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Tuesday 9th February 2016

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So I didn’t get the possible job that I mentioned recently, but I think all in all that’s a good thing. I have a bit too much on to take on a regular commitment or at least if I took on a commitment like that I’d have to give up most of the other stuff. As nice as it would have been to have a guaranteed income. Now the income eggs are pretty much all in the sitcom basket…. let’s not hold our breath.

I had hoped to do some work on Happy Now? today as it’s Phoebe’s birthday tomorrow and the big proper tour opening show is on Thursday, but I was distracted by other bits and bobs, like meeting my bank manager and doing interviews for the tour. I had a long chat with Jay Richardson from the Scotsman about whether being happy is the death knell of the comedian. It went on for about an hour and I was very much of the opinion that being truly unhappy and out of control is the death knell of the comedian, usually literally alas. The comedians who deal in depression/unbalance/loser status (and I have done all three) actually have to have a degree of control over their demons, at least if they want to carry on over a long term period. Perhaps we exaggerate them on stage and perhaps sometimes we lose a battle, but if we lose the war, then it’s over.

Although, as I discuss in my show it is very hard for me to classify myself as “happy”, because of my propensity to overthink and consider the worst (and even when I am happy I am consumed by the fear of losing the happiness so am thus unable to enjoy it), I have been much more on the positive side of the spectrum since I met my wife. And I think the work I’ve done over the last eight years has included stuff that I would say was me at my best. Life is cruel and unfair and things don’t go our way, so yes, if you lose sight of those things and are positive about everything then maybe you lose your edge. But I have come to accept who I am and where I fit in to the world, both the real world and the comedy world, and to feel grateful for my extraordinary and often accidental good fortune. And in a sense being positive in the face of the harshness of the life and death and still being able to laugh is funnier than being miserable about stuff. Because we can all do that. Misery is hack! To find the laughter in the misery needs a sort of positivity, even if you yourself are unhappy with your own lot. 

I don’t think I am doing a great job of explaining it here and I don’t know if I did any better in the interview, but it was interesting to be assessing my life and my career quite honestly with a journalist and to be coming out feeling both proud of what I have achieved and satisfied with my level of success. And able to understand the ways in which being less successful than some of my peers actually puts me in an (in some ways) stronger and more autonomous position artistically and commercially. And I gave a robust defence of Me1 vs Me2 Snooker and explained why I think it is (genuinely) one of the best things that I have done. Even if for it to really work I have to pretend that I think it is as rubbish as all the people who don’t get it believe.

I think a lot of happiness comes down to accepting your lot or convincing yourself that your setbacks and failures were actually a good thing. So me arguing that I am lucky to be this largely anonymous figure, still with enough support to keep doing his daft stuff and experiment with comedy as an art form is in many ways self-justifying after the fact bullshit. But there is the chance that I am right and have chanced across the best possible path, even though I was looking for a totally different one. 

And I didn’t even really worry that the journalist would take what I’d said and twist it or accidentally or deliberately misinterpret it. I think it’s certain that he won’t be given enough of the newspaper to be able to write about everything we talked about. What was interesting and mildly reassuring was the realisation that rightly or wrongly I am happy with where I am at and excited to see what comes next and unperturbed by the failures and ready to fail again.

So I am broadly speaking happy and yet (this blog aside) I think I am still funny. And I’d never really realised it until I vocalised it, but the edgy out-of-control, bleak comedian who is often held up as the epitome of the craft is not necessarily as authentic and brilliant as many (including me) had thought. Eric Morecambe was the funniest man ever and he never revealed any demons (even if they maybe lie incredibly subtly beneath).

I couldn’t work out whether Jerry Sadowitz was the exception that proved me wrong. Though I think (and hope) that the character on stage is just a projection of a small part of him and that he isn't as unhappy and crushed as he claims. But I suppose the really great proponents of that kind of comedy (and Jerry is the best) leave us unsure about that.



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My new stand up show, Happy Now? will be touring from September 2015 to June 2016 All details here.
Buy tickets to Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast from the LST website
You can download the audio for free from the British Comedy Guide or iTunes or watch the video on YouTube