When an idea forms, good or bad, it consumes you. And you can spend your entire existence working towards it. Training, practising, preparing. You feel confident. You feel like you can be the best. The Greatest of All Time. The GOAT.
Then comes the day where you have to put it all on show and you
realise one thing: You know absolutely nothing.
All that training, all those scenarios. It means nothing when you
aren’t in front of the audience. Training with your best friend. Working with
family. Testing out your act. They all laugh and say it’s great. But hell,
they’re just saying that to be nice, aren’t they? Do they really think it?
This is how I felt right now. On the opening night of our first
comedy show. It’s not the MGM Grand and we’re not Jeff Dunham. It’s some
barely-standing-still club in the roughest part of the neighbourhood.
But the question remained: What the hell do I know about
I didn’t really choose this. It kind of chose me. My whole life I
was told I was born for this. That I was a natural. But how can anyone really
be born for anything? Or a natural? Surely it’s all practise right? Perfecting
Are we predestined in life? Does our life follow a course set for
us by God, or fate, or whatever? Or do we forge our own path?
I don’t know. I mean Tiger Woods wasn’t born with a golf club in
hand. He wasn’t shooting 10 under on his first go. He worked hard and he
practised, didn’t he?
Here we were. Sitting backstage. Hamish and I. The comedy duo. One
of many. Almost a cliché these days. Sitting amongst the other acts. Local
Shirley the Fire Twirler. She sat opposite us, two extinguished
fire sticks laying across her lap and a squeeze bottle of kerosene or whatever
it was they used to spray fire into the air at her feet.
In the far corner Frederic the Absorber. He was from Russia. He
didn’t speak a lick of English, but he was so big he took up two seats. He wore
white spandex and had bulging muscles that could have been mistaken for a
topographical map of a city with veins running like roads and thick, knotted
muscles for buildings. Somewhere backstage was the slingshot that fired
projectiles at him which he ‘absorbed’ on his stomach. Total freak show but one
of the more popular acts.
And, of course, there were heaps of comedy acts; Mills and Boone,
Hilary Hilarious, Silly Sam, Mickey (yes, only Mickey), Nicolas Sarcasm spread
out around the room. Some sitting, some standing. Some practising, rehearing
their jokes while others were conversing with others, exuding calm.
How could I compete with them? They’re all pros. Established
veterans with a following, a fandom. Why would anyone be interested in our
performance? This new act encroaching on to these veterans. Weeds on a
manicured lawn. They’d be thinking who the hell we thought we were, trying to
compete with the others.
From beyond the red curtain we heard laughter as Sally Smack
regaled the audience with some silly story and my nervousness increased. Was I
Expectations have now been created. The audience loose, a few drinks
in and ready to laugh. Sally was good, not the best, but good. She was safe.
Family-friendly jokes. Dad jokes really.
Stuff like, “It’s raining cats and dogs, make sure you don’t step
in a poodle”, or “How did Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.”
They’re funny, good for a chuckle, but the crowd sounded raucous.
To me they sounded like the 12th man at a Seahawks game. Breaking all sorts of
Maybe I’m over-exaggerating. It’s not that loud, is it?
Beside me, Hamish shuffled in his seat and I felt his nervousness
radiating off him like the heat from a mid-summer sun.
Before tonight I would have said I was confident in our act being
better than someone like Sally Smack but now, I don’t know.
Maybe this was all a mistake.
Why did we do this? Life was solid if unspectacular before Hamish
forced me into this act. I was content with a life of luxury. Sitting around,
doing very little. Providing some entertainment when Hamish had friends over.
No pressure. No expectations. Just a couple of jokes, a couple of silly actions
in front of some tipsy friends. No sweat.
Then one particularly boozy night in which our performance
elicited much drunken laughter, Tex suggested Hamish and I take it a bit more
seriously. Work on our act, get it down right and we could be big.
I wasn’t so sure but Hamish, who is very impressionable when he’s
got a few beers under his belt, thought it was a great idea. I didn’t say
anything. It wasn’t a bad idea; we always made the others laugh with our act.
At the time it was a flattering suggestion to think we could make it.
I admit a part of me was excited about it but I didn’t say
anything. I didn’t want to be that guy, the one who got too into
an idea to find out they weren’t that serious. They were all drunk. I figured the
idea would be forgotten by the time Hamish sobered up.
But it didn’t.
Tex planted the idea and it stuck. Almost like inception, but
instead of being asleep they were drunk. So not really like inception I suppose.
The next day, Hamish did the research while I watched him. He
wrote notes, he formed ideas and he ran them by me. The more he spoke about it,
the more passionate he got and then I was on board. It wasn’t a bad idea. We
were good. But I had no choice. No say in the matter.
Were we good enough?
I looked around the round.
There was no way in hell we were.
But how could I tell Hamish that?
He, and I, worked so hard. He didn’t like his day job and dreamed
of being something bigger. He was just another cog in the corporate wheel that
appreciated him as much as their profits dictated. A good month and they were
friendly, a handshake and ‘well done’. A bad month and he was working overtime,
pressured to get more done.
