I spent the week before my Difficult First Show at the 2017 Sydney Fringe Comedy Festival curled up in a foetal position on my couch. It was right in the middle of music college holidays and I had been putting off finalising and rehearsing the show until this crucial break when I had no college work to do.
When I first submitted my application to the festival back in May, I figured I had plenty of time to get my act together. Come mid-September with just a week to go, for some bizarre reason I figured taking it easy was the way to go.
I had eleven songs I’d written for the show, mostly about experiences at college this year, which made up about 35-40 minutes of material. All I had to do was spin 20 minutes of stories between them and I should be sweet. How hard can it be?
Well, quite difficult it turns out.
Putting on my own show had brought up some pretty deep insecurities for me, like the old bullying I used to get when I was in the choir at my all-boys high school. After 30 years of therapy that was finally expunged at an Alexander Technique workshop I attended in the lead-up to the show. Surely the principals who run institutions that brutalise young men which we euphemistically call "Boys High Schools" should be hauled in front of some court in Nuremberg for their role in facilitating war crimes.
Nevertheless I had the academic transcript from successfully completing my Certificate 3 in Music Performance to boost my confidence, plus another marking me “Not Competent” due to an administrative error from the Group Choir Singing Intensive I’d taken over summer to tear it back down again.
I had had a traumatic experience playing a parody of American Pie at the now-defunct Laugh Garage opposite Hyde Park in Sydney about 4 years ago, and hadn’t played guitar in a comedy venue since. The first thing to do was get over that trauma, and since I wanted to talk about trauma and how to heal it in my show anyway, that seemed like the natural way to start.
To help take the pressure off I decided to play from my song book, which meant I didn’t have to memorise my own songs and could even remember the sequence of the show just by turning the page and seeing what song was next. All the stories about the songs were true and had been told in parts before, and they were largely just things that amused me. So long as an audience turned up and I focused on inviting them to join me in my own journey of amusement rather than trying to make them laugh or make them like me, everything should be OK.
I turned up to the first show with plenty of time to spare and spent the hour before my tech rehearsal sitting in the car down the road in sight of The Factory Theatre trying to remember how to breathe. Come rehearsal time I met the sound & lighting guy, gave him my MP3 player with the pre-recorded backing tracks for the show and started to calm the fuck down.
A couple of good friends turned up to see the first show and found me beforehand sitting outside the theatre near the bar. We had a hilarious chat and everyone was laughing even before the show began. That definitely helped put me in the right mood.
Then after years a delicate balance of preparation and procrastination, it was time to hit the stage for my Difficult First (solo) Show.
You won’t believe what happened next...