It might have been a bit too much to do 70 minutes of scripted new stand up followed by an improvised puppet show. Certainly the two halves of tonight’s show had a very different feel, with loads of material about what it’s like to find out you’ve got testicular cancer, with some rather emotional moments, followed by an attempt to satirise the news whilst holding a Marmite lid. I was a bit too spent to really let the improv flow, but the audience seemed to enjoy both shows regardless. I only got about two thirds of the way through my bollock material, which I was recording for the Can I Have My Ball Back? Podcast, but also as a little tester to see if there might be a stand up show in this subject. I mean there definitely is a stand up show in this subject, but it just depends on whether I want to do it, or if I feel that I have explored this subject enough already by doing a book, sitcom, puppet and podcast. I do also have a film idea about an excised ball that keeps growing and trying to kill its original owner. The journalist from the Times asked me if on balance the experience was worth it given that I’ve got two years of work out of it already, but it’s not like I was short of work. It is, however, interesting that for a comedian it’s actually pretty difficult to go through something awful without being able to turn it to your advantage. And lockdown had already ignited my creativity a bit (though arguably that was also me making comedy out of something terrible). But one day I will tot up how much money my excised bollock earned me and work out if I would have had it taken off for that amount if nothing had been wrong!
It was good to get back on stage and do some stand up- even if I was reading it all off my iPad. There were some very funny bits, some bits that I thought would get laughs but didn’t and plenty of more serious bits that seemed to work too. It is, at the moment, really just a selected reading of bits of the book, but a few mini routines were breaking their way out and I thought of a couple of jokes in the moment that I now can’t put in the book. I guess my audience can decide when they’ve had enough of me talking about this, but whilst there may be a core who ingest almost everything I put out, I do think the audience for the book, the radio 4 show and a stand up show would be largely different people. With Talking Cock the show came first and the book contained stuff from the show and lots more, and this time the book comes first and the show would be selected highlights (and once I’ve got away from the script and thought about the staging and worked out what part Right Bollock should play), but we’ll see.
Whatever the future of this, it was a positive step for me to be back on stage doing stand up. I’d hate to think that part of my life was over, but I wonder if I still have an audience after five years away. I fastidiously built up my modest following over the previous fifteen years and reached the heights of only having one audience under 100 people on the last tour and a closing gig in London with about 800. Peanuts compared to most comedians, but still doggedly satisfying as each year things got slightly better and I found that audience through the gigs and word of mouth.
Twitch of Fun was not as fluid as I’d have liked, but of course, the fans enjoy the car crash and it’s meant to be desperate and weird, so job done. The cheer that went up as Marmite Lid came up from under the table made me laugh. This was an audience of adults, excited to see the top of a condiment bottle. And he’s not even a good character, just a hopeless horrible idiot. But then I guess they like me too.
Hard to work out what will happen to Twitch of Fun - maybe not that hard, it will probably carry on at the exact level it’s at right now for the rest of my life, with me refusing to stop doing it and its handful of fans refusing to lets me stop even if I wanted to. I think there’s something special about it. Maybe it could become something bigger or weirder or smaller, but better. There is no plan.
It’s still weird and thrilling for me, also mildly embarrassing and having done it so often in private at my computer, doing it in front of actual people feels a bit like masturbating in public. Though who knows what I was doing under the sheet over the table. When I step back from it I realise that going on stage to create a show from nothing but a few newspaper headlines and vague plans. And I am very grateful to the superb people who came along to watch - I may be rude to you from the stage and you are all weird virgins, but you are the most amazing people and have made a huge contribution to both these projects just by attending. Though I can't help think you're only encouraging me because you know this puppet show will destroy what little remains of my reputation and my career.