Titter while you Twitter: Comedy goes online
June 10, 2009 by Dave Musson

The idea of the first Twitter Comedy Club is a genius one – put a comedy show on Twitter that anyone can sit and watch for free in the comfort of their own home, or wherever they may choose to access the internet, without having to put up with anyone annoying in the crowd. The only question now was, would it actually work?

Sitting on my bed waiting for the show to start, it certainly beat having to actually move to go and get a comedy fix, and I naturally had a great view and access to free refreshments. It was even better when host Tiernan Douieb – so called “because my parents were hilarious” - got things going by explaining how the night would work.

Essentially, eight comedians were given 10-minute slots, during which they would tweet their set in instalments of 140-character bytes, and those in the ‘crowd’ could laugh/heckle/respond by using the @ replies available through Twitter. Simples!

First up was Matt Kirshen, whose opening quip of “So I was in a limbo competition and the music started “How low, can you go?” I said “I once stole a dialysis machine” was a brilliant opener, but also the only real high point of his set.

Kirshen tried to tell a long story, but due to his slow typing he ran out of time long before the punchline, in fact, long before saying anything funny, and so his set didn’t really work. One can only hope the punters at the real gig Kirshen was tweeting from had a better time. This could easily have put the gig in danger of falling flat on its rear end before it had even had chance to kick into life.

Thankfully, next act Rob Heeney came in to save the day, and attacked it in the most appropriate manner – cracking one liners. He had me hooked from “If red wine is the blood of Christ then I’m not sure I’m ever going to drink white wine again!” and kept the laughter rate on high with great jokes like “When men (looking at a girl) says, “If I was 20 years younger”, what they really mean is, “If I were handsome”…” and “I finally managed to successfully steal a bike in Saudi at the THIRD attempt. I was riding down the road going, “Look. No hands!”

Next up was Carl Donnelly who, instead of rising to the challenge of such an innovative gig, just posted a link to a five-minute video of him doing stand-up on YouTube, which, despite being funny, really went against the whole ethos of the night and didn’t win him any favours.

The final act before a short interlude was Mitch Benn, who normally composes comedy songs. Now, you’ve probably already spotted this point, but doing comedy songs on a micro-blogging site is pretty tough, but Benn amazingly managed to pull it off, with a Twitterised version of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

Lines such as “I’m just a dull boy no-one re-tweets me HE IS JUST A DULL BOY WITH A SMALL FOLLOWING LET’S BLOCK HIM AND-STAMP ON HIS-BLACKBERRY”, “I see a little grainy twitpic of a man/SCARAMOUCHE SCARAMOUCHE WILL YOU START A NEW HASHTAG?” and “So you think you can spam me and twit in my eye/So you think you can love me and not @stephenfry” highlighted Benn’s great talent and went down an absolute storm.

Douieb returned after the twinterval with some witty observations of his own such as “Worst online mistake I made was putting water on my Instant Messenger. It did not become a postman like I thought it would”, before getting the second half rolling with the introduction of the act five, Gary Delaney.

Delaney’s style of one-liners was so perfect it was as if this gig had been created with him in mind, and he blitzed his way through his 10 minutes getting through so many gags that he blew his hourly tweet limit and to create an emergency account to finish. Personal favourites included “If you write ‘rotaluclac’ on your boobs and then stand upside down it says ‘calculator”, “If you’re dying from an epilectic fit does your life flash in front of your eyes? Because that wouldn’t help”, “Suggestion to Katie out of the Ting Tings. Maybe wear some sort of name badge?” and “My short lived career as an underwear model came to an end when I forgot my pants and had to do in my P.E. kit”. Not even ending on the highly risqué “I caught my daughter masturbating. Finally” could prevent him from gaining a great response, and no doubt a huge amount of new followers.

The quality of Delaney’s set made next act Terry Saunders’ even more disappointing than it would have been anyway. Again, Saunders made the mistake of trying to tell a story, and while he did it better than Kirshen, he still didn’t keep the laugh count up high. Reaching his tweet limit near the punchline also really didn’t help.

Penultimate act in this virtual comedy cavalcade was sketch group Pappys Fun Club. These guys certainly win the award for best prepared act of the evening, using the image hosting service TwitPic to good effect in their set, but also chipping in with some typed gems, the best being their ideas for a horror film called ‘Things That Are Only Scary For A Short Amount Of Time’, which included “Thinking you’ve lost your phone when actually you’re talking on it” and “Overhearing a parent telling off a child with the same name as you.”

And so onto the headliner, and probably the night’s big name draw – Mark Watson, the Welshman who is a regular on radio four, and has recently been spotted advertising Bulmer’s Pear Cider. His collection of short gags were an excellent end to the night, and certainly had me tittering while twittering, with lines like “I’m amazed they are allowed to promote Yorkie by saying ‘IT’S NOT FOR GIRLS’. Imagine if it was ‘SNICKERS - NOT FOR BLACK PEOPLE.’ Imagine if it was ‘SNICKERS - NOT FOR BLACK PEOPLE.’ Or: ‘NUTRI-GRAIN: JEWS CAN BACK OFF’

Watson was, however, the only act of the evening to forget to turn his virtual mic on, by forgetting to tag his posts with the gig’s special hashtag, but he soon realised and finished his set strongly with “When Lionel Richie sang ‘I’m easy like Sunday morning’, he obviously wasn’t trying to use the rail network. Otherwise it would be ‘I’m fucking difficult for no apparent reason, like Sunday morning’” and the quite genius “Why does Cliff Richard never die? Is God keeping him alive to inspire us? Or just putting off having to meet him?” However, perhaps the funniest thing Watson wrote all night was “Four or five jokes already. This is better than I’ve ever done on Mock The Week”, which anyone who has seen him on that show will know why.

Then, it was all over, Douieb thanked all the acts and sent everyone on their virtual way, only leaving one question floating in the air; did it work?

Overall, an undoubted yes. Douieb had said all along it was to be an experimental evening, and when it hit the right spot it was brilliant. Clearly it was always going to favour one-liners, but the fact that one act managed to sing a comedy song without any music or any singing just showed the potential that a Twitter comedy gig has.

There were some problems, mainly the gig hashtag being hi-jack by annoying hecklers, but that shouldn’t detract from what was a hugely enjoyable and innovative evening of top-notch, free comedy. Douieb should be hugely proud of his efforts, as should the acts, and hopefully this first step will lead a regular event. It will never replace going to a real gig, but is a brilliant idea that should be encouraged as much as possible.


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