Here’s a blog I wrote for the Young Fabiens
For as long as I remember, I’ve always wanted to be a comedian. I thought comedy was magical, I remember watching Blackadder and Yes Minister with my Mam and Dad and wondering how they managed to flip normal words and situations inside out and turn them into something magical. As teenagers, friends and I obsessed over Alan Partridge and The Fast Show and, when I moved abroad for the first time, it was Father Ted that stopped me getting too homesick.
The town that I’m from has produced a startling amount of comedians for a place that is little more than a shopping centre surrounded by a housing estate. Tommy Tiernan, an Irish comedy God went to the local boys’ school alongside fellow comedy legend and star of Black Books, Dylan Moran. Both comedians went on to win stand up comedy’s most prestigious prize, the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
I thought comedians were geniuses and never dreamed that it was something I could do.
After leaving university, I spent a year working in Spain. I had a vague idea of auditioning for a drama school there but I no longer really had the heart for it any more, instead I just taught English and worked in an Irish bar. It was fun but I found just working and going out at night boring and a bit depressing. I started going home early from parties just so I could listen to Radio 4 comedies on my flatmates computer. There I would be, at 4 am in the morning, in Madrid, listening to stand up comedy from the Edinburgh festival, feeling like I eavesdropping on a magical kingdom.
One night, homesick and miserable I heard Tommy Tiernan interview my old drama teacher. He had also taught Tommy too. He had run a drama club after school and had been one of the most inspirational and wonderful people I had ever had the privilege to meet. Here he was chatting to my hero about how important and special comedy was. It was like a lighthouse beaming through a long cold night. I knew even if I failed horrifically, I had to at least try. I moved to London, enrolled in a stand up course, did my first gig and I haven’t stopped since.
Stand up comedy is not a glamorous job. I still have a part time day job temping so it involves working from 9-5, then either jumping on a train to some place in the middle of nowhere to do a twenty minute set or arriving at a club in London to try out new material. I also write occasionally for Radio and TV shows; which is stressful but very exciting.
I wouldn’t describe myself as a “political comedian” although I do have material attacking the coalition and have a few jokes about my love for Ed Miliband. It can divide rooms; Conservative older crowds tend not to like an Irish girl criticising their government and lots of younger, student gigs don’t like any suggestion that a mainstream political party might be alright.
If I’m booked to do gigs in certain areas in the South East and suburbs outside of London I prepare myself for audiences that will not share my enthusiasm for Ed’s leadership choices. I joke that Labour HQ could use me as a budgie to gauge which marginal areas are returning to Labour on the basis of their responses to my set. I’m in a privileged position, in that I can communicate what I think to new audiences every night; if you are laughing at someone’s joke you are temporarily seeing the word from their angle, but I am ultimately a clown not a politician. A comedian that wants to be taken seriously should be approached with as much caution as a politician trying to be funny.
Comedy at its best is about reassuring people that they’re not alone, that the worries, insecurities and embarrassing failings that we think are ours alone are shared by a room full of strangers, laughing along in recognition. A really great comedy gig is a truly cathartic, beautiful life affirming experience that briefly transforms how you view the world and affirms the dignity of being human, the wonder of being alive and the importance of silliness and joy.
I’m very proud to be a stand up, when you have a bad gig, it can feel wretched, but when a really good one comes along, it feels like a landslide victory.