Next July, Luca goes to the mega-prestigious Just for Laughs festival in Montreal.
“Part of the prize for winning So You Think You’re Funny?” Luca told me, “is to go to Montreal and appear in a showcase for British comedy and I will have the spot as the up-and-coming British comedian.”
“So you,” I said, “an Italian, are representing Britain.”
“Yes,” said Luca. “This year was really a UKIP comedy. The runner up in So You Think You’re Funny? was Yuriko Kotani, who is Japanese. What I like about the UK is that I manage to win a competition despite my accent and broken English. This would not happen in Italy.”
“Don’t let the Queen down,” I said.
“She’s the head of Canada,” replied Luca, “and she’s not Canadian. This year, America’s Got Talent was won by an English ventriloquist.”
“And my chum Mr Methane, the farteur,” I said, “was in the semi-finals of Germany’s Got Talent, despite having nothing to do with Germany.”
“Ah,” said Luca, “but he speaks an international language.”
“You were an actor in Italy,” I said to Luca, “before coming here to do comedy. Why did you become an actor?”
“I was not happy with my job.”
“What was your job?”
“I was a freelance editor at a publisher. Not a bad job, but it did not pay very well. I thought: I’m not going to do this forever. I was already 35 and still living at home with my parents. I loved my parents but my mother was very possessive. When you do something that is boring, you sit at a desk and work and get up and ten years have passed and you do not have any memory of this.
“Since I left that job, I now remember almost every single day, because every day something new happens. Sometimes horrible things like my mother dying, my father dying. But also sometimes beautiful things. New people. So I was looking for a way to get out of my boring job. And I thought: Why not join the French Foreign Legion?”
“Errrrrrr,” I said, surprised.
“I would never have joined the Italian Army,” said Luca, “because I’m not particularly patriotic. To be honest, Italy should be ruled by someone else. But, in the French Foreign Legion, they don’t bother where you are from. So I thought: Why not? It seemed a safe place to hide.”
“Did you mention this to your mother?” I asked.
“I tried. I thought about running away, but my father was disabled and I could not leave him alone.”
“But,” I said, “if you had joined the French Foreign Legion…”
“I just had this idea,” said Luca, “that, if something went wrong, I would join the French Foreign Legion.”
“Perhaps you should still consider it,” I suggested. “There must be an Edinburgh Fringe show and a book in it…”
“You can join the French Foreign Legion until you are 40 or 50,” mused Luca. “The transition from being a freelance editor or proof reader behind a desk to becoming a comedian or an actor did not change things too much money-wise – and uncertainty about the future was pretty much the same – but now I feel more free.”
“So why,” I asked, “did you decide not to join the French Foreign Legion?”
“Because it is so boring. I checked the website and the entry pay was only something like 200 Euros more than I was earning – to stay in French Guinea in the jungle – and you had to learn French. That could have been good, because I would have learnt another language, but you also have to sing and I sing terribly.”
“They sing?” I asked.
“They sing a lot,” said Luca. “Even before dinner. I learned one of their songs: Adieu vieille Europe…”
“Is it,” I asked, “one of the strict rules of the French Foreign Legion? You have to sing?”
“Yes. And then you have to iron your own uniforms. It is a clash between being macho and being quite camp. Their uniform is unique, so they make a lot of effort into putting the pleat correctly in it when you do the ironing. You have to put a lot of effort into the ironing and then, maybe, you have to kill someone.”
“Kill someone?” I asked.
“You have to, maybe. I don’t know. My favourite group in the French Foreign Legion were the Pioneers – the people who make bridges.”
“Sappers?” I asked.
“Yes. There are very few of them.”
“I guess there are not many bridges in the desert,” I said.
“I don’t know,” said Luca. “Their symbol is an axe and an apron open on one side. I don’t know why it is open on one side. And a long beard.”
“A bird?” I asked.
“A beard. A very long beard. And they hold axes and wear aprons. They seem very proud of their aprons.
“I also decided not to join because a friend of mine knew someone who had been in the French Foreign Legion and he was not happy and he left before his contract ended because he was heavily bullied. Apparently they were ‘fond’ of him.”
“Fond of him?” I asked.
“They fancied him,” explained Luca. “And I know men can fancy me. And so I thought: Mmmm. If I am in the jungle in French Guinea and find I am the most attractive ‘girl’ in the battalion, they will never get my heart but still they can…”
“…get your butt?” I suggested.