It so rarely pays, and the hours you spend preparing, promoting and editing rack up quickly, and you never get them back. Then people can get bored of that process. And much like improv, if the appeal of the process dwindles and it stops functioning as “its own reward”, it’s easy for the joy of it to slip through your fingers.
And eventually The Giggle Loop Podcast, and every other podcast I was involved with subsequently came to an end as a result of heavy workloads, burnout of interest or other, more personal reasons. The one exception is Dead Drunk Detective, which I helped start with Brendan Way and Katharine Kerr and is, as far as I know, still going strong without me. And like I said, I miss making them. I love appearing in other people’s shows, when I can.
There was even a time when I would regularly improvise characters on the Jon Holmes Show on Talk Radio and then BBC Kent. And I still to hours of podcasts a week. And the thought would occasionally enter my mind to start a new podcast, but I never took the plunge. Making podcasts is a special process. I love the brainstorming, the branding, the hours spent on Adobe creating logos and trailers. But I was a bit burned and tired when I stopped.
I loved the collaborative nature of the projects I’d had, but life happened, and I wouldn’t have known whom to turn to if I did have an idea to pursue. And, frankly, I was afraid to do something on my own. There are others that have done that with great effect, but I didn’t feel confident enough. And looking back at it, I don’t regret a thing.
Of course not! What’s to regret? Podcasts showed me how much fun improv could be, catalysing a whole new lifestyle where I am no longer torturing myself in the film business, but instead enjoying collaboration and travel as a performer with a degree of fun and adventure that I never thought I would get to do. Like I said, I thought improv was the kind of fun other people got to have. Now it’s fun that I get to have. And that’s just marvellous.
Now I’m lucky enough to be a part of The Maydays, a team that I’ve always admired. The only problem is that a few weeks after I officially joined The Maydays, the whole damn country went into lockdown. And we, as a company and as a community generally, have taken to online improv like a duck to water. However, I’m struggling with it. And no one has to do online improv or anything they are uncomfortable with under these circumstances. And I first fell in love with improv online in the form of podcasts, so why do I hesitate with Zoom?
I wondered if maybe it was all happening again, that the joy could slip through my fingers because the process wasn’t enough for me in this new form. And the improv over Zoom is not so different from podcasting. It asks you to suspend your disbelief in much the same way as it does on stage, forgiving a lack of set or props. It utilises the “theatre of the mind” so that you can imagine these people in the same room. They’re really not that different. All I know is I have to do something. Something I can enjoy for the very sake of doing it. Something that feels like the work and effort that it takes is its own reward. And preferably something with The Maydays, because for goodness’ sake I’ve been looking forward to working with them for years at this point.
One thing that improv, and life, teaches us is that the best way forward is so often found by looking back at where you’ve already been. I look back at what I love about podcasts and there’s so much in common with the improv format we use now, and it means I understand so well why Zoom has worked for us in the COVID-19 pandemic. But for me, personally, streamed video is not the answer. Audio, however… Maybe podcasts can be the same creative, collaborative, entertaining platform that made me fall in love with improv in the first place. And if I picked up podcasting again, maybe others would enjoy it, too. I guess we’ll see…
By The Maydays, Ed Fargher
Hang Out With The Maydays, at our improv podcast here: podfollow.com/maydays