Last Sunday night I did one of my first standup comedy performances. It was my first appearance at the King Gong comedy competition at Manchester’s Comedy Store. In fact, it was my first experience of such an event. It is likely that you are new to the concept of the King Gong show, as less than a week ago I too was completely unfamiliar with it.
The concept is that anyone can have a go at performing comedy. It’s an open mic comedy night, giving new and up and coming comedians as well as members of the general public who believe they might be funny the opportunity to perform for up to five minutes. They may not actually reach five minutes though, as the audience has the power to dismiss the performer if they are not to their liking. Three people in the audience are given a red card each. When the three cards are held up, a gong sounds and the performer leaves the stage. If there is more than one act who has lasted the full five minutes then they are all invited to perform an extra minute. The audience then applauds the act they like the best, and the act that gets the biggest ovation is crowned the winner – King Gong.
I’ll split this blog post into two parts because I think it’ll be far too long for an average reader. In tomorrow’s blog post I’ll talk about my performance, but today I want to talk you through some of the other acts. It was quite a night, with some very interesting performers.
My performance was third in the first half. A part of me was hoping that the first two acts would be so awful that I would be hailed a comedy God regardless of what I said. Unfortunately, the first performer, despite getting off to a shaky start – when his second joke failed to illicit much of a laugh and he exclaimed “fuck” and nervously laughed – began to get into his stride and the audience warmed to him the more he went on. Three minutes into his performance someone held up a red card, but the other two remained down and he lasted the full five minutes.
The compere said at the start of the show that most people don’t make it anywhere close to five minutes before being gonged off. If the next act lasted the full five minutes then I’d really have my work cut out.
While the first act was good, I wonder whether one reason he might have survived the full five minutes was because he was first on, and the audience were still sussing out the format and the night, and they didn’t have anything to compare him to. The compere at the start of the night asked the audience how many people were coming to the King Gong show for the first time, and the majority of the audience cheered.
The second performer seemed much more nervous. His pace was much slower and he used a lot of redundant words and phrases, presumably out of nerves or perhaps to fill time. I tend to do the opposite of this, throwing too many words into the mix at rapid speed, which can be just as bad. In most instances, I won’t include performer’s actual material here, though I’ll make an exception in certain cases, because I assume that these people won’t be using that material ever again, given the reaction it got and the fact that it either was devoid of any humour or just didn’t make sense.
The second performer’s opening joke was that his sister was expecting a baby this coming Friday. “They don’t know the sex of it yet, so I don’t know if I’m going to be an aunty or an uncle.”
This did generate a laugh, but the laugh lasted too long for it to be genuine amusement at the joke, and seemed to be more that the audience were laughing at the nonsensical comment. After this “punchline”, he paused for about seven seconds before continuing. By the way, I have a recording of the night which I am listening back to as I write this; I haven’t remembered the entire night in exact detail. I’m not sure whether the pause was due to nerves or due to the realisation that people were laughing at him rather than with him, or perhaps he genuinely thought the laugh was a positive reflection of his joke and so he decided to bask in his glory for a few seconds. Just as he began to talk again, someone held up one of the red cards. There were no more jokes, just a few time killing phrases, such as, “er … yes … I’m excited to be here.” But the audience didn’t share this sentiment, and the other two cards were held up one after the other, bringing his act to a close after thirty-eight seconds.
The third act was me, but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.
I’ve just listened back to the fourth act’s performance. At the time he didn’t really do anything for me, but this was no reflection on him, but rather to do with the fact that I was mulling over my performance just seconds earlier. But was I brooding or celebrating? Find out tomorrow. Having listened back to his performance, I think he is really good. His style is calm and understated, not forced. His observations and jokes were intelligent. Perhaps his act could be described as geeky, which is by no means an insult. I think he was suitably different enough from the mainstream comedians out there. He didn’t seem to be trying too hard to replicate an idea or a person he’d seen on TV. We got a sense of who he is as a person, and that person was very likeable, erudite and funny.
His name is Benji Waterstones. You can check him out on Twitter here.
He lasted the full five minutes with just one red card in the air.
The fifth act lasted for one minute forty seconds. He was OK I suppose. His opening routine got a few laughs but for the wrong reasons.