“We’re not liking these numbers, Hamish. What can we do to pick them
Why it was Hamish’s job to get the numbers back up was beyond me,
and him. But he accepted their bipolar personalities because he was
comfortable, and a doormat. And change made him uncomfortable.
He worked there for 10 years, never had a promotion. Pay rises
that he would call ‘better than nothing’ but I would define it as a joke. But,
again, I can’t say any of this to him.
Hamish worked on emotion. He fed off positive energy. Which is why
we worked so well together. Me? I fed off his energy. If he was happy and
laughing, then so was I.
If he was sad and mopey, or had a bad day at work, then you can
bet your bottom dollar I wouldn’t be cracking jokes either. In fact, he would
But that’s how life is. Good and bad days.
Tex’s idea had a hold on Hamish and it was nice to see Hamish so
passionate about this project. This was for the both of us, but for different
He needed the lift. A change in the monotony of life. I did worry
that if he bombed he would hit a deep depression and who knows when I would see
him next. One night when we were practising in front of the mirror I told him I
was proud of him for trying this. For getting out of his comfort zone. That he
needed to do it.
For me, like I said, I was born for this. My whole existence I was
told I was made to be a performer. I couldn’t do anything else. I couldn’t work
an office job. I couldn’t play sports. But I could perform. Jokes, acts,
whatever. It was ingrained in me from the very beginning.
The two of us came from different mindsets, growing up differently
but both had our hopes hinged on this working.
And now here we both sat. Waiting. Nervous as hell.
We were up next and Hamish was raining sweat. He grabbed my hand
in his own, clammy one. Squeezes it to reassure the both of us. Hamish was a
lot taller than me, a lot bigger, so his hand enveloped my own. Covered it like
an oven mitt.
“I shouldn’t be surprised you’re so calm,” he said in a whisper. I
wasn’t sure if he was deliberately whispering or if his voice caught from the
What could I say? All my emotions were internal. I didn’t show
anything outwardly, but by hell was I scared.
I was scared that we would bomb and Hamish would sink into a boozy
depression. As much as I was proud of him for trying, this was a risk for his
mental health. Like touching a wall with a wet paint sign on it, you might come
away fine, or you might come away with wet fingers.
I was scared that if we bombed, he would wallow in his own
internal pit of despair. It’s happened before. A bad week, or when he felt like
the world was out to get him, he would disappear. Regressing to the previous
depression he worked so hard at fixing. At learning to live with and avoid the
But most of all, I feared what it would mean for us if we failed.
We spoke of how great we would be. The dreams of making it big. Making it in
Vegas. Worldwide tours. Being spoken about with legends. The GOATs. But never
spoke of what would happen if we sucked.
Overthinking and delusions aside, this was a massive risk and we
both knew it.
But Tex, alcohol and a desire to be something else drove Hamish to
the point of recklessness. He both feared and welcomed it.
As for me, what the hell was I doing here? Why did I need this?
I may look calm, but I am freaking out internally.
What if we stink? Or if we fail? Or we get booed and laughed off
the stage for being so terrible. What the hell did Tex know about comedy? He
was an accountant. It's a scientific fact that accountants are the most
boringest people on the planet.
I had a comfortable life before we decided to do this. In fact,
right now I would have been at home, on my butt, chilling and watching tv. If
not for this ludicrous venture.
How am I not shaking right now?
If I could run, I would. I’d be out of here and the only thing
left behind would be a white, me-shaped cloud like you see in those old Looney
Part of me hoped Hamish would pull the pin. Tell me we’re leaving,
that he couldn’t do it.
All these self-doubts. This imposter syndrome. We worked on our
act. We tested it on others. Not just Tex, but family. Even posted some stuff
on YouTube. There were a few likes, no dislikes. Very little comments but all
positive. I would hope for more but that’s asking for too much. Though the
delusional part of me was hoping we would wake up as internet sensations. Skip
all the hard work and go straight to the top.
But how often does that happen?
From beyond that dark red curtain was the sound of applause and
We were up next.
He was pale and looked sickly. I wouldn’t be surprised if he
vomited in the middle of the floor.
All our hard work was about to come to fruition.
“That was great, wasn’t it? Please give a big round of applause
for Sally Smash”, came the announcers' booming voice over the PA system.
Hamish stood up, smoothing down his pants, brushing a hand through
his hair, messing it up. A nervous habit.
And now, we have a debut act. Please give a warm round of applause
to our local talent, Hamish and Chipper.
Light, uncertain applause was muted by the curtain, and I could
imagine the audience wondering who the heck we were.
Hamish let out a deep sigh, “Oh boy,” he said and turned to me.
I remained silent. As I always did.
Hamish bent down and picked me up. Pushing his hand through the
slit in the back of my suit jacket into the hole in my back where the handle
and buttons were located. He pressed the buttons, moving my eyes and my mouth,
as well as turning the handle to make my head swing left and right. Making sure
Not that they wouldn’t. He’d tested them many times in the lead up
Then he picked me up, tucking my limp arms into my lap and cradled
me in the crook of his arm, my legs swayed limply, like leaves in a gentle breeze.
“Alright Chipper. It’s showtime.”