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Laurence Inman’s Blog

STAND-UP – AND BE COUNTED

08-01-2009

Kitchen Garden Cafe

The fear of failure is Laurence’s lungs again – and he’s loving his regular compere spot at the Retort Cabaret in Kings Heath.

Once you’ve achieved a certain level of competence, in anything, some of the thrill you used to feel in doing it inevitably drains away.

This is certainly true of any kind of performing. I once knew an actor who took a special delight in approaching a first night knowing that he wasn’t yet 100% secure in the lines. ‘I will be soon enough, but there’s nothing like that feeling you get when you go on and you’re just prepared – like walking off the edge of a cliff.’

Stand-up comedy is also a best-at-the-start drug. My first gig was probably the most terrifying ten minutes of my life, and I’ve been terrified by experts.

One of the best comics in Brum just now told me that he knew the date of his very first open spot eight weeks in advance, and whenever he thought about it, which was every three minutes, he felt sick. By the time he staggered on stage he’d lost two stones.

But you grow in confidence, you hone your material and you even get better at quick-fire banter with the audience. It’s a longish process, involving travelling all round the country, often for no money and, before the smoking ban, breathing in a lot of nicotine.

Frankly, once the fear-element disappeared, I got a bit bored with it all. The big high, when you get a whole room rocking with laughter, stopped coming. (The high, not the rocking.) Strangely though, the inevitable nights when the audience just don’t like you still hurt.

So I turned to acting more, though still keeping my hand in with stand-up.

Then I found myself doing a spot at the Retort Cabaret, which happens on the first Sunday night of every month at the Kitchen Garden Cafe in York Road, Kings Heath. Then Brett asked me to be the compere now and again.

The joy of it all came back.

What nights we’ve had down there! Youth, talent, energy – it can’t be beaten.

Last Sunday was no exception.

Woll Beevil – he looks like a lumberjack, but sings and plays like an angel. A band, new to me, Aquila, were superb. Naomi Paul, poet, had the room in stitches with her tales of the flirting circle she accidentally infiltrated. Joe Lycett, doing his third gig here, was brilliant again. Vicki Stone, who got here despite her head gasket blowing on the way up from London, gave us top class comedy from start to finish, with her ukulele-accompanied Abba set and many other songs.

The star turn was Shazia Mirza, back again after storming the place last September. As I pointed out in my intro, she is now a proper bona fide celeb: every Christmas the posh Sundays ask her to do two paragraphs on what she’s been reading the previous year. That’s what I want!

This gig is worth wider attention. I’m going to urge Brett to get in listed in the nationals. In the meantime, get down there while you still can. Oh, and there’s a good bar and excellent food to be had, like in a real old-fashioned night-club.

Next two Retorts are 1st February and 1st March.

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