No pipes and drums, some ear plugs and a move to the back bedroom (we have other people staying in the flat most of the time, but it’s temporarily empty) meant that I got my first proper night’s sleep of the Fringe and boy did the world look better for that?
I was full of non-chocolate based energy all day long in spite of carrying my Scope collection to the bank, as well as my limited edition programmes to the post office. I did a good work out at the gym, then went to the supermarket and carried two heavy bags of shopping up the hill, then picked up my dry cleaning. Amazingly I made it home still feeling fairly fresh. And tonight’s show was the best yet. It was a medium sized crowd, but they were totally on board with what I was doing and I had the necessary spunk to deliver it with precision and verve. It’s a tricky show to get right as there aren’t too many jokes and lots of deliberately quiet and thoughtful bits, but with the support of an appreciative audience and without any depression or fatigue pulling me down I was flying. And it all worked as it was meant to. There were some good ad-libs, some digs at critics for being unable to see the subtle themes that link the pieces (I increasingly think that you have to smash critics over the head with “the point” if they are going to get anywhere near understanding it - it doesn’t matter as this is a show that is very much for the audience and you can enjoy it without realising the sadly, nostalgic thread that is knitted throughout it: youth versus age, solitariness versus sociability and of course movement and inertia). It’s a tightrope walk because it’s difficult to get the performance of this quieter and more subtle stuff across, as well as to give he requisite energy for the strange and angry bits. If you try to bend and break the rules and experiment with the form without making a big song and dance about it (and I am prepared to do that too) then it’s easy to get underestimated. But as good as most of the reviews for this show are, I still find most of them quite patronising given how long I have been in this game. It might not always work as well as it did tonight, but even so there are some dangerous leaps that you’d think would be noticed and appreciated, both literally and figuratively. At the very least it’s likely that after all the shows I have done, everything is in there on purpose.
But let’s not get dragged off into me telling everyone how brilliant I am (even though I suspect this might be the key to having a successful career), it was just wonderful to have energy to spare at the exciting denouement and to be able to deliver what I had promised, a 47 year old man bouncing on a sofa with a big smile on his face as if nothing else mattered. It’s perhaps apt that I have struggled to find that spirit in real life. The stand up is as much about that as anything else. Over the weekend I sensed I had lost the audience a bit with a couple of the later stories, before grabbing them again at the end, tonight they stayed with me and the multi-layered call-backs at the end each got bigger laughs than the last.
As always with this blog I tend to concentrate on the negative rather than show off about the positive, but I think it’s worth saying that my shows this year are going down well with the people who are seeing them (on the whole, of course). I never expected to fill this massive room with either show (maybe just once with the stand-up) but was forced to take the chance with it due to the risky economics of putting on a play. Not quite halfway through. There is still time to minimise the damage.
And just when I was going to go on social media and tweet about how brilliant my audience had been I turned on my phone to discover that Robin Williams had died. Which took the wind out of my sails. As with the death of Rik Mayall I am the main victim here. Williams wasn’t one of my personal comedy heroes, but that’s still one big punch in the guts. He is clearly a comedy colossus and the apparent manner of his death is utterly tragic and unexpected and bound to lead to a million “but he had so much”/“his life was going so well” misunderstandings of mental illness.
I had a drink with Christian Reilly sitting outside the Assembly Rooms performers’ bar. The wind was blowing and it was cold and a member of staff was foolishly attempting to light one of those gas-powered outside overhead heaters. The flame and even the heater itself moved around unsteadily and it felt very much like the set up to a Final Destination style disaster. “We can’t die tonight, Christian,” I said, “The news wouldn’t even register.” As comedians we coped with tragedy with piss-poor jokes. It’s our way. Even more so when we lose one of our number. Nanu Nanu.