I am not making up any of these details, or exaggerating one bit. I was doing some work, and my mum was hovering around on the phone. She was catching up with whoever was on the other end of the line with what my siblings and cousins were up to.
“Our David’s just started a job teaching at the British school in Manila. He gets his own house, a live in maid, and a driver!
Becky’s just started being a tutor out in Dubai.
Nick’s just been promoted at his job as an actuary in London.
Vicki’s just come back from delivering a speech at the UN in Brussels. She’s been rebooked to do one in Norway with Kofi Annan.
Chris is going round the world soon.
Mark’s still working as a consultant in Amsterdam
And Paul…. Paul was doing a gig in Portsmouth last night (long pause) I think he got paid for it”
I did as well. I got paid for a gig that didn’t even happen. That’s how succesful I am .
About a month back, I read the book of one of my all time favourite films, L.A Confidential. It’s rather different from the film, in that it packs in a lot more conspiracies (For instance, Ed Exley in the film is an orphan. In the book, his Dad is a property developer and machiavellian politician. If there’s one thing I’ve learn from crime books and Scooby Doo, property development is inherently evil). It is also different in that none of the book’s characters are likeable or good. It is old-timey racist as all get out (be careful, it seeps in. Rob Halden, who lent me the book, said he found himself for a week after thinking thoughts like “they’ve jewed me on the price” and had to be careful not to say it out loud. Especially in Kiketown). And, it doesn’t have Rolo Tomassi.
In the film, Rolo Tomassi was the person who murdered Exley’s father. Except he wasn’t, he was just a name that he picked out to give some focus to his feelings as he didn’t know who shot his dad. (It is also the name of a Sheffield based “mathcore” band who I found whilst checking the spelling and who, having checked them out on Spotify, I can comfortably report are awful).
I have my own Rolo Tomassi thing for comedy. Stand up comedy is a strange world to take a fragile ego. Most comedians think that all their stuff is gold and at the same time know all their stuff is the inane ramblings of a useless hack. My Rolo Tomassi thing is that there is an act, we shall call him… lets say Adolf Spetznaz. Rudiger Von Chase. Chip Baggins. Oswald Fenchman. Mithril Impetigo. Marc Kram. Whatever his name, he’s an act who should just give up. You see him, doing his stuff to muted responses or downright apathy when he’s always on Facebook talking about how he stormed it. Casually dropping the names of the big act he was on with last week into conversation “as I said to E4 McHaircut last week…”. If you run a gig, you’ll get emails from him when you’ve been really specific about what you want: “I can do that closing 45 minute corporate for you”. No, no you can’t. You might be willing but you’re unable. Turning up to new material nights and plodding through the same tedious things he’s said a hundred times before. Bigging himself up and then dying a death.
At various points in my career, I have probably been guilty of all of these. It gets to a certain point where you wonder if you’re in the right hobby, whether it wouldn’t be much better for everyone if someone came across, and like a grizzled old coach in a boxing movie, put their arm across your shoulders and told you to give up. Sometimes you need Danny Glover to tell you you’re too old for this shit.
Certain acts have bogey comedians, acts that are always the harbinger of doom. Kev Sheperd is mine, a lovely man who has done sterling work both times I have worked with him. Once he was MC and I was opener, and I cocked that up completely (see http://paulsavagecomedy.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/brain/ for details) and once when I was MC and he was opener, and I didn’t shush the people quietly ordering drinks at the bar, who turned out not to be quietly ordering drinks but having full blown rows and ruining the audience’s entire night. Kev probably thinks I’m well shit, out of my depth, asking for gigs I shouldn’t be getting. He doesn’t know that the twice he’s seen me have been two of my top 20 bad gigs.
It’d be narrratively satisfying if I had seen an act who I’d thought was Rolo Tomassi but turned out I’d seen them on a bad day, or if an act or promoter who thought I was Rolo Tomassi had seen me and been all “You’re awesome. do all my gigs, sign to my agency, here’s a panel show themed around you starting on BBC 2 next week”. But it didn’t.
Instead, left over from a weird gig I never got round to writing up, here is a picture of Chris Purchase onstage, down a well, with a hand-puppet fox.
I’m starting to worry. My pop culture senses have started to lose their razor sharp accuracy. I used to be on the cusp of stuff. Not in any useful way, but if someone made a reference to a TV show or celebrity, I could follow the conversation.
Then it started to go wrong. I got a reference to “Peters and Lee” that my dad’s mate made. Why on earth would a man of 24 know about a 70’s folk band from Opportunity Knocks? And then I didn’t get a reference to some major news story, which was so major, I have since forgotten it. A disquieting feeling. Would my whole cultural psyche be forever skewed, like those Japanese troops coming out of the jungle to find modern civilisation, would I be stuck?
I want to blame other people. The other day I met a girl who knew the moves to Soulja Boy (which I didn’t), but then she hadn’t heard “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang. Who is in the wrong here?
This is beginning to nag at me. There were some very fresh faced teens at a student gig who didn’t laugh at my Adam Ant bit, and someone actually scoffed and repeated it incredulously when I called him a pop legend. If people are going to stop knowing who Adam Ant is, then I might have to drop that bit, and I love it. It’s usually a banker. I have a whole bit about Funkadelic, but do enough people know it?
The really worrying thing is that approximately 18% of my conversation is made up of pop culture references. When I get blank eyed stares from a perfectly well known and properly used Life of Brian quote, this is bad. It’s like when I watch Family Guy, and he says “This is worse than that time… (x) came round to (y)” where x is an American celebrity I haven’t heard of. Now some of you won’t have watched Family Guy and are staring blankly, as that description isn’t broad enough. It’s a never ending circle of infinite obscurity.
Where it starts to get weird is that exactly 12% of my self esteem comes from being good at Simpsons references. (Other parts include 11% that I am alright at pool, 5% that I can make a curry from scratch and 8% that I shower every day). I thought everyone watched The Simpsons, and that it was a cultural signifier. During a scale and polish the other day, when my dental hygenist asked how many times I brushed and I said “3 times a day”. Now if she was a fan, she would respond with “Why must you turn my office into a house of lies?”, and get out “the big book of British smiles”. She didn’t though, as she is about 65. The thought that she would made me laugh out loud, which is not good when someone is jabbing sharp metal around your soft gums.
But I haven’t seen many episodes from the newer serieses. Someday soon, someone will make a reference to one of these, and I will be floating cold and alone in a sea of non-quote-getting, like a exiled king looking at some stamps from his country, that now has a pudgy General’s face where his used to be.
I did a drug trial. The suprise, that I put my body on the line for filthy lucre at the hands of Big Pharma, is of course ruined by the title of this blog. Other rejected titles include “The Drug (Trial)s don’t work, they just make you worse” and “Drug (trial)s: Just say no”.
I rejected these two as they were completely negative. This title is still pretty negative, but hey, I wasn’t getting jabbed with needles and having people analyse my pee because I want to further the cause of science. Not exclusively, anyway. If any science got advanced and I got paid, so much the better, but if I was going to advance any area of science it would be hoverboards. All of our problems can be solved by hoverboards. I heard a rumour that they have all the technology and are just waiting for the components to miniaturise for them to become mass manufacturable. It is my sincerest wish that this is true.
