diary of a comic

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
the local paper asks a comedian to keep a diary for a week. he plans to write down everything funny that happens, but it turns into more of a confession.

Submitted: March 27, 2017

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Submitted: March 27, 2017

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DIARY OF A FUNNY MAN

Monday

I am doing a show in Burntisland on Friday night. The local paper has asked me to write a diary piece – ‘A Week In The Life Of A Comedian’. So I’m going to keep a diary every day this week. I’m not a great diary keeper, in fact I can’t ever remember doing it even as a kid. I scribble down notes and ideas during the day, but not a diary. In fact not even that’s true. I type notes into my Iphone whilst walking along and import them direct onto my PC. Quaint idea, this diary thing, but something about it struck a chord. What if I wrote down everything funny that happened to me during the day, or everything funny I saw, any funny ideas I had – and I would base as much of this weekend’s show as possible on what I see and do during the week? So far, so good. So Monday morning I get up. Late. I had a late gig in Sheffield Sunday night, a long drive back. When I got back I poured myself a few glasses of whisky and watched Jules et Jim as I didn’t feel like going to bed. I should probably tell you it was Chris Rock, or Lenny Bruce, or something, but it really was Jules et Jim. You know that old cliché of the sad clown, the comic crying on the inside? I cry on the outside. Jules et Jim makes me cry. And I KNOW its not a sad film. Or not really. But it still makes me cry. Maybe if I understood French, or watched a subtitled version, it would help… I am supposed to be telling you this stuff, aren’t I? There’s no such thing as bad publicity now, after all. I dragged myself into bed about 4.30 in the morning, and back out about 2.30 in the afternoon. I stuck my head under the shower, didn’t shave because I don’t have a gig til Friday, and set out to find funny things to write down in this diary.

But the world wasn’t funny today. How can that be? Nothing funny happened today. Maybe Mondays just aren’t funny. There was heavy traffic everywhere, everyone looked stressed behind the wheel. I went to the shop and bought a sandwich and a newspaper and nothing funny happened. There was nothing funny in the newspaper, though I guess you don’t expect jokes in the FT. I bought it because I liked the idea of me sitting unshaven on a park bench, eating my sandwich, drinking my can of beer, staring thoughtfully at the big crackling pink pages of the Financial Times, pretending to scan the highs and lows of my investments. I deliberately held it upside down, wondering if anyone would notice, and laugh, but no one did. So that was a waste of £2. I laid down on a park bench with the pink FT over my face, but it was uncomfortable and the bench was damp and I just felt stupid.

I should mention that I tweeted. I dutifully tweeted all the funny things that didn’t happen to me during the day. I kept sending out my usual banal updates

As I was walking back through the park I nearly saw something funny. Or I saw something nearly funny. There is a big fountain in the middle of the park and a council workman had obviously been tasked with cleaning it out. He had laid a plank of wood from the side of the fountain, over the water to the statue feature in the middle. He was collecting decorative rocks from the middle, carrying them over the plank and putting them down on the grass the other side. The rocks were clearly heavy and the plank slippery with the water splashing on it. I watched him pick up one rock and stagger across, teetering from one side to the other, then drop it down with a sigh. He walked back across, picked up another huge rock, then staggered back – like a trapeze artist on a high wire, only with jeans snagged halfway down his arse. So more Laurel & Hardy, I guess. The third time he came across, he slipped and started to lose his footing half way, then recovered at the last moment and managed to get over. The fourth time, he started to lose his footing half way again, only this time he couldn’t recover, and slipped down into the water. He made an ‘Oof’ noise, there was a small splash - the fountain wasn’t deep. He kind of lay there sprawled in the water. He groaned and tried to move but slipped back down. He groaned again, only louder. I looked around me. Quite a few people had gathered in the park and were watching this little scene. No one was rushing up to help him. Everyone was holding up their smartphones, carefully videoing the whole episode for YouTube.

