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Have you heard the one about the Jordan Peterson fan club? No, seriously

Performing stand-up comedy is not the same with an adult ADHD diagnosis. Robin Ince is doing it differently this time

Jordan Peterson speaking with attendees at the 2018 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida

Jordan Peterson speaking with attendees at the 2018 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in Florida. Image: Gage Skidmore

I have been spending a lot of this first month of the year in my skull cinema. I love the term ‘skull cinema’, a phrase conjured by the writer JB Priestley in his book An English Journey. The skull cinema is the place where we show the films we make with our imagination.

Normally, I would be preoccupied by watching the world move around me as I crossed the United Kingdom from gig to gig, library talk to library talk, but I am staying rooted this winter as I have a deadline for a book. As long as I have purpose, I can sit still.

Well, perhaps still is a bit of an exaggeration: in between paragraphs I will be singing songs in made-up languages, talking to myself as various characters and doing upper body dancing to Cyndi Lauper and Patti Smith songs. Unfettered by the fear of the judgement of the passengers in the carriage of the 11.03 to Wakefield Westgate, in my house I can let my imagination roam loudly and wildly, at least until the neighbours knock on the wall. 

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Some Nicorette patches are needed; I can’t just go cold turkey, straight down from 1,000 miles a week to 100 feet a day. To avoid a violent crash caused by motionlessness, I have decided to go back to playing comedy clubs. It has been some years since I last did 20 minutes in comedy clubs, and even when I regularly did, I still felt regularly like an imposter, however well the gig went. 

In the last week, I popped up a book recommendation on TikTok. Purchased from Juno Books in Sheffield, it is a slim volume called Twelve Reasons why Jordan Peterson is Wrong About Everything and contains a selection of photographs of monkeys and apes with their mouths wide open.

Jordan Peterson admirers are not keen on that sort of thing, and so I got messages such as “He is only putting this up because his dead dad never said he loved him” (a reference to a story Ricky Gervais made up about me and now updated by the commenter as my dad died last year) and “I am fascinated that you describe yourself as a comedian”.

More fool you User9199272653891, because I very, very rarely ever describe myself as a comedian, despite making a living from that for pretty much three decades. To define myself as a comedian seemed to be a level of cocksureness too far. 

One of the reasons to return to the clubs was to give me a little performance anxiety. I am generally pretty relaxed when doing solo shows – and even when I used to tour arenas with Professor Brian Cox – but the clubs are a different world. They have not come to see you, they have come for a night out watching four or five performers; some may be silly and some may be satirical. When you walk out, the
question is, “Who are you and why are we interested?”

For the first time in a long time, the week beforehand, I felt a little knot in my stomach when I thought about going back to the clubs. The night of the gigs, I made a few notes, but decided not to work out a specific opening line or closing story. I wanted to see if my approach to solo shows could work for club shows. 

My journey took me from Berkhamsted to Baldock to Bishops Stortford. The first joy was being in a green room with a couple of comics, larking about and picking up where we left off in the dressing room eight years ago. The first show was not bad at all, the second definitely felt it could have been better. I saw the rust, but did they? 

My critical voice has changed thanks to understanding my ADHD mind. In the past, a gig I felt not up to scratch would have tormented me for days. This time, I walked off, knew I could have done better, drank wine, went home and started planning my next gig rather than dwelling on my last.

See you next Saturday, though I still won’t be describing myself as a comedian. 

Bibliomaniac by Robin Ince

Robin Ince is a comedian, writer and broadcaster.

His book Bibliomaniac (Atlantic Books, £10.99) is out now. You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

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