This is my tenth post on TNB, which I’m treating as some sort of milestone. And as with all milestones, I’m going to take this moment to look back and reflect on what a crazy journey it’s been… (Imagine some sort of bubble effect or that wibbly-wobbly screen wipe with harp music at this point.)

As far back as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a gangster writer. Or kind of. I’ve always wanted to be a writer when I haven’t had crazy schemes of what I was going to be.

A memory that haunts and embarrasses me to this day is standing up in class at the age of about five, wearing glasses and no doubt a zany waistcoat. I was a nerd as a kid, I dressed like a fucking magician. I was standing in front of a class with a list of books I was going to write (most of them about dinosaurs) and how much they would retail for.

This set a long precedent for getting ahead of myself, some may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m probably the only one who has ever advertised a literary back catalogue before they could even type.

Adding salt to this wound is the news yesterday that some kid in Spain has just published his first novel. He actually wrote it first.

At various points I have wanted to be a British secret agent— every time I see one of the Bond films, I have wanted to be a film director, an actor and of course, a soccer player.

I’m too clumsy to be an agent, too disorganized to direct films, too bad an actor to act and not a particularly good player of any sort. I was quite a good goalkeeper as a kid, but I didn’t grow much between the ages of ten and seventeen.

In between all these fleeting fancies I’d start writing again, badly mostly, until the next little romantic fantasy appeared.

I got into music pretty late for a normal human being. I got a small CD player for Christmas one year when I was about twelve. I only owned one album until I was around fifteen, that album was Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur: 15 classic chants and club tracks!

Tottenham Hotspur are a soccer team by the way.

Of course when I finally discovered the satanic joys of classic rock, guitar, drum and bass solos and guttural howls of testosterone fuelled lust I wanted to be a rock star. I had the height of Daltrey, the straggly air of an ageing Keith Richards and the flares of the dirtiest Deadhead.

Sadly I lacked: musical talent, ability to play an instrument, the ability to sing, the ability to read of write music, the dedication/interest to learn how to play an instrument, a predilection for drugs, awesome boots, the funds to purchase a musical instrument, any friends to start a band with.

Like Paul McCartney, the dream is dead.

I have been in two bands. The first band Mercury, was at school and I was invited to be the bands drummer (apparently I’d ‘get the hang of it, eventually’) and I was until the next day, when I was cruelly sacked and replaced with someone who had been taking drum lessons for the last two years.

The second band, Busky Busker and The Buskettes, was a three man busking band. It was meant as a joke, we just didn’t know how bad a joke it would be. I was on drums (again!) my buddy Greg was on guitar and his friend was drafted in as a singer against his knowledge and will. The singer quit before the first chord, I couldn’t find a drum kit anywhere in the building, ultimately settling on half a damaged bongo and Greg… well actually he was pretty good. He didn’t really need the Buskettes. We played one song, opting for Yellow Submarine, because we both knew the words.

However, neither of us knew how to sing. We mumbled our way through it, I slapped the intact side of the bongo hard and slowly and Greg’s guitar became slightly distorted.

It sounded awesome. We were the grunge Beatles!

Shortly after that I started doing stand up comedy and stopped writing, at least in the fiction sense. This came about from many people telling me I should ‘do comedy’ in a short space of time. I’m not blowing my own trumpet or anything, like ten people in just over a week, independent of each other, all said the same thing. I guess I must have been really on that week.

I was listening to a lot of comedy as well, having recently bought my two first comedy albums, Werewolves and Lollipops and Nerd Rage from Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn.

I joined a lot of groups for comedians on MySpace which is how I got to know Riley Fox; not the young girl that was murdered but a stand up of the same name.

Over time I wrote a load of material (material is what comedians call jokes) and practiced my routine (a routine is what comedians call jokes.) I finally got a chance to perform a five minute set at a local comedy club which was received… moderately well.

But I hated it, it wasn’t fun at all. I’d been lied to or I was different to other stand ups. I was uncomfortable delivery the dirty ‘jokes’ that made up most of my act.¬† Rather than give up (my default reaction to pretty much everything) I sought help and advice.

