On Thursday I drove down to Southend to meet up with my mate Ant at 6pm with a view to having a couple of pints and then going down to the gig (that I was closing the show at) for around 9.30pm. He was an hour and a half late so I met him in a pub called The Trading Rooms where staff and punters alike stared at me unabashed until his arrival. We had a quick drink (I'd already had a couple of Guinnesses) and went back to his to drop some of my stuff off and for him to get changed. About twenty past eight I got a very concerned (and rather irate) promoter asking me where the bloody hell I was. I said I was down the road and would be there in plenty of time to go on last. He said he had moved the bill and I was now opening. We booked a cab and were there by 8.30pm, by which time the promoter had decided I was closing again and had started the show without me so I had to hang around until the end anyway. The fee was less than I got the first time I ever did a gig in Southend over fifteen years ago. It still left me with more money in my pocket than Ant had so I offered to buy him (And our mate Ben) a curry back at Ben's. Ant was feeling quite hard and ordered a chicken madras. I was feeling harder and ordered a chicken ceylon. Ben was feeling like the hardest man in the world and ordered a vegetable phall. The curry house must have been wetting themselves - add a pilau rice, a garlic naan and some bombay aloo (with popadoms and a pickle tray) and this was clearly a drunk-dialled take away par excellence. It arrived promptly, as did the sweats, a burning sensation in my tongue and throat and the inevitable necessity to knock a can of lager back with it to dull the pain. Ben then suggested we tried his vegetable phall. We did. I felt the inside of my mouth and my neck almost immediately melt, went dizzy and lost a certain amount of mobility as it stung my insides from lip to chest like hellfire. Ashamed, Ant and I headed back to his flat where I spent a fitful few hours not sleeping on his impossibly uncomfortable sofa and then he left at 6am to go to work so I watched Breakfast TV and then "Lorraine", before driving back in something of a daze and about eight quid up on the ordeal.
I dossed about for most of the afternoon and then readied myself for a surprisingly easy and pleasant trip to Ayelesbury where I was headlining in a nightclub. Nightclubs are generally my least favourite places to perform (After Derby) and this would almost prove to be no exception. THE PROMOTER SWORE BLIND THAT WE HAD TO BE THERE BY 7.45pm AS THE SHOW STARTED AT 8.30pm. I got there at 7.45pm and sat there hopelessly until 9.35pm when the show started. We were, however, relatively well looked after, the sound and lighting were OK and all things considered, it went all right. Andrew Roper was the support act. He was the guy I saw last weekend in Lutterworth. Clearly he's my new Saturday buddy. You can go years without seeing comics you know and then just bump into them every week for a while. I remarked that when Andrew used to have short hair and wear a suit he reminded me of an old friend I hadn't seen for ages called Anthony King. Andrew saw the resemblance, to be fair.
|Not Anthony King|
I drove back via Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable and Steve's pub. He had been hosting a Karaoke night. I got there just before midnight. Various people came in after me and clearly licensing laws had (ahem) gone out of the window again. I lobbed a Guinness or two down me and then went to the toilet. When I returned a brute of a man had taken my seat next to Steve. He made no attempt to stand up when I returned so I simply stood in front of him at the bar until he asked me what my problem was. I told him that he had sat in my chair (in my defence, this wasn't as childish as it appears - my jacket was on it, my pint was by it and my mate was watching it for me). He decided to take no notice. I continues to talk to Steve with my back to him. He got up and walked over to his mate. I retook the seat. He came back and attempted a bit of menace. I ignored him. He pulled up a chair alongside me and told me I was handsome but didn't know how to talk to women. At the time I was not feeling particularly handsome and talking to Lisa (senior bar leader). Puzzled I again did my best to ignore him. He bought Steve and myself a pint. God only knows why. Then he told me that I should listen to him and he would teach me how to talk to women. I declined his offer. He said to me "You just don't get it do you?". I replied that no, I in fact didn't. He pointed at a woman and said
"See that? I've been going out with it for six years".
She turned around to face us and grimaced. I saw a look in her eyes that suggested all hope had died. I knew how she felt. he walked off and I had a short, pleasant conversation with her. When the evening eventually thinned out (about 3am) we had a few games of spoof, some random chat but for once no arguments. I hit the sofa about 5am. The cat hit it about 5.02am. I hit the cat about 5.04am. It was an accident. Honest.
...And so to Saturday and my third headlining slot in a row, this time at The Showcase Cinema in Coventry. I'd done the gig thrice before with varying results. The acts were myself, Yianni Agisilou, compere Elis James and one act TBC. On arrival I discovered that one act to (of course) be Anthony King. I didn't tell him that Andrew Roper used to look like him but didn't any more.
|Not Andrew Roper|
We were moaning about sound crews. Anthony recounted a story of a gig he had done in a £61m refurbished theatre where the microphone was so useless he had to shout. I baulked and said "Sixty one million? SIXTY ONE MILLION? If you gave me sixty one million quid I could give you the best comedy club forever and still have change out of SIXTY AND A HALF MILLION". It is astounding that venues don't normally ask performers for their input. They go for diamond-encrusted mahogany inlaid bar surfaces with unicorn-horn trim and forget to run out of cash for the lighting desk. It happens all the time, sadly. Anyway, this was the third gig in a row that went fine (but no more) and it only left me with my own show in Chigwell.
I am now told in no uncertain terms that my own show in Chigwell is in fact in Woodford Bridge. Well, I was told it just after quarter to nine on Sunday night when for the fourth show I was astounded when I said "Is there anyone here from Chigwell?" and got the usual silence. Someone shouted out "Try saying Woodford Bridge" so I did and everyone cheered. No-one tells me anything in Essex. There was a glaring lack of hot receptionists (They've all been at the previous shows) and I was a little aggrieved to discover that Stuart the manager had barred them for being "naughty". That's precisely the reason I wanted them in there. Anyway, the gig just wasn't the same without them although we did have our usual battle over pre-show tunes. He once again persevered with awful dance music that makes an audience's temples throb until they are ready to kill. While he was in the toilet the in-house DJ came over and asked me if I would prefer some 70s & 80s stuff. The next thing I knew everyone was singing along to "Stand And Deliver" and Stuart had a face like thunder. Magic.
During the sound check I looked up to see a couple of guys wearing Punky! Radio T-shirts and was very pleased to finally meet my namesake Paul B (A now retired senior police officer and punk rock fan) and his brother who had found out last minute that I was on and shown up as they only lived a few miles away.
|Paulyb, Paulyb & Paulyb's brother...|
There was a drunk in the room who at half time they offered to "Sort out". I had visions of a subsequent police report saying he had "Fallen down the stairs" and declined their offer. In the second half he was so offensive the rest of the audience spontaneously booed him. Towards the end of Craig Murray's (headlining) act he fell asleep in his chair. The rest of the gig was one of those "You had to be there" moments. I'd tell you about it, but, well, you had to be there.
PS. I have now finally caved in and joined Twitter. If the thousands of characters I waste on here are not to your taste, why not see how I get on sporadically over 140. www.twitter.com/poorlybee