I arranged to meet Chris Dangerfield yesterday on a street corner in Soho, London’s central sex district.
It was his idea and it seemed appropriate for a man who performed his Sex Tourist show at the recent Edinburgh Fringe and who almost won the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for getting his flyers sponsored by an Edinburgh ‘escort agency’ – punters got 10% off the agency’s ‘services’ if they produced one of Chris’ Sex Tourist flyers.
We went to a Vietnamese restaurant in Soho. Chris knows the people who own it. He lives in Soho. We had prawn salad. The restaurant owner told us someone from the prestigious and very up-market Ivy restaurant had come and asked for the recipe to the seriously delicious prawn salad and they had given the person the recipe, but missed out one vital ingredient.
Chris told me: “My brother’s name is Torren. He was named after the Torrey Canyon oil tanker, which ran aground in 1967. My parents were going to call me Cadiz – after the Amoco Cadiz oil tanker which ran aground in 1978. But the surname Dangerfield is a Romany name and they didn’t call me Cadiz because they decided ‘Cadiz Dangerfield’ would be too gypsy. So they called me Christopher. I think I would have been better off with Cadiz.
“Having lost the Cunning Stunt to a higher bidder this year,” Chris continued, “obviously I am very very bitter. I should’ve known to just stump up some cash. I’ll find some way of paying for it next year.”
“But almost everyone can say they’re an award winner,” I suggested. “When I was eleven, I won an award for handwriting. In 2010, Fringe Report gave me an award as ‘Best Awards Founder’ – so I got an award for awarding awards.”
“Well,” said Chris, “I got the 1989 Downs Comprehensive School Prize for Painting and Drawing.”
“So you’re an award-winner,” I said. “and therefore you can justifiably put on your posters and flyers that you are an award-winning comedian. I won a school prize for handwriting, so even more justifiably, I could bill myself as an award-winning writer. In fact, I may well start doing that.”
“I self-published a novel when I was 24,” revealed Chris, “and i-D magazine – cool in its day – referred to it as ‘genius’… They said This slight volume’s genius warms…”
“What was the novel called?” I asked.
“Tired etc,” shrugged Chris. “It was a rubbish novel about a couple of blokes who grew a lot of skunk and took a lot of speed. Autobiographical obviously. It was a vanity project, but it sold a lot and got a lovely review. i-D called it ‘genius’ so I have sometimes put on posters for my comedy gigs ‘Genius (i-D)’ because I think I am, really. Essentially.”
“You know the Jason Wood story, do you?” I asked. “Kate Copstick gave his Edinburgh Fringe show a one-star review in The Scotsman so, the next day, on all his posters, he had emblazoned ‘A STAR (The Scotsman)’. Copstick told me she was filled with admiration and wanted to give him extra stars just for that.”
Chris laughed. “This year,” he said, “Marie Claire magazine did Ten Top Tips to get the most out of the Fringe written by someone called Anna Saunders and, just in passing, she said I will not be attending Chris Dangerfield’s show ‘Sex Tourist’. That was it. That was all she said. But I actually thanked her for that. I said In your how-to-get-thin-and-fuck-men rag… I don’t really want any of those people in my show anyway. I offered to do Sex Tourist in her front room for free. She hasn’t got back to me.”
“Good publicity idea,” I said.
“But I would do the show in her front room,” insisted Chris. “I toured with Trevor Lock last year, performing in living rooms. We done 45 paid shows in people’s front rooms. It was the most amazing tour. We were doing two a week. We done Sadie Frost’s living room, which was bigger than a lot of venues I’ve done. We also done three women in Bath.”
“Did you advertise for people who wanted comedy shows in their living rooms?” I asked.
“Well,” explained Chris, “Trevor had a slightly bigger profile than I had – he just put it on Facebook and Twitter and, when we got booked by Sadie Frost, Kate Moss came so there was a bit of publicity around that and Boy George booked us, so that helped.
