Monday, April 24, 2017

The Dolphin Chamber

The left get accused a lot of living in an echo chamber; surrounding themselves on social media with people who agree with them. This is thrown at them as though it means they're out of touch and idiotic; preferring to feel sanctimonious instead of listening to the very real complaints and opinions of the right wing.

I consider myself pretty left wing; sort of leaning so hard on my left wing that, had I actual wings, I'd be going round in tight little circles.

The problem with the echo chamber complaint is that it ignores the very real issue for left wingers that, every time they step outside of their homes, switch off their computers or use the real world in some capacity via TV or radio - they are ejected from that echo chamber at an alarming velocity. We've had years and years of right wing government now, we have triggered article 50, one of our closest political allies has elected an incredibly right wing leader and the French seem to be on course to do the same. So, excuse me if I choose for my Twitter feed to be one of the few places I can go that doesn't cause a spontaneous nose bleed.

I have a small theory that a lot of entertainers and artists are left wing because it's easier to feel liberal about your money and about society supporting each other when you like the way you earned your money. If I spent 70 hours a week in an office, away from my loved ones slogging away for a pay cheque I'd be less inclined to want to give a proportion of that money away to people who haven't done the same. I like how I earn my money; it doesn't feel like I'm having big portions of my freedom taken away from me to get it, so I feel like it's right that some of it goes off to people without my privilege.

I like to boil society down to make it more logical in my head... if I lived in a tribe of 10 people, would I prefer to give a bit of my meat every day to someone so that, instead of hunting, they could learn what herbs and stuff would heal me if I got sick, or, would I want to wait until I was sick and then hope I had enough meat that day to persuade the person with the herb knowledge to help me out; praying that they'd had enough meat recently from other people to have been able to study. I reckon, I'd go with the first option which makes me kind of sure I'm happy with a taxation system in my tribe of more than 10. Same goes with teaching my children, putting out my fires and building my roads. Especially, as the amount of meat I get when I hunt already has the bits to give away factored in.

I firmly believe that 99% of people make their political decisions based on what they truly believe will keep them and their loved ones in houses with food and a TV. All that divides the population is the route that they believe will take them to those things. Some people believe if there is too much immigration they will lose their jobs and their homes will be in danger; so they're labelled right wing. Some people believe that without government support and intervention their houses will be controlled by shady businessmen and their wages will go down; so they're labelled left wing. At the heart of the decision, though, I don't think many people vote to hurt. They vote to keep their own safe.

My own philosophy on politics is to boil it down to something that's probably way too simplistic to be right, but it makes sense in my head... It has never been easier to be alive. It has literally never been easier to be alive; vaccinations, food production, warmth production, water transport, energy creation... it has never been easier to be alive. Therefore, whenever money is scarce and therefore services or provisions "have" to be cut for people that need them; it is a man-made scarcity.

When the economy "crashes", I'm pretty sure it doesn't mean no corn got milled and no energy got produced therefore everything had to cost more. The same vast quantities of easier life are still floating around; they're just not all still flowing in the same ways. The easy living must be with the people who are living easiest.

Meals, medicines, beds, machines and computers have all become easier and cheaper to make since the beginning of the NHS... so I fail to compute how it can be harder to run the NHS now than then. What must be happening (according to my limited head logic) is that when things get easier to make, instead of that ease being spread, that ease makes a few people richer.

I feel like I constantly see someone with a lot, telling people with a little that the reason they have a little, is people who have less.

In a way, this lie makes sense: "Hey Laura, you have a house and a TV... this guy has no house and TV. Vote for me and I'll stop this man stealing your house and TV." I don't want to lose my house and TV, maybe you'll get my vote.

But, let me just check... how many houses and TVs do you have? You have two TVs and two houses while this guy has none... and you're telling me that because it's so hard to have stuff nowadays the people with none are getting desperate? But it's literally never been easier to be alive, so... who made them desperate? Possibly the people with two of things? Now, instead of worrying the guy with none will take my house and TV to fill his void, I'm worried you'll take my house and TV so you have three and I'm the same as this guy. Maybe you won't get my vote.

