Wednesday, 4 December 2013

4th December 2013: International Comedian


I've been away for a while, being offensively busy. I've been working, reading, doing gigs. Also, last week, after having tried to reset the saddle of my bike to a more manageable height, I had an accident. When cycling around Hackney, suddenly, the saddle gave way and swung backwards, I, then, crashed onto the asphalt. I've got the bruise to prove it. I was so incredibly lucky, because if that had happened on, say, Mile End Road or Euston, I would be dead now. So that's a fun idea, isn't it? Probably. I only got my bike fixed a week later, if only to give me a bit of respite. My blog about cycling, I now concede, was cheap and uninteresting. Now, though, I got it properly looked after, so I am a lot safer (and faster) then I was before.

Also, here's a link to John Fleming's interview with me last week. I talk bollocks about Kafka in it. Subsidise his obsessions with young comedians by following this link:

I just have to say, I love dogs. I miss mine and I'm looking forward to the gig immensely :-). So there.

Right. So I'm here in the Comedy Café. I've got a gig here tonight (3-12) for the International Comedy Club. In French. I'm terrified. I'm also very early. These things are not unrelated. I've written about 4 minutes of new stuff, in French, especially for tonight. I have also translated 3 bits from my English set into the French, so I will have that as a back-up. I've been trying it out here in the upstairs bar (the actual comedy café theatre), trying to find my way around the rhythms of a language that is not my own or English. I've written out the entire set in longhand and on my laptop. I've done my homework, I've done the groundwork, I've written, I've had showers I didn't need just to write (I often write in the shower. Sexy enough for you?). I know what I'm doing, up to a point. I've even come up with a heckle put-down:
"Ne m'interrompez pas s'il vous plâit, parce-que je VRAIMENT sait pas comment répondre"
Let's hope I don't need to use it.

After going through the set a number of times, I thought: OK, time to relax now. I'll read a book. Only, the book I'm reading right now is Malina, by Ingeborg Bachmann. In German. Let's not confuse my linguistic brainspace anymore. Hence this blog.

I'm scared. I feel like the first time I did stand-up in Edinburgh, the first time I did stand-up in Brighton, the first time I ever did something like stand-up, eight years ago. It's completely new and I'm really interested, on an academic level, at what will come out.

Last July, myself and mr. Gareth Ellis (of this parish) did a gig in Ghent to a lovely audience of nerds and hackers via hackerspace and sofasurfing websites. When on the bus to London, he proposed doing more gigs like this. We'd be travelling Europe, doing comedy where they would have us, paying for the trip and a small fee whilst sleeping on sofas. I'd love to do that, still.

I'd love to do an Izzard, and do comedy in French and English AND German. I could. The obvious lack of success would be a problem there, though. And, through the rules of averages, the notion that I'll ever become successful at anything is unlikely to say the least and practically impossible if we're being realistic. Ah well. If I get anywhere in Academia, though, I'd love to do seminars in German and French (training as a foreign language teacher is plan D. Like Maria Bamford's bit: ''So, you're a comedian! So what's plan B?' ... This is plan B. After the whole supermodel/rockstar thing didn't work out.'
I'd love to do comedy in German, too. I'd love to get better at Spanish and to learn Italian, Japanese, Russian, Greek, Serbo-Croatian and Icelandic. But that will most likely never happen. We're all going to die some day.

If ever a comedian's thought process before a gig was captured, it's that last sentence.

Right, it's half 6. I'm going out for some food.


That's it! There we are. We did a sound check, then the other comics came in. Yacine, Noman and Abdelkrim had all come from Paris on the Eurostar that day. The other English act on the bill was, as I found out when he came in: Richard Vranch! My friend Jennifer is a good friend of his and of all of the other Comedy Store Players. That was a way in. I had to remind myself that this was just a gig and the fact that I had seen him do improv on youtube when watching all series of Whose Line and on stage at Carré, Amsterdam, in 2010 - shouldn't matter in the slightest. I didn't say that I think he's amazing to his face. But if he reads this blog, there. I do think that.

Yacine, I found out, is trying to improve his English to do Edinburgh next year. That's really cool. Also, he'd been the opening act for Eddie Izzard in Paris (the ghost of Izzard is starting to haunt me!). WHICH IS ALSO REALLY COOL! Hosni was going to compère, Abdelkrim would open, then a break, then Richard and myself (follow that, kid, I thought) and Yacine would close. The gig ended up starting quite late, but it was full to the brim. And everyone was French. That day I had tried to watch a Jamel Debbouze registration to find comedy rhythms in French. Only thing was, he went way too quickly. That was the primary note I got from Abdelkrim and Yacine, who were so good to check my set for grammar and understandability. I spoke too fast and I needed to speak slower. That was interesting, because I speak very quickly in English, so I had to approach the gig in French differently. Completely differently.

When the gig started, I tried to focus on Noman's compèring and Abdelkrim's set. I got some gags, but both of them spoke too fast for me. And my head was very much on my script and the last minute alterations to it. Abdelkrim killed (in the good, comedy way) and Noman was wonderfully fast on his feet. The break seemed to take centuries, then Richard did his bit, which, him being an improviser, was largely made up on the hoof. He took the roof off for five minutes. Then it was me.

It was sort of a blur. I got on stage, said hello and did my first gag, adjusting to the rhythms of the language and the persona I suddenly seemed to have. The first five minutes went by in a flash, there were great laughs, I could improvise and be bitchy and get away with it. Then, the English stuff. To say that bit didn't go so well is to over-estimate it. Oddly, my specially written material went down amazingly and the translated material didn't. I was slower, I had to constantly adjust and try not to improvise in English, because everything within me turned back to my faster Anglophone persona. I did massively enjoy it though.

After that, another break and Yacine took the roof off. The gig was une succès fous. I thank Guy Stevens, Noel, the Comedy Café Theatre, Abdelkrim Bichkou, Noman Hosni, Richard Vranch and Yacine Belhouse for the great support they gave a -way- less experienced comic. It's definitely something I'd like to write about in the future. And if there's any French language gigs around, I'd love to do my French set there and develop it.

Interestingly, after the gig, Yacine and I started to discuss our respective set and we hit on the issue of culture and comedy. I've spent the past five years researching everything I could on British and Anglophone culture. Name it, I've googled and clocked it. I can now converse with British culture in the way a stand-up comedian should. If I would want to do something similar with French culture, that would be another five years I might not have. But we'll see what the future brings.

Also: take a look at my revised gig list. Tonight I'm doing Rudy's Revenge in Hoxton, tomorrow a charity gig for dogs in Romania in Streatham, Friday Way Out West in Brentford (wherever that may be) and Sunday the Late Train Comedy Night in Winchester. Also, I'm turning 26 on the 19th. All blog readers are invited for drinks and watching Nine Lessons And Carols for Godless People with me at the Bloomsbury Theatre. You even get to touch my face.

1 comment:

  1. I'm still well up for that hackerspace/couchsurfing trip around Europe! - Gareth Ellis