It’s Part 2 of the Mark Hanratty Energy Drink Review Blog!!

Late nights, early mornings; the world of stand-up comedy can take its toll on both body and mind, so it’s important to give oneself time to relax and rejuvenate…  maybe take a break from gigging, book oneself into a spa for a weekend, just let all stresses and strains slip into the background and emerge refreshed and… nah, bollox to that. What you need to do is keep the head down and plough on, with the help of some serious cocktails of sugar and caffeine. Who the fuck cares about long-term heart-tissue erosion? You need to chug down some energy drinks in the style of a mad scientist turning himself into a monster.

I've cracked it! No more sleepily veering into the path of oncoming trucks on the M4 for me!

But with so many energy drinks on the market, how can we know which ones will carry us to that gig in Borris-In-Ossory, and which ones will abandon us and leave us falling asleep at a red light in Clane? Well, it’s times like this you have to turn to Improv genius and Energy Drink connoisseur Mark Hanratty!

Mark looks DELIGHTED.

Mark has already contributed one gut-bursting article on energy drinks, (which you can read here) and returns today with a review of concentrated energy shots, because who the fuck needs tooth enamel, right? Take it away, my friend…

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There are many different reasons why somebody might need an energy drink to keep them awake. Like Gerry, you may be a comedian, trying to stay awake on the long journey back from a gig. You might be working a day job, and trying to keep yourself from dropping off after a rough night of sleep. Or you might be Cillian Murphy, trying to safeguard yourself from a sneaky Leonardo DiCaprio intent on tampering with your dreams. Whatever the reason, we all need a bit of a pick-me-up now and again, and a can of energy drink is the choice of many. But what about those guys who are just so busy, they don’t have time for a 250ml drink? When the five minutes needed to skull a Red Bull is a luxury you can’t afford, you, my friend, need an Energy Drink Shot.

Energy Drink Shots are one off the offshoots of the energy drink craze of the late 90s. Sold in most off-licenses, newsagents, and some supermarkets, they promise the kick you need in just a couple of gulps. They became most widely available around 2007 or 2008, and by this point there’s a wide range of them on the market. We’ll be putting three of them through their paces- “5 Hour Energy”, “Red Bull Energy Shot” and “Revamp”. I tested each shot out under a different scenario: Work, Rest, and Play.

“5 Hour Energy”

“5 Hour Energy” is, according to Wikipedia, the biggest-selling energy drink shot in the US, and the one that kicked off the imitators. It comes in various fruit flavours, with Orange being the one I tried. Taste-wise, it’s got an incredible bitter, acidic tang off it. It leaves something of a powdery taste in the mouth afterwards, and it’s almost nausea inducing. It can leave one with a queasiness after drinking a big gulp of it. It’s possible to drink the whole bottle in a single go, but the sharp taste it has means it’s probably better to finish it off with a series of smaller sips.

WORK

I tried this bad boy on my way to work one morning. I had been gigging with the Absurders the night before, and was so pumped with adrenaline afterwards that by the time the alarm rang at 6am, I hadn’t had a wink of sleep. No better time to give the drink its test – it was going to be a tough day for me, just trying to stay awake.

As the name implies, the energy that this drink gives is intended to last for five hours. It also promises no sugar crash – that horrible comedown seasoned energy drink enthusiasts experience when the taurine, caffeine and sugar burn out of your system and you’re forced to run off the body’s natural energy. Health warnings on the back advise against drinking the shot if you are pregnant or under the age of 12. Since I’m from Tallaght, I know some people who have two reasons not to drink it. “Feel it in minutes- lasts for hours!” claims the bottle. The low-brow comedian in me saw a double meaning behind this slogan, but the catering assistant in me had work to do.

Unlike the conventional energy drinks, where the effects can be felt instantly, 5- Hour Energy has a slow-burning effect. You don’t get the dizzying sense of euphoria or inability to sit still that Red Bull provides. However, what you do get is the feeling of a slow release of energy thoughout the day. Despite my lack of sleep, I felt fully able to perform the day’s duties, and didn’t need to go to bed until 7:30pm that night. I didn’t have a sugar rush, but I didn’t doze off while washing the dishes either. It’s just a shame that the taste is so bitter.

NB – Don’t make the mistake that one 22- year old woman did recently; that is, to drink ten bottles of 5 Hour Energy a day. Unless of course, you fancy jaundice. The bottle points out that two a day should be your limit.

“Revamp”

Revamp is a drink, targeted at the ultra- cool, super- funky youth, man! They’ve even got a breakdancer on their bottle! This drink is NOT for squares, daddio!

It’s got an overpowering, medicine-like taste off it. It was a genuine chore drinking it;  it tastes absolutely foul, and reminds one of gone-off Calpol. Revamp’s main selling point is that it markets itself as a hangover cure, with the slogan “Get up. Feel good. Carry on”. Poster advertising also points towards its ability to induce wellbeing after a heavy night of boozing. Since I don’t drink, and have as a result never had a hangover, I can only imagine what one must feel like through portrayals in the media. However, if I did ever wake up to find a tiger in my bathroom or a Mike Tyson- style tattoo on my face, knocking back a Revamp would be far from my mind. In fact, when I did drink it, it only induced what I believe to be hangover symptoms such as nausea and a sour taste in my mouth. It also has its very own website and Facebook page, including a questionnaire that calls you a “party pooper” if you don’t drink, and should get some bottles of Revamp to help you liven up. Thanks guys! There’s also quotes from Revamp drinkers, talking about how the drink helps them through the day after a heavy night of drinking. The quotes are broken down into age groups, with 20-25 being the youngest. This being Ireland, there are people a LOT younger than that who need to cope with hangovers.The site has a list of the drink’s ingredients, and what each can do. Inositol, for example, can help with depression, apparently. Gerry wrote in his blog a while ago, that those suffering depression would be best to open up to somebody they trust. Don’t bother guys- just drink a Revamp instead!

REST

I drank this while sitting at home one afternoon, watching television. Other than the afore mentioned nausea and sour taste, I got nothing from this. Perhaps it really works best as a hangover cure. People who don’t down ridiculous amounts of booze to begin with won’t get anything out of Revamp.

“Red Bull Energy Shot”

Red Bull! My favourite energy drink, and the world’s most popular way of struggling though another bleary-eyed day at the office. Surely you, in shot form, won’t let me down, right?

Red Bull Energy Shot makes the same claims as its big brother Red Bull. It promises improved concentration and increased vigilance. It contains the same ingredients as Red Bull, only it’s much more concentrated- it has the same amount of caffeine as a can, although it’s in a bottle a quarter of the size. Taste- wise, it doesn’t offer the same refreshing sense that a can does, and without the fizz the shot can feel quite dull. It has a thick, syrupy texture, and is not unpleasant to drink, but doesn’t offer an enjoyable experience either.

PLAY

Since the shot claims to “improve performance”, I thought I’d take a shot of it before performing onstage with the Absurders in Comedy HaHa in the Mercantile (and with my girlfriend away for two weeks I wouldn’t be doing any other kind of “performing” in the near future, ho ho). Given that the shot contains such a high percentage of caffeine I expected much more of a buzz out of it, but my system just didn’t register any kind of boost. I was a little disappointed – I had expected to be much perkier after the shot but no.

