My advice to open-mic comics: Just quit

Paul Case has no sympathy...

Attention all open-mic stand-ups: You're probably not funny. But you're probably deluded enough to think you are.

Using exact science and maths, I’ve worked out that precisely 22.34 per cent comedians have made me laugh. That leaves a yawning, aching chasm 77.66 per cent of you lot that’s left me feeling comically, artistically and spiritually bereft. Let’s not piss about – the chances of you being funny to me are slim. And yet you keep on going, stumbling blindly through an industry which will either crush you or chew you up, swallow you and shit you out with nothing to show for it but an intensely expensive coke habit and a hall of terrible, embarrassing memories to slowly lose your mind in. Your ignorance and arrogance astounds me.

You’ve probably convinced yourself that your mates find you funny. And they probably did. Once upon a time. But now, the bald truth is they probably hate you. Hate the fact that they’re yet again being dragged, silently screaming, to your five-minutes of anti-fame. Hate the fact you're going to embarrass yourself on stage yet again. Hate the fact they’re going to have to lie to your face after yet another sordid display of your lack of talent. Hate the fact you constantly, blatantly crowbar bits of your set into every day conversation to ‘test them out’.

They hate you because they used to love you so much – your intelligence, your wit, your kindness. But now you're a cunt. A self-absorbed, two-faced cunt. Your eyes, those sparkling eyes that used to have so much life in them, are now the pinhead guinea pig eyes of an amateur egoist. You somehow think that every bit of conversation revolves around you. You have turned re-directing otherwise amiable conversation to being about yourself into an art form. Since you became a stand-up comic, whenever you open your fat mouth, your friends can feel a darkness descend around the group as you witter on about the last gig you did, how you met whatever-the-fuck-that-comedian's-name-is, and how you might even be attaining the dizzying heights of fame that mean promoters are obliged to pay 1.7 per cent of your travel expenses.

And they put up with it, because they hope you’ll get over yourself. I’ll be blunt: you won’t. Most of your family have long since stopped caring about you. Only your Mum likes you now. And even her patience is wearing thin. Slowly but surely, you're driving everyone who gives a shit about you away. Nice one.

I hazard your dogged persistence is buoyed up by various encounters with people who have no idea who you are. A perfect example of this is when you are introducing yourself to people. Being polite and nice and stuff (all the basic human functions you've now forgotten how to perform unless the conversation is bookended with you sucking a promoter’s cock) they will ask you what you do.

With all the false modesty your fragile ego can muster, you casually answer that you’re a stand-up comedian. People will invariably reply: ‘Wow, that’s really brave’, as if simply being courageous is good enough. There are tons of stand ups ‘brave’ enough to walk on stage. Only a few leave with any kind of true sense of self-worth. These people have clearly never been in the position where they have to sit through stand up comedy as terrible as yours. If they had, they’d look at you like you were a 50-car pile-up with bloodied limbs sticking out of every available space, and answer with something like: ‘Jesus Christ, do you need a hug?’

Why do you bother? Why, why, why, why, oh why do you bother? Ask yourself that, and answer honestly. You probably won't like the answer.

If all this doesn't touch a nerve, then you're probably quite a good stand-up (or, at least, deluded enough that even a vicious, arguably unfair tirade such as this cannot break through your impenetrable confidence), in which case go forth, make people laugh, and enjoy your pathological desire for self-assurance.

If, however, these words ring somewhat true, I have two kindly words of advice: give up. Just give up. Stop writing, stop performing. Easy. I’ve done all the things mentioned above, and I gave up.

And it’s brilliant because, as time wears on and you begin doing things that make you and others around you much happier, you have a much higher chance of falling into the 12.45 per cent of people in the world who are worth a damn.

Published: 30 Apr 2010

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