It’s a Long Way to Tipperary… well, not really these days, what with the new motorway and all that. Say what you want about those wheeler-dealer fuckers that bankrupted this country, they knew how to spend EU money on building cushy roads. But I digress; it may not be a long way to Tipperary, but it was a bit of a search to get a gig there (and a bit of a wait for a new 32 counties blog, what with last months Edinburgh fixation). I eventually got sorted out with a gig by Tom “The Bear” O’Mahony who was running a gig in Cahir in the early Summer (like I said, I’ve a bit of a 32 county backlog to work through) where I would be playing support to the Rebel counties finest, Ross Browne. I tipped down (ROFL) in a sunny Saturday night and met up with Tom The Bear about a half hour before gig time.
I camped up in the hotel room for an hour, got something to eat, and headed down on time. Ross had landed, the room was laid out for about a hundred seats, wonderful lighting (with a real, honest-to-God spotlight; not a few halogen floodlights borrowed from a building site balanced precariously on a chair blasting 1,000watts of face-crimsoning, testicle irradiating heat onto the stage) and a wireless mic that FUCK ME, actually worked. And outside the venue, a big massive banner declaring COMEDY HERE TONIGHT, with posters up all over town. Tom had put in the grunt; All we needed now, was a crowd.
And, we waited.
This is the thing with gigs in the country; sometimes it can be so hard to get punters to a gig. City people and Country people run on two different clocks; tell someone in Dublin that an event starts at nine, they’ll be there at nine. People in the country however, run the alleged starting time through the following algorithm;
- If the start time says half eight, then arrive at ten.
- If the start time says nine, then arrive at ten.
- If the start time says half nine, then arrive at ten.
- If the start time says ten, then arrive at half ten.
It can be infuriating, but at least in the country you’re not doing a double-up in some other venue like you might be doing in the city, so there’s no real pressure to get things started. Still, as ten o’clock arrived with still only twenty people in, it was looking like it might be gig-pulling time. This can baffle me at times, particularly in relatively small towns like Cahir; why wouldn’t you come to a comedy night? What else is on that would get your money? It’s understandable in cites, which have entertainment venues around every corner, but the main complaint from any inhabitant in a small town in Ireland is that in their town, there’s NOTHING TO DO. So then someone like Tom sacks up and runs a comedy night, something new, entertaining and relatively inexpensive to attend, why not go to it? We studied this as we waited for a crowd which (spoiler alert) never really manifested. As it turned out, there were a few other events on that night which could attribute to the low attendance;
That’s the thing with country life; although there mightn’t on the surface be much to do on a Saturday night, it takes very little to reduce your potential punter pool (I think the main culprit in Cahir was a local 21st Birthday party, which would have taken significant numbers of arses off our seats). You don’t have to worry about things like this in a city; just be careful that your night doesn’t clash with, say, the Champions league Final and you should draw a healthy dose of customers. In the country, there are so many wee things that can draw your crowd away from you that you would never see coming. If you want to draw a good body of people into your event, then you’d better be offering something special; which in the country means bringing down a comedian that people know from TV, a recognisable face on the posters to get people through the doors.
So before any gig, most promoters will ask you to provide a good image for the promotion (or just nab one of your Facebook photos, normally the last one you would ever choose) and to write up a wee biography to send round to local papers, things like that. This is the one thing about comedy that I hate, HATE doing; writing a bio. It’s basically being asked to write yourself up as the greatest thing since someone looked at a loaf and thought, “that won’t fit in the toaster as is”. I’ve gotten enough “well don’t you just love yourself” snarky replies from promoters who asked me to send in bios to be weary of sending more. There’s a tightrope of self-promotion over a precipice of sounding like a cock that I tend to fall off when writing a bio, so let’s see what we can do about that…
1) It helps greatly to have supported a big-name act… If you have REALLY supported them. Most of my early bios crowed about having supported this guy and that guy (read; done an open spot before them in the International on a Sunday night). This doesn’t fly with ANYONE (except maybe your easily impressed mates) so unless Eddie Izzard has vaulted the guard rail to plead with you to support him on tour, leave it off the CV. With no tours and no high-profile supports to my name, I’m out of luck with this one.
2) In the absence of having done anything on TV or Radio, perhaps maybe someone on TV or Radio has mentioned you? A quote from a famous person or respected Newspaper looks great on a poster; this is one of the things that I envy most about the guys who came home from Edinburgh with great reviews. Some of them don’t even have to post the quotes, just the ratings they got; “*****”-Scotsman, “*****”-Chortle, “*****”-Hotpress… all of these sound BRILLIANT. So far, nobody famous has said anything about me, nor have I received a review about anything, for better or worse. But surely there’s SOMETHING that has been said to me by a famous personality that I could use on a poster?
3) Past accolades, a subject which in which I am at last blessed. Winning comedy competitions in the past few years has really been the one thing that has pushed me on up a bit, in particular the TedFest comp last year which opened up so many doors. Although that is the trouble with past accolades; they are from the past, and competitions which I have succeeded in or won have since either folded or crowned new champions; after all, The Rose of Tralee only gets the sash for one year. To still crow about past victories can lead to a “what have you done lately” line of questioning. Jesus, the more I study it, I have fuck all to send to a promoter to put on the poster at all.
You might think it strange that a guy who regularly writes a blog humblebragging about himself for thousands of words would find it so hard to sit down and write three lines to put in a newspaper telling the good folks of whatever-town why they should come see him perform at a comedy night, but hey; there you go. Regardless of what I could or could not have written on a bio, I doubt it would have drawn anymore punters into the gig in Cahir, which we eventually kicked off at half ten to a two hundred seater room with thirty people in it. It dawned on me before taking the stage that although you could blame the fact that it was a small town and that we weren’t overly well known comedians, and you could blame the other parties and functions taking place elsewhere in the town which would have siphoned off a few dozen more punters, at the end of the day what it probably boiled down to was that maybe people just don’t have the money to go out anymore. Maybe comedy isn’t as reccession-proof as I had arrogantly thought it to be. People just don’t have the disposable income anymore. Maybe this is how it’s going to be for the next few years; half empty clubs, gigs pulled due to low attendance.
Well, if that’s the case, we made damn sure that night that the people who did pay in got their moneys worth. There may have been only thirty, but man were they up for a laugh. Tom set them up, I knocked them on another bit and Ross smashed it out of the building. We all did the only thing you can do at a low-attendance gig; Don’t play to the crowd that IS there, play to the crowd you WISH was there. Don’t get all sullen and moan to the crowd that your stuff normally works “with a bigger audience”. Don’t blame the ones that did show up for the ones that didn’t. Don’t half-ass the job; leave them going home spreading good word-of-mouth for future gigs and feeling like they didn’t waste their hard earned cash. They’ll other people that they went to a comedy night, and it was a good night. Next time the comedy rolls into town, maybe the crowd will be a bit bigger… That’s what I hope to do when I go out to gig. I’m just trying to leave comedy in as good a condition as I found it. Maybe I should put that on a poster?