In which she writes a post of more than 50 words

It is clear from the way I am wandering around both figuratively, metaphorically, virtually and literally that I need to debrief the Fringe. Perfect use for a blog, so please excuse me while I indulge (insert bloggers are narcissists quip).

Performing night after night for a couple of weeks, and sometimes twice in one night, I really did learn ‘a lot and a lot’ (as my Littlest Boy would say). Like more than I’ve learnt in such a concentrated time for many, many years.

My Dad rang one day to see how things were going and I said ‘well, Samela Harris saw me the first night and wrote that I was ‘desperately funny’, and then the second night we had close to full house and I hardly raised a laugh.’

‘Ha!’ (that’s a rather loud guffaw) ‘How good is that?’ he said.

‘erm…not at all?’ That’s a small and weary voice.

‘But there you go, doesn’t it show that you can’t always control it?’

Somewhere in there is the biggest lesson I learnt which meant that at last, I let it sink in and I was able to finally and properly let go of being afraid of going on stage. By the time of that conversation, I’d had a couple of really good sets, an okay one, and a not good one. Same set, same stage(s), different reactions. So, if I were going to go on, I may as well just enjoy myself, because that is the one thing in my control. And really, if I wasn’t going to enjoy it, why do it. With two boys and a beagle and everything else that is involved in getting through life, it’s so hard getting out of the house night after night with a finished, well-rehearsed set in your brain that there really is no point doing it if you’re not going to have fun.

So. I was still nervous. But all of sudden I wasn’t scared. I say ‘all of a sudden’ but obviously it’s taken eighteen months of various lessons in various ways to get to this point where I say I’m not scared and I’m really not.

One of the things contributing to my fear is the very big difference between publishing and standing-up your words. As I have said to the mister perhaps more than once, that when you publish something you are presenting it as you want it to be presented. When I see something that I’ve written in its published form, it is (more or less) how I wanted it to be (this is not to say that I can’t see where improvements could be made, but that’s a different thing). Of course, people will make of it what they will, but that doesn’t worry me either, because I know that I’ve presented it how I want it to be presented and I like that different people will react to it differently.

On stage, there are no such presentation guarantees. I rehearse and I prepare, but I might stumble over a crucial word, forget a joke, get distracted by the person behind the bar. The uncertainties are many, my jokes are few, I can’t afford mistakes.

However, having made the decision – in word and in fact – that I will not be afraid, that I will enjoy myself, things really started to happen. I could hear myself. I could hear the audience. I could hear the words do their work. It was fun. And it was one of those things, the more fun it was, the more fun I had, the more fun it was and so on.

I also really came to terms with the fact that not everyone will think I’m funny. I already knew this in my brain, but now I know it in all other ways too. If people don’t laugh, it means they don’t think I’m funny. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that if they don’t think I’m funny then I’m not funny at all (although that possibility always remains). This was solidified on my second-to-last night, when I did my set three times over the course of the night. Ranging from totally rocking it to barely a snigger.

‘Ha!’ That’s the guffaw of a friend of mine right after my final set of the night when I was downing a beer as fast as I could and reminding myself that tomorrow I would be reflecting philosophically on my experiences, and focusing on my successes rather than my failures. ‘You’ve gotta love comedy.’

The things is, as I’ve told the mister perhaps more than once, making people laugh means tapping into a universal truth. But truly universal truths are few. That’s why Venn diagrams work.

0 thoughts on “In which she writes a post of more than 50 words”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, I loved reading about it.

    Two things that make me connect so much with this; my kids say a lot and a lot with emphasis on the second a lot of course, and I really sympathise with the getting out of the house to do a show thing. You’re exhausted before you even get to the dressing room, what with attending to the loved ones and trying to get your bag/costume/make-up/routine organised! Half the time my partner puts up a fairly good display of the grumps for being saddled with the stay-at-home thing too, especially if I’m not being paid for the gig, which is SO helpful. I desperately need the pre-show adrenalin rush to fire me up in the face of this.

