Funny? Funny how?GOODFELLAS (1990)
Okay so I don’t know what this is. Not yet. It could be the start of something. It’s certainly the middle of something. Hoping it doesn’t mark he end of anything.
So: To business. Or not. Which only time will tell.
Perhaps: So, to idle hobby, might be a better start.
It’s Monday evening. It’s warm. Too warm. I am clammy in a black suit jacket. Am going to take it off. Now this sadly will reveal I’m wearing the cheapest of my cheap white “business shirts” (3 for £40, M&S, back in 2009). When I grab one of these from the rail in the dark each morning, hoping the wind chime of cheap hangars doesn’t wake Claire, I have to run my fingers down the front to check if it’s the one with no buttons missing.
Thought about wearing my nicer one. The one I wore on my wedding day. Thicker cotton. Ben Sherman. Double cuffs. But that one you have to iron.
I mean, YOU don’t have to iron. I do. And despite not being able to sleep this morning at 6.30am, I still managed to convince myself I didn’t have time to get up and iron it. I did of course. But ironing boards make more noise than cheap coat hangers. So the flimsy yellowing M&S shirt it is.
It’s a school shirt, basically. Yellowing. Almost transparent now, like a KFC napkin after a box of fingery wipey chicken wings.
It should stay hidden under the jacket, but as I say it’s warm now so I’m going to take the jacket off. Gimme a sec…
Ahhh. Better. Much better.
Although it hasn’t helped me much overall. Typing isn’t fun here. I’m in a pub booth and the sticky table is too high so I’m reaching up to the keyboard like a meercat. Well, a meercat with a blog to type. Or a letter of complaint to Compare The Market .com about prejudice.
The jacket laying at my side on the bench now is a Reiss, black, single breasted 2 button number. Its part of a suit I got when I turned 40. The trousers currently hang awkwardly on a hangar in the wardrobe, three or more soft creases in them when I’ve ironed them wrong rather than dry cleaning them. I hardly wear them now. The world – or at least, my world – is suit jackets and jeans now. “Smart jeans.” Black or deep blue denim. Boots. The full suit now is just for weddings, interviews and public appearances.
Is this a public appearance? I don’t know. I suppose in a way. I am meeting strangers. Perhaps friends I haven’t made yet. Perhaps enemies I’m about to try and avoid forever?
There are no such things as enemies. Just strangers who haven’t pissed you off yet. Or something. Joke there somewhere. I hope.
But I am about to meet 6 strangers and spend 2 hrs with them and I would be a big old pants on fire if I said I hadn’t given some cursory thought to the wardrobe. I’ve come out tonight in most senses, dressed like Tim Roth (Mr Orange) in Reservoir Dogs.
Yep. Complete with Ray Bans in the top pocket. I like it as a look. I mean it’s a bit Tarantino, a bit Blues Brothers, a bit funereal. But I figure it’s JUST the right side of smart/casual to be stylish, eye catching, unusual, without being an orange tartan Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush era Chris Evans tweed car crash.
The pub is a local to my work. The Grey Horse. It’s a bit earthy (bare gluey wood, black fingernail grime in the crevices). It does burgers and ribs and cheese fries and such. A huge array of whiskies. It has a muggy outdoor bit where I am now. A booth. One of 4 that run at right angles against the pub outside wall. (I’m in the one nearest the back, with a pint of lemonade and a fresh pack o’ Camels, a chipped Samsung Smart phone and a white Bic lighter stolen from anther smoker either 2 days ago or on the day I last wore this jacket).
Next to my silvery Toyota Prius of a Dell laptop, is a black WH Smith display book. You know the type. Plastic slippery sleeves to slide A4 sheets into. No clunky dandruff of hole-punches needed.
And inside this aging file, tugged last night from the bottom shelf of my fitted spare-bedroom MDF wardrobe (where my never to be dry cleaned suit trousers dangle at 45 degrees) and laid reverently on the couch, are pages and pages and pages of jokes.
One liners, ideas, routines, intros, clumsily annotated ad libs and intros. Plus some sketches. An appalling play I wrote when I thought all you needed to be a playwright was an encouraging friend and a battered Underwood typewriter and a load of knock-off Ben Eltony Blackaddery jokes. Add a dame and a hero and you’re away. In my case, away with the fairies, as I am certain I daydreamed this first-draft piece of sketch comedy nonsense with a boy meets girl plot, hammered into typing paper in the summer of 1992, would be a launching pad to something. It wasn’t.
