I’m not my own worst critic, but I am the most persistent

The older I get, the more stand up means to me, the more I can bruise myself with it, and sometimes for no reason. In doing a show about the human mind, I have become increasingly aware of the possible shortcomings of the one in my skull.
I m ay not be my own worst critic, the internet probably has mandible dripping vitriol beyond my own petty self aimed punches, I am just the most persistent one.

The Crucible at Sheffield was fun, and I remembered to stop myself walking in the stage during Twelfth Night, the impish thoughts kept whispering to me every time I walked by the stage right door. It could have been my Mr Ben moment, and then I could have put my thick ear in the drawer in Festive Road where I keep all the bits of me I bring back from my adventures. My criticism from that night, because I always like to give myself notes after a show, was that I might be becoming too insane. My increasing drive for utter commitment on stage may see me becoming an over actor in an amdram production of Marat/Sade or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Thursday was Wigtown Book Festival. Something of a trek, but how can I resist any self-proclaimed “book town”. I journeyed with feisty OAP drivers who suggested an artistic collaboration between Agatha Christie and Fast and Furious 4, and I was told of their husbands playing golf with Christopher Lee during The Wicker Man shoot (shot around Gatehouse of Fleet and with the wicker man being burnt within smoke-smelling distance of Wigtown). I met authors of books on bucketfuls of dinosaurs, first world war true tales, and antidotes for depression (but not all three in one). I drank wine in Scotland’s biggest secondhand bookshop and browsed after 11pm. My purchases included a Brian Aldiss essay collection, a book of the real life trial transcript of what seems to be a nude hippy house charged with “open and gross lewd behaviour”, and two books of David Icke Illuminati Lizard tales. The gig itself, expertly helmed by Lee Randall, was glorious fun as I read again from Kinski Uncut, Stormy Vigil, and Crabs on the Rampage amongst others.

Unfortunately, the hotel I was staying in a few miles away gave me my usual room, the one where all existence of the mechanical and usually inanimate is turned up to 11. I lay wake until dawn listening to a whirring cooling thing and floorboards trying to escape and become sentient manitou creatures. As usual with insomnia, when I lay their for the first hour, I persuaded myself that I could be “zen” or Zen-Ish, but by 330am, a lonely madness set in. As the insomniac accountant of The Consequences of Love says, “people suggest insomniacs should just use that sleepless time to do something else, but they don’t realise they don’t want to do anything else, they just want to sleep” (a paraphrase of half memory of that sad and lovely film).

The next day I ate scrambled eggs slowly, read the cleverer books stupidly, and the stupid books pointlessly. I didn’t have the energy to be tetchy with the trains that failed.

Standing on the stage, asking the audience for music requests as they filed in at Liverpool, I was worried that my sinews were stiff and dull.
Oh Doctor Theatre, will you?

“I couldn’t stand Robert Ince, but I had to respect him” (sadly, that typo has now been repaired)

My mind was too loose, it was just trying to replicate a memory that wasn’t quite there.
I went a little too far beyond sanity when I railed against the hotel’s noisy machines and my dark woken hours. My worry that I wasn’t connecting with the audience hindered my connecting with the audience. By the interval, shame and performance sadness stung me.
I know it is fail, fail again, fail better, what if I don’t even fail so well in the second half?
What if my poorly thought out eating for the day has meant I am deluded about the gig?
I despise the idea of letting down an audience, but I know that I will from time to time because it is the nature of me and the risk of the sort of nonsense that I do. I become that red-eyed staring cliche of the grease paint smeared, doubtful, desperate Archie Rice.

My theory of mind reaches too far into the audience’s head searching for animosity or disappointment.

The second half calmed down, by the occasional Buxton the Blue Cat/ Henry Kissinger mash up. I think it balanced out, and I hope they knew that my intentions were good.

If I don’t sleep tonight, I don’t know what Cardiff may get let alone the possibility of a crackpot turn at Sunday’s TEDx Salford. If I am too tired at TEDx, I may just sing “It’s Posh Posh Posh Posh Traveling LIfe for me”, it’s what Lionel Jeffries might have wanted.

The “too late for the first half” adrenalin is ebbing away now. Boy, this cup of tea is heavy now.

These rollercoaster tour gigs continue until December (and in US and Australia in the Spring) – Nottingham, Goole, Harrogate, Alnwick, Sutton Coldfield, Egham, Bath, Bristol and on and on. Dates HERE

Michael Legge and I have been talking new rubbish about music and Who Dares Wins at our podcast HERE

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2 Responses to I’m not my own worst critic, but I am the most persistent

  1. Faye Thomsit says:

    I don’t know if this would help, or even if that is what you were calling for, but when I find insomnia creeping in first I write (which I guess explains the late post), then I do some physical activity until my body starts to give up (normally cleaning for me, but difficult to do that in a hotel room, so maybe stretches), and finally I have a couple of well worn spoken word comedy cds that I listened to as a child and still help put me to sleep now. Two of which are the “Hitch hikers guide to the galaxy” and “old Harry’s Game”. Just a word of warning if you drive between gigs, don’t mix up the sleep time comedy with the drive time comedy especially on a motorway as the results can be catastrophic. If you can include the same tapes during easier sleep times (i.e. non insomnia periods) you may be able to establish almost key sleep time phrases, so even if you don’t fall asleep immediately, you may be getting there quicker than without it.

    Hopefully I will get to see your show on the mind as all the ones I’ve seen so far have been great.
    Best wishes and sleep well

  2. Andrew says:

    We had a great time at last night’s Royal Court show, and I got the impression that was true of the rest of the audience, too. The subject matter gave us plenty to talk about, too. I wouldn’t take too much away from the newspaper review – the reviewer was milling around asking people what they thought in the interval, because I don’t believe he’d heard of you before and didn’t really understand what was going on (probably the only one in the crowd who felt like that, to be honest). And frankly, if you can’t get someone’s name right in the first line, how is anyone supposed to take the rest seriously?

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