What's that slightly sick feeling combined with giddy light-headedness and the edge of hysteria (in the mental breakdown sense)? Ah yes, it's the first preview for the new show. There was an odd calmness beneath it all though, as I waited outside the gents toilet of the pub in Chippenham where the world premiere of "We're All Going To Die!" was about to take place. I had next to nothing and yet I was going to try and entertain a room of strangers for an hour - talking about their inevitable deaths. What could go wrong?
As it happened I probably managed about 30 minutes of new "material" but rewarded the crowd for their patience with some older and funnier routines. For now, with the new stuff I was just talking through ideas and reading out old blogs. I had a lot more idea of what I was doing than 24 hours ago. Nothing focuses the mind more than humiliation.
I enjoyed the drive to Chippenham. Even though I have been on the road for most of the year I haven't done much of the driving. The sun was shining and I listened to John Lloyd on Desert Island discs in prep for the podcasts on Monday. Then I listened to the radio which seemed to be spewing out stuff that was relevant to my upcoming performance. Musician Wilko Johnson explained how his recent cancer diagnosis had made him appreciate life and you can see how having a definite time limit to the end will make you live your life to the full. But the thing is we all have a time limit. We should all be seeing the beauty in the world and making the most of what experiences we have left for us. Our deaths are inevitable and it's thus faintly ridiculous that we have to be told we are definitively going to die before we realise that we are definitively going to die. For Wilko thus far the more definite and direct time limit has made him happier and more focused than he has been before. Which is a positive thing, but maybe one that we should all have. There was also a piece about Iain Banks who realised that the main way to cope with the upsetting news of his own demise was to utilise the dark humour that he'd employed when he didn't have cancer. He proposed to his partner asking her if she'd do him the honour of being his widow. Death is sad for sure, but that's why we need to make the most of not being dead.
Evenso I was a long way away from having anything resembling a show or indeed a joke. I told some stories, espoused some theories and read from the list I had written that afternoon about "Why it's good that we die." It's not necessarily the kind of thing that gets an audience howling with laughter and I can't help worrying that the subject of death might not be a massive ticket seller. But I got some murmurs of agreement for a few of my points. A man on the front row told me that it was "interesting" which is always the heckle that every comedian wants to hear. There's definitely a show in there waiting to come out, but it's got a good way to go. The people of Chippenham at least did not ask for their money back, so that's something. I mentioned that my grandma had died yesterday and people were sympathetic, but much as I am sad that she's gone, she did live to 102 and she wasn't herself for the last few years. I only want to celebrate her life and remember what a wonderful woman and grandmother she was. I will miss her, but I already missed her. When someone is 102 I think death can only really lead to a celebration of life and maybe a slight relief as well. Like the man said, it's interesting!
Local comedian Wil Hodgson had done a great job of putting together a terrific mini-festival in his local pub and he gave me an Elvis bap for the journey home - a bacon, banana and peanut butter combo which was worth dying on a toilet for.
But my brain seems to be slowly whirring into gear with this one. When I got home I thought of what seemed like quite a nice twist on one of the routines about the afterlife. I started to feel I can make this funny after all. But if I can't then interesting is still better than boring!