Never a better time to use it (humour) than in retirement. And there’s much to find funny. But bear with me while I digress slightly. Stewart Lee, comedian (www.stewartlee.co.uk/gigs).
No help at all
A recent review of his new show (Much A-Stew About Nothing) in The Observer might be seen as slightly critical. It said, “there’s a wealth of evidence to suggest that in the last couple of years Stewart Lee has gone completely mad. Perhaps all the praise has simply been too much for his sanity… Hopefully it’s (the show?) just another symptom of Lee’s desire to challenge both the boundaries of the art form.” (stand-up)
It was in this guise – willing to challenge the boundaries of what is funny – that I contacted him two or three years ago. I had just read his book How I escaped my certain fate’, which purported to describe the ‘secrets of Stewart Lee’s comedy’ and I thought he could help me set up my fledgling approach to using humour as therapy. Of course the process of writing and performing standup and using humour as a form of therapy are not the same thing, nevertheless I thought I might learn a thing or two.
What I was interested in was whether, with some form of support maybe, a person who had experienced some form of trauma could, through the use of humour, begin to rebuild their fractured mental health. Let me be clear, I’m not talking about teaching people how to do stand-up as therapy. Nor am I identifying with the ‘look on the bright side’ brigade. Although Eric Idle’s song has helped me through a few sticky patches and important though both these mindsets are.
What I was interested in was an extension of the ‘humour is tragedy plus time’ theory that I mentioned in my blog on depression a few posts ago. What I wanted to know was whether time (the most apparently intractable of all dimensions) could be artificially manipulated to make it seem that a temporal distance existed between trauma and current mental anguish even though that clearly was not the case. If anybody reading this (does anybody read this?) is interested in the beginning of a presentation on this topic, I will happily send my Powerpoint to them.
So, having read the book and read a bit about his act in the media, it seemed to me that Stewart Lee was a man who specialised in making subjects that many found in poor taste to repulsive, funny. I was interested in how this happened. What did he do? What was his thinking. How did he get people in his audiences to laugh like a drain at topics most sane people found disgusting?
It would be really nice if this little story had a happy ending but alas. I got as far (via email) as communicating with his PA. She asked me what I wanted to ask him. I gave her some version of the above. I thought a right-on guy like Stewart might be interested in the challenge of helping the emotionally damaged. Failing that maybe he could use it in his act. You know, I had this silly bastard email me the other day and ask if I could tell him how I made people laugh. Twat.
So there we are, he, or rather his PA, (maybe it never got to him and I do him a disservice), never replied. So my presentation lies there, another bottom drawer victim, waiting for that moment in time when all stars are aligned, all ducks are in a row and the idea staggers puzzled into the daylight. Then again, maybe not.
So I wondered whether we should take a trip to London and get to see Stewart in his latest gig but having read The Observer review again, maybe not.
So what has this got to do with humour and retirement, as per title. Well truth be told, nothing. All that’s required here is ‘look on the bright side’. ‘You’re not dead,’ kind of mindset. Retirement is a truly wonderful time of life. That’s it, that’s all.