“Have you gone mad?” asked one friend. “You’re so brave. I could never do that. Wouldn’t meditation be wiser?” said another. For someone with a long history of depression and anxiety, plus a morbid fear of public speaking, taking up standup comedy might seem like a masochistic decision. Yet to me it makes perfect sense. Excruciating fear of failure is at the heart of most people’s aversion to attempting to make a room full of strangers laugh. But controlling that fear, and not succumbing to it, is the central reason I’ve chosen to expose myself in this very public and potentially humiliating way.
I grew up in comfortable, middle-class suburban Hertfordshire in the 1970s and 80s, but my upbringing was a complex one of emotional uncertainty. Years of therapy have lent me an understanding of how I learned to cope over the years. To avoid facing difficult issues during my childhood and teenage years I buried my emotions, and that evasion only escalated in adulthood. By my early 20s, I was mentally ill-equipped to deal with life’s thornier challenges.