‘Oooh Lordy, troubles so hard,’ wailed some old blues singer to a backdrop of ambient electronica. ‘Oooh Lordy, troubles so hard.’ I was listening to the greatest hits of grave-robbing dance-shill Moby on the pub jukebox just before the inaugural, ‘Chuckling Stoat Comedy Club’ at the Dog and Biscuit in Mancetter. Looking back, I know exactly how she felt.
I’d decided to put on my own night of comedy a few weeks ago, when I attended a Jongleurs for a friend’s birthday. ‘Jesus,’ I thought. ‘This is awful. I should start my own club. Anything would be better than this cack.’
The next day I set about putting my event together. When I realised I had no money, or clout within the comedy industry for that matter, I decided to do a gong show. ‘The people of Mancetter will love me for it,’ I said as I rubbed my hands together gleefully. ‘As will the world of comedy.’
The reaction to my call for acts on popular comedy forum, Bortle, surprised me to say the least. ‘You’re a puny little scrotum,’ said one poster. ‘I’ve never met you,’ another began, ‘but I bet you smell and are ugly.’
I couldn’t fathom why the comedy literati were so outraged by my idea, so I personally contacted one of the offended parties to ask him to elaborate on his comments. He responded with a nine-page tirade, which I will partially reproduce below,
‘What you are doing is comparable to what Hitler was doing in Nuremberg in the 30’s. Ripping paying punters off with these, these open spots should be a crime punishable by death... Open spots are the reason the earth is heating up irreversibly, you asinine twit. If you are telling people they’re getting the real thing, and instead giving them open spots you are guilty of false advertising... Attila the Hun? Open spot. Goebbels? Open spot. Spot the dog? Open spot...That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the Open Spot-light, losing my religion. My religion. Open spots made me lose my religion. Now, no-one from the church will talk to me. Ohhhh God how I loathe open spots. My mother was killed by an open spot who was drink-driving. The time of redemption is at hand- death to open spots.’
While I must confess that the way he referred to people as being a unit of time within a comedy club troubled me slightly, I pressed on with my idea anyway, and soon I was inundated with requests for an open spot at the Chuckling Stoat. Ploughing through all my e-mails took a while, but eventually I had whittled my list down to twenty-five acts, including a mini-bus full from the north, who were all going to come down and rock Mancetter like it had never been rocked before.
I was looking forward to it, and after some heavy promotion, I managed to almost guarantee at least fifty punters in on the night. Even letter bombs from the so-called ‘Open-Spot Killer,’ wouldn’t deter me. But then, the first problem emerged. The van full of northerners couldn’t make it, apparently their vehicle had been torched by a mysterious stranger. It was a big blow as they made up over half the acts, and I didn’t have much time to replace them. I posted again on Bortle for more acts, and managed to partially replenish my line-up, but it wasn’t the same.
The night came, and I nervously waited in the back room of the Dog and Biscuit as the acts began to arrive. I noticed with a grimace, that they looked more nervous than me, so I put on a CD to calm them down. It was an album of Satanic chants that when reversed, played the greatest hits of Wings. I could see that they weren’t appreciating it, so I put in a Moby CD I found wedged down the back of a chair.
We sat, nervously waiting for the fifty-plus punters to arrive. They didn’t. After about fifteen minutes, some audience arrived in small clusters, but by the time they were all seated, there couldn’t have been any more than eighteen.
‘Good evening ladies and gentlemen!’ I said as I stepped onto the stage (NB: when I say ‘stage’, I actually mean ‘old pool table.’) ‘A funny thing happened to me on the way here (NB: It didn’t) a man came up to me and said, “You sir are a terrible comedian, just awful,” and I said, “Dad, really?”’
It got nothing. That was one of my golden gags. Normally, the old abusive-man-who-turns-out-to-be-your-dad switcheroo ensured guaranteed hilarity, but this time it earned barely a titter. I knew this was going to be a tricky night. I looked over at the acts. One of them was so terrified, his hair was on fire. I quickly brought the first act on and got out of there. He didn’t fare much better, something about the nature of his act (NB: mostly jokes about children being molested and/or murdered) suggested that he wasn’t entirely original (NB: he read his act from his mobile phone) Luckily for him though, I had forgotten to hand the cards out and he made it through to the final.
After the cards had been distributed, the next act took to the stage. He stood there motionless for a few seconds, with nothing coming out of his mouth but pitiful whimpers. At about the two minute mark, he urinated himself and was sent packing by the judges.
By the end of the first section, only three acts had progressed to the final, they were, as well as the fellow with the text message jokes, a woman who talked about ice-cream, tampons and men being pigs, and a man who raised the roof with a routine about how he can often get a seat to himself on public transport thanks to his ethnic background. Which was odd because he’s an albino called Colin.
As for me, I had given up on compering and just shouted the names of the acts from the other end of the room.
The second half was possibly even worse than the first, with all of the first four acts doing jokes about Yoda masturbating and/or their girlfriend’s ‘vadge.’ They were all dismissed by an audience who by this point, were so tired, some of them had slipped into comas.
The final act of the evening was really the icing on the cake; he hobbled onto the stage, mumbled something about his penis, and then proceeded to call a woman on the front row, ‘a focking minge.’ When I saw him being brutally beaten in the car park afterwards, I must confess a smile spread across my face.
With the night drawing to a close, and suicide not far from anyone’s mind, the six remaining audience members crowned the woman the champion, who was so delighted that she ‘treated’ us to a ten minute routine about how shoes are better than men.
After a lengthy round of excuses to the despondent acts (NB: my favourite one was, ‘it wasn’t your material, they were just distracted by those people trying to play pool on the stage.’) I trudged home, feeling like a failure. ‘That’s it,’ I thought, ‘I’m leaving the promoting to the experts.’ Then suddenly, someone called me back from the pub. I turned around and a man stood there, beckoning me back.
‘Yes?’ I said.
He looked at me intently for a few moments before opening his mouth to speak, ‘That was shit,’ he said. ‘Truly awful, probably the worst night’s entertainment I have ever witnessed.’
‘Dad,’ I said. ‘Really?’
Ha, comedy gold.