What a year it’s been.
From that debut performance, to his first ever paid gig, and then on to comedian of a cruise, en route to Amsterdam.
I honestly couldn’t be prouder.
It is such a brave and daunting career path, and the progress Dean has made has been incredible. I wanted to write a bit about that journey, because it has been one of the craziest, weirdest, funniest experiences of our lives.
Dean had spoken about doing stand-up for a while, but was yet to turn that talk into action. Having been a class clown in school, and grown up watching endless comedy shows, he had been training for this career his whole life without even realising it. And then, after some encouragement, Dean decided to sign up for a comedy course, just to test the (hot) waters. His mentor was none other than comedian, Paul Smith, who was to soon finish the courses due to his own stand-up career skyrocketing. Dean got there just in time, and learnt a lot of valuable things.
Timing. Confidence. Delivery. And prepared for his first ever 10-minute set.
The graduation ceremony was a live stand-up performance in front of the Hot Water crowd (I cannot adequately describe the nerves). I was sat in the back row of the audience, stomach churning, legs restless. Dean was waiting in the aisle, looking just about ready to vomit; and I almost sympathy vomited. It was the longest, most excruciating wait of our lives. But when his name was called, and he took those first steps onto the stage, it was like watching a different person.
He looked like he belonged up there.
I never doubted his ability to remember his lines – his memory had always been freakishly-good – but his stage-presence was a pleasant surprise, and the crowd reacted really positively, giving him the confidence to carry on.
After that, it was on to grabbing any show he could find. 10-minute slots in the corner of some dingy pub where everyone was rowdy or bladdered, and not bothered in the slightest about what he had to say. Sometimes we would drive 3 hours for these shows, only to spend 10-minutes on stage with barely any people there, and then drive back home for midnight, and be up again for regular work in the morning. There have been gigs with people facing away from the stage. Once, a woman even heckled him by saying that a whale’s penis was as big as 8 buses.
Just, while we’re on the subject of hecklers…
Hecklers are the worst. They love the sound of their own voice, so much so that they are happy to interrupt the flow of a show, distracting everyone else in the room, all for a bit of attention which is 99.99999% of the time not even remotely funny. As comedian Freddie Quinn says, heckling a new act is similar to punching a new born baby in the face. They haven’t learnt how to defend themselves properly yet, and it’s very difficult to remember your lines if someone throws you off. Just. Don’t. Do. It.
Anyway, back to business.
It was a long, hard road. He was tired, discouraged, and spending much more money than he was making. We could see improvements, but the gigs were still pretty scarce and he was wondering if it was all worth it. And then, on valentine’s day of 2018 (4 months after his first real show), Dean had a gig in a packed-out room in Studio 2, and not only smashed it, but got his first ever payment of £30. And that was it. The fire had been rekindled and he was hungry for another high.
The gigs came in staggered intervals. Some were good, some were amazing. Others were bad. Some were paid, but most weren’t. He worked so hard trying to improve what he had, trying to piece everything together, writing new jokes when he had the time. We were visiting new comedy clubs every week.
We drove 3 hours to Stockton to do a gong show (you get voted off stage by three members of the audience holding up cards), Dean barely opened his mouth and the cards were up. We drove straight back home. He worked on catering his delivery specifically to gong show audiences and entered himself into Manchester’s gong show, BEAT THE FROG, and won. It was such an incredible and reassuring moment for us both. He also made it to the final clap-off at the Comedy Store’s gong show in Manchester (up against a Polish immigrant, a fully blind man, and a gay Asian. The odds were stacked).
Slowly but surely, he got more paid gigs. Nothing huge, but enough to show us that he was heading in the right direction. And then something amazing happened. Dean got offered a paid spot on a cruise ship to Amsterdam. It was a surreal moment, especially for someone who had barely been gigging a year.
The cruise was absolutely mental. We have never laughed as much as we did that weekend, stuck in the middle of the sea with a bunch of comedians. My face was so sore.
And now we’re here.
100 gigs later, still ploughing ahead, excited for the next part of the adventure… New Zealand’s comedy scene!