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Thursday 11th August 2005

I had my first day of proper full on Edinburgh blues today. It was precipitated by a few things. I think eight or nine shows in you start to get tired and have already invested a lot of nervous energy and positivity and there has to be a backlash. Also fears about monetary loss and the show being over-looked or underestimated (or that in fact it might not be very good) start to swamp your paranoid mind. Then on top of it all I got a medium 3 star review in the Guardian. It wasn’t too bad at all, but nor was it a rave and I had really hoped I might get a good one from them, which naturally would really help to increase sales. Indeed I had been aware of the Guardian journalist who had interviewed us last week really laughing at the show on Tuesday and so had reason to believe he might give me a good write up. But as it turned out he was not reviewing my show and the person who was more ambivalent, though ultimately liked it.
Yet this very slight set-back (probably not a set-back at all, just not a step forward which would have been nice) took its toll on my fragile psyche and I descended into a self-indulgent mood of gloomy paranoia and started projecting all this into doom and disaster for the show and my career. It is amazing how out of proportion you can get things in this emotionally heightened environment. It’s amazing what depths of self-doubt the human mind can get to under the slightest provocation. I suppose there is some basis in it as I have had several Edinburgh shows that I know have been good (and can see were good even in hindsight) but thanks to some press from people who really weren’t on the same wavelength or had some other agenda (or maybe just didn’t find it their cup of tea) the public have not really come along. This year I don’t have that problem so much. Numbers are good enough (about 100 tonight), though clearly if I can start selling out in mid-week it will help alleviate my losses and help my career. But there is still the fear that all the hard work and sweat and tears that have gone into this will be for nothing. I know though that reviewers have no choice but to say what they think. I am talking about the shows I have seen on the radio tomorrow and there’s no point in my pretending that I loved the things I didn’t. It’s only my opinion after all and when you have things in perspective you understand this – and also that no-one else is scrutinising your press as much as yourself (and to be honest even if they were they would probably think my reviews so far have been pretty good – but then this mental part of my brain wants everyone to say that my show is the greatest piece of art ever created, which is probably unlikely to happen!)
I went for a swim, on the way fairly convinced that I was going to give up comedy, sell my house and go and do voluntary charity work overseas ( the fact I even slightly believed there was any truth in this ambition is ludicrously comic, especially given that I had the same thoughts last year, but when it came down to it, seemed to stay in Shepherd’s Bush, doing nothing to help the disadvantaged and mainly hatching up plans to harm them).
By the time I was home my idiocy was gone and things were pretty much back into a realistic framework. I went out and did a pretty solid show (though felt slightly less confident than usual) and afterwards a journalist was actually waiting downstairs to tell me how much he’d enjoyed the show and how impressed he was at me having reinvented myself. Still just another opinion. But it made me realise that there was bound to be fall out over me doing something a bit different and that developing an act and becoming successful at it is a slow process which you always have to keep working at. Sometimes I feel that I have worked hard enough already and deserve more recognition, but the reality is that I haven’t and that there is further to go.
Later I was on at Best of the Fest, a middle class version of Late n Live. I was doing OK, but as I approached the end of the set I got a few heckles from people who thought I was being too crude (one posh voice said, “If we wanted Jim Davidson we would go to Margate”, which was a stupid thing to say – not least because I don’t think Margate is the kind of place Davidson would play!). However I managed to launch into a counter-attack on one extremely prudish and humourless lady (who had already made the unlikely complaint that Will Smith was too blue – true blue maybe, but he is a charmingly inoffensive act). Suddenly the night took off and the rest of the audience got behind me and gratifyingly all the other comics came to congratulate me backstage on the way I had handled it (which given my hang-ups re the ancient Late n Live gig I mentioned the other day was a great boost). One gig goes badly, the next goes well. You get a great review one day, a not so great one the next.
I suppose the lesson is to look at the bigger picture and not be swayed by tiny set backs. Hard to do in Edinburgh. But Kipling is right, triumph and disaster are artificial conceits and being a real grown up is about not paying attention to either conceit. But don’t tell anyone I think that Kipling is right, or it will ruin the hard-hitting satire of him in my show.

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