The one question I get the most from people about comedy is 'What happens if they don't laugh?'. Public speaking for most people is a bigger fear than death. 'Dying' on stage is a term used when comedians aren't getting any laughs from the audience, and I mean ZERO laughs. I've died 3 very painful times in my life. Once at a gig in front of a full room of 70+ people (including 6 family members). I could hear glasses being collected at the back by the waitstaff it was that quiet.
At this point now, I've been doing comedy properly for just over 4 and half years and when the laughs are rolling onto the stage like a tidal wave of noise, it's a pretty amazing place to be (luckily this happens most of the time).
I truly believe anyone can make someone laugh at something, but what's different about comedians is that when the laughs aren't rolling on stage after every joke, a titanic wave of silence so big and powerful that it slowly chips away at your soul as it sucks the life from your eyes and turns your mouth dry, while you slowly and painfully feel your dreams exit via your arsehole. That for most people is considered to be terrifying enough to go in witness protection program from fear of someone seeing you in the street and shouting 'YOU'RE SHIT!' (believe it or not it does happen). However, for most comedians, they will go through all of that and still get back up on stage and do another gig. That takes a special kind of knobhead in my opinion.
So for this week, I wanted to share my top 3 best deaths on stage. Now, these 3 gigs are ones that stick out the most and when I think about it, I did get laughs from the crowd but only polite ones for the first minute before as collective they all agreed I was shite. Now you should never really blame a crowd for a bad gig as 9 out 10 times, if it's not flying, it's the comedian's fault. Though every now and then you can get a crowd which are total arseholes. I remember one gig where all the comedians died and the biggest cheer of the night came after someone brought out a plate of chips from the kitchen - proper northern showbiz.
But without further ado: My top 3 deaths on stage...
Number 3 - Leeds Jongleurs
Back in March 2017, I was booked for a Friday and Saturday at Jongleurs Comedy Club (which has now closed due to going bankrupt - don't worry though, I didn't die that bad they comedy club had to shut down. It was a clusterfuck way before I got there). This club is known for having tough rooms full of hen's and stag do's, which believe it or not, aren't keen to sit quietly and listen to someone else tell jokes. Because 'Darren the best man' thinks he is the funniest man in the world, when in fact he's just an IT engineer who wears his keys on his belt and says things like 'you don't have to be crazy to work here but it does help'. The weekend I performed on, was also the weekend of the David Haye and Tony Bellew fight. And just like Haye that weekend, I got knocked the fuck out.
I went out on stage on that Friday night and within about 2 minutes I realised this wasn't going to be a happy ending. I remember halfway through one joke - it seems unfair to even call it a joke as for something to be a joke you need to hear laughter - it was that quiet I heard the sound of someone unlocking their iPhone. There was a guy on the front row who stood up and took a drinks order for his mates and that got more a laugh than what I was saying.
The worst thing was, I had to go back Saturday and do it all again! The gig was quiet due to everyone watching the Haye V Bellew fight but again I don't know what happened, and maybe I was still shaking off the night before, but if you've ever seen 'Saving Private Ryan', the opening scene of that film on the beach was very similar to Saturday night. I came off stage and the other comedians just kinda raised their eyebrows at me and nodded their heads. Now that wasn't even the worst one I've had.
Number 2 - Royal George Saddleworth
I can't remember exactly when this gig was but I'm pretty sure I'd only been doing comedy for around 18 months. Though it's firmly cemented as the second worst death I've had on stage.
I remember that the day before the gig, I was at a family do only down the road from Saddleworth as most of my family are from Ashton-under-Lyne. Just because I was a little hungover doesn't take away from the fact that, that night I ate shit on stage for a solid 10 minutes. This was the gig I mentioned at the start where I could hear glasses being collected at the back. Just in front of the glass collector, sat 6 of my family members including aunties, uncles and cousins, and even they looked like they wanted to be collected up and saved from the horror show that was my performance.
'Dying' in front of family is difficult to manage for everyone involved. I've always found that they will want to be supportive regardless and say things like "We all have bad days" "You'll get them next time" and I've always wanted to just acknowledge their support but not hide from the fact it went awfully. So as we all walked back to the car in total silence, I remember receiving a hug so tight it was like the last time they were gonna ever see me. They must have been gutted when I rocked up to the next family function.
Number 1 - Wigan 2014
This gig stands out as the most memorable death I've ever had on stage and think it might have even been the first ever death I experienced. It was definitely my first ever 'pro night' since I started comedy 4 months earlier (When I say 'pro night', I just mean not an 'open mic' where everyone is new to comedy, no one has paid to get in and if your lucky, there's 20 people in the crowd).
This gig was a room above a pub, which I forget the name of, probably because I've tried to block it out of my memory so I can sleep better at night. I was booked to do the open spot of 10 minutes, which is essentially a free spot for new comedians. The room was full and the paying crowd were up for it. The first act went on and got the crowd warmed up nicely. Now I can't remember every detail of the gig but I 100% remember only doing about 5 minutes of the 10 minutes I was given because the crowd hadn't laughed at all. I didn't bail out earlier, I just didn't have any more jokes. I'd said everything I had in my locker.
I've heard people will say on occasion "It was that quiet you could hear a cockroach fart", but by this point even he'd pissed off I was that shite. I remember finishing up and when I said "I've got to go now", three women in the audience gave me an 'Awww'. Which is even worse than a nasty heckle because at the core of that 'Awww' is pity. You can't do anything with that to make it funny.
I walked from the stage through the crowd and felt a few pats on my back from the audience. Whether it was out of comfort or a gentle push to the back of the room where they thought I belonged, I will never know but I've not been back to Wigan since for a gig.
I don't tend to dwell on bad gigs for long. Usually, once I sleep on it and once I wake up the next day I've moved on. I've not died on stage for a long time now. I'm probably due one soon. When I first started, an older comedian told me "You don't ever stop dying, it's just the gaps between your deaths get bigger and bigger".
It seems funny to mention this now, considering I've just shared all my worst gigs with you but I have an upcoming work-in-progress solo show called 'Sideways Thinking' coming up on the 26th September at The Jacaranda in Liverpool. Tickets are free and can be found here. It would be ace to have a full room on the night.
For more content follow me on
Two Men, Many Voices Podcast