Sunday, 18 December 2016

Corporate gig fun

When you learn that the biggest laugh of the night came when one of the audience managed to get his fart balloon - yes, they all had fart balloons - to land on the sign of the Socks' set, you can guess that last night's corporate gig will not go down as the Socks' Gig Of The Year.

This time of year, my Facebook overflows with comedians and their tales of corporate gigs (see foot of post). For example this, the first thing I read this morning, from Ignacio Lopez:  
9.10pm - Called about a last minute gig. Break the sound barrier to get to the gig.
10pm - Perform 2 sets to 9 different businesses in two rooms. Immediately a posh woman in a red dress storms out and tells the manager I'm awful.
11.45pm - Home after gig. Everyone else seemed to like my comedy, all I can think about is the woman in the red dress... it's like The Matrix.

What is the problem with corporate gigs? Well, let's look at the Socks gig last night. I'd been booked months ago by someone who'd seen the Socks before and, as is so often the case, thought they were (and I quote) "the funniest thing I'd ever seen." We get this a lot. And if you're seeing us in the theatre, at Edinburgh, on tour, or in a well organised comedy show, then we are indeed pretty bloody funny. But there are ways to stop that being the case. This for example...

Can you see the Socks set in this picture? Look harder, there it is under the Exit sign. As always, in advance of the gig, I'd ensured that we would have sound, and light, and a technical operator to play in our sound cues. Often at big party events like this there'll be a stage where the VIPs will give speeches. Tonight there was nothing like this, so the Socks were to be the only performance of any sort. Thus we stood on the floor where, as you can see, many people couldn't really see us. The lighting came from the strip lights overhead, the sound came through the DJ's booth behind me.

Ah, that's better. Once they'd closed off the wall to the Casino, I'm a bit more visible against the black. So, this should be fine shouldn't it? I chat to the Managing Director and get some inside guff on the company. I line up some gags about IT, the Finance Director, and Geoff Mason and his "GM1" truck, which is apparently a big in-joke in the company.

I ask the MD if he'll introduce me, he doesn't want to. I ask if there will be anybody to introduce me. He says "No, we just like to keep it informal". 

There is some question about when the Socks, the only entertainment of the night, will do their 45 minute set, as agreed. It was to be 9pm. After some umming and ah-ing it is decided that the Socks will start after the main course and before the dessert course. But because 45 mins would be too long to wait, it's decided that dessert will be served halfway through our set, at the 20 minute mark.

So, I (from behind the Socks set) am going to have to quiet a room of over 200 people who've just finished the main course, having been drinking for two and a half hours by then, then do our set.

Of course the woman who booked us will have told everyone how good we are and will be cheerleading for us. You'd think. She is on maternity leave. This means that no-one in this entire room of 200 plus people has ever heard of the Socks and no-one is expecting us, or indeed any comedian. Last year, the MD tells me, they had Singing Waiters who went down well.

I opened well. In fact I pretty well had them for the first 5 minutes. We got laughs from the in-jokes about IT and the GM1, and we got laughs from all our good ice-breaker gags. Although, when the Socks do a line that goes "we could do action movies, or horror movies.." and a punter on the table nearest to me gets the biggest laugh so far with "can you do silent movies?", I realise the challenge is on. But we interact and the Socks are winning. So we go into our opening song, I'm A Sock.

I'm A Sock, if you haven't seen it, is our signature song. It establishes the character of the Socks, it builds and progresses with laughs in every line, to a climax of arguing Socks which gets a bigger and bigger response right to the final fake ending and closing chord.

They talked over it.

The entire room took the song as their opportunity to simply resume the conversation that we had rudely interrupted by being there. After that we tried to get into the Halloween routine, but apart from winning a few people back with company in-jokes about their Finance Director Paul Newman, the conversation was not going to stop. 

We cut Halloween short (another "banker" routine, but one that only works if you're actually listening to it) and went to Walk On The Wild Side, a sure-fire quick laugh. If you're listening. The few that were trying to listen laughed, but the majority, who could neither see nor hear us by now, chatted on. So we went into the Michael Jackson routine. This has a lot of audience interaction, and it got a lot of response back, which felt a lot more like we were winning. From among the 200, there were one or two people on every table who were straining to hear the comedy show and were joining in with it.

Then the fart balloons began. Yes, every table had balloons on, with farting things on the end. Great fun when you release them into the air. Just as great fun when you blow them up and just release a big farting noise over and over again in order to drown out the entertainer.

