The Yips mostly happen to people who do sports. Notably Golf, where perhaps the term was made, and baseball, snooker, cricket. Fantastic jerky little word, isn’t it? It refers to that phenomena where someone who is wildly good at something – like hitting a ball into a hole with a stick with world-class reliability – suddenly, just, can’t. They don’t know what causes it – theories have ranged from some kind of repetitive muscular issue, to a psychosomatic mental thing. Players have tried everything – physiotherapy, hypnotism, and, in one notable baseball players case, being hammered on insane amounts of vodka during his games. None of it worked. Sometimes it goes away, but sometimes, once you get the yips, you’re done.
To me, it feels like one of those situations where the more you think about something you can do - the more you pick it apart in your mind, the closer you examine it - the less easy it is to do. Like if you start to really think about your breathing, you sometimes get short of breath and have to distract yourself from thinking about each individual in and and out, so that you can do it right again and not keel over. It’s a bit like juggling – once you’re decently good at juggling, you’re not thinking “Ok, catch that one, now throw this one, now make sure to catch that one next, and then we throw that one…” – the constituent parts of throwing and catching have become smushed into one thing called juggling, and that’s all you think about. You just concentrate on the flow of the one big thing that is made up of lots of smaller things, and it works, because you know you can do it. Usually.
That’s kinda how I’m feeling at the moment. I have a busy Summer. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t whining. Not one bit. I’m a lucky son of a gun, and always happy to be busy. Right now I’m in Germany, the middle of a season at one of my favourite festivals in the world, doing three shows a night for three weeks. Then it’s off to lovely Ottawa to do a long weekend of shouty, sweaty, crazy shows at the buskerfest. Then I go straight from there to the Edinburgh fringe, where I’ll be hosting a very carefully curated late night variety spectacular for 16 nights straight – having the honour introducing performers I admire, enjoy and love, as well as springing a few surprises on unsuspecting audiences. It’s all ridiculous, hard, stressful, beautiful fun, and I constantly remind myself of how charmed things are that my life turned out this way.
But. What if I start to think too much about the million little details of each one of these gigs, and get bogged down in the what-ifs and why-nots, lose sight of the flow, so by the time I bound on stage, I’ve forgotten how to do it? What if the stresses I have about possible failures outweigh my glee at the fun that will be had? What if I get the yips?
The show I’m doing at the fringe is the next chapter of my "Varieties" project. Over the last few years, I've done three seasons of "Mat Ricardo's Varieties", and they've turned into something that, I think, has provided a fair number of special little moments for audiences - they certainly did for me. I got to sit and chat to Paul Daniels in one of his last on stage interviews, I watched the room go nuts as I revealed that variety legend Merian Ganjou had been sitting amongst them, I tap danced with a line of showgirls, I juggled sink plungers with Dave Gorman.. I mean, if life gives you the chance to do these ridiculous things, why would you not?
But sometimes I start to think – well, what if I get too tied up in knots about all the things that might not work, or fail, or be awful, and forget how to find the fun and beauty in those kinds of unique little shenanigans? What if people stop wanting to come and find out what I’ve got in store for them? What if amazing performers don’t want to come and do silly things? What if I lose sight of the point of the stage version of me?
Well, as a great man once said "Chance favours the prepared mind" (The great man by the way was the baddie in the frankly wonderful Steven Seagal movie Under Siege 2: Dark Territory), and if you know me, you know I always prepare. Jugglers learn pretty early on to make sure they can do what they say they're going to do. I come correct, as they say. I’ll be revealing some of the special guests over the next few weeks as we get closer to the shows, but for now, you might want to click below and get your seats, lest you miss something that only happens once.