Overall, 5 Hour Energy is the shot of choice. It does the job despite its bitterness, but the taste is not as awful as Revamp.

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Once again, big thanks to Mark for his time and his liver damage. Remember to catch Mark and his fellow Absurders as they bring a rollercoaster of improv madness to the Belvedere Hotel every second Sunday!

32 Counties, 32 Gigs part 21; Kerry

My recent trip to Kerry was a double-header over two nights; Killarney on the Friday night, Cahirciveen on Saturday. Good news all around, as it gave me a nice weekend away around the beautiful Ring of Kerry, and also that it was double value to do two gigs so far away from home. I’m normally very stoic about driving distances to gigs, and think nothing about driving anywhere at anytime, but even I have to admit that to Kerry and back  is quite the roadtrip. Kerry is FAR the fuck away. In fact, the gig in Cahirciveen holds my record for furthest the fuck away gig I’ve ever done in Ireland, a record that probably won’t be broken (unless there’s some small-print stipulation in the No Punchline clause that states I have to gig on all the islands as well).

You're not part of the deal, Arranmore!

The five hours there, five hours back journey really hammered home the work aspect of comedy life, and the long nights spent driving and driving. It’s to my great advantage that hey; I love driving. I would count it as one of my freakin hobbies, frankly. It stems from a time before comedy, when my Dad was in hospital for nearly six months and I would spend every single night of that driving the rest of the family the hundred mile round trip to see him. After we got him home safe and sound, I was hardwired to drive long distances. Once a week I would get in the car and just go on wee trips, to no-where in particular. “How the fuck did I end up in Enniskillen?”, I recall saying to myself one night at half twelve. I needed no prompting to drive long distances for very little reason.  So when I decided to give comedy a go, it was to my benefit that I was able to be at any gig, anywhere. “I know you’re in Monaghan, but is there any chance you could be in Dublin by nine to fill in an open spot?, I’d be asked. No problems, I ‘d say.

"Sure wasn't I going up to get chips anyways"

I have no problems admitting that when I was starting out in comedy, if I hadn’t got the means to get myself to gigs, I wouldn’t be gigging now. The fact that it was no hassle to get me to and from a venue meant a lot of promoters were more inclined to book me for open spots around the country and the minute I realised this, I played it up big time. After six months of just asking and asking and asking for gigs, it was when I turned round and offered something in return, that I started to get booked a bit more.  It became less of what a promoter could do for me, and more what I could do to help him out. I believe my earlier self-promoting emails went along the lines of;

Hello,

My Name is Gerry McBride and I am a new comedian, trying to get as many gigs as possible. If you have any open spots at your club, I would love an oppurtunity. So far I have gigged in the Ha’Penny Inn in Dublin, the Craichouse in Cork, and also some Gigs in Belfast and Bray. IHAVEACARANDCANGIVEYOURHEADLINERALIFT If you have anything available in the coming months, I’d appreciate it greatly,

Thank You,

Gerry McBride

And that was how I got booked until enough people had seen me to give me the benefit of the doubt. And it still happens to this day; someone on a bill that was supposed to drive everyone to the gig drops out, and the promoter goes to the list not marked “Comedians who I would love to play at this venue” but to the list marked “Comedians who know how to at least face the right way and can drive”. And to anyone who like me can offer that service and soak up all those luvverly gigs, it’s freakin Mardi Gras. But know this; your success in this endeavour will bring down the full wrath of the Comedy Bitteratti. Yes dear readers, not everyone in comedy wishes you well, and those that don’t will always find some way to diminish your achievements, to take the sting out of their own shortcomings. In this case, they’ll bring out the “Only people who can drive get ahead in this business ” hammer.

Pictured; probable car-owners.

But based on my own experiences, I must admit… Maybe the Bitterati have a point this time. I mean, before I was any way competent onstage, I was getting booked based solely on the fact that I could transport other acts, or just get myself to the venue without being a massive pain in the balls for the promoter. In those instances, there were many other acts that would have been far more deserving of my spot. Being serious for a minute, I believe that emerging talent is poorly served in comedy; the tenacious win out over the talented. Should this be the case? It seems to be the same in most arts; if you’re going to be in a band, you’re going to need a van. Does this leave the more talented people by the wayside? Should there be in place a system that spots emerging talent and helps them along, or should it be the case that the good new acts get stuck playing their local clubs while the less deserving gig up and down the country based solely on the fact that they can transport themselves, hoping that they’ll EVENTUALLY get good enough to be booked on merit? Of all the accolades that I’d like to see on a poster of myself, “Persistent” and “Passed the NCT” are ones I’d rather omit, to be honest.

Just as I was starting to side with the Bitterati though, I remembered the guy who gigged with me down in both my Kerry gigs; young Cavanite (no, not the stuff they froze Han Solo in) David Reilly. Here’s a guy with lovely material, great style and get this; no car. And here he was gigging on the far end of the fucking country. He’d gotten trains, busses, bummed lifts, done everything he could just to perform to an audience. To the Bitterati, I say THAT’S how you get ahead in comedy- not through persistence, through passion. Fuck how CAN you do it, how much do you WANT to do it. That’s how you get ahead in not just comedy, but in anything you want to achieve. I could be talking shit here, but if I am then answer me this; why is it that when I get the call offering a gig if I can give someone a lift, nine times out of ten it’s the HEADLINER that needs it? How did he get to be the headliner if he doesn’t drive?

You said it, hat.

So yes in the early days, I was getting picked for gigs just because I could get to them and give lifts, but let me tell you; that’ll only last so long. When I really started getting booked was when I started putting the journey time to good use. It’s very possible that when I look back over my time in comedy, I’ll be able to say that the true turning point for me, when things started to pick up and I started to get better, was the week after I snapped the aerial off the roof going through a carwash. With no radio to entertain me, I’d just do my set over and over again. It’s an hour and a half from Monaghan to Dublin, let alone Cork… that’s plenty of driving time to have a seven-minute open slot learned off by heart, and it’s a long, solemn journey on the way back after dying on your hole, with plenty of time to reflect on where it all went tits-to-the-sky and how you can do better next time. And whether by bus, train or car travel is expensive; there will come a point where it cripples you so much that you have to get better or you have to quit. You simply cannot afford to continue if you aren’t willing to improve. I’ve totted up roughly what it cost me driving to do my first 100 open mic slots in my early years, and it’s a figure far too vulgar to mention in polite society.

SRSLY, toll charges alone are something like 500 euro.

The notion that only those with cars are those who get ahead in comedy is an insulting one. The road is a cruel Drill Instructor, there to weed out all who don’t have the fire in their belly to put in the effort needed to improve. There are many ways to get to gigs and if you’re passionate enough to want to perform, you’ll fucking walk if necessary. The further away the gig is, the better; it’s more time to practise, getting each line, each phrase, each punchline down to a tee. By the time you reach a gig 300 miles away from where you’ve started, you’ve got too much invested in it to half-ass the job. There wasn’t huge audiences waiting for me and David in Kerry, but we went out like there was anyway. After going all that way, there was no other option. Looking at David onstage I could see that here’s a guy who is going to do great things in comedy; not only has he got the material, he’s got the guts and the thousand-yard focus. As for me, I’m going to stick to a gameplan that has served me well so far; just keep driving until the engine falls out.