I was doing it because I had taken such an unholy beating financially in December (see http://paulsavagecomedy.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/of-little-interest-to-others/ for details). Left without a huge wage for December, a few gigs that still hadn’t paid me and with a lot of outgoings coming up, I needed cash and quickly.
My old youth worker and mentor Tom had mentioned he had done them when he was between jobs, and after promising to never tell my parents he told me, he gave me the details. I signed up to do a drug trial, 3 nights in a unit and couple of follow up visits.
After a pre trial health check (very gratifying to know that I am in perfect health. I always assumed I would have high blood pressure considering how little of modern life I can deal with adequately) where I briefly had a neurotic moment that the quite pretty nurse taking my samples would be put off me as my urine sample was quite a vivid yellow. then I realised if she was at all interested in me after i made a little whimper when I got stuck with the needle, handing her a steaming hot flask of my liquid waste probably hadn’t helped, no matter what the colour.
Anyway, I was getting the train down from Wolverhampton to that there London. I set my alarm and booked a taxi and arrived in plenty of time at 8:06 for my 8:30 train. Which didn’t appear on the board. The 8:03 train still did. Look how similar those two numbers are. 8:03, 8:30. Ooooh, I’m clearly a huge cretin. So i read my book for an hour in the waiting room and then spent an uncomfortable 2 hours on the train preparing a Deano story for the ticket inspector. Deano was a guy who I used to work with who felt it was his job in life to blag onto public transport for free. The amout of times he would launch in with a “you see, what it is mate is…” and tell a selection of halftruths and lies til they felt sorry for him or got bored. His finest moment was succesfully blagging his way onto a bus with a nonchalant “you’re going there anyway”, which is one of the most titanic display of balls I have ever seen.
So, whilst mentally preparing myself for the verbal battle of wills, (my closing argument “the bus did not arrive for 30 mins. If you want to fine someone, fine West Midlands travel” sounded nice and plausible and like far too much work for a ticket inspector to bother with) I wrapped myself up nice and tense and got myself worked up into such a awkward frenzy that I was left with nowhere to release it when the ticket inspector didn’t come round. Then the metropoplitan line was closed, which they helpfully hadn’t told me when I boarded it, so I was 2 hours late and genuinely fearful they wouldn’t let me on the program.
Happily, they weren’t that bothered, and I got shown my bed and my little cupboard in the ward with 8 other guys and told that if I needed to pee I was to do it in a brown 1 litre jar. After using it I had to give it back and it was locked in a fridge, where I had to go and ask a nurse to unlock it so I could have a leak. There is something strange about topping up your own chilled piss with fresh hot piss, which is why we generally don’t do it.
I had my bloods taken (they left my crips though. weak LA gang wordplay!) and had some sticky pads attached to my chest. It was very strange that first day, sat on a bed with 8 strangers all sat on beds, all covered in sticky pads around our nipples for ECGs and wired up like something out of the matrix. Stranger still was wandering around shirtless the whole time in february. Some of the guys who had done it before wore flip flops and long shorts or pyjama bottoms, so it made it look like they were experimenting on beach bums. Something, if I ever become a mad scientist, I probably would approve of.
The actual taking of the drug was on the second morning. Our schedules were staggered, and I looked at my guide “wake up: 7:45”. Hmm, I thought, not too bad. A lot earlier than I usually would get up, but I was pretty tired from a lot of travelling the week before. I dropped off a little after midnight, and covered myself in the duvet, which then became apparent was actually made of rubber (presumably to be wipeclean. how efficiently, disgustingly, clean) and strangely clingy.
So, it was with some suprise I was woken at 5:50 as they started waking everyone else up. It’s quite dificult to sleep through 20 medical staff swarming around, harrasing people awake, being aggravated by recalcitrant computers and gently bickering about who’s turn it is to do this or that. I got a canula in my arm, which is a small, semi permanent tap for your blood. Looks like this:
I idly wondered whether they could be given to heroin addicts to prevent infections, but then I put the thought from my mind as it began to itch. I started to wonder about whether it really was itching or if it was psychosomatic. It did itch. Not on the outside. On the inside, in my veins. It tickled. Nice to know it was only on for another 2 days.
One quick pee to empty the tanks before we were confined to bed for 4 hours. Any peeing subsequently would have to be done with the curtains round, in bed, from a prone position. Classy. (Right, that’s the last time I mention pee before I get lots of watersports fetishists stumbling on to this blog). Now came the time to take the actual drug. Because we were the 10th group to do this drug, we were given a monumental dose. Rather than pills or soluble liquid, we were taking it in the form of grains. The texture of which is really hard to desribe, unless you have eaten raw crumble mix straight from the bowl until it forms a dry, solid chunk that sticks to the roof of your mouth and makes you gag a bit. It was exactly like that. (if you have never eaten raw crumble mix from the bowl, I do suggest you do it. It is an awesome way to get a weeks sugar in a mushy paste, and great for making other people’s comfort foods look refined in contrast. Fish Finger sandwich? Pah. try clumps of flour and butter and sugar). The first group had had to do a tiny cap full, we had to do three shot glasses full (or the equivalent, not many hospitals serve drugs in shot glasses).
Anyway, lying in bed for four hours without moving is suprisingly easy for someone such as myself. I read a book about football tactics (the genuinely fascinating Inverting the Pyramid), wrote this months pub quiz, and listened to the nurses discuss their recent drunken night out and watch a posh lad across from me unsuccessfully flirt with them. The one bit of intrigue was when Dale, the lad in the bed next to me (seperate beds. It wasn’t that sort of drug trial. I’m not sure there are drug trials where everyone is in one big bed) had a coughing fit and they dragged him off for observation in case he was reacting badly, despite his repeated insistence that some water had gone down the wrong way.
To be honest, the only real difference between that day and any other is I did slightly less dicking around on facebook, and actually earnt money in bed.
For those of you interested, drug trials are really easy. They are not scary at all (I did mine at the same hospital and for the same company that did the infamous “elephant man” drugtrial where 6 people had bad reactions and killed all their t-cells, but Ihad no side effects at all). At worst they are a little bit dull. I spent most of the days wandering around, halfheartedly reading, watching TV and playing board games (me and 2 other people played a 6 hour game of risk, for instance). So it’s a lot like a caravan holiday when it’s raining, but you have to give samples of your bodily fluids every half hour. So exactly like caravan holidays with my Uncle Terry (whilst not true, I am proud of the classical structure of this joke).
Honestly, the worst part is that for my last blood sample (this coming monday) requires me to be off alcohol and caffeine for 48 hours, meaning that I have to go on a mate’s stag do completely sober. A large orange juice for me then.
Me and my brain kind of get on. I feed it plenty of facts from books and the internet, and it gives me these back during pub quizzes, and occasionally when I don’t need them. In it I store things like the house phone numbers for people who no longer live there, the names of the house band from Mel and Sue’s light lunch (steve, matt, dylan and dan) and it does a good job of repressing all the memories of when I was a fool. Speaking of which, I was talking at a gig to Sam Gore about birthday parties and said I couldn’t imagine anything worse than a massive party for me with all my various groups of friends because they would have the chance to gang up and share stories of how i was a dickhead. He said “well, the solution to that is to just stop being a dickhead”. So true.
