I was impressed!
Mr Cee, the compére and promotor..I think...had offered Jo the gig after she helped out a few nights at the Comedy School during the graduations and stuff. It may have been partly a little test....'Do you really want it?' It's not the kind of venue Jo normally plays, would she be willing to go out of her way and take a risk?
She did....I was impressed! And I could tell she was a bit nervous about it. Especially after he said 'bring your tightest and most polished 10 minutes'.
Jo being her normal self-deprecating self, responded 'No Pressure then??', thinking...you've seen what I've got mate! The fact is though, he offered her the gig having seen what she'd got, and that tells you something. I think quite often that Jo doesn't give herself enough credit for her comeday, everyone has their off nights, but I've personally seen her storm the place with a few different sets. Contrary to popular belief...the beer alone isn't enough to keep me going to see her.
So, we'll ignore the car journey that started well and ended in some angst. Jo realised too late that when you put a road atlas on my lap...it's LITERALLY there just for show. I was concentrating more on the written out directions she had given me...and I even got those wrong. All those junctions, roundabout, numbers and letters. They mean nothing to me!!
Get me a bastard A-Z and I'll find us a way out ok?!!
We finally arrive at the venue, The Littentree. It's unlike any other comedy venue I've been to, in that it's just in the bar, not a room upstairs. As an audience member I found it offputting that there was a massive railing around the stage. Clearly, this is because it's usually used as a dancefloor, and the railing is to prevent drunkards falling off and cracking their skulls open. It puts a barrier between you and the act though...I wasn't keen.
You could tell from the way the room was filling up that this wasn't your standard London comedy venue/set out. There were some people who were sat around tall tables with their backs to the act (although to give them their due, I think they swivelled when acts were on). I got the impression that there would be quite a bit of chatter and activity going on whilst the comedy was in full swing. I wasn't sure if all the people who were there had actually come for the comedy, or just a night out, and comedy happened to be there.....would they know comedy ettiquette? WOULD THEY? Or was I going to spend the whole evening arms crossed with a grumpy look on my face...shooting acid glances at anyone daring to start a conversation? As it happens, Mr Cee did remind people at various intervals of Comedy Ettiqeutte, which I thought was cool.
I was nervous for Jo, Mr Cee had arrived late (through no fault of his own I believe) and as a result the show started an hour late, which is always a bad start, makes people restless. I've heard great things about Mr Cee, but even he struggled with this audience. He admitted he was slightly off the ball, but the audience was quite unresponsive and really wasn't helping him along at all....living up to my expectations...grrrrr.
I must just add here that I'm one of those audience members who I guess comedians either love or hate. Unless the set is REALLY awful I will always sit there and laugh, whoop, clap and smile. Sometimes it's so awful even I can't manage that..but those are rare occasions. If you're the kind of comedian who thrives on constructive criticism I'm not your girl, but if you just like to see a smiley face....just one smiley face in the audience...that's me. I consider it polite!
Anywhoo, Jo went on first, to an audience that had already proved their slight lack of enthusiasm. But she totally went for it! Knowing her set back to front and having discussed bits and bobs with her beforehand, I could tell she made a couple of mistakes....mostly due to the stony-faced cow in the front row who refused to crack a smile....but they wouldn't have been discernible to the first-time listener. She was projecting, dynamic and confident I thought. Even when she forgot where she was for a second, she recovered quickly.
Most importantly, there were people laughing....we like it when people laugh.
Whilst I was sitting there watching, it struck me how incredibly brave it is of her to go up there and do that. Totally out of her comfort zone, strange venue, strange audience, new show. I've often told people how crap-in-my-knickers scared I get when I have to do any form of public speaking...I'm crapping myself at having to do a 5-minute presentation to ONE person tomorrow...but to do it in that situation? You wouldn't see me for dust.
I imagine that there are milestones and learning experiences for every comedian and I think that was an awesome one for Jo, she'll be tougher and more confident at new venues, and she'll be able to look back and say....'Well, they weren't as bad as that lot I played to at the Littentree in November '09!!' (Apparently it's not normally that bad in there....just a disclaimer, I wouldn't want to put anyone off!! Comedy is WIN!)
Big respect to Jo and any and all who have the balls to go out and do it.
I surely don't!!