[THE COMIC steps onto a small stage, to a smattering of polite applause. It is completely dark, apart from a spotlight Upstage, so that we cannot see the whole stage, or anything around it.]
Hello, hello, hello. Everyone. Ummm…I’ve been doing this for a really long time, to the extent that the words I’ll be saying tonight have been stripped of all meaning. But, you’ve never heard them before, have you? So….where have you been? I’ve done this a thousand fucking times, you ignorant – sorry, sorry, it’s not your fault, I haven’t been on the telly or anything, so how would you know?
So, public service announcement: there’s gonna be some swearing. So, if you have children….that’s your look-out, mate. Not my fucking fault, is it? Unless you worked in a bar in the Bristol area in the 1990s, in which case, there’s a chance…that joke doesn’t suit me, does it? No. I wrote it a long time ago, like a lot of this material. [sighing] I was a different person then. [Brightening] That was before the operation! [Sarcastically] A-ha-ha-ha-ha.
[THE COMIC steps out of the spotlight, (Stage Right), and taps microphone on forehead, pensive and distracted. SOUND: Boom of the mic hitting THE COMIC]
Anyway, I wasn’t shagging bar staff in the 90s, I was still a student, shagging absolutely no one. But I digress from my prepared remarks…you know what, let’s keep it going, I’ve got nothing to lose. To be honest with you, I keep thinking every gig lately will be my last. I mean, how much longer can I keep telling the same tired jokes to a disinterested audience who’ve never heard of me and like one in five of them? Well, anyway, let’s just get through it, shall we…?
I went to India to find myself. Turns out, I was in South Gloucestershire the whole time. What a waste of a journey.
Those jokes aren’t very good, are they? But I reckon when you’ve got a pleasant demeanour, it doesn’t really matter. Does it? If people like you, they just find things funny anyway.
I’ve still got the business card of the guy from Time out magazine that I met at a comedy festival three years ago. I never called him, even though he said I definitely should. It’s in my wallet, next to a condom with an expiry date of May 2011. One of these things is redolent of my crippling lack of confidence and inertia in an important part of life that others find easy. And the other is a condom.
[Breezily] So, this is going well. I might kill myself after the show.
[SOUND: Nervous laughter]
Yeah, that usually gets a decent-size laugh, but you’ve picked up on the tension in my voice, there’s something in the atmosphere that makes you wonder if it’s a joke or not. I mean, it should be obvious, because I ‘m a fucking professional comedian.
[SOUND: gentle laughter]
But like all professional comedians, I’m self-absorbed, petty, jealous, depressed and thoroughly dissatisfied with my life.
[SOUND: Two big laughs; more nervous murmuring]
Yeah, that’s it, there’s a frisson of excitement – and that’s the laugh that one normally gets, but it’s usually off the back of a big laugh – it’s just that there’s not much belief in my abilities in this room, is there? Which I can understand. This is a really hard time for me….
Oh, so, now you’re interested, now the mobile phone cameras come out, you can all post it on the you tubes or somewhere, with a title like Stand-up comedian meltdown. That’s what you like, isn’t it? Then you’d take a screen grab or a picture and post it on all the horrible websites where you pretend to like people from a distance, instead of pretending to a person’s face, like we used to when the world was more honest.
That’s the twenty-first century, folks: taking photographs of a screen…a lot of this is not part of the act I’ve been slogging through the past several years. But some of it is. I don’t know which is better, I really really don’t…maybe I should do a whole run of gigs and advertise them all as my last. Would you pay to see that in a small theatre above a pub…? No, of course you wouldn’t – but you might…no.
[THE COMIC laughs, a gentle chuckle at first, enjoying the idea. Gradually, the laugh builds until THE COMIC is giggling uncontrollably; the audience make amused noises at first, but are soon stunned into silence as THE COMIC becomes animated and distressed, writhing on the floor, thrashing around. There is a strange energy crackling in the room; no one is sure if this is part of the show. Some mutter, some are exasperated. One speaks.]
Is this part of the show? ‘Cos it’s either really shit or very disturbing!
[Eventually, THE COMIC calms down and stands up, ignoring THE HECKLER]
Don’t worry, I’m not really gonna kill myself – I’d have to get a lot more famous first, wouldn’t I? Otherwise, there’d be no point. I’ll probably just stop doing this and no one will notice. This isn’t funny, this bit, is it?
So, which is it?
Most likely, I’ll just stop. I’ve said everything I want to say, and so much of my identity is bound up in doing this, it’s really threatening my selfhood. If I was gonna do myself in, it would just be to make you feel really really bad. God, it’s terrible to joke about suicide, isn’t it? If I was a better comedian, you wouldn’t think that, but you are thinking it, aren’t you?
I think that as well – but, again, this routine made sense when I was in my twenties, trying to be edgy and Say Things About Life. And then again, I just think: Yeah, well, it’s a fucking joke, so get over it. It’s hard to do stand-up past the age of 30 without sounding like you’re auditioning for Grumpy Old Men…or Grumpy Old Women. Well done, television executives, there’s a blow for equality.
Are you being sarcastic?
I don’t even know anymore.
Are you finished?
Yeah, I think I am.
[drops mic, exits stage right.]