Yesterday, my eternally-un-named friend and I went to spend Boxing Day at Martin & Vivienne Soan’s home. They run their Pull The Other One comedy club at two venues every month in South London.
I did not know that, four days before, Martin had broken a rib in a bicycle accident and also had a broken leg.
The broken leg was the leg of his spectacles.
The rib was his own. He was in a lot of pain and, since the accident, he has had to sleep overnight sitting upright in a chair because he cannot lie flat on a bed.
He also wore an unexplained false moustache.
“Have you had an X-ray?” I asked.
“No,” he replied.
“Why?” I asked.
“I will have one when I feel better,” he replied.
“Don’t you think there’s a logical flaw in that reasoning?” I asked.
“No,” he told me.
“But you have a broken rib,” I said.
“I know,” he replied.
“How did it happen?” I asked.
“I went arse-over-tit over the handlebars,” Martin explained. “I was on a lovely bike and was drifting from lane to lane at three o’clock in the morning, coming down to the north west corner of Peckham Rye Park.”
“You were coming down a steep road,” said Vivienne, “and I bet you had not had to push a pedal. I reckon you went down the hill and, because there was no traffic, you had a straight run and you would’ve been seeing how far you could get without pushing a pedal”
“Probably,” said Martin, “I went up a couple of pavements, just because I wanted to glide, and I went up this one and it had a nobbled surface for blind people…”
“And that’s what caused it?” I asked.
“No,” said Martin.
“There was a blind person and you ran over the blind person?” I asked.
“No,” said Martin. “I just carried straight on, but they had nobbled the piece of kerb. And they’d also cut into the kerb to give access for wheelchairs. The edge of the other kerb was about six inches straight up vertically. I went into it. Didn’t even see it. I went straight off. Projectile. The bike stayed where it was. I went straight over the handlebars. I landed on my front with the side of my head on the ground and I must have been knocked-out for a little bit.
“I was in a big puffer jacket and there was no-one else about and I could hear myself going: Ah! No no no no! Alright. OK OK. Aaaaaahhh! No. I remember doing all that nutty trauma talk. You’re gonna be alright. You’re gonna be alright. You’re gonna be alright. Breathe breathe breathe. Where’s the cameras? Why am I talking about cameras? Help me help me help me.
“I managed to roll over and there were some railings. I pulled myself up and banged the side of my face. I had landed on my rib cage. I could hear myself say: I’m standing. I’m standing. The bike’s there. The bike’s there. You’re gonna be alright. But it’s going to be tough,” said Martin, “because I can’t do any lifting.”
“And you’ve got a Pull The Other One show this Friday…” I said.
“Me and Vivienne,” said Martin, “decided we’d spend these two days not talking about it.”
I looked on the wall where future Pull The Other One shows and acts were listed on a whiteboard.
“Oh,” I said. “Well, at least you’ve got Aaaaa Bbbbb on 11th January . He’s good.”
“He’s let us down,” Martin said.
“We don’t normally book people through agents,” explained Vivienne. “We do it through our contacts. But, after Eddie Izzard performed at Pull The Other One, we suddenly got loads of e-mails from agents saying Oooh! Maybe you’d like to book this comic or that comic. So we booked Ccccc Ddddd through an agent and he let us down after we’d done all the publicity.”
“Ccccc Ddddd let us down,” said Martin. “But who did we get to fill-in for him at the last moment? Omid Djalili. And he filled the whole club on word-of-mouth.”
“So that was great,” said Vivienne. “We got Omid. But Ccccc Ddddd letting us down was not funny, really. We managed to get Omid on the printed bill, but this time with Aaaaa Bbbbb it’s too close. The second time we booked a comedian through an agent was Aaaaa Bbbbb who has now let us down and we’re desperately looking round for somebody who can fill the club on a word-of-mouth on 11th January. We haven’t got the money to spend on reprinting the posters and flyers because we’ve already spent it on printing the posters and flyers which are now wrong.
“How can we ever trust an agent?” she continued. “If you go to an agent – as we did – and you say Here’s the publicity. Are there any glaring mistakes here before we go to print? and they say No, absolutely perfect. And we send another e-mail saying So Aaaaa Bbbbb is definitely booked for 11th January? And they tell us Yes. And then you send one more e-mail saying Are you sure? Because rumour has it he’s booked for another comedy gig…? And they reply No, no. He’s definitely on at your club. And then, because we do not want to be left at the last, last minute, we say Actually, we know he’s doing a specific gig we know about and the agent goes Oops! Yes. Sorry. So that’s an agent. So what’s the point? Aaaaa Bbbbb blames his agent; his agent blames him.”
“What can you expect?” said Martin. “The word ‘agent’ is a derogatory term – estate agent, publicity agent. Then there’s…”
“What about that story you refused to tell me a couple of weeks ago?” I asked Martin. “The one about the NHS. The Social Structure is Alive and Well in the NHS.”
“You’re never going to get it,” Martin said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you’re recording me. I won’t get it perfect if you record me and there’s no point if I don’t get it perfect.”
“It was about exploratory anal surgery, wasn’t it?” I asked.
“How is your moustache held on under your nose?” my eternally-un-named friend asked Martin. “Is it with Sellotape?”
“Double-sided tape,” he told her.
“So why won’t you tell me?” I asked Martin.
“Because being recorded is…” he said, “If I say it and it’s recorded, it’ll sound like I’ve made it up. But it’s true… It actually happened to me.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“You’re recording it…” said Martin.
“I was creasing up this morning,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “at John’s blog about how he likes to be depressed at Christmas and…”
“A mis-representation,” I interrupted.
“…then he turns his iPhone on because I’m laughing my head off at it…”
“It wasn’t meant to be funny!” I pleaded.
“…and then,” my eternally-un-named friend continued, “I couldn’t quite laugh as naturally as…”
“You were laughing like a comedy drain,” I told her.
“So what was your…” my eternally-un-named friend asked Martin. “I’ve forgotten what it was… It was a National Health story?”
“I was in a situation,” said Martin, “where they had to put us out. A general anaesthetic. You were taken off to the theatre and knocked out and came to and…”
“So how could you remember anything that happened,” asked my eternally-un-named friend, “if you were unconscious?”
“No,” said Martin, “it happened before.”
“What? What?” urged my eternally-un-named friend.
“There were three guys in there,” Martin explained. “One was a Jamaican. One was me. And the third one was a rather suave and well-to-do man… We were all in cubicles and had surgical gowns on…”
“And?” I asked.
“And I’m not going to tell you,” said Martin. “I am not going to tell you.”