Thoughts On Comedy…

I don’t know who will read this, I don’t know if anyone will. There’s probably some people I’d rather didn’t see it, but then I don’t really give a fuck any more.

This show and everything surrounding it is one of my favourite memories of my entire life. It was the culmination of a lot of different things at one time – a show I genuinely cared about, groups of friends that wanted to see it, a flat move to the city I love over the horizon, great weather, and one of the few times I’ve felt consistently happy in my life. To see the full room that night, to do that show, to get that response, and to have that night out after – there hasn’t been a night full of more consistent highs in my life.

Mick Foley once wrote in his book (if you don’t know him, it’s okay, the quote is what matters) that after a big moment in his life, he was asked what his lowest point then was as a result. He replied ‘about twenty minutes later, when I knew I’d never feel that high again’. I don’t know that I knew that would be me that soon after, but with hindsight, this is where my love affair with comedy peaked, if not ended. There were other shows, there will be other shows again, there’s nights I still love it, there’s laughs I still have, and I still genuinely enjoy doing shows. But this, this show, for all intents and purposes, was the day I stopped taking comedy seriously or pursuing it as an endeavour.

There’s like a million reasons I could outline, and I’ll go through most of them. This is real now, raw, honest, not the jokes I make about hating comedians, even though, to be fair, most of them I do. Comedy for me was an escape. I started doing it as a way out of being a jobless, hopeless idiot after university. I kept doing it when I got my first job, and would wake up suicidal because I didn’t want to go to a horrible workplace where I was bullied and putdown every day. I kept doing it as my life improved. I kept doing it as I fell in love with people, as I made friends from it, as I had moments I’ll never forget.

I treasure the friends I have, the memories I made, and the moments like the 2000-person standing ovation (fuck you, it’s my post, it’s my humblebrag, and it’s the day I actually felt worth something after then 25 years on the earth). From the Frog and Bucket to fields in Cheshire, I felt privileged to say that I’d stood (well, kinda) in front of people and made them laugh. I’ve made people proud, I’ve become closer to people, I have the videos and photos to cherish, and I’ll never forget or regret it for one second.

Comedy was an escape, a place where I felt like I belonged, after years of not feeling like I did. I’m a cripple with depression – I’ve been disabled all my life, and I’ve suffered with depression on and off since I was 14/15 years old, by most sensible reckonings. It certainly wasn’t sensible or right for me to have death, suicide and sad thoughts on my mind as much as I did most of my teenage years and 20s, and it’s no less right now. But today isn’t about that – comedy was my escape. For 10/15/20 minutes at a time, I could make people laugh, and all that went away. The voices that tell me I’m nothing, that no one will ever love me, that no one truly cares for me (outside my family), that I’m tolerated – they went silent as soon as I told someone a joke. That’s incredibly powerful.

Unfortunately, like the person who hits the drug one too many times, or the person who falls out of the bittersweet love affair, the scales eventually fell from my eyes. A lot of things happened in my life since this show, and while people may not like what I say or how I word this – I can feel the angry messages hitting my inbox as I speak – the truth is in the way I feel and the words I say. Far too much of life is minimizing people’s feelings. They might not be accurate, they might not be based on anything, but they’re real to that person, and these are real to me.

The truth is, I wrote and performed a followup show to this. And it was fine. Fine is about the best word I can give it. I didn’t want to write any more. I didn’t really want to gig all that much. I’d fallen in love, I’d moved to live on my own for the first time ever, something I never thought I would do, and comedy just suddenly wasn’t that important. That approval I craved, that freedom I wanted, those crowd laughs, those trips where I was surviving on my own – they were all now contained in the people I saw every day, and the events, those independent moments I strived for, they were now inside the flat I owned, the place I had – something that was mine.

So suddenly, the idea of going on a trip to Stoke, to get pissed on with rain, to limp through train stations, to do 20 minutes on a Saturday night, and be told off because you did 25 by some wanker who thinks he’s ten men…well, that didn’t appeal. So I stopped. And my edge got blunt. I stopped writing, beyond a few ‘haha’ lines on Facebook. I churned out a show. But more than anything, I just wanted it all to get wrapped up nicely. I wanted the person I loved to love me. I wanted to keep my friends. And that was fine. That was my life.

