A stoical look at 2023


Towards the end of the year I read a book about Stoicism and how to take more of a stoical view on life. I’m not sure I got it all, but since reading it I’ve started taking deep breaths and nodding my head philosophically, then pretentiously saying ‘How would the Stoics handle this situation?’ 

I use this method for anything from the local shop running out of kidney beans, when the recipe specifically requires kidney beans, to world events which have felt increasingly volatile, irrational and very much like they could affect me personally. It’s all very scary (The world events, not the lack of kidney beans).  ‘How would the Stoics handle this situation?’, I ask, simultaneously acknowledging stoically  that the first step to becoming a stoic is the transformation into being an annoying prick.
As a Stoic it is reassuring to know that I am more likely to be punched in the face by someone who has just heard me say  ‘How would the Stoics handle this situation?’, than any other of the myriad of bad things that the world can throw at me. 

A lot of 2023 has felt like hard work. Hard work without really getting anywhere. Although looking back it’s mainly because of a couple of things. The major event in my life was something I had no control over other than being born 50 years ago. Approaching the half century was like driving slowly towards black cloud. I’ve spoken to friends who’ve hit this point and pretty much everyone agrees that it really wasn’t nearly as nice as 40. It was reassuring to know that I wasn’t alone in feeling a slight sense of despair of the big 5-0. 

Stoically (Shoot me now!) looking back on the last twelve months I also realise that although some of the projects that I invested in emotionally, creatively and financially haven’t really come off,  there have actually been plenty of positives! No. Scratch that, LOTS of positives!

So here’s a whistlestop tour of the things that I am glad about! 

I travelled and gigged a fair bit, often combining the two! After several years of Corona, this year took me to Denmark, The Netherlands, Italy, UK, Finland and New York City! 

I found myself in both Finland and New York with that reprobate Al Pitcher where I got to do a spot before Al in a club in the Lower East. What a comeback after being ‘banned’ from Broadway 5 years earlier! We climbed the WTC with spectacular views, caught up with old friends, ate a stupid amount of food at Katz’s and generally had a great laugh. I *heart* NY.

I went to Amsterdam with my two daughters to see my cousin. Spent much of the time trying to act as peace keeper between a teenager who wanted to ‘explore’ the seedier side of the city, and an eight year old who wanted to know why all the souvenirs had a big green leaf on them. 

My old friends Stu and Claire got married in a right old Brummie wedding which warmed the heart. It also led to a Peaky Blinders style adventure along the back streets of Digbeth to find a lock-in at an Irish pub for which the phrase ‘You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy’ was invented. Proper Brummie adventure. It was good to be back in Brum… and live to tell the tale. 

In the spring I started a new night in Linköping which didn’t take off (and meant that I learnt a bit about chasing payments via Kronofogden)  but it’s all a learning process. Made some nice contacts and met Diyari, a local comedian who I got to work with later in the year. 

More comedy - I went to The Lund Comedy Festival with a show called Ben vs Ben, performed with my friend Ben. And you know what? I really enjoyed being at the festival and catching up with people and generally having a laugh! 

There’s been some decent voiceover work this year, although there could always be more! I made a commercial for Scania Trucks, voiced answering machines and spoke about Väderstad seeding machines. All good fun! 

Another highlight was the Clown Jam held at Dieselverket. Several days of clown performances and workshops. Met some really inspiring people there and the whole clown thing clicked! Met with an Indian clown who may or may not be the guy to put my and Paddy’s screenplay (with an Indian theme/cast) under the noses of Bollywood producers.. We’ll see… we’ll see…

Much of the last few months of the year were spent rehearsing and then performing in a play called ‘Van Gogh’s Boots’ about… Van Gogh’s Boots… It was an incredibly rewarding (not financially, obviously!) experience and definitely a highlight of my year.  It's bloody hard to learn lines, but worth it to perform in a proper scripted play. It was also a pleasure to work with the Irish writer, Gary Clarke and, left boot to my right, my Irish co-boot Colette Lynch. Neither of whom, for one second, reverted to being Irish stereotypes by swearing their faces off all the fucking time! I loved it! 

In December I started up a new incarnation of my Laughing Stock stand up night in Stockholm which, optimist that I am, feels like a good and promising thing to be doing! I may have found the perfect venue at The Park, which is also a brilliant place to sit and work. I’ve got four booked for the spring and if all goes to plan, will become a fixture of the English language scene in Stockholm. (Tickets available now on www.laughingstock.se, tell your friends, tell your families, tell your enemies)

That’s more or less it, if we ignore the birthday malaise, it’s been a decent year! Finally,  at the very end of the year I did a photoshoot on a train for a ballet production I will be involved with in early 2024.  I got to pretend to be a (stoical) train driver, so surely that’s a sign that 2024 will be a year of achieving dreams!  

Photo: Albin Forberg