Where my brain and me don’t get on is my Dyspraxia (poor hand to eye coordination, which means i will occasionally knock a whole table of stuff over and then just stare at my hands, like a character in a bad movie who has just killed someone). I never mention my dyspraxia on stage, mostly because it isn’t very funny. Watching someone fall over is hilarious. (Some anthropolgists believe it was the first joke. Mind you, some anthropologists also believe that women grew breasts because they look like buttocks and that women like lipstick because it reminds men of vaginas. we can all agree anthropologists are, at best, chancers). But describing somone fall over isn’t hilarious. Weirdly, I’ve noticed a lot of women, when asked their most embarassing moment, will cite the time they fell over and loads of people saw them. I’ve held my tongue because there’s nothing more likely to annoy a woman than going “wasn’t it the time that were so drunk you forgot about your tampon and left it in, got toxic shock, went to hospital for it, and they decided to show students as it was a paticularly interesting case, and one of those students was a friend of yours from childhood who you hadn’t seen for 10 years and they tried to make small talk?”
This is where my brain and me don’t get on. because my brain will be sitting there going. “you should point that out. you should definitely correct her on that” most of the time in those situations, I ignore my brain. a few times this last month, I didn’t, and ended up making a dick out of myself.
I was offered a late gig (I’ll not say when or where in case it costs me work), for a decent sum of money and relatively close to my house. I’d done the gig before and it was joyful, and I was really confident leading up to it. Perhaps too confident. The compere did a cracking job and the room was lovely, set up perfectly for me to open. I started my bit about Stoke. This bit is pretty deadpan, then I get more energetic as I go on. One table had a bit of pointing at a woman who was from stoke and a bit of “ahh, that’s you that is” which winds me up. I talked to the woman. I asked her what she did for a living (teacher) and what she did for a hobby (drinking). My brain went “Aha. You have a drinking story. tell that. tell that now”. I told it. The audience, listened through it and went “ooh”. not in a good way, where you cross a line but you do it with skill and challenge a stereotype or even the word play is really good so they ignore the content and go “oooh…” and then burst into rounds of applause, like they do for Gary Delaney. They just went. “oooh. I don’t like that”
The story, which is true, is based on me being drunk and accidentally punching a woman. it is a funny story. but, in the baldest terms, it is still me punching a woman. It was accidental, it wasn’t hard, and it was all forgotten quickly. but I still punched a woman.
In her ovaries.
I’ve told this story a few times, and it’s always got a decent response. but then I have always told it later in a set, when they have seen my cheeky chappy persona and I have prodded around the boundaries of acceptability a few times. So they hear that story and go “Paul, you lovable scamp. what an inherently ridiculous thing to have done. but we liked your bit about the 3 musketeers and so we will go with this”
This audience didn’t know me. They didn’t yet like me. I had come on, deadpan, not reached the punchline of a joke and then bragged about assaulting a female stranger. This is not funny. For years, comedians have had the in-joke when someone tests a dark bit of material someone will go “i wouldn’t open on it”. I had done just that. I spent the next 19 minutes tensely trying to bring the gig back. I didn’t die, but I came close. The compere said he wouldn’t have blamed me if I came off at 15. Every time they laughed, they felt guilty “imagine us, laughing at that wife beater. we would be awful people. let’s stop laughing” they seemed to say.
Happily, it doesn’t seem to just be me inflicted by this. I was MCing a burlesque gig the other day. It was a newbie show, where girls who are just starting out try out in front of an audience. I had a blast, really enjoying the MCing and letting myself off the leash a few times, though holding back that bit of my brain that goes “say this, it’ll be hilarious”. I managed to watch a woman in her 40’s do a striptease and came back on without saying “That’s the last time I bring my mum”. Which I thought would be well funny but would be very cruel. The best bit was a girl doing a dance to the Fleetwood Mac song “The Chain”, otherwise known as the Formula 1 theme. I said that beer, breasts and sports were pretty much every man’s favourite combo. I then told them they should go one step further and do a striptease to the match of the day theme, then acted dancing seductively to a slowed down version. Sometimes I genuinely love my job.
Anyway, one of the acts had already done one dance and came back on with her female assistant. She seemed to be telling some sort of story with the backing track Atomic, by blondie. She was wearing an orange wig and a sparkly dress. Her assistant was wearing jeans and a white shirt. I used to work with adults with special needs, especially people with Down’s Syndrome, so believe me that I do not say this lightly when I say that the assistant appeared to be doing a “spastic” face. As the song progressed, the dancer lost her dress, the assitant got covered in fake blood, and she combed her orange wig with a plastic comb. Then for the big finish, she pulled off the orange wig to reveal a bald cap and poured more fake blood on her scalp, whilst her friend stood there, almost catatonic.
I have no idea what that was supposed to be. The audience seemingly didn’t either. I wonder if she did? I wonder if she went “I’ve had an idea. I’ll be a sexy cancer victim and you be a stroke addled simpleton and we’ll cover it in fake blood. that’s sexy isn’t it?” and she probably had a moment of self doubt before her brain went
“yeah. Definitely do that. Do it. That will definitely be amazing”
I once did an assessment and got 20 out of a possible 20 for Activator (person who just says “screw it, let’s do it”) and 0 out of a possible 20 for Reflector (“person who thinks back a lot”, rather than “person who repels light”). So, don’t expect any deep insights into me.
Don’t think having all activator and no reflection makes me fun and spontaneous. I still know what consequences are. Which was why it was so galling to be caught speeding, doing 37 in a 30 zone coming back from Stafford. Especially as that road is in places 40. I have no idea where they caught me along that road but I bet I thought I was doing under the speed limit. I don’t speed anywhere at the moment. I completely changed my driving habits when petrol first topped £1 a litre (£1 a litre! I’d kill for £1 a litre) around when I first started gigging. I have often annoyed my brother on long drives by driving at 70 in the slow lane and then overtaking people as and when, and gearing down rather than braking to conserve fuel and not cause a braking wave. You know, the actual way you’re supposed to drive.
So it was paticularly galling to do a speed awareness course. I had to: the two options were spend £60 and get 3 points on my license on a fine, or have the fine and the points wiped out. Wow, you’ll wipe out the fine and let me off the points, you are so kind! and what do I have to do? do a course with some other speeders, and all it’ll cost me is… £60. you’ve not wiped out the fine, you’ve moved it. Dicks.
Because a while ago, everyone decided they needed conference space for things, and that essentially all a conference space is a selection of uncomfortable chairs near a projector with space for a tea urn, conference spaces spring up in the unlikeliest of places. This was at a wildlife centre in Staffordshire. No really, it was. I was early and spent 25 minutes listening to fake piped in noises of animals, like lions and monkeys that I am sure are too big, too exotic, and too used to a warm climate to be pissing around in scrubby bit of greenbelt outside Tamworth.
