Paul Savage

Comedian, host, cartoonist, astronaut, occasional liar

Archive Aug 2011: Weird gig Roundup

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Warning: this Blog contains a word some people may find offensive. I have tried to only use it in context, but it’s there none the less. I do not condone the use of the word, I am just recording it as it was used. That word is “retard”. I would never, ever call anyone it, not even Mark Cram.

I do lots of weird gigs. I am a magnet for them. There is nothing in my act that inspires it (not like, say, Trevor Lock, who deliberately puts more and more out to the audience and then improvises around it. He clearly enjoys making gigs weird, and is very good at it), it’s just that I seem to attract it, in the same way that some people attract the mentally ill on public transport (I also have that). For instance, I have done gigs at Biker rallies, europe’s largest paintball game, the special olympics, in a florist’s and…

 

6: The stile.

The stile is my regular gig in Wolverhampton. I love it. The landlords Vil (short for Village idiot. No, really, even though he’s a smart cookie) and Jo make sure the room is set up and the tickets sold and I don’t have to do anything. We get the regulars, including resident hecklers and gobshites.

Jo sent me a text on the morning saying that for the first time they had completely sold out, even the standing room, and they were looking forward to it. Normally, that would make me happy, but I had all the acts booked for the week later. Cue hours of frantic emailling and negotiations and I was able to cobble a lineup together, including Sally Anne Hayward who was previewing over at the Lighthouse (Wolverhampton’s arthouse cinema) as headliner.

I was sat in the pool room, flipping through my pad of ideas for inspiration (wondering if there ever was a routine behind the blearily scrawled “aroused by bustles” in my pad) when Chris Norton Walker rocked up. After a brief chat, he started doing the polite thing and being all hail-fellow-well-met to the other people in the green room, asking them who they were, if they’d come far to play, how long they had been going, if they’d played here before, etc. In the end I put him out of his misery and informed him that they weren’t comics in a green room as he’d thought, but normal people playing pool.

Anonymous the Poet opened, which was a slight risk as he suffered a debilitating brain injury in a car crash (needless to say, i am not making this up) and since then has been slightly prone to being a bit spaced out. Ok, a bit more spaced out. But he did a cracking job.

After a break, i brought on Chris Norton Walker. Chris was most of the way through his set and was doing really well, had all the crowd onside, laughing at his jokes, and his audience interaction was going nice enough. Then he told a joke with the phrase Asperger’s Syndrome in it. (I hate printing other people’s jokes, but for clarification, as it all kicked off on another part of the internet about this. “I went to the doctor because I had trouble dealing with people in social situations, and I didn’t have many friends. I thought I may have Asperger’s Syndrome. It turns out, I’m just a prick”)

A woman, very vocally started to have an argument with him (her grandson has Asperger’s, and she got offended). Chris could have used either his size or his deadpan manner or comic authority to shoot her down nastily. Instead, he carefully explained where the joke came from, that he wasn’t insulting Asperger’s sufferers, that the only victim of the joke was himself. The woman wouldn’t shut up, and it all got tense.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had walked then and there. But he composed himself, and delivered his last few jokes with a composure and professionalism that had the entire room on his side. The woman then started noisily getting up and trying to get her friends to walk out. It’s quite difficult to deal with this as promoter (wanting to get the person out without causing a scene) and as an MC (wanting to reset the room and get the other middle act on). I managed to handle it ok, but it was still proper tense and the woman kept popping her head back in.

Luckily, there was a break and that allowed me the time to find out that 95% of the punters were onside. One woman was so impressed by Chris that she told him that he wasn’t allowed to skulk off back to London until she’d bought him a drink to say well done.  and Sally Anne, once I briefed her of the weirdness that happened, went up and smashed it.

It was so weird, that a month later Ric Wharton came, the mic stopped working, he did his set (mostly about fingers up arses) acapella and the girl I’d chosen to cheerlead was so impressed she tried to sexually assault him in the break and that almost counted as normal.

