Go Ahead And Jump!
I don’t remember the bookshop but I do remember the churn of my emotions as my eyes met the image on the postcard. Captured in black and white was a photograph of a man in a flapping raincoat, suspended mid air as he attempted to jump across a large puddle. The vintage cars on the wet streets told me this shot was from many decades past. Well before I entered the world. Well before I found myself in my current predicament.
At that time my wallet was so light it felt like it floated out of my pocket, but I found a one dollar note, a crumpled bit of currency that had no idea that in a few months it would soon be rendered obsolete by a shiny coin. It was 1984 and I was 25 years old.
I Blu Tacked the postcard above the second hand desk in my bedroom where I wrote my comedy material. The desk had a broken leg propped up by three bricks and a paperback copy of Shogun. I leant back on the stained office chair left behind by the previous tenant and stared at the photograph which I would later learn was called Leap Of Faith, taken in 1939 near London’s Hyde Park.
J. A. Hampton’s image resonated. The hero of the shot, face obscured by his outstretched arm, was willing his legs to make it to dry land but wet trouser cuffs awaited him. He would fall short just as I felt I had after crossing the big puddle called the Bass Strait.
I departed Hobart to seek fame and fortune. But after two years in the big smoke I was now much more motivated by another F Word, food. My standard sustenance consisted of nutrition-free pastry covered things off a heat tray at a milk bar and the occasional roast buffet dinner that we fledgling comics received as a perk when we performed at The Sydney Comedy Store.
Coming from an acting background I had started off my stand up career performing as characters, a priest telling bad jokes in ecclesiastical language, and a power crazed army major wearing khaki shorts. This approach eventually got me some work but I always had to go on early at a venue before the crowd got so drunk they lost their love of theatre. This meant I could never climb the comedy ladder to become a headliner.
I ditched the character comedy and sought safety in numbers. I created a double act with a friend and also joined forces with some fellow funny types to form a four man comedy troupe. These partnerships proved untenable as promoters much preferred to pay fees and travel expenses for just one person if they had a choice. And they had a choice.
I knew now that the only option I had if I wanted to succeed as a comic was to go solo, as the real me. But I knew if I took that leap a painful crash landing awaited me. Sydney comedy crowds in the mid eighties were, how can I put this, brutally honest. Another way of putting it is that if they could detect your heart quivering after a failed joke they would reach into your chest cavity and rip it out by the bleeding ventricles. Time to check flights back to Tassie.
And then something happened.
On a humid Sydney afternoon a friend visited and brought with him a friend of his. We drank tea bag tea and chatted in my bedroom. At one point the friend of a friend got up and checked out the postcard on the wall. I wish I knew this guy’s name, I can’t even conjure his face. But what he said next was to change the direction of my life.
“Wow, he’s just going to make it.”
I got off my chair and stared at my puddle jumping man with new eyes. My perspective on this shot that I had looked at hundreds of times began to shift. The mathematics of Hampton’s image recalibrated. That front leg might just have enough height and speed to carry our man beyond the hazard to where he wanted to be. Yes, it was possible. The important thing was this guy had the courage to find out.
That evening I borrowed my flatmate’s cassette of Van Halen’s 1984. I only wanted to hear one song. When David Lee Roth told me to “Go ahead and jump!”, I did, making the floor boards beneath me groan with the impact. I jumped, I danced, I kicked the air, I rewound the tape, I did it all again.
Out of breath, T-Shirt sweat drenched, I sat down and wrote material for my new stand up act. A few weeks later I would take the leap and deliver this material on stage with a new energy, confidence, and edge that lit up audiences and attracted the attention of TV producers. By the time I held my first sparkling one dollar coin in my hand I was a comedian with freshly minted momentum, standing his ground and ready to rock.
Have you taken a leap of faith that changed you life in some way? I'd love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment below.
Let's talk again soon, my friends. Until then, keep laughing, stay creative, and live fully!
©Anthony Ackroyd 2023
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