Gig #137: Anarchy, The UK, Willenhall. 2nd April 2014

The illness of Monday didn’t abate. It didn’t ease off.

It didn’t clear.

Tuesday saw me sprawled out like Audley Harrison after a match against an infirm old woman. I managed work but was sent home early and spent the intervening time with an insane level of medication in my body and a desire to make work on Wednesday and Anarchy of the evening. Fortunately on Wednesday morning I felt a little better and managed to get into work.

By the time I reached the UK pub for Anarchy I just wanted to keel over and die. Looking back I shouldn’t have gone to work and I shouldn’t have done Anarchy but we’ve all got a Phd in hindsight haven’t we?

Yet again Kay and the staff at The UK had excelled themselves by reworking the seating again and bringing back the big speakers. We had another full house and another set of great acts. It promised to be a good night.

Sadly, I wasn’t up to it. Rob and I MC’d and I totally screwed it up. I wrote an email to Rob the next evening about the gig and how I felt. I’d spent most of Thursday still nursing the fizz, pain and tiredness swimming around my head but also cursing my behaviour the previous night. The wild mix of strepsils, ibuprofen, adrenalin and sheer tiredness I made bad decision after bad decision and it obviously had an effect on Rob.

To start with my podcast personality came out. I’m not saying the podcast character is wildly away from me but it is a few crucial paces over there behind that bush where the sixth form go to smoke. On the podcast Rob is more agreeable and I’m more argumentative. Sadly this just came out as cruel. I was cruel to Rob and I was cruel to an audience member. I apologise. It was wrong of me.

What should happen is that my cruelness (if it does come out) should be a more “them and us” and more celebratory. I did this briefly at Anarchy in talking about James Billington and his nightmare at Beat the Frog, Preston when he was gonged by the sound engineer who subsequently called him a racist because he didn’t let James get to the punchline of the joke. (More details of this can be found on the following Chortle Post: http://www.chortle.co.uk/correspondents/2012/12/30/16873/why_i_got_branded_a_racist) After explaining what happened to the crowd at Anarchy I then launched into my own take on it. “That sound engineer committed the very definition of slander. Every comedian should boycott that venue until that sound engineers issues a full, frank and public apology and James is financially compensated.” It got a big cheer and a round of applause. “The irony,” I continued, “Is that James Billington is a massive racist.” It got a big laugh (Is it a joke in case you’re wondering). That’s what I mean, a bit of “them and us”, a bit of cruelty towards Frog and Bucket, a bit of a dig at James and a bit of a laugh. I can do it, even when I’m ill but for the most part I didn’t. I was just horrible.

I totally forgot about talking to the audience and when I did remember I was just horrible. Horrible, I tell ya. Horrible. Fortunately I was too ill to notice any of this and it was only as the next day wore I that I became so aware of what a dick I’d been.

Fortunately the illness beat me and I had to drop out of saying goodbye or introducing the final act. At this point I was struggling to stay standing up and as the night closed I was out the door as quickly as my plagued legs would carry me. Driving home I was so zoned out that I had to stop at a small traffic island and do the L-Shapes with my hands on the steering wheel so I could work out which way was left and therefore which direction I needed to give way to. I staggered into the house, collapsed on the sofa and slept.

I don’t have a gig now for about ages. I don’t want one either. I can feel that I’m physically and emotionally exhausted and that’s before this head cold kicked in. I need to recharge the batteries and deal with all these health issues so I can move forward. I don’t know what I want from comedy or MCing but I know that I’m doing no one any favours trying to perform in the state I’m in.

Rest and recuperation. See you in a few weeks.

Gig #136: The Roadhouse, Stirchley. 31st March 2014

The pain in my back which plagued the gig three nights previous was now a dull ache to the left of my spine.

Not that I noticed.

I was hit by a head cold.

I briefly scanned through my notes which include not just blogs you see here but pages of scribbles not suitable for public viewing. It is apparent that these health issues are turning into a big problem. I can plot constant periods of illness and pain or injury from the present day back to September 2013 with very few gaps.

Rob Kemp was driving over and this was good because I was struggling to concentrate and didn’t fancy the round trip. I was also starting to feel that scratching at the back of my windpipe which emphasises the start of a sore throat. I had stocked up on Strepsils, Vics Inhaler and tissues and hoped it would be enough to get through the night.

