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.”
And we’re all sitting around on our phones, our computers and our tablets on our couches, by our desks, in the car while the mom’s driving you to school, or you’re experiencing a near-fading experience listening to your CEO droning on about the four C’s that’ll drive productivity forward, as we read the how’s and the why’s about Robin Williams.
And Robin Williams, the human being that brought us the best version of alien you could get in Mork and Mindy, an unforgettable Genie in Alladin, the uplifting voice of reason in Good Morning Vietnam, the aspiring teach in Dead Poets Society, the deadbeat in The Fisher King, or even the creepy guy in One Hour Photo, amongst all the numerous standup routines and countless other characters per minute he portrayed, is today and for all time not breathing.
I’m not here to over-analyse why Robin Williams did it, nor will I fawn over his many accomplishments; more versatile bloggers, news outlets and intellectuals will provide such wicked commentary for you.
Nor do I wish to label Robin Williams by anything other than his name; “boisterous”, “excentric” and “over-the-top” have been some of the many that everyone’s been clinging to stick to.
And I’m not going to sympathise over Robin William’s battle with alcohol and drugs; he battled depression, yes, so do many of us, including me. You don’t know my depression, I keep it quiet. Those closest to me see it and they don’t understand what I’m going through, fighting their own battles themselves. And the best excuse, I don’t think I’m important enough for anybody to worry about, so my depression I wage war on alone. And he did too or with family, it doesn’t matter.
Remember, it’s not a tragedy that Robin Williams couldn’t win against depression if you’re loaded and got time to visit a counselor 5 times a week.
I just want to say, I’m sorry Robin Williams. Like everyone else I drew inspiration from, you inspired me. I liked his portrayal in movies and his stand-up is insane (not was, we haven’t lost his art, we just lost more of what he wanted to say), and recently I listened to quite a few. How could you even follow his brain as it spewed it all out??
No, I’m sorry I didn’t pay enough attention to you, Robin Williams (and I know you’re reading this blog, Robin Williams, Steve Jobs handed out a free iPad 2000 the minute you stepped through the Pearly Gates), as I’m sure you would’ve really taken notice if people paid attention.
And you know what, Robin Williams, I’m sorry I didn’t work hard enough to finally meet you and say, “Hey Robin Williams…”
And you would’ve gone, “Hey buddy, what you doing there repeating my name Robin Williams in every paragraph on your blog, you getting ‘robinrepetitis?'”
And I would’ve replied, “You know what, Robin Williams, I guess so. How very Williamsesque. Na-nu, na-nu.”
Just then, a twinkle gets in your eye as your recognition for the prank-parlour trick comes into play. “You second guessed yourself,” you’d quip, and we’d laugh because the anti-punchline would be more inspiring that pandering to the belief of trying to make the other person love you instead of just showing people how you try to love yourself, and how difficult it is.
I’m not making sense on this blog entry today, but I’m quite sure that I’m gonna miss the chance to have said hello face to face to Robin Williams, like everyone else on earth wished they could.
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 don’t blog. I don’t. A lot.
I do not so in the vain attempt that I look at my blog, stare at the screen for a few minutes, then realise I’m 4 hours into my work day and I haven’t done a thing.
Today, I’m well aware I’m not done with my work, but I visited my blog and 15 people joined in to read.
Well, bully for me. Thank you.
So, as much time as I spend on Twitter, I should make adjustment for times when life hands me the opportunity to reach those 15 people and say, “Thank you.”
On other news, I’m ridiculously happier than I was a month and a half ago. But there’s still room for more. C’mon, Tony Robbins, make your pappy proud and helo me listen to your self-help claptrap.
Oh, and Armchair Sundays is going well. Come visit, we’ve got comedy and stuff. 🙂
“A Portuguese man, to the people of South Africa, is like a grizzly bear: hairy, growls and eats fish.” – Nelson de Gouveia, after watching Sonia Esgueira
Sonia Esgueira – So…You Think You Can Love? ran until the 30th March 2013.