When I turned 40, I decided that I didn’t want to be a smiley, cheery stand-up on stage anymore. I wanted to be miserable, because that’s who I am.
Doing those miserable Edinburgh shows made me happier than I’ve ever been in comedy. They’re basically therapy for whatever it is that’s missing in my life and for whatever it is in life that I’ve done wrong. But when I turned 30, all I wanted to be was a stand-up comedian. I didn’t realise you could just be yourself, I thought you had to be likeable. I’m not likeable but I gave it a really good go. Pretty much my first ever bit of compering warm up that I ever came up with was getting the audience to shout out the names of rubbish bands from the 80’s with the promise that the person who named the worst band would win dinner for two anywhere in the UK. “Bros!”, they would shout. “A Flock of Seagulls!” On and on it would go with everyone having a fun time (except me) until someone said Rick Ashley and I handed them two Pot Noodles.
Mind you, it was better than my previous job. An office job that I hated, but it was me that wanted the job so I applied for it even though I knew I’d hate it. I was 20 then.
Before that, I was working in a police station in Northern Ireland. Like all the jobs I’ve had, I really really wanted this one. I wanted it because I could walk there from home. I wanted it because it was a shit job that anyone could do and I wanted it even though I knew I’d hate it and I did. Every bit of it.
Before that, when I was 18, I worked in a morgue. Well, I sorted out their autopsy photos. I did that for a year. Why? Because I wanted to, even though I didn’t want to because no one could ever want to.
When I was 17, I got a job in a furniture shop because I’d just left school and I “knew” that if I didn’t get a job immediately that the entire world would explode before I’d seen real breasts. I got that job because I really wanted it and I did that job even though I hated it.
On Friday night, I did a gig at the West End Centre in Aldershot. They were holding a 3 day festival featuring comedy and live bands. Before my show, I went to see one of the bands. They’re called The Keep Cats. They played guitar based indie rock and they were utterly magnificent. They looked cool, they sounded cool, they are cool. In fact, they’re the only good and important thing on this planet. Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes you feel more like you’ve wasted your life more than watching 4 fifteen year old guys playing so incredibly well while the 50 or so audience members stand way back admiring them while one girl, and one girl only, is down the front jumping around like her life depends on it.
It is literally the most exciting thing on Earth.
The Keep Cats will be huge. They’ll play stadiums and perform to thousands and that will be OK. But it will never be as good as being in a band when you’re 15, playing great songs while one girl jumps up and down at the front. I do my stupid Edinburgh shows because they’re basically therapy for whatever it is that’s missing in my life and for whatever it is in life that I’ve done wrong. And this is what’s missing and that is what I did wrong. I forgot to be 15 and in a band. Even Barney’s, the promoter, introduction for the band was utterly fantastic. “They’re already sort of famous in Reading”, he said. “But I want to make them famous in Aldershot”.
Seriously. What is better than that?
I’ve bought The Keep Cats music on iTunes and they’re great. They’re now famous in one small part of Lewisham too. I’m a fan and I’m jealous as all hell of them. I was never hit as a child and now I’m a comedian so let that be a lesson to all parents. Hit your children. Hit them hard and often. Anytime they aren’t practising an instrument, take your belt off and thrash until they’ve written the next Lust For Life. Because when each and every one of us enters this world, we are musicians. Some of us forget and by the time we remember, it’s too late. Hit your children or they’ll end up in hell.
And I’ll see them there.