What Am I?

So, I keep going to update my ‘bio’ on Twitter, and realise it’s actually harder than you’d think to quantify what you are, when put in simple terms. Am I a comedian? Cartoonist? Writer? Do I even DO any of that stuff often enough nowadays to qualify? I’ve never known what I wanted to be or do, just that I had a vague idea that I wanted to express myself artisticaly somehow. Even as far back as school when they start to ask “what do you want to be?”, I was clueless. I remember filling up the margins of the form given out by the guidance counsellor with drawings of Spiderman swinging about, and muttering something to a friend about wanting to be a cartoonist, to which I got the ‘that’s crazy talk’ speech, the friend citing his own desire to be an astronaut as comparible in it’s outlandishness, and so the idea got shot down (I could be dissuaded very easily back then). The guidance counsellor himself decided, using the full imagination that guidance counsellors come armed with, that as I was ‘good at art’, printing would be perfect for me, and as it happened, my mam’s cousin knew of a vacancy, and I started what would become a fourteen year long rut in the printing trade, from the day I left school, without even the summer holidays I had been looking forward to, now I was out of the nightmare that I found school itself to be. Hey, it was 1987. Ireland was fresh out of a recession, and my parents were desperate to see me working.
So, by way of trying to work out what I NOW am, let’s have a quick rundown of my career / vocational choices to date:

The first 14 years essentially boil down to planner/platemaker, to drunk planner/platemaker, to drunk. There wasn’t a lot of work for drunks, probably due to the prolificity of them, so I used my drunken skills to LEAVE employment and indeed, employability, in the printing trade. I then sauntered around shitty jobtown for a couple of years, enjoying such short lived career choices as barman, cycle courier, and even three weeks as a video monkey for a large chain of video rental stores. I won’t say who, but they had a big X in the title. I eventually decided working wasn’t for me, and gave up. Then realised the drinking wasn’t working for me either, and gave that up too.

I made a promise to myself upon my last drink (a blog for another day) that I would write. I would somehow find a way to tell the world how a broken man gets here, and six months later, took to the stage doing stand up comedy. If nothing else, I could write off my wasted drinking years as research/writing, retroactively. I also realised 33 was probably too late in life to get that rock star dream moving again (I’ve also always dabbled in music), a dream that I’d had for the wrong reasons to begin with, and comedy seemed like the best option.

While waiting for that to ‘take off’, I filled in two years as a mature student, studying art and animation, then worked for a year as an art teacher, doing community arts in the Liberties in Dublin, by which time my calling as a comedian seemed to be working out quite well. Or would have, if not for my knack for self-sabotage and low tolerance for bullshit, a holdover from my drinking days that I assumed I’d fixed by stopping drinking. Ah well, live and learn.

So, am I a writer then?
Well, ya see, writers WRITE, don’t they? Like, spend all day doing it. I don’t. I write when I have to, like this blog for instance. I suppose I do write my own standup and cartoons, but that’s all from ideas that come into my head, as an when they choose to. If anything, I spend most of my day THINKING. I could try and be a wanker and say I write ‘internally’, and maybe I do, but I still await the day it all starts to come flooding out of my head and on to my laptop, for 16 hours a day. Hell, maybe THIS is the start of it? Should I get my hopes up? I’ll most likely just look back on this blog entry with misplaced pride for the next six weeks, doing little else. Or at best, THINKING about doing other stuff.

Am I a cartoonist?
Although I can draw adequately enough for my own tastes, I wouldn’t try and pass myself off as a professional. I see the flaws in my work, and am happy to leave them. Making money from it is another thing. I still draw on paper only, for crying out loud! I wouldn’t know HOW to draw in photoshop, or illustrator, how to use a drawing tablet, or even have the means to do any of that stuff, like you fancy professional cartoonists do. Again, I don’t even put in the practice. Most cartoonists, I gather, draw for 16 hours a day. Like writing, I draw only when I have something to say, and it can take me WEEKS to work up to it. I’ve had a few paying jobs as a cartoonist in the past, most of which I could put down to ‘who you know’, rather than perserverance.

Am I a comedian?
Well now, here’s the thing. I’ve regarded comedy as the ONLY thing I’m in any way good at. I can hold my head up after MOST gigs knowing I did a good job. Most gigs rock, I never go over my time, and it’s probably the only job I’ve ever had where I turn up LONG before I need to be there. Never had THAT experience with a day job. Alas, although performance-wise I DO see myself as professional, I am far from professional with all the rest of it. The politics, if you will. And the ‘admin’. I know how to get up on a stage, be funny, and get the fuck off. That’s about it. I’ve no real desire to be on TV, or work my way up the ladder. I’ve no business sense whatsoever, and I don’t think I even want fame anymore. I essentially just do this to get the demons out, and I happen to be good at it. There’s now very little comedy work in this country, and I just don’t have the drive anymore (or youth) to start again in another country. I’d say at best I get about an EIGHTH of the gigs I used to, and they pay about half of what they did two years ago. I am NOT making a living from it anymore. It’s now essentially a hobby, with no day job to back me up financially. So, where do I go from here? WHAT am I? Can I honestly say I am a comedian? Or is comedy just now something I do occasionally? Like everything else.


About R

Doctor Who fan
This entry was posted in Alcoholism, irish comedy, standup comedy. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What Am I?

  1. Dermot Lynch says:

    Wow, you wrote that with great prolificacy & integrity, best article I’ve read in a long time. I really hope you continue with the comedy. I have seen you a couple of times you are indeed a good & talented preformer, i’ed venture to say you give alot more than you recieve, a pity we can’t say that about all comedians. as I said you re a good preformer you may become a great preformer.

    • robbiebonham says:

      Ah thanks for that Dermot. Yeah it’s a weird one, kind of at a crossroads, and my reasons for doing comedy have changed. So also has the ‘venue’ (ie Irish clubs), it seems Ireland is a bit too small to continue in the honest fashion I was aiming for, I’m not even sure comedy itself is any longer the right medium for me, but it’ll all ‘out’ someway in the end, I’m sure 🙂

  2. Right….in life we are and think should of,could have, would have, you have delved into creativity whether by art,writing, or oral(no laughing) its a decision only you can make(no shit your thinking)..well you can do all, as it seems you are gifted…but what if you were to channel all your energy into one(insert star wars quote)..tough one…my vote is comics/writing …as all the qualities you have can be put into one….just a wee thought

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