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THE LIFE OF ALLAN CLARKSON
'You have to understand that when they're crying, they are really laughing. It is because the joke has become that damn funny to them.'
Allan William Clarkson - Age 10
The fly had been buzzing nonchalantly around the bedroom for hours now. God only knows how it had managed to get inside. The pesky insect had now landed on the wall to take a short rest or do whatever it was that flies did when coming to a complete standstill.
The 10-year-old lay motionless beneath the duvet, both eyes carefully watching the fly as it skilfully weaved and dodged through the air, avoiding furniture. He seized this opportunity to pick up the book A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore by balancing the paperback on the palm of his hand, then proceeded to flick his wrist 90 degrees while keeping the novel magically stuck to his hand like glue until it eventually decided to leave contact with his palm, float through the air and hit the wall with a small slap.
A second or two later. "Buzzz Buzzz!" He had missed again. The fly managed to keep it's life intact for a little while longer.
Allan was frustrated, but it did teach him an important philosophical lesson. There is a fine line between life and death. A couple more inches to the right and that fly was as good as dead. A dirty job indeed! The lesson learnt by the young boy was 'try to fit as much as possible into your life because we are not here forever.' There is a fine line between success and failure and more importantly, a fine line between life and death.
Allan would grow to become a quick learner. He hated school and couldn't stand to be somewhere where they just taught facts all day long. He sought the big questions and the more intriguing answers, like 'why are we here?' and 'did we really evolve from bacteria?' For a 10-year-old, his mind was really well developed. The most startling fact was that he hadn't acquired this knowledge from either of his parents. He was born with a brain that just saw things differently than anybody else.
Whether his 'different' brain was a gift or not would be proven in the years to come, as he slowly made his way through life. Allan had no idea what he wanted to be when he grew up, except taller, which was ironically the moment that he did realise what he wanted to be when he grew older!
"... and what do you want to be when you're older Allan?" Miss. Ellison, his primary school teacher had put Allan under the spotlight with her question. After hearing the usual responses, astronaut, doctor, footballer, he said simply, "taller Miss."
For the first time in his life, Allan's words had conjured the pleasure of laughter. Even if it was mostly a bunch of short, decaying chuckles, it was still laughter and it still counted. At first he didn't know if the other kids were laughing at him or with him, but his maturing mind had quickly latched onto the tone of people's voices and he could quickly recognise the difference between genuine and sincere belly laughs and the hate laugh, which was a laugh that a large number of people use together to outcast or humiliate an individual. Luckily for Allan, it felt more like a sincere belly laugh.
Despite going down well in class that day, Allan was definitely not the popular kid in school. He was bullied, frequently. His introverted nature made it difficult to fit in and this made him an easy target for the street smart kids who were confident and cocky due to their rough upbringings. They picked on him because he was different and vulnerable, and lots of other vindictive reasons that began to shoot his confidence to pieces.
Even now as he lay underneath the duvet cover, he didn't feel free or safe. The butterfly churning sensation was almost ever-present inside the pit of his stomach. This was down to the fact that his Mum and Dad would argue almost twenty-four-seven.
Allan needed an escapism. And at 10-years-old in class that day he found the answer he was looking for. 'Why are we here?' He muttered the answer back to himself, 'to make people laugh.' 'Did humans really evolve from bacteria?' and his answer this time was, 'some of us are still trying to.' It was his comedic way of referring to the bullies who tormented him, as being the ignorant and stupid ones - not him.
Comedy became his outlet, his release mechanism. While he was experimenting with words and worlds, characters and voices, that stomach-churning feeling would disappear from his stomach as he lost himself in imaginative comedic daydreams that made his days feel shorter and his parent's arguments sound quieter.
'Why teach people facts when you can teach them laughter?'
Allan William Clarkson - Age 12
Starting secondary school for the first time was a complete and utter nightmare for Allan Clarkson. His face didn't fit, his personality didn't fit and it didn't make matters any easier when he couldn't find his new classroom on the first day.
