February 14, 2009

Hilarious Mammals

Can Marc Hogan, a man who’s never performed stand-up comedy before in his life have a successful show at the Edinburgh Festival – all to win a £1 bet?

I’ve entered the Laughing Horse New Act of the Year 2009. There are heats all over the country. I’ve entered the London Heats, in Soho.   

What is it about comedy promoters having animals for the names of their clubs? The Laughing Horse, the Amused Moose, I’m going to call mine Hung like a Donkey (it doesn’t care if he’s laughing or amused, he’s hung like a donkey…)

I’m sitting listening to the recording from my set at the Amused Moose. You know what’s worse than listening to your own voice, on a tape? It’s listening to the sounds of silence….

Now don’t get me wrong, when I tell my jokes they get laughs, some of them get big laughs, but there’s at least 30 seconds between setting the scene to getting to the actual laugh.

I’m a modern day raconteur and because most of my Jokes are funny stories. (I think of myself as young David Niven) 5 minutes isn’t a lot of time. I mean it took me 3 days to get through one of those Tesco self-service checkouts…

I have to make my act tighter if I’m going to pack in as many jokes as possible into 5 minutes!

I’ve spent 3 days with a moleskin notebook practically surgically attached just in case inspiration hits me. So far I’ve filled in my name. Stupid brain!  Must work harder…

I’ve told Hils that I’ve entered the competition. She’s basically said that she will only produce my show if I get through the heats and into the ¼ finals. Because if I can’t do that, I’m simply not good enough, and she won’t put her name to anything (or anyone) that it isn’t funny.

Christ, I feel like a slightly angrier and Irish Tim Henman. I can’t fold under the pressure; I’ve got to get through to the next round. I’m a Tiger, grrrr (I am actually, it’s my Chinese birth sign) here me roar!!! (Although if I’m being honest I’m more like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh – all excitable energy)

I’ve told a few people I’m doing the competition. Not everybody.  It’s easy to be funny to mates, amusing complete strangers is a totally different thing.

It’s upstairs at the Coach & Horses in Soho. There are 14 Acts competing.  One of them is Anthony Dewson, he’s being doing stand up for a few years, and was also on the same Amused Moose course. It’s great that he’s there as we can support each other but I will be crushed if he goes through and I don’t.

I’m running late, there’s a leaf on the line and my train is cancelled. But it’s ok, I’ve asked Chris (another course graduate) to let the organiser know I’ll be there.

I’ve also got my apple iPhone with Google maps so I just need to enter into the details and it will guide me effortlessly to my destination.

“Where are you Marc? You’ve got 5 minutes!”

“I’m here!” I say just bounding up the stairs.

“Chris, where are you?

“I’m standing at the top of the stairs waiting for you, I can’t see you.”

Am I Bruce Willis in the Sixth Sense?  (A sudden panicked thought hits me, perhaps I actually died on stage at the Amused Moose!)

I’m at the top of the stairs, the room’s empty.

“Chris… are you in the Coach and Horses in Soho?”

“Yes…”

Do do dodo do do do do do – The Countdown music plays in my head.

Damn there are two Coach and Horses in Soho!!!!!

Stupid iPhone, serves me right for being such a smug git when I bought it!

I rush out of the pub and spend the next 5 minutes running around like a mad man until I reach the proper venue.

“You Marc?” says Alex the owner, “Pull a piece of paper out of the hat.”

I do as instructed, unfolding it – it says 11. “Alright mate you’re on in the second half.”

Thank God for that! I’m going to need a cold shower and a beer. 

I walk into the room it’s packed there are about 70 people in the room. Some are holding white A4 sheets of paper.

“What’s that?” I ask Chris.

“They are the scoring sheets. Random audience members score the acts: that’s how they get through.”

“Do you have one?” I ask hopefully

“No”

I rush over to my mates

“Have you got one of these scoring sheets?”

“No”

Fantastic, I’m only going to have to be actually funny now…

More people are packing in.

Alex, the organiser takes control, “Ok, all the acts in the second half you have to wait in the bar downstairs.”

“What?  We can’t watch?!”

“No.”  He was looking stern!

“Brilliant!”  I go downstairs with the other acts.

Some of them get a drink to steady their nerves. Hils said we shouldn’t drink so I order a Red Bull…

3 Red Bulls later… I haven’t got wings, but I’m practically bouncing off the ceiling.

“You’re on Marc.”

I rush up the stairs and onto the stage, caffeine coursing through my bloodstream at 150 mph.

I’m like “Animal” from the Muppets!!! I think they’re so shocked by my delivery, they’re laughing out of fear.

Marc Hogan

Marc Hogan

Animal at The Laughing Horse Competition

Anyway 20 minutes later Alex and the compere have added up all the scores.

