HAVE YOU EVER peered over the edge of a very high cliff and wondered what it would be like tojump‘.’ For me. that's in the same league as doing stand-up comedy. I had never been brave —- or suicidal — enough to do it before. but last week l found myself recklessly agreeing to try my hand at an open mic spot.
After six script-writing days of jotting down everything I found vaguely amusing. the night rolled around. The piece that had been witty just the night before now seemed lacklustre and even depressing. but it was time to leave and too late to back out.
I walked to Christie‘s Comedy Cellar with a palpitating heart and sweaty palms. The only positive thought I could muster up was that no one I know has ever died of embarrassment.
I arrived early. to discover four male comedians leaning at the empty bar gossiping about various clubs. I don‘t think I’ve ever felt so alone. As the punters started arriving. I discovered I was to go on after the interval and had over an hour to sweat it out.
Dutch courage was in order. so I grabbed a lager and sat down trying my best to forget about the impending disaster. The reassuring words from Amanda. the club‘s manager — ‘lust stick to your script and you’ll be all right' -— weren‘t enough to convince me. Maybe they would have done if my script didn‘t seem so very ordinary.
'l'hc comedians (l exclude myself from this category) were relaxed and even enjoying themselves. For them. it was a day in the office. (iordon Brunton was elected compere at the last minute due to the non—arrival of our advertised host. (Tool and composed, he oozed calm. I ran to the bathroom three times and stared at my script. eyes glazed. as James Campbell. Reg ‘Voodoo' Anderson and Ben Gershwen performed.
Coming backstage (or the wee corridor to the fire exit that is known as backstage). they all commented on how quiet the crowd was. I was inwardly relieved: a bunch of lager louts hurling abuse at me wasn’t my idea of fun. Maybe the crowd would just ignore me - but then the microphone cut out as Gordon introduced me. Just what I needed.
Suddenly. I wasn‘t nervous. Everything seemed clear. That is. until I got on-stage realising l'd left my glasses in my bag and couldn‘t read my script. Throwing it aside. I confronted the audience. MY audience. For that five minutes. I forgot about nerves. I also forgot about how to talk into a microphone. although my wombat impression didn‘t need a mike and was a good start. People actually laughed . . . They wanted me to do well. I couldn’t believe it.
I free-formed it. making it up as I went along and when I lost the thread. they laughed. I found out later that I had won over the female side of the audience with my ex- boyfriend story. which incorporated his telephone number. All too soon. it was over.
It was an nerve—wracking and exhilarating experience — I can see how comedians get a kick out of it. Then again. people can get addicted to some pretty weird things . . . I’ stick to my day job. Not funny. but safe.
Christie's Comedy Cellar operates every Thursday and Sunday at WJ. Christie & Son, West Port, Edinburgh. Tickets: 0131 228 3765.
The open mic spot at a comedy club is the first step to a glorious career as a stand-up comedian. So why would most people rather face a firing-squad? Words: Tracy Griffen Photograph: David N McIntyre
Stand up and be recognised (left to right): performers Paddy Burns, Tracy Griﬂen, Reg Anderson and Gordon Brunton
14-28 May 1998TIIE usrrr