“There was one couple who lived in a house that used to belong to Madonna or Guy Ritchie up in Lancaster Gate and they were very, very posh so it was funny telling them whore stories. Halfway through my set, one woman very quietly said: You should be in a cage. Which was alright. That was fine. She’s probably right.
“We spent so long in people’s toilets on that tour,” said Chris. “Because there’s no Green Room in people’s houses. So, while they’re all shuffling chairs round in their front room and drinking vodka, where do you prepare? In the toilet. I have a selection of photographs of Trevor in people’s toilets and he’s always having a poo. Pre-match nerves from Trevor. I’ve actually had a pee between his legs while he had a poo. It was a tour of living rooms where our relationship blossomed in toilets. We were cottaging, essentially.”
“You told me Trevor Lock had been one of your comedy heroes,” I said.
“I don’t like to do that Who inspired you? business, but Doug Stanhope is up there, who I also stalk. He occasionally asks if he can stay in my lovely Soho flat when he’s performing at Leicester Square. I tell him No, because I don’t want you puking in my hand-made shoes.
“But Trevor was a comedy hero of mine. We ended up at a gig together and I was just blown away. I absolutely was. I think he’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. A friend of mine used to work with Paul Foot and told me I’ve got that Trevor Lock’s phone number so I said Well, do the wrong thing and give it to me so he did.
“I remember I came out of this Chinese massage shop – and, by massage shop, I mean brothel – and I had a spring in my step and I texted Trevor. I was in such a good mood I said: You don’t know me, but I’ve been watching a lot of your gigs and I’ve just had my balls milked by a Chinese woman and what seemed to be her daughter.
“And he texted back… I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was a fear-based response. He had constructed a sentence in which he obviously wished in no way to provoke or encourage me to contact him ever again.
“Then I saw him at a couple of more gigs and let him know that was me who had sent the text.”
“So at what point after you became chums,” I asked, “did he realise that his first fear-based reaction towards you had actually been the correct one?”
“Every time we get together to this day.” said Chris. “But he helped turn me from an open mic comedian into someone who felt he could offer a bit more. He just taught me how to be a comedian.”
“And you ended up last year playing rich people’s living rooms together,” I said.
“Not all of them were rich,” Chris corrected me. “Some people who booked us were students who’d sold tickets. So we’d go from these lovely posh houses in Lancaster Gate and Primrose Hill one day to a house the next day in Southampton where we’d be performing in some students’ kitchen which, as everyone knows, is always an unpleasant place and you’ve got a smelly bin next to you and a sink full of beer cans. It was an amazing tour.”
“I’m amazed you didn’t get the Cunning Stunt Award,” I said.
“For so many things,” said Chris with a trace of bitterness.
“A career award, maybe?” I suggested.
“I’m going to be like that bloke who left The Beatles,” said Chris.
“Stuart Sutcliffe?” I suggested.
“Pete Best,” said Chris. “Stuart Sutcliffe died. Well, I will die too.”
“As a career move?” I asked.
“Dying?” asked Chris. “No, as a Cunning Stunt. Some people with heart attacks came close to getting nominated this year, didn’t they?”
“Yes they did,” I agreed.
“Every day in my Fringe show,” Chris told me, “about 36 minutes in, after a particularly violent re-enactment of something lustful and unholy, I thought I was going to die. Every day. Actual pains in my heart. So I nearly did die.”
“Perhaps it was God trying to strike you down for your lifestyle,” I suggested.
“There’s always next year,” said Chris.
“Dying young-ish is a good career move,” I said. “The Jim Morrison factor.”
“But he didn’t die on stage,” said Chris. “Now, Tommy Cooper…”
“Yes,” I said, “Tommy Cooper out-shone Eric Morecambe in death. In life, Eric was a bigger star. But he only died offstage in the wings after he had performed a show. Tommy Cooper had a better death because he died on stage on live television.”
“So what are my options?” asked Chris. “One died on stage. One died coming off stage. So all that’s left is to walk on stage and die immediately.”
“I’m sure you’ve done that before,” I said.
It seems a churlish way to end a blog.
But Chris said I should do it.