Comedians around the world dream of performing in London. That's because they've never played it. There are obviously exceptions to the rule but most shows in the big smoke are badly organised, insufficiently publicised, poorly attended, terribly paid and something odd normally happens on the way to them, from them or at them to leave you wishing you'd never left the house in the first place.
Last night I made a rare sojourn to The Capital at the behest of my friends Verity and Harriet. London Bridge to be precise and a pub just around the corner from the tube station. It's in a beautiful old Victorian yard full of piss, drunk yuppies, ne'erdo-wells and labourers who filled the bar downstairs. The gig however, was upstairs and was largely empty other than the acts performing (all of whom seemed to have musical instruments of some sort), the aforementioned organisers, a few "Friends of..." and three drunk thugs who had been dragged up there thinking it was a burlesque night. I was booked to headline.
I went on first.
None of the other acts fancied going on first because it looked hard. I saw an opportunity to leave very early so took it. Harriet (compering) opened up with a show tune from Chicago. I really wasn't expecting that. Then she had a chat with the thugs and to be fair to them, they were all rather jolly. At one point she said "The reason there aren't many people here is we haven't promoted it". A startling admission but this kind of honesty is quite endearing and she did a good job of warming the crowd up (in her own special way) and put me on to general confusion by telling them they had to give me a big cheer because I had come "All the way from Hertfordshire".
Anyway they did, it went all right (All things considering) and I sat back down expecting a break so I could pack my stuff up and go. No chance. the next act wanted to go on straight away while they were "warmed up" so I had to wait another twenty minutes. Harriet then called the break but told me I couldn't leave because I had to stay to watch her "short film". I acquiesced (I had my eye on the 11.15pm from Kings Cross (first stop Letchworth) as I had time. Well it's quite a good film but was utterly inappropriate for a comedy show and the laptop it was on shut itself down as she was about to start it so she put on another couple of acts instead: A guy called Al who sings odd songs on a banjo and then two generously proportioned ladies who got up and did five minutes of punk rock Pam Ayres-style poetry that was largely disregarded by the flagging (and tiny) audience. The laptop got re-booted, the film aired and Harriet did a Q&A afterwards that I thought she might have regretted as the jolly thugs said to her that it had really freaked them out and they didn't like it.
No-one was expecting that.
She then told a fantastically dirty joke about The Queen & Princess Margaret and then I buggered off. A short trip back to Kings Cross was followed by a fifteen minute wait for the "fast" train back to Letchworth which then crawled to Alexandra Palace before finally building up the proverbial head of steam and taking the expected twenty five minutes about half an hour after it should have done. This was the Cambridge train I thought I was getting the other morning. This meant I was surrounded by people returning to Cambridge after a night out. This included The Cambridge University Squash Racquets Club (Or at least members of) - an amalgam of English, Scottish, Southern Irish and Americans (Are they offering sports scholarships at the expense of intelligence? Surely not). The entire carriage was regaled with their opinions on the world, government, sport, America, the British Class System, class-less Ireland, the "You can be anything you want to be" United States (Shame you wanted to be a dickhead, mate) with a mind-boggling lack of thought or appreciation for the people around them. The tit next to me kept standing up to make his point. His point was always dreadful. He would then sit down again when even his moronic mates disagreed with him. Then he would stand up again, gesticulating to anyone in his line of vision and telling them repeatedly that he "really should be in the first team and he only lost 3 - 0 to Phil because he'd spent most of the summer travelling and hadn't played for three months and anyway Phil may well be an excellent player in Cambridge but outside of Cambridge he's nothing more than average and can't operate against a slow game - that's how Claire beat him: I mean - I know she's the captain of the ladies first'-s but she's still, well, a girl".
The train stopped in Letchworth just as he was telling people that Britain was also, like the US, becoming a meritocracy. He had one of those God-awful Cambridge college scarves on, was wearing his C.U.S.R.C. shirt with no shortage of pride (it had taken me a while to realise what the "R" was), talked with an appalling plum in his voice, shook his head a lot and had those "I'm right" eyes that only belong to the landed classes. I got off and let the doors close behind me as the train chugged away to return these fools to their illustrious seat of learning.
Oh and I got a cab home and it was the same very odd driver who had taken me the other day. Enormously fat, enormously angry, enormously polite and this time told me a truly fascinating story about how he had gone down "the club" with two quid and amassed a small fortune of nearly nine pounds in 10p pieces by the end of the night. Then he was overcome with a £20 win on a fruit machine, to such an extent that he let his mate have the fare to Enfield because he had "Already had a great night". If he had been on the train with me he would have murdered the Cambrige University Squash Racquets Club and then he would have eaten them raw and called it "Fine Dining".