Thank you 2018 – you've been a blast!
I live in the moment - but I’ve realised that all those precious moments add up to a lifetime!
Starting off on 2nd January 2018 , when me and 'him in doors' went on holiday and flew to Thailand via Kuala Lumpur...
I just happened to forgot to mention that I was doing a couple of gigs there…whoops! But he's a very patient man...
It reminds me of a story when he first met the brilliant comic John Fothergill in a dressing room:
(Geordie accent) So you’re going out with our Mandy?
HUSBAND (Then boyfriend)
Why… you’ve got a kestrel by the beak there!
But it all worked out well in the end and what an amazing time I had at the Crackhouse Comedy Club.
'The Dark Knight' rises
But as soon as I got back to the UK, it was nose to the grindstone to revise and rewrite my previous year’s show The Dark Knight for Edinburgh. It was tough writing and rehearsing while traveling the length and breadth of the country doing endless club gigs to pay for the project. But my pressure was eased by the brilliantly talented comedian and director Andre Vincent. His input totally transformed the piece and it received high praise from critics and peers alike!
When I was at my deepest level of exhaustion and wondering why I was putting myself through all this, AGAIN, I had a real boost when I found out I had been nominated for Best Comic for the Time Out Awards in Dubai. I didn’t win (obviously fixed). But I was shortlisted with such greats as Eddie Izzard, Omid Djalili and Jason Manford (who won) so not bad company to be associated with!
A few weeks later, I was sent a video clip of me being nominated again for Best Comic at The Time Out Awards in Abu Dhabi (Oh yes, smashing the Middle East).
A massive thank you to Gail and Duncan at The Laughter Factory, I have done their gigs for over 15 years and they really took a chance on me with my potty mouth. In the early days of the gigs, they never knew if I was going to smash-it or get arrested. To be fair, most of the audience are ex-pats but sometimes the government would make an appearance so we had to be on our best behavior. I remember one year (2003) there was the largest number of locals the gig had ever seen and Gail was very worried and said; “Mandy, I really need you to reign it in tonight as we have a lot of officials in and I don’t want to get closed down.” I vowed to do my best. But I was nervous (it’s never great as a comic when you asked not to do what you do but as I love The Laughter Factory so much I wanted to be a 'good' girl) I said to a bloke in the front row, with a white shirt, black trousers and a massively long beard (rocking the cleric look); “You’re so handsome, I think I’ll shag you (big gasp from the audience and I look over to see Gail with her head in her hands!) What’s your name?” And he said; “Osama.” The audience reaction was incredible, you could feel the tension (this is not long after 9/11), it was probably only 30-seconds to a minute – but for a comic, this is a lifetime. I thought; “If I don’t deal with this, I’m going to die on my arse.” So I put my hands on my hips, looked him straight in the eye and said; “Well it always takes a bird to find something.” The place went wild with applause – thank God. And Gail said; “Actually, Mandy whenever you come now, you can say what the fuck you want.” – RESULT.
Again, I didn’t win but what an honour to 'Highly Commended' alongside the comedy giant Trevor Noah!!! (He won BTW)
And so to Edinburgh...
After spending thousands of pounds on photos (the only thing worth paying for as Steve Ullathorne is absolutely AMAZING). And here I am being transformed into Bette Davies for my poster... I LOVE IT!!
And shit loads of money on PR (Public Relations) who were soooooo useless I had to ask them to follow me on Twitter! And when I asked why I wasn’t getting any reviewers in, they said; “It’s hard to get them to commit to the Free Fringe because you can’t book tickets.” AND; “Actually, of the seven shows we’ve brought up, only two of you are struggling and the other people in that show are old as well.” Charming!!!!!
And the other thing I was encouraged to shed loads of dosh out for, was, 'Street Presence'...
So pleased I paid hundreds of pounds for it as the day I took that photo – I had 11 in my show!
Edinburgh is a feeding frenzy and out of thousands, there can only be a few winners! It’s sooooo hard to keep your dander up when nobody is interested. You start to question EVERYTHING –
“Am I kidding myself I have something to offer?”
“Have I become the Norma Desmond (Sunset Boulevard) of the comedy world?”
“Am I being punished for squandering all my opportunities in the 90’s by flailing around between TV shows, Drug-addiction and Alcoholism?”
“Is it a cosmic conspiracy telling me that I need to fuck-off and teach Yoga?”
“Am I shit?”
It’s so hard in the middle of it all, to take a breath and say; “Hang on a minute, you feel alive (depressed - but nonetheless alive) from not playing it safe and staying you your comfort zone. And aren’t you part of the greatest Arts Festival in the world? – Why don’t you go out and see some stuff!!" (I'll be posting about this soon, there's so any great memories - just need to let the grey matter work a bit for some of the best bits...)
