Bad Day Good Story: The Job Interview, Part 2

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“I picked up an issue of Cosmopolitan the other day that had tips for job interviews, because I was like, ‘I need to get better at interviews.’ The article was basically about how to get someone not to hate you in 20 minutes. Every single thing they told you not to do, I was like, ‘I do that every day.’” – Jennifer Lawrence

 

Not read The Job Interview, Part 1? Click here.

The panel was made up of three women all of whom limply shook my hands before inviting me to sit down.

For the sake of this article, I will be referring to them as Angela, Bella and Caren to protect their identities (but is mainly because I don’t remember, nor do I care).

Angela was fixated on her mobile.  “Just to let you know I take notes on my phone, so don’t worry!  I’m sending texts throughout your interview” she explained.

I thought ‘Great Angela, why can’t you just make notes on pen and paper like everyone else in the world!’  I said, “You can’t fool me, I know you’re catching Pokémon”

Dead silence.

Shit.  Off to a fine start Ruth!  Well, if they don’t appreciate your incredibly witty and current joke (it was 2016 after all) you’ll just have to win them over with your adorable banter.

I had been asked to plan a 10-minute presentation about a specific spoken word artist and what digital media platforms I would use to promote them.  This took me around 5 hours of my life.  I worked hard on it, and I was psyched!  It would be bloody brilliant.  It had to be.  I had cue cards!

“Apologies” Bella piped up.  “We’re running a bit late.”  Again, no shit!  “So, that 10-minute presentation we asked you to prepare, we’ll be cutting you off at 5 minutes.”

What. The. Fuck.

I came all the way from Birmingham to give you this sodding presentation and now you tell me you don’t even care what I have to say.  Being my stubborn and competitive self, I decided to interpret this as a challenge.  I rummaged for my cue cards and took a deep breath: On your marks, get set, GO!

I was off.  Galloping through the gates at a million miles per hour.  1 cue card down… 2… 3, 4, 5… smashing both my presentation and the world record for the fastest speed anyone has ever spoken!  I slam the cards on the table and consulted the wall clock.  30 seconds to spare.  Game, set and match!  “Was that fast enough?” I asked, rhetorically of course.  I knew it was.  In your face bitches!  I am the winner! VICTORIOUS!

Dead Silence again.

OK, there was a chance I had lost track of why I was doing this.

“Right, well,” said Caren, smiling with her mouth but pure disdain in her eyes. “Let’s move onto some questions about you.”

Yep, clearly CRUSHED it!

But she didn’t ask me any questions you’d expect to hear at a job interview, the generic but suspected ‘Why did you apply for this position?’ or ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’ No, there was none of that fluff!  Instead, it was a round of quick-fire yes or no questions.

I felt like I was in the big black chair in the Mastermind, the moving lights had circled round the studio and landed upon me. A bead of sweat pooled on my forehead and the camera began to zoom in.

“Can you use a computer?”

“Yes.”

“Can you use Word?”

“Yes.”

“Can you work Excel?”

“Yes.”

“Powerpoint? Outlook? Publisher?”

“Yes, yes and yes.” Although I feel like if you could use computers, Caren, you maybe would have put that all under the banner of Microsoft Office.

“Windows? Macs?”

“Yep and yep.”

“The Internet?”

“Er, yes?”

“Facebook?”

“Yep.”

“Twitter?”

“Yarp.”

“Instagram?”

“Yeash.”

I thought ‘I wouldn’t have actually been able to apply for this job without many of these skills Caren… and to be fair, all social media platforms are pretty fucking similar…’ but instead, I just creatively reimagined ways to say yes.

“Yeppers…Yepster…Yeperoonie…Yah…aye…yes I surely canly do!” BLAH BLAH BLAH.

At the end of her checklist she glanced up at me, a worrying glint in her eye, saying “And, finally Ruth, Can you explain to me why you’ve been out of work for the last 5 years?”

Dead Silence… from me this time.

But after a far too long pause I managed to muster up the following extremely eloquent and intelligent response:

“Er, I haven’t?”

“Well,” Caren continued, “there’s no evidence of any work here on your CV.”

“How strange.”

I’m not gonna lie, this had thrown me through a loop. I mean, why had they even offered me an interview if they thought I had never worked in my life?!

“Could I take a look at that copy?”

Unimpressed, Caren palms it over.

I analyse my CV carefully before looking back to Angela, Bella and Caren in turn.

