A few years ago, I was on my way to Australia to perform at the Melbourne comedy festival, and was feeling a bit nervous about what Australian audiences were going to make of me. On the plane I decided to try to take my mind off it by having a drink and watching the in-flight entertainment. An hour and a half later, I was watching Dev Patel’s character reunite with his family in India in the film Lion and sobbing my eyes out. One of the cabin crew actually came over to check that I was OK, such was the emotional wreck seated in 42B.
It’s well known that altitude can make you more emotional, but what I have realised is that unless I am well hydrated, well fed and adequately slept, I cannot watch or experience anything poignant or sad without falling to pieces.
Just last week, after I had been working late into the night writing, we decided to sit down and watch Paddington 2. That damned little bear is designed to the last detail to elicit emotion, but the moment when he gives his aunt a hug on the doorstep at the end reduced me to marmalade. And that was a happy ending.
It can be any sort of trigger, if the tiredness and stress levels are in perfect balance. I was once in a car accident on the M1, and my dad had to come and pick me up in the middle of the night to take me home. He passed away a couple of years later, and I remember grieving for him in a healthy way and feeling OK about it. About three years after his death, I was tired and driving past Watford Gap, as I had done without incident so many times. On this occasion, during a quite stressful part of my life, the sight of the services that my dad had once picked me up from sent me into a spiral of tears. Not only was I unable to bring the flood to a swift close, I actually wallowed in it and enjoyed it. It has left me with a fear of ever stopping there, as the thought of sobbing at Chozen Noodle fills me with horror. Watford Gap is also one of the worst services in the whole of the UK, don’t @ me. (Big shout out to Tebay on the M6.)
I’m not complaining about crying. Crying is great – you often feel amazing afterwards. I was recently working with the actor Jay Simpson, and it was my first face-to-face experience of working with someone who can take himself to a moment like that and cry whenever he wants. He told me it was something he had found easy to master. I explained that I had the opposite skill: crying could take over at any moment without warning. We both agreed this was less useful for acting.
Recently I hit a low point when it comes to being spontaneously overcome by my emotions. We were watching an episode of Couples Come Dine With Me – the Ranganathans firmly have their finger on the cultural pulse – when a couple who seemed very sweet but underappreciated actually won the week’s prize money. The episode came to a close and we went on to watch a few more, when I had to excuse myself to go and think about how happy I was for them. While crying. It was perhaps a sign I needed sleep. But I was genuinely happy for them.