I’d got in the previous night at 3 in the morning after a marathon Wolverhampton- Shrewsbury- Aberyswth-Shrewsbury- Sutton Coldfield- Wolverhampton trip. I’d been gigging in Aberyswth and driving the very talented young comedians Phil Pagett and Alexander Bennett there and then to their respective homes. If that car had gone off the road the west midlands comedy scene might have suffered a bit. Alexander had said that he didn’t like to be called “Alex”, and he can’t be called “Xander” because I would have to beat him to death on principle. Me and Phil decided he was now called “Lexi Bent”, as that seemed to annoy him.
So, I had had about 4 hours sleep before I went to this speed awareness course. One of the problems with being self employed is you know exactly what you did to earn that money, and what you’ll have to do to earn it again. It had been quite a fallow week and so I was watching the profits from a week’s worth of gigging be burnt in front of my eyes. I was not in a good mood.
So, when the woman running the course bustled in (actually, not bustled. Bustled implies a warmth and certain weight and jollity. this woman was a praying mantis whose lips had those cracks from smoking too much) and said in a strident Greater Manchester accent “are we all happy people, I only want to deal with happy people” in a bloody patronising voice, I nearly lost it. When I do youth work, I treat young children as close to adults. It hurts to be an adult treated as a child, especially when you combine it with it costing you money and a lie in.
Ever watch a TV show or a character act or a sketch and there’s a couple of bits that seem alright but you go “This hasn’t been written enough. it doesn’t seem real”? And so you end up hating it? Well this woman was a poorly drawn character. It was almost as if she was a terrible Catherine Tate character, but for 4 hours, and costing me £60.
She said at the start “If I could have £60 and a promise to never speed again who would take it?” My hand shot up. Sadly, that was a rhetorical question to prove a point and I had to sit for another 4 hours whilst being told that a thing I don’t do is bad and I shouldn’t do the thing I don’t do, because otherwise if i did do the thing I don’t do bad things could happen.
I did learn a couple of things. Because apparently everyone other than me is an idiot, you aren’t allowed (by law) to put up 30 signs in a 30 zone. your clue to the speed limit being 30 is that you can’t see a 30 sign, because if it were 20 or 40 there would be a sign. also, the 70 sign (white with a black stripe) can also mean 60 or 50. Why? Really, why? life is confusing enough. If you are in charge of a ton and a half of solid metal, it’s probably best to concentrate on steering that rather than working out if the road has street lights, a central reservation and lots of other factors to tell you what speed to drive at, when you could just make the number on the sign match the number on your speedometer.
Best bit, was they asked us in turn why we were speeding. Some people used my excuse, that they thought they were doing the right speed. It got round the group to this tiny, frail old lady.
Speed awareness lady: “why were you speeding?”
Frail old lady “You know how you know the roads near your house really well…”
F.O.L: “and you know how there’s one long straight road near your house you know really well indeed..”
F.O.L: Well, I fucking ragged it down there didn’t i?
It was worth £60 for that bit.
We did a different quiz this week. My compatriots of Team Quiz Akabusi, though fine people to a man, are fey intellectuals, (teachers, opticians, university professors, some sort of admin thing that appears to involve mocking a selection of sri lankan students) too precious for this rough and tumble world. Not me. I am, as previously discussed, some sort of renegade, a man unbound by societal rules, who sees social convention and laughs heartily, or at least has a wry smile to himself.
Our pub quiz moved pubs from the excellent Shoulder of Mutton to the slightly rougher Bird in Hand. And why? Capitalism. Capitalism is supposed to provide cool stuff, not knock down excellent boozers so twats can buy poncy flats. Suck a selection of veiny diseased genitals, capitalism.
Anyway, the presence of men with poorly drawn, poorly spelt tattoos shouting out answers from adjoining rooms has rendered the old quiz less fun for my effete band of knowledge-knowers. They asked me if I wanted to go and do the quiz at the Dog and Gun. I told them the quiz there was rubbish. They said it offered cash prizes. I reinformed them that both the quiz and the pub were rubbish. They insisted. I went.
The quiz was not along the lines of normal quizzes; ie When was the battle of Bannockburn, which book of the Bible does the story of Samson appear, what’s the largest town in England without a football team, what crimes do the Flying Squad investigate, what river flows through Derby? etc. These questions were not asked, nor answered. (For those playing along at home with pen and paper, what are you doing? there was no indication this would be an interactive blog, I didn’t ask you to get a pen and paper. still, the answers are 1314, Judges, Wakefield, armed robberies, the Derwent)
The questons were based on the style of family fortunes: a generic question was asked, and the top 5 answers the general public gave were listed. you had to match your answer to the general publics. Problem is, me and the general public don’t get on. I am, clearly, a man of exceptional taste and knowledge. The general public made Simon Cowell 43 million pounds last year, elected David Cameron, and perhaps most damningly, have given Bradley Walsh a career for some parts of the last 15 years. Clearly our answers won’t entirely match. We got a point for each answer we got right, and two points if out top answer matched theirs.
So, long story short, we came second. we lost by one point. We would have drawn for top spot and then faced off in a tiebreak, which we would have won because it would have been about actual facts rather than opinions.
We fell down on this question:
What makes you feel warm inside?
Top 5 answers got a point. The top answer got 2 points. the correct top answer, even from a blackhearted cynic such as myself, is love. That is the correct answer. It is indisputiably the correct answer. It is. It is.
The British Public’s top answer was “a hot drink”
“is it a hot drink, Paul?”
“No. It is love. Simple, pure, love”
“is it when you’re watching You’ve Been Framed, and a fat woman is dancing at a wedding and she falls over, or someone runs into a plate glass window?”
“no. Whilst that may be amusing, and joyous in it’s way, it is love. the answer is indisputiably love”
“is it when you run for public transport and it doesn’t drive off without you? Is it that, Paul”
“No. that’s nice, and a lovely little thrill at getting one over on the universe somehow, but itisn’t the correct answer. The correct answer is love. write that down”
“Is it doing lavish, raised legged farts whilst doing the hoovering?”
“No. it’s love. Try as they might, the world’s greatest novelists, playwrights, poets, singer/songwriters and minstrels cannot find so many glourious, multifaceted sides to doing lavish raised legged farts whilst hoovering. It’s love. LOVE. There wasn’t a popular cartoon about two naked children that you probably can’t get away with now called “lavish raised legged farts is”, partly because it’s grammatically incorrect and partly because the bloody answer to the bloody question “what bloody makes you bloody warm inside?” is bloody love. It just is.
The Derwent definitely flows through Derby. Maps, wikipedia and the ordance survey all agree. The coastguard probably agrees. We’ve not put this out to the British public, asked 100, and seen what they answered, and then took that as the right answer
Q:”What’s the name of the river in Derby?”
The British Public: “Is it Shaniqua? Is it Alan? Is it Wellard, like the dog that used to be in Eastenders?”
No, it isn’t, and those are all stupid opinions you slackjawed cretins.
So anyway, the answer was’t love, and we lost by one point. there was no 2nd prize.
I wasn’t supposed to be doing this gig. a few weeks ago, a new act I have been working with a bit called Jack Kirwan emailled me and asked if I was free to do a charity gig raising money for Compton Hospice, a very worthwhile cause, in memory of his late uncle. I of course said I’d look, hoping I’d already be booked in so getting the instant karma of being able to make encouraging sounds of wanting to do it without having to actually do it.
