“If You Can’t Have Me At My Worst Gigs, You Can’t Have Me At My Best Gigs” A Blog About How Bombing On Stage Is Essential To Comedy
I’m really trying to remove my ego but it’s so blooming big it’s taking longer than I thought it would take. A bit like when I thought I could remove my bikini line in a 30 minute appointment slot. I need a lot longer than a 30 minute appointment to remove my bikini line. My bikini line isn’t a line it’s more of a border, which takes longer than getting through Calais customs with my Egyptian dad and half a tonne of baklava to get through.
I’m hoping though, that unlike my bikini line, that when I do eventually remove my entire ego it won’t grow back again 4-6 weeks later, thicker and more stubborn; or worse in grown. That’s because I plan to remove my ego via laser hair removal. I’m joking, you can’t remove egos via laser hair removal because egos are not hairy, not even mine! Well, not literally but perhaps they are metaphorically. ‘Oooooh he’s got one hairy ego hasn’t he?’ Yes Chewbacca does.
The reason I want to say ‘Hasta la vista, Ego’ is because I’ve been reading a lot of interviews with older female celebrities like Helen Mirren, Judy Dench and Meryl Streep in publications like Guardian Weekender and Vogue Magazine….ok, ok that’s a lie…. interviews with the Loose Women crew in Pick Me Up (what other celebs are in Pick Me Up) and in it the likes of Colleen Nolan, Janet Street Porter and Ruth Langford (Girl Crush- oh to be Eamon Homes) have all been reiterating the same mantra. All these older women say the best thing about getting older is not caring what people think of you. I would have thought it’d be not having to buy tampons but whatever. I am excited for old age because of this. Not the end of tampon buying I love inserting things into my vagina- I mean what girl doesn’t? No. I really, really want to give less of a flying fuck about what people think of me. You see I’m even already wondering if you, the reader, are judging me for doing a swear just then. (Sorry). So what hope do I have?! What it made me realise though is that the reason I care so much about what people think of me all the time is down to my ego. I want people to like me. That’s because of my ego. The ego is the part of the mind that flitters between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for personal identity. In short the ego cares how you come across to people. So if you want to care less about what people think, strip away your ego!
Hot Surgeon: Operation removal of Ego to commence! Stat! (I don’t know why but I imagine George Clooney’s character from E.R saying this but in reality I would probably only have budget to get Charlie from Casualty.)
Other Hot Surgeon: (This one would be the other really hot doctor on TV, Dr Michael Mosley) Oh dear… this girls’ a Stand Up Comic, I’m going to need considerably more time to operate…….Stat! (The only surgical lingo I know is ‘Stat’, because thats what they say in Holby City).
Doing Stand Up Comedy is a constant battle with one’s ego. A comic once told me that stand up is a conflicting mix of crippling self doubt combined with huge arrogance. It’s true I flitter between being deeply insecure but also having some sort of inner confidence to get on stage and think I’ve got something worthwhile to say.
‘Its a business you go into because your an egocentric. Its a very embarrassing profession’ Katharine Hepburn
Hepburn is right I find Stand Up Comedy hugely embarrassing. It’s hands down the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done and I had to get my GP to remove a tampon that I forgot was up me. Sorry to keep mentioning tampons. (#sorrynotsorry)
I think the reason I find stand up comedy so blooming mortifying is because I have an ego and therefore I care what people think of me. If I didnt have an ego I guess i wouldn’t be so embarrassed but perhaps if I didn’t have an ego I probably wouldn’t do stand up comedy. Yellow thoughtful emoji. (I feel if you describe the emoji instead of placing it, it has more resonance).
I do Stand Up despite my embarrassment, that’s how much I love Stand Up. I think this is probably how Theresa May feels about priministering. She always looks very embarrassed doesn’t she? Like she’s doing the job despite of herself (and everyone else). I do Stand Up despite of myself. I suffer (embarrass myself) for my art.
‘My life is a just a series of embarrassing incidents, strung together with telling people about those embarrassing incidents.’ Russell Brand.