In the GE in June I will vote Green; I like Lucas. She speaks sense to me and, fundamentally, I believe if environmental issues aren't moved closer to the centre of policies then all the other ones are meaningless and I want her voice loud and clear and getting bigger in politics.

I also know that, when I'm not sure and I feel under-educated in a subject, I look to experts for indication. With the EU ref I didn't know the ins and outs of the economic, geo-political or travel implications so I looked at who said what and decided that the majority of people with informed insight thought "In" and the people leading the "Out" charge were basing their big arguments on things I couldn't support, so, whatever else their motivation; I couldn't be on their holiday.

With the GE upcoming, I'm looking to doctors, the emergency services, teachers and other people who work in industries directly impacted by governmental decisions. My teacher friends are fraught, being made redundant and quitting in droves. Doctors are screaming for help with funding and other nightmares I can't begin to comprehend. Trains are a nightmare and becoming more expensive. All the people who seem to know more than me are not happy... so I will vote for change.

I don't subscribe to the view that all right-wingers are gross old selfish tweed wearers who would skin a baby rather than give money to the homeless. See my house and TV theory about all voters above. I am confused about support for the Tory party at the moment though... I don't understand how they are not being slammed for being in turmoil and chaos.

They held a referendum they didn't want, got an outcome they didn't want, a leader they didn't want who voluntarily triggered an enormous change they didn't want and has now called an election they said they didn't want. Yet, they are viewed as the stable party. It is confusing.

If you're a Conservative who didn't want a referendum and then didn't want to Leave, why would a party that served you both those things retain your loyalty? If you're a Conservative who did want to Leave, are you not angry with Cameron's refusal to see it through or May's baffling choice to not focus fully on getting us the best deal but instead spend two months fighting an unnecessary election?

I've never voted Conservative but I was shaken when Cameron stepped down; a smooth and seemingly very talented world leader leaving just after my country was put in jeopardy? It felt like a betrayal. Then, to have May sign a letter signalling a departure that was not supported by almost half the population, only to wobble the leadership again weeks later...? Even if I were a lifelong Conservative voter this feels like madness? Completely unexplained madness. Maybe that's what bites me? The way because the Conservatives are the "grown-ups" they seem to get away with the "because I said so" logic more than Labour.

It's being painted that the sensitive, conservative with a small c, choice in this election is the party who ignored all the expert advice and their own opinions to put into action a referendum they needn't have instigated, triggered leaving when they weren't ready to and didn't really have to, and then instead of leaving with full steam and energy, are throwing an election they said they wouldn't whilst facing serious legal charges from the last one... am I missing something?

I hate that we're leaving Europe; not because I hate democracy or I like a whinge or I don't believe in the strengths of my country as an individual. I hate that we're leaving Europe because I don't believe the world can get smaller. Choosing not to live within a set of rules that is best for the majority, be that county, country or continent wide, goes against every way I've been taught since rules at school were what was best for the whole school rather than just my classroom.

Each country having its own unique sense of identity and law within a framework that supported the majority seemed like sense. However, if we are leaving, and we are, I wish we could have done it with dignity and for the right reasons. I feel like that opportunity has been taken away from me.

In June I will be voting for the way I believe is the best way to get myself a house and a TV; through sustainable energy and a focus on rebalancing wealth in the country. It has literally never been easier to keep people alive, so I'll be voting for the people who aren't pretending otherwise in order to keep two of things while other people have none.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Congratulations and Welcome

"Get tropical fish" they said, "it'll help your anxiety" they said.

What no one clarified, was that just after the word help, they were muttering very quietly "greatly increase".

We started out with 9 tropical fish... named after some of our favourite celebrities and fictional characters.

