ACE? Ah yes, Arts Council England…

This comedy lark is a great game, but there is a serious side. As an art form, it is self financing – as in, I currently finance my art myself. Yes, I get paid gigs here and there, however £100 to headline a gig in Plymouth barely covers the petrol, and whilst I perform maybe 20 nights a month, I am still not at the stage where enough of them pay sufficiently to keep me in tea and biscuits. And I like tea and biscuits.

This I can handle, however my savings won’t last forever (would that they would!). If the tide of the capitalist coin doesn’t start to flow back up the Cowie beach soon, I may find that my comedy career will have to be swapped for the world of grey and specific hours, rigid clothing, set tasks and not having to be responsible for every aspect of my career. Because that’s what working for the man is. And if you read that and thought “unappealing”, you probably work for the man.

Because, and this is a confession, there is a part of me that does miss working for the man. Not enough to go back to doing so, but a part of me none the less. The part that likes the idea of a bit of safety in a career, the part that likes money coming regularly into the bank account, the part that thinks it would be nice to be able to switch off from work for an hour or two at some point in any 24 hour period. A gentle stroll, even down that crowded concrete boulevard of ordinary life, hemmed in by the protective, featurelessness of safety that are the safety features designed to protect me, unexciting as it is, sometimes sounds exciting in its difference.

And so, a change is a good as a holiday. Of course I have no desire to haul my suit and collared shirt off their hangars, this is a marathon, not a sprint. So what to do. Well, a few years ago I stood at the top of a French mountain, a couple of space age planks attached to my feet and a load of flexible flags below me, and I did something stupid: I put my imagination to one side, the thoughts of the negative consequences of failure wouldn’t have helped me, and besides, why try to feel the pain of a broken body before it has already happened. I gripped my poles and I dug in with all my might, into the compacted, ice-like snow.

I thrust myself off that mountain top, and then thrust again and then again, stabbing at it in a frenzy, hurling myself off so hard that my companions thought I was mad. And they were right. Of the 110 competitors on that mountain, about 70 were better skiers than me, 70 people I had no right to beat to the bottom of the run. And yet, on that race I somehow came in 12th. Ballsy.

The next race, I tried to push myself further. I was put into longer skiis, 20cm longer than anything I’d ever skiid in before, and because the bindings were only punter bindings, they screwed me into them. Really dangerous. But the problem was not that I was pushing myself, the problem was that, going down that next mountain, I was going so damn fast I got scared. And because I got scared, I ended up crashing. Crashing spectacularly. To be honest, I saw 20m of air before I did go splat, like a cartoon cat into a brick wall. With horse riding they say get straight back on the horse, however (thanks to having been screwed into bindings that are designed to break before bone does) my leg was no longer the leg I grew up with, having made like a worm and split in two. Oh well.

That was a great lesson to learn. Don’t go at things half cocked. Leap, because that is the way you win, but leap and keep on charging as hard as you can. Be determined to win and beat fear and self preservation into a pathetic pulp in the cellar of your brain, because it has no place in this adventure! (Ha! I’m not dead yet you know!)

So that is what I am doing. I’m heading to Chicago for 3 months from August, to spend 30-40 hours per week, intensively learning to be a better long form improvisor. Scary and expensive, but an important move. I’ll come back having written several hours of material and as a substantially better improviser with loads of new techniques and ideas. And I’ve applied to the Arts Council for funding for it. Maybe I’ll get it, maybe I won’t. I hope I do, it will make a big difference and allow me the freedom to teach these techniques upon my return.

So, watch this space, I will be posting up here a daily log of what I am doing in Chicago, the new techniques I learn, the new people I meet. I hope you enjoy my ramblings!

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