Tag: writing

Dire Straits

 Okay, this post is about my less-than-fortunate living situation here, but I am fully aware that I am in a position of  privilege as a white middle-class person with a British passport and a good university degree. Please, as you read it, play the song below, a song which is not by the band, Dire Straits, but by a different band called Pulp, Common People, to keep my words in perspective.

Once again, I am homeless and extremely jobless, which is actually the most authentic way to experience Berlin so that’s good, isn’t it?

Basically, in Germany you need to register with the municipal council (Buergeramt) in order to get an official address, a tax number, and get a proper contracted job. I’ve not been able to do that because I’ve been subletting all this time, because I’m too poor to get a proper place, so I’ve also had to get jobs that are cash in hand or based in the UK, which means I stay poor, so I can’t get a flat … etc. It’s frustrating, and not uncommon, and going from place to place has made this year very bizarre.

There was my friend Rafael’s place, a charming flat near Treptower Park with classic hipster pallet-shelves. I electrocuted myself in this flat! Definitely my favourite of the year.
Then there was the flat I sublet from a friend I met on Tinder. His apartment was a 2.5 room place where most of the kitchen was a shower. (Gross, but very good if you want to eat a hot lunch immediately after washing.) The flat also had many digital canvas prints, apparently of early 2000s Windows desktop backgrounds.
Then, there was the place I shared with up to 200 DJs. (Only one on the lease but he kept loaning his room out to other strange young men I wouldn’t even know were there until I bumped into them in the kitchen at 1am.) I was going to stay there till spring but then the boiler broke and the toilet broke and the gas was shut off because the stove broke and then I was told to the best way to get the landlord to fix everything was to move out immediately. That was just before my trip to Edinburgh, so I’ve now found a floor to sublet for this month while I try and scrape some money together and get somewhere permanent.

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I’m now quite used to scraping money together by whatever means I can. Over the last seven months, I have scrubbed floors and toilets, proofread dissertations, and took a background role in a porn film. (Me and a friend had to walk past a couple on the stairs and *react*. We’re both English so basically we just giggled nervously at the floor.) Most of my income has come from a couple of freelance jobs I picked up as a tour manager for youth choirs, amounting to about €1,200. A lot of the time it’s been very difficult, I’ve struggled, and I really didn’t know what the phrase “living hand to mouth” meant until this year. (But in fairness, it is a bit of a weird phrase.)
When I came back from Scotland to find myself back to square one, realised that I wouldn’t even be able to host my own brother and sister-in-law, who’ve been planning to come and stay with me since May, honestly – I felt truly ashamed.

[Feel free to start playing Common People again at this point.]

But I am, let’s not forget, incredibly incredibly lucky! This year has been really really tough at times, but it’s also been brilliant – when I appealed to my friends, looking for somewhere for Ben and Sasha to stay, so many people got in touch to offer beds, both for them and for me if I needed one. People offered to cook for me. People offered me airbeds even if they have some foot-blood stains on them. Although I am homeless, this city is really starting to feel like home, with the ace network of people I have here.

This year, somehow(!!!) I’ve even made money as a stand-up comedian, something I’d never have expected. The original motivation behind founding SAUCE, my own open mic night, was just to make ends meet and truly it’s one of the best things I have ever done. (Please don’t mistake this as an endorsement of the dangerous + hackneyed old idea that “you gotta be poor to make art! You gotta be hungry!”. It is rare to be able to make literally any money from stand-up this early in the game – I just live in Berlin where the scene is still small and pretty cheap. Being poor does not help me make art, it makes me sad and it makes me tired.) Making money from what I do, from what I love, is such a joy, such a boost to my confidence, a real f***-you to my imposter syndrome: I need the money to live, but it also reminds me that my voice, my creative output, has value. It’s crucial. If there’s something you love that you get for free, think about if there’s some way of sponsoring or supporting it – if it’s an artist, see if they have a Patreon or a PayPal or some way of contributing, it is so essential.

I guess what I’m saying is, pay artists always, and life is very very strange. I didn’t expect to be living like this at 26, or even this late into this year, because I sort of figured it would have worked itself out by now. But I also didn’t expect myself to move to Germany, start doing stand-up, and start my own show, so really, I shouldn’t underestimate myself, and anything is possible, and uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh reach for the stars I guess

Fringe Diary #3

People are way too quick to just get drunk, when they have a bad show, and it’s like guys – have you tried, um, crying into a Choc Ice? Maybe get a second one as dessert? Sort it out.

