Wayne Beese, a reporter on our sister paper the Shropshire Star, reveals his double life as a stand-up after entering competition once won by comedian Peter Kay.
I was sitting in the living room of my parents’ house, having been summoned home for a “chat”.
They had been getting increasingly worried about activities. I had starting going out alone at night – most unlike me – and without really saying where.
And on school nights as well.
All kinds of thoughts were racing through their heads. Had their darling son – a happily married father of two young children – developed a drug or drink problem?
Was he having a torrid affair?
I had to put their minds at rest.
It was time to “come out” and say the words I had been dreading.
“Mum. Dad. I’ve started doing stand-up comedy.”
My lovely mother’s response? “But you ay even funny.”
But, in a nutshell, that was why I kept it a secret, until I couldn’t any longer.
I suppose people who know me would not expect to see me up on stage cracking jokes and making audiences laugh.
I’m not the booming bloke in the pub who has everyone in stitches.
I am naturally very quiet and can be quite awkward socially when meeting people for the first time.
I tend to speak only when spoken to, until I know someone really well. My kind of people just don’t do this sort of thing. I was worried how people would react.
So how on earth did I end up here?
I had wanted to try stand-up comedy for about 10 years but never been able to pluck up the courage to give it a go.
Managing a Sunday League football team and bringing up two young kids always gave me a ready excuse to back out – until this year.
I thought “If I don’t do this now, I never will”. I didn’t want to be sitting in a rocking chair as a pensioner thinking “what if” or “if only”. No regrets and all that.
So I started writing, putting a “set” together, and booked in my first gig, at the Holly Bush pub in Cradley Heath, in May.
I planned to talk 10 minutes about three or four “hilarious” things that had happened to me over the years, both in my day to day life as a journalist and socially.
And with a few wisecracks at the expense of starving African children thrown in for good measure.
I thought it was brilliant, I had dreams in my head of ripping the roof off the place and receiving texts and calls the following day from all and sundry congratulating me on my comic brilliance. But it didn’t happen.
I bombed, died, whatever you want to call it, really quite badly.
A few muted laughs early doors but the last five minutes were played out to pretty much complete, stunned silence as I simulated smashing a spider with a shoe – while my horrified daughter looked on – and having a mid-air fight with a moth.
No-one talks to you when you come off after a bad gig, or even makes eye contact.
I snuck out the back door the first chance I got and fled to Wetherspoons for a cheap beer and a cry.
Where did I go from here? Quit on my stool or come out fighting and give it another go?
I had already got another gig booked – I had foolishly entered myself in the heats of the prestigious So You Think You’re Funny? competition, which boasts past winners including Peter Kay and Lee Mack.
So I had a month to completely rewrite the set and rescue my comedy dream. I realised I couldn’t just get up on stage and tell long-winded, rambling stories, I needed shorter stuff.
With punchlines. And jokes.
It went a lot better. By which I mean people actually laughed this time.
I didn’t get through to the Edinburgh finals but I did meet a chap called Geoff Whiting, who was compere for the night at the gig in Moseley, Birmingham, and who runs around 100 comedy clubs up and down the country under his Mirth Control banner.
He told me it was “exceptionally good” for a second gig but that there was still a lot of work to do, and advised me to do a comedy course, which I did, for four weeks down in Bath with Chris Head, one of the leading comedy tutors in the country.
I learnt about the techniques comedians use for writing jokes and material, but, more importantly, about the need to have an on-stage “persona”.
The audience need to buy in to who you are and what you are trying to do. They have to like you.
Since then, I’ve been gigging a lot and, I’m pleased to say it’s going rather well.
If “dying” is the worst feeling in the world then “smashing it” and having people tell you that you are brilliant is the best.
I’ve done 11 gigs so far and already been paid for two of them, only a tenner each, but I’m told that’s pretty good going.
I came in the top three of an X Factor-style competition for new acts in Bolton on Thursday night. I’ve gigged in the Cultural Quarter. Of Warrington. I’m living the showbiz dream. There have been some crazy times. I did an open mic gig in Coventry which should have just been called an open gig, as I turned up and there wasn’t even a microphone.
Or any other comedians. Or much of an audience.
And mid-way through, an old Irish fella burst into song after one of my punchlines which I was told was his way of telling me he liked me.
I went on a near 200-mile round trip to Chipping Sodbury for a gig and ended up speaking to seven people – and a parrot.
He loved it. I loved it.
The other comedians I have met have all been really welcoming and friendly and offered some great advice.
Some are trying to catch the eye and make it professionally, others are doing it for a hobby and for the social scene.
Each to their own.
Me? I’m just going to enjoy it and see where this rollercoaster takes me.
In the satisfied knowledge that I’ll be able to rock back in that chair in 40 years and say, come what may, that I gave it a try.
Add me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @BeeseComedy / www.comedycv.co.uk/waynebeese
Here are a selection of Wayne’s best jokes:
I took my two kids to one of these parent and toddler groups.
When you are a ‘newbie’ you have to get up and introduce yourself and your children.
I said ‘Hi, I’m Wayne Beese, and I’ve brought Ray and Scay’.
The group leader’s jaw hit the floor. “Ray Beese and Scay Beese?!”
I was in trouble the other day, working as a journalist on the local paper. I had to go to court and cover the case of a wheelchair-bound man accused of growing cannabis.
In a rush to get it finished and get home, my intro read: “A disabled man has walked free from court today.”
He was fuming – when it appeared in the paper the next day they stopped his benefits.
I’m a DIK – Designated Insect Killer. But I wouldn’t hurt bees. They’re family . . .
My two kids, I love them to bits, but they are a nightmare sometimes. Rowing and bickering, always fighting over the same thing.
You have one pulling it from one end and one from the other.
‘I had it first’.
‘No, I had it first’.
Our poor pet rabbit.
Apparently one in three people die while waiting for an organ.
It’s funny, that, cos I always thought it was never over till the fat lady sung.