Comedian Chris Dangerfield has made no secret of his heroin problem when I have chatted to him previously in this blog. He is currently in Thailand ‘getting clean’. I talked to him via Skype this morning.
“So,” I asked, “are you Mr Clean now?”
“Well,” he told me, “I’ve been off the smack for 12 days.”
“That’s good,” I said.
“It’s fucking horrific,” said Chris. “I used to do this for a laugh. Even the withdrawals used to be quite good fun. But I’m 42 in three weeks time and I just shit the bed and puked rivers of dayglo yellow puke till it was about an inch deep in the whole room and I didn’t have the strength to move and then it went under the door and ran down the stairs and then the bloke who runs this place came in and said: Yeah, this needs cleaning up.
“I’ve come over to this place three times now. They know what I’m going through and are kinda used to it. I’m over the worst but Jesus, man, I just worked out this time I didn’t sleep for nine days. That’s a long time to not sleep when your mind’s racing.
“I used to think I hated myself and that was the core of my problem, but it’s actually a bit worse than that. I think I’m indifferent to myself. Love is not opposed to hate. Love is opposed to indifference.
“If I hated myself, I’d have a real engagement in myself. I’d be engaged in myself as much as I would if I loved myself. But it ain’t that. I just don’t really give a shit. I quite like doing a few things, but this thing Life – I’m just not that into it. Sometimes I just prefer taking drugs to doing anything else.”
“But,” I said, “last time I talked to you when you were off smack, you told me how wonderful it was to be off, how clear everything was.”
“To be honest,” said Chris, “I’m not sure I was off then.”
“When you’re on,” I suggested, “you’re not thinking clearly.”
“It’s wonderful to be off when you’re on,” laughed Chris. “Every interview we’ve done over the last couple of years, pretty much, I don’t remember. I read it a few days later and I think Wow! That’s quite an interesting bloke. I like him.”
“There you are,” I suggested. “When you talk about yourself, you’re an interesting bloke.”
“Exactly!” said Chris. “I had five years… No four years… I’m such a good liar to myself… It’s not a lie if you believe it, is it?… I had a few years clean and I done what I had to do and went to Narcotics Anonymous meetings and it was fucking dull, man. It was a hard time – What do you do? – Fuck women and eat cakes. In meetings, I find I just exaggerate my story to fit in with their version of my events.”
“But you’re actually very entrepreneurial,” I said. “Your lock-picking business is doing really well, isn’t it?”
“It’s making millions,” said Chris, “but that’s because I was doing a gram a day of Burmese No 4 and that shit don’t come cheap. The thing is, now I’m clean, I can’t be arsed to work. What do I want money for? It means nothing to me.
“I’m being honest with you. The last two years, I turned over £4 million on my lock business – because I needed it. I was using a gram a day intravenously. That’s expensive gear. Now I’m not, I need money for rent and a bit of food, but what else do I want? I’ve got no other pleasures in life.”
“But,” I argued, “if you need fewer things, you need less money so you can work less and you can…”
“But there’s no reward!” interrupted Chris. “There’s no target. When I’m using, I wake up in the morning and I’m shaking and it’s like Man, you have to find £200 pronto! and then you’ve gotta find a score and then you go out and then you’re on the estates and you’re causing trouble, you’re running from the police, you’re having fights and I know that’s all bullshit but, without that, what have I got? I don’t know what I like doing.”
“You’re a creative person,” I said. “You write shows. Your aim is to make yourself a bigger name in…”
“How ugly is that?” Chris interrupted. “You just said to me: Put down the drugs and you can have ambition! – I’ll take the drugs over ambition all day long.”
“It’s not about ambition,” I said. “It’s about creativity, about creating something that other people can…”
“No it’s not!” said Chris. “It’s ego-driven nonsense! – I sit in my flat writing novels; that’s creativity. Standing up in front of people going Oooooh-oooooh! Aren’t I funny! – that’s just my ego going Feed me! Feed me! – I hate it.”
“So you can sit in your flat and write novels,” I said.
“Yeah, about me taking drugs,” said Chris.
“Which other people,” I said, “may read and which, for them, may be life-changing. When Janey Godley wrote her autobiography, she got literally hundreds of messages from people saying how it had changed their lives because they’d realised they weren’t alone and how they could survive just as she had.”
“And Janey’s a fantastic woman,” said Chris.
“There’s William Burroughs,” I said.
“It’s all bullshit, John!” said Chris. “I’ve read Junkie, I’ve read Queer, I’ve read The Naked Lunch. None of it is real! It’s bullshit.”
“Well,” I said, “yours won’t be.”
“Well I dunno if that’s a fair exchange,” said Chris. “I dunno whether swapping drugs for ambition… Ambition is an ugly thing…”
“Being on stage might be ambition,” I said. “But writing novels is not necessarily ambition. It can be art.”
“Yeah,” said Chris, “but there’s the bit about people reading it, which means publishing, which is ambitious.”
“Am I awful for posting a blog?” I asked.
“Yeah, but I’m not you, John,” argued Chris. “You got humility.”
“But you can’t” I said, “claim I’ve got humility AND publishing something is ego.”
“I’m not talking about you,” said Chris, “I’m talking about me.”
“So why am I writing the blog?” I asked. “And why is that a bad thing?”
“I’m talking about my world,” said Chris.
“Well,” I argued, “if you wrote a blog, would that be a bad thing?”
“I tried writing a blog. It was bad,” said Chris, wriggling. “It was about a football player.”
“That’s not a blog, that’s a novel,” I said.
There was a long silence. Then Chris laughed. Then he said:
“If you create something,” I said, “that’s not necessarily bad. If you want to be famous for creating something, that might possibly be bad. But the actual act of creating something isn’t bad. Creating a beautiful painting isn’t bad in itself.”
“You’re right,” said Chris, “but what is different here is that YOU don’t involve yourself with performing.”
“Performance can be a bit egotistical,” I said, “but the writing of a play isn’t bad. There’s nothing wrong with ego provided it doesn’t hurt other people. If, by boosting your ego, you’re actually helping other people… Janey Godley performs and I know other people have been helped by watching her performances.”
“In this year’s Edinburgh Fringe show,” said Chris, “I’ve tried to be a little bit more humble.”
“Has it still got the same title you told me last year?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Chris. “You can publish it now.”
“You say the title?” I asked.
“Sex With Children,” said Chris.
“This possibly isn’t a life-affirming title,” I said.
“It’s not a play on words,” said Chris. “Make that clear. It’s about fucking kids.”
… CONTINUED HERE …