‘I wish I had thought to do that’, I tweeted.

We all stood there looking at him. He groaned some more. Finally someone went over to help, a phone call was made, and in about 8 minutes 2 paramedics came and stretchered him away. Broken ankle, I think. Tough break, that’s one of the rules of comedy. If he had got up and been OK, then it would have been OK to laugh, it would have been properly funny. As it turned out, you can’t laugh at him or everyone will think you’re a sadist, a really bad person. Most people reluctantly deleted the video from their phones. So that definitely wasn’t funny. I went home and updated my Facebook account. I checked my MySpace page, though I think I am the only one who does check it now. I sent a few more tweets. I tried to write a couple of gags but I felt very uninspired. I watched TV – the Comedy Channel – and I became certain that the world isn’t funny on Mondays. A very fat American woman was dating and/or living with a morbidly obese American man – who, despite having the general complexion of luncheon meat and being unable to bend down, and doing the kind of dead end job which requires you to go to work in green overalls in a green van, was being flirted with by an almost pretty and only averagely fat woman, whilst the very fat girlfriend/wife looked on daggers ‘hands off my man!’ So that definitely wasn’t funny. My house is kind of a tip, I’m ashamed to say. I like to blame it on all the late night gigs and the travelling, but since I rarely have more than two gigs a week, that’s a tough sell. She would say I let myself go, but I was probably messier before I met her. Even I shudder to recall the student house we lived in, which had no backdoor on the kitchen, just a piece of plastic sheeting taped across the gap for 3 years. I am still not sure why no one ever repaired that door. We just seemed to accept that the door was missing, it was just a part – or rather not part – of the furniture. That was a kitchen you wouldn’t want to cook in. So it was fortunate that we never did, and ate take-away the whole 3 years. Maybe someone had had the bright idea of taking the door out, and taping the plastic sheet in its place, for the precise purpose of making the kitchen unuseable. Someone who definitely preferred fast food. I drank a few beers. I read an old film magazine which has been lying around the room for months. I think I have actually read it about 5 times, but I am always drunk when I read it and never remember anything. Or maybe it is just peculiarly unmemorable. I put the Pixies on loud on the stereo and ‘threw some rock shapes’ (pogo-ed up and down round my living room til I got tired. ) I fell asleep on the couch.

Tuesday.

