I wrote a couple of blogs last week, based on a chat I had with comedian Chris Dangerfield – a former heroin addict who, at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, managed to get addicted to prescription drugs in vast quantities.
On Friday, he performed his Edinburgh Fringe show in Swansea. The show is about him being a sex tourist in Thailand.
In Edinburgh, it had been sponsored by an escort service.
“I’m going to a detox centre this weekend,” he told me last week, “because now I can’t sort this out on my own any more. So I’m in real trouble… I can’t control the drugs. Give me a week’s worth of narcotics and tell me to Taper yourself down and I will eat them all that night.”
In Swansea, Richard Griffiths (who had never put on a comedy gig before) had booked Chris Dangerfield and Trevor Lock for a part-charity gig at the Cwmfelin Steelworks Welfare and Social Club. “Usually,” Chris told me ominously, “they have bingo on… but this week they have my Sex Tourist show.”
So, after the Swansea gig on Friday night, I asked Chris how it had gone.
“It was a packed house in the backwaters of Swansea,” he told me. “A good proportion of the crowd decided to talk throughout. Trevor did quite well through the talking. I headlined and realised again that my particular brand of comedy doesn’t lend itself to non-comedy audience charity gigs. I ploughed through, like wading through shit in a suit of armour. Now I’m exhausted, looking forward Sunday when I’ll be in rehab which, right now, is where I belong.”
On Saturday, I asked Trevor Lock how he thought the gig had gone.
“It went rather strangely John,” he told me.
“I’m not sure I’ve done a gig like it before. Many people in the audience had come to see a charity gig to raise money for a two-year-old girl to go to the US to have an operation to help her walk. But a very small group of highly-vocal middle-aged men had come to see Chris talk about being a sex tourist in Thailand and were singing his name like a football chant.
“The BBC were filming it because the promoter of the event works at a call centre which BBC3 are making a documentary about and the whole call centre had been bought tickets to the show by their boss – so it also had an element of a Christmas office party about it.
“To my untrained eye, the whole thing seemed to be taking place in the early 1970s but actually it was the Cwmfelin Social Club, a rabbit warren of bingo rooms and bars, over-lit like a public library.
“It was not a unified audience – Different groups had come to see different things. It was extraordinary to watch people’s faces as Chris pretty much did his Sex Tourist routine to some people who had come to see him do just that AND to some people who had come to a charity comedy night to raise money for a little girl.
“Towards the end of Chris’s stint one woman, who was celebrating her birthday, approached me at the side of the stage and said: How much can I pay you to make him stop?
“A fair few people got up and left by the table-load, unable to stomach it. Others who stayed forgot they didn’t like it and found themselves laughing. Many just ignored what was happening on stage and just carried on with their Friday night but many also seemed to be only waiting for Chris to stop so they could start singing his name again.
“It was a lot of fun and a slice of life I’m not used to seeing. And personally I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
On Sunday, after Chris had gone into the detox centre, Richard Griffiths – the man who had organised the gig – told me what he thought.
“It was an experience, John,” he told me.
Had he been worried about Chris’ mental well-being because of his drug problem?
“That’s why I hired him,” Richard told me. “Though, until I heard he and Trevor were actually on the train to Swansea on Friday, I thought I might have AWOL comics on my hands.
“The night itself was a hoot, though hard work for Chris and Trevor. It had a bit of a Works’ Do vibe… Everyone involved had a good time… Chris and Trevor are special lads with special needs… Neither made my daughters’ beds when they left and all they left behind was a packet of Space Invaders… No note… But I love them both…
“BBC3 were filming it as part of a programme they are making about the call centre I work in, so that made it all the trippier. We raised about £2,000 for a charity and made about £450 each ourselves… defying the recession.”
So that sounds like a success, then.