So my wife left me... Yes! I have a show! | Hal Cruttenden on how a personal crisis was a professional boon

So my wife left me... Yes! I have a show!

Hal Cruttenden on how a personal crisis was a professional boon

This time last year, I was panicking about my next Edinburgh show and tour. I was worried that the topics that consumed me (my family, Covid lockdowns and our hopeless UK government) may not sound too unique in the current comedy climate.

Then, thank god, my wife left me.

My immediate response to her telling me that our 21-year marriage was over was not to punch the air and scream ‘Yes! I have a show!’ I did that about five minutes later.

I’ve never been a comic that has taken on epic themes. Although I like a bit of social satire or making savage attacks on Boris Johnson (I miss him already). My shows are mainly based around my personal situation as a middle-aged married man with a wife, two kids and a growing list of neuroses. I’ve always admired colleagues that can take on a truly fascinating topic outside themselves, but I feel more comfortable keeping myself front and centre as the target of my humour, while also being too lazy to do the research involved in covering wider issues in detail.

The problem with my approach is that it can become quite restrictive if your life doesn’t change. For 21 years, I’ve been married and raised children with my wife. They have all played a massive part in my act. My soon-to-be ex is a huge character and exceptionally funny in her own right. She has given me an excuse to make more jokes about Northern Ireland than an Englishman has any right to make.

My children are a constant inspiration. My youngest still claims that I should never moan about how much I help her out financially at university because she was never paid for the jokes she provided or the performance she delivered as my daughter in my Radio 4 sitcom. I laugh this off but still hand over large amounts of cash to make sure we don’t end up in court.

If you are a stand-up, even if you can’t bear the thought of them, I recommend having kids to freshen up your act. On a more practical level, when they’re small, they make you go to kids’ events in Edinburgh to remind you that that nightmare comedy trade show is actually a festival that’s meant to be fun.

Re-reading the above, a lot of you may now understand my wife leaving. It was a massive shock to me and it has turned my life upside-down but, as a comedian, it is undeniably an opportunity.

Comics are well aware that tragedy makes for the most powerful material. Jokes can be the greatest weapons in the fightback against the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’. Of course you need to process the dark stuff but, my god, it feels good when you can skewer the pain by saying the most outrageous thing about it.

I can only pity those comedians who are in happy relationships and whose loved ones are all well and healthy. Their happiness is doing them no favours as entertainers. If you are in this group and panicking over how bland your Edinburgh show is this year, I can only suggest leaving your partner and throwing your life into turmoil. Your show will be better and I’ll gain a drinking buddy for the fringe. Cheers!

Hal Cruttenden: It’s Best You Hear It From Me will be at the Pleasance Courtyard at 8.10pm during the Edinburgh Fringe.

Published: 20 Jul 2022

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