Insecurity like I've never known...

Matt Price on the highs and lows of Edinburgh

I was standing outside the GRV in Edinburgh the other morning with my friend Kent Valentine when Stewart Lee walked in. We had stopped our conversation as soon as he was within earshot and just stared at him like the gunslinger walking into a saloon.

A few minutes later he walked back out and Kent made eye contact with him, started to open his mouth but was somehow unable to make a sound. I stood there again in silence, wanting to shake the great man's hand. But I too was lost for words. As our comedy hero walked off into the distance, we both swore in unison at not having enough courage to simply say hello and wish him well.

Every night that I gig, I live for the magical moment. I love meeting people and have no problem talking with strangers. Shaking the hand of a great comic would have had the significance of talking to a stranger on a park bench; the potential for something special, or just a brief exchange. It wouldn't have mattered either way and sometimes it's just good to say hello. I know how much it means to me, especially in Edinburgh.

Already at this Fringe I have felt the rollercoaster of emotions that I felt last year. The rollercoaster that at certain times made me swear that I would never come to Edinburgh again. Thus far, I have had a review. Had a breakdown on stage. Had two audience members fall sleep on consecutive nights. A sellout night.

Handshakes all round. Four women who just hated everything that I said. I also went to do a gig at the Free Fringe and made up with an old ‘enemy’ where I witnessed karma in action.

I have second guessed audiences and have felt insecurity the likes of which I hoped I had long overcome. As I shouted at the end of my Free Fringe set, ‘My name is Matt Price: Professional comedian’ I turned and tripped over the mic stand, getting the biggest laugh I had for my entire ten minutes. Even my old enemy – a comic/promoter who told me to quit comedy 18 months ago – smirked at the irony of that one. I then announced to the audience that my trip was the Gods of comedy telling that I am neither as professional or as funny as I hoped and I left to good applause.

I cried before the first three of my hour shows. Just because of the emotion underlying it and because I didn't want to use comedy as therapy while on stage. Then yet again, I woke this morning feeling tired. My bones were aching and I needed the adrenaline of a gig, good or bad, just to kick start my day. I ended up having a conversation with a friend and it made me feel much better. I have also received a couple of texts from people at home, that gave me strength and one from a fellow comic who was a friend but now can barely contain his resentment at anything that I do.

As I stood on the Royal Mile yesterday afternoon my thoughts turned to the great comics. Everyone has a different definition of greatness. But the people who I admire must have gone through the same emotions as me and the same self doubts. I have often grumbled about not being further up the comedy food chain – most recently for practical reasons. I have bored my friends by claiming that I would like to be an identikit comedian and curse trying to be an individual and trying to find my own comedic voice.

I wondered what the comics who I admire have been through in terms of highs and lows. There must be no audience reaction that they haven't had, or heckle that they haven't heard. It's the great individuals who I admire and to be an individual, requires time and effort. There is no blueprint for success and this is a hard and unforgiving business. Comedy is an apprenticeship that requires determination and learning from experience and making mistakes in front an audience, week in week out.

I don't know if I will be able to deal with everything that comes with evolving into the comedian that I want to be. Already at this gestival I have laughed and cried, made new friends and reaffirmed old ones.

The times when audience members tell me that I am brave to stand on stage, I sometimes long to tell them that true bravery would be to give up my dream or to compromise and lower my standards. I may never find the courage to shake the hand of someone I admire, which is a great shame because if their journey is anything like mine, then I am sure that they would really appreciate it.

Matt Price: My Girlfriend Was Attacked By A Small-Time Wannabe Gangster And This Is What I Did About It is at the GRV at 21:40 until August 30.

Published: 24 Aug 2009

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