There are two acts in this section. I am the second act and the first act has done very well. I feel a flicker of apprehension. I really do wonder if I will be able to top that. I try to keep my mind blank before I go on. I just think about how I will walk on stage. I have scrawled the word “face” on my hand in biro. It is to remind myself to do something or not to do something with my face.
I walk on stage and the mere act of walking gets people laughing. I wish I can remember what it is that I am doing right? I pause looking at them, this just gets more laughter. It feels the perfect comedic moment unsullied by jokes. Any talking or material will just ruin the whole thing. Perhaps I should do this for twenty minutes? I think they are laughing at what they image I will say. And I don’t think anything I will actually say can ever be funnier than what they imagine I will say. It is going really well but I am already in a quandary. How do I start my act? I don’t think I have ever had this sensation on stage before. I am hemmed in by expectation. I have set up some character that is unfulfillable. I know I have to do some transition before I can start the material or it will jar. I soften the persona. I do something with my face, not sure what it is exactly, but it indicates to them a change in gear. It works. The material lands really well and the gig is already at maximum output. I can’t see how it is possible for it to go better from here? This is not an ideal situation because there is no room to build. At best it can only flatline from here on…or dip.
I think the trick is to convince yourself it is never going as well as it actually is. That way I try harder. Fight for every bit of material, reach for every punchline, avoid cruising. It is human nature to ease off when it is going well and I have to over ride all of that instinct to conserve resources. That is how I can stop complacency creeping in. But it is impossible to not acknowledge it is going really well and I can feel myself taking my foot off the gas a bit. I am telling myself not to do it but it is happening. My inner animal is saying “what are you doing? This is going well enough, take it easy.” I am up against the limits of my will power. I am trying to over ride my sensory input, ego etc. I wish I was a Kung-Fu expert. Then I could master myself. The audience are such big laughters that it is also effecting my rhythm. I have to wait a bit to drop the next bit in and this expose the facade of it all. I am trying to give the illusion that this is all a musing but now it is revealed as a serious of set up and punchlines.
The first ten minutes are at full tilt. Maximum energy. There is little room to go anywhere further. I have mined this approach for all it is worth. I could continue in this vein like a bloated lottery winner coasting towards death. It is going too well and I am in danger of becoming unplugged from the gig and phoning it in while my mind thinks about something else. Christmas presents? Charlie Brown and Snoopy? I have to make things more difficult for myself, take a gamble, put myself on the line. I switch into a newer bit of material about God being autistic. I am less familiar with this routine material than my older stuff. This is a good call. I am less comfortable about it and I am taking a risk. It is forcing me to think each step through. The quality of the laughter seems to change as if it is more engaged with what I am saying whereas the earlier stuff felt more pavlovian response. To be honest it is not that much of a risk at all but it is all relative, compared to the start it is more off piste.
I am now around the fifteen minute mark, I have to think about wrapping things up. I have a number of options to choose from. I decide to talk about “Having sex for the first time” I have done this routine many times and sometimes I use it to close but tonight it’s choice proves to be an error. It is usually a universal and accessible piece so I don’t know why they don’t go for this as much? There has been a lot of material about sex tonight. Indeed my routine has been sex heavy. Possibly the audience feel it is going over old ground? Maybe it doesn’t sit well with my other choice of material? Perhaps I mismanage the link into? Possibly it is some unrelated performance issue or maybe the audience are tiring now? This section has been going on for fifty minutes now.
Whatever is the gig noticeably sags at this point. Noticeably to me. I don’t know that the audience notice at all? I am hyper-sensitive to these things. I am forced to switch tactically to something else to end on. It picks up the pace but perhaps I am now dining out on past glories. It works but gives the set an odd, deformed shape. The audience response is generous at the end but I feel strangely depressed.
I would be interested to know what a harsh audience would have made of this.