“Um…”

Beat.

“Have any of you thought to turn it over?”

I couldn’t believe it! I had travelled for hours, spent the best part of a day devising a presentation and waited for even longer and they hadn’t even bothered to turn over a sodding piece of paper?!

They all burst into laughter. I joined in, though I was crying on the inside.

And so, the interview was drawing to a conclusion.

“Now, are there any questions you have for us before we end?”

I had a list; I always have a list.

“Do you have any tablets or company phones to test the mobile capabilities of your site because at the moment it isn’t auto responsive?”

Having quickly scanned the equipment when I was trapped in the office and accessed that most of the hardware seemed to predate the Commodore 64 I can’t say I was hugely surprised by the answer.

“No.”

Great.

“We are however in the process of launching a 5-year plan to make our website mobile-friendly.”

5 years?

5 YEARS?

What are you doing every day Caren!? Step One, turn on the computer, Step Two, wipe brow, well that seems like plenty of work for today.

And actually, more to the point, in 5 years your mobile-friendly website will be out of date. In 5 years, we’ll probably be viewing websites through high tech contact lenses! (Or they’ll be a pandemic which will stunt the economic growth of the world and put you, Caren, out of a job.)

“Well, thanks for your time,” I said standing up and rolling my eyes as loudly as possible. “Looking forward to hearing from you.”

And with that, I spun on my heel and walked out the door.

* * *

Now I know what you must be thinking. ‘You bought The Girl on a Train, where does this come into play?’

Well folks, if ever a book has a more depressing opening of hundred pages of soul-destroying sadness I am yet to read it.

If you haven’t read it, in a nutshell, two women have given up on life and are sleeping or drinking the pain away.

Now I’m assured it picks up. Its twists and turns are (allegedly) enough to keep any reader hooked. I wouldn’t know, I have never finished it.

Because those hundred pages…

Whilst sitting on a train wanting to give up on life and sleep or drink my pain away, it wasn’t exactly the escapist thriller I was hoping for.

Oh well, at least it wasn’t raining.

Bad Day Good Story: The Job Interview, Part I

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Death will be a great relief.  No more interviews” – Katharine Hepburn

It was a bright autumnal morning as readied myself to embark on the 11.12 to London.

* * *

I had already got off to a bad start by waking up late and rushing off leaving my entire life at home.  The essential item I had forgotten was a phone charger (for my 2-year-old Samsung Galaxy which, in its current battered and bruised state, had a battery life of around 10 minutes).  With no time to go home, I ran (by which I mean walked quickly-ish, quicker than my usual casual saunter anyway) to Sainsbury’s, and bought the world most overpriced charger.  On a whim, I also picked up The Girl on the Train to keep myself entertained on the journey.  I returned to the station and boarded the train.

* * *

I travelled the additional hour-long journey on the tube* to Deptford ready for my interview.

! SIDE RANT ALERT !

I bloody hate how long it takes to get anywhere in London.  Everyone raves about the public transport system, and I will admit that the buses and trains are very frequent, but they neglect to mention:

  • Whatever your vehicle choice it only travels at about 10 metres per hour;
  • There are strikes every other day which means everywhere you look closely resembles a cattle ranch, the population herded on and off buses and being housed in extremely close quarters;
  • Scheduled maintenance guarantees whatever tube line you want to travel on will be closed;
  • If you want to go south of the river swimming through the Thames and then hitchhiking to your destination via Guam will end up being much faster.

! SIDE RANT OVER !

Now no offence to the people of Deptford (says she as she is most likely about to cause great offence to the people of Deptford) but Deptford is not a great place… I did see evidence of one shady looking hipster café complete with mismatched furniture and Edison lightbulbs (very original) which implies it is up and coming, however in my opinion its only redeeming feature was a very large and well-stocked Poundland.  I believe this illustrates perfectly that it is in fact very much down and going. 

My Interview was at the Local Arts Centre with a Poetry and Spoken Word promotions company and on paper looked right up my street.  Their Mission? Evolve this area of the arts so it is more widely received throughout London and the UK and to rid people of their preconceptions that all poetry is wanky, pretentious and weird.  A brilliant concept.

