I Laughed, I Cried – Viv Groskop

Excuse me while I go all self-help on you for a moment. Imagine you have a significant birthday making its way towards you like a Stansted Express train on a Network Rail line (for those of you not based in the UK, that’s slowly and subject to delays). When you were younger, you thought you’d be doing X and have Y and Z by this significant birthday. Perhaps you’ve got Y and Z, let’s say a family and a great group of friends but you’re not doing X – writing a novel; travelling the world; spending six months of the year in the Bahamas.

Viv Groskop, travelling towards her 40th birthday began to contemplate her X:

I had always dreamed of being a stand-up comic, but only in the way that you might dream of walking on the moon. You might love the idea and read obsessively about other people doing it. But you never imagine yourself doing it. It was only after I hit my mid-thirties that I realised that there are some things in life which you can just do if you want to. No one is stopping you. Walking on the moon requires long-term planning and large amounts of cash. Stand-up just requires balls. And some basic organisational skills.

So, she set out a plan: one hundred gigs in one hundred nights. Long enough to work out whether she was any good at stand-up; short enough not to affect her family (too much).

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Oh yes, Groskop has a Y and a Z. Husband, Simon. Children, Will, seven; Vera, five; Jack, one. And a day job as a freelance journalist and reviewer.

How much effort should you put into something, especially when there is a cost to your personal life? We all want to balance work and life outside work. But, realistically, how can you do that? Especially when so many people need to retrain or reinvent themselves because there’s no such thing as a job for life any more and the recession means lots of jobs are being made redundant. I wanted to see for myself what the cost might be, before just assuming that it wouldn’t be worth it.

The book goes on then to cover three areas: the gigs themselves – Groskop kept a diary throughout the experience to record her thoughts and feelings; what Groskop’s learning about stand-up and the experiences she has around the gigs/the other comedians she meets, and the impact the experience has on her family.

Her writing is engaging and often laugh-out-loud funny (you’d hope so, wouldn’t you?) and I found myself alternatively rooting for her; sympathising with the task of juggling a young family while trying to remain sane and feeling fulfilled, and thinking she was completely crackers.

If you have a significant birthday slowly approaching or you’ve always dreamed of doing something different with your life but you feel like something – a young family, work, yourself – is holding you back or you just want to know what it’s like to be a stand-up comedian, this is the book for you.

Thanks to Orion for the review copy.