With the advent of arena comedy tours, comedians can sometimes mistake themselves for rock stars. As comics become more and more ubiquitous on TV, radio, and writing blogs for reputable and respectable sources of information *wink wink, nudge, nudge*, surely our sense of importance, or at least our sense of bad-assedness (it’s a word, shut up), inflates.
So when I rocked up to MC a music stage on the Thames this past week FOR THE OLYMPICS I felt like Keith Richards – but with better veins.
Then some actual Australian rock royalty turned up, and then some more, then some more… and I was mush. I was unimportant mush. And if this fear was buried in the safety of my mind, it was brought firmly to the foreground by the audience’s deafening indifference to my presence. Could you speak up ladies and gentlemen? I can’t hear you over my insecurities.
Don’t get me wrong, the audience loved a bit of, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to get sunburnt in London!’ and, ‘Are we having a good time?’ but the second I tried to tell a joke the communal disinterest was louder than the tie-dyed shirt in the front row. I felt like Uncle Barry trying to squeeze in a few of his favourite racist anecdotes, between eulogies at a family funeral. Every single face seemed to say one thing: NEXT!
And backstage was worse. It was like being underage in a bar. I kept waiting for someone to ask me to leave while the adults talked about grown-up things… like knowing your place, or how to entertain people. But instead I hovered in the green room, clutching at a lemonade and a half-eaten lamb wrap, as big my head.
I racked my brain trying to think of anything to say: not even relevant, just remotely relatable. And it’s not as if they were being aloof or self-important. No, they were friendly, delightful in fact. I was just floundering.
How long are you in town for?
We leave tomorrow.
Oh… cool. Wanna a bite of my lamb wrap?
That’s the best I could do. Too little time to learn anything valuable or personal about them. Too long spent in the same room to get away with small talk. But then what option was I left with? Gushing? Should I gush?
You know, I was just explaining to the stage manager that you’re iconic in Australia. That you’re kind of a big deal.
No, we’re not.
Yes you are!
I said more aggressively than necessary. She looked scared and appreciative. What a combo.
When I stood on stage and called their names and they stepped out and brought 3,000 strangers to tears with music found in deeper wounds than I have within me, I didn’t mind just being a comedian because they were spectacular. It’s also nice to know as a mouthy little so-and-so I still have the ability to be dumbstruck.
So I just stood back and adored them, silent adulation, as I realised that what we do is different, and how we do it, even more so. And most of all, that I am not a rock star and no amount of complimentary ginger beers will make it so.
- Felicity Ward will be performing her Edinburgh Fringe show The Hedgehog Dilemma at Underbelly Bristo Square at 22:00.