The life of a circuit comedian is an anonymous one. You trawl the UK, turning up at clubs of varying size, professionalism and suitability – from packed West End theatres staffed by experts, to empty canteens in student unions where you’re greeted with, “You don’t actually NEED a microphone do you?”- to tell your jokes, scrounge free drinks, and disappear into the night.
The best you can hope for is that the next day someone might say to the person next to them at work, “The one with brown hair was funny. I can’t remember any of his jokes …. or his name. He was from the Isle Of Wight.”
But every comic seems to have that one place where they can pull a crowd. There can be a variety of reasons; they once had an amazing gig there, were a resident compere, or, as has happened to me on the island, are the only comedian to come from there.
I found this out when I did two nights at The Cornerhouse, a pub which had NEVER put comedy on before. I had no idea what to expect, so was chuffed and surprised to find the pub full.
I’d performed to Manx audiences before; a couple of ill-advised corporate things when I was very new, the group at my Edinburgh show who draped the three legs over the front of their seats (“We thought you’d be rubbish, but you weren’t”), and, most bizarrely, the entire Marown Football Club in a nightclub in the Alpine ski resort of Val Thorens. 30 of them in an audience of less than 80. Mad!
Myself and landlord Ady thought I would be performing a version of my Edinburgh show.
Yeah .. we “thought”. What actually happened - on BOTH nights - was that whenever I started a routine I was mercilessly heckled.
And not the sort of heckles you’d get in clubs. Personal stuff.
Not "get off you're rubbish", more like, "Your mum's been having an affair with the guy from EB Christian’s for 10 years"
I got weird requests for stories too, "Tell them about when we robbed those empty bottles from Downwards to get the deposits back"
I'm not sure I've ever had so much fun on stage - being able to respond with embarrassing stories from my audience's past.
So I love playing on the island. My only regret is that I never got to play the Venue; once the home of the Crescent Leisure Centre’s “fairground”.
I remember at 16 my ambition was to be heckled on the site of the world’s smallest ghost train by an old lady in a rocking chair going, “Come inside to the shoo-ting gallery. It’s great fun” …. while getting squirted in the face by a skunk. I guess you had to be there.
Hopefully I’ll be performing on the island soon; feel free to come along and heckle … but ONLY with deeply personal secrets. Oh yes, and my mum hasn't been having an affair. That was a joke!