My last column for Huffington Post, on the possibility that close-harmony singing business Rock Choir™ might actually be a cult (it isn't, just in case you were wondering) was a first for me. It signalled the first time that somebody has actually reached out to me through the technological marvel that is Twitter and told me that I am not funny. Everyone's entitled to their opinion.
In this sense, I feel that I have made it at last, but only in a sense of writing stuff for laughs and not getting paid for it. Back in the day when I was a minor internet celebrity, I used to get abuse all the time, my favourite at the time being told by an anonymous troll that I was (and I can quote this from memory) "A turd-in-progress sucked back up the sphincter of your own prolixity", which I try to use in conversation whenever possible. It didn't go down too well in a recent job interview, mind you.
At first, the criticism felt like a proper old kick in the teeth, but an afternoon angrily whittling a railway sleeper down to a pile of matchwood with a teaspoon led to the realisation that the author was an unhappy Rock Choir™ cultist, not pleased at my choice of targets for a little light ribbing. I can take it, for I'm hardly going to be woken at three in the morning by the whole 15,000-strong Rock Choir™ singing "You're So Vain" at me in a tauting tone of voice. In fact, recounting the sorry tale to my Twitter followers, I heard of people getting far worse.
For example, from the excellent @ArmyofDave: "Someone told me I wasn't funny with their SECOND EVER tweet. Didn't mess around, that one."
And from @stebax: "Oh, congratulations. Have you had the "Drop dead you c-word yet? That's another bauble." (No, but I've had the blunt "You make me sick" from an angry Texan when I wrote something about George W Bush)
Then, after another sulk, I realised that there's 500 words in this. As they say in certain circles: When life gives you lemons, shove lemons up life's bottom for giving you stupid lemons when you asked for cake and chocolate and bikini-clad models offering you fivers.
Imagine, then, what it must be like to be a professional comic, paid actual cash money to be funny and get messages like that all the time. I recently witnessed a series of tweets aimed at the excellent Al Murray (who is far, far more than his pub landlord alter ego), chastising him for not being a constant stream of funny on his Twitter stream.
"Say something funny like your (sic) supposed to" said the disappointed follower, while another chimes in "your (sic) paid to be funny, how bout (sic) you say something funny?"
"Not now I'm not", replies the master, "Go online and buy a ticket for one of my shows". Touché. It's just not the done thing to prod funnymen when they're off duty.
In the same vein, I'm going out to poke a clown with a stick until he makes me laugh. As long as he's wearing the motley, that's alright.