(NOTE: If the phrase “battered Underwood typewriter rings both familiar and false, it’s because it’s how Andrew McCarthy describes his typewriter in the 1985 Brat Pack ensemble movie “St Elmo’s Fire.” And because obviously I had a nice beige Olivetti, like most teens of my era).
The jokes lovingly typed or warmly laser-printed (the newer bits) span about 30 years. I am almost embarrassed to peel the tacky pages open and look at the work.
Not the newer bits, which I’ve been busy culling from old Facebook posts, tweets, work documents and scrap books in the last 5 days. That stuff’s…well, in slightly better shape. But the rest of it is a selection of groany Tim Viney puns, Izzardy flights of fancy – oft leaning on the northern shaggy Ross Noble side of – shudder – “surrealism” – and mock-angry Ben Eltony “what is it with…?” observations.
This are my early comedy days laid bare. I kept it all. Because…well…
Perhaps because one day the South Bank Show might want to get Ken Morse to rostrum the hell out of a montage of papers? Nope. That dream died a long time ago.
Perhaps because I half wondered if, 30 years later, aged 48, I might be sat in a pub garden sipping a nervous lemonade, chain smoking, typing-for-distraction, before I stepped into The Grey Horse Crack Comedy Stand-Up Course, lesson one. In Kingston Upon Thames, a heckles throw from my workplace, on a warm Monday night, wondering what the hell I think I’m about to do?
Funny how things how turn out. But how funny? I guess I’m going to find out.
It’s 6.05pm. Starts at 7pm. Another fag.
I can see 2 other men on their own here. One black, one white. Both middle-ish aged. Sitting by themselves, playing with phones and soggy mop-up copies of Metro. I wonder if we’re going to all sit here together in glancy silence for 55mins and then do awkward covidy handshakes pretending we haven’t seen each other. Like blind dates under a railway clock.
I expect so. I mean, I;m not going to bound over now and chance it. Who has the confidence to introduce themselves to strangers?
Trust me, that’s a very different form of confidence to the one we’ll be trying to harness and monetise tonight.
Oh, I think another chap has turned up. Hope the course isn’t going to be too blokey. Although, cringe cringe cringe, hope awkwardly we don’t get a lone female who wants to shout about her fanny for 5 mins.
I mean, I get enough of that at home.
THAT was a joke.
God I’m going to have to do better than that.
Anyhoo, I’ve said enough so far. I’m going to get a pint and lose myself in an audio book and think about first impressions.
Prior to turning up to this class, we’ve been asked to bring with us, as prep, something to contribute to the ice-breaker. “2 Truths And A Lie.” I assume Erich (the host/mentor/comedian/teacher) will use this to warm us up.
I’m going with:
- I wrote a bestselling novel
- I provide a voiceover for a YouTube cartoon show about Jeff Goldblum
- I was in the band “The Tribe Of Toffs” who got to number 26 in 1988 with “John Kettley Is A Weatherman.”
Hmmm. Unexpectedly anxious now. Hands are slipping on the sweaty keys. Grey Horse crackly outdoor speakers are playing that 1960s “stumbly drum kit” sloppy R&B, complete with Hammonds and vibraphones. It’s not helping.
I don’t know what to make of tonight. What I want. What I don’t want. Who I’m expecting to meet. How I’m expecting it to go.
I guess I just figured it would be fun to dust it all off again, see if the faded magic has any glitter still left, if my 15 years of delivering training to mixed groups of people has given me confidence, ad-lib ability or any kind of presence. A unique voice? An attitude? Too early to tell.
Or hell, maybe it’s just that I like talking comedy with people and this at least will be place where I won’t expect a sigh and a request to change the subject.
God imagine if that’s what happens here. Jesus. Then I’m done.
Anyhoo, gonna risk a sharpener of a shandy, just to put the edge on.
Still just 4 of us here. I know from the web that Erich (the host) is an amiable Seattle-man, so pretty certain he isn’t one of us.
Plus, why would HE turn up an hour early and read Metro on his own?
Hmm. Okay, well that’s that. Not much more now. Just gonna jump onto The Tribe Of Toffs wiki page to make sure they didn’t release an album I’m going to be expected to recite track listings of.
I don’t think Andy Crane is the only one here who’s got no brain.
See you on the other side xxx