5: The Gryphon, Bristol

First, some background: Ages back, I did a gig in Bristol for a promoter. It was on a boat. The boat was a music venue. We were on in the bar. In the first half, the acts couldn’t be heard over the sound of the bass coming from the music gig below ( considering the opening act’s opening joke was a middle aged man spitting fruitsalad into a seethrough carrier bag as a seasickness joke, it was perhaps for the best). The band downstairs were Mumford and Sons, right before they hit it big. The show was sold out for them. We had about 8 people in. Then, when Mumford finished the first half, they all came up to the bar, and ordered drinks loudly and talked over us. Fair enough. It shouldn’t have been on there in the first place. It was then that Pete Smith was forced to take to the stage and die a horrible excruiating death by indifference. And then I had to threaten the promoter with bodily violence and frogmarch him to a cash machine in order to get paid. Me and Pete now refer to it as “the Bristol incident” and only ever then by saying “never mention the Bristol incident!”

Anyway, this promoter asked me to do a gig and against my better judgment I agreed. He offered me the chance to bring another act and so I roped in Rob Halden. That gig was cancelled, and it was with a huge sigh of relief that i crossed it from my diary.

Rob had told a bunch of Bristol people he was doing a gig in Bristol, and then not doing a gig in Bristol. One of those people was John, who runs a pub and whose girlfriend had started doing comedy. John decided to setup a gig where Rob could come down, his girlfriend could do a gig, and so on. Rob, in a nice reversal, roped me in. We headed down early, because when an old friend owns a pub in a lovely part of the world and has offered to put you up for the night and is paying you to talk about yourself, you might as well make a day of it.

The Gryphon is a freshly refurbished pub. It used to be a gay bar. It is now a metal pub. I like rock. My tolerance for metal is low. I keep waiting for someone to go “ROARAGHOARRGRGHRGR- *cough*- fly me to the moon…” but they never do.

Me and Rob spent about 4 hours in the pub sampling their range of real ales, then nipped round the corner to another pub for some food, as the Gryphon had only just got a chef, but they weren’t doing food yet. We got back a bit before showtime and the room was about 3 quarters full. The compere, who I won’t name, did one minute in front of the opening act, Taylor Glenn, an american woman who i’d not met before but who is an accomplished and very funny act who took a bullet and a half opening. Specifically there were 3 dickheads in who wouldn’t shut up, and it took all of Taylor’s skill and nous to be able to get through it. One of the hecklers (from the 3 who wouldn’t shut up) was a well dressed asian bloke who reminded me awfully of a salesman I used to work with who stole a sale off me and cost me £200 worth of commision. Except this guy was horribly drunk and kept calling everyone a racist. I was especially looking forward to getting up there and slapping him down.

The hecklers kept interrupting proceedings, including a bit where one of them went and got jagerbombs for the other two and noisily assmebled them during Jo Cooksley’s set. Me and Rob suggested to John the landlord that he kick them out. Apparently he couldn’t kick one of them out, as he was the pub’s chef, and it was his first day of work.

In what can only have been an attempt to make a weird gig weirder, John the landlord took over MC proceedings after the break and introduced his girlfriend, who had been the MC, to do her set. Highlights included her claiming not to have a Bristol accent in the most Bristol accent I’ve ever heard. John brought on Rob, who had a good gig of it. I snuck down to use the toilet midway through  Rob’s set and as I pushed open the door to the unlocked cubicle, I stumbled onto the figure of the drunk Asian bloke with his pants around his ankles, who snarled at me that I was a racist, and then fell off the toilet.

The compere had asked me if I wanted introducing in a certain way. I said. no, nothing special, she took that as do 15 minutes of material, and some cheering games, and then ask the audience to shush and brought me on to nothing.

