I wrote this article for the stand up comedy orientated website Chortle in 2008. It won their best article of the month competition thingie.
Obviously, me giving up comedy is no massive blow to the comedy world - I've been going a year, and it was only in the last three months that I felt I had a set that I was proud of. There have been great gigs, gigs where I've been the only person to tear the room apart, gigs where I've completely torn the room apart.There have also been horrible gigs. Gigs in the corner of pubs where no one paid any attention, gigs where no one was really in the mood for my style and, more often, gigs where I was simply shit.
There is one simple reason that I don't want to do stand up right now - I wasn't working hard enough. To be good, you have to gig. Gig as hard as you can ever gig. Be there night after night after night, constantly tightening up your material, sifting through which jokes worked, which jokes didn't. You have to do at least four gigs a week, constantly flexing your comedy muscle or it will, like any other muscle, grow flabby. And therein lies the heartbreak for me: as much as I love stand up, I simply am not prepared to make it my life.
It is not a part time job if you want to be good at it. There is a stand up who started around the same time as me, who held down a full time job whilst going out almost every night. He has now won a particularly prestigious competition for his level, which is well deserved - he works hard, and is exceptionally talented. I had a 20-hour a week job and still didn’t bother with more than two gigs a week, if that.
My last gig (for quite a while, at least) was going alright, and then I did this new bit at the end. It went down well the first time I did it, so I thought it was a decent gamble. It bombed. I fucked it up. I fucked up the wording, the timing, everything. No, it didn't just bomb. It was recieved by pure and utter silence. Standing up there, it somehow felt like more than silence. I covered it fairly badly, left the stage, apologised to the MC and the promoter and when I left the pub I burst into tears. I’ve never wept like that about a gig. I rang a close friend, who consolled me, bigging up my stand up and saying that it takes balls to get up there in the first place. This, of course, is true. But it isn't enough. I was not crying because the joke failed, but I was crying because when the silence kicked in I knew I was not working hard enough.
I was putting in so much emotional investment into the gigs themselves - urinating every ten minutes, my whole body shuddering with nervousness - that I completely neglected tightening up my act. Steve Martin once said something along the lines of that anyone, with enough practice, can be funny onstage occasionally. It will click sometimes. But to be funny night after night - to make it click - takes so much dedication. And it's a dedication that, sadly, I don't have.