(Originally published on HUFFPOST COMEDY on 24 January 2015)
First of all, I love getting to do stand up. Honestly. I’ve had an amazing year, things keep getting better. I don’t ever want to stop, I can’t stop, and I want to get to the point where I don’t have my day job anymore and can just gig all over the place, earning enough to buy myself and my family nice things. Some wonderful advice I heard once was “you eventually forget to quit”. But tonight was a real highlight of things I want to see changed or at least thought about. Some I have discussed with people before, some are just nonsense I yell at myself whilst driving back from wherever I was.
Yes, some audiences are awful. Some may have never seen live comedy before, some may have had a sad amount to drink, some may simply not be interested. But something that appears to be ever present is British people’s relationship with money. Recently I got to go to Europe and perform comedy, I had an amazing time and I noticed that over there, when they spend £10 on a comedy night, they say “well I’ve spent this money, therefore I will listen and get my money’s worth”. Whereas in Britain, it appears to be a case of “well I’ve spent MY money, so I can do whatever I damn well please”. This is not the case everywhere, but just something I’ve noticed. There are ways to combat this, such as having the night set up properly, everyone facing the right way etc. But sometimes mob mentality wins and it is just tough. Village and small town gigs are sometimes hard, but more often than not it feels like comedians are intruders in your living room rather than funny guests who just want to entertain their hosts.
Oh and, by heckling and saying “I’m helping” is not helping. At all. I don’t write half a set and just spin my chair away and just hope someone in the audience will finish it off for me.
That’s not my main problem. My problem is the comedians themselves.
Doing comedy IS very cool, it IS so much fun and it is FULL of pretentious, I didn’t get enough attention growing up so I’ll cut everyone else down, competitive, non-entertainers. Please tell me what other job is the following ever somehow acceptable:
“I’m getting paid anyway so who cares”.
This is just as bad as the audience who have paid and don’t care.
Maybe it’s because I’m not at that point where my sole income is comedy. Maybe it’s because I have such a genuine love for the game and not an overly competitive person that the layer of smug bitterness and self-righteousness hasn’t filled up my head. I’ve seen good comedians become obsessed with the business side of things, so desperate to jump a few rungs of the ladder, that it’s caught up with them and they have packed it in.
If you consider yourself an “artistè”, don’t go doing smaller gigs because it’s a tasty amount of money and whinge when they don’t listen to you or ‘don’t get it’. Stay as an artist, do your solo shows, you’ve got your lovely educated audiences, crack on. But if you are booked, do your job, entertain people. And if they aren’t listening, do everything you can to make them, just plough on through, but for everyone’s sake, keep your toys in your pram. The scene is crawling with comics, good and bad, who would happily take your spot. So be consistent and work hard.
And the other side of that coin, don’t go into any gig thinking you have some weird divine right to heard and admired. Earn it. Again, maybe it’s because I’m not competitive, but I never go out thinking I’m better than anyone else in that room. I have chat with comedians backstage, have a laugh, then go out on stage and do my thing. In my mind the order of importance goes; the audience, the staff, the tech guys, the promoter, then me. And I’ve never really had a awful gig.
Stop all the cutting each other down as a way to have banter, because that makes you just as bad as the people who shut you down that ended up pushing you towards comedy. Grow up and just enjoy doing this bizarre thing we do.
We are already in a very cool club, what more do you want? To prove you’re the coolest one in the club? To me, it’s about the people who are sat in front of me, not how cool and bad-ass the ones backstage think I am.
I have been guilty of some of these things, of course. But I’m still learning, altering my behavior, and will keep on gigging and writing until I remember I can quit.
For now though, I’ll see you wherever in the world we cross paths.