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Asher Treleaven Fringe Blog: Autobiographical show

By | Published on Tuesday 14 August 2012

Asher Treleaven writes us a Fringe Blog.

Last year, after the Melbourne Comedy Festival, a friend suggested that I do an autobiographical show, and I thought to myself why not? I’m interesting enough to entertain a room full of curious punters at the Fringe, aren’t I?

I sat down to write the show and doubts began to creep in. Firstly I began to worry that a show about myself was a cop-out. What with the world being broken and oodles of middle class guilt to go around, I should probably stick to the middling socio political comedy I’ve been doing for the past few years. Surely I could mine a whole hour of stunning material from the perplexities of spending £3000 getting a pet cat’s leg fixed versus saving 250 Burmese people from Cataracts?

My next concern was that I was unconsciously buying into this era of constant self-aggrandisement. In a climate of ceaseless status updates and tweets, an hour on myself, no matter how self deprecating and wry, would simply be another form of public gloating. Even the negative aspects of my life’s story would be paraded about, begging for concerned attention, like a well nuanced piece of PR. Or worse, perhaps I’d become the very thing I set out to lampoon, a privileged middle class tosser who churns out some half baked memoir based loosely on a ‘kooky’ child hood and a brush with fame/drugs.

But then I thought, what if I made it a bit satirical, a bit more vindictive, yeah? A kick against all the boorish B-grade celebs that try to cash in by (ghost) writing about themselves and their amaaazing lives? YEAH! But then I realised the irony was that my satirical vindictive voodoo would simply end up pointing out that the celebs were boring and so was I, in fact, I was worse.

Was my life really interesting enough to talk about for a whole hour?

Then something awful, tragic, terrifying, shitty, and cathartic happened. A man that I knew had a stroke. He was a colleague in his early fifties and, for a while, the doctors thought he could be potentially paralysed down one side of his body, or die, but they were wrong and he recovered. This brush with mortality caused me to reflect on my own life and cherish it and I decided to write a life affirming show. Then I immediately fell into a spiral of self-loathing because my reaction to a friend’s near death experience was an introspective comedy catharsis rather than concern for his well being.

I started pulling my life to pieces to make sense of the choices I’d made which had got me to where I was. A 33-year-old, ex-carny, stand up comedian, married for the second time, and on the cusp of another Edinburgh Fringe. However, I was still doubtful that my life was interesting enough to talk about for an hour- so I decided I’d dedicate the show to discovering if it was.

By chance, my sister had given me a book by Edward De Bono called The Six Thinking Hats Method. I read the book and it seemed a logical and interesting way to solve the problem, so I began to compartmentalise my life into the Six Thinking Hats. I’d explain the system using the Blue Hat; my statistics would go into the White Hat of objective thinking. My childhood and ongoing father son abandonment issues would go to the Red Hat of emotive thinking. My early twenties in the circus would be told using the Green Hat of creative thinking and the Yellow Hat of positive thinking would illuminate my brush with testicular cancer. Finally I would use the Black Hat of critical decision-making to answer the pivotal question but I would not wear it, the audience would. I would ask them to vote on whether my life was interesting enough to talk about for a whole hour. It was a risky plan; if the show was a failure it would be compounded by the fact that both it and my entire life had failed to entertain.

Initially I’d set out to criticise the practice of the autobiography but in the end I’d come full circle, and found myself appreciating the life I’d lived and therefore all life stories. I felt proud of myself for taking such a personal risk, proud that like many comedians and artists before me I wouldn’t let a lack of life experience or talent get in the way of me talking about myself, for a whole hour.

Asher Treleaven’s show ‘Troubadour’ was performed at Gilded Balloon Teviot at Fringe 2012. 

LINKS: ashertreleaven.com