I was quite annoyed by this, but I managed to turn it into the righteous ranty annoyed that is quite funny. Told the audience about the drunk calling me a racist. By that time they were all heckled out or they didn’t want to tangle with the shouty sweaty man who had been drinking all day and so they shut up and laughed at the appropriate points. I ended, unusually, by telling everyone to buy me a beer, and then fled downstairs. Was very suprised when someone actually did (people don’t generally do what I tell them to). Another bloke offered to get me a beer, I said I had one, and so he got me a jagerbomb. We stayed up til 4 in the morning drinking and generally being rock and roll, which was fun, as usually comedy is more about being slightly dull. I found the next morning (when the builders next door started using pneumatic drills at 8am) that i had updated my facebook from my phone at 3.30 with “lock-ins are ace” and thankfully not with any of the details of the horribly misogynistic conversation that always seems to sprout when Rob and I are in each others company.

Five:

I was up at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, performing a show with Pete Smith and aron Twitchen, and sharing a flat with Pete. We had fallen into an odd couple-esque homelife entirely based on eating crunchy nut cornflakes, stealing other people’s wireless internet and telling each other to fuck off. It was really nice.

I was out with Pete smith, last year’s showmate Andrew “McSquirter” McWhirter, and  “comedy’s irritating schoolboy” Alex Bennett. We had just watched The Horne Section, then we went drinking in the Underbelly bar. Then we repaired to a dance floor, where i tried to enliven the humourless prick Bennett through the medium of interpretive dance, where what i was interpreting was “i am quite sexy, ladies”. During what can only have been the first 15 seconds, my feet hit a slick of spilt beer or something and i slipped up, landed painfully on my ankle. The humourless prick Alex Bennett decided this was absolutely hilarious. I decided i didn’t like that and threw half a pint of beer in his crotch. He decided he didn’t like that and threw a full pint of beer at my crotch. Alex told his flatmate Rob Callaghan that it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen at Edinburgh. Twice. Rob claims it was the last thing he said before bed and the first thing he said when he got up. I should stop trying to write things and just go full slapstick.

It turned out the next morning, thanks to a visit to A and E, that I had sprained my ankle and quite possibly broken it (there was a small hairlike fracture on the xray, but they couldn’t be sure) so i had to spend 3 days with my foot elevated. Considering our flat was up 3 flights of stairs, I became alarmingly housebound. Pete Smith often went out in the morning for the full day and so i had to eat crunchy nut cornflakes and steal our neighbour’s wireless internet on my own, and tell myself to fuck off. There is something depressing about being at the world’s largest arts festival and watching repeats of “would I lie to you?”

On the third day of being housebound, the swelling had gone down enough that I felt it worth risking the trip into town to perform. By the time I reached the bottom of the stairs, My shirt was soaked through with sweat and my leg was in agony. The only reason I carried on into town was because going back up the stairs seemed too much like hard work.

I crutched my way into Edinburgh city centre. Usually it was a peaceful 25 minute stroll. That day, as I sweated my way into town, it took an hour and a half. I stopped twice on the way and was literally soaked with sweat. Crutches work best on flat, even surfaces where they can get a good purchase to launch from. They don’t work that well on cobbles, really slick surfaces, in the pouring rain, or on hills. Edinburgh is nothing but that.

I changed my Tshirt, did about 5 mins of flyering before Pete and Aaron made me stop, and went inside. Aaron had been compereing most of the gigs, but it was decided it may be easiest for me to do that. We gathered in our audience, served them with tea and biscuits (because naming the show “the free tea and Biscuit hour” was not just false advertising), Pete did the soundcheck and welcomed me onto the stage. I crutched up from the back, to audible gasps and shock, people in the audience thinking that it might be a stupid trick. I explained that it wasn’t, and sat on a stool, and told the story of how I knackered my ankle (see above) and that when I was in the hospital, standing at the reception, the nurses diagnosed me as being “a bit peely-wally” which a) I didn’t know meant pale and sickly and b) isn’t a fucking medical diagnosis.

As I welcomed Pete to the stage I realised he’d moved my crutches, and as I was struggling for them, he pulled the backdrop around me, and I sat on stage for all the acts, and they unveiled me like a painting in an attic.

