THE 85 - SEATING ARRANGEMENTS (MINI BLOG)

So…it…has…been…a few weeks since I wrote a blog.

Half because I have been super busy (went to Alton Towers yesterday) and half because, well what do you keep talking about in this blog.

I sit on my bed, on the floor, on the sofa, in a cafe…no matter how many different seating options I still find a way of not writing a blog. I could be in a dog bed or on a yoga ball, I will somehow get out of it.

I am very good at writing ‘to do’ lists. If there was a ‘to do’ list of ‘to do’ lists, I could do it. But when it is filled with doing things that will benefit me. Another day will pass.

And the reason is, because I enjoy killing time. I have the cleanest flat you will ever see. It is spotless. I iron my underwear. Not a crease in sight. And if you want to get coffee…I am there. Let’s get coffee…the worst thing is. I hate coffee. I just like killing time.

I don’t understand how I fall into the trap week in week out. I have watched youtube videos on how not to do it, ironically…killing more time. I will have bunting around with inspirational messages on them…killing time. And I even tried to do Jerry Seinfelds ‘Don’t Break The Chain’…but spent more time on picking the pen and designing a calendar for my wall.

It baffles me. I have spent the past few years driving around the country, obsessing on comedy and loving being a part of it…and now it has finally become my job, I put off doing it.

It is silly that isn’t it. A footballer who finally turned pro wouldn’t start missing practice because he decided to hoover the skirting boards instead. I AM DAFT…and I want to change…because yet again I am afraid.

A theme that has run through these blogs seems to be fear.

The cause of that is the pressure (something I will talk about next week). If I don’t put off writing another blog.

The 121 - Time Gentleman Please

I am writing this with only one contact lens in my head...that information has no purpose in this blog, but it is nice to set the scene.

The other one, has made my eye go all red...my right eye, if you were wondering.

So. One hundred and twenty one days to go. This is almost a landmark, because tomorrow there are about 4 months left.

"4 MONTHS...TO WRITE AN HOUR OF STUFF!!! THAT IS A PIECE OF PISS MATE" said every drunk man at every gig I have ever done...ever.

It always confuses me when audience members don't understand how hard it is to write a joke. I don't mean like getting a cat out of a tree hard, or an adult entertainers genitals hard...although I bet it would make everyones life easier if you clubbed those last two things together.

But normal men people don't seem to understand that writing a joke, a bit, a chunk for the stage is very different to sitting around a quiz machine in a pub telling a 4 minute joke which ends in the word 'Paki'. 

Now I don't know why it is so hard to club together a new punchy 5 minutes of gold on the wonderful people of Pakistan, but writing solid bits is hard...well it is for me.

I think it is because I always want it to come out perfect, and if it doesn't first time...BYE MATE. That joke is gone. It is also about matching my 'voice'...not my northern drawl...but my view on the world, and a few years in, I am still even trying to find that.

I would love to be one of those brilliant comics who can just go on a riff...maybe I need to push myself and do it, just take a topic on stage and talk talk talk...although the first and last time I did that, I died so bad, I ended up crying on the living room floor in front of my parents...21st January 2014, lest we forget!

Now, since being on the other side of the world, I decided to bite the bullet and do 'Set List'...a show where random topics will come up on a screen and you have to make up a routine on it, on the spot. The first time was so scary, so so scary, and it went surprisingly well, so well that I got asked back.

6 goes later, I was in my element, making up brand new things, things that were inventive and creative, funny and non racist...apart from the one topic which came up as "Sorry Dinosaurs" and I panicked and said when the meteors wiped out the dinosaurs, it was very much the same as when the Australian people got rid of its indigenous folk.

That freedom to play, is what is missing...it is one of the many fears I have about writing this show.

But what frightens me most is...there are 121 days...I have to write 60 glorious minutes...that is 30 seconds a day, with 1 day off for my Mum's birthday. 30 seconds a day...now come on, that should be fine, 30 seconds, 30 seconds is nothing, well it is not, it is 30 seconds.

