Friday, 1 January 2016

GSOH: Do you remember the first time?

Theoretically, your first gig is your worst gig. A newbie comedian starts off all shaky and nervous, does a few more, then ends up on Live At The Apollo and selling millions of DVDs. That's the idea, anyway and I'm sure I'm just a couple of gigs away from that success.

I'm not going make chronology a factor in the order I write posts in the GSOH blog, but I guess I have to start somewhere.

If people ask me about my first stand-up gig, I tell them it took place in 2011 in Northampton. Technically, that was my second gig. The first time I told gags to an audience was back in the mid-1980s.

Wellingborough's Victoria Junior School as it looks today
The third year at my junior school was fairly refreshing, as some of the more creative members of my class had the freedom to put on shows. Only about six girls really took part, along with myself.

One day we had decided to put on a talent show. I'd be telling jokes; Heena would be singing the Theme From Fame and Rebecca - my first ever girlfriend - did... well, I can't remember what she did. That's probably why I'm not with her now.

The class got to vote for their favourite act at the conclusion of the show. This was probably inspired by The Fame Game on ITV, something that's barely-remembered these days, but it was like a predecessor to Britain's Got Talent, although probably closer to Opportunity Knocks.

I reckon the big gender split in the voting had caused me to win. This was the time of your life when girls were all soppy, stupid and had fleas, after all. Although Heena's diabolical rendition of Irene Cara's sole hit probably helped.

My set was 100% unoriginal. It was a load of gags I took from the joke books of the day. Plenty of them were Irish gags. Come to think of it, a lot where of that "Englishman, Scotsman and an Irishman" trope that you never get any more. These went down really well with the class and the teacher. There you go, early signs of institutionalised racism.



Of course, these days I wouldn't dream of using a joke I've never written, but this was a simpler time, I was modelling myself on the old school bow-tie-and-velvet-jacket comics you'd get on the telly of the day. These pre-alternative comedians would use a 'pool' of gags and routines.

What went down really well for me, was a really childish shaggy-dog story- one with the Irishman being the victim of course. I'd told it in the playground many times, and even though everyone knew it, I stormed it with this utterly immature shaggy dog story...

There's an Englishman, Scotsman and an Irishman at the top of a slide (entirely plausible, I'm sure it's a common occurrence) and God tells them that whatever they say on the way down, they will land in.
The Englishman has the first go, and shouts "money!"
He lands in loads of coins and notes. He's a bit battered and bruised, but hey, he's rich, and he leaves.
The Scotsman is next, and he shouts "whiskey!" 
He lands in a big pool of whiskey and is happy. (See? Scots are all alcoholics. That's just the first hilarity, wait for the big pay off up next...)
The Irishman has a go, and he shouts "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"
See? It's hilarious. I had learnt to end the gag there, because I knew when others told it, they added the unnecessary description of the Irishman landing in a vat of piss. Never telegraph the gag.

So yeah, first ever gig, smashed it. What could be funnier, in the minds of the assembled 10-11 year olds, than a man plunging into a load of urine? Nothing, really.

I suppose there is one exception. Another routine that did the playgrounds was the story of three schoolkids, respectively called Fuck Off; Manners and Shit. I very much doubt I'd get to utter such profanities in front of Mr Fisher without a ruler being thrown at me and a summoning to the headmaster's office, so this is why I decided to opt for the safer conclusion of a piss-drenched Irishman.

I'd like to assure you that, nowadays, my jokes are my own and they're politically situated a lot further to the left than the feeble Bernard-Manning-style material I cribbed in order to storm that vital Class 6 gig at Victoria Junior School.

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