In one of my earlier blogs, nearly two years ago, I wrote about my fledgling career as a stand-up comic. It was difficult starting a life-changing career north of sixty, but my lifelong obsession with puns and one-liners needed an outlet, and with London bursting at the seams with open-mic venues, there was only one way out – to tread the boards.
It has been a terrific journey with nearly 100 gigs, a raft of new friendships and some important life lessons (the most important one being that because you and your mates like some of your jokes, does not mean they are good). Actually, the only important people in the comedy court are the members of the jury, aka audience. The same joke that is met with stony silence on a Sunday can lead to raucous laughter on a Thursday. One gig’s perfect delivery can become paralyisis on stage the next time you step up to the mic.
I have shared stages with around 400 different people and I hardly remember any of them. But this article is dedicated to the 20 people whose talent has shone through and who are surely destined for a better comedy deal than a five-minute slot in a damp pub basement. And it is for these people that I am looking to introduce a new kid on the comedy block – the paid open-mic comics.
It was a couple of months ago while watching one of my top ten fellow open-mic comics Kazeem Jamal (pictured above) that I realised how paper thin the difference between the best of the open mic and semi-pro circuit is. Kazeem has been on the circuit for less than a year, but his material, delivery and personality combine to make him an irresistible proposition on stage.
So I am actively pursuing a strategy to give talented, amateur open-mic comics like Kazeem an opportunity to showcase their talent in a decent setting and be paid for their work. I am putting together a troupe of the best of the open-mic circuit and I have hired the Stratford Circus Arts Centre theatre for the first gig of BOOM! (best of open mic) on Tuesday 29 January 2018 at 8pm. Tickets are on sale from Monday 17 December here: https://stratford-circus.com/
It is a tough assignment because members of the jury will not be easily enticed to pay for amateur comedians. But let’s see what happens; as American comedian Dave Chappelle put it: If I can make a teacher’s salary doing comedy, I think that’s better than being a teacher.