The thing about putting yourself out there and daring to fail is that when you really need help, it comes
It was midway through the month, I’d had no reviews, small audiences and had to sack my 'PR'. And then I went to see a dear friend of mine’s show. It was Jim Tavare’s show, it was funny, moving and totally life-affirming! And I thought, “Mandy stop worrying about not getting a big enough piece of the pie, be happy you still here to eat pie!” My attitude totally changed and with it came the most amazing support from other comics. There were a number of them every day in my show and they were all so complimentary. And they really put their money where their mouth was and started a Facebook campaign on my behalf. It was incredible and even more so, because (mostly) it was being mounted by comics who were up there dealing with their own dreams, fears and woes.
Dominic Holland (Yes, father of Tom 'Spiderman' Holland) saw that I was struggling for numbers. His show was on directly before me and was selling out every day. He couldn’t encourage his audience to watch me as we attract a very different audience but he kindly wrote this blog on his website to boost my profile. What he wrote is sooooooooooo sweet - read the review 'Happy days and Knights' here.
I also bumped into my old friend Alan Davies at a play and asked him to come to my show. He came the following night! And he even let us have a picture so I could Instagram it for publicity - what a guy!!
The same thing happened with Phil Jupitus. He even wrote a review for me to use:
“A show which manages to straddle the line between outrage and emotion effortlessly. Funny, sharp and moving.
Mandy Knight as a comedy circuit stalwart uses her breadth of experience to superb effect in this show. This revealing and occasionally shocking work is a genuine treat for audiences.
Aside from being jaw droppingly outrageous and incredibly funny, Mandy Knight is not afraid to reveal the kind of truths about herself that most of her peers would shy away from.
Stand-up comedy often flatters to deceive, but Mandy Knight is the real thing.
A funny, raw and moving one woman show which deserves to be seen.”
And then all my other comedy chums mounted a campaign of Facebook to get reviewers in. They were relentless and brutal but it worked! I got a glowing review from the most respected reviewer in the whole of Edinburgh, Kate Copstick. Unfortunately, it went out in the Scotland on Sunday (the day after I finished my run) But hey it's still good publicity and now I have it forever:
“This is an absolutely awesome show. And I use the word advisedly. She has formatted it in the baldest, boldest way possible. There are pictures in Mandy’s head. Moments in her life that were so bad, so bleak that her psyche screenshot them. And when she shares them there is absolutely no attempt to “funny” them up. She just sits down and tells you. Then she stands up and is spiky, jokey, jaggy Mandy again and we are back in the comedy room. When she is funny every line has a sting and her delivery is diamond hard. I always wondered where her style came from and now I know. This is what it sounds like when you are laughing into the abyss.”
The Dark Knight turned out to be more of a play (although it’s REALLY funny) than a stand-up about my appalling start in life: Father killed when I was five, alcoholic mother abandoning me when I was seven and growing up in various Children’s Homes and with numerous foster parents… and there were some shit times as well!
From Butlins to Byron Bay
Given, that hardly any one was interested, it’s amazing that I met the two people who are responsible for transforming my 2019. One guy is an Australian Promoter who is bringing me over to Perth for a month (where I'm currently gigging at the minute - if you're reading this January-February 2019, that is...) and on the back of it, I’m doing a gig in Byron Bay (where I have dreamed of visiting) on a very significant birthday. And I finish off for seven nights in Brisbane. So I've got two months of total joy!
The other person I met was a theater programmer who wants me to turn The Dark Knight into a full-length theater piece to tour in the autumn of 2019. This is why comics go and lose thousands or pounds to get these amazing opportunities!
And at the beginning of December, I got the opportunity to play on the biggest stage I've been on since Glastonbury '94, where I did two gigs to 1,500 people each show as part of a brilliant Madness Weekend at Butlins!
All that would have been enough to make 2018 fantastic. But on 28th December, I got the cherry on top of the cake when I was voted by 300 of my peers for the Comics Comic Award for Best MC.
This is what the previous year’s winner Ian Stone had to say; “Best MC is Mandy Knight (Mandy Knight). Mandy has been a stand up for nigh on thirty years and she just gets better and better. As an MC, she is peerless and anyone who's seen her warm up a recalcitrant crowd or take down a heckler knows that this award is well deserved.“
And how different Edinburgh was last year compared to the first year I went in ‘94 with 'Some of my best friends are ginger' (for one thing, I wouldn’t be allowed that title in this 'I’m angry on behalf of somebody else' day and age).
I was nominated for Perrier Newcomer and TV and the press were all over me. But do you want to know the difference, in ’94 despite all the attention and accolades - I had never felt so alone!
And what made 2018 so great? Honestly? It was the immense support I received my peers. Without them, I would not have had such a wonderful journey. I would not have dared to raise my head above the pulpit. "I would not have dared to feel the fear and do it anyway."
After two Edinburgh’s, I am £10,000 lighter and yet so much richer in every other way.