Hidden talent: Paul Duncan McGarrity on archaeology

Paul Duncan McGarrity

Paul Duncan McGarrity

For three years now I have been shlepping about the country visiting a salubrious selection of basements and attics in order to perform comedy. I love it, every aspect of the lifestyle appeals to me. I enjoy travelling in cars full of acts, the fear before the gig, the elation when a joke hits. Even bad gigs aren’t so bad anymore, as long as you think of them as learning experiences and try not to cry for too long.

Unfortunately I am not yet in a position to turn my passion for comedy into something which pays the bills. However I have another passion – history

Luckily enough, it’s an interest that ┬áhas proved more lucrative, and for the past five years I have worked in and around London as a professional archaeologist.

Archaeology is some what of a peculiar profession. Whenever I tell people what I do they give me one of two looks. Either an excited child like glee (these people are thinking of Indiana Jones) or a sort of mocking sneer (these people are thinking about Time Team and are unfortunately much closer to the reality of the job – more knitwear, fewer Nazis).

However, no matter what their initial reaction people will always end up asking the same three questions: What’s the best thing you’ve ever found? (which really means have you found any gold). Have you ever dug up a body? (preferably one thats been buried with a lot of gold). Have you ever found any gold? (look I’m sick of dancing around this, tell me where the bloody treasure is!).

I see these questions as the equivalent of someone asking a stand up comedian to tell them a joke, and I would argue that it is not the only cross over between the two. Both are fairly itinerant jobs, both start out with fairly low pay (in fact I reckon I’m one of the few people who see my first few years as a stand up as a potential pay rise) and both attract people with a passion for the work. In fact archaeology has been a great training ground for life as an aspiring comedian. Also, being an archaeologist gives me great perspective, nothing makes you aware of your own mortality quite like packing skulls into cardboard boxes.

The road to becoming a full time stand up can be a long one, but I intend to give it my all because at the end of the day we are all going to die, so why not give it a whirl?

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