A couple of days before I ventured up here for the Fringe I had to fly over to Jersey to do a gig. Now, in fairness, it wasn’t a good move, it had just been in the diary for ages and I’d not really taken on board what an upheaval it would be to have to go get a flight and back when I really should have been treasuring the remaining ‘quality’ time before this annual idiotic scrummage of self-doubt and stress. It was decent money though, and at present decent money is not to be sniffed at, so I trundled down to Gatwick and away we went.
As it turned out, that trip to Jersey proved rather poignant, and I think it was a brilliant pain in the arse to have to deal with. You had three comics, all about to go to the Fringe – so all of us going through that lovely gentleness that simmers in late July early August where you simply don’t wanna be a dick to your contemporaries. It’s very odd, your manners get better, you’re reluctant to start any bitching, you listen to other comics and try and learn or find something you can empathise with, so you don’t upset karma and don’t feel so fucking alone in the anxiety that doing an Edinburgh show brings. You want to hear that other people are taking the same journey with the same neurosis, and you want them to manage it so you can envisage how you would manage it too. Going back to yesterday’s post, it’s the same reason you simply don’t want to see a shitty review for anyone, there is a feel of “there but for the grace of god…”, there’s no delight to be taken in somebody else having a rough ride (in any given gig at any other time of the year there’s a perverse relief if somebody on the same bill of you has a tough one, the only reason for that is it takes all pressure off you as a performer because it means it’s definitely not you, or just you, that night).
So the actual gig in Jersey was a delight, a proper community feel in a lovely venue attached to a gorgeous hotel, a little bit of luxury before the life of a pauper up here. The show itself was a piece of piss, couldn’t really go wrong with it, and myself and the other acts shot the shit backstage (in a corridor) between-times, chatting about the nature of the job, the nature of performance, different approaches and, of course, our upcoming run at the fringe. We were unspokenly (not a word) either absorbing or dismissing the opinions and lessons of the others, whilst all the time analysing and dissecting the audience we were playing to that night, it was actually rather inspiring.
Then a thing happened that heightened the inspiration, and I’m not gonna do it justice because I can’t remember the exact words that were used, so I’ll paraphrase. Apologies to Alun Cochrane if I don’t word this as expertly as he did that night, but when he was onstage, smashing the gig with huge laughs and applause, there was one solitary bloke in the room who wasn’t having it. Alun had been on for about 40 mins at this point, so it really did come out of the blue, but this guy deep in the audience shouted something out. He clearly didn’t like it, didn’t get it or whatever, but more importantly, he voiced something about not understanding why everyone else was enjoying it so much.
Now, if you’ve got this far with this blog then I presume you have a bit of intelligence to allow you to persevere with my ridiculous writing style, long sentences and overuse of brackets (so I can cram every last thought I have whilst writing it in here – like this one). An idiot wouldn’t get this far, it would confuse them (it confuses me sometimes when I read them back), so by your presence right now at this point I will assume that you would have the brains to think the same as me on the subject of this sort of heckling. If you’re in a room, where everyone else is laughing and you are not, even if you are certain that they are all wrong and you are right, it is frankly morose to voice this opinion loudly and interrupt the proceedings with it. The whole room is never gonna suddenly shout “Oh my god he is right – we were wrong – this comic is awful!”, and a comedian with the chops of Cochrane is never going to be defeated by a drunken, slurred assassination, particularly not in an environment where he has already proved himself and is winning the gig with apparent ease.
I’ve never seen Alun Cochrane go nasty onstage, to be honest I can’t really imagine it, although he assured me that it has happened, and his response to this chap was characteristically understated and characteristically exceptional. When the man shouted his confusion as to why the rest of the audience were laughing, Alun said back – and sorry, totally paraphrasing – that this was because they were doing the requisite amount of work in their own heads for it to be an enjoyable comedic experience. So simple. He was basically acknowledging that the relationship between performer and audience is a two-way thing, the audience need to be complicit and also do some brainwork too for the best results. There are certainly comedians who an audience can sit back and be brainless with, nothing wrong with that, but I’d say the vast majority of comedians, even your mainstream, straightforward comics, require an audience to do at least a little bit of the work, it’s just words – there’s got to be some thought from the seats.
But I was so impressed with how Cochrane nailed that, how he immediately knew where this rude individual had taken a wrong turn, he knew his own stuff and style so well to know that if someone didn’t like it, or rather couldn’t get their head round it, that this was the reason, this is where they had slipped up. I’d never thought of it so succinctly or so…well…profoundly before, a massive moment of clarity that was. He carried on ruling the gig and the man shut up. Really impressive.
And I thought about it a lot yesterday, I’d already thought about it a little the night before at my show, but during last night’s “events” it came hurtling back into my head.
I’ll tell you about it tomorrow though.
RAY PEACOCK – HERE COMES TROUBLE – 9:25pm Underbelly, 30 July-24 August 2014. Tickets at underbellyedinburgh.co.uk or 0844 545 8252