SO fucking staged.

Oh, and just a wee postscript here… I’m sorry if I was arrogant or dismissive earlier in this post; let me just say now that I would LOVE a gig in Arranmore. If anyone is running a club in Arranmore, I’m your man.

No Punchline on Failed Human

During last weeks look at the comedians from Northern Ireland, I mentioned one thing over and over; Failed Human, the comedy blog and podcast of Morgan Hearst.

Just this week, Morgan interviewed me for Failed Human, and we had a great chat about comedy, material, dying onstage and the work aspect of comedy. You can head over to Failed Human to check out all Morgans podcasts, and you can listen to our wee natter on the player below.

Fellow Comedians; The Northern Assembly

This week on No Punchline, I’m going to introduce you to the latest and greatest of the comedians from Northern Ireland, guys that I’ve gigged with through the counties of the north who represent the best of the breakthrough Northern Acts and rank among the funniest new guys on the whole island. These lads are starting to appear more and more on the southern circuit (just as southern acts are starting to migrate north), but there may still be loads of promoters who haven’t heard of them yet; well, here’s a wee profile on some of my favourites (passing over some of the higher up lads who don’t really need the exposure), promising to add that distinctive Northern Flavour to any comedy night, anywhere.

Morgan Hearst

First up, Morgan Hearst. I’ve gigged with Morgan many, many times and he’s been a crowd favourite every time. Morgan is the man behind comedy podcast and blog Failed Human, which I will be referencing more and more through this post as it features most of the acts I’m talking about.

You can visit Failed Human here;

Failed Human

Ruairdhi Ward

Oh yeah; Ruairdhri will rock the shit out of you. I first met this guy at a ComedyDublin gig in the Belvedere ages ago, where he was storming the place (and as you may recall; that gig was usually as tough as boots). I’ve never seen the guy do anything other than rip it up. You can listen to Ruairdhi on Failed Human, where you’ll also hear him talk about his comedy alter-ego; a bizarre yet hilarious creation called Harry Stilton. Get acquainted with Harry in the following video;

Marcus Keeley

And if you want to know more about the other star of that clip, Oscar Krisp; look no further! Marcus Keeley is one of the more cerebral acts in the north, with intelligent, deadpan material that commands attention and rewards it tenfold. He’s also a hard worker behind the scenes, with a Youtube channel-full of comedy videos showing the life of a Superstar Poet/ Comedian… For example;

Adam Laughlin

Need an MC? Adam is your guy; he’s been the host for almost half of the gigs I’ve done up north, and has a style that keeps audiences bubbling with energy, which also translates into his peerless solo act. But hey, enough of my gushing, listen to Adam speak to Morgan Hearst on one of the best episodes of Failed Human thus far;

Failed Human; Adam Laughlin

Shane Todd

I met Shane while doing my first ever gig up North (and his first gig ever). Since then we’ve constantly crossed paths both north and south, and he continues to just keep getting better. On top of his stand-up, Shane does several jobs for websites and for radio, including comedy interviews for northern entertainment hub Panic Dots; listen here as he interviews Scott Capurro, and search out the other interviews on the same site!

Panic Dots

Colin Geddis

I’ve gushed about this guy on No Punchline before, but fuck it, here it is again; Colin Geddis is the powerhouse responsible for the hilarious I Am Fighter, and a top-notch stand up act too. On top of all this, he’s part of the team that brings you entertainment podcast Audio Picnic, which you can find here on iTunes

Audio Picnic

And for old times sake, here’s another look at our first meeting with Barry “The Blender” Henderson;

Mickey Bartlett

The host with the most, Mickey is a magician when it comes to keeping law and order in unruly rooms with a rapid-fire style full of fantastic gags. A regular MC in Masons in Derry and The Empire in Belfast, Mickey has the skills and material to rock any room he’s put it, and as the following video shows, he’s no stranger to divilment either!

Magic George

Gorge Quinn AKA Magic George; comedian, magician, showman extraordinaire. George brings his inimitable style to every gig he does, mixing brilliant jokes with mind-bending magic tricks. You can find out more about George here;

Magic George

Sean Hegarty

Blink and you’ll miss them; Sean Hegarty effortlessly spits out one-liners quicker than you can absorb them. I’ve seen Sean gig all over the country, rocking the shit out of audiences every single time, making him not one of my favourite Northern comedians, but one of my favourite comedians, full stop. You can catch up with Sean on his website;

Sean Hegarty

Paddy McGaughey

Pronounced exactly the way it’s spelled, Paddy McGaughey is straight up one of the soundest, funniest guys providing grins up north.On top of his own work as a stand-up, Paddy also runs the Braid Comedy Club; here’s a wee video from Failed Human to show us free-staters with our stairwells the true OPULENCE prevalent in northern green rooms;

Failed Human; Paddy McGaughey

And for extra giggles here’s Paddys take on, eh, landscape gardening ;

Terry Keyes

Last but not least is Omagh Man Terry Keyes, who on top of working his arse off running his monthly club and gigging with his trademark energetic style all over the north, is plugging away at getting his Comedy Sports quiz “Load of Balls” off the ground, bringing together as much of the norths comedy talent as is possible. You can watch the pilot for Load of Balls here;

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg folks; there’s dozens more great acts up North, so many so that I’ll have to do a second blog down the line to cram everyone in. Until then, take a look at the links above, and start getting these guys down south!

32 Counties, 32 Gigs part 20; Leitrim

Well, never let it be said that I didn’t get fair warning about my recent trip to Leitrim; I was contacted a week beforehand by a fellow comedian who presented the project to me in a frank and upfront manner, stating from the off that he had turned down what was probably going to be a rough gig that he had zero interest in, and would I be interested in doing it. Well, I thought to myself,  Leitrim is an elusive county, plus the pay is nice, my car needs to be taxed, I’m free that night and I’m a total gig prostitute… sign me up!

OY.

Oy indeed; what was on the agenda was not a straight-up gig, but instead a MC slot at a local heat of a nationwide beauty pageant. My job was to compere the night, introduce guests, bring on the participants, chat to them, chat to the audience, keep the night moving and keep everyone entertained. If you’re thinking to yourself that this sounds a lot like the Lovely Girls competition from Father Ted, well….

....You'd be basically 100% accurate.

But whereas more seasoned comics (or indeed those with even a modicum of artistic integrity) would steer clear of such an event, I embraced the opportunity to try my hand at a straight hosting gig; I wouldn’t be doing a “set” as such, I had to go out and be personable and charming and shit. So off I went to Carrick-On-Shannon on a warm Summers evening, to the local nightclub where the event was being held. And though I may have been a little flippant earlier in calling it a “Lovely Girls Competition”, they really were lovely ladies each and every one, and the organisers and proprietors were extremely welcoming and professional. Hell, I even got to meet the special guest judge; the original Lovely Girl herself, Andrea Roche.

Me and Andrea, comparing chests.

