Monday, 2 May 2011

Bad Gigs

I was going to post this last week, but I didn't want to put anyone (you know who you are!) off their first big performance...

Just when things are going well and you've had a short run of well-received performances and are starting to feel jolly pleased with yourself... comes the Bad Gig. And, confidence being more of a stalactite than a permanent structure - growing slowly from the drip of many layers - it all comes crashing down around you again.

I was invited to a Poetry Night I hadn't been to before. The other guests turned out to be especially 'poetic' - lyrical, composed, and in possession of slim volumes of their work published by reputable presses.

Now I do do that sort of poem, as you know. But last time I was at this venue (different night run by the same people) the comedy stuff went down great and the organisers seemed to want that.

But as I listened to the 'proper' poets I began to feel uncomfortable about my own work. I mentally rearranged my set to include some more 'clever' poems. But during the break, an acquaintance claimed to be desperate for humour, so I started rearranging it back to funny, thus ending up with an awkward mix of the two - which can work well, but just... didn't.

I don't like spotlights - I like venues where you can see your audience, make eye contact with them. When I can't see them, I'm like a bunny in the headlights.

So here are a few tips for gigs... to stop them being BAD:

  • Suss out your fellow guests. Do you really want to be the one who lowers the tone?
  • Beware of being 'the grand finale' when the audience is numbed already into a strokey-beard seriousness
  • Sometimes a small audience that has been required to be serious may be embarrassed to laugh
  • Avoid 'funny' at poetry events where no-one claps 'til the end of your set - the absence of applause will create a black hole which will sap your 'special' energy
  • Don't attempt your bestiality poem* in a royal wedding context unless you are sure the audience is with you (I thought it'd be perfect, combining as it does a disrespect for royalty and skepticism about romantic relationships generally)
  • Go home, go to bed, stay there. What are you even thinking of?

* Which I did post a while ago but removed because I submitted it for publication... and it's been accepted so it can't be that bad. Remember? The frog-kissing that got out of hand?

We should have told her then (perhaps in verse )
that beasts don’t change to men – quite the reverse.


  1. I am always the one who lowers the tone. It's what I'm famous for.

  2. Which is why I won't be doing any performance poetry. I take my hat off to you, Clare.

    I may have been neglecting my beard for almost 40 years. I never think to stroke it, even when I'm in a serious frame of mind.

  3. oops - had scheduled this for today by accident *shakes fist at self....slaps self on face*

    Dave - I've lowered my own tone today!

    Martin - your beard must be very long if you've neglected it for 40 years!

  4. I think that the third point you made was spot on - small audiences may be too embarrassed to laugh. I have seen it before. I wish I was in your audience because I would have laughed my head off!

  5. loved...strokey-beard seriousness... funny

  6. Annie - thanks sweetie... although that does sound a bit gruesome!

    Clare (and Gary... who's a bit beardy himself, frankly) - ta! ...we often used to have 'strokey-beard meetings' in a previous job - and everyone knew it would involve serious thinking! =8-|~ (my attempt at strokey-beard smiley...FAIL!)