Updated: Nov 21
I have had many jobs, as I’ve carved my way through my acting career.
You name it starting with the most clichéd ones: Barista, Waiter, Bartender, Model, Hair Model, moving up the ladder from Children’s entertainer, Teaching assistant, Supply Teacher, Drama Teacher, Drama Facilitator – leading to where the money is: Law roleplay, medical roleplay, and Dental role play. To seasonal ones: The Easter Bunny, Crazy Chainsaw wielding Halloween Scarer, free roaming shopping centre elf to an elf trapped in old Georgian house. However weirdly never worked in an office. Let’s hope it stays that way.
The one job I’m careful to mention in polite company is my life modelling. Caveat here, being naked in a room full of strangers is terrifying but also weirdly powerful as you are the one in control, if you put the wrong leg over the other it ruins their drawing, ( Obviously I didn’t do this on purpose, some people are not understanding when it comes to the complexities of spatial awareness). And of course, I was being very careful about crossing my legs one false move and high art turns into a medical exam.
Now as well as it being powerful it is also boring. Staring at a wall for 20 mins my eyes would go red with boredom but it was the perfect dedicated time to think through ideas. Good way of keeping yourself awake too.
I’d keep a notebook so in the break I’d wright down every little sketch, joke, storyline that popped into my head; in-between an awkward robed tea and chat, then a quick dash to the loo.
I came up with a few jokes, some stories & a play ideas. Others things that flitted through my head: how to rearrange my flat, what to do with my hair & how many birds I can think of, but back to the jokes, as this bits important. I’ve got a little book of almost punchlines, comedy characters I decided to explore stand-up comedy at a local group that I’d found on Facebook. I’d always say I was going to go but 'something would come up’, however this particular week I was feeling very frustrated. I was finding it hard to juggle life/work balance, no time for creative work, it was all getting me down.
I was stuck and restless. I decided to go to the stand-up Comedy evening. I emailed, they were keen and said if you have some material come & try it out.
Now the last time I did stand up was for my dissertation it was based on the work of Adrienne Truscott, a brilliant performance artist. I did a section of her show ‘Asking for it’ a piece where I had to be naked from the top down the first time that had happened in the history of the school. I was quite proud that my volva was awarded such a position. One of the students was so shocked she thought I was wearing a merkin – (I wasn’t) just fancied a bit of coverage if I was going to go for it.
That performance helped me become more comfortable with my body. I never would have been brave enough to do life modelling if it wasn't for it. However, I must say that there is nothing sexy about life modelling as one artist (a woman in her mid-40s ) said we see the model like a piece of meat, not a body. Alright okay, thanks. So now I'm commodifying myself. This is what a liberal arts course does to you. You over analyse yourself way too much and understand the patriarchy in a way that leads to second-guessing your actions as feminist? Or internalise misogyny? Thanks for that.
So anyway, I decided to use the stand-up that I did for my dissertation inspired by the work of Adrienne Truscott for this comedy night. A character piece: about a children’s entertainer who loved the idea that the world would explode, she revelled in it. It had a few outdated jokes about Trump and climate change. Which I changed a little, but hardly had any time. My little brother came round.
Him: Are you really going to perform unprepared?
Me: Yes why not, I'm trying to say yes to more things.
He was bemused but wished me luck. I asked him to come. It was a women's comedy night he said he didn't feel his demographic was welcome, plus I would’ve have gotten him to perform up there with me, so it was a hard no.
So off I went a gallop in my step as I had left a little too late – I’ll get something to eat on the way I thought. I got there, a great improv workshop. Everyone was welcoming, some new, some have been a few times before, some veterans. I was on the bill at the end, as my performance was categorized as different. I met lots of kind people who in answer to me saying how nervous I was, said don’t worry it’s my first time too. Okay, so I’m sitting and watching and laughing decided to get a cheeky pint and some nuts to tie me over. One of the women who said it was their first time gets up; they smash it. Laugh out loud funny, well-constructed jokes, second first-timers up; Confident, funny, audience support, spoke to them in the interval:
Wow, you were great, I would’ve never guessed it was your first time.
Well, we did a course in comedy and improv, I've practised, echoes of same, same from the others.
A huge lump in my throat. Shit what I am I doing? Can I just leave? I haven't even practised. I didn’t know anything about stand up, do you practice like a script? Or do you have notes and wing it? I’m doing a dated character piece, oh my god what am I doing? I’ve got to get out of here… next up we have Lily Maryon doing a character piece, she introduces my character.
I stood up hearing my name by this time dripping in sweat. I’ve never been so hot in my life. I felt it crawl up my body. The audience was blurry. I made it to the mic. Couldn’t adjust it. The audience could see the fear on my face. There is nothing worse than someone unsure of themselves on stage it makes the audience cringe. I had a script (yes I know), highlighted. I made some comment not even a joke about that. I said I’m going to play a character, do something a bit different, cringe. At this point, I was feeling a little bit confident thinking back to how it was received the first time.
I started to tell jokes some slight murmurs of laughter. Then I got to the second page, shit, it was originally a two-person bit. So I stepped to the side and became the character of Mother Nature and then step back like some budget puppet show with one hand going back and forth for all the characters.
Boiling. Blinding. I was looking at the audience like a deer in the headlights. The jokes that got laughs three years ago fell flat there is nothing like the sound of no- one laughing, deafening. I almost got through it although I had lost the last page. That was the end of my set.
That's the end of my climate change bit.
I tried not to run out of the bar. The other comedians looked at me with confused smiles. They were kind enough to offer constructive feedback:
We leave it up to the professionals to talk about the big issues
Mortifying. I couldn't get home quick enough.
On the way back I rang my friend to tell her about my ordeal. I got back to my basement flat where the signal is terrible and was trying to finish the joke that I thought would get the biggest laugh.
Trump has deleted climate change evidence off the internet. I didn’t realise you could do that. Wow. Do you think I could get rid of my childhood trauma just by deleting it off the internet that would be nice?
I couldn’t land it as I kept losing the phone signal. I ended up shouting it in my garden at the far end, near an open window. Just at the end of the punch line, the window slammed. I thought well at least that was a reaction.
I didn't go back for a few months. Did go in the end to another workshop and saw another show. It just so happened that no audience turned up so the audience was just the people in the workshop, wish I tried it then, better time to experiment. But at least I did it. I felt shame for about a week. Then it became an amusing anecdote.
Lockdown happened, unfortunately, haven’t been to any more. There are some online, however, concentrating on zoom things for that long tends to mess with my dyslexia and dyspraxia. The easiest way to explain this: is a neurotypical mind is like gallery view on zoom, compared to the neurodivergent brain that sees the world constantly through speaker view.
I will do more now I’ve broken the seal, at least I’ve got material for my next gig.
Anyone who wants to try stand -up comedy’ I can’t recommend enough: Funny Women: Time of the Month https://funnywomen.com/