The venue had gone rugby crazy with every blackboard and poster urging you to watch the matches - leaving no space for any mention of the comedy going on below. Still, I carpeted the pub room in flyers (1,000+ still unused with this show being the last date on them), put up my posters and crossed my fingers the 30 attendees on the Meet-Up would show - a figure somewhat lower than on the previous two nights.
The room looked good and at 7.30 people started to arrive, with only a few looking confused and asking where the "live rugby" was that a badly positioned blackboard above the door leading down to my room was advertising. By 8pm most of the seats were taken and we were ready to begin.
Andy Onions MC'd energetically as ever and had people dancing to 90s europop within the first 3 minutes. My set went down well too with most of the room shouting along to the chorus to "1 Shot" and the acts that followed all did their thing with panache and style. The issue, however, was the audience reaction....or lack of it.
It seems to be a recurring theme now at this show that the sizable audience will always play their laughter cards very close to their chest. Rather than regularly laugh out loud they'll applaud enthusiastically at the end of a set and come and tell you how much they enjoyed it during the break or at the end. Some people who had to leave at the intermission even went so far as to apologise for their early exit and popped fivers in the donation bucket.
This approach to showing your appreciation is fine of course, as an audience member it's your right to express yourself as you see fit. However, it makes the work of the comedian on the stage right at that moment incredibly hard and I could see how they tried to deal with it in different ways. Some directly addressed the issue (risky, "hey this night's weird isn't it..."), some went straight into the audience to speak to them and get them involved (doubly risky as it made the set live or die on the responses from the audience) whilst others just carried on and trusted people were enjoying themselves regardless.
The final option was definitely the right one - confirmed by the audience feedback after the show. Note to anyone in comedy who finds themselves at a night which has a large contingent of MeetUp people at it though - don't accuse them of being incapable of making friends in a "normal" way. They might smile through it but you're setting back the normalisation of this very good social network for busy people in an often unfriendly city. I had drinks with part of the group after the show and they're some of the nicest and most interesting people I've met recently.
So was tonight a success? By the standard of comparable new act nights - an absolute yes. But I want Tight-Tens to be full every month, giving performers the chance to address 60+ "real audience" and giving that audience an experience of comedy that means they'll go to more new act nights in the future.
By that standard it's still a work in progress.
(Yuriko Kotani pictured)