day 4: the rollercoaster of appearance

Not getting enough sleep really plays havoc with your emotions.

I was tired when I woke up; I hadn’t got to sleep till nearly four the night before and woke up at 10. That’s not enough sleep for a nearly-thirty year old, and I was tired all morning. We got to the Royal Mile to flyer a bit later than we should have, and as a consequence about a third of the audience were made up of Tony’s family. Tony has mentioned before that his family are quite religious folk, so I’m not sure what they will have made of our intensely blasphemous show. Understandably, Tony pulled back from some of his more brutal lines. When combined with my tiredness, Loz’s uncertainty about some of his lines, and the general size of the audience, it didn’t add up to a great show. We rushed stuff; we cut stuff; the show ended up being about half an hour long. Perhaps I had the better gig of the three of us, or at least the least worst. But in the circumstances, that didn’t exactly make me feel any better.

I sat with Loz in a cheap pizza cafe on Grassmarket afterwards, feeling tired and miserable and barely talking, and then went to do the Comedy Manifesto. The Manifesto is a wonderful topical panel-type gig, but somehow I didn’t enjoy it. David Mulholland, who books the acts, had booked both me and Tony, which was good in a way but also I was starting to feel like I needed a break from scurvying. It didn’t help that we had to go on opposing teams, because I’ve sometimes felt a kind of odd competitive tension with and from Tony that isn’t good and doesn’t do much for my confidence, what with him being a very talented act and all. Anyway, we both had good gigs – but throughout the whole thing I had this empty feeling like a lack of belief in myself, and afterwards I went home feeling tired and sick and like I just wanted to go home and be with Nan.

But then, once I was in the flat, three things happened. The first was talking to Nan on the phone. That just made me feel a little better, better enough to stop being miserable and just have a nap. The nap was the second thing.

The third thing was waking up and picking up my copy of Nietzsche’s Gay Science which, whatever its flaws, is one of the great self-help books of all time. And I randomly opened it at aphorisms 57 and 58 – the very beginning of Book 2 – and read:

“the reputation, name, and appearance, the usual weight and measure of a thing, what it counts for – originally almost always wrong and arbitrary, thrown over things like a dress and altogether foreign to their nature and even to their skin – all this grows, merely because people believe in it, and it gradually grows to be part of the thing and turns into its very body. What at first was appearance becomes, almost invariably, the essence and is effective as such.”

In other words, of course, this is the simple truism that if something appears to be a certain way, it will, eventually, become that way. Once again, style is more significant than content.

And I thought, that’s it! So much of comedy is about confidence, but it’s not initially about being confident; it’s about appearing confident. However much my confidence might have been knocked in the past, I thought, if I appear confident tonight then that is what I will become…

And I went out and did my best to look confident, and as a result did a significantly better gig than ought to have been expected from the crowd that had turned up to our evening show. I did the full ‘I like big butts and I cannot lie’ routine that begins with stupid puns and ends with me screaming about wasting my life, and the audience went with it, for the first time of the festival, and they laughed out loud in a room that until that point had been pretty short of big laughs. And I came offstage feeling confident.

Paul Foot headlined, and pushed the level of challenge to the audience up to the kind of thing that I am currently nowhere near capable of yet, of course. But, sitting and chatting with Patch Hyde and Loz after the show I did still feel briefly confident – felt like none of the put-downs and the knocks of the past really mattered.

I’d like to be able to keep appearing that way. But yesterday was an upslide on the rollercoaster, and I’m sure there are downs yet to come.

Circling the Drain: Audience – Small; Performance – 4/10

Scurvy Standup Showcase: Audience – Medium-Small; Performance – 8/10

Other stuff: Rollercoastery with a useful thought.

Overall: WIN

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1 Comment

  1. […] two thoughts in my brain just before we started the show: the first was the Nietzsche aphorism I wrote about last week, about appearance becoming content; and the other was Logan Murray’s mantra […]


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