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Friday, June 24

Keep Your Options Open

Things don't always go right first time. Sometimes you don't know what to do for the best. Sometimes you're not clear which option is best for you. What should do you do?

I think it's important to have a contingency plan. Now, here's a thing. Contingency plans cost effort. However, a risk, in itself, has the potential to cost the whole thing you're working on, so the effort of a contingency plan is worth it to cover a risk. But... if you're not sure what may or may not work, then you can't be sure that one particular plan is going to be totally worth pursuing. Should you be more cautious than throw effort at a potential unviable contingency plan? Is there a benefit in being more conservative?

I have been bothering people a bit recently with my approach, which is to have multiple plans running in parallel. You don't invest heavily in each plan, but you do investigate it and its sibling options a bit. What then happens is that you have a bunch of open options ready to use if you need them.

If you only have one possible plan and wait for it to fall through before generating an alternative, then the elapsed time is greater, and your options start to reduce the longer you wait. If you keep a few irons in the fire until you know more exactly what you need, then you're always much more likely to be able to do something.

So, it's apparently more effort, but you get a lot more in return.

Keep your options open!

Thursday, June 23

Concurrency

It's all happening.

I'm involved in a storm of unrelated activities. There's the day job and the variety of challenges that that presents. Most of those challenges seem to be caused by human frailties. We're not perfect or logical creatures, we humans. We don't see things objectively and we don't necessarily play fair, or even agree on what fair is. That's day jobs for you. You'd only do them if they paid you.

Then there's the stand-up. I've been gigging doing different sorts of sets at different sorts of clubs. Not a huge amount of regular sets at the moment, mind. I've other fish that I need to fry.

There's the Edinburgh Preview season. Unlike some of the people tweeting today about their mad panic in June to have a show ready for previews in July, I've been ready, as I have for the last couple of years, by May. That said, this year is a bit of a cheat, since it's last year's show with edits, which is clearly much less work than writing a new one... or is it?

Well, It probably is, but I'm not noticing the benefits of apparently having more time, since I'm somewhat engrossed in the organisation of Funny's Funny. It all seemed like such a good idea at the time: "No, it'll barely take any time," I erroneously stated to my long-tolerating fiancee. She's done well and left me to it. In fairness, some great stuff has come out of this event, and I'm proud to have been a part of it. It's just been time consuming. Very. Time. Consuming.

Last night we went to showcase 10 or 11 (it's hard to say which, since two were happening on the same night; let's call it showcase 10. It was in Birmingham and had 10 comedians and a headliner and MC. The comedians all did well and each was very distinctive from the others. Such diversity and quality in just one showcase - it makes me think that this event is a hotbed of talent.

But then I'm bound to say that. As an organiser of the event, it's in my interest to look at it positively and to portray it as such. I can't help it. I'm clearly biased. However, if we're talking about reaping the benefits of something like this, I can genuinely say I was grateful for the positive feedback from all I met, and was thrilled to think that we've been able to bring something of this scale together. It makes it so much more real to be there in person.

My fiancee came along to the night, and we jointly facilitated unifying all the judging scores into a single answer - into the system it went and we'll find out who the finalists are in a few days.

Tonight and tomorrow I've got Edinburgh Previews. The showcases for Funny's Funny continue, collectively run by the promoters and organisers and other members of the Funny's Funny team. There's always someone doing something for Funny's Funny. I need, now, to focus on my Edinburgh show. I believe there'll be an audience. All I need to do now is remember the script.

I think an in-car rehearsal is coming up.

A snapshot from my life.

Love.

Ashley

Monday, June 6

It's All Happening

I had a performance anxiety dream last night. They happen every once in a while, usually caused by the combination of looming shows and a feeling of being underprepared. I won't go into the details of the dream. It didn't bother me too much, and is probably just a part of the normal wash cycle that a busy brain goes through between sleeping and waking.

Today was the first gig of the Funny's Funny Female Comedian of the Year showcases. The gig was in Edinburgh. The next show is in Cirencester. Today I also had an Edinburgh Preview show, in Cirencester. I'm starting to wonder whether Edinburgh and Cirencester knew they'd be connected in such a way.

