Ahoy there! This week’s introductory paragraph has a nautical theme! Welcome back aboard [to] the good ship [newsletter] the Fruit Salad Therapy Tapes, an interactive captain’s log [notebook project] from scurvy bilgerat [comedian] Joz Norris. If ye’ve [you’ve] lost yer sea legs [become tired of this newsletter] ye’re [you’re] welcome to walk the plank [unsubscribe] any time. And if ye’re [you’re] still aboard [subscribed] then a-harr, me hearties [read on for this week’s Tape].
Post-Script To Tape 10
Thanks so much for all your replies and thoughts last week. The whole question of how people feel about the current comedy landscape is obviously one I really care about, so hearing lots of takes on what’s worked for people about it and what hasn’t was really interesting. One thing that came up in people’s replies which I think it’s really important we learn from the last year concerns accessibility – one of the things people have appreciated most about the rise of online comedy is the fact that they can access livestreams of comedy shows they could never have seen in person, whether because of disability, anxiety issues, or any number of other reasons also including just struggling to make the time. In the same way as the pandemic has democratised access to the comedy industry for people wanting to build a creative career, as I discussed last week, it’s also democratised access to comedy itself for people who have usually struggled to make it to live shows. I do think there are things it was possible to explore in long-form live comedy that you can’t explore online, and I do hanker for a time when we can get back to doing those things, but I think we’ve learned that there’s really no excuse for live shows to not also be streamed online for people to watch at home. I hope that when some form of “normality” resumes, rather than just doggedly going back to the “old ways” of making comedy, we put our heads together to make something that keeps hold of the best things we’ve learned that we might not have considered before the last year, and combines them into something new that has the best of both worlds.
One Year On
This week’s question which I’d love to hear your thoughts on, is this:
What is your single best moment of the last year? What is your single biggest lesson?
I’ve spent a lot of this week talking about the Covid-versary, and the different ways in which people have responded to it. It reminded me, oddly enough, of the time my Grandma died a few years ago. The grief that comes from losing a grandparent is, in my own experience at least, an odd one because it doesn’t necessarily involve the shock of loss that often accompanies grief. It’s often a loss we anticipate for some time, and make emotional preparations for, and if the grandparent is particularly old, or was particularly unwell and uncomfortable in their last few weeks or months, it can be accompanied by something almost resembling relief – it’s an opportunity to no longer be concerned and distressed by that person’s physical discomfort or concerned for their emotional wellbeing, and an opportunity instead to look back on an amazing life and celebrate what they meant to you. But when we lost her, a friend of mine said something to me which I thought was odd at the time. “Be prepared for it to find its way out in ways you don’t expect,” they said. “When I lost my Grandma, I was just furious for a long time and I didn’t understand why.”
I didn’t become furious in the weeks and months afterwards, but I did have a particularly hard few months and I’m sure some part of that was to do with the weirdly unprocessed grief I felt. I feel very similarly about the one-year anniversary of the Covid pandemic. It’s another event that we see coming from some way off and all make emotional preparations for – we all knew quite some time ago that this situation would still be going on one year later, and we’ve all found our own coping mechanisms throughout the various lockdowns that have helped us to disengage from things that were proving unhealthy for us, and to concentrate on strengthening certain habits or attitudes or relationships that made us feel like we were coping. I looked at the impending anniversary and assumed it would pass me by without my really making much of it, because as far as I was concerned it was just a case of continuing to practice the same emotional coping methods as I’d been working on for months now.
