Sitting by the side of the stage in one of London’s top comedy venues, I couldn’t remember any of my lines. I was up next. I thought, if I can just remember the opening line to my set, that’ll be fine – at least I’d have something to say. I prayed. This was no polite ‘find me a car parking space’ prayer. I wanted the audience of friends, drunkards and countrymen to laugh at my carefully crafted set, not an awkward entrance and (immediate) exit from the stage. I dug in – remembered that first line.
The London Comedy Course runs for about six weeks. I’d been ‘persuaded’ by a friend to sign up. He signed up too. His name’s Antony Aris-Osula. He’s a legend. (And he now owes me a tenner.) We decided to go along to the previous course’s showcase night in December 2009 at Up The Creek in Greenwich. It was here that I learnt my first lesson of comedy clubs: don’t sit in the front row. It’s not easy being a Christian when a dominatrix ‘comedian’ is waving a dildo in your face. I managed to hold a bemused, nervous smirk – I felt I had no choice. This was just one of the nine acts this evening.
As I sat there through a deluge of bile and vile I actually felt very… encouraged! As dark as all this was, I realised that this was a huge opportunity. But would I take it? Faith at the front line of filth… I could see myself now! A Super-Clean-Christian-Comedian.
I did the course. We all had to write our own material, and then form a five-minute set ready for showcase night. Apart from Antony and myself, there were three other Christians in a class of nine. I think God has a sense of humour. Every week we had to write gags as our homework – then perform them in front of class on a Monday night. If they died (the jokes, not the students) we wouldn’t use them again. If they were good, we ‘banked’ them. It was a struggle. I felt pressure to use some vile and bile, just to fit in. It seemed natural. How odd! I thought I was a pretty decent Christian, who upheld a strong sense of biblical morality and ethical orthodoxy, but here I was trying jokes about fake facts and farts. Huh? Where was Jesus in my writing? Despite my earlier resolve, I found it really hard to be spotlessly clean.
I did the showcase on 16 February 2010. It went really well. I was commended as being one of the best on the night (that was without a single fart joke, I should add). I was asked to do another gig two days later, and another gig two months later. And that was it. Apart from a few party gigs, I’ve not done anything else since. Yes, it’s called a crisis of confidence. A dark night of the comedic soul.
I’ve lost count of the number of times friends have asked me when I’m performing again. I say ‘I will, one day!’ or ‘it’s really scary!’ Even as I write this post, I sense a conclusion threatening…Will my last line be: ‘so I’m going to just go for it again’? That scares me.
I often think of the story of Jonah. Even though he employed avoidance strategies when called to proclaim a message of repentance to the Ninevites, he did it in the end.
I think I should stop rehearsing the excuses and start rehearsing the obedience. Some may laugh in my face, but that’s OK. It’s meant to be that way. So I’m going to just go for it again!