I love stand-up comedy. To me it is the most fluid form of public expression; the friendliest, most challenging, most engaging, most disgusting art there is. Any medium that can contain a range of acts from the charm and wit of Sarah Millican's word play to Jonny Vegas shitting live on stage it is truly all-encompassing. Stand up can be performance art, theatre, poetry. In the right hands it can be philosophy. It sits at the nexus of all the great art forms, and I really believe it is an art form itself.
In his book Playing to the the Gallery Grayson Perry says 'My job is to notice things that other people don't notice.' (He also says a lot of other very wonderful things, you really should read it.) I would say that comedians could use this as a job description equally well. That and the description Richard Herring uses on his podcast RHLSTP (as the cool kids are calling it) of 'bashing incongruous ideas together'.
Stand up comedy allows you to present big big ideas in a palatable form to the deafest of ears. It sneaks revolutionary thoughts into minds that may otherwise remain closed. Comedy is the friendly face of new concepts. I know that there are artists who fundamentally disagree with this - the Distraction Pieces podcast with Sara Pascoe talking to Scroobius Pip contains an eloquent discussion of stand up's limitations as a political force; that it mediates the rage we should be feeling by allowing us all to think together and not act together. But I know my comedians shaped my ideology. If someone asks me why I'm pro-Europe my starting point is often 'Well, Eddie Izzard said...' For me this isn't just 'thinking along', I doubt it would have occurred to me to think about it at all if it wasn't for the comedian I love raising this specific issue. I'm not stupid - I will read multiple opinions and as much evidence as I can understand (or at least the Cochrane review if we're talking medicine) on any topic that interests me but I often find the most palatable form to present an idea when discussing it is the one that was created by a comedian. Also, you really should write to your MP, attend marches about things that matter, buy a Christmas single to highlight the plight of the NHS, do those things too. Don't just talk, action is also needed. For me, however, talk is where it starts.
The joy of stand-up is how easy it is to try. At it's purest it is just talking. Just pitch up at one of the hundreds of open-mic nights across the country, screw your courage to the sticking place and mumble a few words. If that doesn't work, go back and shout at the audience instead. If that still doesn't feel right do something else, do something that works for you. When you feel that adrenaline trace its way from your palms to your fingertips you'll probably go back and do it again. At least a few times. (Open mic has taught me the difference between good adrenaline and bad adrenaline - I now know that when I am excited I feel silver rivulets of adrenalin trickle up my palms, when I am terrified, for example when I think the car is going to crash, there is an instant hot prickle of adrenaline all across the backs of my hands. - see, comedy is educational.)
I have been doing open mic nights for about 6 months and in that time I have met a huge range of people and heard an amazing array of stories, puns and dick jokes. I have so much more respect for all character acts now that I've seen some at their inception, maintaining a character whilst being funny is extremely difficult. I've seen and admired people trying truly strange things, things that might just be the start of something great. I can see the difference between saying something funny and being funny - though I can't quite see how you get there yet.
The hard work of it is to keep going, to keep booking spots, to yomp across London to experience good nights and bad ones; to keep doing the jokes that work and make them sing, even when they feel stale in your mouth; to try the new stuff even if it's scary and honest and raw and if the audience don't laugh a small bit of you shrivels to dust; to try the new stuff again and find a different audience will water that material and make it bloom; to ride the laughter and to keep talking in the silence. Just keep going for the sheer love of the thing. I'm going to keep going.