Gatecrasher: Second Coming


Posted by in July's Magazine

“Have you ever peered over the edge of a very high cliff and wondered what it would be like to jump? For me that’s in the same league as doing stand up comedy.” So started an article I wrote for The List magazine 20 years ago, published May 1998. It was the intro to ‘Gatecrasher’, a feature in which I went undercover at The Stand comedy club and then wrote about it. Back then stand up comedy was not a glamorous vocation. The Stand was housed in WM Christies, a tumbledown cellar bar in The Grassmarket.

Fast forward two decades and I’m pondering what to write for this Leither page, when who should I bump into at Leith Depot but Reg ‘Voodoo’ Anderson, one of the comics from the old line-up (still going strong in comedy). He heartily recommended I give it another bash. ‘Why not?’ I thought, ‘I clearly didn’t die the first time, and it could be fun to write about’. The Stand very kindly gave me a spot on their Red Raw night, a showcase for newcomers every Monday, and I assumed it would be a doddle. That is until the week before, when I popped by Red Raw for a recce.I wasn’t expecting over 100 comedy fans rammed into their new venue – new to me that is, they’ve been on York Place since the turn of the millennium – or for the majority of the audience to be young people in their twenties. Times change indeed.

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Five minutes is only 300 seconds, not long in the grand scheme of things, but mentally I rehearsed those seconds relentlessly over and over and over. Red Raw was two days after Leith Festival Gala day, where I had organised the pageant and subsequently lost my voice. Quite how you can lose your voice using a megaphone is still beyond me. It just added ‘interest’ to the exercise.

Upon arrival at The Stand I was ushered to the green room, where a bunch of quietly spoken comedians were earnestly reading bits of paper. The ‘green room’ in Christies was a grimy fire escape corridor, so this was definitely a step up. The comprehensive briefing notes I had been emailed from The Stand in advance warned me not to be too chatty with the other acts in case they were ‘in the zone’, preparing. Rather different from my prep 20 years ago which involved standing at the bar drinking brandy with a bunch of geezers.

The audience arrived early and nabbed seats, rammed around the very small stage – it was certainly more organised and in demand than two decades previously. Just as I was pondering this, it was my turn. I’ve done loads of public speaking over the years, and even an aerobics warm-up for over 2,500 Glaswegians at the Great Scottish Walk, but this was only the third time in my life I’ve had an out-of-body experience. I could see myself on stage, clutching index cards notes while realising that the average birthdate of the audience was probably 1998, when I last did stand up.

My material revolved around changes we’ve seen in the last 20 years, since the last time I exposed myself in such a fashion. Carrying a beaker of Starbucks around and talking to oneself (hands free on smartphone) is ‘totes the norm’ to millennials, but the oddness of how we’ve evolved formed the backbone of my five minutes. Thankfully there were a few dinosaurs in the audience (including Stu, who has been working The Stand for over two decades, I think I met him the first time round).

The silly band name finale to the set raised a few smiles: Fish Lemon Eleven (a band I was in at Uni), Lizards of Alba, Wonky Rhubarb, Screaming Babies, Grannies of Doom, Farting Suffragettes, Fistymuffs et al. In fact the last two bands are real local grrrl punk bands. The Farters and Fistys would play my Leith Festival punk aerobics night at the Depot two days later, so I got to do a sly plug onstage. So win win really.

I’ve met many comedians since I moved to Edinburgh, in fact shared my first flat in Morningside with Craig Hill (before he was a famous comedian he used to cut my hair – he’s a better comedian than hairdresser), been at after parties with Ed Byrne and Phil Kay, and had Adam Hills pop over to mine for a cuppa one day (yes, he is a lovely guy). I even litter-picked two days previously at Leith Gala day with legendary comic Susan Morrison.

The thing they have in common is they get a kick out of getting a laugh. I’ve spent my adult life trying to be taken seriously. I love running fitness workshops where I educate people. To me teaching is constructive. But people need to laugh. It releases ‘feelgood’ neurotransmitters (hello dopamine!). You can’t argue with that, however, I’m better at showing you how to run. A very long run. In the opposite direction. Hello dopamine!

So, how did it go? My photographer, manager and long-suffering husband reviewed me as “moderately funny” ¶¶¶” (3 stars). I’m happy with that.

Am I going to do it again? Ask me in 20 years.

Twitter@tracygriffen

Next issue:Tracy returns to the more familiar but less funny subject of fitness and wellbeing in Leith.

PIC CREDIT:Andy Wright

 

 

 

 

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