I was supposed to be doing a gig in mid-Wales for proper money. Hooray, no charity gig for me. Sadly this got then pulled the week before as no tickets were sold. Does my name on the poster mean nothing? Do the people of Mid-Wales have any idea who I am? Surely they would get in their cars and travel from miles around to see “the juice comedy club stafford performer of the year 2009”, wouldn’t they? The answers are as follows: no, no, and of course not. but promoters reading this should still book me.
So when I saw Jack still looking for an MC on the west Midlands Comedy forum, and me without a gig saturday night, I did the nice thing and said I’d do it. This may or may not have had something to do with the fact he runs a gig where I have a recurring role as resident MC, where my job is to turn up, drink as much beer as possible, get paid and walk home. Best keep him sweet.
I was gratified to learn 2 very solid acts were on with me, Tom Roche and Dave Powner. Both have had little resurgences in form recently and are performing the best stuff they’ve ever done. Jack Kirwan was also on the bill, and had rightly taken Tom’s suggestion that the comedy be on first, before the disco and certainly before the *shudder* cabaret.
So, comedy whilst they are still soberish and not used to talking over music, then cabaret, then the disco. There would, no doubt be a raffle at some point, where we observe Brooker’s Law Second Law of Comedy (c) “Do not fuck about with the raffle”.We were going to go on early, do the gig and get out. With it being local, I could go and get drunk afterwards, a rarity on a saturday in recent weeks as not only is saturday a busy day in the comedy calender, people keep having the temerity to get married on saturdays.
Then fate stood in the way. Fate was being played in this production by a bossy old cow. I’ve no idea of her name, but she seemed to be the matriarch of the club and shot down Jack’s suggestion. Suddenly, we were on an hour and a half later, my post gig plans lay shredded like so many shredded post gig plans (too tired to do similes). That and the fact that my friend I was supposed to be meeting had cancelled as she had a Nan sitting issue to deal with. What happened, Nans of the world? I though we had an accord; I’d let you spout racism whilst I tutted halfheartedly, you’d occasionally gift me small sums of money and sweets. Now your blocking my drunkening? Fine, bring it on. I can survive without free Werther’s longer than you can without complaining about how it was better without “them” coming over.
Anyway, I rocked up at the venue at 9:30. I peered through the windows (slatted blinds, the voyeurs friend) to see something scary. Only one thing worse than no punters is a gig full of the wrong punters. I could see the types there. The middle aged blokes who want you to “tell a proper joke”. The alpha lads who will heckle to amuse their mates but won’t talk to you if you ask them a question. The middle aged women who tut at the slightest use of bad language, sex, meanness. All these paled into insignificance to the worst thing of all. Kids. Loads of them. Hyped up on sugar and fireworks (watching, not ingesting), running around the dancefloor doing skids whilst their parents could supervise them from the bar. I have a fully clean set, suitable for kids. I have a drunken weekend club MC set, for dealing with whatever I can get thrown at. they do not share many thing in the Venn Diagram of my comedy
(i don’t have an actual venn diagram. Yet. I am exactly the kind of person who would have one, though. I love Venn diagrams*. I intend to one day chronicle the whole comedy circuit. you could say “Nice bloke, does material about drinking, drives, spent time in prison, your friend on facebook” and I would be able to pluck out 3 names instantly. I can do that now, I don’t need a Venn diagram yet).
Anyway, this gig. I went in, and the child bouncer (he can’t have been more than 15) said “are you one of the comedians?” finally, the prophet is recognised in his own land. Probably recognised for the fact I had an unhealthy sweat on at the thought of dying in front of a hostil, rammed room. And the fact I had my man bag. I found Jack and Tom at the bar, and we were shown to the green room, which was actually white and full of 8 year old playing with cardboard instruments. I had my post gig beer beforehand, as we sorted a running order. Tom first, jack in the middle, Dave closing. Hopefully mine and tom’s upbeat silliness would break them down before Dave’s brand of clever filth. Hopefully they’d also be kind to Jack, as you can never tell what a crowd of family and friends will do. They could absolutely love him, or they could be proper dicks.
Matriarch came and gave us a running order. ie about 7 other acts were on before the comedy. They were running behind and hadn’t done cabaret yet. cabaret performers wandered in and out of the green room, including 2 ladies in sparkly dresses, and one man who came in, grabbed a brillo pad sponge (you know the ones I mean?) from his bag and went back out. The DJs in their booth were ribbing each other to complete indifference from the audience. Matriarch was yelling at kids from the stage. The dancefloor was clear, meaning a huge, joke swallowing gap between acts and the audience. no chance with the gig midway through of closing it with more tables, nor moving people down. Me and Tom sat and worked out how we would get out of this best. We also agreed Chris Brooker would get a great gig diary out of it.
Tom had a quiet word with Matriarch. and got us pushed up the bill, we were after the raffle and the two ladies in sparkly dresses singing two songs, but before the rest of the cabaret. The man who had left with a brillo sponge re-entered, and all the comics’ jaws dropped. because helooked like this.
For those of you who can’t see properly, that is a white man in 2010, blacked up, with a trumpet. He’s wearing black woolen gloves because he didn’t want to get his hands dirty.There’s a joke in there somewhere.
After that, I lost all fear. I’m not being the worst act on a bill with a black and white minstrel. Matriarch did a bit more shouting and being unpleasant to the kids, and introduced me. I’d said to Tom that he could judge how much I was struggling by how many old school compere tricks i resorted to. I needed a few, (hell, I came out and said “don’t worry, you’re not what I was expecting either”) but I didn’t resort to the hackest compere’s trick in the world (c). Did some stuff about Wolverhampton, and was gifted a man who booed when I mentioned Stoke. He then became my go to point when I needed to slag somewhere off. (I even did “gimme six” which I’m sure Tom ticked off his list). Did the rules, modified the Gok Wan joke as there were kids in the audience, and got Tom on.
When reviewing comedy, Dave Dinsdale always used the phrase “laffers”, as in “a nice crowd, but not many laffers”. I finally got what he meant. There were 3 people, scattered randomly (actually randomly, students, not just slightly weirdly or unexpectedly. Like what the word actually means) through the room, with big, infectious, knee slapping laughs who made it feel welcoming. I walked to the bar at bar at the back (having nervously sank my pint just before I went on), and there were people watching and laughing quietly. If I’d have not walked to the back, I might have thought there were only 3 nice audience members.
Tom did a very short set, sensibly deciding to only do the cleanish gold stuff whilst he had their attention. Then I did more material and brought on Jack, who had a decent gig, and brought on Dave, who coped manfully with the fact a lot of his material was pitched just a bit too much for them, as it’s filled with slow pauses and clever wordplay that may not be best suited for drunks.