We put up with the shame for the pay off. And that pay off is epic. When Stand Up gigs go well you feel euphoric. I’d say it’s better than discovering a Friends episode you’ve never seen before which happened to me in 2010 while watching a Comedy Central Marathon. I almost fell off the sofa. I couldn’t believe my actual eyes. It felt like 1994 again.
Good stand up gigs are like friends. They make you feel warm inside. (Friends the TV show not actual friends).
Yet on the flip side when Stand Up gigs go badly, it’s utterly discombobulating. I don’t feel myself, I’m paranoid, I’m depressed but at the same time numb, it’s like really bad PMT and angst which can only be eradicated by getting back on stage. I’m not going to lie sometimes I make myself do a gig not because I want to but because I need to. Well it’s more the people around me need me to because I revert back to being a stroppy teenager.
I could escape all this bittersweet turmoil if I just removed my ego. Because then I wouldn’t care. I could bomb so hard and walk away as if nothing has happened like I’m Tony Blair or something. That’s the dream. Basically what I’m saying is I want to carry out such huge comedy crimes guilt free that one day they’ll write a report on how bloody brazen I am.
Removing the ego when performing is not only deeply liberating but also essential to your growth as a Stand Up Comic. If you remove your ego, you remove your inhibitions and if you remove your inhibitions you will take risks and if you take risks you will change and develop and grow and develop your voice. Like puberty. You have to get over the rough patch, where your voice goes all weird and you have loads of spots and you go through a Goth stage and self harm and watch Hollyoaks and Home and Away and spend too much time wanking before you blossom. No one is a butterfly straight away. You have to be a hairy caterpillar first. I definitely was before I discovered threading at the tender age of 16.
In order to learn and develop you have to go through some sort of transitioning period- doing the same thing over and over again and being too scared to change what you are doing because you care too much about what people think of you is the death of comedy. Staying safe will stunt your comedy in the long run. You have to pull the rug from under you, take risks and get messy.
‘The hospital maybe sterile but birth itself will always take place amidst chaos, pain and blood’ Steven Pressfield American Author (I know I’ve never heard of him either but I love his quote).
Anything thats made cleanly and easily I never trust. Well apart from a George Foreman lean, mean fat reducing grilling machine. That really was clean and easy, but that’s not art (sorry George). Great art is messy and imperfect. The very nature of Comedy is laughing at the clown who gets it wrong, makes a mess; we laugh at his misfortunes. Comedy is imperfect. Thats what I love about Comedy; its for life’s fuck ups. That why its such a raw, visceral and haphazard art form. Its not pristine. Its not meant to be. The comic needs to be a mess and make a mess in order to create.
‘You can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs’
Thats why we as comics need to feel comfortable and open to dying on our arses! If we’re scared of dying and scared of ruining the gig we won’t ever take the risks and make the mess that are so essential to the essence of the art form. The reason we become so precious about not bombing is because we are scared of what people will think of us, it is our ego getting in the way.
Pressfield’s quote about in order for birth to happen, there has to be pain there has to be mess and there has to be chaos got me thinking that Comedy is just like childbirth. Its messy and embarrassing. People will see you in pain and in compromising positions. You will talk about your vagina a lot. They will see very intimate parts of you and you will feel huge sickness but also an immense ethereal joy that you will get for being so totally free and exposed. And it will give you new life.
What I’m saying is that comedy gigs are like children. You’ll always be immensely proud of them but sometimes you’ll wish they’d never been born and sometimes people will pop round when they are acting up and you’ll find yourself saying to them ‘They’re not usually like this’. But like kids, gigs need to act up in order to grow.
‘Remember that great love and great achievements, take great risk.’ Dalai Lama
You simply have to accept this and understand that like kids, other people won’t always love your gigs as unconditionally as you do.
But if you do what every great comic that has ever lived has done and remove your ego you won’t give a damn about it at all.
I think I’m ready to make some babies now.
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