I woke up about 3AM and dragged myself to bed. I woke up again about 9. I felt like laying there in the warm bed, listening to the radio, enjoying the fact I didn’t have to be anywhere. I turned on the radio to listen to the soft reassuring sounds of Terry Wogan, then realised he died, been replaced by Chris Evans. I am not a Radio 2 fan, but there was always something comforting about Wogan – lying in bed listening to him on a morning you didn’t have to get up was like a school holiday – or even better when school was closed due to snow – when you are allowed to stay home, sleep in late, play board games. There was nothing funny on the Chris Evans show. I tweeted ‘Where are the Wogans of yesteryear?’ It amused me. You probably have to know Catch-22 as well as me… I logged on. My sister recently persuaded me to try internet dating. She knows nothing about internet dating, ironically she is still married to her high school sweetheart. We are very unalike, but she tries hard to see my world for what it is, and make no judgement of it. Because I am a ‘creative’ – because I make my living in the entertainment industry, I get cut loads of slack. People expect me to be feckless, unreliable, to have a string of failed marriages and expensive alimonies. Sometimes I even have to work hard to live up to my own bad reputation. No one was surprised when me and Suze split. No one was surprised when it turned out to be my fault. My sister came round one morning when I had been hitting the sauce hard, and silently went round pulling the curtains, opening the windows, airing the place, collecting up the empty bottles stuffed down the couch, washing up the plates of congealed food, putting the various crisp packets and snack wrappers into a black plastic bag. She didn’t say a word, didn’t criticise, seemed almost to expect it. Sometimes it is actually hard when people have such low expectations of you. I have joined 3 internet dating sites. There is some science to it. I want to know if being a comic is bad for your love life. I know its bad for mine, of course, but that’s not a representative sample. My theory is that women don’t date comics. If you are in a band, women want to sleep with you. If you are on the stage, women want to sleep with you. But comics? We make our living by making fun of other people. Doesn’t every woman fear being the butt of our jokes? Think of all those old school comedians with their routines about ‘the missus’, ‘er indoors’, ‘she who must be obeyed’. Be honest, if you are a woman, you’re not going to want to be THAT woman. I stand up on stage, in my bad jeans and ratty old CND T-shirt, and I can feel women in the audience subconsciously dressing me. I’m cheating now. I already used that line in a show. And I think I stole it anyway. Its true though – we comics are not a sexy bunch. Morecambe and Wise? The 2 Ronnies? Tommy Cooper? Tony Hancock? Roy Kinnear? Roy Chubby Brown? Frank Skinner? Peter Kaye? Shit, I’m depressing myself now. I go to look at myself in the mirror. My eyes look grey and waxy from the bad sleeping. I have a nightclub tan. But I don’t know, maybe I don’t look so bad. I look good in the publicity photo on my tour poster. It was taken about 5 years ago. Me and Suze were just married. I was just starting out on this. Suze encouraged me to do it. I wasn’t a comic when she met me. I was when she left me. You see my point? Comedians aren’t sexy. And we’re not really funny apart from up on stage. We write all our jokes. We even plan our ad-libs. The funny guy in the playground, the class clown – THAT guy never went on to become a comedian. Comedians are the quiet ones. The deep ones. So anyway, I told you it was scientific. I have registered on 3 separate sites. My profile and my picture are the same on all 3 sites, the only difference is that on one I list my profession as ‘comedian’, on the second ‘unemployed’ and on the third ‘marketing consultant’. My theory is that ‘comedian’ is the least attractive of all those 3. I think even no career will get you into more girls’ beds than my career. When I log on, no one has added my ‘Comedian’ profile to their favourites. 2 women appear to be willing to take a chance and find out more about my unemployed self. But if I was a marketing consultant, I could choose from Victoria, the legal PA, or Clare the HR girl, or Deborah who works in pharmaceuticals (could be Boots!), or even Sunny, a beautiful Asian girl from Malaysia… Suze had liked the idea of me being a comedian, I’m sure. She thought it would make me happy. She knew I wasn’t happy doing what I was doing. Believe it or not I used to be an 8-6 corporate ladder climber. I had prospects. My appraisals marked me out for promotion, for advancement, for a good career and a fat salary. To be fair to Suze she wanted me to be happy, not just successful. I do wonder if the whole thing wasn’t all my excuse to drop out, live this bohemian lifestyle, devoid of expectation and responsibility. To be the guy people pay to be amused by, pay to judge, pay to be shocked by, pay to live a life which they themselves would never choose. I look around the room and realise I have become a slob. What Suze said was true. I have regressed to a kid, and there’s no mum to walk behind me, picking up my dirty dishes and my dirty clothes.

Today wasn’t very funny either. I guess you have guessed that. I don’t know what I cam use, what I can put in the show. There was this one thing. I live in a block of apartments. On the wall of the lobby at the bottom someone has hand printed a sign – ‘Beware, the OysterCatcher is back!’ The OysterCatcher is a big and fearless bird that first appeared at our block of flats sometime mid-last year. It’s a beautiful bird that divebombs you as you attempt to get your car. It also seems to have an extraordinary capacity to crap on your car. Almost every day last summer there was a splat of fresh guana on my windscreen, usually with big fruit pips and purple juice trails. It disappeared at the end of summer. Presumably it flies across to Africa for winters or something. And now it’s back. As I walk out into the car park I see 3 teenage boys with a bag of bird food. They are pouring piles of it onto the bonnet of Mrs Winter’s old Saab. The old bag is a nuisance and always complaining about the kids from the estate. She probably deserves it. I look up. The OysterCatcher is perched way up on a high branch. He is watching this whole scene inscrutably. I can see his beak moving as if chewing. When I walk by Mrs Winter’s car a few hours later the bird food is all gone and the OysterCatcher has done a Jackson Pollok all over the car. The guana has already dried in hard streaks in the sun. I don’t quite know if it is funny. I look up to the OysterCatcher and wonder what he is thinking, is he calling our bluff? Is he really so biddable? It does look deliberate, he has made such a mess of her car.