Of course, this isn’t Hollywood, I live next door to Factory for fuck sake. And that’s what broke me. A few months after the second show, a large group of my friends I’d known a decade were gone. They’ve never come back. It was a misunderstanding over a few stupidly chosen words in humour and anger, and while I don’t miss their friendship any more, it does make me sad that we will most likely die still thinking the same thing we think of each other now – inscrutable, stubborn, arseholes who think the other person’s a cunt. That’s life. I tried to mend fences, they set them on fire. That’s their choice. I know now I can’t change that.

The hammer blow that followed was the loss of the person I loved. They’re not dead, and my best friend hates me saying it the way I have, but, well, they’re gone. I don’t need to go into why and wherefore. If you know me, you know who, you know what happened, and you know why. It’s been almost three years. Am I over it? If you tell me to be, for a while, I am. There’ve been other disasters since then romantically, as I’m fond of saying. But I did truly love them, and to be honest, the way it all ended with them, just after the friendships, just after forcing out a show I couldn’t write for – it all took away my last care about anything to do with standup, because it was now the art form that I had done out of love for my friends, love for her, and love for feeling like something – and most of that was now gone.

I still have tremendous friends, best friends, probably the greatest friends of my lifetime, who I love – my 30th stands out as a particular highlight – but I didn’t need to do comedy for them to love me, which worked out well, because I didn’t want to.

No one probably really knows this, because then the next thing happened – the pandemic, that we all know about. Overnight, an industry shut down. And that was great for me, because I didn’t give a fuck about being in it any more, but at the same time, it wasn’t like losing my parking space in a busy lot – no one was parking. So I sat on my arse for two years, got fatter, didn’t do any gigs, and watched the world burn. I could go into more detail about the pandemic, but you all know what it was like – I can’t add anything. I suffered with my mental health as I saw no one for months, I watched the world burn, and Boris had a fucking party. Cunts.

Anyway – as we were easing out of the pandemic, my Grandad passed away. I probably would’ve never told him this or anyone else in my family, but he was the guy I get the humour you see from me either in person or on stage from. He was always japing around, making me laugh. I know he was proud to see what I could do on stage. My whole family is of course – but with him gone, it just means a little less.

It was while I was grieving him that the scales fell from my eyes again, sometime after the 15000th conspiracy theorist post on Facebook or the zillionth podcast featuring the same clique of people who get most of the shots – and I deleted 200 comedians from Facebook. Some I knew, some I never met, some I’ll never meet. But in many ways, it was the best day of my life. I freed myself from all that negative thought above and really didn’t give a fuck if I did comedy again.

From being an escape, comedy now felt and feels like the refuge of the ones who shout the loudest and piss the highest, with very few exceptions. The top of the industry was never something I was likely to reach, I can be honest with myself about that – I wasn’t good enough.

I am a top of the middle, bottom of the top kind of comic. I’m a good comic some nights. I’ve hit great on maybe 3 or 4 occasions. But I know in my heart I won’t put the time and effort in to be any better, and even if I did, I’m not sure the ability is there. But even the top of my local scene and scenes around it seem to be populated with the very people I came into comedy to escape. I wanted out.

So I did. And I’ve never looked back. And the further we get from this show, four years ago, the less I care, and the more I’m glad I don’t chase it any more.

I haven’t and won’t “retire”, but you’ll probably never see me on the scene regularly again. That said, like the mafia and pro wrestling, comedy has a way of pulling you in just as you thought you were out. There are some wonderful people in comedy, including but not limited to the likes of Neil Shawcross, Neil Elston, Dan Barnes, Matt Davenport, Rick Hulse, Danny Sutcliffe, Jack Kelly, Tony Basnett, Mark Grimshaw, Tony Wright, all the Blizzard group, particularly Jonny…and those are the spots I love doing. I rarely, if ever, will say no to them. And I’ll support them. I’ll be around. I’ll promote it. I’ll try. Some nights, I may even hit a level I consider to be above average again. And I’ll smile, and go home, and I’ll remember when I took it seriously.

But it will never, ever, ever, be like this night again. And that’s the bit I’ve been coming to terms with – and now I have to work out what’s next. Not just in comedy, but in life. I feel dreadfully unfulfilled. I have to find a way to fix that.

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