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Last night’s gig didn’t go quite as well as I’d hoped – I’d been looking forward to it all day, as I had a 10-min set and was verrry hungry to perform. It was a late show, in the Bier Keller of Frankenstein’s, and it was such a packed and lively crowd. I didn’t bomb, I did fine, but I just didn’t get the laughs you’d want from 100 people. Without wanting to get into another really lengthy piece of self-evaluation, I think the material I did was good, but the style was too polished and reserved for that crowd. They were all very happy to yell stuff out, they really wanted to be involved. Next time I’m in that situation, I’d do better to perform half the stuff I’d prepared and spend the rest of the spot bantering with the audience, or do a bunch of stuff that requires their participation. The crowd was drunk, their attention span was short, the biggest laughs came from spontaneous stuff going on in the room rather than my more downbeat sarky material which is basically me pretending not to have fun. Which is silly, because I am terrible at pretending not to have fun.

I’m even having fun giving myself homework about this stuff every day. You know how your favourite part of fitness is the bit at the start where you think “I’m going to get fit” and you imagine the fit perfect version of yourself just floating into brunches like “hi, it’s me, but I’m fit and perfect now” and all your friends are like “ah, wow” and you’re like “yeah”? Well, that, but for comedy, is what I’m doing. It’s great fun.

Oh, I saw some more shows last night and they were great! I saw The Russian Comedy Experience which was perfect for jokes about linguistics, bears and dogs in space; I saw my friend Kwame Asante’s simply lovely show “Teenage Heartblob”; and then Demi Lardner’s “I Love Skeleton” which was just the maddest hour of my life and it was just incredible. I am going to see it again next week and I can’t wait.

Anyway I’ve got to go, I want to rewrite all my jokes and then I’ve picked up some ad hoc promotional work. I thought it was flyering, now I don’t know what it is but I’ve been promised a Hello Kitty hat, and also some money ?
p.s. I’m sorry for the slideshow I thought it would be like gently funny
p.p.s. Mum and Dad I didn’t actually cry I was fine but I did eat an ice cream and a chocolate bar but I did have a salad for tea

Fringe Diary #2

Good afternoon!! I sat down to start writing this and immediately wanted to apologise for writing this in the first place when nobody asked me to, and that’s #womanhood

(Sidenote: surely more first-person novels should start, continue and end with: “um, sorry, not to make this all about me, but…”)

Anyway, it’s Friday afternoon, baby! and I have no gigs tonight. Yesterday I tried to just sit and hone my set and for those of you who aren’t writers or creatives, “hone” means I spent eight hours eating toast and listening to podcasts. I produced two (2) new lines so, you know, that’s like one new line for every two slices of toast which is really pretty economical. The gig went better than the previous night, but I’m still a bit annoyed at myself for not having more material that I feel comfortable with, that sounds like “me”.

(Everyone says Fringe is exhausting and I didn’t know if it was because of like performing a lot and drinking a lot and staying up late but it can also be exhausting because of RELENTLESS self-evaluation. Enjoy!!!!)

I needed a picture to spice the post up but didn’t take any yday so please enjoy this evidence of me drunkenly eating nachos at my last stint at the Fringe in 2014. A boy made out with me after this because THAT IS HOW POWERFUL I WAS AT 22

I’ve been toying with some new and more sort of dorky, smiley work for the last few months but it’s not ready, especially not with the Footlights where the style tends to be more “hello I am a Clever Student like a Baby Stephen Fry!!” The Footlights as a group do have a definite voice, though, which I’d never have noticed if I hadn’t grown as a comic outside of that scene and outside of uni, and of the UK. I don’t know if I can even call myself a British comedian, stylistically. Does this sound like … er … a thing? Comment below!!! This is an interactive blog, you tell ME what the heck I’m on about!!

After my show, I hung out with some of the guys from the show, which was lovely, before heading to Stamptown’s variety show at midnight (midnight! I’m such a grown-up). It had loads of clowning in it and although I wish I’d had more energy for it, it was totally exhilarating and a really great refresher course in how comically effective it can be to just play with sound and movement. For some reason, people dancing really energetically to loud music and then the music cutting out unexpectedly for someone to say one thing, before immediately going back to dancing to the music again, can be really funny. I mean, there’s only so much I could take away from it to think about in my own comedy as the show was pretty weird and wild – I don’t think there’s really space in my act to perform ballet butt-naked besides an Elizabethan ruff collar – but it was great to see something different, and cool, and stupid, and really just very, very silly.

So far, so much to think about and work on. This week has been very knackering for me, with more and longer sets than I’ve ever performed at the start of the week hosting two shows in Berlin and performing on a showcase, all to a lethargic over-heated summertime crowd … I went to bed last night at 3am so bleary-eyed, but thinking “lemme back up on that stage!!”