So really, all anyone was worried about was whether or not I would make a total fuck of the whole thing. I reassured them that this wasn’t my first time MCing, that I’d done plenty of hosting gigs at comedy clubs but this night was of course going to be different. See, my MCing is in need of SERIOUS work, given that what I usually do is just go out with my set diced up into five minute segments to drop in here and there before bringing on acts. All year I’ve been doing as much hosting as I can to get out of my bad habits and get better, and tonight in Leitrim it was all going to be put to the test seeing as how I couldn’t just fall back on the ol’ reliable gags when the patter dried up. So all I had to do was take a look at what makes a really great MC, and try my best to replicate it…

For starters, being an MC is pretty daunting. You’ve got to be the first guy up onstage, plunging straight into an as yet untested room. Are these people nice? Are they a shower of bastards? The MC has to be the first guy to wade in onstage and find out. And not only that, but he’s the one guy who can’t start with a joke; first thing he’s got to do is lay down the rules.

"Listen up you pukes, we have a show lined up which you WILL laugh at. You WILL turn off your phones and shut your holes, or I will DEFINITELY fuck you all up"

To any non-comedians reading this; doesn’t that sound like the most awkwardest task of all time? To be the guy to stroll out into a room of people who are chatting among themselves and tell them to STOP enjoying themselves, only to turn around seconds later and tell them that the time has come for them to START enjoying themselves again, only this time there’s to be no chatting, they have to turn their phones off and sit the fuck down while there’s a guy onstage. There is a very slim margin for error with the level of strictness an MC should utilise; hit them too hard and the night is off to a bad start, they’ll get frosty, turn their noses up at your gags and not be fully invested in the other performers. Hit them too soft, and they won’t shut the hell up, and run roughshod over the whole night. A good MC can stroll out and calm a room, welcome everyone, tell them the general layout of the night and get on their side enough that when he asks them to be good little boys and girls and enjoy the funny people that he’s about to bring on, then that’s exactly what they do. In my mind, all this has to be done in less than a minute for a night to be off to a good start.

Once the housekeeping is out of the way, an MC is free to proceed with the night as he wishes. There are those MCs who choose to launch into their own set and get the crowd hyped up that way, or there are those that spend time warming up the room so that when the acts can come out, they rock the bollox off it. For ages I was the first kind; I’d have my set all chopped up into segments which, if the night was going well, I’d hog the stage and have to be dragged off (and if I started to bomb I’d just bring an act on real quick to save MY ass). To any acts that have in the past had to wait patiently in the wings as I poured Liquid Nitrogen on the atmosphere in the room, I do apologise. What I’ve tried to do in recent months is to go out and find out as much about the crowd as I can (which any comedian waiting to go on can then use to their advantage when making last minute set changes and the like). This I do by just… well, just chatting with them, getting to know them table by table, engaging in friendly banter in a so-who’s-from-out-of-town style; a technique favoured by several highly respected MCs, generally enjoyed by yer average comedy audience, and despised by elitist navel-gazing comedy snobs.

"He iz not telling ze jokes! He iz zimply azking zem vere dey are from! How long have zey been going out! Vot iz it zey vork at! Zis iz not comedy!"

So yeah, ok, it can be a bit hacky to start picking on people in the audience, but at the same time it requires a large degree of improvisational skill and timing to build up a good atmosphere in a room, a lot more than just ok-we’re-going-to-start-the-cheer-from-this-side histronics. The MCs that blow my mind are the ones that can get everyone on board by finding out the names, occupations and origins of the bulk of the room and in a matter of seconds make up a wee routine or skit based on that information. I’m watching these guys thinking DAMN that’s fast… how the hell can they do that? When you see the same guy MC a few times, you can start to se the strings a wee bit, but overall what you’re looking at is either a guy who has incredibly fast comedy improvisation technique, or has literally gone through every possibly occupation and place of origin (and you must NOT omit anywhere, as an audience can be from even the most unlikely of backgrounds; like a few weeks ago when I was in Sheebeeen Chic and half the audience was from Chad, for fucks sake) and written a joke pertaining to it. Either way, that’s a hell of a lot of work to go into meeting and greeting a comedy audience. Me, I can honour the “So where are you guys from?” part, although I have yet to master any actual, eh, comebacks, relying instead on some serious bluffing and high-energy tomfoolery until the audience laughs at some perceived notion that what I’m doing is funny and/or relevant.

"That WAS a good comeback. You don't NEED to hear an actual joke"

As you get more and more MC work, it starts to get a wee bit easier… if you’re like me, you usually come up with your best comebacks and zingers while analyzing the gig on the drive home, in a shit-you-know-what-I-shoulda-said kinda way. The best MCs are the ones that can think of that stuff on the spot, and mix it in with topical of-the-week material to create an atmosphere which relaxes and entertains the audience so that they’re prepped and ready for the acts to come on. Of course, that’s providing that all is lovely and well and that the crowd aren’t the aforementioned shower-of-bastards, in which case MCing becomes less of an ice-breaking and introduction exercise,  and more of a hostile riot-police standoff situation as you try to get everyone to have a bit of fucking decorum.

"This is your last warning. I'm about to bring on the first act. Return to your seats or I will release the dogs. Ok, I need you to start your applause at a 2, we're going to build it up to a 10..."

This is what can turn MCing from a fun gig to straight up Hard Work; you’re not there to have a great gig, you’re there to make sure the other acts have a great gig. This can mean being the bad guy in the eyes of the audience; the authority figure who came out like a primary school teacher telling us when it was time for little break and big break. When we the audience got a bit chatty, this asshole on stage told us to shush like we were fucking children, then he chastised us when our phone went off and told us not to be going to the bar during acts. Fuck this guy! Get him off the stage and bring on a guy that will just straight up tell us some jokes!… And then you introduce an act and everyone has a great time. If the act does well and the room is on a high, then the MC has to come back out and not kill that buzz; usually when I’m introducing an act after the first guy has rocked it, I’ll do fuck all except just bring the next guy on. However, if the room is now so sugar-rushed that they’re giddy and not interested,  it’s back to being the nanny telling all the boys and girls to settle down. And you’re the bad guy AGAIN. If the first act didn’t do well, it’s back to square one trying to raise the playing field for the next act. If there is some cunt in the crowd heckling throughout, the MC has to deal with him in a manner that he behaves himself when the acts are on. If half the crowd fucked off to the bar the minute the previous act finished, the MC has to fill the time until everyone is settled back into place, so the next act doesn’t come on to a half empty room (or worse, a room where everyone gradually makes their way back to their seats during his routine; stepping on punchlines and generally being a fucking nuisance). MCing is HARD WORK. You would love to just do your material and join in the fun, but your job instead is to be the guy that takes one for the team; the guy who throws himself on a grenade so that the squad doesn’t bear the brunt of it, the secret service agent who jumped in front of a bullet to save the president.

"groooo... uhhhh.... Folks, we'd like to.... thank you all for coming here tonight.... grrraaaa.... one more time, for all the acts we seen tonight...."

And after all that air-traffic controller levels of effort and concentration, after making sure not to fuck up and panic and introduce acts in the wrong order and remember everyones name, after moving things around to accommodate for the acts that wouldn’t get off the fucking stage and went way over time, after facing off against some shithead heckler until he got the message so that the acts didn’t have to deal with him, after trying to make sure everyone went on to a well warmed-up crowd by being the guy standing there filling air as best you could while the barstaff started collecting empty glasses the SECOND they seen you back onstage, after playing a game of Banter Russian Roulette with the crowd where if you get TOO cheeky and say the wrong thing to the wrong person it could fuck up the whole night, after ALL that, what thanks to you get from the crowd?

