My first gig back after the Christmas break was a nerve-wracking affair. Performing is like a muscle and inactivity promotes flabbiness, so I was more on edge than usual. Would I have the mental dexterity to win these people over, keep them where I wanted them, and then release them, all happy, after a ten-minute onslaught of wide-eyed surrealism? Early exchanges were promising without suggesting a full-hearted willingness to come with me. This was a brand new gig, in a wonderfully full room, and I knew none of these people had seen me before. My confused alien can be confusing and alienating and I felt mounting trepidation. The pink flappyness of my pink, flappy-sleeved top, was attracting little more than looks of bewilderment from significant chunks of the audience and I knew that I needed something to get them onside.
The above photo was taken at ABC in Kennington, which is not the gig being written about here.
I was therefore relieved when someone in the front row lent into her husband and whispered “he is a prawn.” I have had this before. A few times, in fact. Grown men in pink flappy sleeves can certainly look a bit prawny, and I knew I had some prawnographic material stored away in some cranial back room. As with most live performers, I genuinely delight in a chance moment or overheard comment that allows me to launch into a fully spontaneous reaction but I don’t think I’m giving away any massive secret of live comedy in saying that sometimes these opportune moments have happened before, and the comic’s reaction only appears to be off-the-cuff, when in fact he or she has actually done and said these things before, albeit rarely.
So, given that I felt more than a bit nervous, I seized upon this “he is a prawn” comment and felt a huge surge in confidence.
“This lady has just said ‘he is a prawn’ ” I proudly announced to the whole audience, all the while thinking wait until you hear this incredible set of ‘just made up’ comments in reaction to what she said.
But the lady in question was already correcting me. Loudly, so that the whole audience could hear.
“No,” she declaimed, “I didn’t say ‘he is a prawn’, I said ‘he is appalling’ “.
My confidence balloon farted itself into a shrivelled mockery of its former self. I thanked her for sitting in the front and being so supportive, before limping through the rest of my set, trying not to bitterly resent her checking her iPhone through the long ten minutes that followed.
Her husband apologised to me afterwards adding, as if it explained everything, “she’s French.” Madame herself remained unrepentant.