Thanks to Frank Blunt, I’m back to telling the bee-sting story. I’d tried it in my very first attempt at stand-up – the night we all had to perform after Logan Murray’s weekend course, on Sunday 7th October last year. Looking back at my diary, I’d been pacing up and down the Passeig Colom in Barcelona just before that first virgin ‘show’, shaking with nerves, especially after Logan had told me I was going on first. I was trying to remember what he’d told us about looking at the audience – to try and make eye contact with them if it wasn’t too dark, rather than staring over their heads which could ‘distance yourself from them’. ‘Look at the crowd, look at the crowd, make eye contact – and scan them all.’ But the nerves were severe … even though Logan had also told us to tell ourselves that ‘fear is simply adrenaline’, and that ‘adrenaline is your friend’. I’ll never forget standing up there for the first time – in the cellar bar of Las Cuevas del Sorte. I couldn’t see the faces in the audience at all in the end as the spotlight was too strong – but I could hear them. They were laughing. On and off … but they were definitely laughing. It was a wonderful feeling. At least at first.
So when Frank Blunt turned up to interview me last Saturday, I told him all this – and after he’d stopped interrupting me with his own funghi and hedgehog stories, he asked me to tell him that original bee-sting story – and he started to chuckle. It was a Derbyshire-accent chuckle – I mean, it was somewhere between a grunt and a cough, as if he was reluctant to admit he was chuckling – but it was a chuckle, nevertheless. He may have chuckled without opening his lips, but he couldn’t hide the smile twinkling in his eyes behind those NHS-specs.
I then explained to him that I’d repeated the story in a stand-up comedy competition I’d entered – a crazy thing to do, but I guess I’d wanted to set myself a goal. The competition was part of the Barcelona International Comedy Festival (organised by Stephen Garland’s ‘Giggling Guiri’ group), and which is why Logan Murray’s workshop had been held in Barcelona during the same month. There’d been three heats to find 9 performers for a final, and I’d been drawn in the last heat – something that I knew I could bail out of if the workshop performance had bombed, but it hadn’t … well, not totally. The date for my heat was set for the night of Thursday 11th October, at Carders Pub in Barcelona – but I was working in Madrid during that day – and then due to fly to New York early on the Saturday morning for a week of meetings with my day-job. ‘Sounds flash, Frank, but it wasn’t,’ I said. Again, he stared at me in silence for a long time. ‘So, did you lose your job because you were doing comedy?’ he asked finally. ‘No, Frank,’ I said. ‘That wasn’t the reason.’ But he was chuckling to himself silently again, I could tell by that glint in his eyes. (to be continued).