Someone will come up to you after the gig and say “Fair play, that was a good night, the comedians were brilliant… here, you’re fairly funny yourself, have you ever thought about giving the comedy a go?”

So with all this in mind, I took to the stage in Leitrim to host the night, knowing that I didn’t have the failsafe of switching into comedy routine mode should the night go awry. And I will admit, the night served to show that when it comes to MCing, I need a lot of work. My banter with the crowd and with the girls was weak, my lack of stage presence made the crowd uninterested and bored, and I failed to deal properly with some minor heckling (you wouldn’t expect heckling at this kind of thing, but some overly red-blooded males in the audience got a bit lascivious and seeing as I wasn’t allowed to swear, I wasn’t allowed to tell them to go home and continue fucking their livestock). Had I been at a comedy gig, I would have reached for the safety net of a few tried and tested gags to haul my ass through, but instead I had to, y’know, make an effort to be a real host. It was a learning experience which I was very thankful for, and a testament to how much hard work the MCs I admire must have gone through to make their craft seem so effortless.

Of course that’s all very well and good, but some of you may have read this entry and thought “Hang on Gerry; wasn’t the whole No Punchline challenge to do a COMEDY gig in each of the 32 counties? Because this gig wasn’t REALLY a comedy gig, and therefore shouldn’t really count, right?”…. well, what can I say; I was out on a stage in front of a crowd, mic in hand, with an onus on me to provide laughs and entertainment. The whole escapade made me feel a curious sense of self-loathing throughout, and as I drove away with a pay-check that felt dirty in my hand I was filled with a desire to get home as quickly as possible so I could block everything out with alcohol before getting into the shower and washing all the bad feelings away.

Sounds like a comedy gig to me. It counts.

Fellow Comedians; Scottie Dundee

Something tells me I’ve lost some of you already.

Something tells me that a lot of you saw the title “Fellow Comedians; Scottie Dundee” and thought nope, you’ve lost me. He’s not a comedian! He doesn’t write his own stuff, he tells old pub gags, sings novelty songs… NOT. A COMEDIAN.

Well, if he’s not a comedian then I don’t know what he is; his style and attitude is a throwback to the days of old, but if you stopped him in the street and said hey pal, tell me a joke, he’d be able to come out with a lot more than “well, I don’t really DO jokes, more eh, observations and stuff…”. Now granted, his particular style (and the style of similar acts like Dave Young or Paul Malone) is not to my own taste, and his attitude towards the material he uses is not one that I would subscribe to (especially when you hear rumours of guys like Dave Young using hard-earned material from amateur guys on the Irish circuit), but who of us ever asked for their side of the story, before damning them to the birthday party and wedding circuit? After all, what are they doing except trying to make people laugh…Right?

Well, having heard that Scottie Dundee (or Eric Gudmensen to his mam) had written an essay detailing how he got into comedy and how it has treated him, I said to myself “Yo we GOTS to put that on the blog” (because my inner monologue takes place in ebonics) in the interest of a fair hearing rather than the Kangaroo Courts of comedy staircases. So big thanks to Eric for allowing me to post this; It’s not going to change your opinion (it didn’t change mine), but hear the man out, eh?

A Funny Thing Happened to Comedy…

Knock! Knock!
Who’s there?
I’m sorry. I can’t divulge that information as the comedy police might be listening.

Let me explain.

I was born in 1961 which means that my teenage years were spent in the Seventies, the decade that taste forgot, supposedly. Music changed overnight in 1976 thanks to The Sex Pistols and punk rock. Comedy took a bit longer to undergo its own radical metamorphosis. About eight years to be precise.

As I hit my teens the most popular comedians on TV were Morecambe and Wise, Benny Hill, Dick Emery etc. The alternatives at this stage were Monty Python and The Goodies. I can still recall my father, God bless him, allowing, nay encouraging me to stay up late to watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I loved it, but deep down I knew that some of the sketches were funnier than others and those were the ones that had punch-lines. Jokes were what I liked. Whimsy was all very well but you couldn’t beat a well-crafted story that took your mind in one direction, then, with the very last line, or maybe even word, turned the whole thing on its head. Around the age of seven or eight I became a joker, a teller of funny stories. I seemed to have a brain like a sponge where jokes were concerned. Once heard never forgotten. Even today I can remember jokes that I told at primary school. Even scarier, I still think that some of them are funny. My friend, Mike, used me as a novelty party piece, telling people to name any subject and I’d give them three jokes on that self-same subject. That was no problem to me.

In 1971 a new TV show was launched in the UK, The Comedians. The show had a spectacularly simple premise. Up to ten comedians who were used to working in the thousands of working-men’s clubs were filmed telling jokes. Just one man, one microphone and one microphone stand on the stage at any one time. I loved the show. My favourite comedians were Ken Goodwin, Denis Compton, Bernard Manning and many others. The format of the show was half an hour of one-liners, daft jokes and short shaggy dog stories. This was in the dark old days; video recorders were still ten long years off in the future. I would write down one word reminders that would help me to remember the jokes which I would happily repeat in the playground the next day, giving them my own inimitable twist of course. It never occurred to me that someone had written these jokes; I just accepted that jokes were there to be told and if they were told well people would laugh, and that was the ultimate reward, that magical sound of people laughing out loudly at something I’d just told them. Strange then that I had no dream of becoming a professional comedian.

Then, in the early to mid-eighties everything changed. The punk ethos filtered through to the world of stand-up comedy. It started with a few clubs being established in London which encouraged new talent to try out radically different styles of comedy. Cue Alexei Sayle, Rik Mayall, Ben Elton and the rest. Anyone who had the gall to get up on the stage and tell jokes was pilloried and booed off within minutes. Then television poked its nose in and “alternative” comedy was born, kicking and screaming. Saturday Night Live brought these larger than life maniacal geniuses into our living rooms. I was lucky enough to see Ben Elton live a few times and I thought that he was great, although my propensity to consume a lot of alcohol before gigs probably helped. I also saw Alexei Sayle early on and enjoyed him too. The comedy style was totally fresh but I missed the punch-lines. After a short honeymoon period, the new boys quickly became part of the mainstream. They all settled into TV friendly compartments. Ben Elton wrote sit-coms, Rik Mayall became a Young One and went down the acting route and Alexei Sayle currently enjoys the status of a reclusive, cranky, socialist media-darling. Nice work if you can get it. From then on the old school club comic was as good as dead. All the new boys made sure that it was considered terminally unhip to admit to enjoy listening to jokes any more. Some comedians were taking the more recent observational style of comedy to new levels. Phil Cool with his rubber face, Dave Allen, Jasper Carrot and Billy Connolly were allowed to develop and thrive because although not strictly “alternative”, they weren’t telling “corny” jokes. I also saw Les Dawson and Russ Abbot live in the eighties playing to full houses in huge theatres. But as the Saturday night variety shows gave way to National Lottery shows, opportunities to hear good joke based comedy grew fewer and fewer.
The curse of a joke retentive memory stayed with me all my life, just waiting and begging for a chance to be put to good use. The chance eventually came in 1996. After many twists and turns, my life had mutated into that of a bar singer and I found myself singing in a club in Tenerife. Between songs I would good-humouredly insult the audience and throw in a few classic one-liners. The club was a cabaret venue and my job included introducing the guest acts. Two acts in particular stood out. Buddy Graham was a comic firmly stuck in the halcyon days of the Blackpool Pier shows and I loved his act. He did a Freddie Starr type of show complete with bright red baggy Teddy Boy suit. The other was a larger than life lady called Katy Kennedy, who again was old-style, and because she was a woman, could be as filthy as she liked without anyone taking offence. When Katy finished her spot she would bring me onto the stage and make a joke at my expense. I would happily play along and one night she took me to one side and told me that I should really think about branching into comedy as I had great facial expressions. That kind casual comment stayed in my head and it wasn’t long before I took her advice.

