By Pope Lonergan.
Illustrated by Jimmy Slim.
I’m self-isolating with my parents. My Mum is 5ft 6” and unapologetically bolshy. The kind of woman who colonises space (both aural and physical) in a house full of men. AKA ‘The Unruly Woman’: “Using humour and excess to undermine patriarchal norms and authority”. (Brief example: She once described her hysterectomy, in vivid detail, completely unprompted, to comedian Michael Legge during a gig.)
My Dad is a stocky, shaven-headed former Detective who has become overly-fastidious (“You can’t use the sink. I’m washing my ruler”) and irritable (* Instigates a 20 minute argument about whether mutton is old sheep *) during this lockdown.
Space is a commodity in short supply. Three adults in one house with one bathroom, one lounge and one kitchen. It’s a pretty standard arrangement. But everything’s more constricted, more limited, than life before and beyond this period of contagion.
Boredom! Despite the End-Times backdrop, for a lot of us life is now on a slow zeotropic rotation. When nothing seems to happen we’re not motivated by goals but by a random sequence of routine events. On Wednesday, out of boredom, we bench-pressed the dog. I considered paper-cutting my dick to try a new sensation. Anything to break away from the once-again-ness.
But sometimes the day is barren and my head strikes against the ceiling while I participate in conversations like this: ME: I’m not shaving my bits. DAD: You are. You’re shaving your face. Your face is your bits. ME: No. My bits. My balls and stuff.
DAD: Son. It’s all bits. Everything is bits.
Ladies and gentlemen – everything is bits.
Society is an organism in the same way a raft of ants is considered an organism; a material, made up of ant molecules. Made up of bits. They act in a way that “replicates the properties of both viscous fluids, such as honey, and elastic solids, such as rubber”. When placed on water this close-ordered entanglement of ants arrange themselves to enhance the unit’s buoyancy. They work as one to stay afloat.
A lot of us are exhibiting public-minded prudence and witnessing the restoration of civic participation to help the most vulnerable in society. (While maintaining social distancing, of course.)
Prior to being a comedian I worked for 8 years as an elderly care worker and created The Care Home Tour. I also “worked” for a decade as a drug addict. The reason I mention this is a) so you know what a bangin’ person I was downing pints of Oramorph and destroying elders at Tiddlywinks (mainly due to their arthritis), and b) to highlight my experience dealing with mental health as both a jogging-bottomed Barachiel and as one of the afflicted.
As a drug addict in recovery I’m struggling. Whenever I do my show Pope’s Addiction Clinic I wear a custom made jumper with the headline ‘Indonesian Teenagers Boil Incontinence Pads to Get High’ emblazoned across the front. When you start to occupy a mental space where this seems like a viable option – a way of floating above the fear and uncertainty of this moment - you know you need to reach out to fellow junkies.
Alcoholics Anonymous (and its various iterations) has been one of the many casualties of coronavirus. The meetings - such an essential lifeline for those in recovery – have been shuttered along with everything else. The decimation of the comedy industry and the unavailability of in-person AA meetings was something that impacted me on a personal level. Luckily comedian Eleanor Conway informed me that they’ve migrated to the online realm.
SOME PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR ADDICTS: Join a group on Facebook called ‘Zoom AA Meetings’ or email me to chat. As Doreen St. Felix wrote in a recent article for the New Yorker: “Live streaming, which once seemed to presage the dissolution of human intimacy, now looks like its preservation.” +++ As well as teaching me that “Everything is bits,” my Dad also kindly pointed out that I’m someone who has “No money, no investments and no dependents. You don’t even have a social life. When the impending recession hits, you’re fucking bulletproof.” Harsh – but it did indicate to me that an impoverished life can still salvage some hope from the wreckage. So do yourself a favour: Go and bench-press the dog. DON’T papercut your dick / vagina. Write on Twitter that you can “easily knock-out any comedian under-25” to start a conversation. Just keep talking. @thedailybumbler