In my vain quest to better myself, I wrote the “Nelson’s Personal Top Ten Commandments Slash Resolutions of 2015”, which I’m printing out and framing somewhere so it looks all cool and stuff:
- Thou shalt be funnier
- Thou shalt allow thyself more time for creativity
- Thou shalt NOT be sequestered into banal activities that succumb thee to procrastination like “videogames” or “let’s go visit my mother”
- Thou shalt write some more, including another script. The wise sage Luc Besson wrote “Leon” in 2 weeks and that turned out fucking awesome.
- Thou shalt return to a major inner-city comedy club to perform and make the proletariat laugh and giggle at new and fancy shit.
- Thou shalt live in a palatial home with a marble…kitchen counter, and a functioning toaster.
- Thou shalt NOT use said toaster, as thou hast denied thyself ALL carbs.
- Thou shalt stay focused and driven…and by driven, meaning thou shall have sold thy motor-veHEEcle and opt for walking to thy abode of employment
- Thou shalt continue to love those near thee, and remember to call at least one person a week for a chat and a debate.
- Thou shalt love thyself…and remember that thou were the fastest swimmer out of a couple of trillion others that didn’t make it.
The two most terrifying things that could happen to me today are: a. getting arrested in Australia and b. a tweet from someone famous.
— IG: nelsonscomedy (@nelsonscomedy) August 14, 2014
“You’re really brave to say the things you say.” And Bill smiled.
I read that and was amazed at that observation. Bill Hick’s autobiography, American Scream, opened my eyes up a little. Has that been my failing all along, that I’ve not been talking about what’s really inside me?
I’ve noticed the greats are doing that; Bill Hicks talked about his passion for an America he hated, “I’m gonna overthrow the government and replace it with a democracy.”. Richard Pryor was open about his failings, “Nothing like setting yourself on fire to make you realise you’re in deep shit.” Louis CK, in paying tribute to George Carlin and what he learnt about being a writer, “I have to dig deeper everytime I throw away old shit to find something new to talk about.”
I feel like I’m scared to really talk about what I’m thinking, that I hide my real comedy behind a layer of diatribe that’s been pulverised into a blender and regurgitated out for a massive few, while the greats constantly strove to work hard at being themselves.
There have been moments, however, when I’ve felt like myself. Most recently, I headlined Ellingtons in Bellville, Cape Town before one of the major soccer matches, and they had it on the big screen behind me. As I went up, I knew I had a short space of time to say before the game started, which reminded me of those many times when my dad told me to move out of the way from the television set, and the crowd bought it, it made sense. “Was your father a glass-maker?” “I don’t know, dad, I’m 4, what do you do?”
But I categorise my persona in two ways:
– When I’m surrounded by people that I think will get me, and that includes the comics and the promoter
– When I’m in an alien environment I’m unsure of, and I dish out familiar, bottled material in order to keep it safe.
How I should categorise my persona is as follows:
– Say what I like about what I’m thinking, and hopefully the crowd will get it.
I did a show last night in Melbourne, Australia, in a beautifully packed room with a good stage. No one knew me, I didn’t speak to the other comics, but I kept thinking about that line from Bill’s biography and decided to open with something familiar and proceed with something fresh:
“Hi everyone, nice to meet you. My name is Nelson Jose Goncalves Ribeiro, I’m 34 years old and I was born in Venezuela, to a Portuguese family and grew up in South Africa.
“This means, Australia, that I’m not your f***ing problem.” That got laughs.
“You don’t have to fret, I’m not endangering the social structure here, I’m purely passing through. I know it seems unfair, this f***ing foreigner coming over here stealing our spots in open mic nights away from decent hard-working local comedians who happen to also be lazy scumbags that can’t hold down a job, the b******.
“My visa ends on the 15th, my ticket is for the 14th. So no matter what happens tonight, the immigration question has been answered.”
I painted my nails pink yesterday.
