Tonight was the night of "King Gong" at The Manchester Comedy Store.
King Gong; the new talent night with the most fearsome repuation of them all!
King Gong; the place where the new acts get frequently heckled and booed offstage!
King Gong; the night where you're lucky to do more than 30 seconds before the gong sounds and you're off the mic, humiliated and broken.
KING (f#cking) GONG!!!
I'd been really sh#tting my pants about this one. As a consequence I was under-rehearsed. Whenever I'm really badly nervous I find I can't face up to the idea of practicing too much because it seems to make me worse. This is a combination of immaturity and laziness. I knew I wasn't going to forget my set but I also felt a little under-prepared as I signed my name onto the sheet of paper which I correctly guessed was also the running order. I put my name down to go on first. Best to get it out of the way. Also, I've noticed that at most gong nights* they always go easy on the first act. The card holders are a little nervous about their roles. It takes a certain ammount of mental strength to hold up that card at first.
The host for the night was Mick Ferry. I've met him a few times via my friend Toby Foster but I doubt that he remembered me. He was a great host and like all the best gong night compares he didn't take the whole thing too seriously. He also didn't over egg the cruelty angle of the whole thing. Also, I was impressed to note that they even had an actual real life gong. Brilliant!
Obviously now I've clocked up a few gigs** I'm starting to recognise some of the other faces, particularly on the Manchester circuit. As a consequence I got talking to some of the other chaps who were waiting to go on. They all swapped stories about how mercilessly the rubbish acts at King Gong are treated. "They make you do the walk of shame out of the venue sometimes" said one of them, as another added a story about someone who only got five seconds into his act before he was gonged off.
All of this made me quite excited. I don't know why but I do sort of enjoy the idea of annoying a room full of people by being rubbish. It's not a good instinct to have. Particularly if it's occasionally your only option.
My name was called out and on I went. Straight in with the three types of laughter "joke". Fell flat on its ar#e. No reaction whatsoever. Previously this has been a banker but now it's floundering about in my set, soon to be dropped if it fails again...
Then I got heckled by a woman in the audience...
Woman in audience: "Get 'im off"
Anonymous bloke: "He's not a stripper luv!"
Woman in audience: "He should take his clothes off, give us all a laugh..."
The crowd laughed politely at this exchange and I stood there in the midst of the laughter a little confused as to what I should do now. Longtime readers will remember that I've got a really bad track record as regards responding to heckles. Having been previously destroyed by the line, "you're sh#t", I wasn't sure if I'd be able to deal with this so early on. This time I decided I was going to try and say something back...
I looked at the lady. She was a little chubby, nothing I'd have normally commented on but given the situation I replied with this piece of devastating wit:
"Mmm, thanks for that, but you know, people in glass houses..."
That was it, but believe it or not it got a really big laugh. The audience were on my side. I'd only just started the gig and this time, instead of agreeing with her and booing me off they were actually applauding my ready "wit". She also showed her approval by clapping along with everyone else. Brilliant. She enjoyed having her slightly chubby body mocked!
I was a little annoyed though because I felt I'd compromised myself a bit. She was exactly the right sort of shape, as far as I'm concerned, and it'd be a shame if she then went on to worry about her weight and go all skinny on herself. Women are easily troubled by their weight and it annoys me to have been a part of that. Still, she heckled me and I'd have lost the crowd if I hadn't said anything back. So there we are...
Regardless of this I lost the crowd quite easily and without anyone else's help during my Tesco material which, frankly, I'd already been considering dropping. 2mins 45secs was my total time. From what I saw that was about average.
Me and my girlfriend chipped off after the first half was done as she's a working girl and needs time to get her sleep in. In retrospect this now seems like a mistake as the rest of the evening seems to have been even better. Mick Ferry joked about having a penguin race before we left and ultimately this joke turned out to be an actual challenege. Here they are, having said race:
Looks fun doesn't it?
We're off to Beat The Frog tomorrow where we'll watch one of my new comedy friends doing some stuff. The Manchester Comedy scene is great!
*A gong night is where you go on and three members of the audience are given cards. If they tire of your useless comedy antics they hold their card up. Once all three are up, you're offstage.
**I think it's 8 now. I'm not sure but I think that's right.