"So I was at work right and it struck me that these so called water cooler moments never happen in my office and I got to wondering why … And it turns out I work from home and the cat doesn't even watch Ally McBeal."
He waits for a moment to let the punch line hit home; it is greeted with deathly awkward silence.
The panic starts to bubble up inside him and he stammers his next line.
"A duck walks into a bar …"
"How did it open the door?" Comes a shout from the back of the room.
The man on stage, leans on the mic stand, shields his eyes and peers into the darkness below.
"Who said that?" He asks the crowd at the Troughs open mic stand up show, this has been his dream for years and he is determined to get through the set he has worked on and practised in front of the mirror all week.
No one replies.
He runs a hand across his brow, wiping the beads of sweat the spotlight is drawing out of him. He coughs, clears his throat and starts again.
"So a duck walks into a bar …"
"How did it open the door?" This time the shout is met with a smattering of laughter.
He rubs his hair in a distracted, slightly manic way, stares into the darkness and again asks "Who said that?"
Again, no one replies.
He chokes back the lump in his throat and wills the tears forming in his eyes to stay put and tries again.
"So this duck walks into a bar, the door was already open." The audience bursts into laughter boosting his confidence. "He walks up to the bar, and asks the barman if he has got any bread …."
"You shouldn't feed ducks bread it's bad for them." Comes the voice from the darkness.
"Well you shouldn't interrupt me either; it's bad for your health." He replies, struggling to hide the wobble in his voice.
The audience, sensing the change in mood, gasp collectively.
Abandoning the duck joke he starts again. "I went for a job interview the other day at the blacksmiths; he asked me if I had ever shoed a horse and I said …"
"No but I told a Donkey to piss off once!" Shouts a woman at the front.
The man on stage, finally defeated looks at the woman and says sadly "Mum, you promised you wouldn't drink tonight, we'll have to get a taxi now."
He steps out of the spotlight to thunderous laughter and applause. He grabs the woman by the arm and drags her towards the door and spies his heckler.
"Come on, you too Dad." And with his free arm he pulls the man with him as well.
Outside they can still hear the audience laughing as he smiles to his parents and says.
"That was brilliant! Same time next week at the plough?"