I’ve had a major breakthrough careerwise. Yesterday I showed an audience my pyjamas. It felt true, honest, edgy – though in retrospect maybe I should have washed them (they were toothpaste stains, ok?! Toothpaste!)
It’s often said that comedy = truth. Which isn’t totally correct otherwise the statement “Weasels vary in length from 6 to 17 inches and have long slender bodies” would be funny. Which I guess it could be if I said “weasel” is a euphemism for “penis”. But generally, although not everything that’s true is funny, everything that’s funny is rooted in truth.
For stand-ups, it’s important to know your own truth. Because if you don’t the audience may well tell you. I should know: the gap between being introduced onto a stage and getting to the mike is the sort of sub-atomic measurement that only the Hadron Collider team could calculate, but when I was doing standup there were at least three occasions when that was enough time for someone to shout “Big-nosed c*nt!” at me. (A different person each time, in case you were worried I had some persistent gig-to-gig stalker). Still, impressive stuff – as not only did they instantly spot I had a big nose but they also realised I’m a c*nt.
In order to avoid these situations, most stand-ups will always:
a) Identify their distinguishing feature: “I’m I’m fat/thin/tall/ginger/Pam St.Clements off of Eastenders”
b) Identify their minority status: “I’m black, gay, half-goat/half-fawn (I did a couple of gigs at Jongleurs, Narnia. Tough crowd)
I’ve never really been that sort of performer. Never really talked about myself on stage. Until last night at a gig which I’d come to know as “In Future Learn to Say No”.
I’d agreed to do some material about the Holocaust – whether’s it’s possible to make jokes about this very taboo subject? I won’t share them with you now as what I realise is it’s all about context. You have to know that I’m not the first Jewish Nazi and I have to know that you, dear blog reader, dear “bleader” (if I may coin a hip Web 2.0 contraction that’s bound to catch on) aren’t one of Nick Griffin’s fascist pet dogs.
But the material I wrote did make me talk about my background for the first time in that stand-up way. I enjoyed ranting about the Holocaust obsession of my upbringing, about how truly paranoid it’s made me, spotting potential anti-semitism in everything, from a neo-nazi door-handle that snags my jacket to the most innocent of requests on Facebook to, ahem, “become a fan of Auschwitz” (what next: “John Demjanjuk Wants To Be Friends – Confirm/Ignore”?).
Which is where my pyjamas come in. Obviously, ladies, I mostly sleep in the nude. I’m that kind of sexy kind of sexy guy. That’s the image I want you to imprint on your brain. But if I have to wear night attire, I do have a favourite pair of pyjamas – it’s an OCD- type thing, I get my best night’s sleep in them. And to my shock, I realised as I was writing my material for the Night I Should Have Said No To, that they were blue and white striped ones. OK, they don’t have a yellow star, but hell, what does that mean about what’s going on inside my head?
So yes, last night I showed an audience my pyjamas. And they laughed. It’s something I believe we should demand of all our public figures – Gordon Brown, Arsene Wenger, Susan Boyle. Only then can we really know them. Show us what you wear to bobbies and we’ll tell you if we like you or not.