Wednesday

I have an appointment today. I am meeting an acquaintance who thinks he has secured a meeting with a creative director for BBC4. He is pitching for a sitcom which he thinks they are interested in. He wants me to take a co-writing credit and work on it with him. High concept wise, he is pitching it as Spaced meets The Simpsons. That doesn’t mean anything to me, but apparently the whole point is to reduce the concept down to a meaningless soundbite. It captures a key demographic. It’s a sales pitch. If you liked Spaced, and if you liked the Simpsons, you’re gonna love… We don’t have a name for it yet, only the concept. Its about a bunch of students living in a house, but these are the squarest students you could possibly meet. Not only do they NOT do drugs, and NOT do casual sex, and NOT do cigarettes and alcohol to any great extent, but they also pay their taxes, never complain about their student loans, have savings accounts earmarked for ‘RAINY DAYS’, and live thoroughly sensible lives. It’s all meant to be ironic, of course. It’s ‘The Good Life’ with kids. Its ‘My Family’ without the parents. Its all those comfortable middle-age, middle class sitcoms rewritten and recast with kids. I think it might even be funny. Of course we haven’t written any of it yet. My acquaintance’s name is Nathan Dart. He’s a comic too. ‘Up and coming’ – according to the TimeOut guide. We met up in the pub. It was 12 o’clock. Lunch time drinking doesn’t really agree with me but Nathan ordered 2 wheat beers so I guess the decision was made. Some comics drink huge amounts. There’s one particular guy who drinks to steady his nerves and always comes on stage paralytic. Like those old snooker players who downed 17 pints a day just to steady their potting arm, to save themselves from the dreaded snookeritis or whatever the hell it was. We talked about the show. We reminisced about last year’s fringe. We tossed some ideas around about the show. He has actually story-boarded one and a half episodes, which I was quite impressed by. The longer the afternoon went on, and the more wheat beers we downed, the funnier the whole thing seemed. We think they might even be interested. Nathan didn’t seem to have anywhere important to be, and you already know about me. We kind of got into an impromptu Edinburgh bar crawl. We went into all the venues where we had played last year as part of the fringe. We tried to see if there was anyone in the venues who would remember us, and who we could bum some drinks from, but whether we couldn’t remember them or they couldn’t remember us I don’t know, but it didn’t work. Nathan has a baby daughter. I saw her picture on the home screen of his Iphone. She looks like all other 1 year-olds. He is clearly very proud of her. Suze wanted kids. But once I started this, I told her we couldn’t have a family until things settled, until I had a steady income, knew if I could make a go of it. It was her who had encouraged me to do this, so she could hardly blame me. Truthfully, I didn’t feel ready. They say you know when it’s time, and that’s never happened to me. I wasn’t at that stage of my life yet. She understood, I know. Nathan is writing a new stand up show for this year’s fringe. It’s about being a dad, how his life has changed. There are no sex jokes in the new show, he told me. We have a baby girl now, he said, I can’t even remember sex, let alone joke about it. I laughed. It was a good routine and I knew he was trying it out on me.

Suze has a baby daughter of her own now, I saw her pushing the pram in the high street one day.