I had wanted to go straight away, but the punters were happy and I had nothing special to get back to, so I stuck around. The cabaret consisted of people doing kareoke whilst pretending to play instruments. ‘The Searchers’ were ok, the ‘Johnny Cash’ was really good (he even stopped between songs to tune up his guitar, even though he was pretending to play it. WTF?), doing an accurate version of “Boy named sue”. The ‘Andy Williams’ was pretty good too. Then ‘Louis Armstrong’ got up and did his song. And he did it really well. As I was watching it, a bloke next to me commented on the fact he was blacked up by saying he’d recently seen a black bloke white up to do a version of Vanilla ice. Imagine that, a black bloke pretending to be a white bloke pretending to be a black bloke. None of the audience objected, and he got a nice reception. I made my move, went home, and watched Modern Family episodes til 3 in the morning, because I can.
I mentioned up the top Chris Brooker’s 2nd Law of Comedy. I’ll have to check with him, but I think his first one is “don’t prejudge gigs”. I had a good time, got laughs, got beer bought for me, raised money for charity. I’m currently, as a bit of self improvement, trying to not to judge people so quickly or harshly. I have no idea if the fact ‘Louis Armstrong’ raised money for charity makes up for the queasiness of him blacking up, or the fact he clearly had love for the work of the actual Louis Armstrong, or whether the fact a black bloke whiting up can be used as an excuse. I didn’t go out to gig and expect to have my morals challenged. but sometimes it’s nice to
Warning: This is stupidly long. It contains clanging namedrops of acts I’ve worked with who said nice stuff about me. It also contains a powerful fantasy about murdering Larry Dean written as fact. Oh, and the best story is at the end, so if you get bored, just skip to number six.
Before all that, I probably should explain where I’ve been. Nowhere, really. There are 4 draft ones sat here. Two rounding up weird gigs, a scholarly work on the role of resident compere, and something mocking Ben Van Der Velde’s face (which has now been published at http://asidewayslook.wordpress.com/). It’s been a lot like that recently in my comedy, as I try and move myself up the circuit. There was cartoon a few years back in Private Eye, which showed the property ladder as a big ladder with only 3 rungs all the way at the top, and no rungs near the bottom. Sometimes the comedy circuit feels like that.
My diary’s been filling itself, slowly, to the point I haven’t needed to do the big email ask around and then I looked at my diary, realised I have sod all in for the next 6 months and I do have to do the big email ask around. So, instead of sending it out blindly, I actually read it. I hadn’t changed it in about 3 years, just adding promoters I’d worked with as I worked for them. Ridiculous, really, as I was asking for gigs off some of the country’s biggest and most well respected promoters and one of my references was Mad Johnny Arseface at the Village Idiot open mic night in deepest darkest who-gives-a-toss-shire. (for any comedians reading, there’s no such gig, before you ask me who books that). Also, I realised my videos don’t represent me in the best light as I have made efforts to slow down my delivery. AND IT ONLY TOOK 5 YEARS OF YOU ALL TELLING ME. I’ve been trying since December, and since then it’s really worked, to the point where I was MCing in Plymouth (at a dry ski slope, in case you’re wondering exactly how my career’s going) as I rode the laugh on one of my jokes for ages, it felt like cheating. Because it is.
Anyway, I needed some new videos, because my style has changed enough, so I offered my servcices for no money in exhcange for them filming me doing a set at a burlesque gig, and then the gig was lousy and so I didn’t want the video until I realised I still need the video and so I did another gig at a burlesque night for no money in exchange for a video and it was, if anything, worse. The burlesque girls didn’t even take their clothes off, most of them. Stupid. Then the promoter who recorded it sent it to me on a CD which he posted with insufficient postage, so i had to drive across town to the sorting office at rush hour to pay 17p to get the video, only to find out it bizarrely pans to the ceiling every 2 minutes for no real reason and is less than useless.
I did take a video on my phone of me closing a gig in St Alban’s, with loads of great laughing and such, but the audio quality wasn’t amazing. Plus, because HTC are bellends, they had hidden the video in a stupid folder (where would you save a video to, if you had one folder called “my videos” or one called “/mnt/sdcard/DCIM/100MEDIA”? If you picked “my videos, perhaps you should be in charge of development at the world’s 4th biggest smartphone maker instead of the prick they have now), which took literally 3 days and several internet searches to find. So, essentially, what should have been a one day task snowballed into week’s worth of faffing around with video editing software and other nonsense before I sent it to a comedian who won’t book me for his gigs and he said he couldn’t hear the material properly. Yeah, but you could hear a sound you wouldn’t normally hear, mate. It’s called the audience’s laughter.
Soooo, anyway, I’ll just round up some weird gigs and that’ll have to do you.
GIG ONE: HEREFORD
I compered a new act competition at Hereford Courtyard theatre, where rather than being held in one of the many theatre-y rooms the theatre has, was held outside in a marquee. Of the 6 acts, two were on their first gig, and none had done more than 10. I met all the acts beforehand, and sorted a running order with Grant, the lovely theatre manager. Then as we were going out to the marquee, a woman approached me and Grant and said “my husband saw this and wants to enter”. Then she beckoned over a weaselly looking 40 year old bloke, who walked up and said “yeah, I want to have a go, I’ve seen it before and it looks easy”. I swallowed that, and told him he didn’t have to do the full 10 minutes, and he replied “To be honest, I’ll probably do more”.
Now, as a compere, I always try and make sure all my acts have as good a possible gig and try not to trip them up. I never want them to have a bad gig. Usually. I could see this being an exception.
Anyway, I gave the five minute warning. There was nowhere to change into my stage T-shirt (ever the professional) and so I snuck behind the marquee which looked out onto an empty carpark, whipped off my top and and got given a dirty look by a man who had just walked out of the theatre, holding a large sign. He looked a lot like Boycie from Only Fools and Horses. The sign he was holding had printed on it a picture of Boycie from Only Fools and Horses. It was Boycie from Only Fools and Horses. He’d been doing a show in the theatre, and had come out to see me half naked behind a bush (which now I think of it, could have looked to him like I was fully naked). He gave me a dirty look and drove off. I wasn’t able to think quickly enough to yell after him that “The Green Green Grass” was crap.
I started the show with my opening joke. It is a good joke. I was given a large groan from a woman on a table in the marquee. I did my second through 5th joke and she groaned loudly at everyone. It was then I realised that that was the judges table, and I was being put off by a local radio DJ. Anyway, I brought on the first act, who had never gigged before but had a smashing time, possibly helped by the fact he was local and worked at the theatre. I also found out from Grant that the woman groaning at me was Wincey Willis, original TV-AM weather girl, and local Hereford celebrity. This did not make me feel better when she booed my next joke. And then denied it when I called her up on it.
As the evening trundled on, we got through the acts and Wincey Willis drank herself into a state where she behaved, we reached the bloke who fancied a go, who was last. He managed about two minutes when he reached into his pocket for a cue card. Not the worst problem for a comedian, I myself used to make a note on the back of my hand. But then he proceeded to read off the cards. At one point, he complained that he should have gone on earlier in the evening so he had enough light to read his cards by. I picked one of the stage afterwards, and kept it in my coat pocket for a month to amuse myself eveytime I randomly came across it.
It reads “making love now I swear at her and she moans ‘ventriloquist’ ”
I assume they are seperate jokes and he can’t punctuate, as that would be a very strange thing to yell out.