From then on every gig I played I would add as much comedy as I could get away with. One-liners became two-liners, then jokes, then a couple of jokes, eventually developing into full-blown routines lasting twenty minutes or more. At that time, most of my shows were three hours long so this turn of events gave both my audiences and I a much needed shot of variety and made my act fairly unique. Three hours a night, seven nights a week, that’s a whole lot of practice.
In 1999 I relocated to Ireland and spent a year gigging in bars in East Cork before moving to Killarney. Within weeks of living in The Kingdom I was working steadily in bars and hotels. Then came a call from a Mr J O’Donohue asking if I would play in his late bar at the Gleneagle Hotel. It was the call I’d been hoping for and I tried not to sound too eager. I remember the night well, Kerry had just won the Sam Maguire Trophy and the hotel was jumping. I gave it my best shot but as it was so late at night and everyone was full of the gargle, I didn’t get to do much comedy at all. I felt a bit despondent as I wasn’t sure how the crowd had enjoyed what I did. But I needn’t have worried. I was asked back to play again and within a couple of weeks, most of my work came from that fine establishment. And what’s more, the comedy side of my show was going down a storm. That period in my career was extremely important to me. I was rubbing shoulders with some of my heroes, The Wolfe Tones, The Fureys, Brendan Grace, Joe Dolan and Shane MacGowan. A motley collection indeed. Joe Dolan was one of the nicest, funniest men that I ever met. A true gentleman with a wicked sense of humour and a voracity for old-fashioned jokes that equalled my own. I also met my future wife in The Gleneagles due to a series of strange coincidences. But I was changing, as change one must. My show was developing nicely but I had taken to employing rude language for some jokes and the material was getting edgier, a little less family orientated and more politically incorrect. I didn’t have to go down this road but the more I did, the more both I, and a certain percentage of the audience enjoyed it. I began to look on my style as being the bastard love-child of Chubby Brown and Bernard Manning.

(Which would probably look a lot like this)

I decided to try to break into the cabaret circuit in Ireland. I rang various promoters and managers but to no avail. I also tried to contact Lisa Richards Agency in Dublin but no one was interested in helping me. The gist seemed to be, “I have a talent and I need help to become successful.” And the reply was, “Come back and talk to us when you’re successful.” Not very encouraging. I have since ascertained to my own satisfaction that there is actually no entertainment industry in Ireland. No matter what talent a person may have in whatever field, it’s up to them to make it happen. No one is scouting for talent. When an exceptional Irish comedian or musician gets to a certain level, they are immediately signed up by the only agency in their field and exported to the UK, where the real money is.

I had a bit of a “road to Domestos” experience in October 2002. I was booked to do a comedy spot during the Irish Festival weekend in the Isle of Man. I went to the Isle of Man but my guitar was diverted to London Gatwick. I was panicking as I’d never got on stage before without a guitar. It was my safety net, my security blanket, and being left-handed I couldn’t just borrow someone else’s. However, I’m nothing if not a trooper. I bounded onto the stage in front of about 1000 expectant Dubs feeling naked, armed only with a radio microphone and shouted, “Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, please go easy on me, I’m having a hoor of a day. Every single morning there’s a German Shepherd comes and shits in my garden…and this morning he brought his bleedin’ dog with him!” There followed a howl of laughter and I had made it. I was a bona fide stand-up. Look mum…..no guitar! My guitar was actually delivered to me courtesy of British Airways after about 40 minutes and the crowd thought that it was part of the show and more laughs ensued.
Next stop Lanzarote. My wife and I went to Lanzarote in 2003. 9/11 had swiftly been followed by the Foot and Mouth outbreak and the Irish tourist industry was in the doldrums. Within three months in Lanzarote we had bought a bar and a house. We opened Scottie’s Comedy Club and had three great years followed by one middling year followed, in turn, by three terrible years as the world’s finances went into free-fall, taking mine with them. But again, nothing happens without a reason. I’d had seven years on my own stage playing three hours a night, seven nights a week, to crowds of anywhere from 6 to 100 people. Most comedians are lucky to get three hours in a month in comedy clubs. Fast forward to 2011. Here I am, back in Ireland, trying to get a toe-hold on the Dublin comedy circuit. Scrabbling and begging for 6 minutes of stage time in a pokey little room above a bar where I’ll play for free till I’ve proved my credentials. And guess what? I am finding it extremely difficult to even get a chance to prove myself.

Why? Well to be perfectly honest, I don’t know, but I can surmise, and I will. The comedy scene in Dublin appears to be controlled by a few well-meaning comedians of varying quality who are responsible for booking all the acts that grace the hallowed stages of the International Bar or The Ha’penny Bridge. I would imagine that any comedian who has seen me perform would describe my style as “old-school” or “hackneyed”, and I believe that this will have a bearing on whether or not I am invited to perform. I have no problem with this per se but it does rather smack of snobbishness and hypocrisy, as I would imagine that if Peter Kay or Lee Mack asked if they could have an open spot, they would be welcomed with open arms, and they are about as “old-school” as you get. “Sour grapes!” I hear you cry. And yes, you’d be correct. Certainly, there is an element of jealousy at play here. But there is also a serious question I’d like to pose. How are people supposed to hear jokes as they were intended to be heard nowadays?Frank Carson said it best when he said, “It’s the way I tell them!”

Never a truer word spoken. I was driven to write this piece after seeing a comedian post a great old joke on his Facebook page. I made a comment about the joke being “cabaret” style and the comedian in question replied stating that he would not use this joke on stage as he only used “good jokes” in his act. What I think he actually meant was that he will only use material that he wrote himself. And I got to thinking, “Why is that?” The joke in question was funny but it was so old that no one knows, or indeed cares, who wrote it. So it seems to me that old jokes with punch-lines are destined to die out. Sure they do the rounds on e-mails and phone texts but it’s not the same as hearing them delivered by a pro. Young comedians often ask me if all my material is my own and my answer has to be, “If you have to ask, what difference does it make?” The truth is that my show is a genuine melange of my own observations blended with the cream of old-school jokes which have been tailored to suit my delivery style. It also includes a smattering of comedy songs, both original and parody, and a show can be anything from 20 minutes to two hours long.

Jokes are written to be told more than once. In the world of music things are so different. I find musicians tend to be musical and generous while comedians are humourless and selfish. Go figure. Radiohead, REM, U2, Coldplay and the like, all play cover versions in their live shows and no one complains. Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, neither of whom wrote a song in their lives, both proved that delivery is just as important as writing. They’re paying respect and why shouldn’t anyone pay respect to the old comedians who are dead and gone. It’s all about interpretation.

