I really like Chortle. I read it everyday. In fact, I read it more than once every day, because when I'm bored, I instinctively check in to see if it's changed. Oh, sure! It's not perfect, especially the correspondents pieces. For every piece of genius by Liam Mullone, there'll be half a dozen articles by people who haven't gotten around to turning pro, giving us the benefit of their enormous wisdom. As I say, imperfect – but then, what isn't?
Today, Chortle carried a story based on an interview I did on 5Live. Very good of them. Nice to know they care etc. but I worry it was a smudge misleading, so if I may just borrow your eyes/mind for a sec, then I'd like to point out why.
It is not true to say “I am not challenged by comedy”, as the Chortle headline may have you believe, because the opposite is true. What I said on 5Live was this:
“[After releasing my stand up DVD] I became increasingly angry – less and less able to write jokes in favour of just being cross. It just felt like soldiering on without being proud of the output, which is deeply unfulfilling. I got really bogged down with not knowing what to do next.
I really wanted the first [DVD] I recorded to be quite principled, but the further it went on, I realised the job of a comedian is really just to make people laugh, and the idea that there's some moral outrage or existential pain [to share, should come second to that].
The truth is funny is funny. And if the act on stage is making you laugh, they've earnt the money you've given them for the ticket. But I sort of lost my way with that a bit and I needed to do something that I could find more joy in.”
So, far from being 'not challenged by comedy', I was challenged by it, and it won. Every time I sit down to write, I think of Stewart Lee, Bill Hicks and Louis CK and I feel like a first former trying to convince the football coach he should be in the first team. Every time I sit down to write I think of how hard people laugh at Terry Alderton, Michael McKintyre, Milton Jones and am aware how far away I am from eliciting anything similar. Every time I stare at the void of white paper, the void stares back into me and entones “Fuck off.”
So I have. For a bit, at least, until I find the inspirado. Last year I made a movie and I enjoyed it so much that I felt the same desire to push forward with it that I had felt when I first started doing stand-up. Indeed, it's remembering my time as a younger comic that has forced me to write this.
When I first started comedy, my stand-up brothers (Stefano Paulini, Chris Brain, Tristan McGuire) saw many other comedy attemptees pass through our 'New Act' world. The ones that quit would often say “I'm just not challenged by it”, and we would know that what they meant was “I'm simply not good enough”.
So to you, dear fellow Chortlist, I don't say “I'm not challenged by comedy”, but rather “I'm not currently good enough.” Stand-up is an art which deserves monumental respect. It is far, far from beneath me, and those who have mastered the art hold dominion over timing, writing and performance. They were challenged and saw that challenge off. The idea that their mastery is somehow beneath me is at worst offensive and at best imperfect.
But then, what isn't?