“Right, the standard was so high, were putting 6 through.” (It’s normally 5)

“In no particular order…

1. Anthony Dewson (Damn, I’m glad he’s got through but Damn!!!)

2. Maddy Nebraska

3. Jonathan Hutter

4. Karel Hutter

5. John Sharp

I’m officially bricking myself – if I don’t get through this, the last 3 months have been for nothing, I don’t have a producer, and I have no Edinburgh show…

“And Marc Hogan!”

Dogs all over Soho jump in fright as my scream of “GEEEETTTT INNNNN” echoes around the city!!

Everyone in the room turns to look at me.

“Sorry, sorry…” I say apologetically.

But it doesn’t matter… I’m through!

If you would like to find out more about Marc, or to book him for a speaking event please visit www.marchoganlive.com

February 12, 2009

Ocean’s 11

Can Marc Hogan, a man who’s never performed stand-up comedy before in his life have a successful show at the Edinburgh Festival – all to win a £1 bet?

Well I thought the Comedy Store was terrifying. I was wrong! As part of The Amused Moose comedy course, we all have to do a 5 minute spot at the Amused Moose Comedy club.

High on the success of the Comedy Store I foolishly invite all my friends, and like the true friends they are, they’re all there, on the front row – waiting to see me cock up…But it gets worse…

I’ve had a chat with Hils Jago the owner of the Amused Moose, about producing my show in Edinburgh.

I think Hils thinks I’m crazy. It’s very rare for  anybody to go on a course and 8 months later run a successful comedy show at Edinburgh.  For alot of aspiring comic’s it can take years!

But if I’m funny tonight, she’ll consider it.

Great… No pressure then…

There are 11 acts on tonight, and I’m last on (I don’t know why; Logan decides the running order).  Now in my feverish mind, that makes me Top Billing. It’s a bit like Oceans 11, where the credits say, “starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts”….

I’m Julia Roberts!

And as we all know, Julia became famous in Pretty Woman, playing a prostitute, effectively selling herself to amuse and entertain a rich man, and here I am selling myself to amuse an audience of over 80 men (& women).  But  at least I don’t have to sleep with any of them….

I’m in the toilet flossing (see Pretty Woman) visualizing myself being funny, having a great gig, but I still feel a teensy bit nervous. 

Music from the bar upstairs is being piped into the toilet.  Suddenly Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself”  comes on (you couldn’t make it up!).  

 It’s a sign from the Comedy Gods; Peter Cook, Dudley Moore….Rod Hull!

I’m not Julia Roberts, I’m an Irish Eminem! I mean I can’t rap, and I don’t live in a trailer but I can swear and I’m wearing a leather jacket, I can do this!!

I walk out into the Club, the 10th act is on.Ok quick sanity check:

– Learnt my lines – Check
– Cool leather Jacket – Check
– Digital Recorder, so I can listen and learn from it later – Check
– Clean underwear, just in case I die on stage – Check

I’m like a coiled spring; I’m hopping from one foot to the other like I’m doing some kind of demented River Dance.

Logan gets up, “And finally Marc Hogan”. I run onto the stage, and grab the mic.

Like a demented rabbit in the headlights I start telling jokes…

5 minutes later there’s applause, and I rush off stage. I don’t remember a thing. Luckily I’ve got a recording! All my friends come up to me and tell me I was in the top three (they have to say that, they’re my friends).

Hils approaches me with Madelaine… this is it…

“What did you think?” I squeak.

“You were quite funny”, says Hils (if I hear the words “quite funny” one more time, I’m going to kill someone).

“Oh” – This isn’t good.

“You have some potential, and Madelaine, obviously believes in you. Give me a call tomorrow.”I resist the urge to kiss and hug them both there and then!

“I will – Thank you”

I go home with Kirsty, she’s smiling at me

“I told you, you were funny.”

We get home but once again, I can’t sleep for the excitement. I’m going to have to buy some Kalms (Please note: Other sleeping aids are available).

If you would like to find out more about Marc, or to book him for a speaking event please visit
www.marchoganlive.com

February 9, 2009

The Comedy Store

Can Marc Hogan, a man who’s never performed stand-up comedy before in his life have a successful show at the Edinburgh Festival – all to win a £1 bet?

Marc Hogan performing at the Comedy Store. Picture taken by another nervous and shaky comic!
Marc Hogan performing at the Comedy Store. Picture taken by another nervous and shaky comic!

This is it, I can’t believe I’m about to do this.  I’m about to perform at London’s world-famous “Comedy Store” in front of over 400 people most of them students and most of them very, very drunk….

But it gets worse… this is their gong show, “King Gong”. For those of you unfamiliar with the gong show it’s basically, where you stand in front of 400 drunk students and if they don’t like you a number of red cards go up and you’re gonged off the stage.

It’s brutal, so brutal in fact Logan our comedy teacher has told us never ever to do it, as it will destroy our confidence…

So like a fool I booked on to do it.  This is my first ever comedy gig, I’ve not even finished the “Amused Moose” comedy course yet. No one outside the course has even heard me tell a joke…

“Don’t worry boys” says the manager “the audience have only got plastic beer bottles so it’s very rare that someone gets really hurt…”

I don’t mind telling you now, I’m absolutely scared witless (actually it’s a word that rhymes with witless)!

