It is hard to know how weird you are. You just don’t know what really goes on inside other people’s heads. Sometimes a thought disconcerts you and you think, “am I the only one? am I freak”
During the first part of my tour with Josie Long and Grace Petrie, I took to asking the audience who thought they were a bit of a freak. I was surprised how few hands went up, though Reading had a healthy spread and obviously if someone in the front put their hand up this gave greater confidence to those behind. Nevertheless, thinking of the sort of people who might want to come and see the three of us, I thought there would be more. It might have been that many of our audience were acclimatized to the idea that there is no such thing as normal and therefore no such thing as freaks, or at least the truly freakish freak is a rarity.
Anyway, biologically we are all a bit freaky. This is a world of mutants, and hence thumbs and minds and remnants of tails. For a while in the sixties, a freak was pretty specific, a bandana wearing, tie-dyed, acid swallowing dancing blindly to some cosmic understanding that was never peer-reviewed and in its few lucid moments sat in or stood up for some better future before returning to visions of blue-bladed grass and some Krishna or other.
Where are they now? To view archive shows of the sixties you would think the whole western world save for a few military men and huntsman were using their hair as aerials?
“Teenage dreams so hard to beat”
Did they all scrub up, suit up and look back with irony at their youthful malpractice, save for the occasional weekend joint? I once sat with a sea captain and sometime comedian in Dorset at dawn and he suddenly looked up in mock horror and self-realisation glee and said, “oh god, I’ve just realised what an old hippy I am, I’m rolling a joint on a Grateful Dead record”
But I am not thinking of the extrovert freakiness, but the introverted freakiness.This is not to say people who are socially introverted, just that freak thoughts bit that gets maintained unspoken in the sidelines of the mind. Things that occasionally creep out vocally, and may be met with silence or the relief of “I do that too”.
I remember Johnny Vegas’s wonderful line, “I’m not one of those comedians who says do you know what it’s like when this happens or do you know what it’s like when that happens, because you don’t know what it’s like to be me!” (vaguely misquoted I imagine, I am relying on a memory from 1997 at the Buzz Club, Chorlton).
I used to try and find common ground with the audience by asking how many talked to themselves as characters from their head when alone in the house and how many would sometimes dance alone to a silent tune. I can’t remember the list of things in fool, though they were all true to me, but I would end by asking how many people ever had the sudden urge on a train platform to pointlessly push the person in front of them into the path of a train. Oddly, amongst all the benign and childish offerings that came before, it was this that would get the biggest reaction – more psychopaths than secret dancers every night.
Apparently thoughts of pushing people onto platforms, rarely driven by bloody desire from what I’ve learnt so far, are just part of taboo thinking. The first time I can remember imagining committing ghastly or embarrassing deeds, I was horrified by what lay within. Did this mean a psychopath or madman lay within me, that there was just a thin thread control that might snap at any moment between me and the actions of a front page news splash (actually, I can’t think of any imaginings that would get the front page of a national newspaper, at best a page 17 of the Crawley Observer).
Have you ever had those odd thoughts, not based on wishes or desires, just nightmares out of nowhere.
Have you ever stood opposite an elderly relative who is telling you of their war service, and suddenly imagined kissing them on the lips? That would certainly be a talking point at family reunions for a decade or two.
Have you ever stood at a cliff face and thought, “it feels as if my legs want to run over it, I hope they remain obedient, or do I want to?” (a similar feeling might happen as a goods train speeds by)
Have you ever felt tremulous when holding a chainsaw, for fear you might suddenly be taken over by the spirit of Leatherface?
The relief, or so I am told, is that far from implying that you are forever holding back some undignified or barbaric urges, thoughts of the worst that can happen mean you are the least likely to commit these acts. Well, that’s what a psychologist told me. I hope she was right. For the time being, I’ll hold off buying that chainsaw.
I am on tour as usual from Edinburgh to Exeter via Manchester and 50 or so other places. Newbury, Croydon, Shoreham and Aldershot are next on the list. Tour details HERE
Here is a piece about when such thinking becomes OCD and unmanageable http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/aug/31/pure-ocd-the-naked-truth