Five minutes. Be funny.
Simple. Win the heat you go through to the semi. Win the semi you go through to State. Win State you get to the grand. If you make it there, you'll join countless comedy legends before you. Josh Thomas, Tim Minchin, Chris Lilley, Peter Helliar, Tom Ballard, Claire Hooper, and many more.
I've done this once before in 2011. I was lucky enough to score a wild card entry out of the heats, but stopped short of going further. The whole process seemed an ill-fit on me, and my attempts at a long line of jokes felt like I was painting myself into a corner. I also realised it was far too easy to be cheap. I found myself reaching for the basest jokes possible to keep myself afloat. It was moderately enjoyable, but not for me. Satisfied with losing, I walked away.
Then I went insane and decided to do it again.
It was part of an experiment. I wanted to see how much more successful I was if jokes weren't the aim. Instead, I'd just tell a story. The comedians I admired after all were story-tellers as opposed to joke-tellers. What's more, I seem to be naturally funnier when deliberately trying not to be funny.
Only problem was the cold that I woke up with on Wednesday morning. The night had left me with a fever, nightmares, and a dog that had decided to be just as restless as my ailing body. Off three hours of sleep, I jumped into my fifteen hour day with about as much enthusiasm as a cat to water.
By the time I got to the pub that evening, I was so high on Codral that I felt my brain was wrapped in cotton. Any sense of nerves or excitement splashed up against me and bounced off. I was nonplussed by the entire thing.
Memory has never been an issue for me. My brain fails me on many occasions, but its sense of memory is almost always robust. I find memorising lines and speeches an easy exercise. I had the spine of my five minutes worked out, and was confident to riff slightly to transport me from A to B. What could possibly go wrong?
I'm number seven for the night, but the first six acts pass by me like I'm watching late night television and drifting off to sleep. When my name is called, I don't feel the usual boost of nerves or excitement. I feel nothing. I wonder out, look into the crowd, and begin.
It's ok. It's ok, not great. And I feel myself starting to speak quicker, as my brain begins to catch up with what's going on. 'Wait a minute!' it says, 'You're on stage! How did that happen?!'
The audience laugh at a riffed line, something improvised, and I'm taken aback. When I turn back to my brain to get to the next vertebrae of my five minutes, I find nothing.
Honestly, just a blank page.
And now it's so long that the crowd know I've forgotten. Crap. This has NEVER happened before.
I karate kick the audience, and repeat the punchline of my last gag.
'Gay,' I say, with my foot high in the air.
Good one Dave, saved it. Very well done.
Still, nothing there.
Shit, just go back to the start.
Halfway through my sentence I remember my next point, and I get the train back on the rails. All in all, it was less than ten seconds of blank brain. Inside, it felt like democracies had risen and fallen and humans had reached the next step in the evolutionary chain.
When I walk off stage, I'm covered in a cold sweat and struggle to breathe. I find my friends and sit down, order a beer, laugh with them. I'm not entirely sure what just happened.
Stand-up comedy is a poetry all its own, and criminally, the only way to get better is to do it more, which means failing more, in front of people. It's a bravery I don't possess, especially when Codral, a head cold and a mid-strength beer are floating around inside me. I'm not surprised when I'm not on the list of winners. To be honest, I'm grateful.
I manage to rest the next couple of days (that's why I was off the blog, with apologies), and regard the entire evening as a freak accident.
Tragedy is easy, comedy is hard.
You can expect more tragedy from me soon.