The Big Step Up…..

I’ve done six gigs so far, two live in front of an audience and four since lockdown. I’ve been encouraged to try my hand at another online comedy gig here in the UK, and it took me some while to take the plunge.

And so to last night. I’ve been tuning into this particular one to get a feel of what is required and what the quality of the acts are like. It is a very slickly run production, and the acts are top quality.

Considering I fell into this stand up lark by accident a year ago, I cannot believe I’m performing on the same stage as some very fine acts. I think “Is this really happening?” Yes, it’s like some spectacular dream, and I haven’t woken up yet.

I was extremely nervous, but I took the time and trouble to practise the set yesterday afternoon. It worked well, and when it was time to get going, I tuned in and there I was – on third in the first half. The nerves were building. I had amazing support from a lot of my contemporaries but being a newish kind of audience, I still had those nagging self doubts.

And then, my name was up in lights…..I was on. I took the trouble to wear a nice black polo neck jumper and a joke just came into my head “Hi Ladies and Gents….I’ve just been delivering some Milk Tray chocolates…, just got back”.

That settled me in, the laughter was there and I was away. Tripped over a couple of punchlines, only slightly, nobody seemed to notice, but the material was sound and the jokes were hitting their target. This felt the most amazing feeling ever. Nothing can beat this when it goes well. The positive comments I was getting on the Zoom chat just blew me away.

I even threw in a brief impression of UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. That was well received and I hope to develop that further at future evenings.

The great feedback kept on rolling in afterwards and this morning from the promoter. Great compliment to say how well I did, considering that’s only my seventh gig in total. I also take part to learn from others, on how to do it, and how not to do it. I never stop listening and learning.

So I didn’t get a lot of sleep….as the adrenaline was still running round. This is one helluva feeling. And I want more of it!

Stay safe

Yours in comedy,

Ian L. Fullbrook

A little bit of genius….

Hi. It’s the middle of winter here in the UK, and to complicate the lockdown, we’ve had some freezing weather to make us feel a bit more low…..until….

Every so often something happens or you see something that will stay with you for a very long time. Last night, I was an audience member for another online comedy gig (I’m performing next week….of which more later) and as usual the standard of the acts was extremely stratospheric!

A chap come on at the end of the first half, with jam jar bottom spectacles, train spotter look, and a train spotter voice. His stage name….Kevin the Nerd.

It was a harmless enough start, with some amusing stuff about Kevin working in the IT department of a zoo. But then the set took an unexpected and frankly, awe inspiringly funny turn.

Kevin transmorphed into a small puppet and proceeded to tell us about his love life. Along comes a female puppet, and this proceeds until from stage left, comes a crocodile to eat up the female. Cue gales of laughter from the audience. The giggles had already started for me, and they were to multiply….

If that wasn’t enough, Kevin met another female puppet and there then followed a sex scene which was sheer joy from a comedy point of view. The bit that got me was the fact the female puppet was sitting on Kevin’s face during the intercourse….by this time the laughter had built up to such a crescendo you just wouldn’t believe.

Absolute genius. I will nominate it as one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, so original, so dark and so cleverly done. If it is topped this year, I want to be there. Everybody was breathless, sides aching from the laughter and really how do you follow that? Not easy.

Once again, a superb night and I’m so glad I’ve joined up to watch and perform. On that note, I’ve been accepted to perform next week. I can’t hope to match Kevin the Nerd, but I’m determined to give it a good go. Just need to get down to business and write my set. The whole ambience and atmosphere of the night is a sheer joy, and that is down to the promoter and his MC’s for engendering that.

I cannot wait to get on stage next week, but take a bow, Kevin the Nerd!

Yours in comedy,

Ian L. Fullbrook

Warm and happy thoughts…

It’s been a horrible day weather wise here in London this day. Strong wind, grey skies, lashing rain and icily cold to boot. Very unpleasant. But that’s where duvets come in handy on a day like this!

Last night was spent in the company of two of our Peer Support attendees. We went to watch that play that I’ve seen already this year, called WEIRD, about one woman’s battle with OCD. We went to the Soho Theatre in London on a busy Friday night in amongst the Christmas shoppers.