Nathan told me something funny, something funny happened to him. Funny peculiar, not funny ha ha. He plays a regular Wednesday night show in Aberdeen, and always stays in the same place. Apparently it’s a bit of a hole. Its obviously cheap. Some low-rent junkie and giro emporium. You don’t make much money on the circuit – you have to keep your expenses to a minimum, we have all been there. The threadbare carpet, the strange stains on the walls, the strange odour that you can’t quite place. One night he was going back up the stairs to the flat, and the guy from the flat above was sprawled out in the corridor, near empty bottle of cider cradled against him. Recognising him, the guy said ‘Gizz some cash, ma, ah’ll pay ye back’. Nathan tried to ignore him, step by him. The drunk manoeuvred his legs to stop him, ‘Com’ oon ma, do a guys a favva. Bum’s a tenna’ Nathan told him that he couldn’t help him. ‘Fuck a’, mans, yuz good fers a’ Nathan ignored him, tried to push by. The drunk grabbed Nathan, a surprisingly strong hold. ‘Gizz a fucken tenna, so a, or ahz fucken tak yuz’ Nathan pushed past him, managed to free himself, got to his own door. ‘Why don’t you just die?’ he said, ‘Just fucking die and do the world a favour’. He escaped into his room. There was no knocking on the door. Nathan didn’t have another show in Aberdeen for 2 weeks. He returned to the room as usual when he was next up. The place smelt rank, really foul, though that wasn’t so unusual. Eventually he managed to get to sleep. He woke up in the night when something wet landed on his face. He wiped it away, then felt another wet thing drop down onto him. He got up and turned the light on and saw about 15 maggots wriggling there on top of the bed. He looked up at the roof. There was an air duct in the ceiling. The air duct was full of fat maggot bodies. He watched as another couple fell to the carpet. He called the landlord out of bed and they went up the stairs together and opened up the room. They both turned away at the foul stench that hit them. The alkie was sprawled out dead in the middle of the floor, his body flush and bulging. He had obviously been dead for days, no one had even reported him missing. Nathan said he never seen so many maggots, AND he’s a fishing man. He remembered the words he had said, ‘Why don’t you just die?’ He wondered if he had placed a curse, doomed him. Spooky, the power we have.

Thursday I was too drunk to tweet last night, or at least I wasn’t drunk enough to forget how drunk I was and send out tweets. Twitter can be seriously embarrassing. There’s nothing worse than waking up after a hard night, and that terror when you open up your twitter account and see what crap you have sent out the night before. I don’t remember getting home. I don’t remember when Nathan left. I don’t think I did anything too stupid. I woke up lying in bed fully clothed with a family sized chicken pie lying gnawed on the bedside table. Obviously I got home last night with the munchies and put this in the oven, but fell asleep long before I finished it. Well, if that’s the worst that happened then I’m OK with that.

I woke up late again, as you can probably guess. I remembered Nathan’s maggot story and the chicken pie kind of remembered itself. I felt terrible. I told you midday drinking doesn’t agree with me. When you work weekends, when you have to perform weekends, you have to discipline yourself. The only nights you can let yourself go are week nights. You get lots of disapproving looks in bars from your regular 9-5ers, but they don’t realise that my Friday night is a Wednesday. Or a Tuesday, a Thursday, or a Monday. My liver is aching, or my kidneys. I don’t rightly know. Whatever thing is that on the left-hand side. I have abused it last night. I can feel its dull ache. My tongue feels thick and I’m sweating though it’s not warm in the apartment.

