I got home from work to find a letter in an official House of Commons envelope had been delivered. It was from Anna Turley, the newly-elected Member of Parliament for Redcar, the constituency within which my humble abode is situated.
I am indebted to Gel Williams for her help in making this happen. Anna has asked to be kept in touch with the progress of my Time to Change project (something she may later regret!) and hopefully at some point in the future I will be able to thank her in person for such a supportive letter.
The rest of the evening was taken up with my second ever attempt at live stand-up comedy. There were two definite parallels with my “debut” last December… the more experienced performers were all very friendly and encouraging, and once again I was incredibly nervous.
Last night’s gig (as we say in the trade…) was held at the Westgarth Social Club in Middlesbrough. The venue was smaller than The Stand up in Newcastle, but the stage felt quite a bit bigger. The lighting was less intense, which was a blow… it is a whole lot easier when you can’t see the people you’re trying so hard to amuse and entertain.
The standard of acts was also very good… another blow. The three who were on before me (compere Lee, Simon and Allan) all looked at ease behind the mic, and engaged really well with the audience. I, on the other hand, was worried about everything from remembering my lines to something as outwardly simple as how to stand without looking ridiculously awkward.
Whilst trying to decide whether or not to take my drink on stage with me, I nearly missed my cue, but despite my all-too-obvious nerves the routine started well with the first punchline being rewarded with a few welcome chuckles.
The second story didn’t really work though; and I was definitely thrown by one supposedly “funny” line getting no reaction at all. I stumbled through what unfortunately was the longest part of my routine, trying desperately to avoid more tumbleweed blowing across the stage, before things thankfully began to improve. The next two gags got a decent reaction, and the final “overtaken by a pineapple” tale (the one I’m most comfortable relating) went down as well as I could have hoped.
And with that, it was time to exit stage right (or left if you were in the audience)… task no.47 completed.
I didn’t get the same rush of adrenaline that I’d had in Newcastle (and was desperately hoping to experience again), but that was undoubtedly down to the fact that one of my so-called jokes crashed and burned. For a split second, I didn’t know what to do; my mind felt like it had gone blank, and getting through the routine left me with a feeling of relief rather than exhilaration.
In hindsight I will realise I’m being hard on myself. I’m not a performer… I’m not a comedian… but not only did I have a go (strictly speaking another go) I managed to recover from what for me was a really difficult moment and finish the routine to the sound of laughter rather than silence.
And one day I hope that’s something I can be proud of.
Will I do it again? Honestly I doubt it, but you should never say never I suppose.
The most important thing is that in completing these two totally different tasks, I have the opportunity to reiterate the reason why I started this project in the first place.
Mental health issues affect so many people in so many ways. There remains a stigma attached to conditions that are essentially unseen, but can have such debilitating effects. It’s not easy to accept that you need help, and it takes real courage to ask for that help, but with understanding and support (in whatever form) comes an inner strength and a resolve to fight.
Bad days… poor jokes… they happen; just don’t give up, because things can, will and do get better.