Monday, 15 April 2013

Sorry, dear, you're not qualified!


Okay, so I have kind of misquoted there, but only by a word or two and for those hard-core Monty Python fans out there, I know you’ll know what I mean…
               
A mate of mine called me up not too long ago. He has been a colleague for many years, was even my boss for a few of them and, over the course of our working relationship, we have become friends. He has helped me out of a jam or two before and I him and we have formed a bond.
                But enough about that, this isn’t what this is about, it is about the phone call. He called me up and said, “Hey mate, I need some help. You’re a really good writer and I think you’re pretty funny too ( he went on and on with the compliments, but I don’t wanna bore you), and a friend and I have started up a website all about comedy, specifically Australian comedy, and we would love you to be a part of it. You have the skills as a writer, the contacts in the entertainment world and, well you’re just awesome (no, really, he said this heaps! *disclaimer, he probably didn’t say it as much as I like to remember).”
                Well needless to say I was flattered. Not only do I respect his opinion, I really love comedy. Like really. Some of my earliest memories are of watching old Billy Connelly videos with my dad, and my sisters and I screeching with laughter at the Goodies and Monty Python and all the best comedy from the 70s. When we got a little bit older my sister’s and I would re-enact scenes from the Old D-Generation show. We would quote the lines over and over.
 It wasn’t just comedy though. It was all performing. I loved theatre and musicals and live shows. Those people who know me well know I studied acting and writing for many years while I was a teenager and early adult. I did speech and drama and elocution, I performed improvisation and spoken word in Eisteddfods, I acted in plays (one of which was chosen to play in an international festival when I was only 16), I wrote plays (one of which ended up winning a prize in the Australian National Scriptwriting Competition in the early 90s) I told jokes, I did strange street theatre that nobody understood. It was my life.
                Those people who know me very, very well know why I quit. That’s another story for another time. It was one of the hardest things I have ever walked away from. But I did.
Over the years I put that loss of being on stage away and my passion for performing and entertaining was redirected into my other favourite thing, sex. Not only within the realms of escorting and sex work, where I would be able to don any mask to fit the personality of a client and get to show off my talents and personality and magnificent oral skills (oh as if you weren’t expecting a pun or too along the way), but also into public speaking and presenting too. I partook in panel discussions on writing porn and erotica; I co-hosted radio spots and, with a good friend, presented skill share workshops for women on sex and sexuality. (I am using past tense but all these things are still very much part of the work I do). In short, I was putting myself out there as much as possible but, instead of doing it under the guise of a character, I was doing it all as me.
So, back to the phone call. Of course I said yes. Not only was it awesome and flattering and exciting to be asked, it meant I would get to see some fantastic shows, hone my writing skills even more and build up more of my public profile because, let’s face it, when you’re a freelance writer without an agent, no one else is going to do it for you.
I have quite a few mates who are comedians. Some I know very well and would call them good friends, others more acquaintances who I have a drink with every so often and others are just people I know from around the traps of being a writer, enjoying live shows and/or they are a friend of a friend and I saw them once at a party.
I told a couple of them I had been given this gig and they were all excited for me. As well as eager to plug their next show and promise to buy me lots of beer if I gave them a good write up which I, of course, refused (Hey, you may be able to buy my sex… But my laughter is another matter). I was pumped. I was excited. I was ready to laugh… And then something happened.
I have a few idols. People I look up to and admire for one reason or another. I am very lucky to have met a few of them and even luckier to have met some who have since become friends of mine. One such Idol who I have met, although would not class as a friend, is a pretty famous Aussie comedian. Someone I grew up watching and enjoying. Someone whose lines I spent hours quoting with friends. Someone who had a permanent poster-spot on my bedroom wall. Someone who, when they started following me on Twitter and who I eventually met briefly one day, made me jump up and down in my chair and go “Squeeeeee” for a while. Someone who, with a few casual words thrown in my direction had me questioning everything about myself, my intentions, my skills and my talents.  Someone who almost made me give up.
Yay idol, right.
It all started with a ticket mix up at the Melbourne International Comedy festival. I went to get tickets for a show I was reviewing and the girl at the desk told me she was really sorry, but for some reason they hadn’t sent me an email about another show I’d been hoping to review and I had missed out on the tickets to it because it had already started an hour earlier. She was really apologetic but I understand that shit happens and it wasn’t anyone’s fault really. But the most disappointing aspect of it was it was the show of the above mentioned idol. Someone who I had wanted to see live since forever.
So I sent him a tweet. Basically I said something like “Hey, am reviewing shows for MICF and just found out that, cos of a mix up, I missed out on your show. Bummer!”
His reply was quick, simple and short. “Oh,” he said. “I didn’t know you were a comedy specialist.”
Well, I’m not. That bit is true, but at first I didn’t think much of it and sent him a reply back saying something along the lines of sex and laughter being intertwined and hey, people are always telling me I’m funny… And not just funny looking…
