In my many years touring as a comedian, I often wondered if meeting up with audiences was a good idea. Lingering in the foyer after my set always felt a bit desperate. Was I hoping to have people rush up to me to let me know how funny I’d been? There were certainly gigs where this happened. And one time that a rather drunk audience member slurred, ‘you were brilliant!’ in the interval before I’d even been on.
But there was no guarantee of such enthusiasm. So, on many occasions, I waited backstage for my envelope of cash then escaped discreetly to the train station to stock up on snacks for the journey home.
And then, in 2017, I started writing books. Connection with your audience, and with fellow authors for that matter, takes on a whole new resonance when you start out as a writer. You can share things on the page that are even more intimate and revealing than you might be able to get away with in the combative confines of a comedy club. Coupled with that, there’s nowhere near the same sense of immediate feedback as with live performance. So that relationship with readers becomes crucial to the development of your art, to your own understanding of what has chimed with people.
The pandemic radically altered the creative landscape. We have found new ways of connecting online. I even enjoyed some of the international opportunities that opened up, getting up early for book launches in Melbourne and Auckland and staying up late to record podcasts with LA and New York. Yet nothing compares to the texture and quality of being together in the same room.
I look forward to the sense of family and community I’ll feel this weekend at Queer the Shelves with fellow writers and readers. And the fact that it’s a queer event makes this all the more special.