There’ll always come a moment when I’m onstage, about halfway through my set, where I’ll look out over the crowd and wonder what the fuck to do next. Maybe the night has being going well and I want to ensure that the audience continue having a good time. Maybe there’s been a fair few hiccups and quiet spots and I need to do something to turn it around. Maybe I’ve misjudged them. Maybe there are as many people who want to hear more as there are those who would rather if I just wrapped it up. Maybe I’m exhausted and I need a minute to dig deep to get the adrenaline going so that I can finish what I’ve started. Maybe I just need that quick instant to mentally scan my material, take a deep breath, remember where I was, focus on where I’m going, and remember what it is I’m here to do. You can’t just quit halfway through. You didn’t sign up to do a half job. Just focus. You can fuck this up at any minute if you get too complacent. You can start getting too smart and turn the crowd against you. You can wreck any bit of goodwill you’ve built up so far in the blink of an eye. You would have no-one to blame but yourself.
Let’s not do that. Let’s tell some stories. Let’s finish this.
And then I look back over the crowd and say ok, lets go.
For new readers; that’s me up there, and my name is Gerry McBride. I’ve been having a go at being a stand-up comedian in Ireland for the past three years. It’s taken that long to get my name out there, to be seen by promoters and to get trusted enough to be booked. As for my standing in comedy as of now, I always say that if I were a football team I’d be Stoke FC. Recently moved up from the lower divisions, still very much a low-to-mid-table side, good in certain aspects of the game and lacking in others. Capable of pulling off enough high profile wins and scoreless draws to remain relevant, but not immune to the odd crushing defeat, enough to remind me that I still have a lot of work to do if I ever want to make it as a top-flight team. And so it went for me for the first few years; every so often, I’d go out and have a fantastic night of comedy that felt like a solid step in the right direction. And other nights…
Around about this time last year, however, I started to get very unmotivated and beleaguered. To shake things up a bit, I decided to set myself a wee challenge; to perform a stand-up comedy gig in each one of the 32 counties in Ireland. For every county I performed in, I would write an online diary entry, so in the end I would have a full account of the travels I’d made, the experiences I’d had, as well as posting the occasionally article about some of the other comedians that I had met along the way. So last March, casting aside any gigs I had done up to that point, I started from scratch and went county by county around this fair island.
Counties in red are DONE. If you would like to read up on a county that I’ve performed in, you can click on the relevant tag on the right hand side of the page. For every county I do, I try to make the blog a bit more than just “So today I went to X, and did a gig with Y”. Each entry will be more about things that I learn along the way that will hopefully make into a better comedian. I’ve faced hecklers in County Down and been completely ignored in County Louth. But I’ve triumphed in County Laois and overcome my nerves in County Wicklow. I’ve played tiny pubs in County Longford and large venues in County Waterford. Every gig is different. Every gig teaches something new.
Now, the reason for the three month hiatus of No Punchline is simple; the gigs dried up. If you look at the map above, you’ll see that a lot of the counties done so far are ones that would have comedy gigs happening fairly often. Up and down the east coast, there are plenty of comedy nights run in satellite towns on the commuter belt around Dublin, and plenty of comedians to run gigs in their home towns etc. Having reached 16 blogs done, the new counties started to trickle in sloowly, with new blogs appearing weeks and weeks apart. So the decision was made to hold off for a few months getting six or seven in hand, so that when the blog re-appeared I could have a new county to talk about every ten days or so (and thankfully that has happened, so updates shouldn’t be as infrequent as they had been). Second, the thing that was beginning to happen was a slide in quality of my onstage work, as the toll of bashing out blogs meant that there was less time to work on material. So, there was that. The past few blog-free months have left me free to work on new stuff for the stage, which in turn has helped me book more gigs. Third, I had UPC installed and got hooked on Mythbusters.
And this I feel is where I really let myself slide in the past few months; procrastination, laziness. I didn’t chase as many gigs. I didn’t write new material. I just sat up after work and watched telly and pissed around online. And online, dear readers… that’s a dangerous place. With a laptop in front of me and no blogs to write, I found myself getting involved in every online pile-on and bitching fest there was (and fuck knows, starting a few myself of my own via a combination of self-importance and downright idiocy). It seemed like the last three months I’ve been trying to eradicate all the work I did in the three years before. So yeah, you had better believe that it’s blog time again. I need something to focus on, something to work at. A project that’ll keep me from sabotaging myself, to keep me out of trouble, as it has transpired that when I’m not doing the one thing I’m anyway good at…
So hopefully you’ll stay tuned as I set off round the back 16, armed with a few good jokes and above all else, a healthy dose of delusion. Delusion in comedy is common; who here among us hasn’t seen a new act bomb onstage with terrible material and awful stage skills, and not said to themselves, how can they be so deluded to get onstage? I know I’ve said things like that, and to anyone I was talking about at the time, I’d like to apologize; Especially when you take into account the fact that I’m probably the most deluded comedian working in Ireland today. I’ve been deluded in the past when I’ve put myself forward for gigs I wasn’t ready for yet. I’m deluded enough to think that I’m good enough to get certain gigs now, that I’m on a certain level that I’m almost certainly nowhere near. I’m deluded enough to think that I’m going to actually complete the 32 county challenge I’ve set myself, and I’m deluded enough to think that it may be something that people will want to read about. I’m delusional enough to peek round the curtain at an audience before a gig and think yeah, I’ve got something worth these peoples money. I’m delusional enough to think that I’m doing some good; that in these tough uncertain times, me and those like me can go from town to town bringing some humour and some levity, that we can help people have a good time when there’s fuck all else to smile about.
Delusion is a powerful motivation. If I just keep telling myself that I can do this, then Christ, I just might. Because believe me; if I were to shake off my delusions and get a good dose of reality, if I were to sit down and fully accept how unlikely it actually is that I’ll succeed, if I sit down and count how few people actually “make” it, if I stopped to look at the material I use and measure it against those who have inspired me, if I looked out at an audience and fully came to grips with the fact that in a few moments time I have to stand in front of their judging eyes and make each one of them believe that leaving the house tonight wasn’t a waste of their time… I’d probably quit and get a new hobby.
So that’s the plan. Hopefully by the time I finish this challenge, I’ll have learned enough to be the best comedian I can be. It’s time to do something worth talking about. This is not an ego trip. This is an apprenticeship. It remains to be seen whether or not it will take me anywhere, but fuck it, I’m going to try, until I’m struck dumb or the wheels fall off my fucking car. Hopefully, you’ll all enjoy the ride. And hey, if nothing else, in years we’ll be able to look back and pinpoint the exact time I fucked everything up, right?