Just before I wrapped up and awarded the prize, I asked a guy in a checked shirt to start the drumroll. He looked around. “You” I said, pointing at him. He looked around. “You in the Brokeback Mountain shirt” I rather hackly added. That got a huge laugh, much more than it deserved, but mostly from the venue and bar staff. I found out later from Grant, that Grant is a gay and likes turning straight men, of whom the guy in the checked shirt happened to be, and he worked at the theatre and and everyone there knew Grant had done some gaying with him.
Anyway, Grant took me and Tom Deacon (who was doing a solo show elsewhere in the theatre) out to the bright lights of Hereford, with his ridiculously attractive female friend, who I think was a little bit confused and put out that me and Tom weren’t trying to hit on her. We’re comedians because we’re socially awkward people who can’t cope in society, petal, it’s why we do what we do.
GIG 2: NUNEATON
I did a gig in April, which was early in the evening. I found out as I got there that it had been part of the pub’s family fun day and that they had been in there drinking all day for the Grand National. There was only me and Colin Harris on the bill, and he spent his 20 minutes doing battle with a series of hit-and-run heckles and people wilfully giving him no help at all when he asked simple questions. I thought I’d die on my arse but I went up with loads of confidence, and got them onside early and they were suprisingly lovely, and I was able to take the piss out of some of them for lying to Colin. Anyway, afterwards, the DJ for the post gig disco (which would have been about half past 6 in the afternoon) got chatting to us outside, and said that he’d always fancied attemping stand up. Me and Colin said he should give it a go. Then he said “I’d have got them roaring, cos I’ve have done stuff about black people and how they are so smelly”. I’d already been paid and had my free beer and been fed by that point, so I just got in my car and went home, leaving him dangling mid racist sentence.
GIG 3: SOMEWHERE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE
I forget exactly how and why, but after a gig I gatecrashed a teaching union’s weekend conference at a country hotel and ended up sleeping on someone’s floor. Especially strange as the gig wasn’t in the hotel, and I’m pretty sure it might not have been in the same county.
GIG FOUR: ELGIN
I did a gig in Elgin which is in the toppermost part of scotland, and easily a 16 hour round trip. I broke it up by staying in Edinburgh with a mate on the way there and the way back. I got a message on the day asking if I would give a lift to Tom Stade, one of my comedy heroes. I of course said yes. I picked him up, and within 5 minutes he had sparked up a joint and bellowed “I Loooooooove weed!” out my window at passerbys. So I had 4 hours in the car with me, Tom and my friend where he would ask me to tell me my jokes and he would workshop them. Absolutely awesome to see how his mind worked up new stuff and to listen to his stories. We stopped at a service station, and within 2 minutes, he had pissed off a coachload of Everton footballers who were also in the petrol station, pretended to be a confused tourist so he could subtly mock them (“are you guys the youth team? No? So you’re the B-team?”), then instantly whipped it up into a story, then rang 4 of his mates to workshop it into a proper routine.
The gig was properly lovely, and Tom Stade complimented my act loads and asked why I didn’t have an agent when I was clearly good enough to require one (No. he actually did).
As we were leaving, I said goodbye to Larry Dean who had been MCing. then I went back to have a pee, and said goodbye again. Then Tom had left stuff, so we went back in again, and I said goodbye to Larry again. Then we walked out to the carpark and got in our respective cars at the same time, so I said goodbye again. Then we went to Tesco for supplies for the journey home, and then I met Larry Dean again, so said goodbye again. Then I stopped for petrol, and who should turn up but Larry Dean. I was getting sick of him by then, so I took a shovel from my boot and stoved in his face on the forecourt. I dumped the body in the Cairngorns somewhere. I was going to burn it, but petrol was £1:40 a litre, so we just let the crows have him. (Being an unburnt corpse above the wall, it’s entirely possible he’s become a white walker). It was all caught on CCTV, but no one’s been in touch from the police or his family, so I can only assume it was a victimless crime.
GIG 4: KENDALL CALLING
Ages ago, someone offered out gigs in the comedy tent at Kendall Calling, a festival in the Lake District, with payment of free tickets to the rest of the festival. When I saw that a bunch of my comedy mates, including Rich Wall, Lain Johnson, Ruth Cockburn, Tony Basnett, Jay Hampson, Rich Massara, and Danny Sutcliffe were on, I jumped at the chance. If nothing else, it would be fun to spend the weekend getting drunk in a field with that bunch of reprobates. I drove up on the friday afternoon, taking Jamie Kilday in exchange for a mix CD for my car (which he made but didn’t work) and petrol money (which he forgot, or possibly even “forgot”, to give me). We got there at 2, set up our tents in the artist’s field, and then proceeded to get quietly drunk whilst wandering around the various fields. We were all on at 6, so we had a potter around, drank a few beers, and got ourselves aquainted with the lie of the land. Alan Anderson turned up, dressed in a kilt, to do an hour long show about whisky that involved whisky tasting, and found that his audience was mostly under 9s as Kendall Calling is a family friendly festival. So he abondoned the whisky element and compered them for half an hour by just being daft. As he was on his way out, he realised he’d left 9 bottles, each with about a half pint of really expensive single malt whisky in, but he gets them free from the distilleries, so he told me to have them and share them with the other acts. I didn’t need telling twice. The rest of the weekend passed in a bit of blur. A woman heckled me with “Err can I just say…” and then didn’t say anything. For some reason (ie: alcohol) I told her to shut up, as it was “my time to shine”. Jamie Kilday asked why I’d addressed her, and not the fact the soundman was crawling along the stage fiddling with the amps. I don’t think I saw him.
Other things that happened
- Danny Sutcliffe kept threatening a group of lads dressed as Bananas in Pyjamas.
- Tony basnett started drinking at 10:30 am.
- We got told off by the people at the Jagermeister bus for banging on the door to get served before noon.
- Whilst dancing outside at an all night bar, we dragged a metal chair from somewhere into the middle of of group and started running up it to try and get it to topple over in a smooth movement, like in musicals. which worked for a bit, but then it stuck in the mud, and got metal fatigue and started coming to pieces. Which is when Danny started kicking it to bits in a crowded area. So I moved him out of the way, picked up the chair and lobbed it out of his way. Which kinda suprised the people I’d not seen, who were going for a late night stroll when a chair descended from the sky and smashed to pieces in front of them.
- Colin Manford doing half an hour sober, then getting battered and coming back with no material. For some reason, he took off his shirt, wore Basnett’s girlfriend’s cardigan, then proceeded to be really bizarre
“Give us a cheer if… (stares into middle distance for a minute whilst wobbling slightly) … just gve us a cheer”.
At one point, he got another comedian, Freddy Quinne, onstage and then got 3 girls out of the audience (which was now dwindling heavily as he babbled on) to play “Blind Date”. But the premise of blind date is that they can’t see the contestant, but have to ask questions. Instead, Colin flat out asked if any one of them would shag freddie for a tenner. They all refused. Apparently, he did it the next night, reduced the shagging to a kiss, and one girl said she would do it. Which is when Colin realised he didn’t have a tenner, so had a whip round the tent, and counted out the money onstage and had a strop when they only raised £8:60.
- Stumbling across Chris Brooker and dunkenly clambering on him like a climbing frame and then Basnett climbing both of us.
