Thanks for coming, please sit down – tea? coffee? biscuit? I can offer you none of these, but by all means sort one out for yourself.
Me, my phd and I
So – onto business! I am currently making a documentary as part of my phd and people keep on asking what the hell it is either of those are about so I thought I’d put it down in writing. My thesis is about how to change the world, or more specifically how to overcome the difficulties inherent in trying to change a oppressive symbolic order who’s essence and strength is adaptability. This is a convoluted way of saying if you try to resist capitalism, eventually it makes that tactic it’s own. It’s called recuperation and is basically what happened with punk music – what was once edgy, alternative and interesting has now become John Lydon selling butter. That sort of thing. Even the protest movements of old have been dampened somewhat – we all saw what happened with the march against Iraq, literally millions of people ignored, and not a day goes by without a few hundred people being angry about something failing to make any significant impact. Hell, even setting yourself on fire won’t mean you even make it into a newspaper any more (not that media visibility is the only worthwhile end). The point is not that these things aren’t important, or that they don’t necessarily work, but that there is an ever shrinking area in which activism can exist and be genuinely radical – and thus most effective..
So how do you change the world? By reading convoluted French philosophy, obviously. I can’t believe no one else thought of doing it before.
Using a number of theorists – Zizek, Derrida, Butler and Ranciere if you’re asking – I am slowly coming to a conclusion that it is about doing things for certain, about making action from this sort of theory, but finding one’s own avenue for impact. Part of what I am arguing is to do with the individual finding their own way, and having to constantly react and expand. Originally it centred around the possibility that technology can offer, but this is simply another string to one’s bow in a large system of archery metaphors.
And mine happens to be stand-up comedy – it might not be what I’m good at, but it’s all I got baby. And I love it. In a world of bullshit and horror, I want to stand up and do something, to put something of myself on the line and hope that someone else out there responds. I don’t think what I will be doing will change the world, but that’s no reason not to do anything.
However, as much as I feel stand-up comedy can have a genuine impact on the way people think and experience life, it relies heavily on direct interaction between performer and their audience – i.e. you have to be at the gigs for it to work. This is where documentary comes into it. Documentary film has the potential to be seen by anyone, and repeated replayed again and again – it can open up what one person can do to a wider audience, which is in itself, the essence of what anyone trying to change the world has to do. Although one can easily argue that this destroys something of the uniqueness of performance, this won’t matter significantly for what I want to achieve with it as the documentary is to be a different kind of experience, though achieved through capturing my stand-up, and towards a similar end.
The documentary will not just be about me, but about everyone else – every other person who’s ever wanted to do something but not been able to. That struggle to find a voice, let alone work out what you want to say. Most importantly, it will be about that failure – and the ability to get up again, change, adapt and do it again and fail in a better way. I’m hoping that if done right, this continual process of re-writing, performing and failing can work on another level in the film to the experience audiences have of me in my normal life. It’s going to be playing a lot with that notion of danger and failure, between the safe and the real. I think… it’s still being worked on. Which leads me to…
So this August, rather than doing a show in itself, I want to take my littler show to other people, to do as many gigs as possible where I try out one of three separate 10 minute “bits” to as many different crowds as possibly, without ever explicitly saying that I’m trying to do something like that (other than what is clear within the content of what I’m doing – after all if it is so obscure that no-one knows what the fucks going on then I am quite simply adding to the confusion and bulldercrap of the world that I’m hoping to overcome).
Which leads to my first question – has anyone got any gigs I can do? I will be trying to grab as many open spots as I can, at as many different levels, rooms and audience size or type as I can muster – with the hope being that I will be funny enough to survive most gigs, but interesting and different enough to grab people’s attention for enough time to say something significant to them, and then let them go again. If they ever think about me again just once in their lives, I will be proud as Judy (of Punch and Judy, not Richard and Judy, fame). If you do have anything or know anyone booking up already, then please contact me through twitter (@thehitch) or my email – fahitch [at] gmail.com and I will be very grateful.
