After I eventually prised myself out of the clutches of sleep yesterday morning (I refer you to my previous blog), I ended up at the Scottish book launch of former stand-up comedian Bob Boyton’s novel Bomber Jackson Does Some, an extraordinary piece of work about which I’ve blogged before.
“I hope that one of the things I’ve covered in this book,” said Bob, “is the experience of being skint, which is often not reflected in literary fiction, although it’s almost always reflected in crime fiction. I think if there was a genre called ‘social realism’ any more, that’s probably where I’d place this book.”
I had no sooner left the cultural oasis of the Word Power Books shop, than I got brought back to earth with a bang by news from comedian Chris Dangerfield, whose Sex Tourist show is sponsored by a local Edinburgh escort agency.
“A man fainted halfway through my gig last night,” he told me, “just as I said This next bit is a tad gross – the joke being that the whole show had been a bit bleak up to that point. The story I almost told is actually about ‘a multiple bodily fluids accident’ but I had not even got into the details when this punter spasmed a little and fell off his chair. Commotion ensued, I quickly got help and he was revived with lots of fanning and lying down, which took about five minutes. He was then taken off and I continued with my show, making a point of getting everyone to agree what a rude and insensitive thing it was for him to do during my fantastic show, which still ended very well.
“I’ve been turning people away every night due to too many people,” Chris continued.
Normally, I would treat any comedian telling me that with a gigantic pinch of salt, but I had seen his queues the previous day.
“I’ve had more than one management/agent,” Chris claimed, “ask me to recommend their paid shows at the end of my free show. I wonder if they would do the same for me?”
Chris Dangerfield’s show is on at the Hive, which is also where Phil Kay’s unbilled show has been running (it finished last night).
I failed to get in to see the show on its penultimate night, because it was so crowded by the time I arrived. Even Bob Slayer failed to get into the room that night – and he was staging the show!
“I rammed people in standing,” Bob told me, “then managed to sell four more tickets to sit in the sound booth. I called them ‘box seats’ and charged double.”
As for Bob’s own show Bob Slayer – He’s a Very Naughty Boy – well, he is not the sort of man who keeps to a pre-prepared script. So it came as no surprise when he told me: “I managed to get halfway through it today – the furthest I’ve managed by a long shot. Tomorrow I am going to start at the point I finished off today, as it’s an especially good bit.”
Ever the consummate professional, he added: “I am giddy with drink. Next week the real fun starts, though. Shall we burn down things?”
Then I was off to see Tim FitzHigham’s Pleasance show Stop The Pigeon which, I guess, falls halfway between culture and anarchic English eccentricity. In his introduction, Tim said: “Other people just do shows. I get an idea and follow it through with the relentless commitment of a cartoon character.”
That pretty much sums him up.
You cannot not like Tim’s enthusiasm. His show is a romp and his facts near impossible to believe, even though they are all true. This year, it was about another unlikely adventurous bet he took on, this one involving pigeons, a very large cannon and a trampoline. But he also managed to admirably mention in passing the sadly-no-longer-with-us 18th century Farting Club of Cripplegate “whose avowed intention was to meet up once a week to poison the local atmosphere and, with their noisy crepitations, attempt to out-fart one another.
“But ask yourself who,” said Tim, “would want to live in the building next door to the Farting Club of Cripplegate? Let me tell you – this is true – the No Nose Club for gentlemen who had lost their noses in an heroical fashion.”
After the show, Tim told me he is to become a father again in October and he knows it will be a boy despite the fact the NHS is now barred from telling potential parents the sex of their future child.
“Well, that’s the explanation they gave to me, anyway,” said Tim. “The story goes that some woman – allegedly in Chelsea – was told the sex of her unborn child and decorated the nursery in either blue or pink – she spent an absolute fortune – and it turned out to be the wrong one so she sued the hospital for the cost of the nursery. As a result, the NHS are not allowed to tell you the sex of your unborn baby but, when they hovered the thing over my wife, my future son waved his dangly bits to the camera. So we do know.”
Tim was a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee last year and now (no connection, alas) has an up-coming ten-part TV series for CBBC.
“It’s tramsmitted in January,” he told me. “It’s called Superhumans and I fly all over the world meeting people with biological or genetic quirks which mean they can do extraordinarily weird stuff that the rest of us can’t do.
“So, for example, I flew to Iceland to meet a man who can withstand extreme cold. For some reason he is able to consciously control the hypothalamus in his brain.
“The hypothalamus regulates core body temperature and he can literally tell his core body temperature to go up and no-one’s quite sure how he’s doing it. So I challenged him to three challenges to try and prove how superhuman he is – or not. Because, if I can beat him, then the implication is he’s faking it.”
“Does this come under the heading of science?” I asked.
“It comes under the heading of a lot of fun,” said Tim.
And so does Tim.
When I woke up this morning, there was an e-mail from Bob Slayer sent at 3.03am. It simply said:
“Phil Kay was last seen in the Jazz Bar, killing time before his 5.00am flight back to civilisation, juggling chairs.”