Brian Posehn was my MySpace friend. This meant I was able to communicate with him via the interweb, and I did. I sent him a message which basically said that I’d recently bought his album and he was one my stand up heroes and was generally complimentary. Then I asked for his advice, how to get comfortable with uncomfortable jokes.

I pressed send.

After that I performed one more set at my College leaver’s event in early June. However I was already disillusioned, lacking in confidence and came back from a week in Amsterdam the day before the event. I was tired; I was convinced I was going to get ill from smoking marijuana and then paranoid that the marijuana was making me paranoid. I didn’t practice or brush up on any of the material; I just went on stage, bombed and threw in the towel.

After that I went back to writing, getting involved with Kerb, a few other ventures and obviously on this very site.

Shortly before Christmas Brian Posehn replied to my message. He thanked me for the compliment and offered all the advice he could. It was genuinely inspiring.

But it was too late.

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James D. Irwin is a British writer based in the Hampshire countryside. His work has appeared online, in print, and on stage. He can be contacted at [email protected]

7 responses to “Brian Posehn Was Too Late To Help”

  1. Judy Prince says:

    “Sadly I lacked: musical talent, ability to play an instrument, the ability to sing, the ability to read of write music, the dedication/interest to learn how to play an instrument, a predilection for drugs, awesome boots, the funds to purchase a musical instrument, any friends to start a band with.”

    HAHAHAHA! Nice, James, that whole drumming in the bands experience—-good laughs!

    I’d love to know the inspiring advice Brian Posehn gave you about doing standup.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      I can’t remember exactly what it was.

      I remember it was very encouraging though.

      I might have to go back and look for it soon…

      • Judy Prince says:

        It’s great to float on a respected writer’s very encouraging words, isn’t it, Irwin?

        Nice thing, too, is that those encouraging thoughts represent many many more people’s atttitudes. Sort of like those who read but may not comment on TNB posts. Many haven’t the time, and others feel quite shy about saying something. It’s that way with all groups, whether online or in person.

        You’re probably getting to the charity shops for furniture and lamps and such now that you’re settling in to the house. I love charity shopping.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          It is. Of course at the time it was far too late, and I’d given up. It was weird to see this pop up now, at this time when I’m currently reconsidering my decision.

          I love charity shops— mostly for books or music. It feels like more of a lucky dip. It’s also why I have more books than I’ve read.

          The removal van turned up yesterday with the family ‘gold’ in it, so now we have— oh lucury of luxuries!- furniture…

        • Judy Prince says:

          Furniture! Not a moment too soon, Irwin.

          Bookshelves, chairs, tables, awesome.

          Yup, we buy far too many used books because the prices are so enticingly low.

          I used to go to amazon.co.uk for most non-charity shop used books, but Steven Sparshott said he buys from the postage-free The Book Depository, so I’ve gotten several books there, as well, and am delighted. We even got unusually low-priced Moleskine notebooks from TBD, all sizes, several colours, plain as well as ruled.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          Of course my room is not large enough for furniture and if it were I don’t have any anyway. My packing box is a desk. It’s kind of cool because the whole set up is so tight it feels like a cockpit or something…

          I don’t buy second hand online any more to try and stop myself buying so many books… and I have to say finding stuff is more fun than searching for stuff.

          Another problem I have is re-reading. I have a terrible memory, and like reading things I’m familiar with on occasion. I’ve just re-read the entire Hitchhiker’s five part trilogy whilst a whole stack of fifteen or more books has been left unread…

        • Judy Prince says:

          That’s a massive re-read, Irwin. I can’t even get through a book on the *first* read—-oh, except for Carol Drinkwater’s non-fiction books about her and her French husband Michel’s olive farm in Provence. I’m hooked on her writing. She’s best known as Helen Herriot on the BBC series _All Creatures Great and Small_.

          You’re very self-disciplined. I can’t imagine not searching online for used books.

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