Our columnist Tom Taylor on a comedian’s toughest crowd

Tom Taylor performing at the Musical Comedy Awards in January 2014. (Picture by John Wilson)
Tom Taylor performing at the Musical Comedy Awards in January 2014. (Picture by John Wilson)

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

A few weeks ago I bumped into my bollard-like friend Toby for the first time since primary school.

It was a mutual bump as, at the time, we were both recklessly driving ‘dodgem cars of our imagination’ around a draughty timber hut which, in all honesty, was a waste of good kindling.

Perhaps to atone for some appalling sins of the past, we had both ended up on the same Motivitality Day in rural Yorkshire - where the bodies are buried - and our reacquaintance took place in the middle of an aggression release exercise.

Toby was the star driver. The Lewis Hamilton of imaginary dodgem cars. It was the sort of display that could easily pass for physical theatre or contemporary ballet.

It would seem sitting amicably in comfortable surroundings with coffee and pink wafers listening to a semi-successful local businessman tell us how we can all improve our working relationships is a thing of the past.

It lacks the dynamism needed to succeed within today’s FMBE (Fast-Moving Business Environment).

Later in the day, as I balanced with Toby and Toby’s friend on what amounted to a tea tray resting casually on the summit of a very high telegraph pole, Toby’s friend asked me whether I would like to do 10 minutes of comedy at his wedding reception next Saturday.

What a triumph for team building!

I had first met this chap at the foot of the giant telegraph pole and now, having reached the summit, I was pretty much second best man at his wedding.

Furthermore, as his first choice (Toby) rocked back and forth like a hefty tea pot on a poorly balanced tray clawing at a shoelace that had been ambitiously called a Belaying rope, I realised I was only one motivitality accident away from being *the* best man.

So here’s the deal on wedding gigs.

You don’t need to be funny to play a wedding. If you try and be funny you just expend energy needlessly.

It is important to realise this early on. You may have been introduced as a comedian but that’s just a clerical error. You are a sacrifice.

You are playing a room of dissociated people who have come together because they know the bride or the groom.

Occasionally, if you are particularly lucky, some people will know both e.g. parents of the couple (ideally numbering four).

Before the sacrifice goes on the atmosphere can be awkward and a little reserved, conversations on the outer tables tend to be: “So, how do you know Mike?”

However, after the comedian has crashed and burned, conversations change to “Wasn’t he awful?”, “Yeah, what was that team building bit about, doesn’t he know about Toby’s collar bone?” “Yeah, that was in poor taste.”

Suddenly everyone is chatting and having a great time in their united hatred of you.

Job done.

l Star of Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, Paul Tonkinson, headlines the next Sitting Room Comedy Club show on Wednesday, February 12 at the St George Hotel, Harrogate. Full details can be found at www.sittingroomcomedy.com.

Tom Taylor tweets at @tomtails.