But again, the emotional defences we put in place to guard against things like that might cause those feelings to work their way out in unexpected ways, and I have spent the last week in a very odd reflective mood, trying to work out whether I’ve “lost” a year or not. There are places I haven’t been, people I haven’t seen, events I haven’t celebrated, adventures I haven’t been on, and so on and so on. I remember seeing a rainbow in a window on my street in the first lockdown under which the kid who drew it had written “Very soon everything will be ok!” and I remember at the time identifying so strongly with that positivity – the belief that things would be better soon, that this was a period of time that would end and just had to be endured with optimism and with hope and then things would be better again. A year later, it becomes harder to know whether that’s still the aim – to persevere with hope until things are “normal” again – or whether by now it’s become a very different emotional project, to adapt with hope and with optimism and to simply make the most of what’s in front of us without making too many predictions for what things will look like in six months’ time, all the while daydreaming about the things we will do “when we can.” To not look at the last year thinking “I didn’t do this and I didn’t do that,” but to think “But look at everything I did do considering the circumstances,” whether that was painting a new masterpiece every day or doing a new jigsaw puzzle every month. We can’t control our circumstances, but we can control what we do with our time, and what it is that we take pride in when we look back.
A Hundred Miles
The analogy that Miranda (my girlfriend, for new readers – hi! Welcome! Get up to speed with the backstory immediately, please. You probably don’t even know why it’s called “The Fruit Salad Therapy Tapes,” lol! The other members of the club must be feeling so smug right now) uses is of a super-elite ultra-marathon-type thing they once did where runners would sign up and not be told how long the race would be. They just had to run until they were told to stop. Something like 90% of the runners who failed to finish it gave up very shortly after the 100 mile mark, because they all had 100 miles as some sort of rough guideline in their head for how long they thought they could stick it out for, and when that milestone came and went with no sign of how much longer it would go on for, they just couldn’t do it any more. I think it ended up being only a few miles more than 100, and the ones who completed it were the ones who just kept running without really keeping score too much. Who just lived moment to moment, asking themselves “Can I run a little bit further? Yeah, I can run a little bit further.” I suppose the one-year mark is a similar milestone for a lot of people. Though quite what I’m saying with this metaphor I’m not really sure – am I suggesting all this is about to be over, and we should get ready for it to absolutely end? That feels silly, and if I’m totally honest, unlikely. Am I saying it’s never going to end and we should just accept that it’s going to go on forever? That feels awful, and unhelpful. Who knows? I’ve set a precedent by now of exploring ideas in this newsletter and then not really resolving them, so hey, over to you guys. What are your thoughts? What has this year taught you? What has it given you? Will you go back to “normal?” Has the way you look at your life been permanently changed by it?
A Cool New Thing In Comedy – Stuart Laws has just released his new series Grave New World on Vimeo, which you can rent for £3.10. Stu is one of the funniest people making stuff at the moment, and this series has a cast of all-time greats including Lucy Pearman, Harriet Kemsley, Bobby Mair and James Acaster. Definitely worth your time.
Album Of The Week – Buena Vista Social Club by Buena Vista Social Club. To be fair, this wasn’t really a new album to me this week, because the second I put it on my immediate thought was “Oh, this!” because I think it’s been playing in the background of maybe 50% of all the dinner parties I’ve ever been to. All the dinner parties that weren’t playing Rumours or Graceland, anyway. It’s nice, though. People like it with good reason.
Film Of The Week – This depends on your definition of “film,” because technically this is an episode of the BBC series Storyville, but each episode is just a different self-contained feature-length documentary, so I think it’s a film. Anyway, Undercover OAP: The Mole Agent is a documentary about Sergio, an 83-year-old Chilean widower who is sent undercover into a care home to spy on one of the residents to find out if she’s being neglected. Sergio’s struggle to adapt to the requirements of a job as a spy are genuinely hilarious, and it becomes a really profoundly touching study of loneliness and isolation in old age. It’s really beautiful.
Book Of The Week – Absorbed by Kylie Whitehead. This is a great new debut novel about a woman so obsessed by her boyfriend, so anxious about the idea that he might one day abandon her, that she literally absorbs him so he can always be with her. It’s great so far. There’s smatterings of creepy supernatural body horror in there, but it’s primarily a really good study of co-dependent relationships. I really enjoyed it.
That’s all for this week! Thanks so much again for all your thoughts and replies, and any shares are always much appreciated, so feel free to send to friends who might enjoy it, and to encourage people to subscribe!
Have a great week,
Here’s me modelling Miranda’s first ever screen-printed T-shirt design, The Dreamer, which I think is really beautiful: