Tom Taylor’s Room for a Laugh column

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The world of Tom Taylor, promoter of Harrogate’s Sitting Room comedy club and finalist in So You Think You’re Funny contest at Edinburgh Fringe 2013

I did a peculiar gig last week when 25 per cent of the audience were sat behind me. The venue was some remote village hall in the Derbyshire Dales. I say village hall, it was a two-up two-down end terrace, the two-downs having being knocked through to create said ‘hall’.

In pleasing contrast to some of my recent tales, the lounge kitchen diner was rammed and, resultantly, some audience members were forced to perch on the trestle tables behind the podium among the scotch eggs and cocktail sausages which had been laid out for consumption during the second interval. (Under no circumstances was the buffet to begin in the first interval as the tuna sandwiches needed the extra half hour to defrost.)

I was on in the middle section when, quite understandably, everyone’s focus was on what varieties of crisp would be on offer:

“They look like Frazzles, Janice.”

“I know they look like Frazzles, Barbara, but I’ve been had before with convincing imitations. I can tell by smell now.”

I explained the timeline vis-a-vis thawing sandwiches and everyone seemed happy to ignore the temptation of various party rings and chocolate fingers strewn haphazardly throughout the rearward audience. That was except one table.

A centrally positioned group in really quite obnoxiously bright shirts were all sat with their backs to me facing what I imagine used to be the kitchen sink. Owing to my keyboard, I sit down to perform and my comfortable sitting position, coupled with seeing the backs of six heads, the awareness of a dozen or so people sat behind me and a particularly tiring day at work somewhat threw me. Resultantly, for a good ten seconds, I mistook myself for a member of the audience.

Following Octogenarian-gate of last week I decided against making a big deal of their misdirection and ploughed on regardless. Now, in three years of performing stand-up comedy I haven’t pleased everyone but never have I been so disgusting or - more likely - so boring that, as one, an entire table has felt the need to stand up, slowly put on their coats and silently leave. Until now.

I think understandably I was somewhat distressed and my set collapsed to such an extent that the last five minutes were spent holding a cat (which had previously been shuffling round the ‘hall’) next to my keyboard and encouraging it to compose the next viral video. Much to my disappointment Kitty’s playing owed more to Schoenberg than Mozart.

After completing my time, the promoter hurried up to me and apologised for the behaviour of the six village hall committee members who had left earlier.

“Committee members?” I asked.

“Yes. They felt a comedy night was an entirely unsuitable use of the village hall so decided they would stage a protest by wearing coloured shirts and facing the wrong way.”

Tough crowd.

Sitting Room Comedy Club returns on Wednesday, April 9 with Sitting Room favourite and award winning comedian, songwriter and playwright Boothby Graffoe with support from Mickey Sharma, Peter Brush and Phil Ellis.

Tom Taylor tweets at @tomtails.