I had to take my two colleagues along. And boy did they enjoy it. There was a terrific atmosphere in the room, which housed 70/80 people at a rough guesstimate. Amy Doyle, the fabulous actress that plays all the parts, launched into a tour de force that drew widespread admiration from all in the room.

The audience laughed at the funny bits. They sat in respectful silence at the sad moments. And when it was all over, the room rose as one to applaud Amy. She seemed somewhat taken aback by the reaction, but as I’ve alluded to before, this is a great production. And the ovation was richly deserved.

And some of the applause should be reserved for this fine lady:-

The lady in question is Manchester born writer Lucy Burke, (pictured with me, above) whose battles with OCD are brilliantly displayed via the stirring Amy Doyle. It’s an earthy, vibrant production with a bittersweet, human touch. Next year, WEIRD may tour some parts of the UK. If you see it advertised, please go and see it. It’s one of my standout memories of the year.

My two colleagues loved the whole performance. I shall see it again, and I shall bring along more of my colleagues to enjoy the beauty of one of the best things I’ve seen in recent years. No praise can be too high for this.

A wonderful way to end the week.

WEIRD, A Play about OCD. Written by Lucy Burke. Directed by Peter Taylor. Performed by Amy Doyle.

A.S.D Brooks

Check out my WEIRD review….

I’ve written a review of the play WEIRD on SANE’s website. Check it out by clicking on the link:- http://www.sane.org.uk/howyoucanhelp/blogging/show_blog/1864

I’ll be grateful if you could check it out!

Many thanks

A.S.D Brooks

Celebrating difference….

This was a clever piece of marketing merchandise from the play WEIRD I saw the other day at the Edinburgh Fringe.

At school, anyone that was slightly different to others was labelled weird, or a freak. Certainly I had those insults levelled at me quite a few times. Unaware of any form of mental illness at the time, though my life was made a bit miserable at times, I had to get on with life. I wasn’t that good at sports or practical subjects (same still true today), and though I was good at academic subjects like Maths and English, that lack of practicality rendered me different.

And I wasn’t a great mixer either. I kept myself to myself. Partially true these days too. The childhood can colour your adult life. But I blissfully carried on with the insults still ringing in my ears.

Those insults have more or less stopped now and like most others with a mental illness of some form, my difference or weirdness is now more accepted, if not celebrated. Autism wasn’t heard of back in 1983, but it is now. There is a spectrum and people are on it, whether they like it or not.

And the same can be said of OCD. Again, nobody had heard of OCD back in 1983. But through the hearts and minds of people who suffer this very debilitating illness, we are all much more aware. And it’s striking that some people still link OCD to cleanliness. Not so. It’s an illness where rigid routine is adhered to to give the sufferer relief. It’s like an electrical circuit. The thought process goes round and round until something breaks the circuit and some kind of normality returns.

I’ve had to stand there and explain what OCD is to groups of schoolchildren at some of the presentations I do. They have great knowledge, but that link of tidiness and cleanliness is still with them. So I have to explain to them what I’ve written in the last few paragraphs.

OCD is a part of all that all encompassing weirdness. But it’s ok to be weird. It’s ok to be autistic. It’s ok to have OCD. It’s ok to have bipolar or schizophrenia. There was a correlation years ago between mental illness and being thought of as mad. All mental illness sufferers can go and live decent and productive lives. That doesn’t mean that sufferers are stupid or retarded. The quicker we get away from mental illness equals stupidity or madness the better.

Celebrate and embrace weirdness. It’s fine to be different, not to conform to certain patterns of behaviour. So go on, enjoy being WEIRD!!

A.S.D Brooks

Admiring the view….

That was the first time I’ve travelled further north than York in the UK yesterday. But I was awe struck by the views of certain places.

The splendour and enormity of the stations at York, Darlington, Newcastle and Edinburgh. The sweeping bends and viaducts. The greenery. The Tyne Bridge in Newcastle. The beauty and serenity of Durham, and by far the best, Berwick-Upon-Tweed.

Now Berwick-Upon-Tweed is the easternmost border between England and Scotland. The view coming into the station is magnificent. The vast River Tweed flowing out into the North Sea, and a delightful town either side. It’s a shame I’ve got no pictures of these views as I was seated on the wrong side of the train, going and coming back! Just my luck really. It’s a bit rude to get up and lean across to take pictures while people are asleep or reading, so politeness abounds.