4: Great Yarmouth

I got this gig on the day from Mirth control. They had a dropout for MC and I offered my services and was accepted gratefully. Mirth Control run some lovely gigs, and they also run some, shall we say, “challenging” gigs. I drove from my home in Wolverhampton and was able to witness first hand friday rush hour traffic. Fun. I got stuck in that perennial standby of Radio 2 traffic reports, the Catthorpe Interchange. Whoever decided moving two major motorway’s traffic through two piddly little roundabouts deserves repeated swift kicks to the cock. While we’re on the subject of roads: East Anglia. Why not build a frigging motorway, eh? Come,  join us in the mid 20th century. You can put it on all that nothing you’re so proud of. In fact: build one in, and two out, so people can return to actual society quicker.

Anyway, Great Yarmouth is like every single British seaside town. It has guesthouses, arcades, a miasma of depression and an undercurrent of barely concealed violence. The pier was playing host to such comedy legends as the Chuckle Brothers, Jim Davidson and Jimmy Carr. The venue was a club right on the main drag. It was bizarre, like the drawing room of a gentleman’s club (the playing whist and discussing Kierkegaard type gentleman’s club, not the ones you mucky sort you lot were thinking of) crossed with one of those houses in council estates that get covered in christmas lights. I met Dan Thomas, who was opening, and he described it as “like an aging vegas hooker’s boudoir”.

I also met the woman who was running the night and the MC, who i was suprised to meet as I thought I was MC. The possibility that I had driven an 8 hour round trip for nothing gaped in front of me. They said that Mirth had screwed up and that I could go on in the middle and still get paid the full amount, which was a relief. I got chatting to Dan and his lovely wife Violet about stuff (specifically, they’d booked a hotel and decided to make a weekend of it, in Yarmouth, in May, and then realised they may have done everything within the first 10 mins. I recommended they get out of Yarmouth and see the Broads).

The gig still an hour away, the club had a few people doing karaoke. Dan and I discussed comedy and such whilst Violet criticised the people doing karaoke in an amusing manner. The room got about 15 people in down the front, plus another 4 middle aged people at the back. The MC did about 3 minutes, then seized up, and with no clapping or cheering, brought on Dan. This was, I discovered, because he had taken some powerful drugs before going on stage and had “come up” at the wrong time. The drugs were, before you start wondering, powerful prescription drugs as he had an old war wound from the falklands, which he told me about in extravagant detail.

“They shot a big load of shrapnel through my spine. You want to see?” he asked. I politely declined.

Meanwhile, back at the gig: Dan, going on to a cold room, was not enjoying himself. When he described the room as like the inside of a vegas brothel one of the middle-aged women turned to her group and said “He’s right. remember that vegas brothel we went to?”. The mind boggles.

With the MC out of action (he went to sleep it off in his van) I stepped in as Dan wrapped up, and called a break. The headliner was on his way from Jongleurs Norwich and was unsure if he was going to make it on schedule. The middle section was made up of Kelly Kingham, a dapper middle aged man up from London and a professional wrestler aged about 21 who was doing his second ever gig. As I was about to go on to start the middle section, the MC decided he was alright to do it and then decided he wasn’t. I can’t remember what material I did but there were some people enjoying it. I brought Kelly on, and he made a very good fist of it. The wrestler came on, bragged about his belt and made various threatening references to his wife and child. I’d have been happier if a) these had any jokes in them b) i’d not read the wikipedia page of Chris Benoit recently.

The headliner turned up, went through the motions and plucked a decent set from his autopilot. I wrapped up, bought fish and chips and started the long drive home. Which was much longer due to my satnav being a bellend and taking me home via the country roads of 6 counties. I reckon it added an extra hour and a half and cost £20 more in petrol than the journey there. I arrived home at 3.43 in the morning, almost hallucinogenic with tiredness.

