So we’ve had a little break between gigs here. This is basically what has happened since my final show during the 2014 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. After the festival finishes I like to take some time off from the world of comedy. Have some alone time. Meet up with people who don’t care about the world I live in. Shake off the good and the bad that I’ve just experienced. I had a great time during my run with very little bad (or “not as good“…bad seems a little strong.) occurring but I still wanted to regain my equilibrium so the plan was to have a week off. The week had progressed well and I was beginning to get itchy feet again when I learned some terrible news about a friend of mine who died suddenly on ANZAC Day.
This news took me by surprise and really threw me into a mild tailspin. I lost my desire to get up onstage and before I knew it another week had passed me by. The next gig I had booked in was Janet McLeod’s Monday night show at The Local down in East St Kilda. Janet has been very good to me over the past decade (and longer in fact!) so I didn’t want to cancel but I dragged my feet to the show with very little desire to get onstage. I knew deep down that to get out amongst the people would be a healthy move and would help me out of the pit that I had suddenly found myself in.
In the lead up to the gig I couldn’t decide on what material I wanted to use and found that my thoughts were too dark to write anything new. Yet Stephen King says (and I’m paraphrasing here) when most writers are waiting for inspiration the rest of us get to work. You can’t wait for divine intervention and after awhile you just have to pull up your socks and plunge your hands in the dirt. Time to get to work. To help throw off the lethargy I decided I would start the show (I should point out I was hosting and had a responsibility to the night to be at my best) with nothing in mind and see what I ad libbed. From there I would segue into some material that was quite old and had only been recently exhumed for The Shelf. Then I would settle into material I was performing during the Festival for the start of the second half of the show. The set list was:
Set List One:
Inappropriate Remarks About Death
First World Problems
Killing A Mascot Violently
Blame The Front Row
Journalists Ask About Terrible Gigs
I Heard Gravity
Biker Corporate Gig
Set List Two:
“Hey, Be Careful”
I Stopped A Fight
Well to say that the show began in a dark place would be a mild understatement. I wanted to knock the lethargy out of my body. I could feel the tension in the back of my neck and across my shoulders. When you begin talking about stuff that is quite dark you can feel the fear in the audience along with the “I wonder if he’s okay” look in their eyes. I don’t want you to think when I refer to the material as being dark that it was one of those situations where a comedian walks onstage all dressed in black wearing sunglasses and swinging his chair around so he can straddle it and let you know “shit is about to get real“. I think this was genuinely dark as the jokes I ad libbed weren’t flashy in any way and instead hinted at where my psyche was nestled.
It did knock the lethargy out of me though and the second half of the opening set settled in and was lighter in tone. I think we’ve mentioned this before but you can always deliver darker material if you’re willing to continue to smile onstage. Louis CK is the master of this as he can get away with some devastating material all due to the fact that he is a cheeky smile. When you see that smile you think, “Here’s Louis being cheeky again.” If he delivered some of that material with a scowl you would find it quite confronting. I had remembered to smile all the way through the opening and I think that allowed me to survive later in the show.
I was grateful to the gig in the end as it meant I couldn’t wallow in a depressed state. The last thing that night needed was a down and out host and it forced me to stand up and get to work. Nobody gives a shit about your mental health, they’re at the gig to laugh and in hindsight I relished the challenge. I was only supposed to take a week off from my podcast but that too has drifted out to three weeks. I didn’t have the energy to sit down and put it all together but the gig at The Local helped reignite a little fire in my belly. Wednesday I had the funeral for my friend and with the help of some close friends I managed to use it as a time to celebrate my pal and the funny times we’d experienced together. I caught up with close friends on Thursday and have begun the process of rejoining the world.
It can be hard sometimes to remember to get back to the living especially when you work alone. When you’re down you can just close the blinds and hide under the quilt. Add to that I’m an only child who knows and embraces a solitary life and you can find yourself alone in all manner of places. Most of the time I would say that is a good thing but there are times when the experience can send you further into despair bordering on a level of madness. From this one gig I started to get my shit together. Then it hit Friday and I remembered I hadn’t written about this gig. A crack of the fingers. A rolling of the neck. Head down, fingers typing. The words struggled to begin with but eventually it was like I never left.
Time to get back to work.
9th of May, 2014