Back in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, I was a different person. Partly because I had a different lifestyle but also because I lived in a different country and had a wild career path ahead of me. I was a resort manager for 18-30's and, to be frank, I was an idiot. I worked in a world where the easiest things to get were free beer and one-night stands. A world where the easiest thing to lose was yourself.
Then in 2004, as if it were a sign from the gods of comedy, Paul Merton wrecked my relationship.
Well, I was the cheating boyfriend. I was on an unannounced trip back to the UK with an ex-girlfriend I should not have been with. We had decided on a night of fun at the Comedy Store in London. The BBC chose the same night to send a film crew to follow Paul as he performed there on the 25th anniversary of the club.
After a few beers and unaware what the cameras passing were for, I thought nothing of it. However, months later, I was in my flat in Spain and saw Paul walk down that famous aisle and right past me... revelaing some home truths to my loving girlfriend. That night of comedy ended a relationship for me. It also lit a slow-burning fuse that took me back to the Comedy Store five years later.
You often hear about the issues that drives someone into performing stand-up. I had my fair share of those, that's for sure. We hear how it breaks up relationships, it destroys marriages and can even cause you to lose your home. I had experienced some of that along the way too.
But why do we never hear the other side of the story? The tales about how stand-up saves you. The stories about people discovering the thing they never knew they were looking for. The addiction that makes us lose everything around us without realising.
I was once told as a child that the only thing you need to be good at in this life is letting go of things. I always thought that meant to overcome the loss of loved ones. To move on when a relationship fails. To be grateful for friendships despite them sometimes fading away. Even to enjoy your family pets for the short time you have their company.
I was wrong.
Stand-up made me a better person because It made me let go of everything. I let go of my ego, my material possessions, my judgement of people and everything else beside. It all becomes baggage you can do without after a while. I lost my ego because the alternative was torture. Constantly analysing every conversation you have in cars and at clubs for fear it made you say the wrong thing.
I lost my judgement of others because you get proved wrong far too often. Like the times I worry about idiots when the room ends up lovely and the times I think it's wonderful and they're horrid. Finally, I lost my need for material possessions because something else was more important. An Edinburgh show. How can anyone afford to have both anyhow?
Most artists will be looking to get a hold of something this summer. Whether it be a big audience, a nice review or even a nomination. Good luck to each and every one of you. I will be spending this August letting go. Letting go of lots and lots of money. But what does that matter. I already have everything I need.
- Will Marsh's Ruination is at Just The Tonic at the Caves, 13:20 at the Fringe