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.