In the space of four days, I somehow went from having never tried anything anywhere near stand-up ‘comedy’, to performing two different sets during the past week.

Marc Burrows, (whose hair and life I have previously written about here) asked me a while ago if I’d join in with Geek Showoff.

If you know of or have been to Science Showoff (or Specialist Subject or Bright Club or any of Steve Cross & Co’s many excellent nights) it is like that. But geeky.

Rather than being offended at being branded with such a dweebish label, I decided that this being 2013 and the year of saying “YES” to things (or in the case, “Umm… maybe? I guess?”) I decided I would write a set about William Morris. Specifically, why I love William Morris so much and the very obvious comparisons between his life and work and my own. (See? You’re already laughing…)

As the date approached I suddenly panicked and doubted my ability to do this. Sure, it would be a friendly enough crowd on account of me bullying everybody I know in to attending. But I realised that I don’t even know how to hold a microphone. Or when to breathe. Or how long to pause (or hope) for applause for. Or how to finish. Or how to start. Our radio show has been broadcasting live since February now, but I don’t have to hold that microphone with my hands, or have bright lights shine in my eyes. I don’t have to stand up, or wonder if applause might follow what I just said. Also, if I get stuck on air, I can play a song. Which, whilst not impossible, is not as easy to do during a stand-up routine, and not terribly relevant to one about my favourite Victorian medievalist.

Sam Wong to the rescue!

Once a newcomer himself to the terrifying world of microphone stands on stages in rooms above pubs, (which by the way he conquered triumphantly), Sam had the quite frankly brilliant and equally daunting idea of hosting an open mic variety night for his birthday party.

He pleaded ENDLESSLY for anyone planning on attending to contribute any sort of act to the evening – which payed off nicely as it had been too long since I’d last seen two fully-clothed women perform a synchronized swimming routine in a Kilburn pub.

With just three days to go before Geek Showoff, I thought better of trying out my William Morris set, and read the outline of  “Johnny Cash Road Trip Logistical Analysis Adventure Story”, which is a soon-to-be video type project I have been working on. It is every bit as thrilling as it sounds.

I read through a short version of it on the radio, which you can catch in the last 10 minutes of the TRAVEL episode of Showing Up here.

When I performed it at Sam’s party though, something happened.


People clapped!

People congratulated me once I had finished and began breathing normally again!

I decided Geek Showoff would probably be OK. As long as I didn’t confuse the two routines. Despite how much I love and know about both Johnny Cash and William Morris, I’m not sure I could convince a pub full of geeks that The Man in Black was really good at hand-woven tapestries of native plant-life.

And Geek Showoff WAS OK!


People clapped!

People congratulated me once I had finished and began breathing normally again!

And if you really want to, you can pretend you were there and listen to this little MP3 of my performance.

The only bit that doesn’t completely work in audio I suppose is at the end when I showed off my tattoo, which is of the 1883 Morris pattern The Strawberry Thief.

If you WERE there, then thank you for coming, and laughing, and helping and advising and calming me down before and or afterwards.

I’d even be up for doing it again, perhaps.