I made the mistake of thinking I was brilliant after the best gig I’ve ever had. Oooops!! I was gigging in the very popular International Comedy Club for the whole weekend and had just come back from the Edinburgh festival two months before that. I’d been questioning what exactly I’d learned about myself and my comedy. Did I get better, worse or change at all? Well I was about to find out all the answers and more at this legendary club.
On the Thursday night, a few of the other acts asked what was the photo I had with me. I showed them and told them loosely what the joke was. They all looked at each other as if to say “Is she actually going to use that?” and laughed. One of the lads said “I wouldn’t open with it!!”. I couldn’t believe this, because I always opened with it and it always got a big laugh, every single time. So obviously I thought oh Jesus maybe it only worked in Edinburgh and then paranoia took a comfortable seat in my head, grabbed a beer and started laughing at me too. But I’m mad for a risk so I went on stage and did what I wanted to anyway.
It got a fantastic reaction and I was delighted to be off to a great start. I carried on and it was laugh after laugh. My ego recalls it felt so Goddamn good. I improvised a lot and took the piss out of the right people. I can confidently say (uncomfortably in Ireland) the crowd absolutely loved me that night!! One of the other acts said he was jealous of me that night. How did I feel? AMAZING!!!
I spoke to my little sweetheart on the phone. I remember being so proud telling him all about it. I knew tomorrows gig couldn’t possibly top that. I certainly wasn’t expecting the best gig I’ve ever done to be followed by the worst experience I’ve ever had on stage!!!
On the Friday night I did the usual scan of the room to see who I could talk to. It was so packed that there were seats both sides of the stage. There were four girls one side of the stage, two lads and a foreign couple the other side. An older couple were in the front row previously showing they were up for a laugh when the first act was on.
I belted on to the stage and started into my act, probably too soon, as they hadn’t finished clapping. Therefore they didn’t hear my opening joke properly and I had yet to get them with a strong laugh. I was immediately worried and moved on anyway to my next topic. I got more of a laugh with the next few jokes but I still felt they were a bit hostile towards me. My faith in this gig being great had well and truly drowned in the anxiety pit of acid in my stomach.
I spoke to the foreign couple who couldn’t really understand what I was saying but were smiling and laughing away. So that was great, two people just watching my facial expressions because they couldn’t recognise the actual language I was using.
I thought I’ll have the crack with the old man in the front row, leaning his hands on his walking stick, after I do the joke about my curtains and carpet. He looks like good crack … and here my friends, is where it all went very very wrong!!! NEVER ASSUME THINGS NIAMH!!!
Blood leaves my face and my stomach flips every time I even think about this moment.
After I asked this old man my question ….. there ….. was ….. SILENCE!!!! I heard a pin drop in India. The woman holding that pin, picked it up and threw me a dirty look all the way from India. The old man’s wife who was also probably in her 80’s, dropped her jaw and left it open for approximately 9 seconds. I decided there and then not to do a joke about her dropping her jaw like she’s used to it. If they could have given me a spanking that night, I’d have been walking around like this…
This jaw dropping spread like fashion to another group of older women. All the grown men standing in the dark, at the back of this packed room, progressed to BOOING. Their forced deep voices chanting the BOO’s lasted maybe 17 seconds. It was honestly the most intimidated I have ever felt on stage in my life. And I’ve been on stage in Edinburgh while a drunk/high man being dragged out by security, stopped inches from my face, to say “I hope you die along with your comedy career you c**t”. That weirdly enough wasn’t as bad, as I was flattered he thought enough of me to have a comedy career.
I could not believe this was happening over a f**king joke. It’s like getting annoyed at Santa Claus for things you heard about him. He only exists for fun. I had obviously hit a very sore nerve and was given the answer to my question anyway.
There I was, standing on stage – feeling as loved as Hitler. I tried laughing it off and said “Good job I know a back door” and she replied straight away with “SO DO I”. The whole room roared with support and applause for her. Did I mention this couple were from north Belfast? Oh yes, just in case you didn’t hear that properly – she had a NORTH BELFAST ACCENT!!! That was a great comeback I have to say. I laughed myself. Sure, urine was running down my leg, but I still laughed. Worst thing is I had only done 4 minutes ……… I had another 16 minutes to do. If only I had two 8 minute dances I could have done.
I apologised to the couple and asked “Can we move on or do you want me to just leave?”. And unfortunately she said as she was visualising me dying on stage in more ways than one, “NO CARRY ON”. I made a few jokes about her wanting to see me suffer and pointing a gun at me while I do my next bit. They were the first big laughs I got in those 5 minutes. I honestly felt a spot of heat on my forehead and asked a few people was there a red laser on me. Surprisingly more laughs came. That crowd love a bear pit.
This is how much the woman owned me (on the right) except it was happening in front of the audience.
I was the bear coming out to the pit. I took a swing at the King and the bloody Queen shot at me. The crowd were shocked at my balls, but knew I needed to be taught a lesson. Respect for the elders and all. But if I was to leave early injured that would mean no more fun for them. They wanted to see a death or a victory. They wanted to witness what most people say is the hardest thing in comedy – to get a crowd back after they’ve turned on you.
I swung back with a joke that all women connect with fortunately. It was a long awkward 2 minutes. Nevertheless, the Queen herself laughed out loud, letting everyone know it was safe to join her. I’d had my punishment and now I’d to prove myself. Thankfully joke after joke came laugh after laugh.
What does Niamh go and do? – Her risky joke!!
After I realised I’d won the crowd back, I wanted to test them on it. If you don’t try, you won’t know eh? I revealed to the audience “I wanted to do a risky joke tonight, but I feel I may have done enough damage for one night”. That got a great laugh I must say. Giving them the option I asked “OR do you WANT me to do it?” They got excited and cheered me on. Every gameshow ever proves a crowd will always choose a gamble because it’s more fun and they lose nothing. With their permission I jumped back in the bear pit for the crack.
I boldly told my joke to an amazing reaction. I said sorry again to the old couple and thanked the crowd for sticking with me. Shocked at what had happened, I ran to the comedians for support. The host insisted they were all simply having a laugh by joining in with the booing. While I was explaining what I’d been through to the other acts, the interval had started. Who came up to me but the Queen herself. She hugged me!!!!
Expressing her admiration for me and the job I do, she then apologised for the way she reacted. This time ’my’ jaw dropped when she said I was brilliant. Her husband stood behind her, still quite tender over our interaction, asking “Are you still here?”. More of the crowd followed, patting me on the back and saying they loved me. Some released a long sign as they shook my hand and said I was some woman. One man called me a brave solider as he looked at me in amazement, like I was the bravest and stupidest person he’s ever met.
So there you have it folks, the best gig of my life followed by the most awkward. If every cloud has a silver lining, I’d say be careful, that silver lining could be a blade. The good always comes with the bad unfortunately. If I hadn’t done Edinburgh that summer, maybe I wouldn’t have been so brazen to say what I did or had what it takes to keep fighting and win them back. You only recognise how strong you can be when you break.