I was a new act once. Now I’m old and decrepit and carry a foot lump in my pocket with me wherever I go. It was great being a new act. Back then I had no idea that I’d be doing this for a living, travelling round the world (occasionally) and carrying a foot lump in my pocket wherever I went.
It’s been years since I compered a new act night and, if the one I did on Wednesday night is anything to go by, they’ve changed a lot. It’s a career thing now. It’s how you get to be on E4. And it shows. Yes, these people were new and yes they were nervous and it wasn’t an easy gig but my God do they have to show their hunger quite so much? Within seconds of being handed the running order I was surrounded by young fellas asking “When am I on? When am I on?” How the fuck could I know when they’re on if I don’t know who the fuck they are and, you know, what happened to “Hello”?
Don’t get me wrong, I know that it was a competition night and winning must be a fairly big deal to these new acts but for fucks sake relax. So what if you don’t win? You’ve just started. You have no right to be the best act on a bill when you’ve just started. Greg Burns, who has been going for about 10 years, was there and you didn’t see him thinking he was the best on the bill. Obviously.
But there was a moment where a few of these new acts thought Greg was a new act also. They saw a new act being relaxed and confident on stage and started questioning how long this guy had been going for. What the HELL is he doing on our stage? He’s been going for longer than 8 weeks. If he hasn’t made it now then he never will so he can fuck off now because we have the producer of TNT coming to see us tonight. He said he’d be here. He really did.
Four separate acts came up to me saying "Is he new?" and part of me wanted to say yes just to see the nervousness grow but as they seemed so utterly serious anyway I just couldn't do it.
I’m just not sure new act competitions are good if new acts are actually properly competitive. Where is the joy in performing if you see something beyond performing and have that as your goal? I’m probably being naïve.
Luckily, I know that there are plenty of new acts who do seem to be there for the joy of it. I still look back at that night at The Ambassador’s Comedy Reception and the nervous excitement of youth with great fondness. Eric Lampaert was great that night and he just seemed so happy in what he was doing. The same with new acts that I’ve met in Manchester this weekend. I’ve been hanging out with my new friend Curtis who has been doing stand-up for a year who is driving from Manchester to Eastbourne on Sunday to do an unpaid gig and he seems delighted by it. Will there be people in from Avalon/E4/CBeebies in at Eastbourne?
Yes, this is a grumpy old man grumping oldly. It’s what I do second best (my Father is slightly better at this sort of thing). I started in comedy through improvised comedy which, although lots of people think is utter shit including me a lot of the time, just felt like a brilliantly free way to be creative and funny. It was exciting to be involved in something that, to me, was totally new. I cared nothing about a career, just about the fun and joy of doing some good work.
FUCK! That’s why I STILL don’t have a career. If you’re a new act and have just read this PLEASE IGNORE EVERYTHING I HAVE SAID. It is the only good advice an old man like me can give you.
Have to say that last night’s gigs were great. Manchester was good (though I wasn’t very on form) but Liverpool was excellent. I improvised my aging arse off and it’s all thanks to a lovely audience that were made lovely by a genuinely great compere called Chris Ramsey. He was fantastic.
Chris is 22. The fucking cunt.
Just a reminder that I’ll be on Andrew Collins’ 6 Music show tomorrow. I will be bringing my foot lump. You won’t be able to see it but he will.