Standing-Up: The Documentary (9)

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)

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