Best Comics Worst Gigs
This show is exactly what it says in the title. Some of the festival’s best comedians turned stories of their most gut-wrenchingly awful shows into a cracker night out.
It’s a big ask to get someone to speak about the times when they weren't very good at their job, as Tom Gleeson points out.
But these stories aren't only or even mainly about comedians’ mistakes. As George McEncroe explains, there are three main reasons why a gig might end badly: the audience that night doesn’t find it funny, the crowd is actively hostile, or the gig was a bad idea in the first place (such as one she agreed to do at an eastern suburbs shopping centre at 10.30am).
Sometimes gigs end badly for a combination of these reasons, such as the time Denise Scott was asked to sign autographs at a nightclub. She arrived and discovered she was expected to perform a routine. Unprepared, she was soon heckled off stage.
Dave Thornton told the story of one quiet crowd at the Edinburgh festival. Halfway through the set a couple of people laughed at his joke and someone else turned around and shushed them.
And Cal Wilson's stories of corporate improv make it sound like a string of disasters, lurching from divorcing couples to recently-fired staff and rough-as-guts New Zealand miners.
If a show wasn’t funny in the first place, there’s a lot of skill involved in retelling it in a way that gets laughs. The obligatory, awkward question-and-answer time at the end proved this. A woman in the front row took the microphone to ramble about a mishap during her clown performance. The comedians cut in with some gentle jokes to wrap it up.
The comedians’ reactions to their peers ranged from knowing laughs to burying their face in their hands in distress. The crowd in the packed Wheeler Centre was well on side, letting out shocked gasps, groans and plenty of laughter in turn. Everything about this comes highly recommended.