In 2011 I turned my back on the 4-gigs-per-week, sticky-floored, desperate lifestyle known as the open mic comedy circuit, vowing never to return. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, as Charles Dickens once wrote, recounting a story of far more social importance than this one. Best of times; I wrote for the BBC. I did an Edinburgh show and met a few of the warmest, brightest and most interesting people I've encountered in my life to date. Well, one or two.
Worst of times: literally everything else. It coincided with one of the most miserable years I have had in my personal life- and there have been some bad years. A few highlights; My Grandmother, to whom I was very close, died. I dated another comedian who turned out to be married- I didn't find this out until he did material about it on stage. My best friend divorced her husband and moved to New York. I had, in the time-honoured tradition of mothers and daughters in my family, a spectacular falling out with my mum that I feared we wouldn't recover from.
And then the worst thing happened that could possibly happen to a fledgling comic- a more established standup started using my best material. I wouldn't have minded, but I basically had one joke that I just kept telling in a variety of ways. In standup, it's customary to give up your material if someone further up the food chain uses it (whether by accident or design). It's not fair, but them's the rules. And I was on the pointy end of that particular sharp stick.
All these things conspired to leave me with the feeling that comedy was the devil's work and I wanted no part of it. I began to wonder what other awful things had occurred because of my foray into this dark and shadowy world. The coalition government? The earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan? Charlie Sheen's meltdown?
I sank into depression. It could have been worse. Some people self-harm or abuse substances; I only knew I was depressed because I was watching Kevin Costner films and enjoying them.
The truth was that I didn't like the person that I had become. I never set out to be a standup- I only did a stand-up course in the first place because I was writing for a performer and I thought it would help. In the 15 months that followed, I went from someone doing a few gigs here and there for fun to someone being sickened by their Facebook feed on a daily basis because comics who'd started out at the same time as me were getting better gigs and getting to the finals of competitions I had never even made the first rounds of. I began to get all my self-worth from how amusing people found me. I would either come home from gigs feeling poised for world domination or wondering where the nearest tall bridge was located. I often mocked certain peers for their sudden grandiosity, but in reality, I was no different. I was shocked at how easily I had become that woman.
But comedy seems to have a way of nosing me out. Six months after I quit and decided to train as a yoga teacher, I managed to find-unbeknownst to me- the one teacher in London who was looking to get into comedy and he was keen to collaborate with me. We've been having fun doing comedy shows for a more philosophical/yoga crowd over the past two years. It's been a big lesson in doing it just for the sheer joy of making people laugh with zero expectations of fame and fortune.
This August, I'm returning to my roots and doing a show on the Camden Fringe. I have the usual mix of excitement and nervousness about it: It's going to be as much of an experiment in humility as in writing an hour of good material. In other words, if you see me in late July swanning around Camden with an entourage and giving public acceptance speeches, you have my full permission to throw things at me.