Friday, January 04, 2013

The Power Of Nerd

David MitchellI’m reading David Mitchell’s Back Story at the moment – one of my Christmas presents from Karen. I like David Mitchell. I like his sarcastic rants and his double sided logical approach to the many stupidities of life. His book makes for a thought provoking, enlightening read and both confirms and debunks many of the general perceptions that we probably all harbour regarding David Mitchell’s true self.

One of the things I found interesting was his discovery of comedy and theatre and how it completely shunted him off traditional academe and into the realm of Footlights and fame and performance... so much so that his academic studies were all but abandoned in favour of sketch and play writing.

Believe it or not I too had dreams of writing comedy when I was in my teens.

Indeed I dabbled quite extensively. I wrote scripts that myself and my sisters performed via rudimentary microphones onto C90 tape – I even performed my own foley work. I drew cartoons. Once I had improved my recording equipment my mate Dave and I ad libbed our way through many a Saturday night in the early 1990’s coming up with enough sketches, impressions and jokey songs to make our own radio programme.

Most of it was excruciatingly bad, of course. Teenage toilet humour, puerile sex jokes and brickbats of buffoonery that targeted the most obvious of social stereotypes. Hardly high comedy. But in amongst the swamp of post school-boy, clod-hopping satire there were a few nuggets of genuine comedy. Material that would actually make an outsider laugh and laugh for all the right reasons, i.e. laughing with us not at us (though technically laughing at us). Because we had done something deliberately funny and not just because we had made complete arses of ourselves.

What frustrates me the most now (aside from Katie McGrath not returning my emails) is how little I did with it. All that material I produced, all that energy I invested... and then I just let it all sit and mildew. My God, why didn’t I send it into the BBC or some farty little local radio station? They might have hated it. They might have hated it but nevertheless given us advice to improve it.

They might have loved it.

This laziness and lack of motivation even in the face of achieving your wildest dreams is not uncommon in teenagers. Even David Mitchell refers to interest he received from an agent very early in his nascent career but that he didn’t really follow through on or capitalize on. The agent merely asked David to keep in touch but David didn’t. And in the end the agent dropped his interest.

Of course in the end, it worked out for David. He continued with the dream, pursued it, lived it. Trod the boards so to speak.

Have I continued to tread the boards or did I give up on it? I’m really not sure how to answer that. I certainly don’t write sketches or plays anymore or sing comedy songs. But I have been known to inject my novels and even my blog posts with the odd heroin hit of humour.

But it’s not the same is it?

I often wonder what would have happened if I’d joined a theatre group or gone to university in my teens "when I was supposed to" rather than in my late twenties when I’d finally summoned up the nerve.

And that I think is the difference between me and Mr Mitchell. We’re both nerds – I’m sure he won’t object to me saying that – but he had more guts than I did and a hell of a lot more nerve. More nerve to turn his back on his academic studies and pursue a crazy dream despite the huge risk of failure.

My trouble is I’ve always played it safe.

And you’ll never play to a full house playing like that.

14 comments:

Gorilla Bananas said...

You only hear about the ones that succeed, though. How many other drop-outs pursued their dream and got nowhere? It's never too late anyway. Comedians get funnier as they age, so if you were funny then, you must be funnier now. I bet you look funnier.

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: you are so good for my comedy ego.

Suburbia said...

It's the time of year for 'if only's'.

libby said...

GB is right Steve. My daughter sent a short story to a number of agents when she was young, unbeknowst to us, and most of them replied saying 'not for us but well done and keep going' with one of them saying 'yes we like this...get in touch'........she decided not to and only showed us the letter much much later....who knows whether or not she made a good choice...but it was her choice. Maybe your 'time' just hasn't come yet.

Steve said...

Suburbia: and also for "but ifs..."

Libby: I'd like to think that this dog still has a day to have.

Löst Jimmy said...

Katie McGrath not returning your emails?
She's not been returning the pairs of underpants I keep sending her, they are only loaned and I'm running out now...

Steve said...

Löst Jimmy: strangely enough I have been asking Katie to send me a pair of hers. The ones I got back though were a pair of men's boxers... they're not yours are they?

the fly in the web said...

And with the BBC then you'd have had more chance than with the BBC now....

Steve said...

The fly in the web: and that is one of my biggest fears...

Trish Burgess said...

We are big fans of David Mitchell in this house - Rory has discovered Peep Show and is watching back episodes.
As to the regrets we all have, I often wonder whether I should have made more of an effort to do more with drama at University.
I still think you will make it. Your talent will get noticed, don't lose heart.

Steve said...

Trish: I wish you were my PA.

Owen said...

I think you should try sending another e-mail to Katie... she's bound to answer when she realizes what a scintillating wit is behind it...

asturiandiary said...

There's no 'right time' to do anything. There's only the time when you do it.

Steve said...

Owen: for some reason, when she writes back she spells wit with an sh rather than a w...

asturiandiary: very zen and very true.