Ever heard the one about the frustrated writer who volunteered to stand in front of strangers and make them laugh?
It’s not a joke – but it is a funny tale which stretches all the way from a skinny Billy Connolly fan with a big head to the fabulous Edinburgh Fringe.
My journey into the world of stand-up comedy was more than 40 years in the making. Ego, ambition, midlife crisis – the reasons why someone would willingly put themselves in the stand-up spotlight are myriad. But I guess there’s only one that matters – it’s fun. Don’t get me wrong, it’s also very much like a 15-rated movie – contains scenes of an adult nature, mild peril and frequent swearing. But it’s still fun.
I’m going to be in Edinburgh as part of ‘Laugh Begins at Forty’ – a showcase of older stand-ups who are uniting to show that good comedy is timeless – and I can’t wait.
It’s the idea of my fellow 40-somethings Sam Potter, Phil Erswell and John Gibson. The show – on at The Southsider until 26 August – sees experienced professionals alongside newer acts who may only have been going a year or two.
Every day is different – with acts from around the world – including Gavin Webster, Jojo Sutherland, Vladimir McTavish, Obie and me.
I still hesitate to call myself a stand-up comedian – it seems somewhat presumptuous – but I do regularly stand up and attempt to make people grin, so I suppose I can get away with it.
I’ve always enjoyed making people laugh and once dreamt of being a comedian in P6 (people certainly laughed at me back then – I was skinny with a big head – I resembled a human Pez dispenser). The dream faded along with my Spider-Man temporary tattoo, but the flame was rekindled a couple of years ago. I saw two comedians – one brilliant, one awful – both big names. And suddenly I thought: “I could do that.”
Fast-forward a year and I made my debut at The Stand’s Red Raw night in Glasgow. Since then I’ve done open spots all over Scotland – trying to build experience and enjoying myself more and more along the way.
I’ve found that stand-up is a strange amalgam of courage, blind faith, luck, desperation and delight. When a joke lands, you can sense the magic in the room. Conversely, when the jape misses its target, that silence is like a shroud of doom suffocating all hope.
Living between those two extremes is the stand-up – alone in the spotlight – and it’s the best feeling in the world.
Alan Muir lives in Cumbernauld. He tweets as @alanmuir74 and blogs at https://caobs.wordpress.com/