It's a new year, it's a new day, it's a new liiiiife - yes, First Gig, Worst Gig is now happening on Fridays, because the New Year is all about bold new starts, whether it's a career move, or a change of lifestyle, or making a big move in the January transfer window. So we've grasped the nettle and, er, moved this Q&A back 24 hours. Vive la Revolution!
Speaking of exciting new days, our first guest of 2019 is the wonderfully named Spring Day, who is bringing her latest show to The Bill Murray in London's Islington on January 15. But who is Spring Day? And what has she done?
"I am an American comedian and roaster with mild cerebral palsy that has spent most of my adult life and comedy career in Japan," Day explains.
"I was voted Brooklyn's Best Comedian after I briefly moved back to the US and before perusing comedy here in the UK. My current show is called Spring Day: Strong Codependent Woman and is a sharp, dark and bubbly show with true stories and observations about the effects of growing up in a dysfunctional family, learning how to be your own parent and how to (cringe) love yourself without being a dick about it."
Perfect New Year viewing. Now, let's make a rare FGWG excursion to the far east.
The second Thursday in August 2001 at the Fiddler Pub in Takadanobaba, Tokyo. I was waiting for my Japanese work visa to come through after a previous school fired me for being disabled on the first day of work. The woman who owned the school said "We wanted a white teacher, not a broken one."
So when I saw an ad in the local English Time Out style magazine saying that they were looking for people who wanted to do stand-up, I called the number and got five minutes of stage time. It was something I always wanted to do, the autonomy and simplicity of stand-up has always appealed to me. I was also furious, ready for more rejection and it was free, so I applied. I remember being funny, but only accidentally as I had no idea what I was doing.
Comedians Paul Betney and the legendary Cloudy B Bongwater with his pet vacuum cleaner and train hammock were on that night as well. There were maybe 20 people in the audience, mostly British English teachers and their Japanese significant others. After the show, Paul and Cloudy gave me the basics of how to write a joke and told me I should stick with it and I did.
Favourite show, ever?
Off the top of my head, it was my first spot at the FUNdraiser for Waverley Care at New Town Bar in Edinburgh during the festival some years ago. It was just so much fun, tinny tiny little me making a roomful of big, burly gay men laugh when the person that had been on before me died a horrible death. It was such a relief and the connection with the audience was just electric.
Nobody saw that coming, especially me. I made really good friends from that gig and was also offered a popper for the first time. I don't do drugs but I enjoy being offered them as I think it is just a socially-awkward person's brave attempt to make friends out of a complete stranger.
A few years ago, a stag do of 12 British officers came to my show. They were drunk and fooling around on stage even before the show started. I remember they heckled me all the way through, explaining how the wedding was shotgun. I had no tech or help. Just another comedian, Ian Fox, who had stopped by to say "Hi" but decided to stay and watch this disaster unfold with a gleeful smirk.
The stag do loved my jokes about sex and disability but when I suggested my mother wasn't the best in the world, they weren't having it. They shouted "You can't say that about your Mum!" like they knew who she was. They were in the military so it's entirely possible they might have met her one night.
I cut the show from an hour to 30 minutes. Afterwards, they bought me a pint and gave me a pound. Ian and I pissed ourselves laughing in the back of the room as we listened to them drunkenly review the show on their way out: "Well, that was shite!"
The weirdest live experience?
Bob Slayer running into my Edinburgh show naked back when that was his calling card. Fortunately, I was too close to him to have to 'see' anything. The whole front row was occupied by Japanese people that spoke next to no English. When Bob ran back out into the bar I said "Well, there goes Dad." I always knew growing up with hippies would pay off one day.
Who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?
It was a club owner in New York that I auditioned for. I won't say which club but the inside looks like John Candy's log cabin that hasn't been hoovered since the 80s. I had waited outside in the cold for three hours for a chance to audition. They gave me three minutes at a Sunday midnight show with three people in the audience. I had laughs every 15 seconds, more than the headliner did that night.
Afterwards, the owner of the club said "So, disability is your shtick, eh? How far do you think you're gonna get with that?!" What could I have said? It's a buyer's market. Club owners and bookers don't have to talk to comics like people, 'cause somebody else will always be wiling to take the spot, especially in New York. Later, somebody there said to me that he was the same guy that told Eddie Murphy he would never have a career in comedy. It's nice to know I'm in good company.
Is there one routine/gag you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?
I have a lot of Japan material that I can't really use in the UK. After talking about Japan for three minutes, it just sounds like I'm bragging about traveling to the moon. Who can relate to that in Hull?
What's your best insider travel tip, for gigging comics?
Always have an extra charger, pens, paper, and candy to keep you and the driver awake to the gig and back. I can't drive so I always make a point to be useful and not annoying. Don't fall asleep unless you've confirmed the driver has someone else in the car to talk to. FYI, comic drivers who have new or small children tend to ask for more petrol money.
The most memorable review, heckle or post-gig reaction?
Somebody called me "very proficient" which is great if I'm creating Excel or PowerPoint slides. If the review doesn't have superlatives, positive or negative, it's not really worth using. Anyway, the review always says a lot more about the reviewer than it does about the show. I reckon my reviewer had just updated her CV.
How do you feel about where your career is at, right now?
I'm very happy about my career and am proud of my friends' careers in this business, which is a very healthy place to be. I work with lovely people, keep my eyes on my own paper and am looking forward to new projects.