The reaction has wavered between: “I didn’t know you were funny,” to “I’ve never found you funny,” to “Are you even funny?”
The response from friends, colleagues and (now former) loved ones when I’ve told them that next month I’m trying my hand at stand up comedy for the first time.
(There was one other reaction: a Yorkshire Post colleague literally laughed in my face, although it wasn’t the kind of laugh I was looking for).
I have a long relationship with stand up comedy that goes back to (cue Hovis ad music) when I was nobbut a toddler and, apparently, my grandad would perch me on the bar of his pub, The Vine in Keighley, and I would do Tommy Cooper impressions. (How? Just like that). So there has always been something of an entertainer lurking in the background of my psyche.
Then, when I was 15 years old, I stumbled across something that turned my innocent adoration for stand up into a full blown affair of passion. Bill Hicks’s Revelations was broadcast on Channel 4. I saw it and my world turned upside down. Hicks, the son of a preacher and more prophet than comedian on stage, was taking something I knew and understood and turning it into something utterly, terrifyingly magnificent.
I’d grown up with Tommy Cooper and Ken Dodd, but Bill Hicks had neither a fez nor a tickling stick. He was a dangerous, growling, angry comedian as coruscatingly contemptuous of his audience as he was entertaining them. That was it. I became a stand up comedy nut, devouring the likes of Sam Kinison, reading about Dick Gregory and seeking out Emo Philips and Eddie Murphy videos (I am not catholic in my tastes). It had never, however, occured to me to try stand up myself. I admire the art form, but that doesn’t mean I could do it.
Obviously, in idle moments I’d imagine having the audience in the palm of my hand, helpless with laughter at my stand up set, but it was no more real than a football fan dreaming of scoring a winning goal at Wembley. Then I hit 40.
I already owned a convertible (Micra, but it counts) so I had to choose another cliche from the Mid-Life Crisis Handbook. So I threw the dice on a long held dream. And, in just under a month, after an eight week course with a wonderful comedian called Jim Bayes, myself and a group of other brave (stupid) first timers will take to the stage of The Wardrobe and attempt to make people laugh, while raising money for Cancer Research UK.
I’ll update you on the journey next time, the (sold out) gig is June 3. In the meantime if you want to sponsor me in this ridiculous endeavour (while raising money for a great cause) you’ll find my donations page at www.justgiving.com/nickahad