No one buys any tickets: I worry. Loads of people buy tickets: I worry.
Such is the lot of a comedy producer with comedy anxiety. I knew we were going to have a decent crowd in, but what if it’s terrible? What if I’m terrible? I am like the ancient Gauls, worried that the sky is going to fall in, and my only magic potion is booze.
The sky didn’t fall in. I hosted and felt as confident on stage as I ever have, getting two genuinely big laughs for a joke about the queen ordering the assassination of princess Diana (happy Jubilee!) and a joke about the futility of democracy.
I play a lot of characters, and sometimes feel more comfortable hosting as a character, but today a friend reminded me that a lot of what makes us funny is truth, and that I was recognisably being myself up there on Wednesday night.
And she’s right: I felt comfortable with the audience interaction, and allowing myself enough time and confidence to build up to a decent, unexpected punchline. The laughter felt good, and I can see how this kind of this becomes addictive.
I really enjoyed our set of sketches, though we still have work to do on timing and pacing. We’ve built up such an excellent cast of regular performers now; we’ve got a pool of about 10-12 people I feel so comfortable being on stage with, and it was great to get John and Shruti in the cast for the first time.
My favourite sketch was probably Paul Creasy’s Queen Gangs, which, incredibly, got the biggest laugh of the night for a gag about austerity. Perhaps, as with my opening material, we can afford to be a little bit more topical.
Our special guests this month were Cow Tools and Julia Masli. Cow Tools I booked on trust (them being recommended by my Factually Inaccurate co-producer Maddi), a hilariously mean review of them on Chortle, and the name.
Gary Larson is a weird genius, Cow Tools is so wrong it’s right, and I can see why this pair of gentlemen have adapted the name and the ethos. Fake heckling, misdirection, and some very funny canned laughter mean that this double act are a yes from me.
Our headliner was the fabulous Julia Masli. From the first time I saw her with the ludicrous Legs comedy, I was captivated by her economy of language and grace of performance.
Here performing a decent chunk of her Choosh show, Masli covers topics including migration and one’s own sense of place and identity, and even the function and purpose of the arts in an era increasingly defined by personal wealth, with a real steeliness and some incredible physical comedy.
An Estonian-born woman wearing a toilet seat around her neck asking a blameless member of the audience, “Do you like immigrants?” is worth a billion edgy men and their Netflix specials.
I’m going to recuse myself from the cast of the next Next Level Sketch show, but I still plan to write for it and host. Tickets are available here and we’ve got another amazing line-up.