3: An arts festival, Winsford, in Cheshire

As I was eating my hard-earned fish and chips in Great Yarmouth, i turned my phone back on and found a voicemail from Sean Mason, who had offered a gig the day after. I had applied on the off chance, and Sean hooked me up with it, which was great. I was given the number of the organiser and the postcode to the venue. I pootled up there saturday afternoon and was there far too early. The pub was shut, but seemed more of a nightclub anyway. Sean had been vague about the timings. I repaired to the pub next door where I sat on the verandah, overlooking the river burbling lazily away, and sipped a coke as i read my copy of Private Eye, pausing every 20 minutes to ring the promoter, who wasn’t answering. I managed an hour of this rather blissful state before the pre gig nerves kicked in. I don’t usually get nerves but then I usually know when, where and who I’m gigging for. It all seemed a bit weird.

I asked the barmaid when the nightclub opened. She said 8. 20 minutes later, I asked her if she knew the promoter (I think his name was Damien). She told me he was running many things that day at a place down the road, and suggested I go find him. As I wandered down there, I found that I was walking into an open air festival. There was a large area where a blues band were playing. But, I thought, they’ll play there until it gets dark and then it’ll be comedy in the pub, and I’ll meet the other comics. There was live music in the pub when I arrived. That’ll be it. I daren’t let myself think of the possibility of the fact that I may be doing a gig outdoors on the big stage.

Damien was found for me by one of the bouncers. Happily, i wasn’t playing the big stage outdoors. Unhappily, I was playing a much smaller outdoor stage. One the edge of a lake at a nature reserve, one currently covered in children. I was to be the only act. I rapidly adjusted my expectations downwards, and then downwards again.

The cause of a large chunk of new, and permanent, white hair growth

Damien then wandered off to sort other things out and I was left frantically battling the inclination to turn tail and run. It is very hard, in this day and age, as a strange man on his own, to sit in a field full of children without parents getting suspicious. Especially whilst looking nervous, sweaty, and apprehensive. Last thing I needed before this potential car crash was being beaten for being a nonce.

The little stage was currently being used for a performance of A Midsummer Nights Dream. I tried to read my magazine but couldn’t focus on the words. The play ended, the area went quieter, and the sun started to cool. Damien went around getting me an audience. There were an awful lot of children there. There were also a lot of adults who’d spent the day drinking outside, and could be trouble.

Damien brought me on, and I bailed on the Stoke joke early (it requires both deadpan and repetition, and was therefore too risky) after a few bits of material, I said to the audience I’d just be doing my clean stuff as there were too many kids there. They agreed and the gig got off to an OK start, helped by the fact that the little stage was in a clearing and it became quite intimate. I lucked into the first man I spoke to from stage being a youth worker which helped usher in some more material and it was flowing along ok. One by one, the under 10’s started to wander off and at 15 minutes in, I asked the adults if they were ok with me turning to filth as there were still kids dotted here and there. They said yes, and I warned them again. One man said they’d “hear worse at school”. I still didn’t feel entirely comfortable, especially during my sign language stuff where I inadvertently taught a 6 year old the wanker symbol (and that was my cleaner version of that routine!)  but the audience went with it, especially helped by a front row of laughers, including one 16 year old boy who was actually rolling on the floor laughing, something I had assumed only happened on the internet. Perhaps I have been too quick to write off what people say on the internet as lies. Maybe cats do speak about cheeseburgers.

In the end, it turned into a gorgeous gig. the sun was setting, the crowd enjoyed it, I did 25 minutes, got paid and was home before 9:30. There is probably a lesson about prejudging gigs in there somewhere. However, i refuse to learn it.


I spent today inking the comic book I drew on the train up to edinburgh. Sadly it’s too wordy and my phone too fiddly for me to put up a clear picture, it’ll have to wait til I’m back near a scanner. I also spent a large amount of time trying to ring the hospital and find out if I needed to go into the fracture clinic as they said they’d ring me monday. 6 phone calls later, a woman condescendingly told me that if they wanted to see me for fracture clinic, they’d have called me, but they didn’t, so they hadn’t. I tried to explain to her that they never set a time to ring me on monday and that to be honest it was slightly inconvenient to not know if my leg was broken, but she blithely carried on regardless.

