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My Exciting Life In ROCK (part 3): My Exciting Life In Comedy (part two)

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Now that I had become a Stand-Up Comedian it was time to get some GIGS. There are two ways main ways to get decent comedy gigs. The first is to turn up at open mic nights, doing five minutes here and there until you've learnt your craft, hoping that a promoter will notice your improvements and start to book you as a first act, and from there move your way up the bill. Playing open mics can take years, years off struggle and determination, not being put off by audiences who don't care or lack of payment, as you slowly and dedicatedly get better and better.

The second way is to book a room above a pub, invite all your friends to come and say you're great, and call it a comedy club. Guess which one I went for? Clue: it was called "The Casbah Club".

Having your own comedy club is GRATE, but if you do it regularly you do tend to need some material, and luckily i had a PAL to help me. I'd first met Mr Simon Wilkinson to speak to in WHSMiths, Leicester where, at the age of 19, he was buying a copy of "Perfect Homes". Some 20 years later i have STILL yet to tire of reminding him about this.

Simon was ALSO a member of the Poly Poor Theatre Society, and so we ended up doing a SKETCH together in that year's Rag Revue, one called "Let's Do Blues" which was a very VERY "A Bit Of Fry & Laurie" sort of affair. It was meant to be a TV show explaining "The Blues" but it very quickly degenerated it me BELLOWING the Masters Of Nothing's song "Decapitated Blues", accompanied by an over-excited Simon on Electrical Guitar.

We had so much fun doing this that we decided to become a DOUBLE ACT, and ended up spending a VERY happy year hosting our comedy club. It really was BRILLIANT fun, especially when we settled on a permanent venue and it became a REGULAR event. This meant we could have CATCHPHRASES and, instead of doing brand new material, we could do the same sketches every month with very tiny re-writes. We were, basically, doing The Fast Show ten years ahead of it's time and, it must be said, significantly less funnily. This didn't matter of course, as it was just our friends in the audience who would laugh ANYWAY.

This was all well and good until we FORGOT that they were just laughing because they were our friends and came to believe we were OBJECTIVELY HILARIOUS, and so accepted a PROPER GIG at a proper Comedy Venue. Our friend Rak, now The UK's Leading Voiceover Artiste, was just starting his glittering career and had booked himself some proper stand-up gigs. He'd got one at the Nottingham Playhouse and when the normal support act dropped out he managed to get us on the bill.

We arrived with BIG DREAMS of a BIG BREAK - a comedy impressario was BOUND to be there, was BOUND to SPOT us, and we'd soon be faced with the DILEMMA of what to do - finish our Polytechnic Degrees or throw it all way for a shot at THE BIG TIME?

We needn't have worried, as we DIED on our ARSES. Stuff that had seemed funny at The Casbah suddenly WASN'T in front of a real live audience. One of our big BITS was "Shop Cop", which basically went like this:

ME: I'm just off to the loo (RUNS OFF)
SIMON: Oh, that's a shame, because now it's Mark's favourite part of the show - it's time for SHOP COP!
(enter ME, with a carrier bag on my head)
SIMON: Hello Shop Cop!
ME: Hello Simon, and Hello Shoppers Everywhere!
SIMON: And what have you been looking into this week, Shop Cop?
ME: I've been looking into packets of cornflakes.
SIMON: And?
ME: They were full of cornflakes.
SIMON: Thanks Shop Cop!
ME: Thank you Simon, and thank you shoppers everywhere! (RUNS OFF)
SIMON: I wonder where Mark has gone?
ME: Hello Simon, I'm back. Now, it's time for my favourite part of the show - it's time for SHOP COP!
SIMON: Oh dear, I'm afraid we've done it already.
ME: What? (hits Simon)

I've just typed that all out in one go, almost as if we did it SO MANY TIMES that it's still lodged in my memory. And I'm sure you're thinking the same thing as I am - how on EARTH could that NOT have launched two fabulous comedy careers? I know, we were shocked too.

After about 10 minutes of this we slunk off, and spent the whole journey back to Leicester complaining to each other about the audience being "dead" (despite the fact that they laughed a LOT at every body else). We decided it was THEIR fault, not ours, and resolved to go back to playing only our OWN gigs until The World was ready for us.

This was a REALLY good idea, both for us AND for The World, because while we waited something ELSE started happening that would change my life forever and, perhaps more importantly, allow The World Of Comedy to carry on without me.

The clarion call of ROCK was about to sound, and I would be POWERLESS to stop myself from answering it. For LO! coming over the horizon was the MIGHTY LEGEND that was the band VOON!
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