I returned home last night to – quite frankly – a tepid reception.
I’m a comedian so it’s not unusual to get an underwhelming greeting. Sometimes when you walk on stage the crowd aren’t that happy to see you. Not because they actively don’t like you. Not in my case, anyway. I’m not well-known enough for the general public to be annoyed at me. If I was, that’d be great tbh.
I’d love it if, upon seeing me, people would turn to their partner and say something like:
“Him again, he’s on everything, I’m sick of him.”
And for their partner to respond with a forced half-smile, before internally wrestling with an anger that’s half-directed at this miserable bastard they’re married to, and half-directed at themselves for being too cowardly to end things.
Normally the reason the crowd aren’t happy to see me is because I do something like pull the microphone out the stand and hit myself in the face, or spend too long untangling the chord, and I look like a rank amateur. Then I have to win them over.
That’s probably fair enough. But this wasn’t a gig. This was returning home to my flatmate Richard. My entrance was smooth as well. Turned the key without jamming it and walked in with my shoulders back and arms by my side. That’s how to project confidence. Your body language is saying, “See my torso? Go on, take a swing. I’ll give you a free shot at my vital organs mate, because even with a ruptured spleen I’ll still kick the shit out of you.”
When I opened the door, I could hear Richard in the kitchen but no greeting.
I’d been away for a few days, so I expected him to greet me like an excited dog. Rushing over as soon as the key went in the door. Jumping up and humping my leg and willing me to take him outside as he’s bursting for a piss.
It’s embarrassing that I thought that tbh. My God, the ego of the man, you’re all thinking.
I saw a YouTube Short about how absence is the way get people interested in you. People like you more if you’re mysterious and hard to get hold of. So cos I was away I thought he’d be buzzing when I came back.
Probably wasn’t long enough. I was only gone for two and a half days. Two and a half days isn’t that long. It’s the same number as the number of men in the show Two and a Half Men. And I never really thought of that as being a large number of men.
I sat in the living room and he did come and say hello tbf. Not in those exact words.
“How were your travels?” He said. Which functioned as hello but also a question. That question being ‘how were your travels?’
He sat down and I told him about my travels. I hadn’t had time to pre-prepare the anecdote, but I tried to tell it in my uniquely laid-back but occasionally antagonistic style to show him what he’s been missing. I’d been in London doing gigs. He seemed interested but only vaguely. It was unusual. Richard moved in a couple of months ago and one of my favourite things about living him is the engaging late-night conversations. We both do stand-up and we’re both fairly nocturnal. When I get back from a gig, Richard is always up and it’s nice to have someone to talk to. Then if he’s had a gig, he’ll tell me about his. Then the conversation opens up to deeper things like art and philosophy and poon.
It felt more stilted tonight. A tough crowd that I’d have to win over. “How are you feeling emotionally?” I said, bringing out the big guns, the A-grade material.
“Not the best.”
He told he was feeling down because his birthday was coming up. It was making him ruminate. I empathised. Birthdays are sad when you’re an adult because they’re like a marker of another year of not being where you wanna be in life. And because humans are perpetually dissatisfied, every year is another year of not being where you wanna be.
Also, we’re both poor, artistic types who aren’t that motivated by money but still sad that we’re poor. It’s not really a sensible thing to do with your life and every year that passes it’s slightly less socially acceptable to be someone that prioritises creativity over having a steady job and banging a spouse you don’t love.
“I’ve been thinking about all the things I’m not gonna get done,” he said. “Projects I wanna do… and not even just that – there’s so much I’m not gonna consume. Books, films, there’s just not enough time.”
I agreed with him that mortality is a real bitch. It’s hard to achieve stuff after you die and get new people to like you. A few people have done it like Van Gogh and Jesus. In fact, most of Jesus’s fans were born after he died. But for the average human being it’s generally a ballache to get any kind of momentum after you’ve died. We’re no good at painting and we’re arguably not religious prophets. Richard and I both have two ears and neither of us can walk on water. I can’t even swim in water. I wonder if Jesus couldn’t swim. Sure, he could walk on water but as soon as he attempts the breaststroke he embarrasses himself.
If we’re gonna make it big, we’re gonna have to do it while we’re alive. And believe me, I fantasise about that. I imagine going on tour with my friends: all the amazing, creatively talented people I know finally getting the recognition they deserve, performing to huge crowds and travelling around in a sick tour bus.
The narcissistic side of this fantasy is that I’d absolutely be the headliner. That’s the way I always visualise it. Probably call it Eric Rushton and Friends.
My god, the ego of the man.
I think in the past I would have cited this fantasy. I’d tell Richard, or any other future-fearing friend, not to worry, we’re all gonna make it and it’s gonna be wicked we’ll all do the hardest drugs we’re brave enough to do on the tour bus (Strepsils for me). Instead I just said:
“Pretty funny though, init?”
“What do you mean?”
“Just pretty funny to fail, I reckon.”
“I’m not saying this will happen,” I went on, “but even if we end our lives as complete failures, even if no one likes anything we do and we die as two, poor, penniless bachelors who’ve spent their entire lives afraid of ending up in that exact scenario… there’s something funny about that.”
Richard did a kind of bemused smile, like he was processing what I said, then laughed.
“See, funny, init?” I said.
I told him I’d take him for a curry on his birthday and he seemed keen for that. Then he started telling me about the audio quality on someone’s stand-up special he’d been watching. He got quite animated about that, actually. Richard is a voice over artist and an absolute audiophile so he likes to discuss audio editing with me. He’s open about being an audiophile. I do worry one day he’ll be caught in an audiophile Facebook sting where he’ll be publicly shamed for his love of smooth sounding vocals with a nice body.
The point is we relaxed into our usual rhythm. The icy reception had been overcome. I told him in more detail about my gigs. We planned what we’d do for his birthday – an outing to a Crazy Golf place in Birmingham after our curry.
Time seemed to flow without us feeling conscious of it. Like when you win over the crowd and your set becomes a breeze.
“Shit, it’s three in the morning,” I said, looking at my phone. “We should probably go to bed.”
“You know what?” he said, getting up from the sofa. “I feel much better about my birthday. I’m looking forward to it. Thank you.”
My work was done. Thank you, and goodnight.
My god, the ego of the man.
Anyway, that’s about it.
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