Live stand up makes a welcome return….

At last… last… stand up comedy made a welcome return into my life again last night. I accompanied a fellow act to a venue on the other side of London where it was Covid 19 restricted, for example, only 20 people were allowed to watch instead of the usual 70.

It was an unusual pub, which had decor akin to the Queen Victoria pub in the BBC soap Eastenders. Some of the cocktail drinks were Eastender themed, one called Pat Butcher and one called Barbara Windsor. I suppose the Pat Butcher one would have made the drinker shout out “Paaaaaaaaaaaaaat” like the actor and comedian Mike Reid used to do in the show some years previous. Anyway, I digress.

It was a well organised evening, fast and furious with all acts limited to 5 minutes. There were three acts on the Zoom app as well, and I settled back to enjoy some decent comedy.

As always with comedy, there are exceptions to the usual excellent standard. Not everyone can cut the mustard. One particular gentleman’s subject area was highly questionable, very unfunny, and was greeted with silence throughout. He was also rather aggressive with a couple of audience members too. Not good. Thankfully the five minutes were up before he could inflict more pain on himself.

Trying to get the audience to like you with an aggressive approach can be doomed to failure, especially if the material is unfunny. And no matter how hard you try, it only gets worse. Plenty of lessons to be learned.

Another Covid 19 restriction was the lack of communication (cheering, whooping and whistling) from the audience. We could clap and no more than that. All for very good reason.

The act I supported did fine, and his subject area of autism and mental health struck a chord with me. Another act, a young African gentleman, was the top act of the night. Obtuse, clever humour and his gags hit the right spot. He seemed at home in front of an audience and it was no surprise; he presents a football programme on a satellite TV station. Confidence abounded. I really enjoyed his set.

So it was great to get back out there and have a watch. I was offered the chance, incidentally, to perform, but I declined as I’m a little rusty and need some time to prepare some material. On that note, I hope to be performing at a virtual gig next month, so that’ll give me something to aim for.

Excellent night, and good to travel in and around London for the first time in a very long time.

Yours in comedy…

Ian L. Fullbrook

A lockdown blog post….and how it’s impacted on my mental health

Would be delighted if you gave this a read….

Ian L. Fullbrook

Mental Health Awareness Week

This current week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the image above reflects the fact that not enough attention has been paid to the mental health of us all during these very tough times.

Certainly, I’ve been struggling over the last two months, with the correlation between mental and physical health never more striking. I’ve had copious amounts of headaches, an attack of vertigo at the weekend and more than a fair share of really gloomy days.

So we all need to seek help. The mental health system in the UK may well start to get overwhelmed with people wanting to express how they feel in this extraordinary situation. Now with the slight easing of restrictions, those of us who have been cooped up can now at least spend some longer time out of doors and the weather is staying remarkably good here in the UK too. So it might be some time to do a spot of sunbathing and to get some much needed fresh air.

Normally, I would be talking about the stand up comedy world but I’ve been out of action like most of my colleagues for the last two months. I’ve been occasionally impersonating the Prime Minister Boris Johnson on video and putting that online. I’m itching to get back on stage and try out a few more comedy ideas. Got some ideas lined up and I hope to inflict those on unsuspecting audiences when we return to action.

As ever, stay safe and get that help if you’re struggling.

Yours in comedy

Ian L. Fullbrook

Sheer Joy….

Woke up this morning at 6.30 am. Didn’t sleep terribly well and when I woke, there was a real sense of dread and foreboding about how this particular Tuesday would go.

Sick feeling, felt quite uneasy and unwell, but then I thought “They have asked me to do presentations today, and I am going if it’s the last thing I do!”

So leaving early, I set off for the venue. It was a local 11-16 school, a type of secondary modern in old money. The format was doing the same presentation to three different groups of roughly 25/30 pupils. A tough audience and you have to get the balance right.

Met up with my colleagues and away we went. In fact, the time went so quickly, it was amazing really. The teachers in charge of their groups were engaging, interested and respected by their pupils. It’s not always the case that teachers are interested in what we do, but we had no worries today.

I cannot tell you how well that went. I started off nervously, but settled in nicely and I worked well with my colleague. We had a good bit of teamwork going and the pupils enjoyed the work. We try and keep it very interactive, so they do the work and we just help it along. The children are at a very pressurised time of their lives and believe me, they are incredibly well informed with a huge amount of knowledge of mental illnesses.

