A brief update from Ethan about self-worth.
After an unannounced hiatus (sorry, Phil), I return with plenty to say and plenty of xenophobia. Just in time for my return to the UK before Brexit stops me from ever seeing my French friends again.
My first semester in Paris is over, and my second one has ushered in a lot more gigs and workshops for me to attend. My new year’s resolution is usually to lose enough weight to survive until December, but this time I’ve decided to step further into masochism and force myself into asking for slots to perform comedy.
I found this hard, and it took me a week of drafting emails before I even bothered to search for the email addresses I needed. I first realised that I found asking for gigs more difficult than writing or performing comedy when I changed my Facebook job description to Comedian and subscribed to Tinder Gold. It’s not that I’m less likely to be rejected by bookers there, but that I’m less likely to ever know.
In fact, if you ever peak behind the curtain to see the offensive, shock comedian sweating over whether anyone will like their ‘I don’t give a fuck about your opinion’ routine, you’d soon realise most comedians only tell jokes on stage to avoid doing so with the ‘normal people’ in the audience during regular social interactions.
That’s not to say all comedians suffer with anxiety, depression or self-doubt to the same extent, but we all know how close to teetering over the edge we all truly are. It’s why we’re always telling each other to avoid reviews at the Fringe: we all know the feelings a one-star review can bring to a comedian’s wrists.
I come from a family filled with mental illness, but so does everyone, so it doesn’t excuse that tasteless joke. I’m sorry if it offended you, but I don’t give a fuck about your opinion.
After three final drafts of the emails I was to send, I was pleased to get nice messages back from everyone I’d eventually emailed. It got me two gigs off the bat: one that has already happened, and another that will happen soon in February. I wasn’t surprised as, even when I’m trapped inside the gaze of social fear, I know everyone’s going to be nice to me if I ask politely; my hair makes me seem too threatening. And not everyone’s maniacally evil or from a silent movie about the police.
The gig that has already happened was a soft, ridiculously kind gong show of sorts: four comedians competed, and the loser got a cream pie in their face. No winners involved. I came third, but the guy who got last place pushed me into the trajectory of the pie at the last moment, and that’s why I’m on the train looking and smelling like an ice cream giant jizzed in my hair. The other gig is a regular seven to eight-minute slot, though I might get creampied if I play my cards right.
My emails also got me a request for a video of my stand-up, which thankfully I have hundreds of owing to the Revue filming every show: what a great asset this has been, as it’s usually quite difficult for a new comedian to get a decent camera with a good microphone into a venue if they’re just doing five minutes for no money. Although, that changes if you go for the creampie.
What I didn’t have, though, was a headshot. I ended up cropping a group photo of me and the Revue committee from last year – if it wasn’t for the Revue, I’d be at the bottom of the pile, and not at the top of the short waiting list for this bigger gig. I’d also be a successful dual honours student.
I’ve joined a French language improv group as well – we meet every Sunday and focus more on the French language than improv comedy, but it’s been invaluable as an improv experience: doing it in another language has boosted my confidence in both my language skills and my improv skills, because as usual, my experience shows that failing without a safety net on a stage in front of strangers is the baptism of fire you’ll need to find out if live comedy is for you. If the psychological masochism of performing live comedy is for you. The real insecurities should stay back stage.
And there you have it: the lesson you should take away from this. Confidence is key.
You need confidence to ask for gigs. You need confidence to perform on stage. You need confidence for comedy.
Stand-up, sketch and improv all rely on the artist being confident enough to shout, “hey everybody! Look at me! Like my jokes! But, if you don’t, I don’t give a fuck about your opinion.”
Ethan has been a TSR member for two and a half years, he’s been aimlessly wandering around France for the academic year. All words and opinions from this article are his. You can follow him on twitter if you want (@theejdavies).