We had 3 neon tetras called Rayna James, Scarlett O'Connor and Juliette Barnes. Three glowlight tetras called Nina Garcia Fashion Editor of Marie Claire Magazine, CFDA Award Winner and top American designer Michael Kors and Heidi Klum. Three White Cloud Minnows called Jean Tannen, Father Chains and Locke Lamora.

Nina Garcia, Fashion Editor of Marie Claire magazine was the first to go... we completely inexplicably found her crispy as a spring roll in the middle of the carpet directly underneath the table the tank is on. How she got out is a total mystery: she would have needed to jump out of the top of the tank; vertically up 2 inches of air between the water level and the lid of the tank. Yes, that's right: lid. She then needed to squeeze herself through a 5mm gap out of the tank, down the 30cm fall, across 2 inches of table, down a 60cm fall, across 30cm of carpet and then died. Adventure fish. Major adventure fish.

RIP Nina.

Then we went for batch two of fish... We picked up some more neons so that the neons would shoal properly and Scarlett would stop picking on Juliette (so out of character). We grabbed Bucky, Glenn, Deacon Claybourne, Avery Barkley and Will Lexington. We needed a cleaning crew so we got some panda corys and a catfish; the two corys are Mac and Dennis - the catfish is Charlie Kelly. He has Charlie work to do. They all eat shit. We also got a pair of Rams (aggressive and passionate; Ron Swanson and Tammy 2 - interestingly, within minutes of being in the tank the markings on Ron faded showing that Tammy 2 was the dominant one) and a pair of platys; Jed and Abby Bartlett.

This is when the trouble started... The two platys were in their travel bag acclimatising to the water temperature when I noticed a weird squiggle hiding under Charlie Kelly... Abby Bartlett had had a baby! On moving day! What kind of superhero plans to move house on their due date?! This First Lady; that's who.

We quickly got Abby and Jed out of the bag and into the tank and checked what to do; the advice said put the baby in the tank too and if it can find a quiet spot to relax it will. If it won't... well, it didn't.

Baby Taramasalata hit the water and within seconds Heidi Klum swooped in and ate her. I know these  supermodels have to starve themselves to look good but surely you've never been that hungry that you can't stop yourself eating the offspring of your new housemates?

Then chaos errupted; babies started spewing forth out of Abby Bartlett and the rest of the tankmates were in their element. Jean Tannen had a fin sticking out of his mouth as he chewed up their second born; Michael Kors ate one when it was still half in/half out of the first lady. Heidi Klum ate at least 6 of them on her own.

Abby Bartlett didn't give a shit; it was like she'd asked herself how best to ingratiate herself into a new tank and thought she'd bring the freshest canapes she could drum up. The other fish (except Mac and Dennis who couldn't care less, and Charlie who is hiding out under a log coming up with a scheme) are going mad - chasing babies round the tank and eating them as quickly as Abby can bust them out. Jed is kind of following Abby around but taking an almighty dump as he does - much more reminiscent of later presidents than his own reign.

Things calmed down after about half an hour, several tears on my part and the total evisceration of all future Zoe Bartletts.

I'm considering writing to the pro-life anti-abortion lobbies to point out to them that they might be focusing on the wrong species when they get cross with humans for dealing with cell clusters they can't care for. Fish are WAY worse; full term cannibalism?! This is not relaxing.

I've had these fish for 3 weeks now and so far witnessed a nursery massacre that wouldn't look out of place on Fox News, and a suicide that only Sherlock Holmes could solve. Bring on the next 3 weeks.

Friday, March 10, 2017

You Be You

Last year, around September I got quite ill... my symptoms got worse for a few weeks until I was bed bound for a week or so and so I went to the doctor who put me on some medication that would get me back on my feet. I started taking the medication and slowly got better and now I feel cool again.

This isn't a particularly interesting story and I wouldn't normally tell it. Except that recently I met someone who mentioned to me they'd had the same illness and been prescribed the same pills and hadn't wanted to take them just in case they didn't feel themselves any more on them.

