COMEDY MOMENTS: Smiley's people

In the second of our monthly series in which comedians reflect on the business of making people laugh, Irish stand-up Michael Smiley recalls the agony and ecstasy of performing before his home crowd

Every gig manages to throw up a comedy moment, whether it's with the audience themselves, the venue, or the journey to and from the gig. You may perform similar material at a gig you've done before but the audience and, most importantly of all, their attitude can and will change in a matter of minutes. Call it comedy karma, but you may be backstage confidently watching the comedian before you hold the room in the palm of their hand, yet, by the time you're due to get on they seem to have, collectively, had one pint too many and "Captain Confident" is dealing with an abusive bear pit.

Never assume you know the room and don't be over-confident; a little apprehension and respect helps a performance immensely. Not forgetting some fail-safe put downs stowed in the back pocket.

My weirdest experience to date was during the summer of 1995. Being a comedian from Northern Ireland, I was asked to perform at the West Belfast Festival supporting Jeremy Hardy. With two gigs in as many days under our belts we were booked at a club in Ballymurphy, which is, let us say, one of Belfast's more partisan areas - where most of the windows of the shops have cages and the kerbstones are painted green, white and gold to help the confused, but not the colour-blind.

I arrived at the venue to find that most of the audience were of my parents' age and had my father's air of disapproval. The latter became apparent when, half way through a routine about Gerry Adams on ecstasy, an old man approached the stage and announced in no uncertain terms what his opinion of me was and offered to give me a good slap and to wash my mouth out with soap.

I mentally searched in my pocket for the aforementioned collection of witty put-downs but they must have been in my other trousers. So, thinking on my feet, I retorted with great aplomb: "Away and empty your colostomy bag you old git." Needless to say, all hell broke loose and I retired to the safety of the bar.

Standing at the bar, as if this gig couldn't get any more bizarre, were the "Birmingham Six". They were there to say thanks to Hardy for his support in highlighting their miscarriage of justice. One of them turned to me as I sheepishly ordered a pint and said: "Don't worry, I'll get that. It's not the end of the world, Big Lad. We were laughing." So while Jeremy was on stage performing, I was at the bar necking pints of the black stuff with the source of his material.

Everything was going great guns. There I was at the bar, pint of Guinness in one hand, fag in the other, regaling the Birmingham Six with tales of my life as a comedian, when up stepped my pissed-off pensioner, and what turned out to be his wife. "There's that idiot who says Gerry Adams takes those drugs," he said, whereupon him and his wife, started swinging punches at me.

If it hadn't been for the Birmingham Six restraining him, I would have been beaten to death by Belfast's oldest tag-team. I remember thinking to myself at the time, "I've done the worst gig in my lifetime, two pensioners are trying to beat me up and the Birmingham Six are holding them back. Jesus, there has to be a joke in here somewhere!"

As you can see, comedy does have its moments.

Michael Smiley is at Jongleurs Bow and the Comedy Cafe tonight; Bearcat 2 Mar; Comedy Store 5,6,7 Mar, Balham Bar & Comedy Cafe 13 Mar

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

    Recruitment Genius: Transport Planner

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - C#, ASP.Net, MVC, jQuery

    £42000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking for a C# ...

    Recruitment Genius: General Driver - Automotive

    £15500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading Motor Re...

    Day In a Page

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food