So there’s the 32 county situation at the start of 2011 folks, after starting work on No Punchline in March 2010 and pledging to do a gig in every county. The 16 counties in red are done, leaving 16 more left to do. Here is where the hard work really starts, given that the majority of the counties done so far have all been generally easy to get gigs in, leaving the likes of Sligo and Leitrim and Clare for me to work through over the next twelve months, just like a tin of Roses or Quality Street where you would eat all the Hazelnut-in-Caramel and Toffee Fingers really quickly, then sit looking at a half-empty tin of Strawberry Creams for fucking ages.
But no-one ever said this was going to be easy, and I certainly didn’t think I’d get through 16 counties as fast as I did (although if I’d started No Punchline in January instead of March, I’d have 5 more done, but them’s the breaks). Looking back at the crazy year that was 2010, here’s a few stats and figures for fun…
1) A rough head-count at every gig I did this year, noted in my Gig Diary (yes, I’m that sad) shows that I gigged 120 times to approximately 9,500 people. Of all those people, I’ve been recognised in everyday life ONCE, in a chip shop in Ardee. Conversely, I’ve been approached after gigs countless times by people who want to know if I’m the guy they bought their bathroom suite from, or the guy who sold them the wooden flooring for their sitting room. Despite being active in the Irish comedy community for nearly three years, I’m still more famous as a Hardware store clerk.
2) Adding up the time I spent onstage reveals a nice figure of 40 hours; over one and a half days of standing in front of (generally) lovely people, telling jokes and having a good time. I like this statistic. It makes me feel all brilliant. On the other hand, further sums reveal that in order to spend 40 hours onstage, I had to drive for approximately 170 hours. That’s over four hours driving for every hour onstage. 170 hours (which is a conservative estimate), equals over seven days spent in my car driving. I do not like this statistic. This statistic makes me feel unusual.
3) Of course, I got a few nice big gigs this year, and with them the shining ray of light that is an odd few quid here and there. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, sometimes way more than I deserved for how I performed when I got them, but overall a definite increase in comedy wages. Which would leave me feeling great, except when you go back to statistic number 2 and factor in what it costs to keep a car driving for seven straight days. Petrol, tolls, tyres, oil, maintenance… I think I managed to juuuusssst about break even, or maybe I’m just telling myself that to make it easier to sleep at night.
So ok, the stats suggest that even though my bollocks are well and truly broken, I’m not all that further on than where I was this time last year. It’s not like I’ll be selling out Vicar Street any time soon. But such aspirations have long since been abandoned for more reasonable, achievable goals, and I like to think I’m crossing those off more and more as each month goes by. I’m getting booked a lot easier now than I was before. I’m not letting people down as much due to a shaky act like I used to. Every now and then I’ll get offered a big gig that makes all the work and sacrifice worthwhile, and baby step after baby step, I feel like I’m getting places.
On top of gaining experience by traversing the country doing gigs, I fell like I’m gaining a lot of patience. When I started comedy, I felt an unwarranted sense of entitlement, like everything I would say onstage was so fucking brilliant that it would only be a matter of doing a few gigs before people would be clamouring to book me. The more time I’ve spent in comedy, the more this nonsense has been drubbed out of me, whether it’s by watching other comedians work, hearing stories from more established acts about the trials they had to go through, or seeing newer comedians who have only just started get angsty and frustrated at the slow pace of progress in Irish comedy. The more I gig around the country, the more I realise that the standard expected is way more than a few good jokes and an overabundance of (often misguided) confidence will deliver. It’s like every county I cross off the list is one more lesson learned, one more milestone reached. that leaves sixteen lessons still to be learned, sixteen more hills to climb before I can claim to be any sort of comedian at all. Whether it’s gigging to a thousand people at a festival in Laois or getting heckled incessantly in a cafe in Down, be it rocking the socks off a packed function room in Wexford or getting ignored and dying in an empty pub in Louth, every gig has taught me something new that I try to implement the next time I’m onstage. This time next year, I’ll still be best known for being a guy that works in a hardware shop. I’ll still be trying to break even from gigging. My car will be TOTALLY fucked. I won’t have a TV show. I won’t be selling out Vicar Street. But maybe, just maybe I’ll do enough to prove to myself that all this isn’t just a big waste of time.
I’ll be taking a short break from blogging here for a while, just to recharge the batteries, work on some new material and get a few counties under my belt so that the wait between blogs isn’t as long as it may have been last year. I’d like to thank everyone for reading, and for those that don’t read, I’d like to apologise for the endless Facebook notifications that have clogged up your newsfeeds for the past nine months. I’ll be back real soon, and hopefully you’ll tune in for more from Irish comedy, more reviews, more features from working Irish comics, and of course the last 16 counties on the map.