Last night I went to the media launch for promoter Bob Slayer’s December pop-up venue Heroes Grotto of Comedy in the City of London, just round the corner from the Bank of England.
It is in a building which apparently used to be one of the flagships of J.Lyons restaurants. In the course of the evening, I discovered I am the only person in Britain who did not know late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used to work for J.Lyons as a research chemist and came up with a new process for storing Lyons Maid ice cream. “And she invented the Mr Whippy ice cream,” added comic Lindsay Sharman.
The pop-up venue came about because Bob Slayer and Weirdos Comedy chap Adam Larter were trying to find somewhere to stage the annual Weirdos’ panto.
Having found a temporary venue, they then decided to add more shows. So now there are nightly shows 3rd-18th December, including charity shows in aid of Shelter and the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.
“In the first week,” said Bob Slayer, “we will be having Stompy, The Half-Naked Chef cooking up a festive show out in the street. You’ve seen the police out there. I think a man running around in his pants accosting City workers from 5.00pm is going to be…”
The assembled throng for the media evening included comedian Joz Norris pretending to be a reporter for the Horse & Hound magazine. No, I have no idea either.
Bob Slayer asked the assembled throng: “What did Adam Larter say to get you all here?”
“I told different people different things,” said Adam. “Some people were told it’s a party.”
I got talking to various people who will be performing at the Heroes Grotto, including performer John Robertson, recently returned from Australia, who told me he had met a man in the Middle East who asked him: “How are things in Brighton?”
“But I don’t live in Brighton,” John told the man.
“Yes you do,” the other man replied. “I read it in John Fleming’s blog.”
“Oh lord,” I said. “I should have recorded you saying that. It will sound good in my blog tomorrow. International readers.”
So I tried to get John repeat the story. But he got sidetracked.
Firstly by magician David Don’t (who will be appearing on the fringe of the Grotto shows most nights). He told me he had submitted a video to Objective Productions which may possibly be appearing on a TV show in January. It involves a trick that went wrong and burst into flames when he performed it at Pull The Other One comedy club. There is a clip of it online:
“And my house just caught fire last night,” he added.
“What?” I asked.
“We went away for the weekend and left the children in charge of the house,” he told me. “Florence, our daughter, phoned us and said: Don’t worry, dad, everything’s OK, but there’s been a fire in the house. The dishwasher burst into flames, but I put it out by pouring water all over it. The fire engines have come and taken it away and Clifford (the family dog) bit the firemen because he saw people rushing into the house with axes and big helmets and got frightened. But they had protective clothing on, so he didn’t manage to damage them too much.”
“I was in Bahrain recently,” said John Robertson. “The promoters who booked me quite desperately tried to play down the fact it is a war zone.”
“A war zone?” I asked.
“Well,” admitted John, “Civil unrest… But ‘civil unrest’ is where only one side has an army and the other side is made up entirely of civilians who are being murdered routinely.”
“Are you sure you want to be quoted saying that?” I asked.
“I do. Well, they’re having me back in May.”
“Inshallah,” said David Don’t.
“Yeah, Inshallah,” said John Robertson. “God willing. We were in a 5-star hotel. We were completely insulated from the entire world and then me and comic Liam Malone were walking down the street just trying to get anywhere that wasn’t a car park, because no-one walks in Bahrain, mostly because they’re being murdered…”
“Are you sure about saying this?” I asked.
“Yes. All we were told was: Don’t insult the King. Don’t insult the government. And we didn’t on stage. But I found their internet filter doesn’t filter out articles about dissidents being kidnapped and beaten. So I just hung out in the 5-star hotel room. I do want to go back to Bahrain.”
“Someone thought you lived in Brighton,” I prompted him. “You did used to.”
“Yeah,” said John. “And I also got in trouble last year because of your blog.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Last year,” said John, “I was on at Spank! at the Edinburgh Fringe and I was getting ready to completely die because my motormouth screaming was not quite endearing me to this audience of pissed-up scumbags and I found a little person actor – a dwarf – who wanted to crowd surf and we crowd surfed him around the room and he was told that, when he landed, his girlfriend would then remove one item of clothing to her comfort level. So she took off a sock. And, as they surfed him round the crowd, they chanted: Positive body image! Positive body image! and then I mentioned this to you in passing and you put it in your blog:
“So then I got a text at 3.00am from a really gung-ho, socially-aware guy from Sydney saying: John! You can’t use the word dwarf! And I thought: But we’ve already thrown him! He really wanted to do it! Why are you so upset?”
“Well, even without the Brighton story, there’s a blog there,” I said.
“You write a blog?” asked John. “I always thought that was not a phone in your hand. I thought it was a taser you liked to hold while people assaulted you with information.”
“All I wanted,” I told John, “was a little story about someone thinking you lived in Brighton. It wasn’t much to ask.”
“Well, you’ve got that,” said John, “and the future and, if we come over to this bar and order a drink, I will eventually de-materialise and we will never know if I was here or not.”
“I have saved so much money,” I said, “by not taking drugs and just hanging around comedians.”
A little later, I was talking with 25-year-old comic Joz Norris who said:
“I went to Cambodia and I had an epiphany that, if it turned out I was imaginary and everybody I knew had collectively imagined me 25 years ago, I think a lot of them would accept that. Which is not to say that I think they wouldn’t be sad. I do think they would be sad that I was not real. But I do think they would very quickly go: Yeah. It figures. The signs were there. That’s an interesting thing to think and to try to deal with in your head. Ooh! What if I AM imaginary?”
“Maybe,” I suggested, “you just imagined you thought that.”
“What?” asked Joz. “The holiday in Cambodia?”
“Everything,” I said.
“Exactly,” said Joz. “It is difficult to prove any of this. The only place you really exist is in your own mind. Except possibly not.”
“Where else could you be?” I asked.
“Well,” said Joz, “if you are imaginary, then you don’t have a mind, so you can’t exist there. Maybe I only exist in your mind. Maybe people only exist in the pages of your blog.”
“But,” I said, “if you are imaginary, some person must be imagining you.”
“And that does imply it is you,” said Joz, “seeing that you are the person recording this.”
“But what if my blog does not exist?” I asked.
And perhaps it does not. It could be all in your fevered imagination, dear reader. Try to remember if you woke up this morning. Did you really awaken? Can you remember that exact moment when you regained consciousness?