To tell you the truth, comedy is hardly what it seems to you when you’re sat back on the couch ready for a laugh, preferably with a chilled beer in hand.
The whole thing turns around though, the moment it’s about going up somewhere and trying to make people laugh. I’m never going to say I am good at it because…well, I haven’t yet landed myself a BBC contract have I? day that happens – maybe I’ll be slightly more smug.
Thing is, many have asked me the one thing, which apparently every comedian has heard some point of his/her life.
How do you do it? Go up in front of this many strangers trying to make them laugh of all things?
Well love I’ll tell yeh!
Truth is, at least in my case, I am absolutely shitting myself from the word go. The whole thing is quite mental – concocting strange scenarios adapted from real life experiences and adding your own brand of twist to certain things said and done.
More often that not, it is a ritual my friend and I started doing every time I had to go on stage, which was to take a large swig off her pint of lager to sooth the nerves. That is what it boils down to in the end. Nerves.
In my very short comic span of a year, all I can think of having done is take the mickey out of my parents, friends, and of course me. How much does that count for comedy, you tell me.
My last gig consisted of a twisted tale about one of my best friends (the same one mentioned above whose pint I normally drink off before going on stage) having a go at me while she was drunk off her face on new year’s day. It involved some comebacks of my own, which I hadn’t been witty enough to think of in the moment itself, but chose to be a smart-alec a month later. Catch 22 – my friend was there at the gig, supporting me.
Might have been a friendship breaker had I not run it by her earlier and got her approval but then again it’s different to hear yourself talked about to a room full of people, and expect them to laugh back in return.
Only seemed fair she heckled me, I retorted, and the audience found that extremely funny, which pretty much made the gig for me on a personal level. It was the first remotely successful gig after two disastrous ones – to be fair, one of those had only 6 members in the audience which means I’ve had a better audience than that when telling jokes in front of a mirror.
Point is, it is inexplicable what makes a man decide to go up on a platform, in front of complete strangers, and hope to engage them instantly in a conversation bubble where you are the master pulling the strings with your punch lines and expecting laughter. Only thing I can think of in my case is – attention seeking. That is possibly the only reason I chose to start doing this.
Having said that, this area of art really can play with your head. Well it does with my head anyway. You start thinking about everything with a comic perception. It’s as if suddenly it is impossible to be serious about anything. Not just petty matters but even dire serious issues are suddenly a laughing matter – an injection of dry humour and dragging yourself down a drain works like a medicine for some reason.
While working, your body does one thing you’re paid to do, but your head is having an imagined stand up gig, telling and re-telling certain jokes and scenarios – assessing and re assessing what works and what does not. trying some routines on your co workers away from the bosses prying eyes.
The whole thing makes you come off as some sort of weirdo in the eyes of the more normal folks. To add to that, you start being prejudiced against those who don’t quite share the same senses of humour as you do. I’m pretty sure not laughing at a joke is not a crime but you feel that way about those who are quite reserved and generally don’t laugh out loud the way many do.
They come across as uptight and on many a time I have found myself cursing them in some of the most horrible words I have included in the daily vocabulary, and scarier it even seems justified…even at this very moment.
Some how the whole thing sometimes feels like a high price to pay but then again the feeling a good gig generates, the adrenaline may be second only to lifting the World Cup for England, preferably having beaten Argentina, Germany, or France in the final. At the end of the day, comedy is a mind game. There isn’t anything universally funny, no guarantees a set number of people will latch on to every humorous inlet and oblige accordingly.
It’s all down to you to be able to tickle them right. That alone takes a lot out of you.