Bristol Old Vic is throwing a festival of improv, with theatre and music and comedy and … me and Richard Herring. It is called Bristol Jam, and we encourage you to have a look at what else is on. In the meantime, we were in the Studio, not the main theatre. Although we think we could have sold enough for the theatre, the Studio was at least totally sold out, and a really cool space. We did our first ever live podcast in the round. I saw Neil Diamond in the round at Birmingham NEC, as it was, in about 1989, and it was a blast. But it’s weird to perform this way, conscious, as you are, about the people behind you. We made the most of it, especially during the now-traditional second half, when we record the actual podcast, during which we opted to move around, a quarter at a time, every 15 minute, so as to spread ourselves out over the full circle of the audience.
It was a lovely audience, by the way. Even though, during my solo stand-up 20 mins in the first half, a gentleman literally stole the punchline to my Edinburgh-honed Britain’s Worst Serial Killers routine! It’s not the most difficult punchline in the world, but he was certainly precise in his preempting of it. I wished him no ill-will; instead, I simply gave him my mic. It wasn’t meant as an aggressive gesture, and the gentleman in question very magnanimously came up to get merchandise signed at the table after the show in the bar. This is why stand-up is so appealing to me, this highwire act between pontificating and dealing with the vagaries of what might happen in the the relationship between you and the audience, and ultimately, why I am relinquishing the responsibility by giving up stand-up.
We had a terrific gig. The audience – all around us! – were patient and charming. And the staff at the Old Vic were professionalism personified. Particular props to Jay, and to Barny, and to Chris, who organised the whole thing. We had a lovely time. And I must namecheck John, who, after the podcast recording was over and we launched into an unrecorded Q&A, actually explained the cryptic crossword clue I had thrown out earlier, and explained the answer: TUNGSTEN is also known as WOLFSRAM, which will make sense when you’ve listened to the podcast.
So, I say hats off to Bristol Old Vic, for looking after us so well and treating our ridiculous load of old nonsense as if it were improvised theatre, which it wasn’t. And to keeping the bar open after we’d finished, which is something the otherwise exemplary Bloomsbury in London doesn’t do. It was nice, as ever, to commune with the excellent nerds afterwards, many of whom had become part of the show, and some of whom will feature on the podcast, which will be available here when Orange Mark decides it will be so.