He came back at me with a quote. A quote from Roosevelt about how critics are scum and whose only purpose is to point out faults and judge while someone else lays their heart and soul on the line. (I’m paraphrasing… Here’s the actual quote http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7-it-is-not-the-critic-who-counts-not-the-man )And basically went on to tell me that I had no place to be judging others, that I come from a place of no experience and total risk and that, regardless of my years of experience presenting and writing and putting myself out there for everyone to judge and criticise (seriously, until you have come out openly and positively as a sex worker, you have NO idea what being judged by complete strangers is like) I had no place to do what I was doing because comedy is a craft unlike any other ever and should be above scrutiny and basically fuck you, Eva, you’re a fraud.
This got to me. This got into my head and into my confidence and started eating away. “Yeah, Eva,” I thought to myself. “Here’s someone who knows his shit, man. Here’s someone whose advice you take seriously. Here’s someone who thinks you’re a big fat phony. What the hell are you doing? Why did you even think you could do this? You’re not even funny. People probably laugh AT you rather than WITH you. Stop what you’re doing right now. Get your hand off it. Go back to fucking. You suck…”
It was horrible. I rarely suffer from self-doubt and it’s even rarer I let what other people think of me get inside my head, but this was different. This would be a bit like the porn star Belladonna (who is another of my idols and one I have had the amazing luck to have interviewed over the phone) telling me to close my legs and stop having sex because, quite frankly, I was shit at it.
It was a blow to my everything...  I really was ready to give up. I spoke to the guys at the website and told them my concerns and they told me not to worry about it. That they wouldn’t have offered me the part if they didn’t think I could do it, but still I worried.
And then the emails and messages came. Now I have mentioned earlier that I have quite a few friends who are in the comedy biz. At the time I didn’t know who or how many people had seen this exchange (Yes, it had all been done rather embarrassingly publicly on Twitter, I have since removed them from my timeline) but apparently word had got out among a few of them and they had felt compelled enough by it to contact me.
Every single one of them said pretty much the same thing. “Don’t listen to it, Eva. You’re really good at what you do. You write well. You ARE funny, and you have every right to be doing what you are doing, oh, and will you come and review my show I’ll buy you beer!”
They made me feel better. They really did. But it wasn’t until I had some of my first reviews posted on the website that I really started to believe it.  People were sharing them over the place, the comedians I was writing about enjoyed and reposted them and the public took my advice and saw the shows I’d written about and then thanked me for directing them to good stuff.
I have had a few weeks to reflect on all of this and get my head around it. Out of all the comedians I know and have since met in this amazing Melbourne festival, the only negative reaction I have had was from one person. One. No-one else. And that, to me, says more about them than it does me or my skills. I always try to look at things in a glass-half-full way, and this is no exception. It just took a little longer.
                A couple of things I will add, in response to the “coming from a place of no experience” comments and the “you’re not a comedy specialist” digs, are that yes. He is right. When it comes to writing comedy reviews I haven’t got much experience. But, like all people, in all things that they do, they have to start somewhere and, luckily for me, I have got quite a bit of writing and reviewing experience under my belt, albeit in another genre.
Also I AM funny. I write damn good stories and have a way of expressing myself on paper and in person that is amusing and sometimes even laugh-out-loud funny. Okay, I may not have the experience of putting myself out there like a comedian trying to make people laugh, but if you think I haven’t stood up in front of a mass of people and bared my raw soul for all to see (and judge and scrutinise and whisper harshly about) then you’re sorely mistaken. I have stood in front of crowds and read out my own erotic writing and experiences including a blow by blow (pardon the pun) description of fellatio and cunnilingus and once I even re-wrote a scene in 50 Shades Of Grey to involve a gay kiss between two rather prominent and uber-hetero male radio presenters that was then read out on a national prime time show.
As for having no credibility to be judging others I will say this. I have never, nor will I ever judge anyone who has put themselves out there in a position of vulnerability. I just won’t. It is soul damaging and mean and not who I am in the slightest. I think the terms “critic” and “review” sit uncomfortably in a lot of people’s head because (and this happens) it means people can put you down, tell you where you went wrong, and judge (like Roosevelt says) from the relative safety of the critics chair. I don’t and will never “review” like that.
If you have a read of the ones I have done for the festival (blatant self- promotion here’s a link to ALL my reviews http://whatsoncomedy.com/author/evas/ ) you will see not a single judgement of harshness. What you see is a description. An observation of what I saw and what the basic premise for the show was. My experience and past as a sex worker is perfect for this. Let me explain how.
One of the most common questions I get from people about sex work is “But what if they’re old and fat and ugly?? How do you possibly enjoy it then?”
The answer is simple (well simple for me, I understand not everyone is like this) Everyone, absolutely everyone has something redeeming and endearing about them. Everyone. And, as a good sex worker, it is my job to find it and I have to say, in all the years and all the men and all the sex, I’ve come across maybe three people I couldn’t find something nice about.
I look at these comedy gigs the same way. Even if the show is the equivalent of a fat sweaty old man there will be something I can write positively about it. (Hell I probably could have written Tracy Morgan a good review) Even if I don’t “get it” or find it funny I can do that. Why? Because humour is subjective. The audience watching is reacting, laughing, clapping, joining in… Who am I to say it’s shit just because I don’t find it funny. It’s not about me.
And that’s the thing really, isn’t it. It’s not about me. Nor is it about letting other people’s judgement and ideas of you stop you from being who you are and doing what you love. It’s just about living.
So love what you do and do what you love and life will always come up smelling peachy. Or at least, a super cute comedian you have a bit of a crush on will hug you close and tell you you’re pretty damn special.


