Saturday, 7 June 2014

Do your thing and now, because fear never goes away

I've always wanted to be a comedian. But where does the funny come from? Stand-up has been called 'the toughest job in the world' but that's bullshit.

The fact that it took me eight long years to get the balls to take my jokes on stage is testimony only to my past cowardice.

My first ever 'gig' was at the King Gong, the monthly gong show at the Comedy Store, in Manchester. I must have been to the toilet more times than I can count. If you thought 'pissing yourself with fear' was just a figure of speech, well, it isn't.

The number of thoughts going through my head was countless. I had my material, my cowboy hat and was ready to rock. Except I wasn't. As much as people love to romanticize it, losing your virginity often isn't such a pretty thing. I sucked, big time. I wasn't terrible but I was very, very far from where I wanted to be.

The important thing here is, it doesn't matter how shit you are going to be at first - you have to start somewhere. I have a few funny friends with such great comedy brains who I think would be great comedians but some have no appeal to go onstage. Maybe they'll turn out to be great comedy writers. Maybe they will never take that step. Who knows?

Others simply can't get past the fear, as I couldn't for eight years. The thing no one tells you is, the fear never goes away. You never really overcome it. I always go back to the prison scene from Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises for inspiration. In that scene, Bruce Wayne constantly fails to escape and can't quite understand why. Until the Blind Prisoner, ironically, makes him see:

Blind Prisoner
You do not fear death. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak.

Bruce Wayne

Blind Prisoner
How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death.

Bruce Wayne
I do fear death. I fear dying in here, while my city burns, and there's no one there to save it.

Blind Prisoner
Then make the climb.

Bruce Wayne

Blind Prisoner
As the child did. Without the rope. Then fear will find you again.

The absence of fear isn't courage, it's stupidity. True courage comes from understanding your fears and acting despite them. If people didn't fear death, how many of us would choose not to live?

When I'm onstage, the fear is there with me.
I still remember the exact moment when I decided to do stand-up comedy. I woke up on the morning of my 27th birthday, and something was missing.

In spite of everything, I wasn't happy. I had realized something I hadn't thought about before. I was three years from being thirty. Thirteen away from forty. I had come to terms with the thought that, sooner rather than later, I was going to die - and I hadn't done any of the things I dreamed of.

Most of my favourite comedians had started quite young. Hell, Bill Hicks started doing stand-up when he was fourteen. I had some catching up to do.
I was afraid, and that fear of dying without having lived on my terms was the catalyst for everything that came after that.

I haven't even reached twelve comedy gigs yet. In fact, not counting the gong shows, I've probably managed a total of about eight. It doesn't matter though.

The fact that I've started something is the most important thing for me.
Fear isn't the obstacle, it's the fuel.

Now make the climb. Without the rope. Then fear will find you again.