Originally not aired on 29/12/22
We’re now well and truly in that weird period between watching The Eric Rushton Christmas Special (available on YouTube) and New Year’s Day.
It’s a time when you feel slightly disoriented. Partly because of the constant hangovers, but also because time feels like it’s coming at you from all directions.
Going back to your hometown can give you a sense of nostalgia, make you yearn for your childhood, a simpler time when all that mattered was playing Xbox and accessing porn when it was developmentally damaging to do so.
The imminent New Year makes you think to the future. What resolutions will you make? Get fitter? Be more disciplined? Quit porn?
Then the present raises its own dilemmas -- Am I happy or am I drunk? Am I sad or am I drunk? Can I watch porn in my family home without someone walking in on me?
My next guest is also a blast from all temporal directions – someone from my past, present, and hopefully my future.
Mark Holmes and I went to university together, where we both studied maths, a discipline defined as the abstract science of number, quantity and space.
More than just a couple nerds, though, it’s also where we started performing stand-up comedy, the abstract science of talking about how unhappy you are to strangers.
We haven’t seen each other for a while but you know someone is a real friend when upon meeting them again you instantly pick up where you left off. When Mark sat down it was apparent our chemistry hadn’t faded one bit.
“How’s it going man?” I asked.
“Yeah good, you?”
“Yeah, all good.
Just like old times.
We do still keep in touch, but our lives have diverged since those heady days of telling jokes to 15 other students in the corner of a pub. While I’m now performing to slightly older but equally indifferent crowds, Mark has left the comedy game altogether, becoming just another regular Homo Sapien.
“What made you hang up your boots?” I asked.
“Part of it was how hard it was to perform stand-up comedy in football boots,” he replied, hilariously.
This piece of wordplay was typical of Mark’s comedy. A craftsman and a wordsmith, Mark toyed with language, caressing it like a clitoris, except he didn’t have to be dirty. With lines like, “I do like me horseracing… it’s just those horses are so much quicker than me” Mark’s comedy was a throwback, to a time when jokes were jokes and blokes were blokes.
“If I’m being honest,” he said. “I guess I just didn’t fancy the lifestyle. It’s a lot of travelling, you’re constantly having your anxiety and adrenaline levels spiked before gigs. It wasn’t for me. I do computer programming now and it suits me a lot better.”
“Do you enjoy it?”
“Well, it’s not as fun in the moment but honestly mate I’m wicked at computers now.”
He’s not being boastful; Mark is so well versed when it comes to technology that he knows every keyboard shortcut on Windows and most on Mac. I didn’t ask, but with skills like that I imagine he’s earning a fortune, and as he was talking I couldn’t help but wish that I could Ctrl-C and then Ctrl-P his life on to mine.
I do love doing comedy but when you allow yourself to think about the downsides it does seem like a pretty stupid thing to pursue. It doesn’t pay well, the chances of success are slim, and you work at unsociable hours which make maintaining relationships difficult. Maybe if I took the same path as him then I’d be wicked at computers too, and, more importantly, happier.
As I was pondering this, and possibly because we’d been in silence for longer than is socially acceptable, Mark piped up.
“I’ve been really enjoying you clips online, mate.”
“Yeah, you’ve come on so much since uni.”
And that’s when I realised how stupid I was being. Sure, maybe I could’ve been wicked at computers, but the path I’m on has its own merits. Plus, I’m doing something I love. I do have a twinge of regret that I didn’t follow a more sensible path, but regret doesn’t mean you’ve gone wrong in life. You regret whatever you do. And even if there are things you genuinely regret, you can’t press Ctrl-Z and reverse them. You just have to get on with it and make better decisions going forwards.
“What are you talking about?” Mark said.
I realised I said all of that out loud.
“Oh, erm, well, I was just thinking that sometimes I’m envious of you and your highfalutin career with all those city folk,” I said, suddenly becoming a cowboy. “But I guess you might have the same feelings towards me. You probably look at me having all this fun going around doing comedy and wish you were doing the same sometimes?”
“Nah, not really.”
“Oh, is there anything you regret?”
“Doing this interview.”
What a great catch up.
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