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Comedian Tiernan Douieb writes about how combining fatherhood and a career working odd hours has turned him into a ‘funbie’
One of the many, many misconceptions I had about parenthood before my daughter was born was that my mostly working evenings doing the stand-up circuit, would be a perfect job for parenting.
In my head it meant I’d be around during the day lots, hanging out with our tiny human, reveling in family life, before strolling out to entertain the masses with all the amazing jokes that just came to me during her nap times.
Aurora, so called after the Northern Lights, and not as many have asked, the princess in Sleeping Beauty, (the irony of that would have been too strong, she’s somehow managed to be nocturnal and diurnal at the same time) is now 14 months old. I’m writing this blog at 8.45pm at night, the day before its due, because it’s the first chance I’ve had to do anything all day that wasn’t read my daughter a series of badly written but very colourful books 15 times in a row, chase her around the flat after she managed to escape mid-nappy change again, or watch as a meal that took far too long to make was unceremoniously thrown around the kitchen to petulant cries of ‘no’, like she’s a captive pleading to escape the bowl of poison I’ve created to destroy her. All the while trying to sneak a glance at my phone in case any urgent work has come through while knowing glimpsing for even slightly too long could be the death of the toy keyboard she was given that is now already making noises like a convulsing fax machine.
I’m now far too tired to be creative and any jokes, or general sense of humour, has long since died.
I think I last saw it somewhere around three hours ago when I suggested to my wife that a mushroom brush should just be called a brushroom, which received the lack of acknowledgement it deserved. The rest of the day has been spent as a functioning zombie. A funbie. Ok I’ll really stop trying. Sorry. I’m so tired. So, so, tired.
I’d planned some time off from my daughter’s due date but she arrived so late that I had exactly six days before having to start supporting a big act on their London shows. This meant stumbling onto stage, bleary eyed and barely conscious, in front of 500 or so people every night for the first three months of her life, genuinely unable to remember what the line before had been.
I don’t think I’ve ever written stand-up so quickly, but necessity meant I managed seven minutes of gags on being a very new parent, just so the audience would let me get away with forgetting my material during the next 13.
One of the rules of comedy that isn’t really a rule and might not actually be a thing at all, is to be sharper than your audience. That way heckles and unexpected things happening live can be dealt with swiftly, with an off the cuff quip or a pre-prepared bit of material that you happened to drag from the recesses of your mind that just happens to fit with the moment. Sleep deprivation allows for none of these things. Instead I’d often just find myself thinking ‘ooh its dark in here and there’s no babies crying, maybe I could just lie on the stage and have a nap’.
When I returned to driving all over the country, the long drives back became an exercise in how much coffee is safe to drink before it feels like the whole car is shaking.
And a trip to do shows in Hong Kong, which sounds like fun, was mostly jetlag on top of sleep deprivation, followed by, when I returned, sleep deprivation on top of jetlag on top of jet lag on top of sleep deprivation.
My wife was on maternity leave then though, albeit as she is also self-employed, it was just state maternity leave which in London where we live, is barely enough to buy the apology cards that you have to keep having to post to your landlord. But it did mean she was always around, so if last minute work came up, I could take it, even if I wasn’t mentally capable of doing it. Sadly, despite all efforts, no offers of medical trials based on sleeping or duvet testing came up.
But now 14 months in, my wife is back at work and our lives are a constant juggle of working out who’s working and who’s doing childcare, because the costs of babysitting or nursery render the point of working void in the first place.
None of which would be an issue if we didn’t have a walking, talking terror who is in equal measure hilarious and out to tear apart everything we own. Which also wouldn’t be an issue if after a day of trying to stop her pushing bits of food into my Playstation, throwing herself off furniture we were certain she couldn’t climb up yesterday or just taking an hour to eat every single green pea on her plate individually – I never thought I’d be wishing for my daughter to eat less greens – we then have to do more work. I realise that sounds whiney, and it is, and I am, but we’re all managing somehow.
I’m now fully aware that there probably aren’t any working hours that work best for parenting. Luckily Aurora is a good source of stand-up material and if all else fails, I’ll just take her with me to be my double act partner. Although I’m sure every set would be me trying to make her not stage dive or eat a lighting cable or somehow just sit and eat peas that she’s inexplicably managed to smuggle in, while all you can hear is the silence responding to me insisting ‘but brushroom, right? Geddit? Brushroom?’