When they told me, they didn't know I was on them; because I haven't told anyone. I haven't told anyone because I'm scared what it will make people think of me. But by not telling anyone and not making the anecdotal information available to those who need it; I'm part of the problem.

This is my attempt at doing what I can, and if one person reads this and gets help then it's totally worth it for me. First, a few warnings:

1. I'm fine, so please don't think I need sympathy. I don't want it and I'm not asking for it. But thanks anyway, guys, you're THE BEST.

2. If I know you personally and I haven't told you about this; I'm sorry you're knowing this way but I didn't really want to make it a huge thing that I would have to talk about with everyone I knew all the time. I was afraid it would make me one dimensional and I wanted as many friendships and relationships as possible to continue without this looming on it.

The illness/issue whatever you want to call it I'd had was depression. Quite severe depression that left me completely unable to live my life and looking for a way out. I fell down a rabbit hole or whatever beautiful imagery you want to use, and I couldn't carry on with my life. I felt numb, empty, despairing, panicked and hopeless and all I was really sure of was that I didn't want to drag anyone down with me.

I've lived with anxiety and panic attacks for my whole adult life but this was something new. This wasn't the manic tantrums followed by complete ecstasy; this was weeks and weeks and weeks of utter desolation and my only respite being sleep. So I wanted to sleep all the time.

Anyway, the symptoms of my body's deficiency are not really the bit I want to focus on because it isn't the same for everyone so that bit is kind of irrelevant. I got help. Let's talk about help, baby.

Luckily for me my sister came a-visiting during my extended visit to mental Mordor... she spent a day with me and then, with that tact that all older siblings have said... "You are not well. You need help. What's going on?"

I cried for... oh, a few days. Maybe half a life time? Dunno really. A long time anyway. At least an episode of something long.

A pincer action of my husband, my sister and a very close friend, got me to call a doctor, who had me in within about 6 hours and had me in a queue for some therapy and on anti-depressants.

They didn't automatically give me anti-depressants; they asked if I wanted them. I said no. They said, Ok, great; we'll go with therapy and said I was on a waiting list and it would be a few months.

I didn't think I could make it to that first meeting without immediate help. Knock me out with a mallet, put me in a box, freeze me; do whatever, I couldn't have carried on living 24 hours a day in my brain without help for months.

I asked for the anti-depressants. I'm really only adding this detail because I know some people will be of the opinion that doctors want to shove drugs down people's throats to fuel big pharma... I don't know enough to argue with you, and also I don't want to argue because arguing is awful, but I'm just saying; my anecdotal evidence/experience did not support that conclusion.

The pills made me really, really nauseous for about a week. About 5-6 days of feeling very sick for about 8 hours after I'd taken them. But I didn't really care; a physical issue was sort of a relief after the panicked abyss of emotional bleugh.

I've been on them since October, I think, and I feel fine again.

My work has not suffered; in fact, no one in my industry knows about it and I've been nominated for an award and picked up some incredible work whilst medicated. I've still been able to write jokes; my creativity hasn't suffered and neither has my mental agility on stage when I'm improvising and dealing with an audience.

My friends with children haven't stopped asking me to look after them... I'm embarrassed to say I was terrified that they wouldn't trust me with their babies if they knew. I underestimated them but they didn't do the same to me.

I still laugh at things until my stomach hurts. I still want to have sex. I still have the drive to do a gig that's four hours away and then sit at a computer looking for new gigs for hours when I get home. It's all still there now the help I got has brushed the concrete off the top of it.

I still have panic attacks and sometimes I still have the odd shitty, depressed day where I cry and have to sit there looking at my husband wondering what he can do to make me smile while I wish I didn't put him through this. I'm sort of glad for those days (when they're over) for showing me that, while these drugs are changing the deep, life ending depression I was in, they're not changing me.

My personality; the good bits and the bad are still there even with the help.

