“I think that you may be the greatest person I have ever met in my entire life.”
This is not a snippet of dialogue from my last date, or a drunk text I recently sent to my mother or a line from the hit TV series GIRLS. No… far worse than any of the above, this is a thing I once said to a real-life celebrity.
I was so very excited to meet said celebrity – my favourite comedian, a person who oozes hilarity and wit, whose comedy stems, not just from what they say, but from their on-stage persona, a person who makes me feel less ashamed about my own failures to ‘adult’, a person who makes me feel less alone, a person who makes me laugh about the things in life that are painful, a person whose name I cannot reveal for legal reasons.
I was attending their stand-up show after what had proved to be a difficult weekend. I needed to take my mind off things. I was counting on [REDACTED] to do so. It was going to be a fun night, filled with laughter, gin and joy.
But unfortunately, with an obsessive personality and a compulsive need to be liked (I assume this is something from my childhood but my parents insist it’s nothing to do with them), seeing my favourite comedian live was never going to be a straight-forward event.
I arrived at the venue, half an hour early, with a game plan. I would watch my favourite comedian perform. I would laugh harder than everyone else… to prove my allegiance. I would then wait at the bar after the show and attend the ‘meet and greet.’ I was going to introduce myself and we were going to become best friends.
I was going to be the bell of the ball. I was going to impress them with my perfectly-selected, painstakingly-crafted witty phrases. They would laugh, perhaps engage in my verbal sparring. We’d do this for about five minutes or so. Then they’d look deeply into my eyes and ask me to come on tour with them.
“Oh, [REDACTED], I don’t know what to say…”, I’d mutter humbly, before accepting and demanding a 20% pay increase, and a weekly spot on Mock the Week.
The performance was incredible. Seeing them come on stage for the first time had me on the edge of my seat. It was genuinely breath-taking. I found joy and humour in everything they said, despite being familiar with the nooks and cranny of every joke. It was a lesson in the importance of live performance (support the arts, folks!)
The show came to an end and I readied myself in position. I bought myself a G&T, stationed myself at the bar and waited for them to come out and greet their adoring fan. Ten minutes passed so I bought myself another G&T, and another, and another. Eventually they did emerge, looking dishevelled and somewhat exhausted, and I pounced.
Unsurprisingly, they were not the bubbly person I had expected.
Unsurprisingly, after performing a two hour show, they were not in the mood to laugh at my try-hard attempts at humour, they did not appreciate my interest in their life and (this one hurts the most), they did not ask me which very famous comedian had swiped left on me on tinder (Matt Lucas).
Instead, they thanked me for my kind words and moved onto the next person.
I was disappointed, of course. But looking back I question whether I had any right to be. How can I, in all honesty, blame this performer for being a real person, rather than the two dimensional comic entity I had envisioned? Equally, however, I don’t blame myself for idolising them.
Instead, I blame the ‘meet and greet’ system. In giving us a chance to meet our heroes, it gives us a chance to see their flaws. Which, on one side, is a good thing – it shows us their humanity. But if all you want to do is enjoy a bit of comedy, maybe it’s best you don’t subject them to your impossibly high standards. If they don’t live up to them, you’re disappointed. If they do, they’re only feeding your unrealistic expectations. It’s a lose-lose situation.
And it’s never just about meeting them. It’s about selling yourself to them, showing you why you’re different from the rest of their fans. You’re cool. You’re worthy of their love. You’re pitching yourself to the seven dragons and, spoiler alert, no one’s investing in you. While you’re whoring yourself out in a desperate attempt to be loved, the dragons just want to go home and sleep. And you should let them.
So next time you’re watching your favourite comedian live, I implore you to savour the performance, their stage-craft and comic persona. Feast on the experience of live-comedy. Take in every detail, every joke, every change in intonation when they speak. Immerse yourself in the entertainment. And then, when it’s time to go home, rather than waiting in the bar, buying G&T after G&T, save yourself the heartbreak (and the £21), and just go home. Let live performance be a fleeting experience, as it was originally intended.
In the unprecedented times we find ourselves in, live performance is under threat. Please show your support for the arts by donating to charities like Artist Relief. Live performance is our heritage, let’s make sure it’s our future too.