I was mildly terrified about performing “The Headmaster’s Son” tonight. I had listened to it a lot and worked on set lists and trying to remember links, but it did feel like a show that might get away from me. It’s densely packed with material and quite specific language and even though there is a chunk that is read out from my diary, that still has lots of other material around it. I actually felt nervous on stage and worried about what was coming up next. But with a couple of brief pauses to try and check my set list (which just proved too complicated to be of any actual use) and a slight eggy bit where I couldn’t find the right diary entry and a few moments of mild shonk, it was another good show. With over 280 in, propelling the show to fourth in the league table of sales (if only for a night- Hitler Moustache is poised to overtake it tomorrow) and only some mild discomfort at the infamous tiny hand routine, it went better than I had expected. And for the last five minutes, as I had feared when I found myself crying whilst just listening to the show, I was fighting back tears, with my voice going all high-pitched and strangulated, as I forced myself to consider what it had all been like from my dad’s point of view and acknowledged what a great headmaster (and adequate father) he had been. I really didn’t want to cry and did my best not to become emotional as there would be nothing worse than this being a phoney showbiz moment, but I found it very hard to control. With also the additional relief of getting through a very tricky show relatively unscathed. Headmaster’s Son is the only stand-up show that has even been nominated for any major award (Best stand up show at the Chortle Awards) and I am forced to reluctantly concede that it is a very good show. It’s honest and not afraid to be emotional and I very much like the way that in the routine about meeting my first girlfriend in the first time for twenty years, that I subvert the audience’s expectations by not going for a cheap (and unpleasant joke) but surprise them with something rawly honest and sad (but don’t worry there’s a nice cheap joke at the end of the routine to break the seriousness of it all). It’s not surprising that it makes me well up a bit as it’s a show about regrets, but also accepting that actually things aren’t so bad. Even if for the 40 year old me my life was still in a bit of flux and I was yet to become a dad (which is something I clearly wanted) or a huge professional success (something I was starting to realise that maybe I didn’t have the necessary hunger for after all) or to realise that actually, by any reasonable definition, I was doing pretty well.
But then again at that point I had only just started to doing podcasts and was possibly not yet noticing the boost that they would give to my audience numbers. It’s interesting to remember that pre Collings and Herrin, my tour dates were regularly attracting between 50 and 100 people (usually a few more but occasionally less). Being forced (by myself) to revisit a quarter of my life over six weekends I can really see myself clawing my way up the cliff face both as a comedian and a human being. But I am largely impressed with the work I was creating then. And Headmaster’s Son might actually be the most satisfying and neatest show of the lot (though I think I still prefer What is Love, Anyway? which is in a similar vein).
I got home a bit quicker than usual and was with my wife by 9.30pm, drinking Sancerre and eating Kettle crisps. I don’t know if it’s me or if it’s Kettle crisps, but they don’t seem as nice as they used to be. Once they were the most sophisticated and wonderful snacks I could imagine, but they don’t seem as tasty as before (unless someone at the factory has been licking all the ones I’ve ended up with), nor as thick and bobbly. They seem more like Pringles now (and I don’t like Pringles, they’ve got a weird after taste and the fact they come in a tube doesn’t distract me from that). Anyway, the relief of getting a tricky show done to the apparent satisfaction of those who came and spending a tired night with my wife was pretty sweet. But is it Kettle chips that have changed or is it me? Maybe that’s next year’s show (though I am told another comedian has done some stuff about crisps so maybe not).
The second of my three frames of self-playing snooker recorded in the same night is now out here and on iTunes
We added a new level to the Kickstarter for those who want the DVD and the photocopied notebook.