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Another comedian is not going to the Edinburgh Fringe this year because he is preparing his Edinburgh Fringe show

Another comedian not going to the Edinburgh Fringe this year

Martin thinks camping around is too extreme for me

In a previous blog, almost a month ago, I mentioned comedian Martin Soan’s suggestion that he and I take a one-week barge trip through rural England.

He told me then: “I do all the barging. I do all the cooking. And you just sit on your computer and you blog. I’ll be telling you stories. But also you’ll be sailing at six miles an hour – roughly two miles an hour faster than walking speed – which is very good for contemplation and creativity. What a brilliant idea that is.”

Last night he told me:

“I looked into it. Hiring a barge is prohibitively expensive. But you could sit on your sofa in your living room at home in Borehamwood and I will get you a roller…”

“The car?” I asked.

“Not the car,” said Martin. “A roller like they used in the old silent movies. I paint lots of country scenery on this roller and it moves along behind your sofa so it feels to you like you are travelling along at six miles an hour. And I do everything else. I do all the work. You just sit there…”

“You do all what work?” I asked.

“Like cooking,” said Martin. “Cooking, cleaning and rollering and the scenery goes past you like in the middle distance at a perfect speed for cogitation and imaginative thought.”

“What about the lack of water?” I asked.

“Well,” said Martin, “you’ll have your computer with you, so you can’t risk having any water around. You would have been OK on a barge with a computer, but that’s prohibitively expensive and camping on riverbanks is too extreme for you.”

“Camping on riverbanks is too extreme for me?” I asked.

“Too extreme for you,” said Martin.

“I don’t mind extreme,” I said, slightly miffed.

“I know a trip down the River Wye…” continued Martin.

“Why?” I asked.

“Wye,” repeated Martin wearily. “And you can do a three day trip down and it only costs you £150 to hire the canoe and you can…”

“Did you say canoe?” I asked, slightly worried.

“Canoe,” confirmed Martin.

“That sounds a bit extreme for me,” I said.

“It’s an absolute genius holiday,” Martin emphasised.

“Is a canoe like a barge?” I queried.

“Nothing like a barge,” said Martin, “but the same rules apply. If it’s raining, that’s tough but – you know – it’s always raining. It’s amazing. When you’re outside in Britain 24 hours a day, it is amazing how much rain there is out there. You would say it hadn’t rained today, wouldn’t you?”

“It hasn’t rained today,” I said, trying to be helpful.

“It has rained three times,” said Martin.

“Where?” I asked.

“Here, there and everywhere,” replied Martin. “Believe me. I speak the truth. It always does.”

“It does in Edinburgh, that’s for sure,” I said. “Why aren’t you performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year?”

“I can’t say why,” explained Martin, “because it would go in your blog and people would know about it. And it’s not going to be ready until next year.”

“You don’t have to mention that,” I reassured him, “You only have to say why you’re not going up this year.”

“I’m working on my Edinburgh show for next year… That’s why I’m not going up to Edinburgh this August,” laughed Martin. “I’ve got to a stage of maturity within my showbiz career when I realise it’s pointless.”

“What’s pointless?”

“Me going up to Edinburgh this year. I don’t have the show. Next year, I will have the show. I’m starting work on it now and I don’t want to be rushed into it or cobble things together. Last year’s show was so rushed I didn’t think it through.”

“For example?”

“The exploding maraca man – What a gag – But it was dropped on Day One, because I just had the costume in shreds without the exploded maraca… and no explosion… All these things are fairly essential to make the gag work.”

“You had the maraca?” I asked.

“I had the maraca,” Martin confirmed.

“You had to be there, I guess,” I said.

“Not really,” said Martin.

“But no Edinburgh Fringe show for The Greatest Show on Legs this year,” I checked.

“No,” confirmed Martin.

“Though you might,” I said hopefully, “come up to perform on the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on the final Friday night?”

“I’m certainly coming up for that,” said Martin.

“Are you sleeping on my floor on the Friday night?” I asked.

“No,” said Martin. “I’m sleeping in your bed. You’re sleeping on the floor.”

Mr Methane might have a prior booking on the bed,” I warned him.

“Is he doing the Malcolm Hardee show?” asked Martin.

“Yes,” I said, “unless he gets a call from Spielberg or Las Vegas. He’s done it before. Last time, he did it as a return trip – he just blew in and blew out.”

Martin looked at me and said nothing.

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“My name is Ozymandias, comic of comics”… maybe

I will need incontinence pads soon.