“I was talking to this black girl the other day,” he began, before spotting a black girl in the audience and asking, “it wasn’t you was it.” It wasn’t a necessary part of the act, and it didn’t add anything to the rest of his joke, and so it seemed a bit odd to isolate this particular person just because she happened to be a girl who is black, which is hardly uncommon in Manchester. I think some people were taken aback by this, and there were a few awkward laughs from members of the audience along with some murmurs of disapproval. Obviously it’s not a big thing, and the joke wasn’t an attack on black girls, but it was an unnecessary aside that lost the audience, both for its slightly confrontational nature and because the comment meant that the punchline took longer to reach.
The sixth act was seventeen, and his “comedy” was certainly very adolescent. Again, I don’t think I need worry about quoting his material in this blog post, as I doubt he’ll be using it on stage again. At least I strongly hope not, for his sake and for the sake of the rest of us. I don’t want to be spiteful about other acts, but this seventeen year old boy had seemingly assumed that the kind of comments he makes to his mates in the playground would translate well to a more mainstream comedy audience. This is his routine, verbatim
“the other day, I’m not going to lie, I was horny as shit. I was so horny. It was like … you know when you’re a heroin addict and you get the shakes.” He then proceeded to make a growling noise and violently shake his body. Some people in the audience were already getting a bit fed up by the routine. If you’re reading this blog then you might want to have a listen to the audio version of this post, as I have included the actual audio of this performance, so that you can appreciate the extent of the cringe worthiness. Many people in the audience had already cottoned onto the fact that he was essentially a horny teenager telling us through a variety of misplaced and pointless similes how horny he was. People were either laughing at him or making noises of disgruntlement, urging the card holders to exercise their power. But the card holders did not take heed. Perhaps they were enjoying the novelty of this performance. This is one of the positives of a night like the King Gong night. You can see some really good up and coming acts, some promising fledgling attempts, with the occasional bout of humiliating and agonising awkward bile. You get to see once-in-a-lifetime performances, or at least performances that really should be once-in-a-life time, if the performer has an ounce of sense.
His way of relating to the audience was somewhat odd too: “You know when you’re a heroin addict?” No, funnily enough I don’t, having never been a heroine addict, and I can’t speak for the rest of the audience, but I imagine that the majority of them would have not had the experience of being a heroin addict either. Perhaps I’m wrong here, and this description was resonating with the vast majority of the audience, although it might destroy the humour somewhat, as the audience remember their tragic past when they were hooked on drugs.
“And the only thing you need is that sweet sweet pussy, you know what I’m talking about?“ The audience responded to this question not with an emphatic “yes,” nor a murmur of understanding, but rather another bout of bemused awkward laughter and the holding up of the first red card.
I think he thought the laughter was a positive reflection on his performance. He didn’t seem too taken aback by the laughter, which in fairness was probably one of the loudest responses of the night. Even the acts that went down particularly well were getting less of a laugh than this horny teenager calling us all heroine addicts. If you were a member of the audience who didn’t speak any English then you might assume that this lad was going down very well and was the best and funniest act on the bill so far. And in some ways he was. Does it matter that what he was saying wasn’t clever or thought provoking? People were laughing, and that’s essentially why they’d come. There was no way he could make a living out of this routine, but for tonight, he was making people laugh just as much (if not more) than the other acts, even if it was for different reasons, and unintentional on his part.
“So, I looked online. for an escort. I had a choice. Do I just call a girl? Do I just call a girl and say … like … “hey, do you wanna fuck?” Or do I get an escort? The only thing is, some girls are fucking effort, you know what I’m saying man? Some girls make you work. The amount of diplomacy involved is staggering. You could get … like … peace in the Middle East with the amount of effort it takes. So I looked at … like … one profile, and I saw this fine piece, I mean a solid ten out of ten, you know? So, I arranged to meet this girl. And, no joke …” Well at least he’s made one accurate observation. “no joke” is pretty spot on.
