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Thursday, May 18

Wednesday Night Comedy

Last night I went to Tewksbury. More accurately, I went there yesterday afternoon, as I was worried about arriving late and so set off from the office in plenty of time. The drive was fairly uneventful, though I spent the last hour of in it dire need for the toilet. The sat-nav did its job beautifully and led me straight to the venue. The roads were very rainy and this added, no doubt, to my need for toilet-based relief, as well as increasing my stress levels a bit.

Still, arriving at the venue long before I was due to (about 2 hours), I had a leisurely trip to their plumbed facilities and changed my work trousers for my jeans, which are more conducive to performing in.

I went for a wander around Tewksbury, which was silly, because it was raining, but I had to occupy the time somehow. I saw their discount superstore - "Merlins: Magically" low prices. I saw the "Burger Star", possibly the most depressingly named fast food place. I saw a church whose porch appeared to be inside another porch. It wasn't dull, it wasn't earth shattering. It filled the time.

I sat in my car for 30 minutes or so, eating my low-calorie/low-fat snacks from Tesco and listening to Radio 4. After a time I also packed all the crap, which I've been chucking into the footwells in the rear of the car, into carrier bags and put them in the bin. The car is a nicer place again. Now, if I can hoover up the crumbs, it will be even more habitable - assuming it's not already occupied by some well-fed rats... or maybe pigeons.

A more respectable time to set myself up in the venue arrived and I went in, tuned up the guitar, did the sound-check, chatted to the promoter, his family and one of the other acts - the usual. I had noticed that one of the rooms in the venue was called the "Eric Morecambe Room". It was a sort of green-room. I did the glasses-wobbling Eric Morecambe impression that comes with the territory of thinking about the man. At some point, however, it was time to find out why the room was named after him, especially since there was no obvious association between Eric Morecambe and Tewksbury, more specifically the Roses Theatre.

Do you really want to know? You could Google for Eric Morecambe, Roses Theatre and Tewksbury and find out. The top link is this, a Wikipedia entry which tells the story. Eric Morecambe died in that theatre. He came off stage, suffered a fatal heart attack and died. It's shocking to write it down. I've visited the statue erected to him in Morecambe and I've smiled at the toothy grin he's sported in that statue. I've watched DVDs and videos of Morecambe and Wise movies and TV shows. I have a Morecambe and Wise CD. Eric was a comedian. He made me laugh. Now I've accidentally been to the place where his life ended. It was a bit of a mood killer at first.

Comedians talk about dying on stage, which is a very melodramatic way of describing what happens when the audience don't light up the way you intend them to and when your presence as an entertainer and clown is revealed for the pretence that it truly is - just some guy trying to get a reaction from some stuff. When comedy doesn't work, it's pretty appalling. I couldn't help but wonder whether the site of a famous comedian's death would be a good or bad omen. Was the essence of Eric in the building trying to help all comedians to get laughs? or is this the building which does comedians in? Would it be an insult to his memory to go on stage and be unfunny?

We were in the cafe above the theatre, not the auditorium itself... so maybe the rules were different. As it happens, I had one of my most enjoyable gigs in quite some time. The audience were nice and I nearly burst out laughing myself at a few points. If Eric had anything to do with it, then I'm thankful. If nothing else, it was suitably humbling to remember a great comedian before going on stage and being my own sort of comedian.

I worry about whether I'm smug about my own achievements. I think I have the traits of a smug person. I like to celebrate success. I smile a lot. I'm overenthusiastic about things, especially things I've been involved in. All of these seem to suggest a smugness. The corners of my mouth turn upwards by default. It's hard for me not to look happy. There's another person in my office who has a facial structure which implies smiling. I occasionally find him infuriating for this. He'll ask an innocent question, but the look on his face seems to suggest condescension and self-satisfaction. I'm learning that this is my problem. By that, I mean that it's my problem that I've misinterpreted him and that it's also my problem that I'm just as misinterpretable as that.

So, I'll admit that this blog probably contains 50,000 words of self-congratulation within the waffle. I'll also admit that I'm far too easily amused by my own success. However, you show me someone who is genuinely genuinely modest and I'll be surprised. We all like success, it's one of the main driving forces for people. The problem is when you use your own success to attempt to prove that other people are lesser, or when you take your own success and an indication that everything you do is great and stop trying, or stop recognising good in anyone else.

I've been guilty of the above. I've also been self-aware enough to break that cycle of self-admiration.

Back to last night at the gig, there were a couple of moments where my amusement was, disgustingly, based on the "Hey... what I just said/did was absolutely funny - how cool is that!" sort of glee. Maybe that's wrong of me, or maybe it's important for a wannabee comedian, with a raft of insecurities joining him in the car on every trip, to have the occasional moment of insecurity-banishing confidence. It's still proving difficult for me to find many gigs at the moment, and I'm capable of writing material that even I find desperately unfunny... so if I have the occasional flash of ability, then perhaps I should acknowledge it, try to work out how I did it, and see if I can focus on doing more of that.

I listened to the recording of my performance on the way home. I laughed in a couple of places. The rest of the time, I contemplated what I'd done wrong and wondered why I forgot the chords to two of my songs. I think that's fairly evenly balanced.

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