Jarred Christmas – my first ever gig was a Robin Williams routine
Charismatic Kiwi and Buzzcocks star Jarred Christmas is doing work-in-progress shows at the moment at Leicester Square Theatre, and here he looks back nearly 15 years, to when it was him who was the work-in-progress
My first ever gig – The Green Room, Christchurch, 1998.
"A friend organised a gig. I was an experienced improviser. She wanted improv and stand-up. We didn’t know any stand-ups and she dared me to do it. I had no idea what I was getting into.
"My friend told me to watch some late night comedy – NZ TV was showing awful American comedy from the early 90s, dudes in cheap suits at Ray's Chuckle Hut in Cleveland. Lame stuff, but she told me to watch it and adapt some of there routines to me. I also watched a Robin Williams DVD. So my first ever stand-up gig I did a Robin Williams routine about being pulled over by the cops whilst stoned. At this point I did not have a driver's license, I had never encountered apoliceman other than a 'stranger danger' lesson at school and I had never been stoned.
"Needless to say the gig went great – because it was someone else's material. The night was a success. So we put on another, I was slotted in to do the stand-up. But during my whole first-ever stand-up performance, although it went well, I had a niggle, a feeling inside that said, 'These aren’t your words, this is just acting.' So I had 2 weeks to write my own material.
"I wrote a routine about putting an aeroplane propeller up my arse, bending over, putting my arms out, would I fly? Then I acted it out for five minutes. Hilarious. In the crowd that night was Rhys Darby and his girlfriend (now wife), who spotted me and asked me to do their pro night. They said, 'Do your best five minutes.' I replied, 'I only have five minutes.' They said, 'Well do that, but do it better.'
"I did, I got $10 for five minutes. I was hooked; I couldn’t wait to do an hour. That would be $120!!"
My first ever UK gig – Gag Club, Birmingham. November 2000
"I was with the mighty Will Smith. I was his support. A student called Karl Spain (now a fantastic Irish comic) was filming a documentary for his degree about stand-up. He interviewed me on the toilet. I admitted I had never gigged in the UK before.
"To say it was mixed results would be generous. All I remember is that my opening line worked, then I played to total silence until my final routine, which got a round of applause, I think because on what they had just sat through it was really unexpected. Like having a massive and uncomfortable poo and then you find a nugget of gold in it. Will Smith was very nice and said, 'Just do more stuff as good as the last bit.'
"Great advice. Just so you know, the last bit was putting a propeller up my arse and pretending to fly. Go figure."
My first ever USA gig – Chicago City Limits, New York. March 2001
"I was booked in to do open spots at Gotham City comedy, Chicago City Limits and Stand Up NY. I arrived at Gotham, was informed I needed to bring five people all paying $15 to get in and a two-drink minimum where a coke is $5. I knew no one. They didn’t put me on, but let me watch the show for free. Except for the two-drink minimum. $10 on coke a cola.
"At Stand Up NY I showed up and they said I could do five near the end, but then someone called Ray Romano (Everyone Loves Raymond) showed up to do an un announced spot and I got bumped. They let me watch the show for free, except the two-drink minimum. I got 2 beers for $20.
"Then Chicago City Limits – a purpose-built theatre for an improv group. There was improv in the first section, then 20 minutes from me in the middle, then I joined them for the improv in the last section. Great night. I asked if anyone had heard of New Zealand. I got this response 'Yeah, you guys do good apples,' which is so true. I also had a proper New Yorker woman say to me after the show, 'You reminded me of the film Billy Elliot. I didn’t understand what choo waz sayin, but I enjoyed the performance.' I had put a propeller up my arse and pretended to fly."
My first ever Canada gig – The Forks, Winnipeg. July 2002
"I was on an improv tour of Canada. I got on a stand-up night in Winnipeg at a place called The Forks – an arts centre in the fork of a river. Great name. The gig was going great until I used the word 'cunt'.
"The joke was 'it's bad to say the N-word for black people, it's bad to say bamboo for Chinese people, yet its ok to say cunt for the French.' A woman in the front row heckled with, 'You have offended me with that word.'
Me: 'I didn’t call YOU a cunt, unless you’re French.'
Her (very angry): 'I am not French and I do not like the C-word.'
Me: 'Well what do you call the French?'
"She turned her chair around so she had her back to me. I finished my gig and it went really well. I did NOT do the propeller up the arse routine. I changed it to the propeller up my cunt routine."
Jarred Christmas will be performing his latest non-arse propelled material at the Leicester Square Theatre on Thursday, June 7 and Thursday, July 5. Call 08448 733433 for tickets.