If you don’t want to read a self-indulgent, mawkish thing about what a good time I’m having, stop here. Seriously. It’ll make you sick.
In February this year I performed stand up for the first time. No one laughed for the first 3 minutes except my great friend James who had come along to support me. At around 2 minutes he quietened down. I think it was the right decision; there was no need for both of us to humiliate ourselves. In the middle I did a joke about catching my dad wanking and a man spluttered out a laugh. Dubious though his sense of humour might be, that man encouraged me more than he can know. A month later I did my third gig, in the Komedia Arts Cafe in Bath. I adopted a more story telling approach and one lone woman with a strident and uncontrollable laugh dragged a positive response from the audience and again bolstered my belief in myself. Again James was there to support me, this time accompanied by Anne, my wife. They both made me feel that I wasn’t wasting my time, so I carried on.
Last thursday I did my 48th gig of the year. A gig in Devon, to a marquee full of teachers. It was put on by a large promoter and I followed the opener onto the stage with trepidation. But it was OK. They largely got what I was doing, there was some laughter and more happy faces. I met professional comedians, who were generous and encouraging, offering advice and camaraderie.
In between I have done gigs to no audience and large audiences, taken part in the BBC New Act competition and heard myself on the radio (well, 4 Extra). I have been on a poster with Josie Long, I have died on my arse, reworked my set umpteen times, shortened and tightened jokes until they’re unrecognisable. I have walked around muttering to myself, trying to tell if this way or that way is funnier. But most of all I have met people who have in some cases become very good friends.
They are people who laugh at my jokes and help me write them so that they are better. People who don’t always laugh at my jokes, rightly feeling that honesty is a greater service. People, including professional comedians, who have gifted me extra punchlines out of simple kindness. People who have welcomed me into their homes. People who offer me the opportunity to perform with them. People who have other projects that I can be involved in. People who are just starting out and that I can now help by explaining what I have done, pointing them in the direction of other people who will help them, because they are good people. And people with whom I have shared cars with going to gigs. Bitching and laughing constantly. The kind of people to whom you occasionally have to reiterate the ‘no tickling while I’m driving’ rule. And most of all, people who do wonderful, creative work of their own, making me laugh, making me wonder how they do it, making me feel sad that I can’t do it myself, but delighted that they can.
I’ve had a lovely year. Thank you to everyone who I’ve met, who have let me perform, who have been kind and positive. Who have accompanied me to gigs, who have driven me around. Who have supported me and come and seen me when I’ve been concerned. Who have reassured me and boosted my confidence when I felt that I was shit. If I never did another gig, I have made good friends, enjoyed myself far more than I predicted and faced down fear, embarrassment and justified shame. But I will do more gigs; Chippenham, Exeter, Taunton and Stroud so far booked in for January. 2013 has been a great year. 2014 could be even better.
And my dad? He hit the roof.