Today is my one-year anniversary doing stand-up. Exactly 12 months ago, on the top deck of a converted London bus, parked in the courtyard of Edinburgh’s Three Sisters, I took my first tentative steps into a career that I both love and regret at the same time.
I grew up gorging myself on BBC comedy repeats, both radio and TV, obsessed with the geniuses behind classics like Monty Python, Blackadder, Bottom and The Now Show. Delicious! As a side-dish, I was dining out on late night marathons of Seinfeld, The Simpsons and South Park throughout my adolescence.
It was this (spiritually) gluttonous infatuation that compelled me to take a job in my local comedy club, knowing I’d get the opportunity to see the country’s sharpest, wittiest and most accomplished stand-ups plying their trade. And get paid for the privilege – albeit not particularly well.
However, it took me a long, long time to pluck up the courage to step on stage myself. Almost a decade, in fact.
Last year, thanks to Free Festival, I was given the opportunity of showing a comedy crowd what I could do when given a stage and an audience. I remember offending the Oriental compere, who thought it perfectly valid for him to use the word “chink”, but that my eyes were just not narrow enough to be allowed the same license, even in an obviously ironic punchline.
I never regretted that decision though. The audience loved me. He was annoyed enough to delete me on Facebook. That experience set the tone for the year that was to come.
This August, I’m back at the Edinburgh Fringe. And I’m running a couple of mixed bill shows of my own, giving many other new comedians the opportunity that I myself was afforded when I first came here. I’ve come full circle.
I was due to debut my first ever one-man comedy show at this year’s Festival – a widely promoted and controversially titled hour of jokes and observations discussing racism, right wing politics and the failure of political correctness to effectively tackle prejudice due to its adherents’ unwillingness to evolve as our society does.
Sadly, “Racist Joke Show” wasn’t allowed to premiere at Edinburgh Fringe 2014. For the greater good, its cancellation isn’t a subject I’m able to discuss in any detail, other than to say I enjoyed previewing it prior to the Fringe and that I’m very disappointed I wasn’t able to perform it as advertised. The fallout from the late cancellation is that every day Fringe visitors come to my shows asking why they can’t see it when it’s clearly scheduled according to the brochure in their hands.
I tell them what I’m about to tell you: you can come and see me perform at Dr. Sicko’s Comedy Vomit every day at 8pm. And that I hope to bring Racist Joke Show to venues across the country over the coming months.
Over the last year, that incident’s been quite a speedbump on the journey. However, it’s far outweighed by the many highs I’ve enjoyed, including the plaudits and awards I’ve received, the wonderful new friends who are now a part of my life, and enthusiastic audiences that gave me unforgettable nights on my travels across the UK.
I go into Year Two of my career, diary padded with paid gigs for the next few months, and bookings to perform at some of the most prestigious clubs in the country, quite happy. I’m now regularly writing for The Huffington Post, and my online following (Twitter and Facebook) continues to grow as more and more media talk about the work that I’m doing.
Sure, people won’t always have positive things to say/write about me. And I’ve been misquoted more times than I can count. But I’ve worked in Marketing long enough to know that as long as the positives are outweighing the negatives, you can count all media attention as a win when playing the long game.
Being a comedian involves sacrifices. Far more than I could have ever envisaged before I started. The 250+ gigs I’ve done in the last 12 months have taken their toll on my personal life. I’ve seen far less of my family than I would like to. My car has become a second home, and the vehicle that’s taken me 50,000 miles to perform in front of usually-enthusiastic crowds of strangers. I’ve become intimately familiar with motorway fast food outlets and the Travelodge network.
It can be a lonely existence at times. Far lonelier than I want to tolerate for too long. So, after Edinburgh Fringe, I’ll be shifting into a lower gear. In my five year plan, I’m ahead of schedule and can afford to take a slightly less manic approach to climbing the ladder.
That’s not to say I’m going to stop performing. Far from it. I’m just going to divide my time more equitably between my private life and public work. After all, the more of a life I have, the more I’ll have to talk about when I’m engaging with my audience.
That’s the plan anyway. Those who know me are already taking bets on whether I can break the 300-gig barrier in the next 12 months…