It is clear from the way I am wandering around both figuratively, metaphorically, virtually and literally that I need to debrief the Fringe. Perfect use for a blog, so please excuse me while I indulge (insert bloggers are narcissists quip).
Performing night after night for a couple of weeks, and sometimes twice in one night, I really did learn ‘a lot and a lot’ (as my Littlest Boy would say). Like more than I’ve learnt in such a concentrated time for many, many years.
My Dad rang one day to see how things were going and I said ‘well, Samela Harris saw me the first night and wrote that I was ‘desperately funny’, and then the second night we had close to full house and I hardly raised a laugh.’
‘Ha!’ (that’s a rather loud guffaw) ‘How good is that?’ he said.
‘erm…not at all?’ That’s a small and weary voice.
‘But there you go, doesn’t it show that you can’t always control it?’
Somewhere in there is the biggest lesson I learnt which meant that at last, I let it sink in and I was able to finally and properly let go of being afraid of going on stage. By the time of that conversation, I’d had a couple of really good sets, an okay one, and a not good one. Same set, same stage(s), different reactions. So, if I were going to go on, I may as well just enjoy myself, because that is the one thing in my control. And really, if I wasn’t going to enjoy it, why do it. With two boys and a beagle and everything else that is involved in getting through life, it’s so hard getting out of the house night after night with a finished, well-rehearsed set in your brain that there really is no point doing it if you’re not going to have fun.
So. I was still nervous. But all of sudden I wasn’t scared. I say ‘all of a sudden’ but obviously it’s taken eighteen months of various lessons in various ways to get to this point where I say I’m not scared and I’m really not.
One of the things contributing to my fear is the very big difference between publishing and standing-up your words. As I have said to the mister perhaps more than once, that when you publish something you are presenting it as you want it to be presented. When I see something that I’ve written in its published form, it is (more or less) how I wanted it to be (this is not to say that I can’t see where improvements could be made, but that’s a different thing). Of course, people will make of it what they will, but that doesn’t worry me either, because I know that I’ve presented it how I want it to be presented and I like that different people will react to it differently.
On stage, there are no such presentation guarantees. I rehearse and I prepare, but I might stumble over a crucial word, forget a joke, get distracted by the person behind the bar. The uncertainties are many, my jokes are few, I can’t afford mistakes.
However, having made the decision – in word and in fact – that I will not be afraid, that I will enjoy myself, things really started to happen. I could hear myself. I could hear the audience. I could hear the words do their work. It was fun. And it was one of those things, the more fun it was, the more fun I had, the more fun it was and so on.
I also really came to terms with the fact that not everyone will think I’m funny. I already knew this in my brain, but now I know it in all other ways too. If people don’t laugh, it means they don’t think I’m funny. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that if they don’t think I’m funny then I’m not funny at all (although that possibility always remains). This was solidified on my second-to-last night, when I did my set three times over the course of the night. Ranging from totally rocking it to barely a snigger.
‘Ha!’ That’s the guffaw of a friend of mine right after my final set of the night when I was downing a beer as fast as I could and reminding myself that tomorrow I would be reflecting philosophically on my experiences, and focusing on my successes rather than my failures. ‘You’ve gotta love comedy.’
The things is, as I’ve told the mister perhaps more than once, making people laugh means tapping into a universal truth. But truly universal truths are few. That’s why Venn diagrams work.