And then Edinburgh. You can see Arthur’s Seat, a big hill outside of the capital, on the journey into Edinburgh. Then you have the history, the beauty, the splendour, the architecture of the Scottish capital. Bit hilly though! You need strong legs, feet and a strong pair of shoes to negotiate the hilly parts of the town centre. Not for an unfit person like me!

Just added to the experience of a wonderful day, one to store in the memory bank, especially on those cold winter evenings. Great to do something on a whim. Set your mind to it and you can do anything.

A.S.D Brooks

A double dose of WEIRD….

Tired but happy. It’s been a long day and am on a (late) train back to London from Edinburgh. That today was a wonderful experience.

Standing outside the venue was the writer, Lucy Burke, with a handful of flyers ready to hand out to the mass of humanity milling outside the many venues at the Edinburgh Fringe. I had a very good and convivial conversation with Lucy. Lucy is very personable and you can sense the enthusiasm within her for this project, called WEIRD, focusing on her own personal struggles with OCD.

The show started at 1.45 in a room no bigger than my living room. The attendance was a little bit smaller than I expected, but it made for an intimate atmosphere. The performer had changed from London. The marvellous Amy Doyle is taking a break, understandably from WEIRD as the show runs for a month at the Fringe. In her place was the equally skilled and equally top class Charlotte Whitaker. In fact if I closed my eyes, I could have sworn Amy was speaking. Though both are from Yorkshire, they perfect the Bolton accent extremely well.

Unfortunately though, a member of the audience left halfway through, and when the performance finished, she was visibly distressed. I’m not sure what it was that triggered her distress, but this world of mental illness can get to us all.

Performance wise? Strong and confident, and you can pick out the sad moments, especially at the end, when the character loses her best friend in a car accident. The humour is still there, raw and undiluted, just as it should be.

Then it was back to the cavernous Edinburgh Waverley station. It is positively enormous and overflowing with people. Whether south of the border or north of the border, the train services are just the same. Return journey late, by only a few minutes though.

I just had that warm glow today that I’ve seen WEIRD in a different setting. Just that change, a different environment and a great setting. I would like to see WEIRD play to vast audiences, because the team that produce it are exceptionally capable of taking it onto bigger stages. It deals with mental illness with honesty, feeling and depth. And you can’t go too far wrong with honesty in this world. Lucy Burke also spoke of WEIRD going on tour in certain parts of England. I would like to bring along some of my colleagues in the mental health volunteering field. They would love it, and they would love the people that produce it.

Surprisingly on three hours sleep, I don’t feel too bad, but I will be crashing into my pit later on tonight. It’s the weekend after all.

WEIRD – A play about OCD – written by Lucy Burke, produced by Peter Taylor. Starring Amy Doyle or Charlotte Whitaker as Yasmin and a host of other characters.

Take my advice. Go and watch it. It’s fab.

A.S.D Brooks

Fair to middling sort of day….

Weather superb. Glorious blue skies and delightful warmth, but not excessively hot. Nothing much occurring today, just preparing for another day of Peer Support Group tomorrow allied to some training afterwards. An early start for me tomorrow.

Sitting here sipping a pint of water with tons of ice in it, refreshing it is too. Last night I decided to go for some more variety in my life again. I booked some train tickets to visit the Edinburgh Fringe festival in a few weeks time. That play WEIRD which I saw the other day is playing at Edinburgh throughout the whole of August, so I thought why not go and see it again, but 400 miles further north!

I’ve never been past Yorkshire in terms of train travel in England, but I did visit Edinburgh by air some years to attempt to watch some cricket. Sadly, the Scottish weather was rather drab and there was no play, but I did enjoy the Scottish capital and it’s history and tradition. Looking forward to travelling up there again and this time by train. That’s going to be another great experience.

So it’s a new month, it’s my birthday soon, and another year closer to 50 is approaching. I have the grey hairs to prove it. But doing different things and getting out of my comfort zone does work on occasions. Keeps me grounded and not dwelling on the past…..

A.S.D Brooks