So that's it. Do with it what you will. As I say, this was entirely sparked by meeting someone who had the help they needed and wouldn't take it, so I just wanted to put my hand up and say; the help is good if you want it and please don't be scared that your personality won't exist once you've helped with the depression. It won't be the same for everyone but this is how it was for me; just in case it helps.

Always. Ask. For. Help.

Draft a text asking for help and send it before your brain can stop your thumb. Ask a stranger so it's easier and won't fog friendships you're not ready to change yet. Ask me. Ask a doctor.

Just say any words that get the ball rolling.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Giant Podcast Bin

A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to start writing about my heroes. It was an idea borne from seeing the way tributes pour out when a celebrity dies, and I wanted to write some things about the people I love while they are still beating about and being excellent.

I've previously written about Eddie Izzard here and David Jason here, as well as a piece on Robin Williams here (although sadly he had passed on already at that point).

Today, I want to do a bit of a weird one... weird because I know lots of internet fury types will be angry that someone would attempt to write a thing about someone without knowing the entire back catalogue of their work inside out, back to front and live and breathe everything they've ever done. The person I want to throw my homage pots at today is Adam Buxton, Dr Buckles. My favourite voice out of the car stereo.

I guess the reason I feel so strongly about wanting to throw a salute in this direction, is that Adam Buxton above all the comedy heroes I carry about in my head, is someone I respect and admire and ape more for who I perceive him to be, than due to his body of work. I hope that makes sense. It's the approach to humour and interviewing as well as his general presence and offered opinions that makes me aspire to him and be glad that he's operating out in the world.

I've never really watched any of his TV stuff with Joe Cornish, I know it's all there on 4OD for me to go through and I will get round to it, but to me Adam Buxton lives in a world of podcasts because that's where I found and loved him.

I love his humour; I love how puerile it can be. I love the sillyness and the voices and the absolute pursuance of nonsense (NONSENSE NONSENSE). The 6 music podcasts with Joe are some of the closest times I've come to crashing my car through laughing. There's a lot of talk in the comedy communities about not wanting to punch down in a joke (ie, don't make the victim of the joke someone who is already struggling for whatever reason) what I like about Dr Buckles is he doesn't seem to really want to punch anywhere.

It's a humour that, to me, is pretty timeless and I hope he goes on to be a classic. He has such a gentle giant approach to projects; seeming to care about creativity and originality before all else. I am so happy that there's still a space in comedy for stupid voices, silly songs, ridiculous jingles, talking dogs and odd catchphrases.

His new podcast endeavour is a marvel. Interviewing musicians, actors, comedians and all sorts of folks with a gentle delicacy and human touch that brings out a really varied and original conversation. I think the stories and feelings he gets out of people wouldn't surface in 100 other interviews with people, but his meandering approach to questions allows him to work out what they're talking about as they're going along and just ride the wave. It's nothing and a lot of somethings all the way through.

He has a humility and raw humanity to his work that is enviable. I know I seem a little sycophantic here but I truly mean it. There's no pretence that he's not overthinking things or being insecure, it's all laced into the work between the ditties and the shouting. I like seeing the working out of someone's thinking and how they've reached their point; it's a lovely change from the slick, long simmered final results of a stand up comedy routine.

At the turn of the year when he had some personal losses and was very moved by the death of his long time hero David Bowie, it resonated in his continuing on his way. It wasn't schmultzy or pepped up to keep the podcast light and breezy for the listener, it was just what it was. One minute he could be saying "hell this is hard" and the next losing his shit over something silly making him snort; I think it's magical to put that out into the world and sort of say "This is the way I'm grieving in case it helps any of you." Except that he hasn't even really said that. He's just done it.

Adam Buxton is someone who, I think, pushes... no, perhaps pushes is the wrong word... he doesn't push the boundaries, perhaps? He exists doing what he is doing and enough people like it that the boundary expands to include what he is doing? Is that fair? I think so. 

However it works, I am so utterly grateful to have an example of comedy and being regular out in the sphere that isn't polished and focus grouped down to the last second. I love that it is gentle and non incendiary, that it is sparked most often out of genuine human interaction and isn't a gun aiming anywhere. It's a heat lamp gently radiating in case you want it.

