Why comedy quit me

Dan Atkinson runs with a theme....

Until about a year ago, I was a your usual happy, horny, over-praised and under-fed working comedian. I would turn up for work of an evening, trot out the same old merry hackery, get my laughs then wobble home through the night.

Then one day I noticed odd things starting to happen. It started with a general stutter on punchlines, unnoticeable except to the trained eye of the expert heckler, or the over-trained eye of the reviewer. As an example, instead of saying 'ooh, get a load of those tasty wobblers' I'd find it coming out like 'oooh, get a load of those toasty w-wobblers'.

This went on for a good two or three months, then the problems really began: full-blown stories would come out entirely serious, and the laughs quickly turned to boos, and sometimes on the worst occasions, boooooos.

It was impossible to tell if the professional failings were happening all the time or just on stage.  You see, as a comedian, I would use my superiority complex to exercise my right to avoid having to be funny in real-life situations anyway, so it was impossible to tell. Was the curse all encompassing, or was I just being my usual obnoxious aloof self?

Then, one morning, at around 1pm, a letter arrived. It would have flopped onto the doormat if the rate of pay for comedians had changed in the last fifteen years, but as it hasn't, I can't afford a doormat.

The letter was brief but to the point: ‘Dear Dan, I'm quittin' you. Yeah, that's right. I'm quittin' you cos you take me for granted. I'm quittin' you cos you don't like your audiences. I'm quittin' you cos you don't write enough. I'm quittin' you cos you like to gig drunk just in case it gets interesting again. Well I've had enough so I'm splittin'. Lots of Love, Comedy. PS You ugly.’

With no right to reply, that was it. Gone. Comedy had quit me. I wanted to explain how it wasn't just me, that we're all a bunch of cunts deep down, it's just that some of us are better at pretending not to be than others. But that's the problem with letters, you don't get a chance to explain.

Since that day I haven't been able to write a single funny joke.

Luckily for me this is a boom time for comedy and people will buy any old shit so I'm still able to make a decent living as a comedy writer.

Published: 21 Oct 2012

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