Danny: I’m going to bed
All of us: No you’re not
Danny: I am. I don’t care if you make loads of noise, or try and shake the tent. I’ll sleep through
Me: Can you sleep in a burning tent?
- Basnett getting the audience to bottle him off, and them enthusiastically responding with quite a few full cans., and some people taking a run up to launch them at him.
- Me trying to follow that.
- Basnett’s girlfriend doing that thing where you blow raspberries on people’s stomachs. Then she tried to do it to a geordie girl, except she was wearing a dress and so therefore couldn’t get to her stomach, so she did it to this girl’s cleavage, which I heard the loveliest sound of all, a geordie girl crying out in shock “Ahh, she’s mooooaator-boooated us”
- sharing with everyone my nickname for Basnett: Spaznett.
GIG FIVE: ALL DAY FEST, WOLVERHAMPTON
I got into bed in my tent that night at 4am. I woke up at 7, packed down my tent, and drove back home to Wolverhampton, where I fell asleep for an hour and had a horribly vivid nightmare about walking round a post apocalypse Nottingham, whilst German tourists tweaked my genitals. I’ve never been more glad of an alarm. I then went over to The Stile, where I run a monthly gig, and had foolishly decided to run an all day gig full of hour long shows. Because the best thing to do whilst hungover, shattered and losing your voice is to run a ten hour gig. Nobody turned up for the first show, so me and Jon Robins played darts. Then the next act turned up, and there were kids in the audience. I politely asked them to leave. Their mum said they were fine, and they heard worse at home. I told the act this. He said his show was look into his fetish for being dominated by fat girls and it definitely wasn’t suitable for kids. I said this to the mum, she said it was fine, which is when the act, who suffers from anxiety, had the beginnings of a panic attack and refused to go on. So we took 5 minutes, calmed him down, and John did 15 minutes of compering and the act did his club 20, which was fine. It also included a lovely bit of bitchiness, when he was trying to plug the next show, he got distracted and ended up talking about another act from the circuit onstage.
“horrible dead eyes he’s got, like a shark. If he’s not done a murder, I guarantee he’s been there when one happened”.
The other acts, Tiff Stevenson, Sally Anne Hayward, and Caimh McDonnell were all great, especially Caimh who was exceptional. And Mickey Sharma stepped in at the last minute. Literally the last minute, I’d got my timings wrong and he told him he needed to be there an hour after I actually needed him. I rang him up and said “get there as soon as you can”, and he did, turning up and previewing his half written 2013 edinburgh show “20 minutes of ethnic stereotypes, 25 minutes of silly noises” (my suggested title), which was rapturously recieved. I realised at that point I hadn’t eaten all day, I’d had about 4 hours sleep in the last 48, I was surviving on adrenaline and caffeine and I was in danger of hallucinating and that I really needed bed. Which is when I remembered I’d recieved an invite to the afterparty of a poledancing competition. So I went to that instead. Seriously. It happened. The only thing I can think to prove I went to a poledancer’s afterparty was the fact it was in Wolverhampton, and the woman who ran it served curry and chips for the girls who’d performed. That’s the kind of detail I don’t have the imagination to make up.
GIG SIX: THE WEIRD ONE
And finally, weirdest of them all. This gig. I won’t say when or where it was, or who it was for, because of the sensitive nature of it.
I’d been offered a gig by a friend who used to run gigs about 3 years ago, who I’d kept in touch with. He asked if I could find another act and do a suited and booted gig for a group in a village hall. It all seemed relatively normal.
The weirdness started earlier on the day when the promoter’s mum sent me a text to say he was in hospital. I rang her and asked if the gig was going ahead and to see if he was alright, and she gave me the venue phone number (who didn’t respond), and what was wrong. She said ‘he’s tried to do too much, worn himself out and hasn’t been taking his medicine properly” which I assumed was a physical ailment. I thought the gig was cancelled, but he rings me a couple of hours before show time, says it’s still on.
I drove two hours over to this town, taking as support act the excellent comedian Tom Allsopp in the car with me. The promoter asks us to pick him up from a postcode. We say fine. It turns out to be a building on the hospital grounds called “the Ian Wilson building” or whatever. We park up outside, and he saunters towards the car, gets in, and we’re off to the gig.
It was about 5 minutes later, and he’s babbling away at this and that, when he was mentions he was reading Chekov in the garden and the amount of Diazepam he was on making the book dance, and that’s when the penny dropped, and I realised this wasn’t a normal ill man. This was a very severely mentally ill man we had apparently just jailbroken from a psychiatric ward, and we were his getaway drivers. (And that a severely mentally ill man was better read than me). I caught the eye of Allsopp to get a reassuring look. Which considering Tom’s eye was covered in purple glittery eyeliner, and his pupils wide with fear, wasn’t that reassuring.
We got to this little village hall to do the gig, which had been cancelled due to the promoter’s hospitalisation, but the committee rushed around and tried to make it a gig.
Everyone was sat outside a village hall in the last of the sunshine, so the decision was made to do it there. Not by me, I might add. I didn’t want to do the gig at all, but when this mentally ill guy’s stood there talking at a group of people around picnic tables with a penny whistle promising comedy, you might have to provide it.
So, we stood in a doorway, under the security lights, right next to the bins, whilst a load of middle aged and old people stared at us. Just trying to do our time in the vague hope we’d get paid enough to get our petrol money for the journey home. Every so often the promoter would chip in with unintelligible heckles. Later I found out he’d told them it was clean comedy and we’d been swearing, and he was trying to tell us not to. By this point he was so altered (not helped by the fact he was going round minesweeping the bits of beer people had left in the bottom of their glasses), and they’d already refunded most people their money, so instead of paying us the full amount that he promised, they passed a bucket round and we got just over 30% of our agreed fee. I didn’t feel like quibbling, I just wanted to get the hell out of there.
I texted his mum, asking if she wanted him at hers or at the hospital, and she was frantic, because he wasn’t supposed to be out. There had been a fight on the psychiatric ward, 3 patients had escaped during the melee, and he was one of them. They’d caught the other two, but there were police sweeping the area for the last 4 hours.
So we started driving him back to the hospital, but I was having problems with my sat nav and couldn’t just ask the other act to google the hospital in case it freaked out the promoter and he tried to bolt. So we drove round the outskirts of the town for a bit whilst sure that we were having the police looking for us, all the while he was babbling on, asking us if we knew people off the ward, and recommending pubs he could run gigs in that we could be rebooked for in future.
Eventually, we found the hospital, and the secure ward, rang the bell, and a woman with wild white hair stuck her head out of a a crack in the windowframe and asked us what we were doing. We didn’t want to say “we’ve got this guy and he’s escaped” in case he realised, and tried to make a break for it. And we weren’t sure if she was another mental patient. So we rang the bell again and she yelled at us a bunch. I’m still not sure.
Anyway, he went inside and then I realised he was wearing my jacket, but I was too exhausted to try and fight it, so I just let him have it.
A few days later, I wrote about this on an american comedy website and a bloke offered to animate it and turn it into a 3 minute cartoon. Which if it happens is well cool.
In CONCLUSION: I am available for non mental gigs to nice people. I promise not to get drunk.