I’m number 18 on the list that means I’m on the second half, that means 18 comics to go before me, and 400 students have more time to get even more drunk.  You might think this is a good thing, let me tell you now, it’s not…

We all wait in the dark in the line as the compere attempts to warm up / control the crowd.  With that he announces the first act.

He’s only a youngster no more than 20 years old, he looks petrified.  All the acts can see he is petrified, the audience can see he’s petrified.  He says, “hello” and all the red cards go up – he’s gonged off.

The Compere rushes on, “A new record ladies and gentlemen, he’s lasted less than 10 seconds!”  The crowd roar! It’s like ancient Rome in here if they had lions to feed us to they would.

I ask one of the acts in the queue whether he has ever done this before.  “Oh yeah,” he replies, “I’ve been doing comedy for about a year and this is my fourth time doing the gong show.”

“Really?” I reply, “how long have you lasted?”

“My personal best is 43 seconds.”

43 seconds!!!  I have sneezing fits longer than 43 seconds… this is going to be horrible.  I can barely remember my lines.  I handily brought them on a piece of paper so I could read them before I went on, but it’s so dark in this place I can’t see them [mental note to self: remember to bring a torch next time, actually scrub that, remember to bleed’en  learn your lines before you ever go on stage again…you idiot!]

There are group of cockneys in the corner shouting abuse at every comic that comes on. How can I tell they are cockneys you ask?

Simple, they talk like they’re on East Enders, and all their clothes are covered in shiny buttons.  So they’re either cockneys or a sky remote control… either way they probably both don’t work…

No Cockneys were actually harmed in the making of this blog.

14 acts have gotten on stage and have been booed off by the students and cockneys; two comedians have managed to last the required five minutes.

One of them is Denis Kraslov. I congratulate him as he walks past.

“Well done mate! Quick question, how long have you been on the stand-up circuit, and have you ever lasted five minutes before?

“I’ve been doing stand up for six years,” he replies, “gigging three nights a week and this is the first time I’ve ever got to five minutes!”

I leave the queue and go to the bathroom, and I throw up… I feel much better now…

The compere calls for a 20 minute interval; 400 people descend on the bar.  They are all ordering two or three drinks at time, this is bad, very bad.

Second half – they’re all back in their seats, in fact the crowd has turned really ugly.

Act 15, a female comic, you can barely hear her over the lecherous abuse.  She lasts 46 seconds.

Acts 16 – seventeen seconds.

Act 17 rushes onto the stage. I’m next …

All I can hear is my heart beat booming inside my head. Adrenaline is surging through me, I’m shaking like I’m standing on one of those vibrating power plate exercise machines….

As act 17 begins all I can think is, “please be good, please make them laugh, please God make them laugh, so I don’t have to go on just yet.”

God obviously isn’t listening at this moment, the comic lasts 30 seconds.

And now the compere shouts, “Marc Hogan!”

I run on stage to a blur of applause and abuse.

The first thing that strikes you is that you can’t see a damn thing.  There are spotlights so the audience can clearly see you [and get a better aim with their beer bottles].  But from the stage you can’t see a thing.  I’m literally flying blind. However the acoustics in this building are awesome. I can hear everything.

I launch into my set, “I’m here for a bet….”

People are laughing, they are actually laughing !!!!

To my right I can hear the cockneys arguing amongst themselves.

“No man, don’t put the red card up, he’s quite funny

I ignore them carrying on, the crowd keeps laughing… The cockneys are still arguing

“No man put it down, he’s funny.”

 That means he’s put up the red card. If 2 more red cards go up I’m gonged off!!!

I try to ignore them but I stumble my words.

BOOOOOoooooonnnng

I turn around to see the compere approaching.

“Marc Hogan lasts 3 minutes 36 seconds!!”

I practically jump with joy, “3 minutes 36 seconds !!!!!!” 

3 minutes 36 seconds – I can be funny for a whole 3 minutes and 36 seconds!!!

I rush off the stage.  People are clapping me on the back, “well done mate.” “You were robbed!” I reach the comics. My stomach is doing back flips, the 3 final comics go up.  None last more than a minute!

I practically float out of the comedy store. The rush of adrenalin is that huge. I run all the way home. But I can’t sleep. I’m too excited to sleep. I pace up and down my sitting room remembering the laughter.

I’ve been presenting to business audiences for over 4 years now, and I’ve never felt a rush like this before….

I finally go to bed at 5am. 3minutes 36 seconds I’ve only got to be funny for another 56 minutes and 34 seconds to do an Edinburgh show!!

If you would like to find out more about Marc, or to book him for a speaking event please visit www.marchoganlive.com
P.S.
No Cockneys were actually harmed in the writing of this blog.