“You sure you can do this?” asked David Tandy in a nice and seemingly genuine way.

I shrugged because I genuinely wasn’t sure. Glancing down the list it was obvious it would be a good night so I decided to admit I was ill to the audience, see how we get on and just take it from there. Hopefully the adrenalin would kick in and I’d get through the night. At least I didn’t have to worry about driving home. Looking back I should have been thinking that I couldn’t give this 100% because of feeling so rough and let someone else do it. Sadly the illness was affecting any cognitive thoughts I should have had and replaced them with “Fuck, I’m swallowing caltrops.” The night started and it went okay. I brought on Hannah Silvester as the first act.

She had a great gig (but admitted she didn’t enjoy trifle which makes her far too strange in my book) and I quickly brought on Jasmine Fischer, an antipodean Manc based act who was doing her first gig at The Roadhouse and quickly won the crowd over. I wouldn’t say I found the illness lifting but I think the adrenalin of such a strong opening did help push me onwards. Next up was Freddie Farrell and as we’d had two women on stage I started to get political.

“As you know we’ve just had two women on stage. Now we were going to have a third but since Mirth Control have taken over the gig we’ve been told that’s far too much vagina on stage so we’re going to bring up a guy.” Obviously the acts got it and enjoyed it but the audience were perplexed. If you don’t know the story then essentially Mirth Control cancelled comedian Jenny Collier from one of their bills because the venue feared there were too many women in the line up (3 out of 9 if Jenny had been allowed to perform). I’d actually written an article about this to send to Chortle but on reading it back it was profane, aggressive and did refer to Geoff Whiting as being a “penile cunt who helps keep mysogynism alive by being a cowardly custard (I enjoyed fitting cowardly custard into that line).” Rest assured comedians, if I had been your Union Rep then I’d have called for a strike against Mirth Control until they not only apologised in full and paid compensation to Jenny but also allowed us to march on the venue, demand a full and frank apology from the manager and got him to write a contract saying, “They don’t tell me how to pull pints I won’t tell them how to run a comedy night” and then I’d have keyed the fuckers car… and pissed in the ice bucket.

Explaining all that to the bemused audience would have been a bit much so I edited it down a bit and brought Freddie on. His opening was superb…

“The thing is, I have a vagina.”

At which point a lone voice shouted out (And we know who you are.) “No you’re just a cunt.”

I love The Roadhouse.

The second section kicked off with Rob and straight away the banter started between us. I’d planned to introduce him and warm the crowd up but with Friday nights gig still resonating in my ears I just decided to do nothing and brought him on. He was Rob and he had a good gig. The thing is, one day he’ll find his audience (or his audience will find him) and he won’t be good, he won’t be great. He’ll be magnificent. Then you’ll all say that you did a podcast with him. But you didn’t. It was me.

The adrenalin kept my body upright and my feet moving towards and then away from the microphone. I introduced an act, Eleanor Hashim, doing her first ever gig (it was better than my first ever gig) and we’ve no doubt got someone else who will join in our 11:30pm swearing at The Highways Agency when they realise the M6 is shut again. Jay Islaam did new stuff which just proved how racist the audience were (well, proved it to me anyway) and one of Roger Swift’s props broke and left me seriously unable to breathe.

Then in typical Roadhouse style the room emptied and we were left with only a few people for the final section. I have a strange reaction to this. I bring everyone together, fill up the front row and build a sense of camaraderie. “They’ve all gone. Look what they’re going to miss.”

And boy, did they miss it.

Thomas Rackham, a relatively new act, did new material. This should have crashed and burned but it was superb. I saw Rob Lane for the first time and enjoyed it and then it was the final act. Relief washed over me. I’d survived. I hadn’t collapsed or lost my voice. I introduced Ben Briggs.

For the second time that night Mirth Control was mentioned and an infamous gig Briggs had for them the previous Friday night. With what seemed like zero effort he told the story and had everyone eating out of his hand. He then did new stuff and when it did fall flat he just turned it around and had the audience all over again. He’s fucking magnificent that Ben Briggs. I used to do a podcast with him.