Eventually he found it, as that stomach-churning feeling returned to the pit of his stomach while he stood outside the door imagining how every single eye in the room would be focused on him when he walked into the room sweating and apologising for being late. He knew that he was going to be experiencing the full force of the hate laugh very soon. That familiar, derisory and scornful barrage of sound molecules that would tell him 'this is what we think of you' and 'you're not one of us.' Secretly he was proud to not be one of them, but being unaccepted by a large crowd of people was intimidating.
Even the one responsible adult he would have expected to protect him in this whole situation was probably relishing the prospect of giving him a humiliating and patronising telling off in front of the thirty or so sn****ring 12-year-olds.
'Knock knock!' Allan opened the classroom door and walked in. As expected, every single face turned to face him as he tried to block them out. His peripheral vision reminding him that the pack of wolves were eyeing him up, making him feel even more uncomfortable and nervous.
"S-s-sorry I'm late Sir, it's my first day and I got lost." The very millisecond he stopped speaking he heard it, that horrendous collective sound of hateful laughter. The kind of laughter that a sadistic teacher would feed off and make things ten times worse.
"... But everybody else managed to get here on time Allan." Mr. Woodcock was trying to isolate him and make him feel uncomfortable and remorseful. Not even showing the tiniest bit of sympathy for the new starter.
"I'm sorry Sir, it wont happen again."
"I hope not Allan. Right, sit yourself down lad."
The worst part was over and he looked around for an empty seat. He hated standing in front of people, the intimacy of it all and being ugly and unpopular only added to his abject misery.
But had one of the street smart kids walked through the door late, the shoe would have been on the other foot. He would probably have just walked through the door rudely and apologised for being late without approaching the teacher. The teacher, seeing that the kid was being brash and full of self-confidence, would probably not even say a word.
Human psychology and sociological relationships are an ever-changing animal, constantly shape shifting, adapting to the situation. Allan had noticed in his short life that different people would get treated differently from each other based on their personality, looks and confidence. Three things that he seemingly wasn't allowed to possess.
Although he did see the funny side of a teacher having the name Dick Woodcock.
'Yes, why teach people facts when you can teach them laughter.'
'If you spend all your life caring what people think of you, you wont have any time to spend caring about what you think of them, and it's very important to know your audience.'
Allan William Clarkson - Age 14
Allan was running amok with his words. He was deep in thought, while jotting down quotes and punchlines in a small medium-sized notebook. 'The builder liked to build houses as quickly as possible, in five minutes flat.' He was proud of the connection between the first part of the quote and the punchline that related to it.
The whole delivery made him imagine the sound of a sting being played on a drum as he rattled off a series of sharp one-liners that he had devised through simple observations throughout the course of his school week.
Another observational joke he made was, 'a man liked to clean panes of glass with water and a sponge, he saw it as his window of opportunity.' Not every joke he wrote felt like cutting edge material and he had to imagine if the audience would appreciate the punchline or groan in scathing unison.
Allan was a perfectionist, so he was always chopping and changing, taking words out, putting new ones back in. For him, a punchline had to be word perfect, if he felt like he was wasting even a single word, he would go back to the drawing board.
Even though Allan was only 14-years-old, he took inspiration from many present day comedians. He was in awe of one comedian in particular. Jimmy Carr. His irreverent and masterful delivery was spellbinding, and his diction was spoken with such clarity that you felt like the person on the receiving end had been stabbed with his tongue.
Allan's parents didn't care what he did or what he watched. He could stay up as late as he wanted to and watch 8 Out of 10 Cats in the comfort of his bedroom. It was a brilliant panel show that poked fun at all the horrible people in the world today. He looked at Sean Lock, Jimmy Carr and Jason Manford as though they were colossal comedy Gods and they were.
Jimmy Carr was delivering one hilarious punchline after another while maintaining the facial expression of somebody attending a funeral. Then there was Sean Lock jumping in with his own brand of very laid-back and imaginative but outlandish humour.
