Failing Gracefully

There’s a lot to be said for a killer opening. Whether it’s an Imperial Star Destroyer hammering the shit out of a Rebel cruiser, or the Nazis biting off a piece of Poland, both got people to sit up, take notice and want to know what comes next, as well as really setting the tone for what was to come.

Despite knowing this, I’m always really lazy with the openings for my solo stand-up shows. I spend nine months writing a show, travel around the world to perform it and then open it by simply turning down the lights, playing my current favourite mash-up and walking onto the stage. There are hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of ways that I could better open my show, but for the sake of simplicity – or as I said earlier: laziness – I do next to nothing and then wonder why it’s so tough to kick-start the momentum.

Last night however, I didn’t even get my bare bones opening right. While the audience were coming into the room, I was backstage having a bit of a dance. I like dancing when the conditions are right. Normally that means a) I’m alone and b) I’m drunk; but before a show I’m stone sober and I really like to kick out the jams in the narrow space between the curtain and the back wall of the venue. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that the floor was riddled with loose mic cables which, as I danced, were wrapping themselves around my ankles like hungry anacondas. When the lights went down and the music came up at the start of the show, I tried my very best to leap onto the stage, but my legs had danced themselves into a cable orgy and I fell over. When the spotlight finally came up, I was face-down on the stage in full view of everyone, desperately hoping that the audience liked a good prat fall. The audience though had seen nothing of the fall (that happened in the darkness) and so just stared at me, wondering why I was starting the show on my hands, knees and face.

The true test of the integrity of a system is in how it works when it doesn’t. All things fail, but the trick is to make them fail gracefully. When a joke dies in front of an audience, many comedians will deploy a pre-prepared line, acknowledging the failure in a self-effacing way that reminds the audience they’re still funny. It’s not the only way, or even the correct way of dealing with a joke that dies, but it’s one way of allowing the joke to fail gracefully in front of a paying crowd. It picks the mood back up and allows the comedian to continue with at least a bit of momentum.

Last night my system failed and it failed with all the grace of a newborn giraffe. As I floundered around on the stage, trying desperately to untangle my feet in front of a confused and disappointed audience, all I could think was “this SHOULD be funny.” It should have been but it just wasn’t. It’s like I’d started Star Wars with a shot of Han Solo on the toilet, or World War Two by marching into Warsaw and doing the Hokey P/Kokey.

I’m doing my show again tonight, and despite the fact that I’ve spent a lot of this morning thinking about how I can fail gracefully, by the time the show rolls around I’ll probably just stand backstage, dancing in the dark, hoping that my tech has finally gaffered all the cables to the floor.

First Fablemonger Review

Here’s the first review of Fablemonger at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. It’s from Australian Comedy Review.

Kent Valentine – Fablemonger
26 March 2010
Daniel Sheppard

Playing to a small but appreciative audience in the plush and frosty surrounds of Arthur’s Bar, Kent Valentine’s Fablemonger demonstrates an absolute mastery of long form storytelling comedy.

Kent welcomes the crowd with a couple of fast-paced observations, quickly relaxing the crowd and firmly planting a grin on each and every face before blending seamlessly into his prepared material. Telling tales of SatNav frustration, life in the UK and his newfound role as a father, Kent manages to turn seemingly mundane stories and fascinating tales of wonder and daring-do. Kent’s style has all the depth and ‘whimsy’ that one might want in a storytelling comic, but his fast paced delivery packs each and every tale with joke after joke and his clever and accessabile humour that leaves the audience laughing all the way.

There’s some moments of absolute brilliance that are sure to leave a lasting mark, including his fantastic childhood explanation of how gambling works. The highlight for me on the night (and obviously for Kent too) was a sudden interjection of outside noise that allowed him to break out into a fantasticly spontaneous improv rant that left the audience in stitches and almost threatened to derail Kent as well before he pulled seamlessly back into the show.

Try as I might, I can’t think of one bad thing to say about this show, nor of anybody to whom Kent would not appeal. I’m constantly asked ‘Who should I see at the festival?’, and normally that’s an incredibly hard question to answer without getting a good gauge on what other shows they’ve enjoyed. This show makes that easy – whoever you are, and whatever your tastes, you’re going to enjoy Kent Valentine.

Oh fliers, where art thou?

My Melbourne comedy festival show Fablemonger opens tonight and my fliers haven’t arrived. Either they haven’t been printed yet, or they have been printed and they’re just sitting in a place that’s not here. Neither option is ideal since I’d like to perform to an audience when the show opens in 9 hours.

It’s frustrating when a key component of your operation falls apart. I feel like I’m going into a month-long burrito making session with no tortillas. I need the tortillas or these burritos are going to suck.

Without my fliers, I won’t have an audience; without an audience, this show is going to be less a comedy and more a one-man, word-wank.

If you see a box of fliers with my name on it (literally), please give me a call.

If you’re reading this and are in Melbourne, then come and see the show.

Kent Valentine: Fablemonger
March 25 – April 17, 20:15 (19:15 sundays)
91-93 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000
Tix comedyfestival.com.au or on the door

Fablemonger Melbourne on sale now

Tickets have just gone on sale for Fablemonger at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from March 25 – April 17.

You can still get them on the door or via the Melbourne Comedy Festival website, but if you want to get them TODAY (and let’s face it, who wouldn’t), then head on over to the Ticketmaster site now and pick some up.
If you want to see the show but can’t get to Melbourne, the head to my gig page for a full list of the cities that I’ll be playing in Australia.
Fablemonger

First Fables in Leicester

Kent Valentine: Fablemonger
My 2010 solo show, Fablemonger will be having it’s first non-preview outing this Saturday, 6th February  at the Leicester Comedy Festival.

The show kicks off at 8.30 in Bowies Bar (Belmont Hotel) in DeMontfort St and will be followed by some drinks in said bar to celebrate it’s maiden voyage.

Tickets are only £5 and are available (with all the other details) via theLeicester Comedy Festival website.


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