Advice to young comics – something I may have written in the Stage.
A letter has flooded into me from regular reader and part-time stalker David Savage with the following questions:
‘Arthur, I am a rookie comic wondering how one sustain a career in comedy and how best to cope with one’s lot in this cruel world?’
I do not want to write directly to David since that may invite him to contravene his restraining order but via this column, David, here are my tips for comic longevity and existential maturity.
1.KEEP GOING. It is tough out there. Although the rewards can be great, it is very hard to make your voice heard above the myriad competitors you will face. You must be original and you must work hard, and when you bomb at two open spots in a row you must grit your teeth and step up to the next one with all your spirit intact.
2. DON’T KEEP GOING. If you die on the 3rd one – jack it in man and retrain in IT.
3. GETTING ON TV IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. This is even more the case in the age of the internet. TV will probably want to dilute your talent -not to say traduce it. I knew a young comic once who told me how thrilled she was to be playing a big part in a TV documentary about comedy. The programme, she later learned, was called The World’s Worst Stand Up Comedians.
4. NEVER READ YOUR REVIEWS. You will make this promise but you will fail and
5. ALWAYS READ YOUR REVIEWS. Accept all the good ones as your rightful due and forget them. The bad ones will linger longer in the memory and there will always be one that continues to rankle even as you take your armchair in the Home for Whacked Out Comedians. The best way to get over the calumny is to make the find the relevant journalist’s address, then send round Ken and Doug, South London’s premier enforcers. (Email me for the number)
6. TEETH AND TITS darling, always always, teeth and tits.
7.RESIST THE TEMPTATIONS THAT COME YOUR WAY for as long you can manage – a couple of hours say, then it’s sex and drugs till it’s time for you to write your My Booze Hell memoir.
8.BEING JEALOUS OF YOUR CONTEMPORARIES IS NOT GOOD but is inevitable. After you have been going for a couple of years you will find that that irritating comic who started around the same time as you and got slightly fewer laughs than you, you know the one – he wore a suit and never got his round in, that bloke – he will now be a TV star and have made 20 million pounds from a stadium tour and another 26 million from DVD of said show. You must despise him and bad mouth him to anyone who is prepared to listen – maybe that care worker who comes to see you now…
9.ALWAYS BE HORRIBLE TO PEOPLE WHEN YOU ARE ON THE WAY UP AND THEN THEY WILL BE HORRIBLE TO YOU WHEN YOU’RE ON THE WAY DOWN. Yes,
10. AS A COMEDIAN YOU MUST CONTINUE TO CONDUCT THE WAR ON CLICHÉ. Clichés like ‘war on cliché’. Thus, when someone writes to you for advice, tell them something different from the same old platitudes.
Oh and by the way, David, was that you I saw lurking in my garden the other night? If you do that again please be careful of my azalea.