Sunday, 19 April 2015
Lessons from comedy
I've just been reading Paul Merton's autobiography which came out last year. What's the life of a comedian got to do with art? Quite a lot actually.
It's not a well written book but I like the chap and it's how he speaks so you can read it in his voice and it doesn't grate or bore. And it's a really good account of how a comic starts out and builds a successful career. It's clear he was pretty single-minded and determined to be in comedy from a young age (he read all the biographies available and collected silent films of stars such as Buster Keaton) and is highly analytical in his approach to his craft. He familiarises himself with the venue thoroughly before he goes on, assesses the audience by watching their reactions during the acts before his own (and during his performance of course) and he reflects at length on all his performances, analysing what worked and what didn't.
It seems obvious now - being a comedian is no different than any other creative pursuit. It takes the same dedication, motivation, determination, reflection and hard work that art or writing or music take. Merton gave up his job in the Civil Service at 22 to live on the dole in a depressing bedsit so he could write comedy. He and his writing partner John Irwin treated it like a nine to five job; in other words, they put in the hours and gave themselves a routine (for the day /week I mean).
This reinforced my own thoughts about my current situation. I had a fairly strict routine when I worked at the council; necessary in order to manage the demands of the job, caring for the Aged P, Cowprint, teaching and my own creative practice. Now that I no longer have the Monday, Wednesday and Friday at work, where I have to be in a certain place between the hours of 9am and 5pm, routine has gone out the window. I am all over the place. This isn't good for me or the Aged P who has dementia. So, routines need to be established and devising them is top of my list for this week.