I actually don’t like being the centre of attention. I feel really self conscious when everyone is looking at me or listening to me. I always assume that everyone is looking or listening and rolling their eyes at me being a total idiot (yes, slight self-esteem issues). If I receive compliments then I don’t know how to react, beyond saying thanks, of course. I feel quite comfortable sitting at the back of a room or in a quiet corner and, as Jonah Lewie sang, you’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties.
So, why do I always speak out in meetings? Why am I always cracking jokes in public places? Why do I write this blog? Why do I do amateur dramatics, taking principal roles in musicals? Why am I applying to be a reader in the Church of Scotland? Why do I train groups of people as part of my job?
And why, in the name of everything on this Earth which makes sense plus most of those which don’t, when my wife asked me what I want for my birthday did I say that I wanted to do a two day course on stand-up comedy at the Edinburgh Festival? Seriously! I could have asked for anything; theatre tickets, a telescope, a new car… ok, not the car. But why did I ask for that?
My joke telling skills are legendary. Legendarily bad. Well, the jokes are legendarily bad, anyway. King of the crap one-liners and poor puns, I’m actually well known for it among friends and work colleagues. I don’t think I’m particularly funny and neither does anyone else.
I hear about comedians dying on stage, where it goes so badly that even the tumbleweed won’t roll across the stage as it doesn’t want the shame of being associated with the act. This is how I imagine things will go for me, only I will literally die on stage. 90 seconds into my set a shared insanity will grip the audience and they will rise as one, tearing my body apart as I attempt to make jokes about being “armless”, “not having a leg to stand on” and “have a heart, oh, I see you already have mine”. At the subsequent trial for murder the judge will ask what the audience’s defence is and they will produce a video of my set. The judge will free them immediately to a heroes’ welcome. Meanwhile, my family will have been forced to change their identity and emigrate to Peru to avoid the public humiliation.
Ok, maybe not that bad, but why does a guy with no experience, who doesn’t actually like the limelight, who doesn’t even think he’s funny and who suffers from anxiety want to put himself through possibly the scariest form of public performance there is? Because I really want to give it a bash. I don’t know why, but I’ve always fancied giving it a go. Just the once, I don’t want to suddenly change careers, but it just looks like really good fun. I intend to have a laugh learning some of the skills of stand-up and actually trying to perform it, even if it turns out that nobody else is laughing.
I think the reason I do all of this is twofold. Firstly, there’s a real adrenaline rush and sense of achievement involved. You get a buzz which is better than any drug (not that I have any experience in that area) which seems to grow the scarier the setting.
Secondly, I think it’s some sort of defence mechanism against my low self-esteem. It’s not a cry for acceptance, I would choose stuff which would leave me less open for criticism if that were the case. If, however, I throw myself into stuff like this then it stops me sitting quietly, moping about how useless I am. Instead, I give my mind something else to focus on which, because I’m doing it publicly, I have to focus on completely, without drifting into distractions.
So, one weekend in August, just after the 20th anniversary of my 21st birthday (that’s how I’m choosing to market my birthday this year) I will go on a two day stand-up course and perform to a group of strangers.
I’d better get my will sorted out.