32 Counties, 32 Gigs part 17; Cavan
So ok, let’s go, 16 counties left to cross off, let’s do this thing, let’s get on the road! We’ve had a little break, we’re rested, and now we’re back with better motivation than ever to get around the country!
Early January dear readers, saw a serious dip in productivity. The short winter evenings and the terrible weather had put the kybosh on a lot of comedy nights over Christmas, and typical New Year slothfullness had crept into my bones. I was still gigging around the city, where I could walk into town or get a bus, but I hadn’t travelled that far into the country in a while. In early January, I got an e-mail asking if I wanted to do a gig in Gowna in Cavan, and seeing the chance to cross an elusive county off the list, jumped at it. I was thrilled to get asked; it was a headline gig, and a nice wee pay packet too that would help with the Christmas bills. Come the lead-up to the gig, however, and I was less than enthusiastic. Sheer, absolute, all-consuming laziness had gripped me. A long week at work meant I was shattered. And on top of all, the break over the Christmas had made me extremely gun-shy.
See, I’d done some HOWLERS over Christmas. A lot of party night comedy gigs where no-one had ANY interest, and the comedians just got at best ignored, at worst ridiculed and humiliated off the stage. A lot of gigs where I’d shown up to perform, been handed a wireless mic (a harbinger of doom at any gig) and been told ok, tell some jokes. The type of gig where you ask them where the stage is, and they turn to you and say “Stage?”…
After a streak of bad gigs, enthusiasm for comedy can be at a perilous low. And so it was for me, driving to my Cavan gig, steered vaguely along the winding country roads by a Google Maps app on my phone which was starting to vex me to the point of wanting to smash it (seriously Google Maps, if you tell me I’m on the one road, don’t refresh a second later and tell me I’m on a different one). A ghastly weather forecast for the night had me thinking that there probably wouldn’t be a huge crowd in. And given that the gig was in such a remote area, I was having nightmare flashbacks to horrible pub gigs in the town of… well, pick one, I’ve done plenty. I just had it in my head that I was gong to spend hours upon hours driving to and from this gig, just to be heckled and ignored. I found my mind drifting to something that I had often thought about, an ethos toward comedy that would mean an end to a lot of woes…
Yeah, deathproofing! There’s a concept! There’s a mission statement, a resolution; no deaths in 2011. No more gigs where you leave the car running in the carpark so you can get the hell out of there before your red face burns the fucking place down. No more doing gigs in front of the door leading to the fucking toilets. No more doing gigs in venues where the crowd has no clue that there even IS a comedy night on until some jokes squeal through the feedback riddled PA system. A way to rule out dying on stage, and very easy to carry out;
1) Don’t do gigs in venues that you haven’t played,
2) Don’t use material that hasn’t proven itself time and time again, and
3) That’s it.
That’s as simple as it gets. A system which almost guarantees that every gig will be a pleasant experience. A set full of material that has been honed to perfection, with any and all dodgy and unreliable jokes weeded out, performed to crowds of audiences that I know will appreciate it. No more traipsing around the country unsure of what is waiting at the other side. No more waking-nightmare gigs in front of crowds of people among whom the politest ones are flat out ignoring you. Let’s not take risks. Let’s just rock the venues we know we can rock.
Every time I consider the concept of deathproofing, I consider what I would have missed if I’d never done all those shitty gigs over the years. Yeah, it was a pain in the hole getting humiliated and ridiculed up and down the country all those times, getting jeered and booed, but it thickened my skin and strengthened my act. Every death is a lesson in itself, and I’ve always said that you learn more from dying on the high hole of your arse than you do from a brilliant God-I-wish-I’d-videoed-that Stormer. Comedy is like anything else; if you don’t practice, if you don’t challenge yourself, you will atrophy. Soldiers who were victorious and celebrated within their castle walls for too long became bloated and lazy, and were not fit to defend themselves and their womenfolk when the Saracens attacked (just another nugget of knowledge gleaned from listening to Jinx Lennon there). Couple this with the fact that all the deaths I’ve ever had were at gigs I’ve BEGGED FOR, and was DAMN GLAD to have gotten at the time. What’s happening here is I’ve gotten too comfortable, too lazy. Too spoiled. So yeah Gerry, you stay at home. Let us know how long it takes for the phone to ring. And don’t bother testing yourself by writing new material; let us know how long it takes until people are sick listening to the same shit over and over again, until those jokes that are so fun to perform are being trotted out in a bored, hacky fashion. The only way to progress in comedy is not by relaxing the pace, but by upping it. So every gig is appreciated; as for whether they’ll be as good as you would hope is not something that can be banked on. Gigs that you expect to be horrendous can transpire to be great experiences, and “easy” gigs, ones that you expect to be no problem, can be tooth pulling nightmares.
In the end, I don’t know what I was shitting it for. The venue was lovely, with a great stage, lighting and sound set-up. Graham Storey did a hell of a job as MC, and Gary Lynch and Geo did rocking sets too. The cold winters night kept a lot of punters away, but those that showed up were wonderful; hugely responsive and great fun to play to (in fact, you couldn’t get me off the stage; I ended up doing almost an hour). Cavan is a border county similar to my home county of Monaghan, and it’s people are very similar to those I’ve grown up with and lived with my whole life; why I ever doubted their capacity to have a good night and enjoy a comedy show is beyond me. So my first big gig of the year shook me out of my stupor and got me revved up to start 2011 as I mean to finish it; travelling the country and playing to the best of my abilities, to small crowds or big, come rain or snow. An interesting way to end this blog, seeing as how on my way home from Cavan, it did indeed start to snow… and freeze… and lower a zero-visibility fog over the small country roads, resulting in me missing every signpost and ending up somewhere the far side of Granard at half three in the morning, car spun sideways on the road, wandering around looking for any indication as to where the fuck I should be going.