This gig was another Anarchy Comedy Night. The line-up Rob has assembled promised to make it a superb night, probably one of the best. We also had a chunk of comedians turn up who weren’t gigging. They just came along to watch and support the night which was lovely.
Rob had, and let’s not put too fine a point on it here, pulled out all the stops. Not only had he assembled a great line-up but he had gone above and beyond what was expected of any promoter anywhere. One act was sleeping on his sofa and he did a massive round trip for another act.
I, on the other hand, had just collected three people from a train station a mile or so from my house and deposited them at the pub. As I’ve said before I have nothing to do with booking the acts at Anarchy as I found it far too stressful. Rob had done it all and I love him for it and you lot should love him for it. But there it was again, that stab of guilt. I should be helping him with this. So what if acts keep dropping out causes tidal waves of stress. He’s my mate and I should be helping him.
There are some things you need to know about what’s been happening in my life during the last few weeks. Firstly, I’m questioning if I should continue doing stand-up comedy anymore. I’ve always said it has to be an itch I want to scratch and at the moment there is no itch. At the previous gig at Subside, Dave Tandy said something quite profound regarding my onstage death in Dawley. “After the highs of those gigs [98, 99 and 100] you’ll find it’ll just keep getting worse and you’ll never hit those highs again and eventually quit.” I’m unsure if he was joking or not but it was simply a reflection of what I was already thinking. I haven’t got near to the high of those gigs since I hit them. And I’m not talking about just the audience reaction. I haven’t felt the emotion myself in delivering that material since gig 99. What was a heartfelt shout from the deepest part of my soul has become a statement of sterility.
Secondly, my improving mental health has just opened my eyes to another issue. I’m now more aware of how I don’t deal with any form of feedback very well. Each compliment someone pays me is as minor as a sip of water when you’re mildly thirsty. Each criticism someone makes, however justified, is like a jug of acid being thrown in my face. That isn’t a healthy way to live and react. With all this jumbled up in my head and myself in a period of self-analysis that would make Freud proud I found myself distracted and just adding to my own sense of ennui about performing again. This is something I’m trying to deal with but I know it’ll take time. 1,000 mile journeys, single steps and all that.
So with these two self-analytical maelstroms running riot in my head I have to admit that I wasn’t on my game. The whole night felt like I was viewing it through a telescope. I was detached, confused and guilt ridden.
Rob came over to me. “Masai is arriving at Bloxwich Train Station in a bit. One of us needs to get him.”
The correct answer to this, after everything Rob had gone through for this night would have been, “I’ll do it Rob,” before jumping in my car and driving to the station.
I didn’t say that. I didn’t know where Bloxwich Station is. My Sat Nav is on my phone and to find somewhere new needs some of my data but I’d screwed up a setting meaning that my phone had done an update over my 3G instead of Wi-Fi so I had run out of data until the next day. However, this shouldn’t have been a problem. I should have used Rob’s Sat Nav, or nicked an A to Z from somewhere or just got some directions. But I didn’t fucking think, did I? I just said how it was, “I didn’t know where the station was, I had no data allowance, etc etc.” In a roundabout way I was getting to the “I need detailed directions to get there because I’m a useless twat,” but I didn’t get that far.
“It’s okay, I’ll do it,” said Rob.
A mooring rope tightened in my guts and copper filled my mouth. I knew at that moment that my distractions and faffing around had put me in the wrong. Was Rob pissed off at me? He had every right to be. How was he feeling about this? Is he okay? Are these nights stressing him out? Should I do more? Would that help? Why do acts keep dropping out?
A few minutes later our Anarchy theme music was playing and Rob and I were tucked out of sight waiting to go on stage.
“Are we cool?” I asked.
Usually Rob is lovingly referred to as being a “sensitive testicle.” He’s so nice and friendly that if he has to say something even mildly contrary to your opinions he will dance around it for a while, apologising and filling the room with whimsy before just saying that maybe your second joke is moderately funnier than your first so you should consider swapping them around, but you don’t have to swap them around, just if you feel like you want to swap them around, you know, because it might work, or it might not.
Tonight I was the “sensitive testicle” and Rob told me so. “Everything is fine. You’re being a sensitive testicle.”
Of course, the thing with being a sensitive testicle who is querying why he’s even there, has no confidence and is incapable of reacting to positive or negative comments in a sensible way is that when people say, “Everything is fine,” you just think, “They’re only saying that to not upset me.” I was on a roundabout of self-doubt, going too fast and each revolution cause the tree of stupidity and bush of self-flagellation to twat me in the face.
We began. I felt like a fifth wheel that wasn’t even touching the ground. Just hanging there, spinning around in the airflow generated by all those other, more important and far funnier wheels. Even so the night was a success. The room was already filling with people when we arrived and we’re now starting to get some regulars in. Along with the acts who had come along to support the night they seemed up for it and they were certainly making enough racket when the acts came on.
I did my best to shake the feelings of self-doubt from my head as the night went on and it was helped by the acts who all put on good shows. Standing at the back with Rob it was nice to see the audience and acts enjoying themselves. I had seen all the acts before with the exception of Johnny Sorrow. Yes, I’ve seen Johnny do some bits before but I’d never seen the 10 minute Johnny Showaddywaddy Sorrow. What a revelation. It was pure class. People were literally doubled up laughing and yet weirdly, on one side of the crowd I saw a young couple completely straight faced, looking around and seemingly trying to work out what everyone was laughing at.
Even Johnny Sorrow can’t please all the people all the time. There’s a lesson in that statement somewhere.
We finished the night and it was the best Anarchy night so far and that’s saying something. I dropped people home and at the train station and then took a slightly longer route home to try to get some of this mess sorted in my head. After not pulling my weight, letting down a guy I love and not really doing a good job at MCing I needed some thinking time. Or maybe I’ve had too much thinking time. All I know is that as I locked the car and opened the house I was no further along in deciding if I wanted to do comedy or not or how to make my reactions to feedback healthier.
Thinking ain’t solved a thing.