I had dreamed of performing at this festival for years. It's like the Disney World for comedy festivals. World class one man shows for miles and miles. Sketch comedy, straight standup, comedians from over 75 countries, hundreds of shows every day. It is in fact, the largest performing arts festival in the entire world. You see the craziest street performers. I saw a transgender woman with a typewriter in a chair and you could request erotic fiction to be typed up on the spot. She definitely gets a A plus for originality. There were magicians, skateboarders, people sitting on needles and of course bag pipers. It is an absolute sensory overload of laughter and visuals. Oh, did I mention the whole city is just one giant castle and looks like Hogwarts?
I went to the festival with one goal: to be inspired. I can say very confidently that my expectations were far exceeded. I went to do shows to see if my comedy would translate to the wonderful people of the UK, and surprisingly it went well, very well. I was quickly able to get lots of gigs and really sharpen my craft. Doing up to 6 shows a day, you start to really feel yourself grow as an artist. Constantly performing for crowds with people from 5-10 different countries you either learn how to shit in a universal way or get off the pot. You can't do American material or get away with dumb physical act outs. They want and appreciate wit in Europe. So that was a fun journey to challenge myself from being such a Los Angeles theatrical performance based comedian to growing as a better writer.
I was very pleased with my growth as a comedian. However, it wasn't enough. I was hungry for more. Growing was nice and all, but I wanted inspiration. The kind of inspiration that makes you cry. The kind of inspiration that changes you. The kind that makes you see things differently and make big changes. The kind of change that allows you to be truly and authentically yourself as an artist. I'm talking about real vulnerability here! I decided that I would go watch lots of shows. I mean lots of shows. For every penny I made performing I went and spent it on a show later that day. I was student immersing himself in comedy. I watched show after show, thinking, hell I could do this. I went to scores of 5 star reviewed shows. Day after day, looking for someone with an act that I've never seen before. The festival was almost over and I was very disappointed. I though this festival was full of groundbreaking comedy. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this was just another festival and was overhyped.
Feeling uninspired with only a few days to go, I came across a poster that said "Hot Donkey". It was an intriguing looking comedian sitting in a chair in his underwear in deep thought. I thought, what the hell, I'll go to this. I bought my ticket and went to the show thinking it would be an hour of stand up comedy. Boy was I wrong. The show starts out with the incredibly energetic Northern Irishman in his underwear(already sweating) yelling at the audience telling them it was "about to get really fucking silly". I believed him. He had that look in his eyes that few performers do, that crazy look or fearlessness. He was our chosen leader and he was going to take us on a journey. He turned the lights down and disappeared. He came in from the back entrance and made everyone sitting in the isle seats put their legs out in the isles as he had a mining helmet on with a light on top of it. He crawled through everyones legs like a miner and struggled his way back to the stage while yelling and laughing the whole way. We were all hooked. I realized quickly that this wasn't going to be a stand up show. More of an absurdist that probably had some kind of clown school training. As the night went on, he sang songs with panda puppets, had audience volunteers come on stage and be propped on all fours so he could play their backs like keyboards. He even brought me on stage to blow up balloons and proceed to blow the air out in each others faces while the song "Take my breath Away' by Berlin was playing. I never get nervous on stage, but I was then.
As the show went on it got crazier and crazier. He had man on stage and made him wear a poncho that he had cut out a whole around the bellybutton. He pretended to be a spaceship commander and treated the hole on the poncho with the guys belly button as the window of the spaceship. He poured milk in the guys belly button as fuel for the ship. We went on one hell of an adventure to another planet at this guys stomach was violated. It was just one absurd bit after another. You never knew what he was going to do next. I have never in my life seen someone sweat that hard on stage. This man worked for his laughs. He was soaked head to toe. I was so inspired by how hard he worked up there. It inspired me to step my game up theatrically. After about an hour of this madness he got into a serious speech. A speech that would change my life. A speech that justified this entire trip and the thousands of dollars I spent to get there.
He was a puppeteer by trade. Finally, now we knew what the hell he was! He told us one of his dreams was to work for the Jim Henson company as a puppeteer. One day he got hired to work with the Henson team in Belfast, Northern Ireland, his hometown. He was so excited to work that he couldn't handle his excitement. As he was standing around with his friends laughing a veteran puppeteer from Jim Henson studios came up and told them and said, " I miss what you guys have. Anarchy. You are true individuals. Living free under no rule. You guys are living your dream." Then he cried. It was at that moment that Paul(Hot Donkey) realized something powerful. He wasn't being himself. He wasn't chasing his own dream. He was chasing Jim Hensons dream. He said "when Jim Henson died, so did his dream." He was chasing a dead persons dream instead of his own. There would never be another Jim Henson, so trying too chase Jims vision was a waste of time. He realized, he should be chasing his own dream. He realized he shouldn't try to be like someone else. Thats what made Jim so special, Jim chased his own dream and didn't try to be anything else but himself. It was at that moment that Paul stopped trying to chase Jims dream and to take on his own life. To be bold and to be truly original. Originality was Pauls new dream. We can't live in the past and live someone elses dream. We can only follow our dream and truly commit to being original.
From that day forward Paul was committed to creating an act that no one had ever seen before. An act that was different, original and honestly groundbreaking. He told us to go forward in life and be original and to never live in the past and to never try to live anyone else's dream but ours. So inspired by this speech on originality I teared up and cried. This was the inspiration I honestly had been searching for my whole life. I now had this newfound knowledge on exactly what I needed to do as an artist. This speech made me realize that I wasn't being myself on stage. Only imitating others. It clicked so quickly in my brain. I knew who I was and what I needed to do. With this newfound knowledge I raced out of the show as it closed to go catch my final show of the night that I was booked on. I barely made my slot. I felt energized and excited in a way I had never felt before. I got on stage and remember feeling invincible. I was finally me. A true and authentic version of me. What I was that night on stage was pure originality. I could feel a different energy coming from the audience as any show before. They could feel an energy coming from me they hadn't seen either. It was real, it was beautiful. I'm not here to say I was the funniest person that had ever stepped foot on that stage, but by god was it original. I was having a rebirth in those ten minutes I was up there.
I knew this was a huge breakthrough for me. After I got off stage I was immediately approached by a talent agent from Australia. They said they had to have me on a tour. This would be my first professional tour. Something I had been chasing ever since I started doing comedy. My life was finally turning into the dream I had imagined it to be. Isn't it amazing how one little spark of inspiration can change everything? I knew objectively that I had grown that night and was more fired up about my comedy than I had ever been. For the next 3 nights I went on stage and couldn't have given less of a fuck about what the audience thought of me. I wasn't there to impress them anymore. I wasn't there to be someone I wasn't to make strangers like me. I was there to do one thing: be original.
I came to the festival to be inspired and left with more than I could've ever wished for. I came to the festival as an imposter, and left as an authentic version of myself. The journey to be myself didn't stop on stage. I realized to be truly authentic on stage I would have to be that way off stage. Just like how I was done trying to impress people on stage, I was done doing it off stage. I am so honest and carefree about others opinions one might call me crazy. I had truly become a crazy person and I couldn't be happier about it.