Exile On Lame Street


In a blind rage after fleeing from a show that broke almost every single professional rule, Ethan has sent us this very angry letter.

I saw possibly the worst gig of my life yesterday: my friends and I genuinely ran away from the venue to get away from the performers at half time!

Well, it was yesterday when I wrote that clickbait introduction; I’m not going to write using the point of view of you reading this in the future – that’d be worth reading. Anyway, it was so bad, I left during the interval and was angry for hours – not because I’d paid money for what turned out to be a bad show, but because the comedians involved broke every damn rule and the organiser in me got offended. I’d never left a comedy gig at an interval before, but I had to because it annoyed me so much!

When people talk about stand-up comedians, they tend to focus on the on stage work, but what we do off stage is just as important: from making friends with other performers to respecting the bizarre rules that certain venues at the Fringe squeeze into the fine print, off stage behaviour gets us gigs as often as killing an audience at a paid night does, which is why there are certain rules we should all follow in order to steer clear of angry Facebook posts about how we pissed on another comic’s notes. Nobody can ever prepare you for the onslaught of insults bad comedians will send your way in the magical comedy forums, just because you said their demands for a paid ten minute slot were unreasonable considering you’re not booking a gig.

This gig I walked out of, a comedy competition unbelievably, felt like the forums and every bad story I’d ever been told had come to life in front of me to really drill in the moral lesson through overkill, as if I was stuck in a Soviet era children’s cartoon about American demons. I could name and shame all those involved in my own angry comedy forum post, but it’d be pointless as it’d be drowned out by the numerous other posts demanding that political correctness dies and lets black face return. The Internet is home to a lot of varied opinions, but the ones that stick out are the ones all in caps, telling you to stop being paid professionally to get offended.

The reason this gig felt so horrific was that I’d gone expecting to see professionalism and, in short, have a good time. Instead I’d gotten high blood pressure. As I said, I’m not going to name or shame anybody, because that wouldn’t be useful or interesting to read, so instead I’m going to list what went wrong at this gig and hopefully it will stop those who read this from ever replicating the mistakes. This is going to be cathartic for me, so forgive any aggressive undertones in the swearing.

Now, at the start, I told you that my friends and I ran away from the venue at half time. This is why: at half time, an hour and a half into the show, we had seen only two ten minute acts and the MC. The MC was drunk and tried to steal the show, and went on tangents every single time he uttered the phrase, “are you ready for your next act?” Tangents that took us to 9pm with only two acts having performed. This is bad. If you’re the MC, don’t try to outdo every other performer by wasting time; warm the audience up, don’t berate them for not laughing – or drinking.

Nobody in the audience cheered when asked who was drinking. The only drunk people were all the acts! And I mean, all of the acts. This prompted one idiot to get the acts to boo the audience, in one of the least self-aware moments of irony I’ve witnessed. Tip: don’t get wasted before a gig – you’ll be aggressive and obnoxious no matter how much of a happy drinker you think you are. I’ve seen the proof. The proof follows.

Throughout, acts spoke over other acts’ sets and the MC. The MC never stopped this: he joined in, making in-jokes with the acts who were his friends, and alienated the crowd who had paid to see this comedy treason. Then, the MC was angry we weren’t laughing at jokes we could neither hear nor understand, and then it turned into a frightening “you’re up for a rape” bit between an act, who consistently spoke to her friends during the show and announced loudly when she was going to pee in the middle of someone’s set, and the MC, who kept swearing at the audience for not filling the venue and only being seven people. I don’t feel the need to explain why all of the above is bad. If you don’t see a problem with this behaviour, don’t try comedy – it’s not for you.

But on stage behaviour isn’t the only important part of comedy, and so I will discuss what they were like off stage too: even worse. The majority of the acts arrived thirty five minutes late, leaving the audience sitting in a waiting room for that time. This is shambolic at best, and really should have been when I left – but, I was still expecting professionalism. Professionalism that never came: there was no apology, just a “shit happens” vibe and loud, hard to listen to music from a playlist not suited to anything other than transitions in a BBC Three sitcom. Moral: if you’re supposed to start at 7pm, start at 7pm no matter what happens. If there aren’t any comedians turning up, that’s when you can go off on all your tangents until they arrive – and if they’re not there after fifteen minutes, not thirty five, offer refunds and apologise for the waste of time. Then blacklist those motherfuckers and post as many comedy forum posts as you like – you deserve that rage. ‘The show must go on’ doesn’t mean wait thirty five minutes and then start stalling – that makes no sense. If anything, you should race through the show if it’s that late!

When it finally started, more acts arrived randomly through the night, and when it came to the ten minute interval, the acts all stayed outside smoking and drinking for at least twenty minutes. Time keeping is important when you’re a performer, and comedy is all about timing on and off stage, so, if you’re so late you’re arriving during the show and not before, apologise and hope you don’t get killed. Bring a doctor’s note if need be, but don’t loudly enter, drinking and chanting, and making us wait even longer for the MC to finish telling us about his van. Also, only the audience can prolong the interval without announcing it – you can’t just all hang outside, leaving the audience inside waiting even longer for your comedy competition to actually happen. That’s so incredibly rude and stupid, that my friends and I decided finally to go outside and see what the fish tits was going on.

We went outside and were immediately told the show would start in a cigarette amount of time, which made sense of all their previous timing errors as I’d initially thought they were thinking in numbers and units of time and not little, flammable rolls of tar and nicotine. Finally I snapped: the MC told me to “take your seat again, ginge”. What? He can’t be talking to me off stage in such a disrespectful way, I thought to myself briefly before beginning to run from the venue. According to Facebook, one of them booked a gig in Swansea and I need to get a gig back home soon, so I ran off instead of responding with all the hatred that had built inside my stomach and heart during the show. I know – I’m such a professional guy about these things.

My friends caught up with me eventually.

Ethan has been a TSR member since 2015, you can follow him on twitter @theejdavies