A lot of people endeavour to sit in the middle or towards the back of gigs to make sure this won’t happen to them. Sometimes it’s out of shyness, or perhaps because you think your answers won’t be very interesting, but let’s be honest – the main issue is that most people don’t like being made fun of. It’s one of those things that is amusing mainly when it’s happening to someone else.
As you may have guessed I was at a comedy gig this week, and I got asked what I do. The gig in question was Bright Club at The Stand in Edinburgh, where a load of academics try their hand at stand up. The audience is therefore filled with people who have PHDs, or at least degrees in difficult subjects like science and maths. Not that arts degrees aren’t difficult, exactly, but they do essentially involve reading lots of books and telling people what you thought of them with an air of authority – or that’s my experience.
Anyway the compere at this comedy gig full of people who work much harder at university than I ever did was asking what people studied. He’d come across a gang of neuroscientists, a couple of mathematicians, my brother (who is studying psychology), and one writer who hasn’t been published yet. Then there was me.
“Are you a student as well?” he asked. (I wasn’t even at the front; I was hiding behind a linguistics student who appeared on stage later as well.) Curses, I thought, I’m not that brainy or anything, I work in an office - not a subject ripe for comedy (remember The Office has a) been done and b) wouldn’t really work as a stand-up routine).
“I… work,” quoth I, and it turned out he was able to use that anyway – “These people work too ya know! Just because they’re students doesn’t mean they don’t work hard!” – so fair play to him, he's a seasoned pro.
But I was thinking about it afterwards, and wondering why I didn’t say I was a writer. Now, obviously he’d already had one writer and duly taken the mick out of her for not being published yet and whatever – but ultimately it is what I do, I have been known to earn money from it, and being a temp is not really a career (unless I was as good at it as Donna Noble, but frankly who is).
I’ve concluded it might be because I’m in a bit of a slump. I’ve had a few writing-related rejections recently – nothing too crushing, don’t get out the world’s smallest violin just yet (anyway it goes with the territory) – and epically failed to regain any semblance of writing routine since March. I’ve missed several deadlines for submissions and performance opportunities lately and I’ve not finished anything in ages. On returning from our epic backpacking adventure I promptly started a new temp job with more hours than the old one, started preparing to move house at the end of this month and began working on promotion for Homespun UK.
Essentially life has been getting in my way, so maybe I have been more of a temp than a writer. This is a problem that needs to be rectified – probably through discipline and sheer force of will. My gut reaction should not be to tell people, even comedians, that I’m an office temp instead of a journalist or a writer or an editor or a media officer. I do all of those things and temp on the side, god damn it. If people are going to take the mick out of me it should at least be for the right reasons.
So, identity crisis over – bring on the hours of hard work on top of a full time office job for no guaranteed reward.
Bright Club is really good by the way, you should totally go.