I took a bullet for another comedian at last night’s late gig.
I was booked to do a set at the Cow Café at the Underbelly on a mixed bill that started just after midnight; exactly twelve hours before my next show. I was a little reticent about doing it, as it was late, and I’d not had the best day. I felt a little brain-exploded and anxious, due to over-tiredness, and didn’t want to do anything that would contribute to this and stoke it; something told me that the environment I was set to enter would do exactly that.
Thankfully, watching Ashley Haden’s excellently vitriolic debut solo show ‘We Are AllCunts’ before the gig helped blow the cobwebs out of my head and re-evaluate. It took me a while to find the venue, The Crags Bar, as it’s a bit of a way out; I knew the name of the pub through staying in thw Newington side of town a few times with Glyn, but pictured it being closer to the Meadow Bar than it was. I found the venue with a few minutes to spare, bumped into Ashley downstairs, and went up to settle in for the show.
By a pure fluke, the woman sitting next to me had seen my show. “I liked the Google Maps stuff,” she told me, which was nice, yet ominous, as that's one of the first gags in it; trust me to find a pessimistic view on some praise.
I left Crags Bar an hour later, feeling positive, despite having been reminded of just how fucked we are politically at the moment. I dashed home, FaceTimed my wife, before putting on my battledress (a smart shirt) and setting off for the venue.
Cowgate was awash with drunks, staggering in my way with a foreboding equal to the witches’ scene at the beginning of Macbeth; “turn back, turn back.”
I arrived at the venue to find the promoter, who was lovely, chatting with the other comic booked, who looked like he’d smelt the scent of the potentially unpleasant performance about to head our way. I, however, felt strangely positive about the whole thing. The space looked nice, though there were only a handful of people there, scattered about on sofas and beanbags. House music blared from the PA, which should have been a warning.
Spin forward ten minutes and the promoter walked over to the two of us and said to the other act, “You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to; I sense you’d rather not.”
“I’m easy either way,” I chipped in. “I guess we wont know how much they’ll want to listen until we start.”
So it was that I foolishly offered to go first, as the other comic who was meant to kick off looked like he really didn’t fancy it. My set was okay, considering the general disinterest of the audience and the open-ended venue, where no-one was expecting comedy, just a drink. I made the best of it, gently ribbing a guy who was dozing in my eye-line, and using the stool next to me a prop.
When I came off, the other act took my place, fully aware that I’d taken the most difficult slot. I felt like I’d been used as a pawn; taking the brunt of a difficult space, so he didn’t have to; like a comedic guinea pig, so he could assess the lay of the land. Either that, or I was being paranoid. Actually, that’s more likely the case.
Today, I’m feeling a lot more positive, despite the fact I cancelled my show as there were no sales. I’m lucky it’s the first time this has happened. My wife’s coming up today for the weekend too, and not a moment too late. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, and getting back on the horse, so to speak.
(Apologies to the other comic; it wasn’t your fault.)
I was writing this in a coffee shop when I received an email from the booker of Just the Tonic's family-friendly mixed bill show Afternoon Delight, asking if I was about to step in. I ran back to my gigs to pick up my joke book and then on to the venue in the space of 5-10 minutes and went on straight away. It was a lot of fun; at least I can say I haven't had a gigless day in Edinburgh since kicking off my run yet.