I Said Maybe It’ll Work

Writing new material is something which comedians do. I deliberately and habitually write new material for each of the local comedy nights I MC, and I find it to be a mixed bag.

The stuff I scribble down and don’t learn properly before the show can often crash and burn. In the interval, I write a joke to order – based on suggestions from the audience – and that bit, where I work through about 10 freshly written punchlines, is always fun and usually works well.

And that’s the weird thing. When the stakes are low, the pleasure is high. I can bang out a line I don’t care about, and it will get a laugh. Conversely, when I write a whole song, and try that out before an audience for the first time, it feels stressful and clunky.

There are a few reasons for this. I think that performing musical comedy has become, for me at least, a complex multi-tasking problem. I have to:

  • Play the guitar well enough to convey the music
  • Remember/read the right words
  • Find the right part of my voice to sing those words – it always feels different on stage than in rehearsal
  • Use the microphone correctly to get the right sonic balance to make the words make sense
  • Mess with the timing of the delivery to give the audience room to laugh
  • Convey the message and the humour of the song to the audience in non-verbal ways

In short, unless the song is written a certain way which forces all of the above to be right (maybe that’s a lesson to learn from failed attempts too), then it’s probably 50 times easier to mess a new song up than to deliver a coherent version that the audience can find the humour in.

But my problem is that a lot of my stuff is getting old to me. I’m doing routines that I’ve been doing for over 15 years. I’m probably a better comedian now than I was when I wrote them, so why haven’t they been replaced?

There are lots of answers to that, but they don’t matter. What matters is that I am writing again. As a minimum, this will result in more output on YouTube, but hopefully it will also result in more new material in the set.

Unfortunately, when it goes wrong it’s very sad.

My COP26-inspired song about Brazilians and trimming of “the bush” has provide an unmitigated disaster on stage. I think it’s a well written song and a decent bossa nova. However, it doesn’t work live. So, ok… that’s going to go on YouTube. Soon, probably.

This leads to one of my long-learned dilemmas. Often, the songs that I spend the most time creating are the ones that never work. If I look back at some of my classics, I wrote them almost as a stream of consciousness, performed them, they worked, and then I played them ever since.

Conversely, the ones I take time to craft are the ones which don’t work.

So, why did I record an Oasis pastiche of my latest song idea – “She’s Electric” but in a world where we’re not using metaphors?

I did it because I wanted to enjoy the process.

I even tried the song out this weekend and it didn’t go horribly wrong…

Here’s me NOT performing the new song

However, though on first performance, the song got loads of laughs, I messed up the playing. For the second time around, I had an audience that were behaving oddly, so I did a remix of the set and played the song later than I wanted to. I also forgot to add another joke in the intro that I had hoped would stage things properly…

… so I think the song’s scoring 1 out of 2. It kind of needs to score 3 out of 3 consistently – positive or negative – in order to have a verdict.

However, I think I’ve created something that’s in my style of writing, and which is a bit daft, a bit rude, and quite funny. So I’m going to definitely, maybe, probably, attempt to make it my morning glory.*

* Oasis jokes.

About ashleyfrieze

Blogger, stand-up comedian, musician, writer and IT nerd. Technical Editor at www.baeldung.com, Senior Editor at www.funnysfunny.org.uk.
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