At some point I had to, that much I knew. The thing is, I’d kind of forgotten how.
I am a terrible stand up comedian. Really, truly terrible. I don’t do enough gigs, even considering that I live in Cornwall so don’t have access to the same number of gigs as other people in other places. Even then, pretty much the only gigs I do are the ones I run so I’m compering. Which I hate. I don’t feel I’m very good at it, which makes me less confident, which makes me worse and on and on that vicious cycle goes. I also work full time, have A LOT of studying to do (those medieval poems won’t read themselves!) and am generally quite apathetic and easily dragged into procrastinatial activities…. such as inventing new words like “procrastinatial”. Being ill recently has only added to my apathy and drained my creativity to the point where I just wasn’t sure I was funny any more. There are many people out there who would argue I wasn’t funny in the first place but they can go suck my metaphorical balls.
Over the last couple of months, despite the knowledge that Edinburgh is approaching, I’ve been feeling like it’s all slipping out of my grasp a bit. I think a lot of it is being in that intermediate stage between very new and…. well, not very new. This is the stage when everyone is finding their “voice” and I’ve not ever been sure I really have one. Not that I’m particularly derivative (at least I bloody hope not!) – I’ve always really just been me. It’s just that “me” is a massive whirl of contradictions, particularly when it comes to my stand up. I’ve realised my material has to be a balance of carefully written and vaguely worked out when performed. I’m not a good enough actor to just go through a script perfectly every time, not to mention that if I did I think I would get bored! But there is a eloquence and verbosity that only really comes through when I write. My speech therapist remarked upon it once – I’m so used to avoiding problematic words (which are usually polysyllabic) when I talk that my brain has locked into that mode: I find it very very difficult to be spontaneously wordy when I’m in conversation, and I think it does impact on my wit as much as lack of practice does (yes, wit does require practice, even if it’s just saying the first thing that comes into your head more often. Most of the time, it’ll be shit, but the golden moments will be there and the connections will get faster and better as time goes on). But then again, talking is the best way for me to organise my ideas, so without both writing and performing I’d be totally stuck… you see why I consider myself such an annoying person?
Lack of time and drive to write has meant that most of my sets of late have just been composed of hastily scribbled and not completely formed notes, which is okay, and has certainly improved how I talk around topics, but I do think it has negatively impacted on how funny my stuff is. I’m not really sure I’m that “laugh out loud” funny anyway – a chuckle and a wry smile is enough for me anyway – so god knows how awful I’ve been! And all that time, because I wasn’t really writing new stuff or editing the stuff I had noted down – at least, not offstage where I can actually remember what I change (seriously, unless it is recorded, I will never remember what I’ve said into that microphone!) – the material I had was just getting staler and staler for me to perform. I didn’t find it funny any more, and the little confidence I had in my material was more important than I’d ever have imagined.
But even if I had sat down to write, I doubt any jokes would actually have happened anyway. I did try a couple of times, but it was like someone had stuck a big padlock on the door to that part of my mind, and no amount of pulling and getting angry was going to get it open. But on Tuesday, I saw Daniel Kitson in Exeter. I’m still weighing up in my head whether to write a little review of the show, but I’m reticent simply because I wouldn’t want to write something that, though purely complimentary from my point of view, he’d hate me for should he read it…. not that he would, but just in case…
In any case, one of the biggest things seeing Mr Kitson perform did was remind me just how much I love to write. And most importantly, reminded me that one of things I love to write best is stand up sets. I like to make them wordy and structured, and though I love to talk and perform, I’d so so missed that flow of ideas that only really happens with a pen in my hand. I want to be a stand up comedian, but I want to be a stand up comedian with well bloody written material.
Because I’ve not felt confident enough to just start with a blank page and no ideas to write down on it, I’ve been working on the set I’ve had for a good few months, which is comprised of all my favourite bits of all the stuff I’ve written so far, starting over and going for as much of a rewrite as I can. It kind of all fitted together neatly when I was performing it with just notes, but going back over it afresh and completely re-editing it has done wonders for it, and me. I’m not sure how much funnier it is, but it flows much more nicely, is a more cohesive whole now, and even has new jokes I’ve been finding pop into my head as I go along. Hurrah for me! I now have a set (or most of a set) that, with a couple more edits and a lot of rehearsing, I will be proud to take to Edinburgh… I think.