A lot of Buxton's work is focused on music; his live BUG shows are the big events you want to go and see. I'm not much of a music fanatic so I tend to stick to the interviews and the chat stuff but that is where my love exists and I'm happy with that. I'm going to buck a trend of having to call yourself a "nerd" in order to be allowed to like something. I have heard what I've heard and I love it off the strength of that alone. So there.

If you're not familiar with Adam & Joe, or Buxton's current podcast... I'd say there's a good chance if you've read this far and like what I do then you'll be besotted with his output. His is an audio world where you can be childish in a very serious way and it's pure joy. It's not cool, it's not trying to be edgy, it's not trying to sweep up any demographic. He's very seriously a huge comedy hero of mine who is a constant reminder to just keep doing things the way you like doing them and there will be enough people in the world who will love you for it.

Thanks Dr Buckles, I love you too. BYEEEEE!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Big Netball Deception

The more I think about it, the more I am sure netball is just a massive prank being played on all girls.

They get you into school, split you into two teams based on whether you have inny or outy genitals, and then tell you about the sports you’re going to learn.

“Outy genitals, follow me! We’re going to be learning football… you get this ball, you pass it between yourselves, tackle each other and try and get it into this wide metal frame at either end here. Now, here are the complicated bit, you must not touch it with your hands… ok? Also, you can only pass to a player who has at least one player of the opposing team in front of him, ok? One of you will be goal keeper - they can touch it with their hands, got it?”

“Brilliant, yeah. That seems simple enough.”

“The simplicity is the key… once you’ve learned this game, you can play it anywhere with anyone and anything. Kick a stone, score between two jumpers, play with only five of you, play with people who don’t speak the same language… It’s the beautiful game!”

“Sounds magical.”

“It is Outys, it is. Now, off you go.”

The Inny genitals start rustling with excitement; this sports malarkey sounds good.

“Right, Innys, over here! We’re going to be learning netball… you get this ball, you throw it between yourselves, try to intercept, and get it into these tiny baskets way above your heads on either side of the court. Now, here’s the complicated bit, you can’t touch each other, you can’t run while you’re holding the ball (well, you can land with one foot and then place the other foot down and move it from a pivoted position on the first foot), you can throw it or bounce it to each other but it can only bounce once if you bounce it, you each get a different name too: Centre, you can go anywhere except in the D at either end, Goal Keep you can go in one third of the court, same for Goal Shoot, except you’re in the opposite third, Wing Attack you can go up to the one third line and over there but not in the D, Goal Attack you can go in two thirds of the court. You’re each paired up with your opposite and have to do your best to stop them being able to throw the ball but you have to be a metre away and not touch the ball while they’re holding it. Ok, that’s the basics, are you ready?”

“Er, yeah, I guess so… And, um, we can play this at break times or, with a stone and some jumpers like you said?”

“Absolutely not, no, you will need the baskets and we won’t allow those out during breaks.”

“Right, got you. Ok, but it can break down language barriers and stuff like with…?”

“Oh absolutely not, no, pretty much no one else in the world will have any idea what you are talking about when you explain it to them. The best you will be able to do is say “It’s sort of like frigid basketball” and apologise.”

“Cool. Right. Well, never mind, we’ll know about it! Can’t wait until we’re 45 and sitting around in the pub having a drink together and watching netball on the TV in there. Who are some of the bigger teams we could support?”

“Ooh, yeah, no… you see… actually, there’s no money whatsoever in it so it is completely ignored by everyone except teachers and girls between the age of 5 and 15. No, what will happen is we’ll drill you on this from now until you leave school and then we’re just going to stop mentioning it altogether, ok? Beyond that, if you really want to continue you will be able to seek out small local leagues or follow the pro teams if you really make the effort.”

“Right, is there any chance you could teach us football then actually, because it just seems like a more inclusive game that will give us a bit more of an equal footing in the future?”

