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The first rule of Bright Club... - A Most Illuminating Tale
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Robert Wells or Mr Waters
Date: 7.16 pm, Wednesday 17th October, 2012
Subject: The first rule of Bright Club...
Security: Public
Tags:performance, stand-up
So last night I did my first ever bit of stand up. I've done occasional cabarets before, but always hiding behind a song. Last night, I did Bright Club. For anyone not familiar, Bright Club is normally where scientists get to spend ten minutes being funny about their research, but occasionally they go and play in a bigger theatre, and so they turn Bright Club over to different groups. Last night was themed around Acting.

On diamond_geyser's suggestion and because I know I don't do this enough, here's what I did and how I did it and how it felt when I did it.

It started on twitter like this:

28 Sep
Clare Nightingale @drasticsturgeon
@weaselspoon would you be interested in doing a spot at our next @BrightClubLDN ? The theme is ACTING y'see.
Robert Wells @weaselspoon
@drasticsturgeon @BrightClubLDN I would be in equal parts interested, excited, and terrified. Drop me an email: bright(my twiiter).com

This led to a meeting with Steve Cross (and fellow initiate Leila Al-Jeboury) in the senior common room of UCL, where he gave us a brief pep talk on being funny and a book to help us.

Inevitably, I read the book through before starting to write, because it seemed easier and I can procrastinate with the best of them. It had some nice tricks for basically making anything into a joke, which I almost entirely failed to then apply, but which made it feel much better to approach a blank page.

I started by writing out a load of anecdotes that I might like to tell. Stock stories that my friends have all heard a hundred times, but which I can tell without thinking. I added to the pot a couple of things about drama schools that I thought would be on topic. I squeezed the best of that into a shape dictated by the idea of business cards as a running gag and worked on squeezing as many laughs as I thought I could get out of it. The running gag allows for a callback, which gives the set an artificial sense of professionalism.

For the record, almost everything in the set happened. Chronology and characters might have shifted, but everything happened.

The first time I tried it in front of another person, it ran 12 minutes and there wasn't a single laugh in the chunk about drama schools. It was just bile. That all went, as did the opening bit of fluff which was a cheap gag comparing actors to alcoholics. It seemed amusing rather than funny, but with only a day left I worked on learning lines and getting it down to <8 mins. And making sure I had the appropriate business cards.

Yesterday I went to an airless basement room in the Rockafeller building of UCL, underneath the disection rooms by the Grant Museum of Zooology. Five scared about-to-be stand-ups ran through our sets with a working mic and slides where appropriate. It went well. I took to wearing a three piece suit in order to have a different business card in each pocket, and none of them got stuck. The audience laughed. Steve's notes were that (1) he'd never heard the word Taschen said out loud and (2) Is that his real name and does he mind? I did forget to put the mic stand back, which is punishable by death, but that then meant that I could remember to do it two lines early, leaving me both hands free for the final card.

After the dress, I ate, had a haircut, and walked a lot. I got to the venue far too early and walked some more. Then we drifted in and set up in the dank green room. I ran my set again to myself in the quiet corner and obsessively pulled and replaced the various cards. Sound check was short and simple. No problems with feedback, proximity effect sounded sexy, I'm too short to hit the dangerous speaker. Back to the green room.

Then the house was open. Then a compere, who scared the shit out of me, and then I was on. I honestly can't remember much of the next 8 minutes and 10 seconds (I set a timer at the start of my set that would vibrate at 7mins for 1min, and when it stopped vibrating the mic was back in the stand). I've been trying to remember whether I said certain things, and I can't be sure. I got some good laughs. The ranty bit about porn got a laugh which was the scary bit. The naked story got nothing at all. It had never got a laugh but I really like that story. The callback got a laugh before I'd even said it. And then I was off and three beers disappeared very quickly.

I got to relax and enjoy the rest of the show, which I'll write up at some point, and I got given a handmade one-of-a-kind zine by the lovely Tove as a well done present. Lovely things said by lovely people. And then it was time to go home and try and remember how to sleep.

All in all, that was marvellous. Can't say I'm thinking of adding another business card to the stack, but that was fun and I'd do it again.

I'll upload and transcribe the recording here when I get it. For now there are excellent photographs from who else but diamond_geyser which can be found here.
Grab a pen | 2 jottings | | Link






Isabelle
User: diamond_geyser
Date: 1.12 pm, Friday 19th October, 2012 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You were great. Showed up Kent, too (a woeful compere) in immediately being likeable and entertaining. Raaa.
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Robert Wells or Mr Waters: Whoops
User: weaselspoon
Date: 2.50 pm, Friday 19th October, 2012 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Whoops
Thanks. That means a lot coming from you.

I think the most terrifying moment of the whole experience was having to suddenly switch from worrying about timing my walk to the stage and remembering to start my stopwatch to worrying about how I should respond if I walked on to a stage in absolute silence.
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