Accidental education at an open-mic comedy night

close up photography of microphone
Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels

Last night I took myself off to Cuts Comedy in Soho to see Theo’s new set. Cuts is exactly what it says on the packet, a comedy cellar under (or – depending on your perspective – in) a barbers. Theo is a friend (obvs or I’d not have trekked to Soho) and fellow Comedy School Completer working on new material, and graduate sounds too grand for a 6 week course. Besides which lots of attendees didn’t.

Last night, if I had £1 for every time someone on the stage said ‘bear with me’ I’d have a lot of pounds. If I had also had £1 for every time someone said ‘umm..’ I’d have thirty-two pounds. And yes, I counted – for fun (geek) – and might have lost count towards the end. Once a critic, always a critic. Turns out it’s hard to turn off, even when I’m not seeing dance.

It was fascinating. Motivations of people I met included ‘why not?’, to learn to manage nerves, as the ultimate stutter-management challenge (hard core, innit), to develop new material and develop their act. Many seemed to be doing it because that’s what you do, and while they had a general wish to use the experience to improve and – once improved – get into the properly-paid circuit, seemed to have given very little thought as to how that might happen.

Those fresh out of class were heavily into the ‘all-about-me’ jokes. Mostly one-liners with extensions or exaggerations that felt a little heavy. Those fresh onto the stage who hadn’t tested their work on their friends got some laughs but some huge silences and those who hadn’t considered the difference between satire, humour and objectionability bombed pretty much all the time. It was surprisingly easy to see those who were using the experience to learn, those who actually worked with the audience and those who –  having found a 60%-successful persona – seemed stuck on it rather than working with the audience to find ways to improve.

This all came as a surprise. I didn’t expect to see these things as I’m new to the scene. Don’t know the language, the techniques or the people. Don’t know the booking process or very much else. My plans are so niche that lots just aren’t relevant. But the general stuff, the trends, the give-aways…. Well, I thought I had done with my recordings, but I’m going right back to them for more analysis. This experience has shown me even-more-clearly-than-I-thought that there is always more to learn.

For the record, Theo didn’t say ‘bear with me’ or ‘umm’ at all.

Also – in my opinion – he was the best.


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