Life in lockdown: the laughter and the tears

Award-winning stand-up comedian Philip Simon writes about the months-long Father’s Day in lockdown, his struggles as a freelance and how he’d just like a bit of time to himself.

Fathers Day

 

As a stand-up comedian, I love having a job that takes me all over the world. Since having children, however, as much as I love the travelling, it’s actually very 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 all the important days such as their birthdays, our birthdays and, of course, Father’s Day.

Growing up, Father’s Day wasn’t really something we did in our house. My parents didn’t think they should only be celebrated one day a year. In their words, “every day should be Father’s/Mother’s Day!”

When our sons were born I had no such concerns. “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 schools and nurseries closed and comedy clubs boarded up, 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!

Initial enthusiasm

At first it was a fun adventure for us all. My Tweets became a humorous chronicle of the times:

My sons are all excited for the start of Operation #Homeschool tomorrow. How do I tell them we have to delay because I forgot to apply for my DBS?

Oh great! Now my son’s being bullied at #Homeschool because he called his teacher “Mummy”!

After one week #homeschooling what new words did you teach your children? Pretty sure mine have now mastered w*nker, sh*t, tw*t and c*nt!

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

Though it’s almost an anagram of “parent”, I’ve never understood couples that use the phrase “partner” until now. It always sounded so clinical and sanitised. But I get it now. 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+!

These roles didn’t happen my accident. We had many discussions about the difference between her regular job and the nature of my freelance work. For instance, when my wife finishes her working day she can switch off and focus entirely on family and her own hobbies until she switches on her laptop again tomorrow.

As a freelancer I don’t have that luxury as so much of my work is varied and ad hoc. When I’m playing with my kids and supposed to be defending their latest blanket fortress, 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.

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. This has helped generate a small amount of income, but is one of my only projects that does. 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 as well as having to think about all the other projects you’re doing.

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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