How to be a stand-up comedian - Week four
Thankfully not in front of a baying mob at Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival (just yet!), but in an old classroom provided by my comedy tutor Marc Blake.
Before you start talking you have to get up there. Marc advised me to strut on and make sure I'm okay with the mic. Either take it off the stand and pop the thing aside or, as in my case, keep it stuck there to stop me pacing back and forth. Lee Evans I am not.
We practised with a brolly and a water bottle, but I couldn't procrastinate any more. I started talking. Fast. Way too fast. Those who have seen my rare public speaking outings (my wedding, my bar mitzvah) will know that I gabble.
And when I get nervous I gabble faster. When I get drunk I gabble even faster still. I took a deep breath, slowed down, and realised that - amazingly - I did have around about five minutes of stuff I could proudly call a "set".
Despite starting to learn it all, there's still plenty of tweaking to be done. Some words just didn't sound right said out loud. Other gags were still too wordy or rolled off the tongue badly. We cross stuff out, add stuff in, and try again. And again. And again.
Hitting the beats is important - we underline phrases, punchlines, words and bits to encourage me to really slam down on those (hopefully) funny moments. Marc also says to remember to enjoy it. If you're not enjoying it, then really what's the point?
We worked on other tips and tricks. I did my set with the sun full in my face to replicate those harsh stage lights. It wasn't comfortable but was good practice. If only we could hire in an audience of slightly tipsy comedy fans to gawp and put me off...
Marc had me meet his eyes at one end of the room and then again on the other side - it's a stand-up show, not a Slowdive gig. People want me to be engaging with them, not inspecting my shoelaces!
And my big fear - forgetting everything. Marc says that writing a handful of memory-joggers on my hand is absolutely fine. Stewart Lee does it, so why not! Hopefully I won't need them, but it'll be a nice security blanket to have in case of the worst.
Next up is my comedy masterclass, with none other than Peep Show star Isy Suttie! To say that I'm excited about that would definitely be an understatement. I'm also terrified that she'll think - at this very late stage - that my material is completely awful. I guess I'll find out soon.
Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival is supported by top TV comedy channel Dave
Marc Blake is the author of How A Writer Dies - available as a £1.54 ebook now.
How to be a stand-up comedian - Week one
How to be a stand-up comedian - Week two
How to be a stand-up comedian - Week three