I arrived at the theatre tonight with 40 minutes to go before the show. The lady on the door smiled broadly at me and said, "It's a full house tonight!"
"Really!" I exclaimed. I had hoped it might be, but still thought it probably wouldn't happen.
"Well there's like two tickets to sell," she replied, "Those will probably go."
"That is awesome news!" I said. And indeed it was. I had hoped that I might sell a couple of hundred of the four hundred tickets at the weekend gigs, but had been steeling myself for the possibility of average audiences of a hundred, so this is genuinely wonderful to be such a hot ticket. Even when I was on TV Lee and Herring rarely got audiences of this size and only then for one off gigs and in subsequent years, as regular readers will attest, crowds of 50 or so have been more common than those in the hundreds.
As I sat in the dressing room I felt rather emotional about the whole thing. Suddenly the last five years of schlepping round the clubs and the country felt more than worth it. The struggle to become a stand up, the run ins with hecklers, the nights where I was out of my depth and lost my temper, the one man shows that didn't seem to get the acclaim that they deserved, the Daily Telegraph Worst Comedy Experience of 2005, the other journalists who wrote me off, the five hour drives home in the middle of the night.... I knew I was being slightly self-indulgent (who me?) and that what I had achieved was not that massive on the grand scale of things - this wasn't the Hammersmith Apollo or the O2 Arena. But it still felt like a major milestone, hopefully not the culmination of my career or its peak, but pretty good nonetheless.
The fact that there were tears welling up in my eyes as the Kids From Fame's "High Fidelity" from my intro CD played through the speakers made me laugh. And perhaps was a reminder of the transcience of show business success as well as formats for its transmission.
I worried that I'd forget all my words or fuck everything up, but then I remembered something that a wise man had once said to me, "Just act confident", and I realised I would be able to get through anything.
The show itself, perhaps inevitably, was slightly anti-climactic. It was a good performance and response, but nothing could live up to those emotive, self-indulgent moments before I stepped into the light. Maybe I expected some kind of magic in the air, but I guess that a large proportion of the audience had come on the strength of the reviews and didn't quite know what to expect and were waiting to be convinced. So I had to work at it and pull them in. You can never sit back and coast in this job, or maybe if you do that's when you start the slide down the other side of the hill. I took it slower, had more fun with it. It was a solid 75 minutes and I think everyone enjoyed it. I just hadn't been borne up by angels to the lofty heights of Heaven, as I had somehow expected would happen once I was a success.
Now there are other hills to climb. Like getting people in for the next five shows, and for the tour, especially in Clacton on Sea.
After the show the bar stayed open and quite a lot of the audience hung around for a drink, as the intro tape was played. It was a bit like an eighties disco where everyone was reluctant to dance. Maybe I should combine the show with a late night club playing retro music. Everyone could come in school uniform. It could turn into a massive franchise. A strange show about wanking off paedophiles and childhood humiliation, followed by a slightly tawdry few hours where desperate middle aged people stand around drinking wine out of plastic glasses trying and failing to relive their youth.
I got the tube home.
There are clearly a few more rungs on the show business ladder to climb.