“No, we’ve already bought the bibs now.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Circuit - An Introduction

The points have been tallied, the stars packed back into boxes, and the posters burned into retinas; the Edinburgh Festival is well and truly over for another year. The comedians have fled back down south to attend meetings, lick some wounds and repair their livers for next year.

After the festival, comedians migrate to Africa for half the year in order to keep warm, reproduce and get some writing done. Well, actually, we don’t… we go back to work.

Work for a jobbing comedian is called “The Circuit”. We call it that to convince ourselves we are involved in something resembling exercise… for it’s not a circuit; it’s not a smooth loop of linked up gigs and convenient hotels. A week of “The Circuit” for most comedians would look like a child has eaten a pack of Smarties and then scribbled randomly on a map.

I live in Brighton… my travelling for the next fortnight looks like this:

Edinburgh and the circuit can sometimes be interpreted as being at odds with each other… “club comedy” might be used as criticism by an arts festival reviewer, or an Edinburgh hour might be looked down on for being made up of routines used by that comedian at rowdy clubs outside of the festival.

I loathe that view. I take it to mean the reviewer/critic/loudmouth has little to no experience or understanding of what it takes to be a live comedian the year round.

So, what is it like?

For me, it’s unbeatable in satisfaction, variety and responsibility.

It’s being invited into little pockets of communities, for just an evening, and being part of them before vanishing back into the night. You are invited into birthday parties, hen parties, stag dos, work drinks and friends reuniting, and you are entrusted with the success of their excursion.

You see arts centres, community halls, pubs, back rooms, theatres of all different sizes… you meet volunteers, dedicated fans, disinterested collateral bystanders, and then you see motorway and home.

I love the variety. My diary will say “Bicester, £150, MC for Kevin Comedypromoter” and I’ll know nothing more than that until I get there. Sometimes that description means a 250 seater theatre with impeccable technical spec and a full house booked in. Sometimes that exact same descriptions mean 12 people watching football with the sound down in their local pub until an odd woman with a microphone in the corner has finished telling no one about her marriage.

With an Edinburgh show, your audience comes to you. They buy a ticket, sit down and allow you a little trust that you are what they want. It’s invigorating, testing and creatively expansive.

On the circuit you go to an audience… and they are anybody and everybody. They are someone on the one night they managed to get a babysitter and get out of the house with their partner, they are someone a bit tired from work and not sure why they committed to tickets 4 weeks ago, they are someone so up for it they are ready to laugh at the offstage announcer, they are someone at their first gig and thinking heckling is 90% of the show… and you are the catalyst for their homogeny.

It is the most exhilarating thing to walk on to that stage and into the light, into their night, and be sure that what you have in your mind and mouth will be enough to construct their evening.

99% of them won’t remember your name beyond the compere’s introduction, but they will remember how you made them feel. By the time you are in the car, eating junk food in the dark and wishing the sat nav was promising something earlier, they can’t remember a single joke; just a vague outline of your subject and a physical memory of their body laughing.

The next day they could decide they hadn’t liked you at all, or that they loved you so much they’re retelling your jokes badly to family and friends… but you are so unlikely to ever find out. You are already on the road somewhere else to do it again for another community. You’re planning the nuance alterations required to make tonight’s Cornish Arts Centre audience react just as much as the Birmingham football crowd did last night.

The Circuit is where we learn how to be comedians and there’s space on it for such infinite variety. It would be overwhelming if it wasn’t so beautiful. If you’ve ever laughed at a festival show, or a television programme, then you’re laughing at a product of the circuit. Dig out your local comedy club, try a few to find one you like; do it, and I guarantee you’ll find something you like on it somewhere.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Treacherous 207

So, despite having paid an unholy fee to have my car serviced 6 days ago and be told it was fine and dandy, it decided 10 minutes into my journey today that power steering was an unnecessary luxury that this comedian should do without.

