Laughter and tears in lockdown

Stand-up comedian Philip Simon writes about Father’s Day in lockdown, his struggles as a freelancer and how he’d just like a bit of time to himself.

 

As a stand-up comedian I have enjoyed a job that takes me all over the world. Since having children, however, I’ve found it depressing staying in hotels and resorts where you’re just watching other families enjoy themselves. So when I became a dad I did my best to ensure that I was always around for important days such as their birthdays and, of course, Father’s Day.

“What’s that? An arbitrary day created by greedy corporations desperate to shift more t-shirts declaring me “The World’s Greatest Dad”? Yes please!” Though whenever I was asked what I wanted for Father’s Day it was never the awesome dad mugs or hipster shaving sets. All I wanted was quality time with my boys. Well, thanks Coronavirus! You sure made that happen!

With everything closed, the farthest I now travel for work is to my front room. My entire career has shifted to online comedy projects around homeschooling our two young sons. The last 12 weeks have been like one big Father’s Day, with just a touch of Groundhog Day thrown in for good measure!

A new adventure

At first it was a fun adventure for us all. My Tweets became a humorous chronicle of the times but as the weeks dragged on, the lack of work and depletion of our savings was clearly affecting my humour:

Doing a #HomeSchooling exercise with my son adding up coins. He asked me if I knew how to make £100. I told him I used to & then went and wept in the corner!

Back in March BC (Before Coronavirus) if asked how I earned my living the answer was simple. “I’m a comedian, actor and writer”. Since lockdown that list has grown considerably. Nowadays I’m a comedian, actor, writer, director, cameraman, editor, TV presenter, voiceover artist, Daddy Pig impersonator. Alongside my wife, I’m also a teacher, fitness instructor, janitor, groundskeeper, mediator, chef and waiter.

Partnership

I’ve never understood couples that use the phrase “partner” until now. It always sounded so clinical and sanitised. But now I totally get it. Despite a few bumps along the way, my wife and I have worked like a team and managed things pretty well. Unlike me, she has a real job. It’s part time and there is some flexibility to the timings, but hers is a job with actual hours, whereas my work often sees me writing or filming late into the night.

Between us we’ve managed to balance the running of the household, including childcare. I work whilst she handles the home learning, and then she works whilst I play the role of the supply teacher who brought a video for the class to watch. Thank you Disney+!

As a freelancer I don’t have the luxury of switching off at the end of the working day, as most of my work is varied and ad hoc. When I’m playing with my kids, I’ve also got to have half an eye on social media and my emails so I can respond quickly when work requests come in.

Daddy pig

Despite the desperate times for so many in the arts, I have managed to maintain a couple of ongoing projects. Having played Daddy Pig in the theatre tour of Peppa Pig I started making personalised videos for children struggling with lockdown. I also created a children’s comedy show on YouTube where kids send in jokes for me to perform, and although it’s incredibly cathartic having a comedy outlet to lighten the mood, it’s hard “playing the clown” when you’re basically functioning on about three hours sleep due to an extreme version of work-life juggle.

Then there’s the frustration that most of my output is speculative rather than lucrative, putting content out there in the hope that when the comedy circuit is reignited I’m match fit and fresh in people’s minds. It has made a tangible difference, especially to my social media following, but the real stress is the sudden inability to provide for my family.

There has been some income from donations to my ko-fi account where I write bespoke jokes so perhaps because of this I should update my list of jobs to include busker.

So, in a year when, for the first time, I’ve questioned if I’d be able to provide for my family, and I’ve both excelled and failed as a parent 20 times every day I don’t want to be hailed an “awesome dad”. If anyone wants to know what I want this year for Father’s Day, I’d kill for just a few hours by myself!

*Philip Simon is an award-winning stand-up comedian. His website is  www.philipsimon.co.uk. Kids can send their favourite jokes to his School’s Out Comedy Club and he will tell them.  Subscribe and view all episodes HERE. Submit jokes HERE.  More information: Facebook: facebook.com/PhilipsComedy Instagram: instagram.com/PhilipsComedy Twitter: twitter.com/PhilipsComedy Grown Up YouTube Channel: bit.ly/P_S_YouTube Newsletter: bit.ly/P_S_Newsletter



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