Allan could relate to Jason Manford the most because of their similar geographical roots. Living up t'North, going to Greggs and Football Manager. He was the type of comedian that had appeared not to forget where he had come from. A lot of his humour was based around observations, simple everyday occurrences that people can relate to.
It was useful having his sketch pads and notepads open when watching comedy shows on the television, as he could make notes and try to learn from each comedian.
'The teachers eh, I wonder what makes them tick? The pen I assume.' was another joke that Allan devised during a Maths school lesson.
Writing the joke told him something. That he didn't want to become one-dimensional by using repetitive one-liners over and over again. It was important to him that he was able to use a slice of everybody else's style in order to become a much more versatile and less predictable comedian. He wanted to be dangerous and take risks with his comedy, and take it to levels that it had never reached before.
At 14-years-old he had all the time in the world to refine and perfect his writing material and sketch routines. His major concern was wondering if his face fitted into the comedy scene. He was awkward-looking and gangly, but most comedians would say that the more strange-looking you are, the more advantageous this becomes as the audience can identify with you, they see you as an underdog or a lovable loser and this makes the audience feel safe in your company.
Half of the battle of becoming a good comedian is down to looks. One of the other major factors is the timing and delivery of punchlines. You could have the funniest joke in the world inside your head, but if you have the wrong voice to speak it, you're doomed from the offset.
To be a good comedian, a combination of personal attributes have to click into gear at exactly the same time and blend together well in order to give the audience the impression that you have been stood on that stage all your life. If you came across as being insecure and out of your depth, the sharks would eat you alive.
Being able to deal with crowd hecklers came with the territory, for world class comedians like Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle this was a doddle. Their putdowns were so razor sharp that any hecklers would think twice before opening their mouths again.
Allan's intention was to become a hybrid comedian, not literally of course. He wanted to learn a little something from each performer and become good at each aspect of comedy. Slapstick, puns, satire, observation, one-liners, improvisations, he wanted a routine that would feature a little slice of each one. This would not be easy to achieve as many comedians rarely venture out of their comfort zone and attempt to adopt other styles into their routines. It was a case of 'stick with what you are good at.'
Nothing came easy, success was all about hard work and sacrifice. Allan was just a kid, what did he know about the real world and sacrifice just yet?
Being shaken up and down for dinner money on a daily basis was the nearest that Allan came to being sacrificed. These were the toughest years of his short life so far, and his home life wasn't faring up any better. John and Charlotte Clarkson were both embroiled in a raging row once again as John had started taking to the bottle again for comfort.
Allan would try to din out their voices the best he could by upping the volume on the Samsung remote control as he settled down to watch Alan Carr: Chatty Man. He loved watching TV on a Friday or Saturday night, as he wasn't one for alcohol and nightclubs.
He was obsessed with comedians, funny TV shows made him take his worries away from the real world for a while and it gave him another opportunity to stack up some fresh material to write in his notebook while he laughed himself stupid.
'Maybe one day,' he thought, 'I'll have my own TV show.'
'We repress our depression with tints, sparks and hopes, with an extraordinary ability to laugh at the unlaughable.'
Allan William Clarkson - Age 16
Allan Clarkson had waited a long time for this day. The final week of secondary school was going to be a momentous period for many reasons.
The main reason being that he didn't have to be somewhere that he didn't want to be, which was important for somebody with bigger, more important ambitions, and Allan certainly was ambitious. He needed the extra time in order to pursue his own personal and selfish goals.
With this in mind, he envisioned himself enjoying his last seven days of secondary school life more than he ever had, knowing that it was final. He would no longer have to endure the regular daily torment dished out by Ronnie Saunders, the school bully that had made most of Allan's five years at Wenham High a living hell.
