Thoughts on Comedy

My this comedy game is a lark! We all come to it through different routes, for different reasons and to get different things out of it.

My own route comes via a stint as a cowboy, photocopier sales, the technological modification of our prisons, military unarmed combat instruction, international mobile gaming and police intelligence.

So clearly, there are jobs and there are jobs. What I came to realise is the truth of the sentiment that, in this life, it is important to enjoy the journey. I have had fun in many other things I have been paid for, but the fun of trying to make people laugh, of constantly challenging myself, of working to create something that with even 10 years experience I will only just have finished my apprenticeship and still be at the start of what I have to learn, is quite unique. How incredible to have finally found a path, the travelling of which is as enjoyable and satisfying as any potential results will be when I arrive at them.

I’ve thrown myself out of planes, off horses, off icy mountains, off boats; I’ve tackled other people’s muggers, have narrowly avoided being stabbed, and am fairly accurate with a pistol; I’ve been hit by a lorry, discovered that hand is softer than circular saw and I’ve broken my neck.

As a novelty seeker, in stand up I have finally found the route to the perfect high, where you live or die by your wits; where the more you do, the more you have to learn; where even perfection is always able to be bettered, and where I enjoy the company of all the interesting people around me.

And here is the thing, that everyone in this game has a beautiful and unique story, a background that they draw on and bring to the foreground, and a desire to make people laugh. It seems to me that every comic I’ve met has a different perspective, a contrariness that makes us all similar in our differences and an excitement that is attractive to be around. And we produce laughter in others, something inherently beneficial! Most comics I have met are good and genuine, with opinions and who want to make a difference in the world. I have got on with work colleagues and sometimes made firm friends in the past, but in this industry the comradery is very real and almost all the people I have met are people I like and enjoy being around. If you want to enjoy the journey, enjoying your fellow travelers is a great start.

This is an industry that is highly meritocratic. If you make people laugh, you get booked, if not, you don’t. You rise to your level of competence – rather than most industries where you are promoted to your level of incompetence. And the industry is huge in both breadth of purpose and opportunities offered. The journey of a career in comedy seems more like a ship setting sail than a man following a path. A path goes in one direction and has branches off it, but comedy is much more fluid than that; in the harbour there seem to be relatively few routes, out in the bay there are myriad more, and setting sail in the open sea it is clear that the course you will take is determined by a combination of opportunities the wind presents you, possible treacherous waters you might wish to avoid and destinations on the far horizon to aim for.

I suppose I’m now out of the harbour and into the bay and starting to see some of the opportunities available to me. I launched LLAUGH Comedy with a small midweek evening which has already morphed into a fantastic Saturday night comedy show. My first Edinburgh, this year, saw me performing nearly 50 times myself, whilst LLAUGH did everything and more than I wanted. I put on 44 shows there with 158 of the best acts I could find doing 185 slots – I keep the line-up on my website as a proud record of festival for me. I made friends with wonderful people and built a great contacts book. And now I find myself looking at my next bunch of opportunities.

I’ve made love to royalty, made friends with strippers, ridden with a murderer and probably kissed a lady boy; I’ve worn white tie in a salt mine, had tea in an earthquake and I don’t like being tortured.

With paid work starting to come in, I’m beginning to realise that the comic side of this career may even provide me with an income, something I’d not really contemplated before. Meanwhile, I constantly now seem to meet people who are interested in doing money generating comedy things – the opportunities really do arrive on the wind. Plans are afoot for a midweek true alternative comedy night, launching a new comedy festival and agency work for corporate opportunities. I can hardly imagine what I will be doing a year from now or what new things I will be trying.

As a comic I have not yet been going for two years. I have improved hugely, and taken on board plenty of advice. I have heard various opinions on various topics, from courses to shows to splitting my efforts to compering. My feeling is that what works for me is to say yes to as much as I can manage. To do the courses, to prepare for the shows, to split my effort only so much as will allow me to adequately do what I want to do, to the standard I want it done, and to be the best I can be. And to continually bite off more than I can chew. Those contemporaries of mine I see moving more rapidly than others seem only to be doing one thing differently from the rest. They work harder.

I have a penchant for sucking strangers’ toes and I’ve castrated for food; I’ve hitch hiked through danger, rioted in Parliament Square, swum with dolphins and clung to a tree in a tidal wave. What would you have done? I can recommend comedy…

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