On the train from Gatwick Airport to Victoria, I looked so dead that the woman opposite gave me a bottle of red wine to pep me up. It didn’t.
I am about to collapse. I just lost 13 hours. Let me know if you find them.
I am so jet lagged I cannot think; but this just might be an improvement
After Beijing, I flew to Singapore. It was my third time in that magic, clean and well-organized city and it amazes and saddens me that it is such a beautiful place to live… because it is run by a dictatorial government.
I have not talked to one person there who does not love the life, the safety on the streets, the lack of homelessness, the superior health care. But it is a city that will execute you if you deal in drugs and will cane you publicly if you are naughty.
If you litter the streets, you are publicly shamed and, if you chew gum or cross in the middle of a road, you will be arrested. No-one seems to mind that his or her vote is meaningless. They approve of these laws and believe it makes for a better quality of life for them all.
When I look at the poverty, homelessness, squalor and anger under our so-called democratic regimes, I wonder if the Singapore people do not have it right.
In Singapore, I was hosted by a great friend, Umar Rana, the producer of Comedy Masala, and his Czechoslovakian wife Silvie. I knew his phone number and someone at Singapore Airport Immigration called him for me to get the address. Then they had the problem of trying to locate my fingerprints. Over the years, my thumb has worn smooth and it took two powerful machines to figure out that my thumb was me.
When I got through Customs and out, the hot, damp Singapore air hit me like a damp sponge after the relatively cool, invigorating air in Beijing.
Umar and Silvie live in a large condo and I had a quiet room of my own so it was like a hotel but much nicer because both Ranas were anxious to keep me comfortable and well fed.
They have a cat named Tangie who had a room of her own as well.
Umar kept reminding me that his was a fully equipped home. The two of them do not drive because keeping a car in Singapore is grossly expensive and the public transportation is excellent.
I am struck by what Renaissance Men become comedy producers. Dilip in Manila deals in property development and affordable housing; Eamonn in Jakarta is into energy conservation, magazine publishing, public service and so many more projects I cannot believe he finds time to produce the entertaining and very popular show that he does at the American Club; Umar in Singapore is a Pakistani and has been a banker and lived and worked in many different cultures.
He went to school in Amherst, one of America’s finest Universities, then went from America to the Far East to work. After several other locales, he moved to Singapore about twelve years ago.
People who live and work internationally seem to have a wider, less restrictive view of what it is to be human. Differences of philosophy or behaviour interest them rather than putting them off. It has been an education to know and talk to these men.
I was in Singapore to perform for two nights at Comedy Masala.
I did not have to do an entire hour although I was headlining. I only needed to do 30 minutes. Audiences in Singapore are very diverse and very open-minded and, with performers there, I never feel the competitiveness that I do with comedians in other cultures. In Singapore, they all seem to support one another and encourage each other.
With many of the shows I do in Southeast Asia, I always feel the line-ups are mediocre or inexperienced comedians but, in Singapore, Umar runs a tight show: three comedians and a headliner and his comedians are always very good.
The audience was very mixed: French, Italian, Australian, American and Singaporean but more local than international.
The opener was a boy named Matthew Chalmers from Glasgow and he was superb. His jokes were sharp and fast and clever. His jokes were about being Glaswegian and I felt they were not getting the laughs they deserved. It could be because what he said resonated with me but not to people who cannot imagine a place like Glasgow where Jack Daniels is the local nectar and deep-fried Mars Bars are considered health food.
The second comedian was Ben Quinlan. Truly professional. He won a very prestigious competition not long ago in Hong Kong. He looks Caucasian but is half Chinese, born and raised in Hong Kong. His forte is accents and he is wonderful imitating Thai speech and Indian speech.
The last comedian before me was Adrian Saw, a magician who works in finance during the day. I thought he was really good, though doing magic in a dimly-lit room where people cannot see you clearly is a huge challenge.
I did straight stand-up instead of my hour-long show which is a combination of stories and jokes and it seemed to go over OK but, as it often is with Asian audiences, they were not very loud in their approval or their laughter. So, although I got many compliments and much praise, I am not certain of the impact.
However, one couple was getting every joke. They were originally from Melbourne but had spent the last several years in New Guinea and this was their last night in Singapore before moving to France.
You often find that expats in Asia are people with excellent high-paying jobs whose companies move them from one country to another so they become very international in their perspective and in their outlook on what life is about. There is a realism to them that I find very refreshing and often they are able to separate themselves from the culture they are in and see it clearly.
The people I have met are uniformly liberal even though they work for companies that are certainly more to the right on the political spectrum. These people observe cultures rather than participate in them because, no matter how long they live in one place, they are still outsiders.
Singapore is really lovely at night, with tall modern buildings and a sense of constant activity. Something is always happening.
Silvie says it is a very expensive city but it takes good care of its residents with housing, medical and education benefits. It does not have a homeless problem and its residents are very proud of its cleanliness and its safety. You can walk down any street in Singapore at any hour of the day or night and feel safe.
I arrived back at Gatwick Airport at 3:45pm, having lost 13 hours of daylight and was hit with a 42F degree chill.
The minute I got to the train station, someone helped me on with my case before I even asked. Another person helped organize my case so it didn’t obstruct the other passengers. Someone carried my case down Victoria Station’s steps to the tube. Someone else helped me get that case on the train. To make me feel even more wanted and loved, the bus driver waited for me to round the corner to get on the bus. I was so thrilled I forgot to shiver.
British people help one another because it is the right thing to do.
It felt very good to be home, back in London. Tomorrow, I am off to perform in a burlesque show.