Before lockdown I fetishised being ‘busy’ – but after one gig, everything changed

Could I launch Ealing Healing and Cleaning? Last night my fanciful ideas of an alternative career were shoved off a cliff

Written by Shaparak Khorsandi in The Independent 12 months ago (Saturday, May 29th, 2021)

Dog trainer, masseuse, CEO of cleaning company were all alternative careers I considered during lockdown when all my stand-up gigs disappeared and I found myself really enjoying going to bed at 8pm.

The acres of time I had with my children brought it home to me how much time I had missed. So often I would physically be there but so preoccupied about work … a show, a book, whatever I was up to, that a cardboard cut out of myself would have been just as useful and possibly a better cook.

For all the horrors of the pandemic, I loved being at home and wondered if life is better without the helter-skelter life of being a stand-up comedian. If you have a creative job, it’s very hard to switch off from it. There is always something to write, make, record, cry about.

I began to long for a job where the working day actually ended. Could I be a plumber? There is an all-woman plumbing company called Stopcocks, perhaps I could train and join them, I thought. Then I could actually switch off from work.

I very often took the children away with me on tours and we have had wonderful adventures at comedy festivals around the world, the trips were still about me and my work and not “family time” in the same way painting giant purple hearts all over our hallway in lockdown had been. More and more this little fantasy grew in my head of doing something different with my life.

One of my neighbours and I tried to buy the lease of our local coffee shop, which was up for sale. My neighbour, who I shall call Sophie because that is her name, is a wedding dress designer and for years had her own shop so had business experience.

I am a stand-up comedian who finds her invoices and receipts in sock drawers and the biscuit tin. Between us, we’d make a formidable team, she would take care of the business side and I would take care of the drinking coffee and nattering with the customers side.

Alas, the owners went, as they say in showbusiness (and, as it turns out, in the coffee shop business too) “another way”. We did not win the bidding war and the dream cafe Sophie and I imagined turned into a Lebanese restaurant. Their food is delicious and a welcome addition to our locale, so it all ended well.

Sophie was not to be persuaded to start Ealing Healing and Cleaning with me – my business idea of going to people’s houses together, one of us giving them a massage while the other one cleaned their kitchen – I still think there is a gap in the market for such a service. Imagine having an incredible massage listening to the sound of someone else washing your pots. I dream of such a thing).

Last night though, all my fanciful ideas of an alternative career for myself were shoved off a cliff after I did three gigs in one night in packed, indoor, comedy clubs. There I was, at Top Secret Comedy Club in Leicester Square, jumping off stage after my set in the downstairs venue then rushing to the upstairs venue to do a second show. Then I flew over to Bethnal Green for my closing slot at Backyard Comedy Club. It was back, the bonkers adrenaline rush that may shorten my life but nothing in the world can beat.

Lively, rambunctious audiences, roaring with laughter, as happy to be back in their seats as we comics were to be back on a stage. Ridiculously fun. It’s the only place I know what I’m doing and even if it goes badly and I mess up, I always know why. It makes sense to me. It is, in short, my job. The world of plumbing and heating services will have to do without me.

Filed Under: Column, The Independent, Writing