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.