(I would just like to add that as much as this person hates critics and thinks the art of reviewing is one left to dogs and their fleas... He has NO problem retweeting, reposting and linking to any and every review and commentary on his latest offerings... But hey, don't take it personally, Eva... It's really not about you... Honest... )

4 comments:

  1. Hugs Eva ...

    strangely enough, I know that feeling as well. I write a blog too, (www.apocalypseequipped.com) where i talk about urban survivalism, tactical gear and all that kind of hooah stuff. What I don't have is any formal LE/Mil experience. This was nailed home to me when in a discussion I was asked: "so, you do any time in the service?" and when I, without skipping a beat replied "no, just have a passion" there was basically an instant dismissal. A wannabe fanboy. A POG (person other-than Grunt). Civilian. Worthless.

    It was a really hard blow to my ego, and shook me to my writing core. How very dare I? What right do I have to collect the trappings without it being my history, my past, my not having "earned it"?

    You know what? I'm going to keep doing it, because? Because, fuck you, That's why! :) I don't try to pass myself off as some 15 year Special Forces veteran, or any of that kind of thing. I tell it like I see it, and make no bones that I am exactly who I am, no more, no less. My interest is no less legitimate, regardless of my training, or background.

    Nor is yours! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Josh!
    Yes I absolutely agree. It's a bit like those hipsters who get cross because the band they like is suddenly cool and mainstream.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Eva,

    I think Hermann Hesse is someone who shared your values when it comes to critique. He wrote many literary reviews in his time.

    Frank (from Berlin)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think you right on your position. Right decision make man success. I am happy to read your blog this really heart me your story.

    ReplyDelete

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