As I write this, we are a week or so in to social distancing due to the Corona virus. Comedian’s like myself have been hit hard due to bars, theatres, etc being shut down. As such, our normal income has been cut entirely.
Being, by definition, entrepreneurial, many comics and promoters have come up with other ways to generate income from their own home, usually by putting content out online and asking for donations. This has created for me yet another way for my stupid brain to generate anxiety.
Should or could
A lot of my anxiety comes from pondering what I ‘should’ be doing. Anyone who has done any basic level of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) will know that ‘should’ is a turd of a word for your mind. It places pressure on yourself, creating negative thinking patterns.
The alternative is ‘could’. Saying you ‘should’ do something puts pressure on yourself, and you can make yourself feel bad. ‘Could’ is an option, a possibility. Think it through logically, make a decision. Afterall, you could do something else.
Seeing comics trying new and creative things online make me think it is something I should be doing too. From this is the idea that I am not a ‘proper comedian’ unless I put all manner of content into the world.
Key worker (believe it or not)
Adding to the anxiety of feeling like I ‘should’ do more online content is limitations on my time.
Before the crisis I was in a position whereby I work part time in an office job Monday-Thursday and do stand up around that. In reality, stand up is a nice second income for me, but it is utterly variable. Some months I always have cash in my pocket, and at other times it makes no difference at all.
I work for a home improvement agency, a charity funded by council and health sources that helps over 60s with repairs in their homes, applying for benefits, etc. As such, I am classed as a key worker.
So my day job remains the same. Practically I can’t work from home as I need access to files, etc, so I’m in the office just as much as I was before. This means that I’m not at home all day twiddling my thumbs, thinking about what to do to fill my time.
Of course I do have more free time than before, as I’m not out performing around the country as I was before (most of the time was taken up with driving rather than actually performing), but I’m not at home all day, every day.
Play it safe, or rise to the challenge?
Clearly, the logical conclusion to take is to reflect and see that I don’t need to ‘beat myself up’ over not putting out tons of content. But…
That doesn’t mean I don’t want to create more stuff to put out there. It’s a double edged sword, as all creative work is.
When you create anything, and make it available to public consumption, you open yourself up to criticism. However, the alternative is to simply not bother. But is that better?
A life without challenge is a dull one. Safe, but boring. Unfulfilling.
Online content, in particular, makes me feel anxious. In a comedy club, if someone doesn’t think you are funny, they simply won’t laugh. Only a tiny minority will heckle, because most know that shouting out nasty stuff will make everyone else in the room think they are a dick.
But people consume online content with a feeling of personal anonymity. The online equivalent to heckling is trolling with negative comments on posts, video clips, etc. And many seem to feel that being unpleasant is the point. You can’t simply not like something, ignore it, and carry on with your day. No, you’ve got let everyone know how you feel.
For instance, when I’m performing my solo show at a festival around the country it makes sense to pay to promote it on Facebook. I can guarantee though, that practically every comment will be a negative one.
“Ignore them”, you might say. Yes, but then people may be asking questions about the event, potential customers who I would also ignore.
At the end of the day, is it right that I keep trying to create live shows, and online content, and putting it out in the world? Yes it is. Doing this will always mean opening myself up to trolling. The only solution is to ignore it wherever it comes up, however much work that takes.
Easier said than done, but it is the only option. It is something I will continue to work on.
What I have been doing
I haven’t been completely inactive during this time. I have continued to tweet about current events, and engage with my audience, such as they are.
I’ve also done a couple of online improv shows with ComedySportz, that have been great fun.
Anyone who has seen improv, even if it’s just remembering watching Whose Line is it Anyway back in the day, will know what group improv is. Well, with social distancing, we have been using Zoom to come together and improvise, and have put this out live on YouTube.
We have done live shows at 12.30pm (GMT) Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and also 7pm (GMT) Saturdays. I’ve done two so far, and I’ve really enjoyed doing them. We’ve also had some donations from these shows, so have been able to generate a small bit of income to make up for the lost revenue through my stand-up gigs being cancelled.
You can find info on when the shows are taking place through the Facebook events.
To be ready to watch the shows, subscribe to the ComedySportz UK YouTube channel.
Whilst having to contend with my anxiety about it, I have had loads of potential ideas about things I could work on and create.
I have thought about recording some stuff through Zoom to collaborate with others.
One idea I’ve had for a while, was to do a podcast interviewing creatives form different fields (writers, artists, comedians, actors, etc). I could record this through Zoom, the put it out in video format on YouTube, as well through a traditional audio podcast format as well. We would discuss their process, what got them in to their respective field, influences, and also what creative work they are enjoying today.
I love discussions of creative processes, and I like the idea of talking to people from different backgrounds to see where ideas and process overlap or diverge.
I’ve also had ideas for improvised or scripted comedy interview formats, such as interviewing character creations made up by comedy chums.
Also, I created a character called Zargon in a recent live streamed ComeySportz show that I thought was fun. He is a traveller from the future who answered advice questions from the audience. Maybe I could create more videos with him, potentially even live streaming answering peoples questions about what the future will bring.
Afterwards I raided Sally’s dress up box (and if your partner does not have a dress up box, I feel sorry for you). This is Zargon:
So, I have many things I could do. COULD, not should.
Please let me know if you think any of these ideas sound interesting or fun to you, if there’s anything you would like to see me do.