I'm driving through Brighton heading for that gorgeous little car park on the M25 between Junctions 11 and 16 when there's a bowel evacuation inducing BEEEEEEEP and the little orange steering wheel light comes on. "Oh crap" I think.

Maybe, if I pull over and switch off the engine before re-starting it, the light and the beep will go away and I can continue my journey? I indicate right and turn the wheel towards the kerb. Well, I think I turn the wheel, only I cancelled my gym membership in July so I am physically unable to turn more than a sickly moth.

The car and I lock eyes and I decide I am making it to that kerb come hell or high water. Sweat springs from my lower back, armpits, hair line and ear lobes and I wrench the wheel towards a house that costs more than my entire weight of dreams. The car creaks to the kerb.

I switch off the engine and call my husband, the gig promoter and the garage. I call the husband to check if there's another physical way I can get to this gig... the gig is 133 miles away with only rush hour traffic and Southern Rail acting as barriers, it turns out my husband hasn't got Iron Man's number so I quite quickly have to accept I'm not getting to Towcester. I'm so sorry Towcester.

I call the promoter and let him down gently. When he's done weeping and gnashing his teeth and complaining that there's no comedian in the UK who could replace me (for the low, low fees I'm willing to accept) he says he hopes I'm ok and that I get home safely.

I call the garage and ask them if they can see the car tomorrow as a matter of urgently to diagnose what on earth has gone so horribly wrong in the 6 days since my car was the picture of health. I love my local garage - they are excellent. "No problem," says the helpful man, "Just park it in your permit zone, drop the keys off and I'll go and get it in the morning and work on it."

"Ok." I say, and resolve to do just that.

Now, I got the car going again, somehow turned it around in the street and got it back to where I live. It was like wrestling a teenage hippo away from dinner and towards and Iron Maiden built for a significantly smaller hippo. I did it... I drove it all the way down to the three streets in Brighton that I've paid hundreds of pounds to have the privilege of not being able to find somewhere to park on.

I found a space... I began a parallel park.

I cannot parallel park at the best of times. I don't mean "I find it difficult" or "it takes me longer than most people"... I mean I cannot do it. I have been known to sit outside friends' houses in the car until they can come and park my car for me. I've been known to pay up to £28 a day for street parking I can drive straight into rather than parallel park somewhere free. I've been known to just sell my car and its contents to a passer by and get the bus home rather than have to parallel park.

Have you ever pictured your own death and suddenly, with startling clarity, remembered being born both at the same time? Have you ever realised just what an achievement the Pyramids were whilst sitting in a residential street in a seaside town on the other side of the world? Have you ever realised just how hard it was for your mother to raise you through puberty?

Try parallel parking a car without power steering. It'll help you do all three.

Here are some things that would be easier than parallel parking that car again without power steering:

1. Switching off the life support machine on a loved one.
2. Having dinner with Kanye West without rolling your eyes at all.
3. Switching off the life support machine on a loved one because you can't afford private healthcare and the hospital is closing due to lack of funds.
4. Clicking on a Facebook ad for a miracle flat stomach solution and having rock hard abs in 45 minutes.
5. Switching off the life support machine on a loved one because you can't afford private healthcare and the hospital is closing due to lack of funds because of austerity measures brought in by a government.
6. Passing a kidney stone.
7. Switching off the life support machine on a loved one because you can't afford private healthcare and the hospital is closing due to lack of funds because of austerity measures brought in by a government you voted for.
8. Persuading the NRA that guns might not belong in homes.
9. Switching off the life support machine on a loved one because you can't afford private healthcare and the hospital is closing due to lack of funds because of austerity measures brought in by a government you voted for because you were worried foreigners were making your life worse but you were pretty sure the public services being cut would never affect you because you're normal.
10. Liking reggae music.

I'm so sorry I'm not in you right now, Towcester. I know you'll never know or care that I was supposed to be there. But I'm here in Brighton with a torn bicep and several very smashed up cars either side of my 207.