It started as a friendly game with my love interest as she straightened her hair, and I looked at the nail polish she had on her table. I picked it up and wondered, “What would she say if I started painting my nails pink?”
We had just returned from a brunch meeting about our relationship, highlighting our differences while keeping our emotions from flying. We intended to be upfront and straight with each other but, I’ll admit, it’s pretty hard. I keep everything close to me, I couldn’t admit being the soft one when the man in me should be huffing and puffing his chest around like a baboon with a huge erection.
Ok, I’m not a baboon. Keep Reading
I listen to Louis CK everytime I wake up.
For years, the sound I’ve used to play on my phone to wake up me up every morning has usually been the standard tones Apple adds preinstalled for the iPhones they’ve created…from the wistful yet semi-annoying “Bells”, to the utterly annoying and relationship-destroying “Radar” that, on many an occasion, an elbow has connected with my ribcage by an irate girlfriend who has already tolerated a few hours of my awful snoring.
You get off stage, having pummeled the crowd with joke after joke that kills, that murders, that slays. Backstage, you wipe your brow as the other acts pat your back and praise you for that quick turn when the heckler almost threw you off-course from the journey of self-exploration you were taking the audience through.
This is your job, this is what you live for.
And that’s the vision I see most comedians that have pursued our line of work full-time experience many evenings as a full-time comedian.
Back at the farm, while the young comics emerging into the crowd open-mic circuit trying their luck to impress not just the crowd but the promoter in the hope they get a chance to return, some hardened comedians stand aside and watch as people below them begin to flower, while others above them live the life they dream, and I’m one of those.
I don’t pertain to be a veteran or a professional, but for someone that cannot go by a week without performing at least once in front of a crowd, it stopped being a hobby a long time ago. I remember the time I made the leap from hobbyist to proper comedian; I was heading back from a full night at a Laughing Horse gig in Temple, London, hosting a birthday party event where two guys brought dozens of friends and family each to watch. Not only did we perform our usual tricks, but we gave the birthday boys the credit they deserved by making their evening enjoyable. And when I got home, I received a text message from the showrunner: “Great job, mate, till next tme.” (deliberate misspelling).
And there and then, I realised, I can’t live without it.
But the reality of the situation is, I am not going to make it as a full-time stand-up comedian. Not at the moment. I’ve been diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), which to many is a made-up term for someone that is just lazy; to me, it’s a reality where I cannot, for the life of me, focus on one particular thing. Where I procrastinate so heavily it makes my teeth ache that I haven’t written a script in 6 months, or haven’t created a painting in over 3 years.
That last one, that’s a hobby.
The disorder prevents me from really pushing forward in other areas designed to add value to my stand-up career; you don’t just get famous for your act, you accentuate your comedy career with other aspects that people working in the industry for real (promoters, bookers, agents) rally around you for, as in today’s age Youtube has more viewers than television, and you gotta bring the big bucks in.
So what happens to me? I’m still at it, plowing away. I can’t stop being a full-time comedian, I have to continue being someone’s opening act (one day) or constantly work hard to be part of the family of comics that work together. One comic still told me, “You have great ideas, Nelson, but I know you, you don’t follow through.”
And that’s why I’m at the office right now, waiting for a developer to finish his work before I can do my day-job, which sucks as it’s officially sanction overtime I volunteered for. And yes, it sucks to be me right now.
Still, it’s better than being a fish and chip shop owner.
One day, in my short little life, I’d like the idea of someone saying, “Hey Nelson, I loved your script. Can I buy it from you?” or “Hey Nelson, can I produce your script for you?” or “Hey, aren’t you a script writer?”
Throughout my career, I’ve heard of this wonderful little world where people hunched over type-writers or computers make an OK living out of ideas fleshed out in a step-by-step script that people will enjoy and, while I’ve dreamed of turning these ideas into reality, the truth of the matter is I don’t have the time, patience or love of many friends to convert these into plausible videos or radio shows.
