There is nothing worse than regret. The ‘if only’ feeling that haunts you when you realise it’s too late to put in the years of grit and determination needed to make your lifelong dream come true… or even find out if you’re any good at it. Regret sucks.
The old cliché goes: ‘You can only regret the things you haven’t done’. So jumping on the back of this, wife, mum and journalist Viv Groskop decided that with her fortieth birthday knocking on the door, it was time she put her money where her mouth was to find out if she really was any good at this stand-up comedy business. Or if she was just wasting her time.
And so begins Viv’s mammoth quest to perform 100 comedy shows in 100 days. Despite having three young kids at home (including a baby who was barely one), a long-suffering but patient husband, and a very busy career as a freelance journalist for most of the UK’s bigger newspapers and magazines.
I Laughed, I Cried documents – sometimes hilariously, sometimes painfully (this book delivers what it promises) – Viv’s progress gig by gig, gag by gag, glug (of Diet Coke) by glug.
Part diary, part memoir, part self-help book for aspiring comedians, I Laughed, I Cried is a no-holds-barred expose of Viv’s 100 days. We meet the best and the worst of the amateur comedy circuit with her – from the award-winning clown-comic Dr Brown who likes to take his clothes off, to the misery of the shared car journey to an out-of-London unpaid gig. Through all of this we root for Viv, and we want her to succeed. It’s to her advantage that she doesn’t try to disguise the fact that her quest involves performing night and after night in smelly hot clubs meaning she sweats into her only sequined cardie, and eats a lot of bad fast food, or runs up an exorbitantly high bar tab on watered down soft drinks.
The ‘quest book’ format is a well-tested market. The Danny Wallaces, Dave Gormans and Tony Hawks of the comedy world have all trodden the ground in recent years and sold a zillion books and built careers off it. It’s nice to finally see a woman dipping her sequined toe into the market – and it feels right that Viv should be the one to do it.
Her honest and funny writing, and shameless style, meant that I sped through I Laughed, I Cried in only two sittings – absorbed in the ups and down of Viv’s mission, and drawn in by the journalistic inclusion of various quotes and facts from established comedians on the circuit. This book makes you want to be Viv’s friend – even if that means being dragged along as her ‘bring a mate’ to a dingy club that smells of sewage (I refer you to gig four).
Viv Groksop will return to Bristol on July 3 with a preview of her Edinburgh solo show about I Laughed, I Cried atWatershed at 6.15pm. Tickets are £7/£6. This special event is co-hosted by What The Frock! and Bristol Festival of Ideas. After the show, Viv will be signing copies of the book – published by Orion on June 27.