“Connection. Human connection.”
I always wanted to be a comedian.
It wasn’t my only childhood dream. I also wanted to be pop singer, an astronaut, a superhero and – for a large part of 1972 – a lunar landing module.
But a comedian was always the dream – making people laugh by dint of your own personality, and maybe even by using the word “dint”. I loved them all – Dave Allen, Alexei Sayle, Robin Williams. Those are the ones it’s legitimate to remember. But I secretly also loved the quipsters. To me, Monkhouse was king.
Yet comedians also scared me. To talk to one, to find yourself suddenly grasping for words as they mercilessly sliced you with their wit, that was too frightening a prospect to even consider.
So instead I tried to rationalise this love, even make it an intellectual pursuit. My dissertation was on “Lenny Bruce And The Art Of The Stand-up Comedian.” Seriously: I tried to pass of stand-up as a form of cathartic, transformative theatre. Think I got away with it, too.
But the problem of seeing comedy just as a noble calling or a social service is it leaves out something very simple. It’s the way Zoe Lyons thinks of when we talk about being a member of the diaspora, but it also applies to her work too.
Connection. Human connection.
She laughs when I describe her work as a kind of Irish art form – the sense of a conversation, the emphasis on stories rather than punchlines – but it’s not in a cruel way. I’m being laughed with. Not at. Or at the very worst, I’m being laughed towards. She’s embarrassed to see comedy as anything more than sharing her curiosity at the world’s absurdities with a room that will share back.
Listening to her talk about Brexit and the presumption of certain comedians that everyone will share their perspective and the need to try and not divide a room but to bring everyone along with you makes you realise that even this simple sharing is a daunting task. It makes me very glad I didn’t become a comedian.
And even happier that Zoe Lyons did.