There ain’t no such thing as a performance licence

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In two months time myself and the Talented Factorials will be installing our act, Agony Auncles of Science, at the Edinburgh Free Fringe. I’m pretty sure I’m not ready, and someone else would do a better job. After all, just four months ago, we were asking beginner questions about the Fringe to a very patient and helpful Sarah Bennetto in a busy London pub. We asked ‘How do you know when you’re ready for Edinburgh?” She said “Well, it’s not like there’s someone who hands out permits.”

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Eight months ago, I wasn’t sure about applying for Talent Factory, and admitting that I wanted to experiment with drag. 26 months ago, I wasn’t sure about doing my first Science Showoff, and asking a room full of people to listen to me witter on. I knew I wanted to do some performance. I knew some science. I wondered if I could get on stage and make people laugh. I was interested in gender as a variable and a caricature, and I thought (still do) that people who do science probably should know more about the astounding variety of human gender. I worried I was not the best and shouldn’t do these things, that there were other people who knew more than me, were funnier than me, had better bodies and makeup than me, had earned their spurs and had their qualifications and were more right-on and better informed about gender politics. There are. But they were not there.

I was the person who was prepared to write the sets, learn them, perform them, invite everyone down, work the door, do the posters, write, improve, read the tutorials, make the costumes, read the books, rehearse, get the feedback, volunteer for the jobs and ask for the favours. I get my science wrong sometimes. Sorry.  I’m not the most enlightened, or least privileged person in the world (but I’m better than most of what’s out there at the moment). I have fucked up a few times, I will fuck up more. Other people could have done it better, but they didn’t.

If there is noone else who is willing to do the job, it doesn’t matter that you are not the best at it. If you wait until you are literally the best person in the world for the job you will never get the experience to be that good. If you wait until you are perfect you will wait until the universe dies a cold, lonely death, with the relentless vacuum only interrupted by the ashes of dead stars and the occasional glossy page of ’25 celebrities who went out for milk without makeup’.

Also, a lot of white boys from private school who haven’t even stopped to consider if they are qualified for the role will tread on your head.

If you have a chance to do something you want to do, do it. Learn. Sure, take advice (as much as possible), consider if you can bear the cost, emotionally and financially if it goes wrong, do your research about what you’re letting yourself in for – don’t be a child about it – but you need to take responsibility for your own development and that includes responsibility to try things that sound so awesome they are terrifying. The worst that can happen is failure. The worst they can say is no.

Do you think you get a regulation 3 points after finishing each gig (+5 for a good one, -1 for a bad one, +2 if you remained upright throughout)? ‘You must be this experienced to ride’? Is there an extra shield you can equip if you know your gender theories and axes of oppression backwards and forwards? Does giving a totally garbled account of gravitational redshift that gets confused between acceleration and velocity mean you get your science passport revoked? (You do lose 4 points for that one though).*

There is no giant golden hand of comedy that comes down and bops you on the head when you have filled up your skill bar and can level up to doing your own show. Much less a giant sparkly golden hand of science-comedy-gender-commentary. Noone is going to give you permission because a) noone is able to and b) you don’t need it. You try, and you see what happens. That’s all you get, and it’s all anyone gets.

This goes double if noone else is doing your wildly specific interest yet; how can the world know it doesn’t like it if it hasn’t tried? You might not write the best hairmetal-opera about the queer poly love lives of subatomic particles the world will ever see, but if you’re the one who’s prepared to make it happen, you are the one the world wants.

Agony Auncles of Science will be at the Edinburgh Free Fringe from 4-25th August. Scary’s upcoming gigs can be seen on their portfolio page.

*Yup, did that.

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