In the first of a new series of blog posts looking at the hidden talents of comedians, Stuart Laws discusses his adeptness with balls as a goalkeeper for his local football team.
If you’re a comedian with a hidden talent, get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
Stand-up comedy is the least forgiving way of presenting creativity to people. You always know when you’re not appreciated and you cannot escape for the duration of your creative presentation. Bands can drown out indifference, actors assume admiration and poets… Well no-one knows why poets do what they do.
In the world of football the least forgiving position to play is as goalkeeper. You’re a specialist, who stands alone for the majority of the game and with whom the ball must stop. You always know when you’re not appreciated and you cannot escape the pressure for the duration of a competitive football match.
I’m a regular performer of stand-up comedy and goalkeeping. I really enjoy both, despite the spotlight that both roles put me under. I started playing in goal at the age of nine; partly because I really enjoy throwing myself about, partly because I was shy and playing in goal meant I could keep myself to myself and partly because I really like handling balls.
My shyness was what held me back from ever trying to be funny outside of my close friends and what held me back from being better at goalkeeping. Turns out that to be a good goalkeeper you have to be adept at marshalling those people in front of you, acting with supreme confidence in what you are doing.
I suffered a leg break aged 12 and this held me back as a goalkeeper for many years, my instincts to throw myself in the way of the ball was halted by the worry I may injure myself again. Like my instinct to try and be funny around friends was halted in public by the worry that people would think I was weird.
In my early twenties a local team needed someone to step in, last minute, as a goalkeeper. Around the same time a local open mic night needed some performers for their launch night and a friend, aware of my private attempts to be funny coerced me into attempting to make strangers laugh. I’m now 28 and have been regularly performing in goal and on stage for the past six years, my strength in both arenas is an ability to read a room/read the game and my surprising physicality. My weakness is dealing with crosses and writing punchlines.
A common remark for stand-up comedians to hear is that they must be so brave to get up on stage but after suffering a leg break, fractured ribs, two knee ligament injuries, surgery for a broken finger and getting repeatedly stamped on and screamed at by men who don’t play football because they are happy with themselves I can certainly assure you that stand-up requires only foolish self-confidence.
Putting in a bad performance in either arena will feel humiliating, lonely and like you can’t face anyone who just saw your wretched performance. It’s putting in the man of the match performance that makes stand-up comedy and goalkeeping so unique. You can’t hide, you can’t pretend other people are responsible, so when you succeed it is so incredibly thrilling and confidence boosting that it’s a struggle to think of anything that can surpass the immediacy and strength of rush they provide. I feel like someone should write a poem about it.
See Stuart in action: