On Tuesday night (29 April), accompanied by my wonderfully supportive friend Sarah, I braved a tube-strike affected London to make my way to Ryan’s Bar in Stoke Newington and my heat of the Funny Women Awards 2014. I had hoped to be able to bring you footage, but that’s proving to be more problematic than I’d thought it would be. Hopefully I will be able to post it some point fairly soon.
My one and only other stand-up performance was in May 2013 – almost a year ago, and I did it as research for my novel The Dare Club. Since then, I have been focussing on writing and marketing the book. Besides, I didn’t need to perform again, did I? Those scenes were written now. Surely I didn’t want to do it again? Except that…I did. When I was setting some goals for myself in the New Year, performing stand-up comedy again appeared on my list. Clearly, I hadn’t finished with it. Or it hadn’t finished with me! I needed to try it one more time to see if it was something I wanted to continue with or whether I could say to myself, “You did that. Well done you!” And put it behind me.
So the idea of performing at Funny Women Awards 2014 was born.
On Tuesday evening, Sarah and I allowed lots of time to get to the venue – just as well too, because it took us at least half an hour to find the right bus stop –sorry, Sarah – since I was doing the map reading, I take full responsibility! Finally we arrived – after a fortifying break in a pleasant local park to chill out and fuel up – and went downstairs to the function room. How small it looked after Up The Creek, where I’d previously performed! This was going to make it easier, wasn’t it? Although that empty stage with the waiting microphone was still pretty intimidating.
With both the event organiser and the compère held up by the effects of the tube strike, there was time to chat to some of the other contestants. All of them were really lovely, but also a lot more experienced than me. Gulp!
One woman who was in her sixties and told me that she’d decided the previous November to try comedy because “as we get older, things scare us more, and I didn’t want that to happen to me.” She has performed 18 times since making that decision. Wow! How inspiring. All the time I was chatting to everybody, I felt fairly calm – and excited too. I’d practised a lot, and I suppose I was confident that I’d done everything I possibly could to prepare. I could also vividly remember how amazing it felt the previous May when people laughed at my jokes. I wanted more of that feeling!
The organiser arrived, and the running order was shared. I was up fourth out of nine contestants – the same position I’d been in last time! Perfect. I was wearing the same outfit I’d worn on that occasion too. Note to self – find another outfit, or that one may become your ‘lucky’ outfit, and what will you do if it a) wears out, b) is in the wash or c) you change shape and it doesn’t fit anymore?!!
All systems were go.
Sorry, contestants 1, 2 and 3; I was watching you, but I can’t remember too much about your acts. Except that the woman before me played a character that was very loud and very Australian. She seemed a very formidable act to follow on from, especially as she ended her act with a joke about chlamydia – something I was about to make a gag about myself…
Then suddenly the compère was announcing me and it was time to go on. Like before, it seemed to take me an age to take the microphone from the stand and to move the stand behind me – I definitely need more practice at that – but then I was turning to say ‘hello’ and plunging in. And finding that, although the venue was small, I COULD SEE ABSOLUTELY EVERYBODY IN THERE. At Up The Creek, the lights were so bright the audience was completely invisible. Not this time. I could see who was laughing. And who was not… Also, with fewer people, when there was laughter, it was inevitably not as loud as it had been on the previous occasion. My left hand – the one holding the microphone – was shaking. I just hoped no one could see. Luckily, my voice was not, and I pressed on, remembering all my jokes – hurrah!!!
Then the microphone stopped working.
Cold panic. It was a bit like my first driving test when I got to a busy crossroads to find that the traffic lights were out. What the hell should I do? The only thing to do in this situation was to carry on, so that’s what I did. Fortunately, people could still hear me because the venue was small, but I did feel very alone and vulnerable without the mic and it was a huge relief when it began to work again.
I got to the end and experienced that same amazing buzz when everybody applauded. I’d done it! Yay! And now I could sit back and enjoy the other acts. Everyone was amazing, and there was so much variety. Fortunately we weren’t in competition with each other at that stage – any of us – or none of us – could be picked to go through to the semi-finals in July. There are 12 more heats to go, and around 60 women will go through to the semi-finals. So, it’s a case of wait and see now. But whatever the outcome, I’m so glad I did it, and I know now that I definitely want to do it again. So I’ll be walking round everywhere with a notebook to jot down things I think I can use for material, and Googling to find opportunities to perform.
Watch this space. And do be funny and inspiring if we should happen to meet up. I promise not to mention any names.