The problem seems to me to be that the comedy clubs are run by comedians for comedians. I don’t see too much variety in the styles of the regulars on the circuit nowadays. Just 20–30 minutes of observational comedy that now appears as jaded as the old-style that it was supposed to replace. Plenty of giggles but not a lot of good hearty belly-laughs. The few spots that I have played in Ireland have resulted in big laughs but no repeat gigs. It would appear that the organisers don’t worry about the size of the laughs, only their own personal taste. What they don’t seem to care about is the audience. I would suggest to the guys in the comedy clubs that their function is to offer paying audiences the most entertaining acts available and not just their own close personal friends. The scene does appear to be a bit incestuous with around 20% of comedians getting about 80% of the available work. Maybe it’s time for a long overdue shift back to basics with the comedy club organisers realising that comedy audiences are not as precious, politically correct or sophisticated as seems to be assumed, and certainly nowhere nearly as snobbish as the comedians themselves.
A renaissance is due and I’ll be ready and waiting!

*********************************************

32 Counties, 32 Gigs part 19; Westmeath

Westmeath! BOOM; right in the middle of the country,  and the destination for the next step of the No Punchline journey, where I was booked in to gig alongside FJ Murray and Alison Spittle. Being as I was the only one travelling from Dublin, I gave  the headliner, Patrick McDonnell a lift. Now, being in comedy a few years means that I’ve had the chance to meet pretty much all the bigger names on the Irish scene. It’s nice to be on the bill with a well-known act, but at times I find it hard to know how to act around them. Remember that before I was a comedian, I was a comedy fan, so I’ll confess that when I get to meet some familiar faces it can leave me a wee bit starstruck. I have been from the word go been a huge Father Ted fan, and as such will always associate Patrick McDonnell (regardless of his peerless stage act) with Eoin McLove, a brilliant character from one of my favourite episodes. Fast forward to present day, and here we are on the road to Mullingar to do a gig together. You try to be stoic about the whole thing and act like a professional and not like some giddy pleb, but I have to admit that it was one of the more surreal moments I’ve had in comedy when Patrick turned to me on the journey and asked, in a voice that I’ve known from the telly for years;

"Do you need change for the toll?"

Now the man that was bringing us all together in Westmeath was comedian, writer and fellow Pale-Horse Alan Gernon, who for the past year has started to build quite the comedy empire. Starting with Backrooms Laughs, a once-a-month comedy night he runs in Navan, Alan is becoming one of the busiest guys on the scene. Many people take on with running comedy nights, but how many can lay claim to successfully running seven (SEVEN!!) nights across three different counties? Shit, if Alan continues at this pace and I don’t fall out with him, I’ll be able to complete the 32 County challenge with clubs run by him alone.

Coming Soon; "Borris-in-Ossory Laughs!".

Now just looking at that picture is making me feel seriously fucking lazy; that’s seven venues, meaning seven venue owners wanting returns, seven different promotional campaigns to run, and seven sets of comedians to book, all before Alan gets to tell a joke. Me, I can show up and tell a few jokes for a while and after that, I’m useless. Some people are built for event promotion and love the logistical challenge of organising comedy nights,and it struck me that if I’m going to complete the 32 counties task I’ve set myself then I’m probably going to have to take matters into my own hands and run a few comedy shows myself. But before I go trawling through the Yellow Pages to find pubs in Roscommon to play in, let’s take a look at just what makes up a good comedy night…

1-Location

First up, where are we going to run our night? Of all the people that I’ve talked to that organise gigs around the country, this is the bit they seem to enjoy the most. Finding the right town and the right time to run a gig. Some guys I know get REALLY in-depth with this, looking into census figures to see the population and demographical break-up of the town. Are there a large number of 18-35 year olds living in this town? What is there for them to do in this town; do they have a cinema etc., or would they be looking for something new to entertain them? Is this town more rural, or developed; what acts will go over here well? And what date should we run our night; is there an upcoming local event that this coincides with? If we’re running close to a local celebration or bank holiday, will the people be able to afford to come to our night too; how are the employment figures in this town?

"Now, who can we get to perform in Murderville on Free Vodka day, which is two days after Free Knife day..."

And if you think that that’s in-depth, you’re not even taking into account the business end of things, where guys approach suitable venues with breakdowns of how financially viable a comedy night can be; with statistics of bar sales from previous gigs in similar venues, average door takes, repeat business… running a great gig takes a lot more than having a few too many in your local and asking the guy at the bar if he’d ever consider putting on a comedy show some Friday.

Of course, you don’t always have to approach a venue owner; sometimes, they’ll come looking for you. At this point, if you’re looking to run a gig for them, the very least you can do is VISIT THEIR FUCKING VENUE. The amount of times I’ve been driving to a gig and rang the promoter to ask directions only to be told that they aren’t sure where exactly the venue is as they’ve never actually BEEN to it, and that everything was done over the phone… well, it’s actually a small number of times, but each of those times was car-crash central. There’s nothing so soul-destroying as arriving at a “venue” (read; bar) with not even the most rudimentary aspects of a comedy club. For instance;

a) People don’t realise there is a comedy night on. You’re not in a separate area of the bar; you’re just put out in the lounge with the regulars who’ve been drinking here for years. Guys who, let me tell you, don’t take too kindly to all-of-a-sudden being asked to be quiet by some lad who just appeared out of nowhere with a microphone and started to tell jokes. But fear not, regular drinkers; if you don’t like the comedy, some bar-owers are kind enough that while the comedian is working, they  LEAVE THE FUCKING TELEVISION ON.

b) No Stage. Just stand at the same level as the crowd, sometimes IN the fucking crowd. Maybe, MAYBE if you’re lucky, you can stand on a staircase. There is no clear line of vision. People can’t see you. Forget adequate seating arrangements with lowered lighting for the crowd and raised lighting for the stage, I’ll settle for people facing in the same direction.

c) No sound. Look, we can work around a crowd that has no interest in comedy. We can work around a crowd that aren’t looking in our direction. But fuck me all day, if they can’t HEAR what we’re saying, we’re dead in the water. Comedy isn’t music. It can’t be background noise, a crowd MUST be able to hear us. Which means we NEED a proper sound system. I could write a bittersweet hour long tragi-comedy playbased on the reactions of comedians when they realise there’s no sound in place (which would include a fifteen minute segment about musical comedians realising there is no Mic stand and that someone will have to stand beside them as they play guitar, holding a mic up to their face like a quadriplegic being spoonfed). And don’t get me started on the harbinger of doom that is a wireless mic.

"I looked and there before me was a white horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hell was following close behind him."

When you see a wireless mic coming out, it’s time to go warm up the car. I was at this gig one time where when we asked what the sound set-up was, the lady behind the bar rustled through a drawer and took out a wireless mic, switched it on, tapped it a few times (to no sound) and said “There should be a few spots around the lounge where that’ll be picked up, if you find them, stand still and you’ll be grand”.  I could feel my Psoriasis flaring up with every word she spoke.