“I was working at the Premier Inn. You know the one near the cathedral? Some hotels specialise in … like … business management, some hotels specialise in … like … spar facilities, the Premier Inn near the cathedral specialises in discrete prostitute pickups, you know? I mean, you think, why the fuck don’t they just knock it down? I’ll tell you why they don’t knock it down. Because half of the Manchester councillors are being blown by some disease ridden prostitute as we speak. You know what I mean? So I’m waiting there, and at this point my dick is so hard, when this girl tries to fuck me I could knock this girl out. When she tries to fuck me I’m going to knock the fuck …”
At this point there is a mix of confused and bemused laughter, but he is unable to continue and be heard, as the majority of the audience have begun to appeal to the two remaining card holders, shouting “off, off, off.” Some people are shouting “get him off,” but this seems a bit of an ironic and unfortunate heckle, given that being got off is precisely what his entire routine is about. An audience shouting “get him off” while pointing at him might be all this overly-horny teenager could stand, causing his penis to explode. And given the apparent hardness of his dick and its ability to knock people out, this could be quite dangerous for the front roe.
The remaining two card holders finally heeded the cries of the audience and held up their cards, and our horny teenage friend was forced to leave the stage, dragging his unnaturally hard tail between his legs.
He lasted for two minutes fifteen seconds, which is probably about the amount of time he’d have lasted with that escort, unless proceedings were curtailed before that by her being knocked out by his super hard dick.
Oddly, it turned out that this seventeen-year-old had his dad and granddad in the audience, and they were laughing along. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about sex in front of my dad or grandad, and here was this teenager shouting about his hard dick and horniness on stage to them and a hundred strangers.
The seventh act spent over a minute setting up his first joke, but it seemed to be going nowhere, and the card holders along with the rest of the audience didn’t expect that their patients and tolerance was about to be rewarded with a punchline worthy of the wait, and he was gonged off after one minute fifteen seconds.
The eighth act was evidently nervous. He made a joke about this at the start of his set, which went down OK, but as soon as the first card was held up it seemed to throw him. He stammered a bit, and before he could regain composure the second card was lifted into the air. He never got going again, messing up the punchline to a joke, the setup of which no one heard over the compere’s announcement of the raising of the second card. The third card cut short his second attempt at the same punchline, and the gong sounded, heralding his departure after one minute twenty-two seconds.
How to describe the next act. He was a man, grotesquely dressed as a woman. He didn’t really make any jokes as such, but just spoke in a camp voice about his boobs and his/her boyfriend. For a few seconds, he got some bemused laughter, but after forty-six seconds the three red cards were lifted and the gong sounded.
The final act of the first half was, in my opinion, the most cringeworthy. I felt genuinely uncomfortable and was begging the card holders to terminate the performance.
He came on in a wheel chair. His opening joke was, “I was going to do some standup tonight, but obviously I can’t stand up.” It’s a tired and worn out line. It got a tiny laugh. It was to be the best laugh he was going to get. All his other jokes were along the same lines.
“So I’l do all the jokes sat down, is that all right?” There was the tiniest of chuckles. He raised his voice. “I said, is that all right, Manchester.” Some people shouted yes, but the majority of the audience were bemused and quiet.
“People often get fed up with me, and they say, ‘when are you going to get off your fucking fat arse?’ Well, I’ll try, but …”
There was some awkward laughter. The first card was lifted. He then told a story about his journey here from York. It wasn’t a joke, but he said it like it sort of was. He basically told us, amidst a plentiful supply of swear words, that his train was a bus replacement, and that he couldn’t get on the bus, so the train company got him a free taxi. There wasn’t a punchline, unless you class him triumphantly shouting, “result!”
He tried to start another joke about being in a wheelchair and not being able to stand, but the remaining two cards shot up, the card holders taking their stand against this cringeworthy nonsense.
The second half was a mixed bag, with a combination of really good and competent acts, and more people making tits out of themselves.
There were two more acts that lasted the full five minutes, and deservedly so. There was Monty Burns, a brash, confident, high-octane Scottish man, who’s comedy was perhaps a little similar to that of Frankie Boyle. It was mainstream comedy, but I don’t mean that as an insult; I just mean that his comedy would play well with a mainstream audience, and I could imagine him on TV. He’d obviously done standup many times before. He had the demeanour of a standup comedian, and he’d obviously honed his act, possessing a good meter and style. You can follow him on Twitter here.
The second act was a female duo called Hawkeye and Windy, who sang songs with piano accompaniment. The humour was quite dark, but there songs were very funny and they had the audience in the palm of their hands.
So, currently you know there were at least four finalists, but you don’t know whether there was a fifth contender. Tomorrow I shall talk you through my performance and see whether I made it to the final five. Until then, thanks for reading friends.