We did the Michael Jackson Earth Song bit. It's loud, it's musical, it's visual, and it got laughs and applause at the end. 

This was, however, also the moment we'd prearranged for them to serve the dessert. So from this point on the waiters are serving pud, taking more drinks orders, and obscuring what view the far tables may have had on the Socks and their set. And there are still many many fart balloons to be released.

The Socks do their entire Magic routine, parts of which are excellent. Then we go into our finale - the mention of the word "finale" gets a big cheer - of Star Wars. Our classic routine. Everyone loves Star Wars. From start to finish Star Wars is comedy gold.

The biggest laugh comes when someone manages to get their fart balloon to land on the sign of our set. And the lowest point, of the night if not of our career, comes when I hear another cheer and realise the assistant to the Managing Director has come up behind the set, (which, did I mention, is totally open at the back to people going to and fro to the loo?) knelt down and told me to wind it up.

If you've seen our Star Wars routine, we were just about to do the Lightsabres bit. Funniest bit of the show.

We didn't even get to do the Lightsabres. The Socks just said "goodnight, goodnight" and left. No music, no nothing. Off.

As I was about to lift the set off into the shadows, a drunk punter comes round the set and says "just for a laugh, could I just pop up over the top?". I was as polite as I could be in my declining of this kind offer.

I have never been so pleased to have been paid in advance as I was for last night's gig. And delighted that ending the set after 30 minutes (yes we did 30 whole bloody minutes!) was not my decision, and not my fault.

So there you have the corporate gig, as has been suffered by many comedians this festive season. It's organised, if organised is not too strong a word, by people who've never put on a comedy show, for the benefit of people who've probably never been to a comedy show, and are at an event where they didn't really want a comedy show in the first place.

God bless us every one.

Socks Do Shakespeare 2017 TOUR
Feb 15 - Buxton Pavilion Arts Centre Studio 
Feb 17 & 18 6.50pm - Kayal, Leicester Comedy Fest
March 9 - Aberystwyth Arts Centre
March 15 & 16 - Dram! Glasgow Com Fest
March 23 - The Bill Murray, London
Apr 6 - Victoria Theatre Halifax
Apr 8 - Rondo Bath 
Apr 13 - Hexham Queen's Hall 
Apr 22 - Swindon Arts 
Apr 27 - Stroud Subscription Rooms 
Apr 28 - Merlin Theatre Frome 
Apr 29 - Perth Concert Hall 
May 1 - Chiddingstone Castle Kent 
May 5 - Artrix Bromsgrove
May 6 - Stafford Gatehouse
May 13 (4.30pm) & May 14 (5.30pm) Komedia Brighton
May 19 - Carriageworks Leeds
May 26 - Aberdeen May Fest
June 2 - Eden Ct Inverness
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 17 - Dalkey Festival, Dublin
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe

Other comedians on recent Christmas Corporate Gigs:

Doug Segal: When Martin Mor talks, I make a point of listening. 
Recently he told me how much satisfaction he gets from taking an "unplayable" gig and turning it round.  I did that tonight. He's right. Immensely satisfying.

Tonight was a Corporate for 40 people in a yurt. I knew I was in trouble when they polished off three 3ltr bottles of Jack Daniels in the first 20mins. 

That was at 7:20pm. 

I was on at 10pm.


Steve Day:  18 years doing stand-up and I've never escaped at least one December death. I haven't had one this year and have three more gigs to go.

Stephen Grant If it's any consolation I've* never heard you being booed.


Daphna Baram This year has been so incredibly shit that even the audiences don't behave as badly as they should for Christmas. Take a silver lining when it comes because there are not many. X


Stephen Grant: FRONT ROW TABLE KOMEDIA XMAS SHOW TONIGHT - SOUTHERN RAIL GUARDS ON THEIR XMAS DO. Oh my god ***any questions from fellow comedians please send NOW ***


What a night to have my worst gig of 2016. Didn't even go on. Pulled the show mid gig. It was a charity gig and I called it off and told people they could have their money back.
I've had a blast this year. Made a TV show. Filled Cardiff Glee. Played some great fests. Gigged for some ace promoters.
... all of that cowers in the shadow of the scum that befell this gig, so I pulled it.
My friends that I booked didn't deserve that shit so I pulled it. Paid them, packed up and left.
Merry Christmas.

Bec Hill I've always said:
"They say a bad workman always blames their tools. But you can't expect a workman to get any work done if they open up their toolbox to find it's filled with cunts."
You can quote me on that.


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