2-Promotion

Ok, so you’ve approached a venue owner (or been approached by one), you’ve been to the venue to see is it suitable (I repeat; YOU’VE BEEN TO THE VENUE TO SEE IS IT SUITABLE), and you’ve got a date in mind. So now it’s time to let the people know you’re coming to town. Now I’d be of the opinion that the burden of promotion should be shared equally with the promoter and the venue owner; it’s in the promoters interest to get a good crowd in, so that he can run gigs there again and again, and it’s in the venue owners interest to see a return on his investment. The first thing that needs to be sorted out is how much should it cost to get into the venue. There are two schools of thought;

a) Charge a fee in, and make your money on the door, or

b) Free in, and make your money at the bar.

Some venue owners don’t like the idea of charging people to get in, and I can see their point… It’d be hard to turn to a regular customer and say “look, I know you’ve been coming here since you made your Confirmation, but there’s a comedy night on this Friday and it’s a tenner in”. That’s an easy way to lose custom, one thing barmen can’t afford to do right now. So a lot of nights have no entry fee, and the bar won’t lose money because a bigger crowd will be more inclined to show up because it’s free, and they’ll spend that money drinking anyway. And comedians can look at it from the point of view that there is a bigger crowd in, meaning more people to play to; people who wouldn’t have paid into a gig in the first place.

"We're here for the free... thing. Whatever is is. We're not sure. But we heard it was free! So we wants it!!"

The flipside of this is that if people wouldn’t have paid into a gig in the first place, then those people have fuck all heed in comedy to begin with. Which means they’re more likely to be disruptive and disinterested during a performance. If you haven’t invested money in the night then you sure as fuck won’t invest your interest in what’s going on, which is why I’d always think look; set SOME entry fee, some cursory amount that means that if the thoughts of paying this small fee turns you off coming in, then DON’T COME IN. The people who attend will be the ones that saw that fee and thought “that’s not bad value”. I’ve played at as many free gigs as I have at ones with entry fees, and at the end of the night, it’s usually the free-in ones that I’ve driven away from thinking that the night would have been improved without the disruptive faction of the crowd that were obviously only at the gig because they didn’t have to pay in.

So with an entry fee in mind, it’s time to start getting the word out. Mainly this comes down to posters, and going back to the opening of this blog, I’ll give a big shout out to Alan for the work he puts into his posters; colourful, vibrant, eye-catching. Well laid out; the time, the date, the acts, the entry fee. Of course  a poster is only as good as where it’s hung, and again I have to credit Alan for going into each town weeks in advance to pu them up in every chip-shop, newsagents, Service station… Alan puts posters EVERYWHERE.

"It's got yer man from Father Ted, it'll be a good craic, hey"

The promotional campaign for comedy nights are part of what makes comedy work in small towns, where fuck all usually happens and people are waiting for something like this…  The posters (and sometimes appearances on local radio stations) create a buzz around the water-cooler (note; there are no water-coolers in small town Ireland; please substitute the words “Londis check-out”) which leads to bigger audiences. Now, in addition to posters and the like, what you can also do is promote your night online, on Facebook and twitter and Entertainment.ie and the likes…. but for fuck sake, don’t use that as your ONLY form of promotion.

These three options ALL mean "Not Attending".

I swear, if I had a euro for every time I’ve arrived at an empty comedy venue where the promoter is sitting around wondering where the fuck are the 200 people who said they were attending when he posted a Facebook invite, I’d have at least seventy euro.

3-Acts

Last but not least, we’d better get a few acts on! Going by the template that seems to be working for Alan in all his gigs, you need;

1) A headline act, someone of high profile who would be known to the public either from their work on TV or their experience in comedy, a name that will generate interest and sell tickets. we all know that there are sterling headline quality acts up and down the country that will have a crowd ceaselessly rocking in the aisles but who don’t sell tickets due to the fact that they just aren’t known to people who don’t regularly go to gigs. After a gig has been running for a while and the crowd trust that they’ll get a good night, you can put these guys on to headline and still draw a crowd, but in the infancy of a Comedy Club, no-one puts arses on seats quite like that guy off the telly.

2) A support act, maybe two. Either one guy doing a long support set or two guys doing shorter ones, usually people who don’t clash styles with the headline act (as in, don’t have two musical acts on the same night). Sometimes, you might have a reasonably local act on as support in the hope that he might draw in a few extra punters, sometimes you might book the guy who has plagued you the most for a gig, or sometimes you just need someone to give your headliner a lift to the venue so you book the guy who drives. In any instance where Alan has booked me, I’ve been all three.

3) An open spot, for added value. As I’ve said in earlier blogs, these are the most sought-after spaces on the card, from newer acts who want to get a foot on the ladder. Alan usually has an open spot for each gig, and did I mention he runs seven gigs? If anyone wants his number, just send me an e-mail and I’ll give it to you, wuh wuh wuh!

"Holy fuck, the switchboard just lit up with hundreds of calls to this one guy..."

And that layout up there WORKS. Support acts first half, Headline act second, with a break in-between to let people smoke or go to the toilet or buy drink. The night doesn’t go on until half one. Everyone has a good time, they go home happy and recommend it to their friends. Barmen in nearby towns hear of the success of the night and consider maybe putting on a night of their own. More comedy nights spring up. More comedians get more work. More punters become comedy fans and go to see more shows. That’s the end result of a good night, run well. The flipside of this of course, is a night run badly; where instead of a support-headline structure, you have eight or nine people doing short sets with NO headline act, fuck all promotion and a shit sound/stage set-up. Now I’ve done countless shows in my early days like this and I’ve been thankful for them, the opportunities they gave me and the things I’ve learned at them, so despite my best efforts this will probably sound like me looking down from my fucking Ivory Tower saying “It was great when I was at it, but now it’s UNACCEPTABLE”… well, there’s not much I can do about that. All I can say to new comedians is this; be careful who you gig for.

When I started comedy, there were people (who thankfully have mostly all fucked away off from the comedy scene) who booked nights where a bunch of us open-mics were sent to the slaughter in once-off venues where we didn’t get paid a cent, and the cash brought in at the door went straight into their pockets. They didn’t give a fuck if they made people laugh, they just wanted to make a few quid off the back of the comedians hard work. In the end, the night would fold, and two weeks later spring up elsewhere. As new comedians, we didn’t have anywhere else to play (and I for one was seriously naive about the whole thing anyways and didn’t realise I was being taken for a fucking spin) so we just went night after night getting mangled and embarrassed in shitholes while they pocketed the door. These weren’t guys who were running gigs in their hometown (and I have to give special mention to people who run gigs in their hometown, they have the massivest of massive balls and the nights, although usually short-lived are almost always a great time), nor were they trying to put on a good show so that comedy as a whole would prosper around the country, these were guys running Smash-and-Grab gigs designed to make them a few quid; a Scorched Earth Policy that would do nothing except hinder guys like Alan who WERE trying to put on a good night, people who are in it for the long haul. Going into a town trying to sell comedy to venue owners not long after some idiot had run a terrible night, and the whole town had heard how fucking awful it was?

No crops will grow on Scorched Earth, man.

As for myself, will I be running any nights? Well, looking back over this whole blog, it’s obvious the work and effort that goes into a night before one joke gets told. Can I put that time and effort into making sure a night I would run would be a success? Almost definitely not, which is why I’ll be sticking with the joke-telling end of things. There are unsung people up and down the country that go to great effort to run brilliant nights while we comedians walk off with al the glory, so I’d like to take this as a chance to salute them and the great work they do.

Oh, and *COUGH*bookme*COUGH*.