A leap of faith... #feelthefear
Updated: Jan 20, 2019
I’ve always thought that phrase “Take a leap of faith and the net will appear” was a load of b*****cks! But actually…
After coming out of the ashram, I felt lighter and stronger. I adopted a vegan diet - but only for five days a week - partly so I didn’t become an annoying sanctimonious prick! But mainly, a life without a bit of cheese and cake is not a life worth living! “No…! Something made out of sawdust with cacao powder and 'baked' in a dehydrator oven, is not a fucking cake!!!!” But it has helped me to keep the weight down. As has fasting.
My inner comedy voice had been awoken. But more than that, the voice that said, “I wonder what would happen if you dared to be the best you could be again?”
The last time I had really been the best I could be was in 1994 when I took my critically acclaimed (and nominated for the Perrier Best Newcomer) show “Some of my best friends are ginger.” Co-written and directed by the amazing author Paul McVeigh ...buy his book – it’s awesome!
But where and how to start? There is a well-known saying, “When the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear.” I was sitting in a dressing room with the fantastic comedian Carl Hutchinson (he’s on tour NOW) and we were talking about our childhoods. I remember the first time I met Carl, his family had come to support him at the gig and I thought it was amazing. When he asked me about my childhood, I could only say; “Well, it wasn’t really ideal.” And he found it incomprehensible that I’d never had a birthday party. I told him about somebody else’s birthday party I attended and he fell of his chair laughing and said; “Oh my God, you HAVE to tell that story on stage!”
I feared I could never do it alone
And so, the beginnings of The Dark Knight were born. But I was so out of practice with writing, I feared I could never do it alone. So I asked the most talented people I knew, whether they would help me. And without reservation they all said yes!
I was surrounded by some of the best writers in the business, all of whom have written for the biggest names in comedy...
Alex Boardman who not only wrote brilliant jokes tirelessly, but supported me through my massive periods of self-doubt. He's not only a super talent but a great friend.
Mick Ferry who reminded me of how great I used to be and did everything to help me get back to that place. And for the best tag lines in the business – which to this day he still continues to do when he sees me do a new bit. AND for not taking a single penny for all the great stuff he gave me. Total class (even though he’s from the North).
Adam Bloom took a massive pay cut to write some of the best jokes in the world! And kept me going with his hilarious texts.
But even armed with all this, the journey towards Edinburgh was absolute hell! I had to go out and try stuff in front of audiences and I hadn’t done that for 15-years. I had to risk FAILURE. Not only did I risk it but had to bloody swallow it down like a male prison bitch. I 'died' nearly everywhere I went. And to add insult to injury, it was on new material nights in clubs where at the weekend I knew I could smash it with my old act. The two most humiliating times were:
When I died for a full 12-minutes of silence apart from people telling me; “to get off” and “give up comedy”, and
When a really angry bloke shouted in my face; “Your German jokes are disgusting… it was a long time ago and you need to let it go.” He then marched over to the promoter, demanded his money back and asked; “Is Bernard Manning on next week!"
I never got to do the 'big' and emotional ending
With two months to go before Edinburgh, I was suicidal and ready to cancel. Alex Boardman came to my rescue and we put a show together. Most comics these days do about 50 or more previews – but I could only get two!!! And I ran out of time on both of them, so I never got to do the 'big' and emotional ending. Feeling I was not only on the brink of failure but DISASTER, I called upon the brilliant comic and director Andre Vincent - he directed and re-shaped the last scene and gave me the confidence to go up to Edinburgh and give it a go. Mind you, it was really scary doing it for the first time in front of an audience and having no idea if it was any good or would really work. But the journey up to Edinburgh was so horrific that actually, I thought; “It can’t be worse than the nights I bombed so spectacularly in those other clubs.”
Thank God, it worked. And even though I didn’t get many people in, other comics up there rallied round (See my previous post, “The Knight’s 2018 honours list”) and there were at least three comics in every show supporting me. Many of them spread the word, and boy did it spread... so much so, that the whole production team from The Mervyn Stutter Showcase came to see what all the hype was about! Mervyn is a great bloke and the show is the BEST guide to seeing stuff in Edinburgh (which is totally overwhelming – even for people 'in the know'), he showcases seven shows a day from every possible art form. The only day I sold out was the day after I appeared on that show. That would have been enough. But to then be told I had won the 'Spirit of the Fringe Award' (only seven awarded) out of just under 200 acts, was unbelievable!
I would like to conclude that without
The Free Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival, going to Edinburgh would not have been possible.
The main festival venues (and press) are only interested in the already famous or the up and coming, or people with loads of dosh.
The PBH Free Fringe allows other performers to experiment and give it a go. Much like the Main Fringe did back in ‘94.
Check out my next blog 'Thank you 2018 – what a year!'...coming soon.