Two Hundred & Eight

The Gig: Comedy @ The Cricketers’, The Cricketers’ Arms, Keighley

The Date: March 31st 2011

The Line Up: Myself MCing for Danny Deegan, Peter Brush, Fern Brady & Nige.

It’s the final diary.

Da-da-da daaah. Da-da-da-da daaah. Da-da-da-daaah-daaah. Da-da-da-da-da-da-dahh… Da-da-da daaah. Da-da-da-da daaah. Da-da-da-daaah-daaah. Da-da-da-da-da-da-dahh…┬áDa-da-dahh.. Da-da-da-da-da-da-daaaaaaaah-da-da-da-da-da-daaaahhhh….

We’re heading for Venus…

I say “we”. I mean “I”. I also say “Venus” when I actually mean “Keighley”. It may not have quite the same ring to it but I couldn’t have been happier as I headed out through Lancashire for the little gig that could. It was my first gig since the clocks went forward for British Summer Time and I was rather enjoying the novelty of heading out in daylight hours. The final diary in my year long writing challenge would be at the lovely little gig that I genuinely consider my favourite night of the month.

The final show in my year long journal would also be the final show in Comedy @ The Cricketers’ second year of operation. I have to confess that I didn’t expect it to last this long when I drove to K-Town for the very first time in April of 2009. I certainly didn’t expect it to become such a fantastic night. As part of my warm up at The Cricks’ I ask the seventy or so folk jammed in there if they’re willing to prove to the acts that this is one of the best gigs in the country. This isn’t hyperbole and it certainly isn’t something that I say to every crowd at every venue every single time I step up to compere a night of comedy. The venue, the folk that run it, the audience, the acts… It’s all fallen into place perfectly. The audience love to watch, the comics love to play. What more could anyone ask for?

On the drive over I found myself musing over how I felt about the end of my gig diaries. More than anything else I felt immensely relieved to see the back of them. For twelve months they’d been a huge part of my day to day life. Thanks to my shoddy work ethics there was rarely a time when I didn’t owe at least a couple of entries. On a couple of occasions the backlog crept up to the twenty mark and I came very close to jacking it all in. In September, faced with my first huge backlog, I was sorely tempted to call it quits and say that six months of writing was enough of an acheivement. I then realised that this would be a massive cop-out and kept going.

It was so, so much easier to stay on top of them when I gigged less frequently and didn’t have one of those pesky girlfriend things to distract me. I can’t exactly blame Laura for my frequent lapses of literary professionalism but there’s a link in there somewhere. You try leaving a beautiful naked woman in bed of a Sunday morning citing the overwhelming need to tell the world exactly what happened in Coventry the previous night. It’s a test to any man’s willpower.

In addition to the relief I was also a little bit sad to see the back of them. They’d given my life something of a structure over the preceding twelve months. They’d also provided me with something of an excuse as to why I’d not written an award winning solo show, sitcom or cinematica masterpiece. “I couldn’t possibly get started on anything else yet, not when I’ve got diaries to write.” As of Friday the first of April I find myself bereft of that excuse. Each diary entry can take anywhere between an hour and three hours depending on what happened. Multiply that by anywhere up to five or six gigs in a week and that’s an awfuly lot of time to suddenly land in my lap. Time I should use to further my career and take further steps towards total world domination. I’ve had a mission for a year. That mission’s nearly over. Whatever will I do with myself? I’m not ready to go back into society, I’ve become institutionalised!

About time I moved on. I’m sick of the sight of them. That said, who’d have thought that a stand-up comedian would actually get sick of talking about themselves? I fully expect the seas to boil, the sky to fall and my cat to shack up with a golden retriever.