Reports back from Edinburgh suggest that the show went pretty much as expected. Cirencester went better than expected, to be honest.

Overall, then, I can sleep tonight, safe in the knowledge that the world is still spinning on its axis. The right information got to the right people just in time for the show, and the right jokes came into my head just in time to say them out loud to the audience.

As June progresses, things will get more challenging, I'm sure. As it is, though, I think it's a good start.

Saturday, June 4

Can I Use The C-Word?

Sorry to people who don't like that word, but the word I mean is cunt. Cunt, cunt cunt cunt cunty cunty cunt. There. Got over your aversion to it? No? Well go and see The Vagina Monologues and get back to me later.

So, why bring up this word now? Is it the only C-word worth talking of? Well, there's another c-word in my life right now: competition. I'm currently in the process of organising a national comedy competition for women. Of course I am. It's the year in which I'm getting married, and I have an Edinburgh show to put on in a few weeks, with new material and previews to sort out - of course I should be running a national comedy competition for 12 weeks.

I've wondered whether this is a subconscious pre-marriage thing. Is it like a sort of last-ditch bit of batchelor-hood to lure 230 women into giving me their phone numbers? I'm going to go with no, but my psychologist may get back to you on that one.

What's any of this got to do with the cunt word? Well, I got an email from a participant. I won't name her. She wrote:
Can I use the c-word?
Print that out. It's a classic question. Put it on a monopoly-chance-card-like thing and have it in your back pocket. In any situation of massive irritation (and I've been through a few of those recently) you could just pull it out and show it to someone. If they agree, then you can vent your spleen with that oh-so-effective syllable.

Why would a female comedian ask me whether she's allowed to use this particular word? It has to do with precedent. Let's imagine that some women are adamantly against this word. Imagining it? No? Then you probably don't need to see The Vagina Monologues (or the Va-hoo-haa Monologues if you're a prudish American theatre who couldn't even bear a medical term on a poster). If you HATE that word, then it's sort of understandable; swears activate a certain part of the brain and maybe you don't like that feeling... it might be worth seeking some counselling though.

Shouldn't women comedians set a good example on stage? Well, if they want to, yes. And what is a good example? (Not starting a sentence with "And" would be one.) I think it depends on who you are and what you do. If any comedian wants to use any word that is, in itself, non-oppressive (actual racial slurs and homophobia don't deserve a platform in my view), then they should use it. If a comedian wants to be an example of something, then great. If a comedian wants to just tell their jokes their way, without the demands of a subtext, then that's kind of the definition of being a comedian.

The problem with making female comedy into an issue is that it kind of presumes that female comedy is in a different social bracket to male comedy. I'm proud to say that I co-run an organisation called Funny's Funny (www.funnysfunny.org.uk) which is defined by the belief that comedy is comedy, regardless of any demographic classification of the performer. This means it makes no difference whether the comedian on stage chooses to use a word or another - they're not representing anything and the rules for them are the same rules for any comedian.

Why would a female comedian feel some burden of expectation on them as to what they can and can't say? Is it society? Is it the comedy industry? I'm afraid to say that it isn't. There exists an organisation who claims to be in favour of female comedy and claims to be all about promoting female comedians. This organisation asserts that there are disadvantages imposed on female comedians by the rest of the comedy industry; they claim to redress the balance. Unfortunately, it's this organisation who has created a number of insecurities and discontentments in my fellow comedians - the ones who happen to be female.

Why would an organisation who claims to offer support do the exact opposite? Why would they try to cramp and stifle the very thing they're supposed to nurture?

Can I use the c-word!?

I've never been a female comedian and I have only the anecdotes of my colleagues to draw on. No personal experience. I have, however, received about 50 pieces of feedback about "the other competition" from female comedians within the event we're running. This feedback would anger me just as much if it were male comedians complaining about any competition.

From tomorrow, a series of events will be happening nationwide. Please try to go to them if you can. See some new and not-so-new acts giving their best under normal comedy club conditions. They happen to be women. They're funny. The best of them will go into a final where they'll compete for a prize and get excellent exposure in the comedy world.

I hope they never need to use the c-word... off stage, at least.

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