I’ve just heard that Frank Blunt and his documentary crew are returning next Tuesday to follow me around for another week. As if 10 days at London open-mics wasn’t enough, he now wants to see another SUCK show in Barcelona to see if the comedy has ‘improved’, and to interview me about my ‘one-man 40-minute stand-up show’ that I am apparently supposed to be writing for Brighton and then the Edinburgh Fringe. He also sent me a link to an interview about Jack Whitehall. The thing that struck me was not a quote from Whitehall himself but from Stephen Armstrong, The Sunday Times’ comedy critic, who says, ‘The truth is that nobody goes into stand-up comedy unless they are damaged in some way … ’
Well, if you’re not damaged before you try stand-up comedy, you’re certainly damaged at some point by it. I still feel damaged by that Broadway Comedy Club experience in New York – the hot flush at the nape of my neck which felt as if the back of my brain was in flames, but also the drained, dried-up mouth, the utter embarrassment of the audience’s silence, and the feeling of wanting a trap-door on the stage to suddenly open and swallow me up for good. Why it had gone so bad, I have no idea – but it was only my 4th attempt so I guess it was to be expected. It’s just that I hadn’t expected it. The cheerleader-hyper girl-compere didn’t help, warming (and warning) everyone up before I staggered on stage that, “Our next comedian is an Englishman and I just l-u-r-v-e his English accent and so will you!” But they didn’t. Especially when that accent became affected by an imaginary bumble-bee stinging my top lip. In fact I don’t think the Bronx and Harlem dudes who’d been on before me and who’d all done varying routines on fat hookers, blind homosexuals or how Jesus masturbates … could understand a word I said at all. Which explains the silence, I guess. I got out of there as soon as I could, after listening to more ‘jokes’ about Jews, gang-rape, cervical cancer and Einstein’s penis. Later, I learnt that a friend also visiting New York had turned up at the club to see me. Luckily I’d already left, saving us both the embarrassment – especially for him having to watch me.
I decided that stand-up was not for me. I would take part in the final of the Barcelona Comedy Festival competition on Friday 19th October, but afterwards I would ‘retire’ gracefully. Besides, I had no more material other than my bee-sting story – and I was determined not to have to resort to jokes about Ray Charles or David Blunkett. But then I met up with a girlfriend for dinner at Tao restaurant on 58th Street, between Madison and Park. There, a bouncer, complete with walkie-talkie-ear-‘mic’, insisted on standing right beside me and staring at me whilst I visited the ‘restroom’. I couldn’t pee. I started to giggle. I thought, ‘This could be material.’ All through dinner, still desperate to pee, I thought about comedy. I thought about simple situations that had happened to me. I suddenly felt determined to one day make those Bronx and Harlem dudes laugh. Maybe I’d caught the bug … (to be continued)