Will I have to resort to drilling holes in my skull now that my stand up days are over (for now). Live comedy is a non-invasive form of trepanning.
It is a chance to release the angry spirits within you with a lower risk of septicemia, unless your angry spirits stir the audience to throw broken bottles at your head.
I wrote a post a while a go about why I was stopping stand up, I have not returned to it as most of it is probably gobbledegook and the sort of blether that surfaces when you are touring alone ten thousand miles from home.
Last night was the “official” final show, though as I underlined, it is a final show for now. Over the next six months, my diary has as many gigs in it as I usually have down for a week. I have not gone off stand up, quite the opposite. It is because I value it a great deal that I don’t want to let myself down by becoming tired, nonchalant or blasé about it. I mentioned Rik Mayall at the end of my gig, after all, it was witnessing his magical brutality and wide-eyed stupidity that led to me attempting to show off for a living. Every time you saw him, it looked like total bloody commitment, no half measures, no dead eyed, counting the money in his head demeanor on his face. The older I have become, the more I appreciate the necessity of total commitment. My penultimate gig was shoddy. My brain was dozy and I do not function well on autopilot. I left the stage feeling I had cheated both myself and the audience. These occasions have grown fewer over the years, but it never stops smarting when they happen. “what a bloody disgrace”.
I think my insomnia became an overbearing thug in my existence precisely because the fear of letting the audience down and therefore myself became more and more important. The cackling homunculus hiding behind a lobe would whisper until dawn, “there’s not half measures in your game, but how are you going to justify yourself on 90 minutes sleep. Oh how the people of Wolverhampton will rage at you”.
The final show at The Bloomsbury was very different to Bath. There was just the right level of anxiety to sharpen the mind. Perhaps it would have been best to have had a shoddy show, then I could look back on it and think, “well, it’s pretty obvious why you are ceasing stand up, look at that mess you spewed out and slid in on your final night”.
But I enjoyed showing off. I talked very fast. I barely even ran over, the whole night was done in two hours and forty minutes. And Grace Petrie was superb as usual, firing out justified political ire before driving the tears out of everyone’s eyes with a beautiful song about Charles and Emma Darwin.
I had more to say, but there came a point when I thought, “that is enough”, let them leave before the Stockholm syndrome kicks in and we all drink the Kool-aid. (poor Kool-aid, once the by-word for a refreshing drink, now a trademark shortcut to mean cult insanity).
Now I’m going to go hunting for ideas and landscapes to try and fill in a few of the vast, echoing caverns of my ignorance. Back in the Winter months, I wondered if I might find that this sabbatical would lead to a dawning realisation that I should have been doing something else all along, and thus my Bernard Black existence would fill the rest of my life, decaying and decalcifying in my seafront bookstore.
I may be wrong, but I think a stand up is what I am, and it is going to be a challenge to not have the chance to immediately release new ideas on a crowd or smattering. Hopefully, these ideas will gestate over the years or die before being mouthed, and whatever I come back with will be better than before.
Thank you to everyone who has supported all my tours and solo shows.
I still have a few things in my diary. I have a few charity gigs including this one in Brighton next week, and I’ll be popping up to Edinburgh Fringe for a single show.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to shout “Voltan!” and talk music with Michael Legge, discuss reality tunnels with Alan Moore (no idea when those particular podcasts will see the light of day. Recorded and waiting) and obviously I’ll continue to comb and provoke Professor Cox.
oh, and Josie Long and I will return to The Bloomsbury for a Christmas Shambles with Sara Pascoe, Bridget Christie, Hollie McNish, Rufus Hound and plenty more.
Bye, I am now off walk the streets to mumble to myself between 730pm and 1030pm every night.
Please keep up the wild mumbling. Eagerly awaiting your early return to full flow …….
Good luck, Robin.
Nonsense. It was brilliant. Enjoyed every moment and have been talking about joyous or furious (yes i am) and fossils of the mind all day. Never underestimate your impact.
Enjoy your sabbatical. If and when you return to stand up come see us at Unity Hall Wakefield. you will be welcomed with open arms, apes, ivory and peacocks.
Enjoyed the show very much, though was sad that it will be the last time we see you for a while. As always, very impressed by the speed of your train of thought!
Familiarity can breed contempt and you probably reached a point where you were aware of every minute aspect of your delivery that was not up to your highest standards. Audiences don’t really notice this. In any event that was a formidable run of stand-up. I shall be nominating you for a Queen’s honour for services to comedy coz I know how much the one Brian has eats you up!
Wonderful. And thank you for touring Australia while we had the chance.
A very honest and well-thought-out post…. Funny and witty, like we’d expect.
I have to say that when we came to see your show in Birmingham a couple of years ago, both my wife (who had no idea who you were) and I (who did and have listened to most of your podcast output) really enjoyed the show. It was stand up that treated the audience as an equal and all the better for it.
I understand your reasoning and respect it; but I wanted you to know how much we enjoyed the gig and hope to catch you at another one when you decide to do them!
Thank you. It is a funny little sabbatical. Doing lots of odd events, but I think the break from touring was needed. I still love stand up, but hopefully the break will lead to explosive ideas