Yesterday was a pretty ordinary day.
In the afternoon, after talking to director Chris Lincé for a future blog, I bumped into comedian Richard Gadd at the Soho Theatre.
I got down on all-fours and kissed both his shoes.
You can never be too careful when someone is on the way up and you are in decline.
Richard Gadd’s response:
“Is it too late to tell you about the clump of dogshit I stepped in just before I arrived at the Soho?”
I think he was joking. He may not have been. Life is the sole of a comedian’s shoe who has just stepped in dogshit.
On Monday, I got a call from comic Lewis Schaffer to say the manager at the Old Nun’s Head had found my British Rail travel pass, which must have fallen out of my pocket. Lewis was not at the show, but the manager had phoned him when he found my railpass. It seemed best not to ask why.
So, last night, after going to a Gresham Lecture about finding the body of Richard III under a car park in Leicester, I ventured down South of the River again to collect the card. I told Lewis Schaffer I would buy him a drink or a meal to say Thankyou.
He texted: I have got car unexpectedly staying here. Can you come to my flat instead?
You have a car staying in the flat?? I texted back.
Carnegie, he texted back.
Lewis Schaffer has a son called Carnegie.
I have never asked why. It seemed best not to.
As I left the Old Nun’s Head with my railcard, I bumped into Martin Soan with a placard on his back. He insisted I have a cup of tea before seeing Lewis Schaffer.
It is usually better to have a stiff alcoholic drink before seeing Lewis Schaffer.
Martin, whose Pull the Other One I saw in Nunhead last Friday, is preparing for another Pull The Other One show in Peckham Rye this Thursday, which is Guy Fawkes Night. The poster (which he had on his back) promises An Explosive Finale.
“What does that involve?” I asked.
“Indoor fireworks,” Martin told me.
“Indoor fireworks?” I asked.
“Indoor fireworks,” Martin repeated.
“What are indoor fireworks?” I asked.
“Incendiaries,” said Martin. “There are famous indoor fireworks. There’s the snake, the elephant’s arse…”
“…Dresden,” I suggested. “Hamburg.”
“No,” said Martin, “they were extremely outdoors.”
“Not if you were indoors,” I said.
“If you were indoors they were indoors,” admitted Martin, “but I think the effect was outdoors.”
“Not if you were indoors,” I said. “They had a big effect if you were indoors.”
“But,” argued Martin, “if you were indoors, you wouldn’t be indoors for very long, because your doors wouldn’t be in.”
“Well, in fact,” I said, “you wouldn’t be for very long.”
“Anyway,” said Martin, “you can now buy specific incendiary devices for all types of computers that blow up in different ways. For computer screens, electric wires, huge fuel boxes, electricity cables on pylons…”
“When I had to buy sugar-glass bottles to hit people with,” I said, “I had to go all the way to Shepperton Studios. Where are these incendiary people?”
“There’s a French company based in London,” Martin told me,” called – it’s a French name – Le something or La something.”
“It would be,” I said. “So, things are going to bang at the show on Thursday?”
“But will there,” I asked, “still be nudity and knob gags?”
“No,” said Martin firmly. “I am trying to escape my horrific past. I am trying to become a serious fucking artist, John.”
“But it is a tradition,” I argued. “If there’s no nudity and knob gags, you are letting me down, you’re letting your family down, you are letting the Queen and your country down. What else are you doing before Christmas?”
“I’m organising an alternative performance for a Christmas Fair.”
“What is alternative about it?” I asked. “Does it involve Easter eggs and bunnies?”
“I am,” explained Martin, “getting some abnormal people to do walkabouts.”
“No giant, singing-and-dancing vaginas?” I asked.
“No,” said Martin.
“You have no sense of tradition,” I told him.
Martin said: “I did my first proper comedy club – not variety club – shows in ages recently. Just me and stand-ups. I did well but being on the same bill and seeing that stand-up stuff again was a huge cultural shock for me. I haven’t done any regular comedy clubs for years.”
“So was it,” I asked, “just 19-year-olds telling wank jokes?”
“No,” said Martin. “Middle-aged men telling wank jokes. They were extremely well-crafted, extremely good, very funny wank gags, but it was exactly that. I got a bit blown away. I thought: Oh, Jesus Christ! I’ve been living in this rarified atmosphere of variety and people coming on and juggling peanuts and putting costumes on and suddenly there I was in the real world of a proper, regular comedy club. My God! What a shock! I had thought maybe the whole comedy – what I now call the ‘straight’ comedy – circuit had maybe moved on a little bit.”
“I think,” I said, “maybe it moved on and came back round in a circle.”
“Then,” said Martin, “coming up I’ve got some big variety shows up in Sheffield, Halifax, Devon, which I’m completely at home with. But then I have this tradition of spending Boxing Day with this miserable old git in Borehamwood.”
“Oh,” I said.
After that, I went to see Lewis Schaffer. He made me a banana split, with ice cream and banana and put mincemeat on top of it. He seemed to think this was perfectly normal.
Then I had to talk to him for 90 seconds in a brick stairwell because he is making 90 second videos every day which he is putting on YouTube. He told me very few people are watching them.
“Have you mentioned them to anyone?” I asked.
“No,” he said.
The 90 second video I did with him is on YouTube.
I am telling you because he is unlikely to.
When I got home, there was an email from the London Fortean Society telling me that, in January, Rat Scabies – drummer with punk band The Damned – is going to give a talk about the Holy Grail and the mystery of Rennes-le-Château.
It was that sort of day.