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Tuesday, April 22

The Price of Success

Every success has a price. Even if it's not as obvious as selling your soul to the devil in return for some minor legs up in the physical world, there's always a reaction to the action of success. In the case of me, I'll refer to my success in the rather tight context of how well I'm doing as a stand-up comedian at the moment, and I'll define success in two dimensions - reaction from audience and number of gigs I get to do.

This is already starting to sound a bit like a software specification in that it has dimensions of definition, but I'll try to focus on time in a moment. For now, I'll have a quick look at the price of success in terms of audience reaction.

They laugh - I feel great and become more hooked by this drug called stand-up. They laugh and I am encouraged to do more to goad laughs from them. The gigs go well and I'm given positive reinforcement of the sort of thing I do - which is much the same every time. The advantage - I feel great and really enjoy this second life I'm leading. The price - I feel under pressure to write new material, but tend to resort back to stuff I know works, under the impression that changing the formula too much may lead to it not working. I have a lack of time within which I might think of new stuff too. I'm overdoing the stand-up. I'm becoming cockier about what I can do, which is undoubtedly setting me up for some sort of fall with an audience I can't handle, or inuring me to my own failings when that happens, which might prevent me developing better.

So there's a cost of the success when it goes well.

The biggest success to cost consideration at the moment is that of the number of gigs.

Ashley's factoid: if you're working a day job, then 2 to 3 gigs a week, on average, is about the limit before you lose your mind. With that in mind, the 13 gig month is the upper limit. I've always claimed a threshold of 14 gigs a month, which I guess allows for weekends and occasional busy weeks that don't affect the average too much.

Ashley's admission: I'm way way over my 14 gig a month limit at the moment. I'm far too busy outside of work, which is coupled with being pretty darned busy within work. A good example of how busy I am within work is that I went into the office after my gig on Sunday night, just to ensure that I had balanced the work-life thing a bit more in the favour of the work, even though I'd worked way over a 40 hour week in the preceeding 7 days.

Busy. And the gigs are presently coming in faster than I can do 'em... even when I do more than one in a night.

I'd really like to be looking after myself better, but I'm tired a lot. I would probably be up late anyway, and I was home this evening at 10.30pm, which is perfectly reasonable an hour to be able to get a shower and go to bed. The problem is that I've got too many fish to fry and so I get tired, then I want to eat crap, and I can't really control what I'm eating at the moment. I say that knowing that I could, but seem not to be. I don't seem to be growing huge in size at the moment, but I don't feel like I'm getting the benefits of the weight loss that I enjoyed back in the tail end of summer. I need to get fitter.

In an attempt to try to convince myself to be healthier, I have decided to make use of the kitchen and cook for myself. I have a bread maker, which can knock out a healthyish loaf of something wholemealy, and I've bought a hand blender from Tesco (£4) which means I can easily knock up a soup from some genuine vegetables. That's not a deeply wrong thing to be having in concert for an evening meal. It's probably getting too warm for soup, but what the hell, I'll sweat out some of the other crap I've been eating.

So, there's a new thing to set against the cost of success, the cost of getting soup and freshmade bread. Ingredients - cheap. Opportunity to do it, not so cheap. Tonight, after work and before my gig, I came home, which was largely in the opposite direction of the gig, and I put my bread into the bread maker. I didn't make the soup, as I already had some soup for eating on my return (drinking, I suppose) and so I could make the next batch while eating the last later on.

I set off for my gig with the promise of a fresh loaf of bread on my return. The price of this bread - 70p... plus a 30 mile round trip that wasn't necessary... and the time to do it... mainly the time and the environmental cost. I could have just bought a loaf from Tesco on the way home, but that's not the system.

Then to the gig. The success of being booked. Yay. Except it was an open mic night. Anyone could be booked. It was also an under-populated open mic and I could easily expect my stuff to fail. I cheated. I put together a set of B-sides which I felt didn't push too many boundaries, or buttons to be honest, and I performed them up and left the audience feeling vaguely apathetic. I could ask why I bothered.

As I quipped when I got up to do the gig - "I reckon you learn something from every gig. In this case I've learned the way to Croydon." - they didn't realise the ingrained insult. Tee hee.

The cost of tonight - apart from losing four and half hours that I could have spent doing DIY in the home? I got a parking ticket, about 5 minutes before I left the gig to return to my car. The woman was still writing it on my bonnet. I was remarkably nonplussed and nonchalant about it. "Oooh, are you giving me a ticket?" I asked in a big gay bear way. She said she was. "How much will that cost me?" I asked, as though in passing. She didn't know. She had a guess. You'd have thought she could at least bother to know how much she was taxing me for stopping a car of an evening in Croydon. My fault, I suppose. I didn't check the sign, reasoning that pay and display after 8pm would be free. Not in Croydon. Midnight's the deadline. Bastard Nazis.

Still, I feel strangely disinterested in the whole thing. A few quid for parking, when the gig alone didn't cost me any real money - except £2 for a drink. What the hell. It's a night out. I've had worse than a parking ticket. When you've been to a courtroom, fearful of losing your right to drive a car, a few quid for leaving it in the wrong place really doesn't seem to hurt.

So, what price this stand-up success? I'm trying to capture my descent into insanity this week, as I'm really expecting to lose it. I had my first gig on Saturday of the run. By Saturday next, I'll have done 9 gigs in a run, in 8 days. This is a tour, alongside a day job. If I'm sane, and if I've also managed to replace a section of my kitchen ceiling in Newcastle, before next Monday, on which I plan to do an open mic in Southampton, but may just sit on a floor gibbering, then I'll award myself a prize.

This is also an important week in the lifecycle of the project I'm working on. For some reason all of that seems remarkably calm and under control - at least the arm of it that I'm dealing with does. I believe that there are other fires burning which will start to consume me next week... by then, it will be too late to save my brain.

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