Retirement: My Very Own Blackstar

Retirement: My Very Own Blackstar
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At the center of it all” is the dignity of allowing myself to retire with grace. And it only took a world-shattering event to get me to come to my senses!

I’d been running, directing, producing, and sometimes writing (usually when comics got desperate with a 15-minute deadline. We wrote every week over the interval!) my own conceived satirical stage show at the London Comedy Store every Tuesday for nearly 30 years! The anniversary would have happily fallen next month on Tuesday, July 7.

Maybe I was just holding onto this date. My wife has said many times that I built my whole week around the show. When I started out at 32 I was a journalist, then a house husband, and finally, along with my wife, a TV casting director. When a sclerosis first struck me down, literally, in 2006, I somehow stumbled on with both for a few years. When I was finally diagnosed with MS in the summer of 2009, I gave up any pretense at casting and stuck to my one true love: my show. It was never for the money — it “washed its face” (a small business idiom for breaking even). Actually, it always did better than that. It was the best paid Tuesday gig in the country — not that we had much competition!

At first my MS wasn’t too bad. I even tried launching the show at the Manchester Comedy Store, which involved me clambering up a ladder into the venue’s sound booth. A frightening escapade considering what MS was about to do to my body. The first few gigs I walked the mile from the hotel to the venue, until one show I spent 30 minutes in the green room (dressing room for you non-theater types) stumbling about. Welcome to my first bout of MS fatigue. It was taxis everywhere from then till, er, now. Fortuitously this enterprise got nowhere near “washing its face” and I suitably pulled the plug before my body also failed.

It wasn’t the first London Store show to fail circa 200 miles north. I was in good company.

In the last few weeks, as yet another MS relapse has dragged me down, I can see the same pattern of behavior occurring. I’d spend this portion at home recuperating but if I recovered enough I’d be straight back in there.

This determination has now been taken completely away from me. I have a show that centers on six performers often cramming onto a very small stage. With 6 feet of social distancing it would look almost as ridiculous as the voting at our House of Commons necessitating a queue half a mile long!

I’m sure I could write an acerbic joke about all of this but as I’ve retired, why bother?

***

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In the ‘80s, John created the first regular column about the burgeoning London stand-up scene. In 1990 he wrote a book about its effect on the Edinburgh Festival: “Comics: A Decade of Comedy at the Assembly Rooms.” That year he also devised and ran a live topical stand-up team show at The London Comedy Store, The Edge. (It was destroyed in 2020!) In 2009 John was diagnosed with RRMS, which cut short his main job as a TV casting director for “Black Books,” “My Family,” et al. Now, John writes “Fall Down Get Up Again,” an irreverent journey with MS, and also serves as MS News Today Forums co-moderator.
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In the ‘80s, John created the first regular column about the burgeoning London stand-up scene. In 1990 he wrote a book about its effect on the Edinburgh Festival: “Comics: A Decade of Comedy at the Assembly Rooms.” That year he also devised and ran a live topical stand-up team show at The London Comedy Store, The Edge. (It was destroyed in 2020!) In 2009 John was diagnosed with RRMS, which cut short his main job as a TV casting director for “Black Books,” “My Family,” et al. Now, John writes “Fall Down Get Up Again,” an irreverent journey with MS, and also serves as MS News Today Forums co-moderator.
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4 comments

    • John Connor says:

      It’s alwrite [sic]. Just live comedy that MS & Covid 19 has acted in a pincer to stop me. First writing that I ever got paid for was TV Comedy Sketches. Then became an arts journo. Always though wanted to be a columnist – weird that MS gave me the chance years later. Glad you like my meld of the two. x

  1. Wendy Hovey says:

    To say you’ve earned this retirement is a bizarre understatement. I know what it is to let go of something that seems to define you. My wish for you is that you heal enough to regain some independence, now that you won’t be pulling yourself through that knothole on a regular basis. My wish for all of us is that you keep writing. I look for you.

  2. Karen says:

    John Connor, you have all my sympathy. But I must say, I don’t miss any of your writings. I find them very honest and amusing.
    Karen

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