I think it started, ironically, when I started to get people saying I was reasonable at it, somehow the fact that I’d gone from very very shit to mediocre seemed to tick a box in my head. I think it’s also that I feel like I’ve struggled to find my voice at times and I felt like I wasn’t being me or doing what I really wanted to do, rather following a convention, a marked path that I wasn’t really enjoying. There was also the idea of progression over time from open spot upwards, and being told that a) it was the only way to an undefined level of success and b) it’s the only way to become (again undefined) good that I found a bit draining and soul crushing.
The problem is I think I’ve been neglecting my theatre side a bit too much and trying to find a niche in something (comedy) rather than my own something, in a broader performative sense. Also failing to recognise that while I have similarities to many other acts, I, like all of them, am unique, with a unique skill set, tuned and understood by me alone.
I had an interesting chat the other day with an unnamed comedian called Tom Sullivan (which reminded me of a similar conversation I’d had with the equally unnamed Topp Joe late last year) – we talked about how the introduction of new technologies was broadening the form of comedy, podcasts, youtube, even blogs, opening up new avenues of creative output – but also the need to look at goals as personal rather than competitive, at success as being defined on your own terms, rather than by others.
More importantly for me we/he talked about how it wasn’t necessary to compare yourself to other acts, merely to find something you enjoy and follow it.
I think comparison is a really difficult thing – I guess everyone looks online at their contemporaries and sees what they’re doing and there’s an element of jealousy or pride – I suppose the key is to accept that, but also that it doesn’t ultimately matter – what matters is the reward you find and your satisfaction in what you’re doing. Nor is looking at “name” comedians a really good path, for me at least, because everyone’s story is so very different and arguably the broad skill sets that everyone has means that a route should be practically impossible to define.
I’m performing a long show in early July and I find myself reluctant to define it. It has stand up in, but also documentary, storytelling, theatre, excel and powerpoint (if I can get word in then Office Suite is fully represented). In the past I’ve heard people say that you shouldn’t do a longer show until you can do a short set and I think that might be complete bollocks. Actually I think the ability to create something longer has so many factors that it’s impossible to judge whether they should or not. If Mark Walberg wanted to do an hour long show then the fact that he has a unique skillset means we are entirely unable to judge whether it is a good idea until it is created and done – and even if his show was terrible, does our judgement matter?
This brings me back to motivation. I was struggling to write my show for a few days and getting quite depressed about it, but then I decided that actually I don’t really need to give a flying fuck about anyone’s opinions on it. It’s a show I’m making for me deep down – creating a show I’m proud of is enough, and if other people like it then great.
I think that maybe I need to find my own path and start to ignore advice a bit – especially advice that doesn’t have a deep insight into what I really want – and even I would struggle to give that.
When I’ve performed this show will people define the show? Probably.
Will they compare it to other people? Certainly.
Will I give a shit? I hope absolutely not.
Has this now motivated me? Yes.