But I reckon if I get my head down, really focus, and do 30 seconds a day, I could have my hour long Islamabad routine ready for my toothless mates down the pub.

 

The 134 - The Great Climb

The dreaded third blog.

They say if you can get past this stage, you will probably succeed in clogging up the internet with every other blog...so here we go.

With one hundred and thirty four days to go before my first Edinburgh show, things are ticking over nicely...just nicely. Nicely. What a horrible word nicely. It's just a bit bland. And I think if I am going to take such a financial risk heading up to the festival...bland doesn't really cut it.

The good news is, I can speak for an hour. That is now in my skill set. I can do that. I can do it nicely enough that no one leaves or throws stuff. But I have also watched best man speeches that last nearly an hour...and no one walked out in those, even though they were rubbish.

So after stressing and worrying I decided to take a week off from writing my nice nice show. 

I am lucky enough to be in Australia, so I decided to book a cheap flight to New Zealand to see one of my old pals, Lucy. We grew up together, and then when we were 13 her family buggered off to the land of lamb. Now Lucy is a delightful dope, she is crazy and fun and spontaneous...she is also an extremely focussed person when it comes to sport. She is a member of a Triathalon Club, done half Ironman events and she's just pretty damn awesome.

She took a week off work, and we road tripped down the North Island from Auckland to Wellington.

Now a week of can do wonders for the mind. I found myself being funny, like I used to be, when I was 13, and there was no pressure. Just showing off. It made me feel alive again...

Until one day. The last day. When Lucy had decided we were going to walk 26km up an active volcano. Part of me didn't want to do it. That part being most of me. But she was determined to get me up that hill, mountain, rock thing. 

So we set off at 7.30am...too early for a comic...and 1km in it became very clear why she was making me do this. It was a metaphor...

Scaling this volcano was very much like putting together an Edinburgh show. Thousands of people at the beginning, some people racing ahead (TV credits), some people with walking poles (rich parents). THIS IS EDINBURGH, but with more of a gradient. 

The first 4km were ok, a nice incline, lovely views. And then it got steep. Really steep. I was in a pair of vans trainers. Too steep for those shoes. And the fog started to come in. THIS IS EDINBURGH.

IT IS! Because some reason when you decide to do a debut show, you can see the top, you can see what you want to do, it looks like hard work, and it is scary...but the further you push, and climb and detour, the more fulfilling it is. 

Halfway up, the fog came in, and we literally couldn't see anything, people turned back, people cried...but because of Lucy...we ploughed on through...

And I cannot explain the view. When we got to the top...2000m in the air, above the clouds...the view...the feeling...the joy was exceptional. I had done that, slowly but surely. And I know people have scaled Everest, but for me this was just as big.

But that is only half the battle. Once you are at the top, once you have created your creation...there is still further to go. You have to go down the mound, and that takes care and skill and patience to traverse down the dangerous cliff face.

I am babbling I know. It is hard to put into words what a sense of achievement I felt at the end. 

Just like with this show, I could have gone halfway, I could have done the easy route, I could have just put it off till next year or I could have done a different thing all together that would have NICELY winded (wound? woond?) down my trip.

Deep down I wasn't sure I could make it...but with time, patience, belief and focus...I conquered Mount Doom...and it felt fantastic.

Keep climbing...

The 161 - Fear Of Creation

I often daydream about creating something brilliant. I daydream about creating something brilliant too much. I daydream about creating something so brilliant so much so that when it comes to me finally getting around to creating the thing, I don't do it, because the reality of the daydream in my silly little head will never match how great the thing is that I have spent the day dreaming about.

My first show will change peoples minds through the medium of old school french clowning, a completely original concept which ends on a powerpoint presentation and a short play involving an audience member...and then the reality strikes that it might just be me, chatting about my widge, into a battered microphone, in a room that for the other 11 months of the year is used to store beer kegs.

It is fear. That is what is stopping me. The fear of putting a bit of myself on the line. The fear of other comics opinions. The fear of wasting an opportunity.

