It happened last night. On Thursday, February 7, 2013. After four years and around four hundred shows, I finally did it. Save your congratulations, because my first ever full hour comedy performance without alcohol wasn’t worth celebrating, but it wasn’t a disaster either.
It certainly would’ve gone better if I’d had a drink, or seven.
The smart thing to do would’ve been to build the gigs up slowly. A sober five minutes, followed by an abstaining ten, and on until I was ready for an hour. However that would’ve been boring to read about, and even more tedious to live. Why climb a cliff, when you can just jump off it?
So I jumped. After a five hour flight from Brisbane to Perth, and four hours sleep over the previous two days, a day full of rehearsals and flyering, and added to that it was my first gig in over a month. I was exhausted, nervous, terrified, and really, properly desperate for a drink.
I hadn’t eaten all day, well nothing that had stayed in my system longer than an hour (gross, I know). I’d also been drinking too much coffee, not smart considering the state of my stomach, but I couldn’t have a drink. So what else was there?
Usually I drink at gigs because I want to, and only a small part of me needs it. Sometimes though, I use an alcohol wave to carry me through due to a severely impaired state, and this was precisely what I needed to get me through this show.
My first show at Perth Fringe World was the definition of a gig where a double shot of rum followed by a couple of beers was exactly what I needed, and craved.
Did I mention that my venue was next to a bar? A huge, well stocked, well staffed, beckoning, saliva-inducing bar. So unfair.
Alcohol is the reason I got into comedy. I could’ve never done that first gig sober, and I drank heavily. Starting two hours before I was onstage, I downed jug after jug after jug.
In my raw comedy heat I was on first, and I hit that magical point similar to when you’re amazing at pool, and it always occurs just before you’re shit at pool, can’t stand up and then usually spew. I won that heat.
For my second heat, I employed a similar strategy but was on last and when I finally walked onstage I saw three microphones, not one. It did not go well.
After years of practice, I’d learned the boozy recipe for reaching that magical plateau where I was able to sink unbelievable shots at pool, and nail the delivery of my jokes. Two shots of rum, and a few beers. What I needed, but what I wouldn’t allow myself to have.
At midday on Thursday, February 7, I had a coffee in café. Sipping and staring at the grand sparkling wall of alcohol I could not touch. At five o’clock I did the same thing.
At seven o’clock I was exhausted. Coffee was doing nothing. I knew only alcohol would fix this, and for the next hour I was flyering but felt like I was talking to potential punters through a wall of gauze.
That they were looking at me and thinking;
‘Why is this idiot in a penguin suit?’ (I was in a penguin suit.)
‘Why do a show about racism? That’s not funny.’ (My show is about racism.)
‘I don’t want a sticker.’ (I’m worried that you’re trying to sell me a foster child.)
‘Je ne parle pas anglais.’ (I don’t speak English).
Ten minutes before I was due to perform, I was in the bar next to my venue slobbering over the fridges stocked solidly with glorious alcohol, looking for anything that wasn’t alcohol that could give me a lift. I bought a Red Bull. It cost $7. All it did was intensify my tummy ache.
Onstage I began with a new joke, which bombed, and another new one, and another new one, and I was dropping that many bombs that I felt like I was waging war, not doing stand up comedy.
Then came a good laugh, followed by a big laugh, and a proper laugh, then a huge laugh. Despite the positive response, the voice inside my head second-guessing my every action was particularly loud throughout, and that’s something else I usually deaden with drink.
Afterwards several audience members came up and told me how much they enjoyed the show, that they would recommend it to others, and that I made an hour feel like twenty minutes.
And every one of them offered to buy me a drink.
Which I refused.
As it is well known that after gig drinks are the most delicious of them all.
Back at the house where I was staying with friends, we discussed the gig. I was drained, but too buzzed from the gig for sleep.
On the shelf above the fridge, directly in my line of sight, a bottle of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum sat there. Whispering through the moustache and his big pirate smile, ‘The Captain has what you need. I’ll get you up for the party, and with a bit more in your belly, you’ll sleep like a baby.’
I resisted, and managed to sleep exactly like a baby. Plenty of crying, and up every hour for no good reason. At least I didn’t soil myself.
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