A part of this is that I’m hoping to be filming at most if not all of these gigs, but it will be a fairly light set up – me and a mate with a camera, with potentially a second camera in the audience or something else. It will be fairly unobtrusive but something to think about in terms of feasibility.
The next part of the quest is what to do and how to frame the whole thing. Obviously I will be collecting and recording as much as I can, and running between gigs I will probably not get the chance to linger around to find responses and to connect with specific people, so I was planning on uploading them for people to see and react to, comment abuse and discuss to their heart’s content. To make some sort of conversation happen – and maybe have that impact on what I do. After all, comedians exist in a feedback loop – they experiment on stage, and have instant reactions to what they’ve done, they evolve and return, growing and improving. I want to make this process abundantly open and explored – but how?
Should I advertise this? Should I make a big deal of what I am doing? I had half an idea to get myself into the fringe book as a venue less entry (linked to a website with all the relevant info) because obviously I want to engage as many people as I can with the ideas and what’s going on, but having people know if it in advance might dampen the effect, or certainly, change their experience of it. This is kind of what happens with gallery art – the safe space of the art institution makes any gesture in their to a certain extent safe. You can’t really go in there and having something happen to you that is violent, you know? Stand-up however – people want to avoid the seats at the front, the so called splash zone, because there is something genuinely happening in that room… and I don’t think I want this to be made redundant by making a fuss about.
But on the other hand, rather than plug a show at the end like every other act will be doing, I’d rather not plug anything at all so it has far more resonance as a non marketable thing, you know? But then, if nothing is said, has anything happened? I suppose I will just have to make my stuff so interesting that people will demand to know what just happened to them… any thoughts for this on a postcard please. Either way I will probably have a page dedicated to this project during the fringe so that people can watch all the videos I make and have that end of things be open to some sort of interaction.
So, I’m asking you fellow comedians, and other friends I may have accrued over my time on this planet, is any of this a good idea? What should I do to make this happen? Can you recommend anything? Point me anywhere/ And most prominently – do you have any gigs that I could do between now and forever. I am officially looking for gigs again, but I’m 90% sure I’m not going to be doing any of my usual shit at them. Sorry about that…
Importantly, I don’t just want to do the gigs that people will want to see experimental shit at. This has got to be normal gigs (yes, maybe the fringe isn’t the right place…), the sorts of gigs and spaces that people aren’t expecting to find someone saying anything. It has to stand up among the slickest, squeaky tight stuff that The stuff is going to be funny, one way or another – even if it isn’t yet – but will use one of three techniques to create a sort of point of confusion, an alienating device that will intrigue. I have roughly tried out two in this set here (it’s about 20 minutes long and very much an early first draft of the sorts of things I want to do, again I’d love to hear any feedback). I shall call these techniques “the clownface”, “the rocky” and “the as yet unwritten third technique that will also make me look very silly”. If you happen to watch that video and come up with any jokes or zingers to add to my set I’d greatly appreciate that…
But yeah I will be doing these sets, failing, rewriting, reworking and trying again, until they work and say something. And I will capture every death and pratt-fall as much as I can.
Finally, what do I say?
This sounds fucking stupid to point out, but so far I have mostly worked out methods to make people listen – I now need to work out what it is I want to say. If you had the opportunity to talk directly to someone and have them listen, I mean genuinely want to know what you are saying and absorb it like a sponge – what would that thing be? Again, please e-mail and discuss the ideas and messages that you would contemplate. It’s a very dodgy, open-ended question, but I would like to know as I don’t think I have a fucking clue.
Can I have some gigs – mostly at the fringe, but all offers will be considered?
Can you recommend someone who might be able to give me a gig?
How should I think about doing the project?
What do you think about the sets?
If you could, what would you say to people?
Any help, advice or ideas hit me a tweet @thehitch or else write me an e-mail fahitch [at] gmail.com.