Comedians seem to be the people to listen to about life these days.
There’s the obnoxious ones and then there’s the ones I passionately like. Last night was my very favorite one. (I don’t actually go and listen to many other ones.)
I got into going to Work in Progress gigs really by chance. There are a few spaces where comedians can try out new work near me. Jackson’s Lane, and a few pubs with a downstairs space. And when I randomly saw one posted on Twitter about two years ago – a double bill, first Marcus Brigstocke, then Phil Jupitus – I was more than happy to spend ten quid on a ticket.
Marcus was doing material for The Brig Society back then, really political, really
passionate angry, it was great fun. Phil was doing improv as a German sailor who hardly spoke English and probably didn’t think there would be an actual German in the audience (I don’t know if he ever did anything with that particular material.) I didn’t heckle too much though. The audience was sitting in the dark, like at a normal gig.
Another try-out gig, the following year: Marcus at the downstairs of the Aces bar, telling stories of his life, doing requests. I was in front of the stage, knitting. At least until the storytelling started. That was much smaller, much more personal. I think that one got me hooked.
Every one of those gigs were becoming progressively more personal. And I was quite prepared for the one I went to yesterday getting to me, because it’s always raw.
And it did.
First of all I was late (looking after two teenagers instead of just one for a day will mess up your schedule) so I had to find a place in the back. It was a tiny gig, and the room was lit. Everyone was really close to each other, physically. And yeah it was comedy but Marcus is never just doing comedy. A lot of it is quite personal, a lot of it is important. It’s like someone having coffee with you, goofing off and really trying to impress you. But in a deeply intelligent, open and self-aware way, and you can’t help but like them. And you get to hear what’s happened to them in the past year, since you saw them last. I have people I have coffee with like that. It’s great.
There was a lot of stuff, obviously I won’t post spoilers – lots of hilarity, moments where you feel like wrapping the speaker, and each other, in a big warm hug – but there was one bit that I think won’t be in the gigs, so I can talk about it. It’s the whole way the sense of entitlement was practically dissected. How it affects someone who has it.
On my way home I was thinking of my own life, with my sense of entitlement starting at zero – you think I’m joking, but growing up in East Germany was all about managing expectations, about not being too big for your shoes, or too interesting or different in any way. You were told that you weren’t beautiful but you’d do. By your family. It seems to make sense in an egalitarian society – but it really did not work. People were mean and awful to each other.
The first impression I had from going to West Berlin for the first time is exactly this – how people were just more. More colourful, more impressive, more themselves. This wasn’t so much about all the stuff we could suddenly buy. This was just simply about people feeling entitled to being more… happy?
I still sometimes ask my mum, who was born in ’44 so grew up with that society (she was a teacher and vice principal, and a school inspector for a while), why, if nobody really owned anything and everyone’s jobs were secure, people were still such nasty pieces of work? Who knows. Humans are weird.
So my journey has been about actually feeling that I deserve more – and I’ve gone down, and backed out of, some very weird winded paths in my time. Part of what I’m working on is to be respected and listened to as a professional with a considerable amount of experience – knowing theoretically that you’re good and actually feeling it isn’t the same. My curve has gone up to where I’m now almost able to stand up and perform a talk, and be listened to. And there’s the personal stuff, where I’m now able to go up to a guy after their gig and have a chat with them 🙂 The bit that was much more interesting for me is Marcus talking about what his sense of entitlement has done to him in his relationships. This was practical stuff. And very interesting. I’ve struggled with this area for such a long time. And that’s funny when you inherently love people as much as I do. So where was my problem? Feeling that I wasn’t really entitled to someone trying to make me happy? I still remember the first time I ended up actually on a date with someone I fancied. (It didn’t go past that date.) That’s two years ago.
In any case I’m going to a workshop tonight where I’ll work on performing something I’ve written. For the first time. Ever. Creepytastic!