The flat is strewn with rubbish and clothes (unless our lovely landlady is reading this, then it isn’t. It’s clean and tidy and we’re using scented candles and washing up as we go and everything) and all of the stuff i need is placed within arms reach from the position on the sofa should I need to grab it whilst lying down. Mind you, this was how it was before I did my foot in. It’s much better today, by the way.

So, today, in apology for his lamentable behaviour (see previous blog) misanthropic teenager Alex Bennett popped round to see me in my sick bed. Me and Alex and Pete sat and drew comics and said some truly appalling things about each other, in a way that only good friends can. Alex is doing character comedy at the festival, with 3 characters and his own stand up in his show. At one point I said to him “What’s the name of that character you do that no one likes and that doesn’t have any jokes? You know, Alex Bennett”. He had the decency to look hurt.

So, these final Weird gigs.

Weird Gig 2: Telford, for Roger swift.

Roger Swift is on a one man mission to bring comedy to the people of Telford. He has run, in the face of some overwhelming apathy from the general public and some quite ludicrously twatty management decisions from various pub owners, some very nice gigs. The first night of the Talbot, the crown and the red lion gigs he ran were all joys for me to MC. Roger decided that as I had MC’ed the first of all his other gigs, I should MC this one too, at the Bacchus in Wellington, as I am some sort of good luck charm. Telford is actually six or so seperate little towns, there being no central point, so lots of little gigs could suit the area.

The Bacchus seemed to be a nice enough pub. Two of the acts, Steven Dodd and Jack Kirwan, were there having a chat whilst Roger was soundchecking. An hour before the start there were a few scattered punters in the main room of the pub. There was no stage, but there were lights, a mic, and a backdrop and the toilets weren’t immediately behind where we were performing. Small mercies.

I kicked off and got off to an awful start when a pub regular, with clear learning difficulties, but who was also pissed, kept trying to join in. He may have had echolalia (a word I’m using to a. prove I know long words and b. trying to increase random occurrences on my search engine stats), a condition where you repeat what other people say. This was quite annoying for me. I brought on Steven Dodd who had a pretty good gig with the punters, being as he is mostly a one liner comic. Not all are gold, but the hits outnumber the misses and it’s hard to believe he’s only been going 3 months. I forget the second act’s name, but he did some nice stuff about air fresheners.

I was struggling in between. my attempts to talk to people were getting nothing. Sample exchange

me: what’s your name?

woman: I ain’t telling you that.

Just like me on the pull, then, except that it’s kind of the MC’s job to do audience banter. I decided to slip into material. The bloke on the front table (who appeared to be some sort of biker) decided to cut me off every time i finished a set up line and started a punchline.

A while back, Gary Delaney told me that he had started writing 10 heckle putdowns in order of severity from one to 10, so he was armed for every occasion where the perfect phrase wouldn’t come to him from the ether (knowing Gary, I find it hard to believe he needs to do such a thing, but that is why he is a master of his craft, a writer for the best comics on TV and one of the most respected men on the circuit, and why I am doing free entry gigs in Telford to the mentally ill). I tried to copy this, and have a 4, 8 and 10. I have not yet been brave enough to try 8 out as it’s a touch wordy for being so mean and 10 is nuclear emergencies only.

As the evening progressed, more and more people came in to use the pub. I stood at the bar to get a drink during Freddie Farrell’s set and couldn’t hear a word because of the acoustics. The table of emo looking kids behind me couldn’t hear either and so carried on with their conversations, but we could hear them on stage.

It was at this point I threw all dignity to the wind and started pulling hack compere lines out of the bag in an attempt to stamp my authority on the gig. The material wasn’t working, The mentally ill man came up on stage and asked me, repeatedly, if I knew the gasworks, and it was all falling to pieces. I no longer cared what the audience thought of me, but wanted it to be the best for the remaining acts.