Now I don't know where this fear has come from, because as a child I was the first one to show off at school or in front of my Mum and Dad's friends. Bursting downstairs at Christmas in Mum's stiletto's and a plastic bag on my head ready to wow the crowds.

But as I have got older, and more importantly, progressed into actually being part of the UK comedy circuit, I have developed the fear.

For something so free, it feels there are a bloody lot of rules. At the start of the show, enter the stage to 'Back In Black', high five everyone, open with your best 10 minute club set, 25 minutes in, play a video, 40 minutes in, kill off a family member and then in the final minutes of your first hour make everyone feel good about their lives.

Obviously not every show does that, I remember the first day I ever went to Edinburgh and randomly bought tickets for Nick Helm, Alex Horne and Terry Alderton...and it was like the back of my head had fallen off. I didn't know you were allowed to do that...but you can, you can do whatever you want.

Brilliant...

Only one problem, when you are allowed to do anything, there is too much choice. And when there is too much choice, you end up picking nothing.

It gets to 161 days before the fringe and you start to doubt everything you have done. Well you do if you are me.

So what can I do to get over this fear of creation...I guess I just get on with it. I plough on through. I do what feels right, and if it's not right...plough on through until it is. After all, I have got this far by guessing.

In an ideal world, as of today, I will just be creating a large volume of work (that is what Ira Glass told me to do...not personally), I will be pushing myself into things I have never done before (I don't mean men or animals) and I will spend the next 161 days concentrating on what I can get right, instead of all the things that I am terrible at. 

But I don't live in an ideal world, I work in the comedy industry for fudge sakes. So there are going to be days when I stare at a screen and wish someone else would do it for me, but that is just the way it is...

Like a porno star at an orgy...just plough on through!

The 176 - Starting

I don't know how things start. I also don't have a clue how things end. And the middle bit is the worst.

As I sit here guessing how to write a blog, I can see that there is 176 days left till the Edinburgh Fringe, the worlds biggest arts festival...I am terrified. To make it worse, a fly has just landed on my unpeeled banana.

In the world of British stand up, that is all anyone bangs on about. Are you doing Edinburgh? Is this your first hour? Why are you doing 40 minutes you cheat?!!!

Last year was the first time I had been up to Edinburgh alone. I decided I would do a 40 minute show to bridge the gap between jumping from 20 minutes to 60. I had all these amazing ideas, I would try a new 10 minutes out every day, I would push myself into creative realms that I wouldn't be allowed to do in a typical weekend club...I made a countdown list of how many days I had to do it in...103...87...81...50. Yeah let's start at 50. 50 days to write 40 minutes. That is a minute a day and then 10 days off to go to an aquarium or whatever it is that grown ups do.

It is safe to say that I didn't write a minute a day. Over those 50 days I probably wrote about 10 minutes. I went to Edinburgh, cobbled together a "show" using bits I have spent the past 3 years writing, it went amazingly and yet again...I got away with it.

But not this time. No way am I doing that this time around. This year is important, it is my debut hour...and it is going to cost me so much money...money that I don't have. If things go well, I could end up on the telly or performing at lovely gigs or even being on ITV's Celebrity Squares (which I thought was a programme about boring celebrities...it is not. Its actually pretty good).

So I printed off a countdown calendar with 200 days to go till Edinburgh. Then arrived at this moment (so put it off for 24 days...which is enough time to heal a small bone), and now there are 176 days to go. Actually 172, but 176 sounds better.

176 days to go, and I don't know how to start. How am I expected to create a show? Become producer, director, editor, performer, sound tech, sound design, PR, promoter and tea lady? I am just a lad who grew up on a council estate in Manchester and I am definitely not qualified.

Tough. I chose to do it, but I find every time I sit down to write something better comes along. Those coasters need straightening up, the dishwasher needs filling (dishwasher = sink) or I should probably watch another episode of something on Netflix, after all...I do deserve a treat!

A day goes by, another day goes by. 171, 170, 169...

I need to stop procrastinating and just start. So welcome to my journey on how I go about creating my very first hour of stand up. 

But before I start...I should probably go and wash this banana.