My DH has his moments. Some of his moments are truly rubbish, and some are really quite inspired. For my 36th birthday in August, frinstance, he presented me with a voucher for a stand-up comedy course in London. I’ve always secretly wanted to have a go at stand-up, but I didn’t know he knew this, so I was really touched, and excited.
Now time has rolled around rather too quickly and the course, run by Laughing Horse , is this weekend, I’m actually bricking myself. I only found out on Monday that I’m expected to bring along an A4 page of ‘material’ to work with. And throughout the two days me and my fellow Michael McIntyre wannabes will be performing little skits to each other. And everyone will be given a spot in a proper open-mike night after the course. Gulp.
Practically everyone I’ve talked about the course to has the same response: I couldn’t get up in front of a room full of people and do that! I know public speaking is apparently one of the most common fears, but it’s not one I suffer from. I’ve always loved speaking in public, from the first time I did a reading at the school carol service in Salisbury Cathedral aged 11. Since then, I’ve spoken at conferences, hosted workshops, and done readings or speeches at a dozen weddings (including my own) and funerals. I’m actually a bit of a show-off, and I must admit I do enjoy the high of ‘performing’ and having everyone’s attention.
No, my anxiety about this course is that I have a deep fear that I’m not actually funny. I’m not one of those people who holds court and always has their friends/family/colleagues in stitches with their quick wit and spot-on hilarious comments and observations. I tend to think of the perfect funny thing to say a couple of minutes too late – the French call this ‘esprit d’escalier’, or ‘wit from the staircase’.
I think I can probably write funny – I am a professional writer, after all, and have even ghosted a couple of bloody funny best man’s speeches in my time – but whether this translates to performance, I don’t know. I fear hecklers because however perfectly crafted my one-liners will be, I might not be quick enough to come back with a great put-down in a live situation. Stand-up isn’t like a wedding speech where the audience is on your side. They might want to laugh and be entertained, but fail to strike a chord and I get the feeling I would be toast.
I don’t have any ambitions to be a professional stand-up, spending every night in a dingy comedy club somewhere, although there are so few prominent women comics that it would be good to contribute in some small way to the Funny Sisterhood. (Speaking of which, I am loving Miranda Hart’s new series on BBc2 on Mondays after University Challenge).
So what of that material? As a mum, I can’t imagine building an act around anything other than that, really. There are so many darkly funny moments as a parent, whether you are juggling work and mummyhood or fully immersed in the world of small people. There was one report after the Edinburgh Fringe this year noting that an increasing number of comics are starting to talk about their babies/kids/families, so I think I’ll join them. After all, who hasn’t laughed (albeit sometimes a tiny bit hysterically) at their offspring’s latest surreal antics, from potty training adventures to random/inappropriate questions beginning with ‘Why…’?
The question is whether an audience will be laughing with me. Wish me luck! I’ll report back next week.