Hack Compere lines, for the uninitiated, are lines that you didn’t come up with. Whilst it is bad form to ever do someone else’s material, it’s common amongst comedians that there are some public domain lines that, if you’re in a pickle, can be used. Most comedians will agree that it’s best to never do them in anything other than tight spots and not rely on them. They include:

  • “for you it’s a night out. for your family it’s a night off”
  • (after a heckler has said something stupid and the audience look baffled) “you hear that silence mate? you did that”. Sometimes it gets a big laugh and you can then say: “you hear that mate? I did that”.
  • (to a talkative audience member, in the manner of a TV hypnotist) Aaaaaaand sleep
  • I’m working, you’re interrupting. I don’t come to where you work and slap the cock from your mouth
  • The hackest compere trick in the world (TM)

I ended up using all of these. Roger Swift got a decent response with his props and stuff. During the bit before I brought on Masai Graham, a skinny guy in a tracksuit sneaked up to the front table where the hard looking biker who’d been killing my punchlines all evening was sat, and started whispering to him

“what’s going on here then?” I asked “arranging a drug deal, are we?”

Short story, they were. Awkward!

Masai Graham closed, and did so very well. The biker’s woman groaned on after each of the first few but soon got into it and by the end of his set, the table that had been most disruptive and awful were asking for an encore. I fantasised about burning the pub down.

Masai and Roger both did 5 minutes each of an encore, and Roger collected the shekels from the voluntary buckets and pressed them in my hand. I refused to take them.

Weird gig number 1: Horseshoe Comedy, Wellinborough

I had done Will Morris’s excellent gong show at the Horshoe earlier this year. When I first started doing comedy, many of the first gigs I did were gong shows. Some are notorious for the tough MCing and bearbaity attitude, inciting the audiences to be bastards to the acts. I resolved never to do that and got the acts through it with as much dignity as the format could muster and had a ball. Will invited me back to compere the regular night.

It was all going OK. the audience were a touch light on the ground but it was a lovely summer’s day. The audience were pretty up for it. Tony Tinman had done a decent first section with all the required spadework of an opener. I had accidentally mistaken a woman for a man but it had been dark and she’d been wearing a hoodie. I spoke to a bloke in the front row about how he was getting married soon to a woman he was with who he was clearly punching above his weight with.

I welcomed on the middle act, Chris Norton Walker. He did a few jokes, settled in, and asked the audience “What’s the stupidest thing anyone’s ever done?”.

One girl stuck her hand up

“Well, I was trying to unscrew a bulb behind the bar with my hand and it was hot so I used a wet cloth”

“yes…?” said chris

“and all the other staff saw me nearly get electrocuted”

“yes…?”

“and that was when my nickname became retard” she said

“yes…?”

“and that’s why I have it tattooed on my belly”

Chris got her up on stage to prove this.

Chris’s alloted 20 minutes essentially involved giving the poor girl enough verbal rope to hang herself. She was a barmaid at the pub on her night off. I’m not sure we ever learnt her name. The regulars and staff all called her retard throughout. Those red bits, on the tattoo, in case the pictures not clear enough, they are roses. When asked why, it’s because she wanted it to be pretty. Oh, and she had to check how to spell Retard before getting it done.

She’d only been working there 7 months too. I can imagine a soldier on his 20th tour getting his nickname tattooed on him. A part time barmaid, less so. I was called Finch (after the american pie character who I apparently resemble) at school, uni and 3 seperate jobs. I was reticent to put it as my profile picture when people did dopplegangers on facebook, nevermind permanently scarring myself with it.

Chris asked a barman what the most retarded thing he had ever done was. Meaning to call out to the landlady to get a suggestion, he simply said “Denise”. Everyone took this as meaning that doing Denise the landlady was the most retarded thing he’d ever done. She looked a bit pissed off and his face was red. Chris finished up to rapturous applause without actually doing any jokes.

During the break, the audience and comedians all decamped to the beer garden where the mentalness continued. The woman who I had called a man earlier I apologised to. The bloke sat next to her, who was the one getting married, went “Don’t worry mate, she’s my boss and she’s a dyke, so it’s an easy mistake to make”. The woman in the hoodie promptly fired the bloke. The woman who was engaged to him looked significantly unimpressed.

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