Anna Chen and Chinese Elvis (Paul Hyu) at Colchester Arts Centre
10 ways not to die on stage ...
DON’T be fooled just because it says ARTS centre. This is just a sinister device to get you to relax.
DON’T be fooled by claims of “it’s an intelligent audience, they’ve come via the recent historical exhibition/gallery/arts festival so give them something challenging”. If it’s a) a Saturday night, b) there’s a bar in the auditorium and beers are being served six feet away from your hallowed spotlight, and c) you can’t be heard over the chink of glasses (or vice versa), chances are you are going down like a cup of cold sick.
If the headline act is something vaguely tributy but good like Chinese Elvis, The Bootleg Beatles, or George Formby, the audience did not come to hear your pearls of wisdom. Blast them instead with your finest vagina material. Believe me, it works.
DO give them a demeaning “fuckee-fuckee” routine. Unless you have any pride left. This will have them creaming themselves. Preferably in a blender.
If they are dancing in the aisles and singing along to the headline act, this is yet another clue that your carefully-crafted poems, so full of wit and poignant observations, may not be their entertainment of choice.
DON’T say anything that requires a knowledge of who Edgar Allen Poe, Elektra and Sigmund Freud were. (“Hey, we got ourselves a READER!” Thank you, Bro Hicks)
DO refer to soaps and celebs with abandon.
DON’T recite poetry at them. Unless you mean it as a smackdown. In which case choose your longest. Reading from a thick sheaf of A4 will clinch it for certain. I test-drove this one on Saturday.
DO break free from your script and engage with the audience, like the elderly scowling hippy couple in the front row. Him in green velvet frock coat, beard and specs, her in long white Miss Havisham bridal gown. Long hair, once blonde but now dry and streaked with grey and topped with some sort of floral wreath looking like Ophelia pulled out after ten days dead in the water.
If a sea of white faces is staring up at you with suspicion in deepest Essex, DON’T regale them with comedy about being an ethnic minority. Remember: “You ain’t from around here.”
DO watch The Blues Brothers scene in the Country ‘n’ Western club very carefully. Understand the use of Rawhide as a Get Out Of Jail Free card. Rewatch. And learn, Glasshopper.
DON’T reach for your gun and shoot the audience. Unless it’s a powerful pump-action ping-pong ball gun fired from the business end of a blow-up doll. I have tried this. It works.
If you DO go down, go down magnificently in flames. Real ones. But make sure it’s you who has control of the accelerant — and that you know where the extinguisher is stashed. And don’t wear polyester.
All right, that’s twelve.
(PS, Tommy Cooper is the only one who ever did it right.)