    Good luck with future gigs after all that larnin’.

  2. Thanks Stomper. I know, sometimes I think I should get applause for getting there at all. Mind you, I also think that on the rare occasions that I have to get to a meeting by 9 am.

    I was looking at your flickr photos the other day and thinking I might buy myself a pair of tap shoes. It looks so ace.

  3. She’s right. (I hope I didn’t put you off too much that Tuesday night. Still haven’t gotten round to blogging about the Adelaide Festival.)

    What you said about stand-up reminded me of teaching. I often go into a class thinking, this’ll be ok, I did this last time and it was a great success. Then it falls absolutely flat and I can’t fathom why. I can only put it down to different group dynamics or different mixes of personalities being in the room.

  4. I would like to point out that a quiet audience doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t think you’re funny, or not enjoying themselves. Sometimes you just get a quiet audience but when you speak to them afterwards you discover they’ve had the time of their lives.

    For what it’s worth.

  5. yes, what suse said,
    just because people don’t guffaw doesn’t mean they don’t think it was funny. They’re probably cacking themselves around the photocopier repeating it all.

    I reckon you’re hilarious.

  6. That is very true, fifi and suse.
    Can’t you sleep, suse? It’s very late (according to the timestamp which could be wrong, because probably I’m supposed to set it or something).

  7. Great post. I was sitting at my keyboard nodding away – what you say about the difference between being published and stand-up is EXACTLY how I feel about the difference between being published and radio, or public speaking. When you write, you can get it right, you can fine tune. You can go back and fix it. It takes a bit, I think, for a writer to get used to putting yourself out there without that safety net. I am in awe of the extent to which you’ve just done that. Bloody well done. And on managing not to be scared anymore (as opposed to nervous), bloody well done on that, too.

  8. Also — it’s harder to put yourself out there as a woman comedian, surely. For all sorts of reasons (that could become the subject of another post).

  9. Youngest daughter has just completed six nights of a revue at the Comedy Festival, and every single night was different. I think you’re amazing doing a show every night for two weeks!! A lot and a lot, indeed.

  10. I agree with Ariel – bloody good on you for getting up and doing it – I wish I’d seen you. Writing is so much easier because we can not only choose our words, our message and our overall style, but how we wish to be perceived.

    Standing out on stage in front of a crowd who are waiting to be entertained is the complete, terrifying (yet presumably exhilarating package). When you think about it, very few comments elicit crack up, out-loud laughs, but there’ll often be nods and smiles of recognition. That’s gold in my book.

    I’ve never done what you’ve done, and in my few forays on radio I can hide my arse, my face, my flop-sweat and my quaking knees. Bless Samela for giving you a good review!

  11. ‘making people laugh means tapping into a universal truth.’

    Is this true? I was told this when I did a stand-up comedy course through adult education (I wagged the final night when we had to actually Stand Up). I can’t imagine that the same things make people laugh, regardless. Think of all those terrible Benny H1ll gags. Much of male comedians’ humour leaves me cold.

  12. You’re spot in a lot of things there. In fact, I was just thinking yesterday how good it is to finally feel comfortable in ‘publishing’ the work I do professionally. It’s good to lose that sense that there’s some expectation you’re not quite living up to or some bar you’re not quite over yet; that what you do is good and worthwhile and of a certain quality and you don’t necessarily need those reassurances.

    The other thing is that, as you know, I worked in a certain comedy establishment for many years and yeah, I’ve seen comedians to the same act with the same intensity and received a gamut of responses from rolling on the floor, to stepping outside to roll another cigarette (obviously not the whole crowd, I was just going with the ‘rolling’ thing. You’re a writer, you understand).

    There was a quote by Noel Coward or Oscar Wilde or one of those arty playwright types, when asked on opening night whether he thought his new show would be a success. He replied “The show is already a most extraordinary success; all that remains to be seen is whether the audience will be a success”.

    There’s no such thing as a one-person show. The audience are all cast members and for the show to succeed they have to know their lines (even if it’s just ‘ha ha ha’).

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