I was in high spirits by the time I got to Keighley. All the other acts were making their own way from various other parts of the North of England. As a result I was free to indulge my woefully abhorrent taste in music without a passenger to ask if there was something seriously wrong with me. Lost Boys soundtrack…Duran Duran… Family Guy theme… System Of A Down… CM Punk’s theme… Just a typical selection of the type of jarring mix on offer. I’m surprised that nobody’s thrown themselves from my moving car to escape it yet. When I arrived I was the only act there and a message from Danny Deegan let me know that he would be running a little later than expected. No great shakes. If need be I could always moved Peter Brush and Fern Brady to open. Well, assuming they turned up too. Keith Carter, tonight performing in the guise of superscally Nige, was the first to arrive which meant we always had the option to run the night backwards.

I was most disheartened to see that Daz and Mel, two of our most regular regulars, were absent from their usual table at the front of the room. They’d both been there from day one. Before day one in fact. Daz and Mel were regular comedy goers from the previous attempt to launch a comedy night in Keighley. On this one particular night someone else had gotten there slightly earlier and nabbed their usual table. As a result they were forced to stand at the back of the room. I was gutted on two levels. First and foremost their presence at is part of the whole experience for me. Their absence left something of a hole at the front of the room. Second of all I’d had various comedians tell me that Daz was very much like the real life version of Nige. I’d been looking forward to putting them within a few feet of each other and seeing what happened. Maybe for the best that there was some separation though. What if they’d touched each other and subsequently exploded, taking the rest of the place with them?

By showtime we had a full compliment of acts and a full pub too. The atmosphere was lively as ever when John stepped out to give me his traditional introduction. This has always been one of my favourite parts of the night, just don’t tell him that. I wandered out to start the final gig of my financial year with a spring in my step. The opening section was immense fun, not that I can remember a single thing I said or did for the duration of it. I brought Danny on, no doubt happy that he’d managed to make his way there without driving through any sort of effluent. The show started strong and stayed strong in the middle with Peter and Fern. I couldn’t have asked for the night to go any better as it rolled along.

Whenever I’ve gigged with Keith under the guise of Nige I’ve had his blessing to have a bit of fun with his introduction. Tonight was no exception. I went with a similar intro to the one I used when I brought him on to close Kev Bland’s Shrewbury gig. I suggested that nobody make any sudden movements or make too much eye contact as I didn’t know what to expect. This, of course, was a lie. I knew exactly what to expect. I knew that Nige would rip the roof off which he did in no uncertain terms. During one part of his set that detailed the fate of an elephant in the back room of Kebbaba The Hut’s I laughed very hard indeed. So hard in fact that Keith stopped for a second and told me to stop as he was in danger of corpsing. It’s just as well he had the letters Nige had written to the Liverpool Tourist Board to hold up in front of his face. The Cricketers’ faithful loved it and I genuinely thought that a few of them were going to asphyxiate at several points. What an awesome way to close out the year. I wrapped the night up after Nige’s encore and said I looked forward to seeing them at the first gig for Comedy @ The Cricketers’ Year three.

On the drive home I gave Laura a quick call. That was that. A year’s gigging done and although I owed the last four diaries I could relax a little, safe in the knowledge that there wouldn’t be any more to come once they were done. I’d pretty much managed to chronicle an entire year of my life. I’d also managed to do something I didn’t think I’d ever be capable of.

I’d finished something. I’d set myself a challenge and completed it. For the first time in my life I’d actually managed to see something all the way through to the end rather than letting it fizzle out part way through. I’d had a daft idea to write up every gig I performed for a year. This ridiculous task no longer seems like a mountain to climb. All of a sudden I was a few steps away from the highest peak. A few short months ago I wanted to quit. Now it would almost be more effort to not finish it. This was it. It was done. I did it. As legacies go it was never going to compare to the efforts of Marie Curie, Mahatma Ghandi or Thomas Edison. I wasn’t likely to change the world and there was precious little chance of finding New England either. It’s out there now pretty much forever, carved onto a chunk of digital stone in a corner of the internet between two amusing videos of cats. Something I made. Something I’m proud of. Even if it disappears tomorrow that won’t change the fact that I did it. For me, personally this was a monumental moment.

I got a chicken doner kebab to celebrate. It doesn’t do to get too carried away sometimes.

Gig Score: N/A

Lesson Learnt: Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

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