Ho bloody ho

Corry Shaw on why the festive season is tough on comedy folks

As the holiday season draws to a close and I sit throwing out Christmas cards I never quite got round to sending I am forced to ponder over the nature of the comedy business and the effect it has on the poor souls that work in it (not to mention their families) over Christmas.

Most ‘normal’ people take time out in December to celebrate the holidays with their friends and family, to rest and recuperate before the New Year kicks in. They travel to be with their loved ones and spend days lying about eating chocolate and having fun. Some even may attend a staff Christmas party at a comedy club.

Having spent all of December making sure these corporate parties had their fill of comedy, roast duck and beer I was forced to forgo the 922-mile round trip home as I had to get straight back to work for the preparations for New Year to keep those merry-makers merry.

Having spoken to numerous comedians and venue staff over this holiday that have also spent December in the clubs, on the road and raking in the gigs while the work is plentiful, missing out on their Christmases and New Year celebrations, I realise that in this industry we tend to adopt a second family.

The people that we work with become the ‘family’ that we spend special occasions with. Turkey dinners and charades are replaced with packets of crisps and the ‘Jesus it’s cold’ cigarette dance outside yet another venue. Sitting round a fire reminiscing over the past year is replaced by sitting round a dressing room having a bitch about the worst gigs of the year.

A comic I know with who worked himself into the ground over the festive season, becoming so ill he managed to lose his voice, croaked at me: ‘December pays for August, December is for the money, August is for the art’ just before he headed onstage for the third time that day to try to convince a room full or bank clerks and nurses that if they stopped throwing clementines around the room for long enough to listen they may actually enjoy the show.

It’s this necessary evil that December becomes that allows us to enjoy the rest of the year a little easier, so we sacrifice a normal holiday to ensure that for four weeks, eight months from now, we can afford something roomier than a cardboard box in Edinburgh.

So we grin and bare it. Comedians, venue staff and promoters become our nearest and dearest in December and, if I am being honest, I’d much rather miss out on my mum’s burnt Sprout and delight in watching some of the best comedians in the country burn the corporate Christmas hecklers.

Happy New Year.

Corry Shaw works at the Komedia, Brighton.

Published: 3 Jan 2008

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