I got to thinking about diaries today. I guess Twitter is like a modern day diary. I hadn’t thought of that before. Little snippets of things you are thinking. But its all so much faster, everything is in real time. I tried to remember some famous diaries. Samuel Pepys diary – but I don’t know anything about that. Was it the first diary? Wasn’t he a politician, something like that? Bridget Jones Diary – I guess that really is kind of like Twitter. The Diary of Anne Frank? I haven’t read it, but I’ve been to the little house tucked down behind a canal in Amsterdam. It wasn’t one of the most interesting things I found in Amsterdam. But imagine Anne Frank in the age of Twitter… ‘There’s, like, loads of Nazi stormtroopers in the place AGAIN! Gone back to cupboard to hide.’ #Locked In Closet. It amuses me – a guilty laugh. I’m not sure if it’s OK to laugh about the war. I think you can only make jokes about the holocaust if you are actually a Jew. There’s also a kind of statute of limitations on jokes. A certain amount of time has to elapse before something is allowed to be funny. The other day I was in a local deli. It was one of these trendy organic places - preservatives are bad, food miles are bad, Beatrice the pig lived a long and stress-free life in Farmer MacKay’s north field, foraging for food in lush green pastures before she became this piece of ham you are eating today… You know, THAT kind of place. Not that I necessarily disagree. Although sometimes I have been known to tuck into industrial chicken pies… There are times when you really don’t care WHAT you eat. All around the store there were little Scottish flags, chalk boards saying where the food had been reared or grown. The cakes and pastries had stickers on them - made in Fife by Bill, made in Angus by Derek – all that. In the patisserie counter there was a selection of cheesecakes. There was one that was an incredibly bright radioactive pink. There was a young girl behind the counter in a pretty gingham uniform. I pointed to the cheesecake - ‘Where was that one made, Fukushima?’ I asked. ‘Oh’, she said, then she half laughed. ‘That’s the first joke I have heard about that.’ She looked at me with that look you usually save for granny bashers, paedophiles, baby-snatchers. I felt like a shit. Clearly the statute of limitations still applied to the Japan earthquake. I slunk away.

Later I logged onto Facebook and updated my pages. I checked how many followers I have on Twitter – still the same. I checked my MySpace. Grammatically, is that wrong? I checked MySpace? I’m not sure. No one was looking at it anyway. I answered my emails. I called my manager to ask about upcoming bookings but I only got her machine. All this stuff takes so much time. And you have to keep it live, keep linking yourself to other people, keep getting more hits on your page, keep getting more followers on Twitter. And you always have to have more followers than you are following – it’s basically a law. The whole thing is exhausting, actually. I don’t know how much difference it makes but I don’t dare not do it.

Then I logged onto the internet dating site. I sent an email to Clare in HR and Victoria the PA. I don’t know what the right length of message is. I think I wrote too much, trying too hard. Since I am pretending not to be a comic, I felt the need to be funny in my email. Strange that, when I tell people I’m a comic, they don’t actually expect me to be funny outside the show. They are awed. If I do happen to say something even vaguely funny, they will laugh far too much, until it embarrasses all of us.

I have been reading through what I have written these last few days. Strange how a diary makes you think about your life. I once heard this story about Welsh sin-eaters. Apparently in the old days in Wales, if you had sinned, if you had transgressed, you could be absolved of your sins by inviting the sin eater to your house. You would have to prepare a great feast for him, and he would sit there eating it in front of your eyes, and by doing so, he would eat all of your sins. As you closed the door behind him, your spirit would be free, you would be forgiven. But I wonder what heavy weight the sin eater felt in his stomach? Sometimes I think we comics are like the sin eaters. We take away your pain and make you laugh. We lighten the load of life – let you stand back and laugh at it. But like the sin eater, think how heavy that load weighs on us. Back to that old image of the clown – painting the smile on his face to make us laugh and smile along with him, but who knows what expression he wears beneath the make-up?

I don’t know how much of this I can use in the show. Truth be told, it takes me almost a year to write a show. I might try a new routine, but most of it is scripted. It would be wonderful to have a whole new show’s worth of material in one week, but I guess it was never going to happen. The world isn’t always funny. Sometimes it’s hard to find things to laugh at. Probably that’s why you come to the show. I know you will be fine. I know you will enjoy the show. Lots of people have. I got good reviews. My fringe show got mentions in the nationals. I know people will laugh, but sometimes – times like now, when I sit in front of the computer, with the shades drawn to spare my hungover eyes, and the chicken pie still sitting on the counter in the kitchen, sometimes I wonder.


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