As a stand-up comedian there is not much I need in order to do my job, I just need to turn up, have a voice and have something to talk about with it, oh and being funny helps! The most crucial part of a successful evening of entertainment is an audience.
My last proper gig in front of ‘real’ people in an indoor venue with no social distancing or masks was March 15th, 2020. There was much talk of panic-buying loo rolls and tins of beans and a few of us mentioned this in our sets, not knowing the scale of things to come (I may or may not have told the audience I popped an industrial sized toilet roll from the venue in my bag to sell for a pound a sheet in the carpark later for a cheap laugh!). A few days after, everything in my diary was cancelled. I had some really lovely shows booked in with people I admire in great venues, festivals, concerts, visits to friends, a dream holiday, all put on hold. Swimming pools had closed and maybe most upsettingly, Jason Donovan had postponed his Plymouth show for a whole year!!
While many of my peers found the lockdown to be a fantastic motivator to be creative, I used the time over lockdown to research and learn. I learned to change my seating position on the sofa occasionally to avoid a bad back and researched all the gins my local Asda had on special offer. Naturally I’d throw a jar of Biscoff spread and a copy of Take A Break on the checkout belt at the same time so I wouldn’t be judged for a non-essential shop. By April we as a nation had discovered Zoom and learned that the word ’furlough’ existed. As a dedicated watcher of daytime telly and a regular hopeful for the ‘Spin to Win’ competition on This Morning, I was a bit resentful of some of the newly furloughed who found themselves at home, entering the competitions and reducing the probability of me getting through and bagging a prize!
The Zoom gigs started to come through, and I was very grateful to have an outlet to keep the ‘comedy muscle’ exercised in front of an audience, even if they were sat at home in their pyjamas, some with their cameras off and self-muted. At times it felt like pausing for a laugh, that I could not be sure was there, during my set felt a little too hopeful. I developed a new routine involving items in my bedroom that became a sort of ‘show and tell’ (mainly ‘Showing’ my extensive collection of Columbo merchandise which WAS very ‘Telling’). I was lucky to get some regular gigs, from the comfort of my own home, with donations from the viewers to keep me in gin over the months. A bonus being that I could just put on a nice top and a bit of lippy and was ready to perform. I saved a fortune on travel expenses! In the old days I would sometimes travel 6 hours to a gig, but now I could watch the first episode of a Corrie double-bill, pop upstairs and do a gig then be back on the sofa with a cup of tea in time for the second part.
We had a brief reprieve at the end of July, and I got to perform at a really nice gig in a local park, in the sunshine and an unexpectedly fun show in the rain in a Torquay carpark. Hooray, people still wanted live comedy! The diary started to fill up again and I managed to perform inside a theatre with a socially distanced audience in masks before we were locked down again. By January I think many people had ‘Zoom Fatigue’ and the quizzes and family catch-ups petered out but fortunately a few local businesses called on the services of myself and a few other Devon comics for some online ‘team building’ evenings with us entertaining them after a day of ‘fun games’ and power points.
I got my ‘Zoom routine’ finely tuned after a few months and got used to the strangeness of staring at myself in the corner of a screen whilst interacting with strangers lounging on their sofas, eating their tea from their laps, occasional time delays and the odd interruption from unmuted participants coughing or making other bodily sounds during a punchline! There was a moment or two that I worried that maybe live comedy wouldn’t get back on its feet for 2021 and maybe I’d have to rethink things, or would those promoters that I had booked in with forget all about me? Would Jase Donovan cancel his tour completely, leaving ‘too many broken hearts’? (sorry.. couldn’t resist) Seriously though, I have loved the man since those early Neighbours days and still cherish the photo of a very young me, complete with home perm (Thanks Mum) putting my hand on his knee…. ok, it was a wax figure, but it was the closest I could get!
Thankfully, my fears were just that. The lockdown eased and in May my timeline became filled with comedians excitedly posting about doing live gigs again. We all seemed to have the same feelings about being rusty and adapting from online to real life crowds again. Generally, the overall mood was relief and gratitude that there was still an industry for us and perhaps the need for a night of laughter was greater than before. My first gig back was Friday 28th May at a really nice venue for a promoter/comic that I love working with and even better, a car share with one of the other acts who happens to be one of my favourites and had been ‘Zooming’ with me often. On the way up (in between singing along to 90’s music on the radio) we discussed our nerves about remembering our sets and the new bits we had written to acknowledge the events of the last year.
This was another dilemma, do we mention Covid /Lockdown or to assume everyone was tired of it and wanted escapism? I had decided that we had all lived it and the best way to deal with it was to find the funny in the unusual situation (I refuse to write ‘unprecedented’) we found ourselves in for the last 14 months. I knew that there would be people like me out there who had been sampling a few too many alcoholic beverages and putting big dollops of Biscoff spread on anything edible (or cutting out the middleman and just going spoon to mouth) whilst crying watching The Repair Shop, avoiding online exercise classes and working through Netflix as well as maybe accidentally developing a mild online shopping addiction. In my defence, I was being optimistic about the future and definitely needed more bags, shoes, jackets and earrings for the many, many social gatherings I was sure to be attending when this was all over!
Being ‘allowed out’ does have its negative sides though, a couple of weeks ago I had gone to a pub with friends and been astounded at the price of a bottle of wine that I had paid a third of the price for in Asders the week before, and don’t even get me started on the tiny measures of gin that they serve! No wonder people have built their own bars in their gardens. We arrived at the gig on the 28th and hugged everyone in the green room, so happy to see each other. There was a capacity audience enjoying the waiting on service of tables of 6, and a nice buzz in the air. We all had a separate mic and had to wear our face coverings to the stage. Mine on and off so often it had left a makeup stain from my lips and nose reminiscent of the Turin Shroud on the inside of it. I arrived on stage to welcoming warm applause, took off my mask and sniffed it. ‘This is the worse way to discover you have bad breath, trapped with your own pasty fumes….’ Not the best opening line but an observation that had the crowd laughing and letting me know in that moment that they were there to have fun and we had been and still are, all in this together.
There is nothing better than the atmosphere in a room full of laughter, even when you can’t just press the mute button on a heckler! Now that I have got back into the swing of things, I am looking forward to a summer of shows, hugs, laughs and swims whilst listening to Jason Donovan’s Greatest Hits getting ready for a nostalgic singalong with the man himself. I am really looking forward to it, maybe I’ll get a new outfit?
I wonder if Jason Donovan likes Biscoff? Maybe I’ll leave him a jar at the stage door with a spoon – Especially For Him.
https://www.networkshe.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Suzy-and-Jason.jpg960720Nicola Moorehttps://www.networkshe.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/NetworkShe-logo.pngNicola Moore2021-06-22 14:35:562021-06-22 14:54:18Any Gin Will Do