This is the draft of a stand-up piece. I moved all the introduction notes and stuff to the end, so the post is kind of, but deliberately, back to front.
You know, actually, I’ve got this really bad neck – it’s still really stiff, after I – well, I got this really bad sprain – had it in a brace for weeks. And even now it still gets really cricky. I won’t lie to you, I injured my neck doing a really – well, actually I should say trying – attempting – what ALL guys have thought about attempting since they first found themselves alone in the house. Or in the woods. And you know, it’s really dumb because even as a grown man I was still, occasionally, giving that a go. So, yeah, I ended up with this neck sprain trying to blow myself. And that’s when I lost control of the car, hit a tree – pow – whiplash – neck out of joint.
But have you seen these guys at work, in meetings, and it’s always the important guys – with their stretching and flexing; grunting, like, ‘uuaghh – uuaagghh.’ You’re trying to have a conversation with these people, or make that point you wanted to make and they’re kinda writhing in these postures and contortions: “no… you carry on, I’m listening,” they say, “just… uuaagghh… got this… muscle… nyyaah!”
It used to be – the whole physical organisational power play – in the nineties – it was getting out of your seat in a meeting. Getting out of your seat and walking around a meeting room. Around the backs of other people’s chairs. Just prowling about to really make your point. Maybe occasionally pausing to lean on the back of someone’s chair – making it very unsettling for the occupant of that chair as they’ve suddenly been made to look like they’re gonna be tipped back and wheeled to the minibus. Or the guy behind is gonna foot-pump you up and ask if you’re having the usual. Where do you look when a stalking boss is leaning on the back of your chair? Turn around and look up? Scoot around so you’re kneeling? Or tilt back and look at his face upside down? (Ooh, my neck.)
Prowling around – The Room Prowl – total fucking command of this palace of brilliance. I remember the first time I saw anyone do that. 1995. I was like, what the fuck? Can they do this? Is this allowed? And of course it’s the easiest trick in the book. Look at me – I’m controlling you with my giant height and my moving legs, with the freedom of this space, closer to God and the aircon than the seated unevolved.
Of course the funniest thing was when other people starting getting up out of their chairs too, also staking relative claims to power. One by one, everyone rising from their seats to join this corporate conga – the slow, prowling carnival of management. Beautiful.
And then after The Room Prowl came The Golf Swing. You seen this? The guys who do the golf swings… at work. Talking in a corridor, and they start up with the swing. I’m like, I’m talking to you and you’re miming your hobby! But it’s somehow acceptable – it’s OK – hey! Look at this guy, I think he plays golf – and right now he’s doing a little ballet about it! Look at him! Wheeeee!
But so what if my hobby is restoring and demonstrating medieval looms? So am I like doing the mime of that whilst listening to you and your ‘onboarding of category rationale’? Or maybe I’ll just zone in on some pretend Potter’s Wheel action, too – hey, scoot that chair over, wouldya?
Yep – that’s your weekend and evenings, right there, all mimed out just for us. Well, while you’re updating me on launch strategies as we queue for coffees – maybe I’m just loosening up with a little practice swing of my own, yeah – ooh, baby, never seen you in this layby before.. Oh, skinny latte, single shot, please, love.
But The Golf Swing – well, in turn, that’s now been replaced by these guys who are back paining their way to success. And you’re kidding me – all these executives have muscle pain? Really?
It’s like these people are going to physios – physios recommended in career development programmes – and saying: ‘Doc, just give me some stretches to do – there’s no pain, but man, it hurts that I’m not making a physical impact. I just need my own routine. Something fresh and original. I’m thinking Kate Bush…Wuthering Heights – yes, and with the eyes. I gotta fill some space, Doc, fill the air with me. I want triple the average presence.’
And maybe that’s just it. You know the advice you get on being attacked by a bear? I don’t mean while it’s attacking you – clearly everyone will have fucked off – except the bear, and the only advice he’s giving is depressingly sarcastic – I mean in the event of its future occurrence. The bear is coming at you. You don’t turn and run, but you stand your ground. And you make yourself big – big as possible. Fling your arms and legs wide – and stretch. And you roar like it’s muscle pain. That’s what’s happening here. These are senior people in the business –they know about the bears. The bears are coming and these guys are getting ready.
Practicing golf swings? Well, that was found to be lacking in survivalist altruism. It was just a lot of blokes being cocks.
Introduction Notes and Stuff
Last July I began to flirt with the notion of trying out for stand-up. In case it didn’t come across, that line was to establish my mental proximity to actually doing so. Comedy stand-up, that is, not the other kind.
I had, and have, no experience in comedy, no on-stage creds besides work, and the time I sang ‘We Are The World’ with a special needs choir at the Royal Festival Hall. But I have always had, treasured, a love for comedy and comic creation, and over the years amassed a respectable index of titles which in themselves still stand as springy platforms for some spit-flecked minutes. I include in the notes here a selection of titles as they stood last summer, work in progress. Let me know if you’d like to chat, or ‘riff’, about any of them.
Of these, I decided to progress three or four, with their outlines, to fledgling routines, or ‘bits’. And of those, I liked how the one about corporate back pain turned out; and tested some of it, undercover, in a giddy post-meeting five minutes with the impossibly lovely Emily and Will, who not only recognised the central conceit, but added improving ands. It’s still, for me, one of the funniest of funny executive phenomena observed in office life, and I offer it here as a hoot to keep watch for while I’m installed elsewhere. If you do suffer from back pain, sorry, but then this isn’t about back pain.
Note, do, that I’ve kept the piece in ‘scripted’ form. Having never really found ‘a voice’ beyond the dry delivery of which colleagues were kind, and trying but failing to cast the internal typing voice I was channelling with the adenoidal Leodensian on GarageBand, I can only offer it here for your reading ear in a yelps and explosions hybrid of Seinfeld and Louis C.K.
‘Career Advances in Back Pain’ – My Imaginary Stand-Up, Part One
As the uncertain laughter and thigh scratching elicited by my previous bit (maybe ‘Domesticated Action Man’, or perhaps ‘Birthdays at Work’) fades away, I segue into this one, entitled for CD release purposes, ‘Career Advances in Back Pain’, (though originally scribbled as ‘Golf Swing Cunts’), with an apparently incidental, but exaggerated, flexing of my neck, shoulder and back muscles, as if I’m a little stiff. Additionally, there is a notebook version of the introduction constructed around a crude joke I wrote over a decade ago. I think it works better with it, and so include it, but I’ll italicise this alternative intro here as a visual puddle your eyes are invited to leap over, with their lithe, long, young legs.
See script above.
Selected List of Titles for Further Imaginary Stand-Up
Married Catholic Priests
American Shows on French TV
Get To Know Me
Nomad of the Romantic Hauliers
Domesticated Action Man
Mild Toilet Tourette’s
Meccano vs Lego
Local News Millionism
Hosts With Dogs
Birthdays at Work
©Copyright, Steve Mitchell and Fisher Lane, 2012