Everyone can’t love us and on occasion we can barely be liked.
I finished up a new show I performed on Saturday night. It was the funnest (yep I’m using that as a word) show I’ve ever done. It was also the bravest as I made a decision not to use my usual safety net, to try something different, to do a slightly different show each night. I was immensely proud of it.
It got a really lovely response. People contacted me via my website and other social networking to let me know how the frankness of the show spoke to them – that was a first. It also got some nice reviews. The people that got the show got it. They saw beyond the shambolic appearance and realised that was the point, part of the story, a glimpse behind the fourth wall. That the disjointed nature of the show was a fundamental part of the structure of the show. The brand new ending of the show that was fashioned in the week leading up to the show was my greatest risk but it was one I embraced. The show did what it said it would on the box – be different each night, be a mix of theatre and stand-up and challenge me as a performer and maybe in doing so I could open myself up to a new audience. I asked to debut it at the Melbourne Fringe festival because if ever there was a festival that embraced risk, well it’s that one and it’s all the more brilliant for it.
But for all the people that liked the show, of course there’s always going to be people that hate it, write about how much they didn’t like it and even mention that a cervical cancer scare in the days leading up the show was no excuse for the ‘under-rehearsed’ nature of the show. Ouch.
And you know what the shitty thing is? For all the great responses about the show, it’s this review that I listen to. This review that I believe, not the rest. As someone who has always lived by the motto (especially when it came to producing other acts over the years) ‘a great review is great, a bad review…well let’s just pretend it never happened.’
Now look, no one saw this review, oh look they might one day, it’s in a newspaper, hey people probably saw it and didn’t say anything to me, I don’t know. It didn’t affect ticket sales, it didn’t affect how I did the show, it didn’t affect me until after I saw it and so naturally I called my mother.
‘I thought we’d agree you’d stop Googling yourself?’
‘I agreed to nothing’
‘Do I need to take away your internet privileges, again?’
‘No mum I’m 34 years old.’
‘Anyway, what’s the big deal? Like you give a shit’.
‘But the thing is I do’ I muttered back, embarrassed.
‘Lot’s of people like marzipan, I hate it. You don’t see marzipan getting upset now do you?’
Hmmm….so now I was marzipan.
‘It’s not the same mum. This is a person and they don’t like me.’
My mother’s maternal love was almost too overwhelming.
‘It’s just, well I was trying something different –‘
She interrupted ‘-and they didn’t get it. So what? Remember that time you wore that matching Bolero and bike short combo to casual clothes day back at primary school and you lost some friends over it?’
‘They weren’t matching mum, I coordinated them myself.’
‘Whatever, the point is people hated you over it, disowned you, refused to me seen with you and yet 25 years on you’re still wearing Bolero jackets.’
‘They’re cropped blazers mum.’
‘They’re Bolero jackets Lou. You’re fooling no one.’
She was right. I’d never let negative attention about me or my work dissuade me and given I’d just done a show that was ostensibly about embracing failure, this was not the response I should have been having. I needed to basically, not give a fuck. Easier said than done.
Now look, I’ll probably obsess over this negative review for at least another week before a puppy distracts me or an article on global warming snaps me out of my narcissistic self-loathing.
But in the meantime, we do all need to look at the disturbing reality that we’re always more willing to believe the worst, that somehow that’s more real. That when someone says ‘nice smile’ you doubt them, can’t handle it, but when someone says ‘your nose is quite prominent’ well it’s fucking scripture.
A great video made by comedian Amy Schumer says it best (about how fucked up we are!):
Basically we’ve got to get better at appreciating those that support us, treat us well and encourage us to be better people, better performers and better writers. Whereas a negative review can inspire you to do excel, at some point you need to just switch-off, not hear it any more and forge your own path wearing your Bolero jacket with pride.