When your comedy show is titled Bob Slayer Will OutDrink Australia, then some problems may crop up on the night with either the performer or the audience. This proved to be the case at the recent Perth Fringe, where British comic Bob Slayer was thrown out of the festival. Now he is at the Adelaide Fringe, but it was not his own behaviour which proved to be the problem at his midnight show last night. This is what he told me in an e-mail this morning…
I have had people turn up barely able to stand because of drink. Or others refuse to buy a ticket until I downed a pint that they thrust into my hand. All of them have been a pleasure to perform for and there have been some amazing gigs. But last night, approaching the half-way point in my run, I had my first stinker of a late show.
If you were going to take a bet on who would be the biggest problem at the gig, then I think most people would assume it would be the drunken water pump fitters from Tasmania – three brothers, one of whom had just got out of hospital after an operation to have a brain tumour removed – and so they were knocking back large Jack Daniels and cokes to celebrate. But it was not them. They were great fun.
So who was it?
It could not be the nice couple?
Could it be the venue bar staff who came in after their shift?
No. They have been before and are super.
Surely the most unlikely punters to cause problems in a Fringe gig would be the three girls who came in from the Fringe Office?
When I first meet someone and they drunkenly slur “We are going to come to your show” three inches from my face, then I know that they are likely to be ones to watch. These three certainly meant well. It was nice of them to offer to flyer up the street and in the pub before the gig and I am sure it was nothing to do with them that every other night I have managed to pull in up to a dozen last-minute extra folks whereas last night not even ones who had enquired about buying tickets made it into the room.
I walk into the gig room to start the show and two of them are on stage screeching into the microphone. The other is taking photos.
After some banter and wrestling the mic off them, they sit in the front row but with their back to me, repeatedly asking other audience members the same inane questions that they think stand-up comics should ask an audience. They are certainly living up to my No Rules ethos and creating a challenging start to the gig.
Then one of them falls off her chair. Another unplugs my mic lead. And the third one is ordering more drinks that they mostly seem to be spilling.
When a gig like this happens, sometimes my way of dealing with it is to stand back for a little and conduct the carnage. That’s what I do. And I also get my dartboard out and get naked. Why not? I mean it’s not as if the gig could get any worse, is it? Why not be naked and have people throw real darts at me with only a half-sized dartboard as protection? The venue manager even joins in and has a go throwing one from the back of the room.
Then one of the Fringe girls is on stage again, grabbing the microphone. It’s OK – she only wants to be involved. Her friends tell me that she is normally really shy when she isn’t drunk. The venue manager tosses me some gaffer tape. I ask her if she would like me to make her a designer outfit. She obliges and I wrap her up and lie her down, announcing the world’s newest escapologist. She gets out and, shortly afterwards, all three of them leave the gig to a round of applause.
Strangely and significantly, no-one else walks out.
The audience and I have a chat about what has just happened.
The three drunken water pump fitters from Tasmania tell me that they don’t want their money back and buy me a drink. The nice couple tell me they are going to come back again and see a show which doesn’t have the wheels falling off it quite so much. I do a couple of stories, we wrap it up and go for a drink together. The nice couple tell me that they overhear the girls moaning about the show in the bar to anyone who will listen with no mention of their own “most un-Fringe-like behaviour”.
Now, just as only a bad workman blames his tool, it is also true that only a bad comedian blames his audience and I want to make it clear that it was not the three girls’ fault that this gig disintegrated. I certainly only have myself to blame.
After all, I was the one who let them in.