So I’m making them available to you for free. Here it is, there they are. Feel free to browse, read and be amused by them. Steal them, go ahead. I’ll be proud to just have a credit and enjoy my work out there for people to see. Paul Arden encouraged people to give away their ideas in his book, “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be.“, my motivational Bible and I’m following suit.
And if you want to buy the rights and make it the way you see fit, my contact details are right up there, go ahead and get a hold of me.
And this disclaimer, by the way, was encouraged by my comedy hero, Louis C.K.
You can find them over at my Scripts page by clicking the link, or follow the menu options above above, and I’ll let you know via Twitter when new ones are available.
I’m pretty ok with money a lot of the times. When you’re living by the seat of your pants every day your blood begins to boil at the sight of the petrol price rising up like cake flour, you tend to forget you have limited funds, and you venture off from the petrol station sulking that your idea of buying an iPad mini seems further and further away.
And then I thought, why didn’t my parents teach me how to be good with cash? I mean, they did, to constantly save for a rainy day. In London, that’s a silly notion to forget considering its island status, but the notion for never over-spending was drilled into me.
Forget that, I want to know how to invest.
We get bombarded every day with advertisements from investment companies drawling through quick marketing schpeels like, “Invest in a lump sum”, “fixed rate deposit”, “taxable income” or anything a bank marketing executive can *pop* out of his arse, but what happened to the good old days when you father could just say, “I know a guy, he’ll make you money”?
And my brain continued further, and then what came to me was a revelation in itself. Where did my parents teach me about relationships?
Good Lord, that’s when the world around me turned upside down. I never learnt a shred about relationships, not limited to girlfriends but with people in general. They’re so reclusive, they never really enjoyed me having friends but wished me to stay indoors, work in the corner shop or for any other stupid Portuguese shop owner. Sports was a no-no; why spend your time socialising in the playing field and keeping fit when there was R20 per day to be earned?
And as for girlfriends, I went through those like a fat kid let loose in a chocolate McFlurry store (no, there’s no such thing, but it’s the morning and my analogy machine is in the fritz), and the only role-models I could muster any example from was either from television, which timescaped so quickly I never realised you actually spent time in-between human interaction by doing other things, but my own parents’ ability to disassociate themselves from their own feelings and regard each other purely as “necessities”, the man bringing the bacon and the mother taking care of the house, but neither quite considering that their own emotional distance they imposed between each other filtered towards the children that required that same example in the first place.
And motivation, oh boy. To proceed towards a career you actually wanted? No, there’s no time for that, there’s money to be made, and a free economy full of sweets, chocolates and soft-drinks to exploit. I was never told that I am capable of anything, I was required to be something except a burden, and that was it. Get a job, work and pay rent, that’s it, nothing else, keep to the basics, make sure you have all those sorted and then everything else is a bonus until you become a burden to your health insurer. What do you mean, “Follow your dreams?” Dreams are when you sleep, reality is for feeding your face.
If it wasn’t for being influenced generally rather than specifically, in my case I was far removed from my family when I began comedy, I may perhaps have been convinced in a very hardened way to remain in South Africa for all of my life, to finish college and begin my life as a graphic designer, which I studied, instead of being lost in the ether and discovering an ability to influence people through teamwork, videogames and comedy. But I had to find that motivation, that opportunity, or else I would’ve lingered in creative purgatory.
I would’ve still liked my family and friends to have pushed me earlier.
It sounds like a cry for attention, but I’m looking at it positively and generously. If
you have kids, look at them and realise you can’t JUST feed and clothe them. You have to pay them attention, find the personality brewing inside them and lead by example. If you’re deranged, don’t show it and bring out the confidence, whether you have it or not. You brought them in, you owe it to them to show what they should be like, not just as spongers of a flawed societal system but of people that can contribute in better ways, through artistic, scientific or, at the very least, sociological advancements.
Who knows, you may have spawned the next Picasso. Don’t treat him like a janitor, he’s better than that and you know it.