Short version: I got drunk, entered a comedy competition and won!
Long version: I went to see a friend do a 5 minute openspot at the Comedy Store. And even though he died on his arse I was hooked.
The following day I went through Time Out Magazine, where all the comedy club were listed, and booked myself into a couple of open spots.
I had no idea how to write jokes. I just scribbled down half a dozen things I’d said that made friends laugh.
My first gig was the Wednesday night New Act competition at The Comedy Cafe, Old St, London.
Before the show I was so nervous I ended up getting drunk. I have no idea what I said onstage. I don’t even remember being on stage. But I won the competition.
That makes me sound like I’m a natural.
I was dreadful – but I must have been slightly less dreadful than everyone else on the bill that night.
Luckily I knew so little about comedy I was under the delusion I was quite good, so I kept going. The truth is I wasn’t even good enough to know how bad I was.
That’s what happens in the beginning. At first your excitement and enthusiasm can win over an audience. It’s like any job; they let you off for a while because you’re new but eventually they get pissed off that you still don’t know what you’re doing.
A couple of months later another standup advised me that regular compering was one of the best ways to improve as a comic, so I saved my ‘waitressing tips’, bought a cheap microphone & a small amplifier and opened my own comedy club, The Hampstead Comedy Clinic, in the basement of The White Horse bar in North London.
It was getting on stage at the Comedy Clinic every week, safe in the knowledge that no-one could sack me, that gave me the confidence to experiment and improvise. And ultimately improve.