I signed in on time at the reception and went to chill in the café.  After 15 minutes I was approached by the recruitment officer who informed me they were running late (No shit) and invited me to wait in the office.  I thought ‘Nope, I am quite happy sitting here where you can’t see me checking social media on my laptop.  I would therefore not like to walk into your office where all your staff can stare at me making me feel excruciatingly awkward thank you very much, but not wanting to reveal the sarcastic cynicism that is my personality I said “Ooo yes, that sounds great!”

I took a seat and scanned the offices, a typical arts hub with ratty pictures of success stories on the walls, old furniture including a couple of bean bags to add the air of chill and funk and lots of hustle and bustle.  I opted for a chair, sat and picked up a leaflet from the coffee table and pretended to read (to look all profesh and deeply interesting) whilst subtly rotating my head so my ear was pointing in the direction of the raucous laughter in the corner. 

Man, I would be a great spy!

Unfortunately, what my sneakiness revealed was not some delightful anecdote about a poet they were with the other day. Alas, No. These middle-aged women were hysterically divulging their individual, very personal, Tinder Dates.  Now, I’m no prude, I love a funny tinder story as much as the next person, but in the pub or on lunch or in the office when you don’t have complete outsiders and potential employees coming in and out all day.  I turned back to my leaflet, now actively trying to read its incredibly dull content.  Anything to attempt to erase the all too graphic images of these strangers and their explicit sex lives that now seem to be burnt on the surface of my mind’s eye.

Finally, the recruitment officer called my name.  They were ready for me.  I was marched down a corridor to a small meeting room.  The door opened.

And so began the worst job interview of my life.

TO BE CONTINUED…

BAD DAY GOOD STORY: The Skipping Rope

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‘A smooth race never made a skilful racer’ – Nascar Racing

This tale is truly on a par with the mighty Shakespeare.  My pen is my sword.

Why?  Well, I can pretty much guarantee had this incident not occurred I would (almost definitely) be an Olympic Athlete by now running alongside Hussain Bolt, probably faster, having been the only female ever to compete with the men.  I would have at least twenty gold medals hanging around my super strong neck.

But alas, this dream was not meant to be.  It was shattered a long time ago on a cold spring day in 1994.

* * *

I was 5 years old.

It was lunchtime, our time, a time to let our imaginations run away with us.  We could be anything we wanted.

Do you remember those times?  Where running was an enjoyable activity performed for fun?  We could run for hours and hours and never tire or bore!  They seem so far away now I’m a little bit podgy and a lottle bit unfit – but whatever, if I ever find myself being chased by a bear I only need to be faster than the slowest person in the group, right…

Well, today was one of those running days.  I was running, and running, and running some more.  No purpose, no destination, just running.  Little did I know I was being watched.  Not in a weird stalky way, more accurately, I was being scouted.

“You run fast.”

“I know.”

“Wanna Race?”

I couldn’t believe it!  Me, the lowly Ruth West had been challenged by Tia Maloney, widely renowned as the fastest girl in the infants!

“Yeah, ok.”

She summoned an audience for what was bound to be a spectacular event.  The rules were simple.  First to the wall and back would be the winner.  Two of her minions came forward, each one carrying the end of a skipping rope.  This would be our finish line.  There was just one thing I noticed.  One tiny, insurmountable detail that I picked up on.  Just prior to our finish line position lay a rogue skipping rope which was directly in our path.

‘Someone might trip over that’ I thought.  I looked at the raucous crowd leaping in anticipation.  This was no time to raise a concern.  ‘Meh, they probably won’t.’

“On your marks, get set, GO!”

And we were off!  I leapt out the starting blocks flinging myself forward.  I thought I’d been fast, but Tia was faster.  I looked up to see her pulling away.  Had I tired myself with all the running I had done already done that day?  No!  Focus!  This wasn’t a time for doubts.

I pushed onwards and as I approached the wall, the halfway point, I was gaining on her.  I kicked off for the return across the playground: Harder, better, faster, stronger.  I was level now.  Thrusters on maximum I pulled ahead gaining more with every step.  The finish line was so close now I could taste it.  If I just reached out…

BANG!

I hit the floor mere metres from the finish line.  I gazed around I saw Tia run past, arms raised above her head, victorious.  She had won.

But how could this have happened!  I was so close, what could have stopped me?  I looked down at my grazed knees and just beyond I saw it.  The Rogue Skipping Rope, that traitor!!!

Only after Tia had been crowned champion did the faithful followers flock around me to see if I was ok.

I was not.

I couldn’t get up.

