Bad Comedian

Two years ago I was a bad comedian.

Actually that’s not entirely true. I wasn’t a bad comedian but in my own opinion I wasn’t good. I’d watch back sets of my own performances and cringe at myself. Thing is the audiences liked it, I was getting a lot of work and basically my career was on the rise but that only made it worse.

My problem was the material didn’t matter, I was doing jokes about stuff that wasn’t important to me. Sure here and there were a couple of bits about my family but overall it was a bunch of jokes about penises and poo. Again it’s fine for some comedians, it’s just that I’d wanted to be a different type of comic. I’d grown up with Billy Connolly talking about his childhood, Robin Williams discussing his addiction and mental health issues, Eddie Izzard opening the UK’s eyes to transgenderism and Victoria Wood championing feminism. Later on I would find Louis CK, Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Tim Minchin, Brendon Burns, Richard Pryor, John Oliver, David Cross, Maria Bamford, Mike Birbiglia and more but right there at the beginning of my love affair with comedy it was story tellers with issues.

I’d grown up with these people, I wanted to be like them, and right there in the middle of the career I’d worked so hard for I felt like I was failing. I started to hate my work, it wasn’t fun to write anymore and that meant the performance was all very stale. I felt like I was letting myself down but worse I was letting those iconoclasts of comedy down.

It couldn’t go on like that, I couldn’t hate doing the thing I’d loved my whole life. I’d worked so hard and it felt like the thing that defined me slipping away. I mean if I wasn’t a comedian what was I?

So I changed. I forced myself to write about subjects I felt like were important. You know what happened after that, you’ve followed me because of the change I made. Before that I was another comedian making jokes about the same subjects. It’s alright for some but for me personally it wasn’t enough and that showed in the work.

In no way am I saying that I’m even close to those heroes of mine that inspired me to do standup but I feel like I’m getting closer, that I’m on the right path. I went to see Louis CK last year and 3 of his jokes were similar to jokes I’d been developing for my show, that was incredibly encouraging. I mean I had to ditch 3 bits that I knew definitely worked but still it’s great to know you’re thinking in the same way as your idols.

This week I did a solo show at Leicester and it was full. People came who had seen me the year before or who followed me online. It was exceedingly flattering to be in a room full of people all agreeing that the comedian I was now was so much better than the comedian I was then. Those comedians I looked up when I was growing up changed my mind about a lot of things and I’m hoping that now I’m starting to make as much of a difference as they did.

Thanks to everyone that came on Tuesday, it was incredibly humbling. Next year I’ll be doing 3 dates because of how well it went. Until then here’s some very short snippets from the show.

Being too social

First off sorry about the lack of blogging, there are now over 5000 (closer to 10,000 including all the other places this goes) of you and it’s ridiculous for me to leave it months without updating. I will be rectifying that. Thank you to everyone that’s hung on though, I’ll make sure it’s worth it.

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(worth it, right?)

Secondly a confession. I am a social media whore. I have a hole inside me that can only be filled by sharing my whole world with friends, family and complete strangers. What this has done is severely reduced my productivity (NO WAY! SPENDING TIME NOT WORKING IS REDUCING YOUR PRODUCTIVITY!? WHAT IN THE HELL?!). I’m not the only one, people the world over waste time on the countless forms of social media just clicking through the same 3 pages hoping for notifications to pop up of people interacting with their cat photos and undereducated semi political messages

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(#jesuislettuce)

There have been countless studies on it, many of them funded by the platforms themselves in order to find out how to keep people on those very sites, and they all come to the same conclusion: we are lonely.

loneliness

(nothing good happened in this picture, everything about this photo tells me the story ends with a phonecall and crying)

We want to reach out and find people who like the same things as us, people who can define us as individuals as well as providing us with the comfort of a herd. It’s hard to know who you really are in a vacuum (MAINLY DUE TO THE NOISE, AM I RIGHT?! *HIGH FIVES*) so to have a large group of people constantly able to tell you that yes you are right dirty foreigners should go home to their own country or no you shouldn’t have to work for a living, everything should be right there on a plate for you means that you can say “That’s who I am! I am a lazy, entitled, racist!” it’s not great but at least you know. No one likes uncertainty

