I was barely fourteen-years old, as I heard the bitter echoes of repressed desire, coarse through every word of the laughter in his dismissive tone – as if a one armed man had announced he was embarking upon a career in weightlifting. “You can’t do that!” He ranted, as he sat in the comfort of the armchair he spent the majority of his free time sitting in - watching television shows he openly criticized, to the end credits began rolling. The persecutor was a man, his victim, a child; and a child’s logic could only view this negative reality from his own viewpoint of inexperience. The child never questioned the validity of an opinion of a man well in his fourties, who still lived with his mum, and made Howard Hughes look like a societal Liberace - and was likely still a virgin. All the child heard was a blood related adult, telling him the words he never wanted to hear... "You will never be a stand-up comedian."
My sixteen year-old brother told jokes. He never fired bullets of sharp witticisms and cunning innuendo (not that he couldn't), but he could listen to a canned joke, memorize its every word and intonation, then relay the material as if he had just made it up on the spot. He was – in the simplest of terms, a natural. His passion for the isolated, naked art of stand-up comedy was incandescent; through long summer days and cold winter nights, he would study videos of his idols Bernard Manning, Jimmy Jones, Mike Reid, and every other male who had been successful enough to market their acts to the world of the VHS. Anything stand-up related, he ingested. It reached the point where he could repeat every act - word for word, from beginning to end.
He was obsessed, dedicated, and determined. Everyone who wanted him to be a success, could see him in their minds playing to thousands of joyous fans across the nation. Unfortunately. so could those who wanted him to fail. He studied each act, as he planned to perform for his very own stand up act for his secondary school. He studied a carefully constructed routine countless times, and on the day – as he confidently strolled through the crowd to the beats of Queens ‘A Kind Of Magic’, performed a rip-roaring set in front of three hundred screaming youths, brimming with short education and even shorter attention spans. Days later, on viewing the video recording, his talent was clear to see. On showing his act to those whose opinions mattered more than anyone, he was met with ridicule and patronising insult - slowly crushing the validation he had worked so hard to receive.. Little did he realise, their dismissing of his abilities, was in fact a backhanded compliment, to the talent he possessed.
Eventually, the put-downs and subtle criticisms reached a place so deep, that their attempts to destroy his potential came to fruition. As a young adult, he sold his stand-up comedy collection, stored the microphone away, and chose a path of life which never seemed to me like his true calling. I just wonder what would have happened, had every “You will never be a stand-up comedian” been a “Why can't you be a stand-up comedian?” Nobody, and I do mean nobody, articulated a canned joke like my brother - it is a truly lost art. Maybe the punchline was on him - I just wish he had given it the shot his unquestionable talent deserved. My brother was a unique original; a genuine one off. I hope one day he finds the room which contains his comedy shoes, dusts them off, and goes for a long, long stroll; very few people are good enough to walk in them.
While for me, I was fortunate enough to see the insecurity behind the criticism, others were not afforded this luxury. And if I had listened to those same insults - which came the way of all my siblings, I wouldn't be writing this now. But it's never too late to start again - it's never too late...