Suddenly Punched by an Idea

20th October 20015 – Lolitics at The Black Heart Bar, Camden

Last night was one of my rare gigs. Having spent 5 to 7 days a week doing full length shows for the last eight years, I decided to stop stand up, going so far as performing an (almost) retirement show in the early summer. What has actually happened is I have given up doing stand up for money. About once a week, I find myself performing an approximation of the same 12 – 20 minutes at different charity events. Twenty charity benefits in, and they still haven’t cured anything. What’s the point?1

The peculiar thing that happened to my mind when I “officially” stopped stand up, was that it no longer manufactured stand up ideas. For most of my adult life, the act of being prodded out of my daily torpor by any new thought or novelty would lead to the sluice gates of my brain attempting to turn this into some form of joke or routine. Every angry incident or unusual dusk may be stand up about to happen. After the 15th June, this just stopped. There was almost a week where I could experience things without searching for their practical use on a stage. Recently, that has changed into a desire to turn incidents and accidents into short stories, a more private outlet that can fail on very different faults and privately.

Last night, in a compact room in North London, soundtracked by Brisbane punk bands and goth metal on the jukebox below, I sat in the corner of the room and forced myself to think of new material. I had ninety minutes from the start of the show to my time on stage. Taking out five blank postcards, I wrote some titles that were linked to things that had been humming in my head. It was a political comedy night, so I sought out irritations I had stored over the previous month.

The notes eventually read: (I reckon this could be done with photos of the actual cards)

a) you are brave
a joke
Slavoj Zizek and a pig’s head
Help for Heroes + Glastonbury
Peter Singer’s shoes
Diet of opinions
Monet as Content provider
5a) fruity chew ethics loss
Where do you draw the line
Books plus apple
Human Interest Angle – Ian Dury, Diana Dors, Arthur Scargill
Murray Gell mann’s Amnesia Effect
All Opinions are my Own…of course they are
“And when I say that, I should make it most clear I have no idea what I am talking about”
a Viscount warns us of the global elite
when the public announcements stop, who will know what to do?

and eleven other jottings that might lead to something. I was told I could do anything from a minute to half an hour.

Shortly before my introduction, I thought of how our current government seemed to lack empathy or even a sense that people are not statistics that distract from economic master plans.
The announcement, “Ignore the weeping, continue the experiment” was conjured up. I wondered if I could start a gig without a hello or jovial greeting or gag.

“Ignore the weeping, continue the experiment
Ignore the crying, continue the experiment
Ignore the suicides, continue the experiment
Ignore the hungry, continue the experiment
Ignore the disabled, continue the experiment
Ignore the old and cold, continue the experiment”

And so I went on. I think I could have gone on for longer, but eventually broke into a reference to something that had happened in the room a few minutes earlier. You get good marks from a crowd if they know you have been paying attention.

I had intended to then go back to the idea that the administration we were currently suffering may be a grand psychological experiment set up buy the ghost of Stanley Milgram, but then I was distracted by some of the twenty three scribbled notes, and then within the distractions there were other distractions that were vomited out of some id, and by the end of the twenty five minutes, I had managed to touch on four of the ideas. I had forgotten the excitement of spontaneous creation under scrutiny. The adrenaline covers the cracks where the doubt pours in. Twenty four years in, and there is still relief when fifty people loom at you without disdain, and some look gleeful at this burst of loose, hyper kinetic words and thoughts. Hunched on the packed train home, overhearing conversations of lurid gossip, I can be contentedly silent. (my favourite line of lurid revelations was, “he fingered her…amd she works in Sports Direct). I have said the things I needed to, even if I didn’t know I needed to until I was in the spotlight. The adrenaline thins, and the chest infection that has been bothering me, but not so much that I can cut a melodramatic pose, starts rattling again.

I had forgotten about the next day.

A gig like the night before is like a drunken night. At a certain point the morning after, you start to wonder what you did. You try to replay it, but total recall is impossible. Now you can have the further fear of turning to twitter or other forms of social media to see if someone has registered their dismay or disappointment at what you did. If you are feeling particularly paranoid, you might put your name and the gig’s name in a search engine, seeing if you’ll stir an angry blog post entitled “the worst human I have ever seen”.

For most of the morning, I had a light cloak of depression on my shoulders. There is not specific reason, just a suspicion of myself and how I may have let myself down. And then I remember why I had to cut down stand up performances, but I also remember that once the feeling is gone, as long as there are no hideous revelations, the thrill of creating something new usurps the scowl.

a new horror anthology, Dead Funny Encore, with stories by Josie Long, Bridget Christie, Rufus Hound, Jason Manford, Alan Moore and many more is out next week. for details.
Will be doing some horror double bills in connection with it – first up, with Reece Shearsmith, it’s Dead of Night and Death Line
Still a few tickets left for Hammersmith Apollo shows with Brian Cox, me and loads of guests

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1 Response to Suddenly Punched by an Idea

  1. liliannberg says:

    Allow your brain the freedom to change direction – I suspect you’ve always been a writer – and a great one. There will be a record of your thoughts for many more than those who were lucky enough to catch your stage performances etc. The world and especially your son will know you from many new aspects, deeper and richer, but not always inspired by the need to be funny.

    Einstein said: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

    I look forward to read your future stories

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