Living hell was an understatement, the constant bullying had had a long and lasting effect on the physical and mental well-being of Allan. He had developed social anxiety phobia, a phobia preventing him from exuding any kind of confidence in public situations. It stopped him from having mates or girlfriends, he couldn't even eat his dinner in the Dining Hall without feeling nervous and paranoid. His heart rate would quicken automatically and the palpitations would race so fast that it caused a stomach-churning feeling to occur in his gut. Once he felt like this internally, it became impossible to control his words, he would stutter and begin saying things that didn't even make sense in the discussion. He would muddle up entire sentences and his cheeks would flush a bright red colour as everybody around him openly laughed in his face.
Social anxiety had plagued him since early secondary school. The first time he was bullied, the ordeal left an immediate and damaging impact on him.
Scarred and scared, he kept himself in the background as much as possible and tried to say very little during a classroom discussion. This confidence-sapping illness left him wondering how he could ever become an on-stage comedian, telling jokes in front of hundreds or thousands of people without suffering some kind of nervous breakdown. He kept trying to reassure himself that it would all be okay, but deep down he knew that this was the one hurdle that he might never be able to overcome.
How could he? His social life was nonexistent, the only people he could even consider friends, Mark Manley and Danny Eccles were just as meek and pathetic as he was. The only option left open to him was to go and make an appointment with a psychiatrist, but he had developed a fear of confronting his social anxiety, it felt so final, so intimate and putting himself in that situation would be shameful.
No, he would keep it all tucked away and hope that things got better of their own accord. Sometimes in life you are due a break, other times you die by the sword. Allan had no clue where his destiny lay. The only thing that he knew with a hundred percent certainty, was that he wanted to tell jokes and make people laugh. Whether or not he would be denied this opportunity came down to himself, to his own self-determination, persistence and application. He was a young learner, which was always the best way.
"This is the last time I'm gonna get to take your money Clarkson! Don't worry, I'll look for you outside of school when we finish here for good." Ronnie was being his usual, nasty and intimidating self.
Allan handed over his dinner money as though he was pleased to hand it over. That was the kind of hold a bully had over him. To the point where he felt so nervous and browbeaten that he would try not to piss Ronnie off.
"It's a shame Allan, we could have been good pals, if only you hadn't got into all that weird talking to yourself crap and thinking you could become a good comedian." Ronnie enjoyed goading Allan. Psychological torture was his specialty, he had that sergeant-esque tone of voice and would whisper in Allan's ear and remind him that he was a failure and that he would never become good at anything in life.
"You're going to end up just like your Dad Allan. Drinking out of a bottle, only you wont have a girlfriend to argue with will you? You'll be stuck on your own forever because nobody wants you, and you know why nobody wants you Allan? I'll tell you why, it's because you're a freak of nature. Do you agree? Say it!" Allan felt himself being thumped in the back of his spine by a couple of Ronnie's clenched fists.
"I-I-I'm a f-f-freak of nature Ronnie." He could feel his stomach churning and his heart racing ten to the dozen.
"Of course you are a freak Clarkson, it's a shame we have only got one more week. I guess I'll just have to bump into you a little more often, try and make the most of our time left." Ronnie gave him a sharp slap across the back of his head before walking off. He was an enthusiastically sadistic bully and so calculated, he never liked to give Allan any respite. Some bullies would leave their victims alone for a while, but not Ronnie, he was the type of person that wanted to make his victims fear his next move and make them feel as though every minute was an hour. It was this kind of psychological torment that made it increasingly difficult to concentrate on lessons or make friends with people, but more damagingly, being a wimp made him appear less masculine in front of girls. He liked Rachael Sanderson and didn't want to look weak in front of her.
Allan always hated the sound of his own name. He felt like Allan Clarkson was a typical old man's name and it made him sound like a nerdy bookworm or a computer programmer on the 1970s version of The Krypton Factor. At least he was blessed with good eyesight, it meant that he didn't have to endure the usual clichéd four-eyes taunts.
Maybe he would create a character where Allan Clarkson would wear glasses and act like a stereotypical version of an insecure nerd. Somebody like Woody Allen, but cleverly changing his name to something along the lines of Wooden Allan, so that he can portray a bland, soulless and puppet-like man who nobody can identity with.
To be continuously tinued...