The subject of mental health can be very heavy, but I believe we have the right balance. Everybody that performs the presentations are not doctors, psychologists or clinicians, or professionals brought in at great expense. We are all people with lived experience of mental illness and we inject a dose of realism into the work. We may not be professionals in name, but in nature, we certainly are.

The teachers and a school governor who sat in on one of the groups were really happy with the work we did. The children were a delight and a joy to work to. Informed, attentive, interested. I came out of the sessions at noon and felt completely spiritually and emotionally fulfilled. Worth getting out of bed and making that early start, making a difference to people’s opinions and views. As I’ve said countless times before, of all the things I’ve done in my life, doing presentations on mental health rates highly on the scale of enjoyment and fulfilment.

Simply wonderful….a great experience.

A.S.D Brooks

Festival of Mental Health…

Another week, more good stuff around mental health. Today, with several colleagues, we took part in Mental Health and Dementia Awareness Day.

What’s involved? Well, various local charities and concerns that deal with mental health and dementia are invited to set up their own table and sell their wares to the general public. We had about 14 or 15 tables, plus refreshments, reiki, and energy healing. Lots of networking took place, putting people in touch with organisations they may not have even considered. A lot of great work.

We had three speakers. My Peer Support colleague, a Chaplain from a local mental health hospital, and little old me. We all spoke about our recovery journeys, what we do and an attentive audience watched and listened.

The feedback was excellent. I think by having those three talks gives everyone a flavour of what goes on. I paid tribute to various people, including my line manager, who seemed a bit embarrassed! Without his excellent organisational skills, events such as today wouldn’t happen.

And to illustrate what a small world it is, I even bumped into a lady who works at the other mental health charity I volunteer at. Just a really good day.

And again, the talk that I gave had no nerves or anxiety. It went very swimmingly, even though it was off the cuff. I prefer not to work to a script and keep the speech real. It’s worked so far, so I see no reason to change it. In fact the other two speakers performed just the same, with little script and with a natural style. If only I could do presentations for a living! How rich would I be!! Well, you never know who was listening today.

Coming back home now, and again, what a fantastic day it is in London Town. Quite hot, too. Loving this weather and that helps with the well being.

That’s all for now…

A.S.D Brooks

Doing my bit for mental health…

Two wristbands I picked up yesterday to demonstrate my support for Mental Health Awareness Week here in the UK.

Make that first step… about your problems. That way you can get help if you are unwell. It could save your own life or that of someone close to you. Do it today.

A.S.D Brooks

How to grab the audience’s attention…..

A little aside from another presentation I helped to do today. I take the view that to grab the attention of an otherwise distracted audience is to tell them something real, something from the heart and something they will take notice of.

The group was a small one composed of people doing a sports degree. As you might expect on occasions, the attention span isn’t brilliant. That’s the beauty of each of these presentations, you don’t know what your audience will be like. You can’t expect them to be interested or attentive every time.

So I started talking about an episode of my life which I’m not proud of. When I started speaking, two of the group were messing about. All of a sudden, one of the pair said to his mate “Stop messing about and listen, this is serious”.

The story was when I was feeling extremely low a few years back and I went to the doctor with a very frank admission. I basically wanted to overdose on tablets. The doctor’s reply was typically forthright “Do you want to die? Because that’s what will happen if you overdose on tablets. They will do you enormous harm….”

Poignant and hard hitting. The joshing from the group members stopped and all eyes and ears were on me. “Brilliant!” I thought. They are now paying attention.

The group of students were fine. I’ve seen and dealt with a lot worse, and in any case, their tutor was firm and resolute with them. The group did an activity we asked of them and they did it with interest, knowledge and enthusiasm. They were happy and the tutor was so pleased with our efforts that he wants us to come back and do another presentation to another group he teaches. Fantastic. My colleague was superb, and she contributed hugely to a very enjoyable experience.

This whole week has been part of Mental Health Awareness Week. Businesses, schools and colleges have been putting on efforts to make people aware that we should be talking about mental health and helping to ensure that it isn’t bad or shameful to share our problems. Always make that first step. You could be saving your own or someone else’s life.

A tiring week, but a hugely enjoyable one and I’m buzzing to do more. I really enjoy what I do and putting my story out there. Realism, that’s what people want.

A.S.D Brooks