Stand Up For The First Time
Stand up for the first time. Last night at The Miller. 20 people doing stand up for the first time or almost first time, including me.
I don’t quite know where to start with this one. It was completely mental. Apparently also I was completely mental, although actually I thought I was just being myself – which makes me wonder what the hell I’m up to the rest of the time.
So there was my experience of my own performance, and also the experience of the evening.
My own experience….it actually felt really good and I loved it. I’ve been compering impro shows with Edgar for a couple of years now and we’ve always really enjoyed interacting with the crowd. In fact that’s a lie, I used to hate it, until I realised it was just impro with more offers and 50 actors who haven’t done any impro (the audience). But in impro compering I always reign it in a bit and have to make it about the show not me. But in stand up it was completely not reined in and about me, so was very liberating. In fact the more personal the better – as I had a bit about Dunkirk that I thought would go well but didn’t, but whenever I made it more personal (my face, my Dad) this went down well.
I decided to take the approach of being low status about myself but happy. I also decided it was best to try and learn the set but then jump into it with energy and make mistakes and have fun with them – which is a very impro thing to do. The impro helped loads with looking at the audience and also with the physicality on stage.
Afterwards it became apparent that I’d been a total mentalist, and loads of people said they’d never seen me with so much crazy energy. This was surprising to me, because I thought I was like that with impro. But actually I think that was just how I was at the start of doing impro – I was always giving about a thousand offers a minute and talking too quick, and probably changed after a while and forgot that the people I know now probably didn’t know me then. But this energy seems to be good for stand up, so I’m glad they both have a place.
Also some people seemed to think I’d done it in character, and said “you’re so calm and placid (or something)” normally. Again I was surprised, as far as I was concerned I’d done it as myself. Which makes me wonder who ‘myself’ is, as there seemed to be a large gap between how I perceived myself and how others did.
I think the best way of explaining it is the rest of the time I’m behaving “myself” and fitting in. So my stand up persona seems to be what happens when you remove the “behaving” bit, and he’s very naughty. This is again very similar to the impro concept of an internal judge.
I don’t actually think there is a right or wrong ‘myself’, I think they are both ‘myself’, although it did reveal a few things about me when I thought about it.
I haven’t stayed in a job for longer than about 4 months for the last five years. At about this time I usually want to get up and shout “ARE YOU ALL F***ING MAD? WHAT THE HELL IS THIS ALL ABOUT?”. Which isn’t the best thing to do for your career, although I actually wonder what would happen if I was this honest all the time.
So for a while I thought I was actually mad, and then I found drama and this gave me an outlet where this sort of expression and honesty was actually encouraged and celebrated – amazing!
And then I found with jobs I could always say I was “contracting” – a great cover up for occasional madness – hurrah! Actually I’m incapable of long-term jobs, but in this new world I can sell myself as ‘dyaminc’ instead – ha ha ha ha.
And now I’m naturally drawn to unpredictable things like theatre, comedy, TV and business in varying combinations. These are all very silly things to get involved in, and I approach them with caution. And actually the only reason I now put so much energy into them is I’m completely incapable of anything else and have exhausted my other efforts.
So I’d say my stand up persona appears to be the person ‘in the gaps’ and the person ‘in my head’ that I think is me but nobody else knows as it’s not the socially presented version of me. It’s that little voice that is constantly commenting on things whether I like it or not.
So my observations from the evening:
I was honoured to be in the lighting/music booth for the evening. This is a great place to be – you look like someone mildly important but you’re actually doing bugger all while getting the best seat in the house with your own personal choice of music. It’s like being an usher at a wedding.
It was an amazing evening – considering everyone knew each other there was great variety in personalities, topics, performance styles and general approach.
And there was no set thing that “worked” – what worked for one person might not work for others, everyone had to find their own style. For instance me and Edgar are best chums and for him everyone loved his characters, especially his “yoot”. The sooner he brought his characters in the better, and you could see him doing more. For me my character bits got the least laughs, and the bits where I was just me talking about myself worked best.
One general observation was how important efficiency was in stand up. I think Jimmy Carr talks about this a lot, and will spend ages making the “platforms” to his jokes as efficient as possible.
Nobody looked nervous, which was amazing, in fact that was very amazing. I think that was the advantage of having first time stand ups who happened to have loads of performance experience.
The standard was really high, amazing, from everyone. It felt really special seeing so many varied acts in one place. Really special.
There were no hecklers, I think they were being too nice, NEXT TIME I WANT SOME HECKLERS! You know who you are, you scoundrels. The only place I got heckled was at the bar when I paid for a bottle of Cava with loose change, and I’d quite like that spirit on stage. I have the key to a cupboard in The Miller and would like to lock naughty hecklers in it.
I was amazed by the people who actually wrote short succinct jokes, I didn’t manage that as mine was more a string of embarrassing things about me.
Having a point of view/meaning/argument – this really came across in George’s piece about rubbish men and gave her a set a lovely thread.
Good team spirit, which was the point – the impro team spirit applied to stand up. Could be a powerful thing that.
The Miller – amazing. What lovely staff. Please say thanks to them if you see them. They’re really behind us and working really hard.
Will we do it again? Yes. Interested? Email me, go on!