I thought I’d blogged somewhere before about my theory that most comedians are a combination of masochist and psychopath… and then I thought maybe I hadn’t. And then I was sure I had, but I couldn’t find it. And then I did here. Clearly my memory is going. Not that it was ever very good. I’m sure this Coalition Attacking Libya semi-war thing has happened before. Several times. After a while, all post-Korean wars seem to merge into one.

On my Facebook page a few days ago, I mentioned a Sunday Mail interview with the immensely talented Scots comedian and magician Jerry Sadowitz.

In 1995, when the late Malcolm Hardee was writing his autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake, I asked him: “Who is the most talented comedian who has not yet made it?”

He immediately said: “Jerry Sadowitz”.

Or, in fact, “Gerry Sadowitz” because, at that time, I think Jerry was still (as far as we could see fairly randomly) alternating between billing himself as Gerry Sadowitz and Jerry Sadowitz.

In the Sunday Mail interview, it was claimed Jerry predicted he will die penniless and lonely and described himself as a failure who had struggled to find work since his last television series almost a decade ago. It sounded pretty downbeat.

Though, in fact, he can fill large theatres, is very highly regarded by the media and, as the Sunday Mail pointed out, he has been voted one of the greatest stand up comedians of all time.

On my Facebook page, one reaction to the interview, from bubbly comedienne Charmian Hughes, was:

“Yes, failure is a strangely seductive and addictive mistress – so much safer and predictable than the vagaries of success. You know where you are when you think you are not going anywhere!”

I agree. I have seen several performers blow their chance of success. It’s as if they have struggled for so long that they know they can deal with failure, disappointment and rejection, but success is a great – and therefore a dangerous and very frightening – unknown. The pain of rejection is like a release of acid in the stomach and, once you know you can survive it, like all strong physical feelings, it can become addictive.

It is something I think I have noticed in a lot of stand-up comics – perhaps it’s something in all performers. There is this inner, outgoing, self-confident need to show-off combined with a sometimes almost paralysing self-doubt.

This can manifest itself in two areas.

One is publicity where the effervescent, outgoing performer is so fearful of being hurt by criticism that they want to hide inside a bag inside a wardrobe inside a cave in a vast impenetrable mountain range. I’ve been involved with more than one performer who refused to do interviews or any publicity which would expose even the most general details of their private self to any public view.

The other area is even more extreme – career self-harm – and it is epitomised, let’s say, by former punk rocker Johnny Rotten walking off I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here! when it became crystal clear he was going to win it. Anyone who knows the comedy business will be able to remember an exact parallel on another TV reality show involving a successful comic on his way up.

I once chatted to that comedian and said, quite honestly though perhaps a tad insensitively, that I did not know why he had not been picked up by TV producers in the past.

“It could be,” he suggested, “that I have a tendency to tell them they’re cunts.”

“That would probably do it,” I had to agree.

It is the conflict between wanting to perform yet being phenomenally over-sensitive and the fear of failure.

Charmian Hughes admits, “I have done a couple of self-saboteuring things in my life. One was not returning the call of a BBC Radio One producer who came up to me after a show and asked me to write for her before that was a fashionable Radio One thing. I pretended it wasn’t my thing artistically but, of course, inside I was afraid I would be shit at it. The result was I slammed that door in my own face.”

Another comic told me:

“It’s like a knot in the pit of your stomach. The fear. You know you’re going to go up there alone on stage and they may hate you. Not your material. It’s not like doing Shakespeare or Alan Ayckbourn where you are an actor in a play. They see the comic up there on stage telling jokes and it is you. Just you. If they hate you, it is because they hate you for yourself. You have to get up on stage to get the attention you want but, at the same time, the last thing you want is attention. You want to be in the spotlight and you want to hide and both emotions are inside you simultaneously.

“That’s what the problem with publicity is. You want everyone in the whole world to know who you are and to reassure you that you are brilliant and better than anyone else. But, at the same time, you don’t want anyone to know who you are: you want to run away and hide, because you are just a little kid standing up there alone, afraid that you will get told off and you are on the brink of crying inside. It’s like a physical knot inside your stomach.”

Charmian Hughes says:

“I remember a kind of exuberant horror at what I was doing and feeling quite angry with the people who wanted to promote me which quickly turned to self pity when they then didn’t. It takes a lot of personal untangling. Of course, all that was in extremis and I would recognise it immediately now… maybe!”

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Filed under Comedy, PR, Television