There’s a bar that whenever I go to it I always get over-drunk and make a tit of myself and I’ve worked out why. It’s always full of other performers.
I’m sure it’s the same for lawyers in pubs full of lawyers. Law, law, law, that’s all they’ll be talking about. Everyone’s talking about the latest crime. Whether it’s any good, sometimes comparing it to other crimes. They’ll be gossiping about whose won the Guinness Law Award for the best legal dishing. All the while making a law-bubble for themselves that only serves to inflate their idea of how important law is.
Law is really important. Law’s a lot more important than comedy. I’m not an anarchist.
It’s taken me years to realise that it’s a terrible idea to socialise with lots of other comedians all at once. It’s poisonous.
I love loads of things too much: Kit Kats; actual cats and comedy. I think it’s more important than it is. I take it personally when it becomes something that it shouldn’t be.
I use a romantic ideology to keep myself sane and productive. If you are a comedy performer your only goals ought to be making people laugh, learning and sometimes sharing that. More broadly: self-exploration, expression and betterment through creativity. Being the best you can at comedy and getting better at comedy are my motivations. I feel extremely grateful to have it as my job but a small part of my not entirely practical brain also resents that. Because it means that money has had to become a part of that motivation too. But that’s okay. I balance it in my head with keeping up a certain amount of what I perceive to be creative risk-taking.
What clustering comedy performers all into one boozy space does is make glaring the unreality of this rosy vision of mine. Other motivations become stark. Fame; popularity; reviews and competition, or winning something, in some way. Blurgh. And when I walk into this bar it hits me like a wall of invisible pressure.
Performers telling each other how great they are. Everywhere you look people are smarming and some of them are lying. There’s judgement coming out of everyone’s every orifice, positive or negative it’s judgement. It made me feel simultaneously over-exposed and invisible.
A big part of being a healthy minded comedian is not comparing yourself to others, down that road only bitterness lies. Even for the mega-stars. There will always be more to want if they’re not just focussing on enjoying whats happening to them in the moment. In reality this is always easier said than done. Physically surround yourself with loads of your peers all at once and it only makes that harder.
Just my being there was a performance. It was supposed to be my night off. I saw an amazing show in the theatre. I loved it. No regrets there. But I needn’t have stayed for a drink afterwards. I watched people say one thing and mean another. I heard someone ask who the hell someone even was. I saw people I knew hated each other cuddle. I watched people pretend not to be offended at misguided comments about things people had starred in or auditioned for. Someone insisted a person was sweet who had just been horrible. I watched people talk about comedy and comedy and comedy. It’s like watching a pack of wolves howling. If you could translate Wolvish into English they would all be screaming “AM I IMPORTANT ENOUGH?”
The Edinburgh festival is this, by the way, for a month. It’s why people go mad there. Because you’re socially performing for a month.
At least in Edinburgh, whatever you do, you’ve got so much adrenalin in you again the next day you don’t have a chance to over think it. Let alone find that the only way to purge it from your mind so you can move on to better ventures is to write a giant self-indulgent blog about it.
On the night I crumbled under that pressure-wall. I just threw wine in my mouth again and again until I was guaranteed to ruin something. I sent an awful, intrusive text to a dear friend. I couldn’t remember the name of a client of one of the most influential agents in comedy. Instead I began inanely listing actors who’d played Dr Who to him. Later, to someone else, I told a story so boring about some exercise I’d done that it made someone cry.
And last time I went there, I was worse.
So for the same reasons I won’t try and eat ten kit kats on the bounce, again, or ask a cat to marry me, again, I’m not going drinking there, again. Lesson learned. Again.