My mum came to pick me up.  She carried me from the car into the house and plonked me on the sofa.  I refused to walk.  I was in agony.  Mum was getting increasingly angry with me.  Apparently, it was just a graze and I wasn’t even trying.  She set me a (in hindsight) cruel challenge, placing Smarties around the room, instructing me to walk to collect them.  I tried!  I really did.  But I couldn’t put any weight on my foot.  I just about managed to hop to the first one and eat it, but I was too exhausted to carry on.  I sat on the floor and cried.

PANIC STATIONS!

My mother must have thought ‘SHIT!  She’s not even going to get chocolate!  There must be something seriously wrong here’.  She scooped me up in her arms and rushed me to the Surgery.

“Hmm,” the Doctor pondered.  “It’s definitely not broken.”

Good news!

“But I’d go to the hospital just to check.”

Dad met us in A&E where the Doctor said “Hmm, it’s definitely not broken.”

Great News!

“But I’d go to the X-ray department just to check.”

A couple of hours and a full leg cast later it transpired that it was, in fact, one of the worst breaks you can get.  It had split diagonally in two and shifted out of place.  I was in a wheelchair for three weeks and on a zimmer frame for three more.

Six weeks out of training was too long.  My hopes of Olympic Glory disappeared.  I knew it was nothing more than pipe dreams now, evaporating like steam from a kettle.  All those moments lost in time, like tears in rain.

Comedy is Art

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Comedy, Funding, Marketing

The ability to make people laugh is a special talent.  Yet, Comedy is often not categorised as an artform.

 

Comics must stand on their own two feet figuring out this industry for themselves with limited funding and money.  Comedians are on their own acting as every single department in their business, which can often be lonely and isolating.   Generally, comics are not eligible for Arts Council Funding or any other kind of funding for that matter.

 

Comedy has always been an integral component of the arts, so much so it has grown into a genre entirely of its own.  It dominates the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where theatre shows, cabarets and musicians would rather categorise themselves under comedy as it is often deemed more accessible for wider audiences, but it is still struggling to be recognised as its own creative industry.  But why? It  has after all been ever present in throughout the history of entertainment:

  • The word comedy was invented in Ancient Greece where playwrights like Aristophanes and Euripides used comedy to make political statements to the masse in the Satyr or Satire Plays.
  • The Divine Comedy has long been considered a prominent piece of Italian literature in which comic allegory was is used to poetically discuss the Journey to God
  • Stock characters, responsible for Punch and Judy shows in the UK and still recognisable today derive from the medieval Italian performance art: Commedia dell’arte.
  • William Shakespeare was incredibly famous for this comedy writing as well as his tragedies, many of which are still performed and adapted today all over the world.
  • Music Hall and variety performances often had comics as acts, in fact, these events evolved into today’s Christmas pantomimes!
  • The famous Royal Opera House in Covent Garden was funded by John Gay and the success of ‘The Beggar’s Opera’, a satirical play on the musical genre.
  • Popular Victorian holiday destination Blackpool is famous for the leading comics it has attracted over the past 200 years from Morecambe and Wise to Tommy Cooper.  The crowds didn’t only attend for the beach, they went for the entertainment.
  • Samuel Beckett, still widely performed today, stems from Theatre of the Absurd, which is appreciated as its own comedic genre
  • Nowadays you can’t turn on the telly without watching a rerun of some classic sitcom, watching a weekly panel show or seeing some new stand ups at the Apollo.

 

When it is so heavily influential to the work we create today and so widely accessible to anyone and everyone in this country (and beyond) how can we make these public funding bodies appreciate the art form and see it as an equal to that of theatre and art.

 

If you want to start a revolution, then it is about taking small steps.

 

Think about specialist wording and phrasing that targets your show towards a theatrical, musical or entertainment genre as well as being a comedy.  I met a comedian recently (who I won’t name as it somewhat ruins the surprise of his show) who has received Arts Council Funding for his most recent stand up tour by branching out into character comedy and making it an experimentation in acting and a way to encouraging casting directors to see his show.

 

So, think outside the box! Is it a new writing work? Tell them! Is it musical comedy? Play up the musical side! Is it pushing the boundaries of comedy?  Explain how it is experimental event which is outside of the box.

 

I’m not saying lie, you can still call it comedy, just comedy which explores other art forms!  If we can slowly infiltrate the system we can change it!

 

Viva la revolución!

 

 

Let me know if you have ever earned funding for what is inherently a comedy show in the comments below!