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(well some people do, some people use it to cement their position but then I’m using the term people loosely)

and that’s the main problem with social media, it can be a great tool for communication and spreading the word or getting behind a cause but mostly it’s a catalyst for narcissism and rampant paranoia.  Even this post is a massive display of arrogance and self importance, what do you care about a fat guy who’s trying to distance himself from social media? You don’t! Or rather you shouldn’t because really all we’re doing is creating little groups of people all thinking they’re right then being completely surprised that there’s other people with different ideas. We’re isolating ourselves.

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(and we all know how that turns out, Pauly Shore cries himself to sleep every night)

and that isolation is a terrible thing. Just days ago was the 2 year anniversary of Robin Williams suicide, as I’ve said on here before Robin is the reason I do comedy and it hit me hard. Whenever anyone takes their own life it’s a terrible thing, it means that person can see no other future ahead except pain and they don’t want it. I tried it once, spoiler alert: I failed, and only by talking about it did I get over it. Talking is a great tool for getting over depression so here’s a video of me talking about it so other people can feel like it’s ok to talk about it Talking about suicide but with jokes

But it can go the other way, people reach out and no one reaches back or even worse people think it’s ok to abuse other people because it makes them feel better, this in turn isolates the person being bullied further. Again this has become the majority of interaction over and above supportive messages on social media which just goes to prove that if you leave humans with any kind of wonderous new discovery they’ll find a way to be an asshole with it.

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(hey guys I’ve got this thing that makes the food taste better and means we don’t get poisoned by it, it makes it hot, what are you doing guys? GUYS?!)

Really what I’m saying is I’m pulling out of most of social media unless it’s to interact with people who want to come to a show. That does mean I’ll have more time to make shit and update this so hurray to anyone who cares. It’s easy to get lost in the great echo chamber and as Jean-Paul Sartre gets famously misquoted on “Hell is other people”

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(proof)

The lump

I wish my illness was a more obvious thing. I wish there was this big blue lump on the side of my head that glowed when I was getting down. I wish that while I was talking the lump would play sad music so everyone knew that what I was saying wasn’t me but the lump talking through me. I wish that when I typed there was a special font so that people could see the lump was in charge and I was just watching it tap away at keys, reacting in a way that would destroy friendships and opportunities like an angry child in a crystal shop.

I wish that I could look in the mirror and see the lump and could say to myself “There it is, that’s my illness, right there on the side of my head look how obvious it is. It’s not me it’s the lump, none of this is me”. Other people with lumps would see each other in the street and nod as they passed, understanding just by how blue it was the way each other was feeling precisely.

Other people wouldn’t mention the lump in polite conversation but they’d know when I was talking as me and when the lump was rudely interrupting with it’s desperate attempts to gain favour or incomprehensible bouts of self directed rage. They’d nod at the alien words and phrases I was using and wouldn’t judge it as something I actually believed, rather as a symptom of the lump like excusing someone with a cold for sneezing.

But most of all I wish the lump could be removed, cut out like the pernicious tumour it really is. If it was a lump you’d know what it was.

The definition of success

Sometimes I get down on myself and I turn to my partner and say “I just don’t know if I’m good enough. I don’t know if I can be funny enough or successful enough or a decent enough parent. I don’t know if I’m good enough to make any of this work .” She always tells me how ridiculous that is, points out the successes in our lives and points to future successes we know are coming.

Thing is everyone feels like this. No matter how confident you are, how great your life is or how rich you are there’s always that little voice in the back of your head making you question yourself. As a comedian that voice is what drives me to do better and create things to make myself feel a sense of achievement. It’s seen as a taboo to talk about it still, especially in the entertainments industry, but I saw this video today and I wanted to share it

If you put a number to how you really felt about how successful you are I bet it would be low. I bet you’d never go above 6 in fact. But the truth is, to the most important people, you’re already a huge success and you need to know that.

This post was for me to say to myself “don’t get so down about it, you’re doing better than you would ever have believed two years ago” but I’m sure it’s the same for you.