aged comedy fans and one or two socially awkward looking. It was clear who the comedians were sitting amongst it all slyly cribbing their notes.
Jane and I went in and sat at the back of the audience, the first half was a mixed bag – some incredibly strong people and one or two who just hadn’t quite ‘got it’. One female comedian was particularly exceptional at delivery and I admired her for being able to draw out one topic (masturbation) with some fairly average jokes and still be incredibly funny. It emphasised the importance of timing and delivery. The interval came and neither of us had been called up yet, I downed the rest of the one cider I’d allowed myself and waited for the second half.
After the first act my name was called and I felt a rush of adrenalaine as I bounded onto the stage like Zeberdy. My first joke (too rude to mention) went down a storm and my confidence was boosted. The lights were bright meaning I could only make out the faces on the front row who fortunately seemed to be finding it all amusing. I developed a strange welsh accent that I couldn’t shake but after a minute I got into the swing of things. My heart pumped throughout but I found a rhythm that worked (reminding myself to pause long enough for laughter between jokes). The compere came out to wave indicating I had one minute left, the laughter and pausing meant I did not have enough time to get to and end on my finale so I improvised and ended on a different joke I knew to be fairly strong. I came off to applause and loud heckles of ‘buy her a drink!’ (the words you need to be shouted with sufficient volume in order make it to the final) and bounded off the stage on a real high!
Jane was called up a couple of acts after me and her routine on the nightmare of growing up with two older brothers went down a storm, helped by two hilarious voicemail recordings she had asked her brothers to record as part of the act. Both Jane and I made it into the final six and were clinched to victory by a very worthy male comedian who is certainly one to watch…
I left the pub feeling really proud of my ginger sidekick and I. Stand up comedy is hands down one of the most nerve racking things I’ve ever done and I have a whole new level of respect and appreciation for the level of preparation and for the comedians who put themselves out there for others amusement week on week.
Would we do it again? Absolutely!