I was under my favourite railway arch turned bar when the ghost of a stand-up comedian came and tapped my skull. It was not Tommy Cooper or Little Tich, it was a ghost of me. I spent much of my working life defined as a stand-up comedian, though I always felt like an imposter, the one in the green room pretending to be a comic while all the rest were pros. In the last decade, I have let myself off the leash of limiting definitions.
On stage, I let my impetuous brain rush around, making connection after connection after connection, sometimes these are connections to jokes and sometimes to stories that have no punchline, but which I think are worth sharing. Though I am not as driven by laughter, I am still fuelled by a furious energy that never wants to bore people, and there is a still-valid voice that says “I think it is time for a laugh now”.
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In the railway arch, The Wanstead Tap, I am talking about a new edition of my book I’m a Joke and So Are You, a title I was happy to hear greatly entertained a friend’s eight-year-old.
There is humour in the book, but there are sad stories too. I never plan my talks too much, but I do try and fill my mind up with as much as possible. A few minutes before start time, my friend Susan said: “I’d better leave you alone so you can get in the zone.”
But I was in the zone already, it is where I spend most of my life now – no vocal exercises or nerve-racked meditation required. Nowadays, I am just excited to begin, though I rarely begin at the beginning.