Observations of an insecure comic | Nick Root reflects on his experiences so far

Observations of an insecure comic

Nick Root reflects on his experiences so far

People ask why I got into comedy and the truth is I don't really know. There were various factors, I thought on some scale I was funny, I was bored and lonely and needed attention, I wanted to push myself by doing something I was afraid of – talking to people and showing them your fragile self– and I wanted a way to meet new people. I have been doing comedy just over a year and the factors remain the same.

I did a degree in drama, where I realised I did not have the confidence or skill as an actor. But in my last year, in 2009, we had to write and perform a five-minute comedy routine. Most people were daunted by this, but I relished the idea. The memories are hazy, but I remember I got laughter and the buzz from that was better than any other performance I had done by a country mile; it was electric.

Unfortunately I was plagued with self-doubt and other issues which meant I did not pursue this comedy venture. I sought a career in the catering industry which was horrible, but it made me talk to people and made me realise everyone has their flaws. I then lied to my friends and told them I did comedy on the side, which got awkward when the wanted to come and see me!

So, after many mishaps in various jobs. I enrolled in a comedy course in 2012. Although it seemed expensive, it was a great experience, I gave myself a stage name, thus giving myself a new identity. I met some nice people from different backgrounds and I finally felt comfortable doing something, probably for the first time in my life.

I still was yet to do my first proper gig. I found a club for newcomers online, Lion’s Den. So without thinking I got on the train with only a vague outline of what I would say. I had my 'comedy gear’ on… by that I mean that I had a bad joke about the term 'smart casual' where I would wear a suit, with a sparkly hat, cargo pants and trainers and say, ‘This is my attempt'.

Nervous as hell, I arrived as Lion's Den and later that night I performed my five minutes. Weirdly enough my main worry was the microphone and it being stuck in the stand! I got a few laughs, lost my way, and vowed to never do comedy again, but I met two nice guys who told me to come back next week, which I did, (in normal clothes), performed a different set and enjoyed it.

That's how I started. From there I completed a comedy course and worked out that my biggest idols were and are Tim Vine and Lee Evans. I love one-liners and how Lee Evans has a nervous but powerful energy and I sought to combine the two. Comedy has been my way all my life, when things get awkward, I go to comedy. It's a nervousness that makes me do it and I have never been proud of who I am, so I have to lie and make a joke out of it. All it does is make me more insecure and less confident but although comedy has brought me out my shell, I have a way to go yet.

I have now performed more than 150 gigs, performed in 16 counties and two countries to audiences numbering from two to 500. In all this time I have managed to stay under the radar. No really knows who I am, I have not advanced in any competition and I haven't been the topic of any of the forums on Chortle!.

But now I want to be noticed and I want to be good at what I do! Obviously I want fame and fortune but for now I just want to prove I can be funny, I want people to remember me and book me, not because they are short of comedians but because I am good.

Hopefully this will come soon. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think I was funny; I wouldn't do this if I died on my arse more often than not, or get booed offstage. I seem to be the person people laugh at but a person no one remembers (maybe that's why I fail at comedy competitions). I have gone through many guises and many different styles and still don't know what I am as a comic. I like simplistic comedy, set-up-punchline. That's what I find funny myself, so it seems stupid not to perform this. I perform my comedy self-deprecating because it feels comfortable as it means little or no acting.

I have written jokes I am proud of and feel I have a knack for a pun. I just need to be more consistent. Every day people come out and tell you what you should be doing to be a stand-up comedian. Surely, if there was a set path, then everyone would do it and be successful. I admit I am lazy with writing and don't set myself tasks and aims, I just write when I want. Maybe this is why, although I have 40 minutes of material, none of it is that new and not much it works all the time.

I would love to have a killer 10 minutes that works in every room and makes me a bookable comedian, but I don't and I don't know why. I haven't performed in the big clubs, the famous clubs, the revered clubs, I have just plodded along. Maybe this why I am under the radar.

I have had some magical moments on stage where I have felt like a God, but unfortunately I have spent more time feeling like an embarrassed idiot. However, I haven't died on my arse that often, I usually garnish some laughs, but when I have died, it's horrible. I mentioned my lack of confidence and sometimes early on, when I died onstage or got heckled or even once, threatened with my life, I took it personally. I had bouts of depression and it affected my career outside of comedy and my friendships.

In all that time, though, I never wanted to give up. I was addicted and although my parents deep down hate that I do comedy, I just feel at home and need to prove not only to myself but to others that this is my calling. It has cost a lot of time and money and it has affected my social life, but I love it and I don't know why.

I have met some amazing people, people who will support you and guide you through, but there are people who will put you down and make you feel like dirt. It is a world of backhanded compliments and some comedians make you feel like scum. But one promoter took me under his wing and gave me 10-15 minute spots in many different pubs. Although a lot of these gigs were a write-off where I couldn't even get through a minute of material, it made me get out of my shell and realise I have an audience to interact with … although that seems obvious, so many people fall into the trap of ignoring that. My banter is still suspect but it's heading in the right direction and something I want to pursue because I enjoy being a compere, it suits my material.

I MC my own gig which I set up mainly due to the frustration of travelling into London to a poorly run gig, which has no audience and no atmosphere, useful only to try out new material. So I set my own gig and although it's taken over my life and my finances I have loved it and it's my baby.

So if an act dies, I feel it, if four people turn up, I don't get it over it. I think it is a great gig and many comedians and audience members have said so. So if I am not proud of my stand-up I am pleased with my promotional skills. MCing it has been hard especially when you have to deal with the stress of running it at the same time, but I feel empowered and it has led to new material and new ways of thinking.

Back to gigging, I have no idea where I am going and although I have done some paid spot, I still feel new and unnoticed. I don't know what I need to change, my attitude, my style, my material or my look, whatever it is I need to know if am to continue.

Every comedian is told to do Edinburgh and I did go. I did a double hander and it was a weird experience. We had a torrid time and I think we did it because everyone else says it's the way, not because we really wanted to and rushed into it. We only did ten days but it made me realise how hard and how bad comedy can be, not to mention how expensive and backstabbing.

I know I don't have the best material or the best style but I will keep plugging away till people stop laughing. Early on, I gigged everywhere, now I try to do only the 'better gigs' which are more fun and you feel like you are doing something that matters rather than shouting at a stuck-up Londoner in a basement.

I have just had some news which could potentially make me a better-known act but it requires doing something very personal to me, something I have tried to avoid.

Comedy is the best, worse thing I have done and when it goes wrong it has made me feel suicidal but when it goes right I feel like I have achieved something in life, something I struggled to do outside of comedy. I do hate not having a regular job and being broke and single, but for now I wouldn't have it any other way.

Doing comedy is strange: when it's bad it's soul destroying but when it's good, there is no better feeling. I would love to earn a living doing it, there is something awarding and addictive about making people laugh. Let's see what the future holds.

Best moment: Being the opening comedian for Fight for the Funny in front of 500 people.

Weirdest moment: Getting naked onstage during an improv show.

Worst heckle:: Cancer is funnier than you.

Proudest moment: MCing the opening night of my comedy night to 90 people.

Worse moment: Being threatened with my life in Romford

Most awkward moment: Doing a paid gig to 60 people and getting no laughs throughout a 15 minute set.

Published: 2 Feb 2014

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