Dream Gig: Ashley Manning

Irish comic Ashley Manning recounts a disastrous, but certainly memorable, gig in this month's Dream Gig

Article by Ashley Manning | 03 Apr 2024
  • Ashley Manning's Dream Gig Illustration

I was booked to do two shows for a comedy film festival in a rural town in County Kerry in 2018, about a year after I started out. Myself and seven other comics travelled two and a half hours to get there. None of us were getting paid, but we were getting put up in a hotel – which could have been the perfect setting for an Irish remake of Hot Fuzz, starring at least one Gleeson, and with Pat Shortt playing the Bill Bailey part (apologies to the people reading this who have no idea who Pat Shortt is) – and given the scarcity of gigs in the south of Ireland in 2018, we were all willing to give up an organ for some stage time.

After checking in, we wandered around this town (read: single street) below the Kerry mountains. We were met by our own faces staring back at us from crude bright yellow ClipArt posters which just said 'comedy' and the times for the shows in Comic Sans, stuck on various shop windows and lamp posts. The venue remained a mystery. We met the man who had organised the shows, and were led to a tiny marquee tent, plonked on a small patch of grass next to the waterfront. To one side was a statue of Charlie Chaplin, and to the other, a significantly larger tent which we were then informed would be hosting a Hermitage Green concert at the same time as our shows (N.B. Hermitage Green are an Irish alt rock band). There were no seats, no speakers and no microphone. We had to collect these items from a nearby parish hall. Comedy Venue: some assembly required.

About seven people turned up to each of the two shows to listen to us shout over the concert happening less than 30 feet away. It’s the only time I have purposely drunk alcohol before a show, and a man called Paul asked us all to sign one of the posters because it was, in his words, “a brilliant car crash”. About three months later, I found that a picture of us had made it onto the cover of the local community calendar for 2019, so I’m sure that’s a collector’s item for any die-hard fans, and Paul would probably sell you the poster for a tidy sum.

My dream gig would probably be just as much of a car crash. Anyone who has seen my stand-up will know I like a little bit of tension in the room while I’m on stage. The best part of any gig for me is when there are little pockets of laughter from outlier audience members in the room while everyone else is a little quiet. These are often the same people who approach me after the show, tell me that some aspect of my material resonated with them, then share their own stories of similar things they’ve experienced. It’s the best thing about comedy for me.

My dream line-up would be some of my favourite comics I’ve performed with: Ruth Hunter, Eleanor Morton, Shalaka Kurup, Laura Davis, and I’d drag Hannah Fairweather out of retirement for the occasion. I’ve seen these folk dwell in the tension too, and it thrills me to watch them.

I like performing to a room filled with different types of people, some who find me funny, and some who don’t or aren’t sure. I think it’s a toxic thing to potentially be met with people who agree with you about everything, who support you unchallenged regardless of what you say or do. It’s one of the good things about comedy. For the most part this rarely happens, but when it does, it’s some laugh to witness people’s egos inflate like big, ridiculous balloons. With that in mind, I think I would get a real kick out of having a few people who would absolutely hate me and my material peppered into my dream audience. I’d hand deliver a ticket to Jordan Peterson, and reserve him a seat in the front row. I believe he’s already walked out of a show Ruth performed at. Beautiful stuff. Might be a bit of craic to have the Pope along too.

Ashley Manning: Candyfloss, The Stand Comedy Club, Glasgow, 6 Apr, 5pm, £8
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