Gig #135: The Roadhouse, Stirchley. 28th March 2014

It’s been over a fortnight since my last gig and it seems I’m in a cycle of health issues. These blogs are nothing more than my physical and mental struggles to get my battered and broken body and over cooked brain to gig after gig. Sadly, this is no different. I found myself, on the day of this show, in long conversations with David Tandy about if I should turn up or not. The cause of this was my back. Years ago I slipped a disc and if you haven’t done it let me assure you it is a sci-fi level of pain I don’t wish on anyone. A small lump of jelly protruding out of the spine and into a clump of nerves. Breathing hurts, not breathing hurts, being hurt hurts. As a result of this I’m permanently weakened in the lower back and on Wednesday I damaged it again. I’d like to say it was during a six person sex orgy or while doing stunt work for Daniel Craig in the new Bond film. Sadly, it was done pulling laptops from under a table. A simply stretch and twist was enough to put me in agony with some pulled muscle nonsense. I was laid up for two days in agony while the painkillers calmed my system down and reduced the swelling.

I just want to be well… you know… just for a little while.

By Friday I was still in quite some pain and couldn’t move at half the speed I normally do (which is, admittedly, not very fast anyway). Tandy gave me the option to drop out but I didn’t want to. I knuckled down, upped the dosage of Ibuprofen to a non-recommended level and headed out. To help out Tandy had decided to Co-MC. This made sense because it enabled us both to do a bit of banter at the start of each section and Tandy could run up, with his youthful legs and mobile back, to thank the previous act and bring up the next one. “Keep the energy in the room,” said Tandy failing to convince even himself.

By the time 8:30 rolled around we had a rather low number in the crowd. “Give it ten minutes,” said Tandy failing to convince even himself. A few others came in and as the first couple of acts were on some more turned up. It wasn’t a “full house” but it was nice and warming.

Tandy and I even did some preparation for our Co-MCing. The preparation went like this:

Pitt: Do you want to plan anything?

Tandy: No.

Pitt: Okay.

It all started very pleasantly and the first two sections went without a hitch. The audience, while not being the loudest laughers in the world, were enjoying it. The acts seemed to enjoy and everyone was being very nice. It was the best I’ve seen Christian Mackuta and it was lovely to see Matt Leigh again. He doesn’t gig as much as he should and it’s a shame because he’s got some great lines and his storytelling skills hold the audience in place. A few more gigs and a bit more regular and he’ll sharpen up no end. Also worthy of a mention is Russ Mulligan. I don’t know how he does it but again this was new material and it was all high quality. Anyone who starts a comedy routine with a discussion on the precariat deserves as many accolades as can be thrown at him.

Then it happened.

At the opening of the third section Tandy and I faked a row. It wasn’t planned, thought about or discussed in anyway. We just, for some reason, started attacking each other in front of the audience. I wish it had been recorded so I knew what was said because it went so well. At one point I looked up and saw Rob Kemp doubled up laughing and across the audience you could see the laughter but also that beam in people’s eyes when they are loving what they are seeing. It was wonderful and some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a stage. I’ve been thinking a lot about stand-up, maybe doing another 10 minute routine, maybe continuing with MCing or maybe jacking everything in. I just wish I could analyse and break down whatever happened in the five minutes or so of that row. It might have an answer for what I want out of this crazy game called comedy.

Tandy is a dry wit and in bringing on Rob Kemp at the end he said we should do something special. I had no idea what so I let Tandy start. The introduction was beautiful. Rob Kemp, the nicest guy on West Midlands Comedy was about to take to the stage and Tandy and I shattered every code and convention in the MCing handbook. We berated Rob for wasting everyone’s time, appealed for the audience to leave and tried our best to bring Rob on to abject silence. Sadly, Tandy’s humanity shone through, “I can’t bring you on to silence, Rob.”

I would have.

The thing is, I know Rob well and I could see the look in his eyes. He was looking forward to walking onto a dead stage. Just to try it out and see what happened but Tandy and his interior emotions of love and respect just had to whip the crowd up to bring him on. I slumped in a leather armchair and watched my mate do 20 minutes. I loved it. Despite a slight lull half way through I felt I was watching a pro-act. The level of sarcastic abuse he currently receives from almost everyone in the West Midlands Comedy circuit shows how much he is loved.

As I write this I notice I have five more gigs in the book between now and the end of May and that’s it. At that point I’ll make a decision on what I want to do in the short to medium term regarding comedy. There is no getting away from the fact that those five minutes of fake arguing with Tandy was so much fun it’s just complicated the decision even further. Fingers crossed by the end of May my opinions on the world of comedy, and my health, will have calmed down enough for me to take a sensible choice.

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