When I met performer Chris Dangerfield in London’s Soho last week, he wanted to talk about how political correctness has gone mad and I wanted to talk about fishnet tights.
“I thought you were leaving the country,” I said.
“I did plan to go travelling for a couple of years,” he told me, “maybe forever. But my problem, John, is connection and going travelling is almost giving up connecting with people and having nothing permanent. I would just be a wanderer and get old and end up one of those blokes on a beach in Thailand with no hair.”
“That seems to be what I’ve done,” I said, “except for the beach.”
“This is the concern,” Chris said, “ending up like you. But business is going so well that, if I commit to work for the next couple of years, I’ll probably be able to retire well.
“This,” I asked, “is your lock-picking business?”
“Yeah. I just got a warehouse in America and we’re thinking of maybe doing something in Hong Kong. But what I wanna talk to you about is Gazza and his joke.”
We then talked about various subjects.
“I can’t post that,” I said. “It is not going to read well in print. It will make you look bad.”
“What?” asked Chris. “As in ‘bad’ not interesting or ‘bad’ meaning I look like a cunt?
“Yes,” I said. “I…”
“I don’t care,” he told me. “Put it all in. I’m done with caring about all that bullshit. The Glasgow police have got a Twitter account and they Tweeted – This is 100% true – They Tweeted We may pay you a visit if you Tweet anything illegal – that’s fair enough – unnecessary and unkind. The police Tweeted this! We may pay you a visit if you Tweet anything unnecessary and unkind. This is actually happening! It’s absurd!
“The Canadian comedian Mike Ward made a joke about some spastic kid and was fined $42,000. It’s bullshit. What is happening not just to comedy but to the world?… How was the Edinburgh Fringe this year? You’ve watched it go downhill for the last 16 years. Be honest now. It’s shit, isn’t it?”
“I don’t really see that much difference,” I replied. “You were supposed to be coming up for a few days this year. I was looking forward to that.”
“I thought about visiting for a few days,” Chris explained, “but I’ve just got too much work on. Hardeep sorted out a room for me with another friend, but her Facebook had fishnets and I thought: Oh shit!”
“Fishnets?” I asked.
“Not Hardeep. His friend. I thought: I’ll be sitting in a room working and then only going out for a couple of hours. So I didn’t get up there. I’m thinking of doing a show next year.”
“Fishnet tights?” I asked.
“No, stockings,” Chris replied. “Stockings. No-one wears tights any more in my bedroom. I can’t be doing with them. They remind me of my mother. I would find my mum’s tights with her knickers rolled up in them at the bottom of the stairs. Eugh! Dark tan. Not black, not white, not pink, nothing sexy. But, nonetheless, if a woman arrives in my bed with tights on, they have to be removed. That’s a game changer as much as no hair on a woman.
“Where were we? My Edinburgh show maybe next year. I’ve been quite outspoken about the political correctness movement that is gaining so much power at the moment and I’ve lost a lot of friends through that. And some of them were my media contacts that I’d spent eight years building up. And they’ve become arsehole virtue social justice warriors. Really. A lot of them have gone. All just disappeared from my Contacts list.”
“So will you do a show next year?” I asked.
“Copstick said to me: For fuck’s sake do a show up here – which was very nice of her. I said: If I do, I’ll need your help and she said something along the lines of Alright. You interrupted her on the Grouchy Club Podcast. She was about to market me as part of the… But you interrupted, mumbling something about biscuits…”
“Well,” I said, “that’s my role.””
“Let’s get back,” Chris insisted, “to political correctness being poison.”
“Net stockings?” I tried.
“I think this is going to snowball,” Chris persisted. “People are taken to court for really shitty jokes that are not racist, that are not harassment. It’s happening. There are lots of examples. There’s Guy Earle in Canada. A load of people heckled him. They introduced themselves into his show. They were the vampires at his door. He welcomed them in. He shouted back at them and they took him to court and won. This is madness.
“When I read the Top Ten Jokes in Edinburgh, they are lollystick jokes aren’t they? They are good for families. But that’s nothing to do with me. And that’s alright. I don’t expect it to all be about me. Far from it. But that’s what gets the Awards. Lollystick acts. The awards have the odd inoculation – a small amount of acknowledged evil that will make them feel better. It works like an inoculation. They take on a few people who are a bit risky to protect themselves against the generalised evil and generalised subversion.”
“You realise,” I asked, “that this blog is going to have nothing in it about political correctness – just fishnet tights?”
“Stockings!” said Chris. “The other thing, of course, is I’ve just finished writing a novel. The story is there. But it’s not long enough and it needs a lot of work on it.”
“That’” I told him, “is what women constantly say to me.”
“It needs as much editing as you do,” said Chris, “which is a helluva lot. At the moment it’s 58,000 words; I’m aiming for around 75,000. The book is the story of a man who goes to Thailand to get clean (of drugs) and gets a lot less than he bargained for.”
“Does he,” I asked, “try to kick his heroin addiction in a brothel?”
“That always seemed a very bad idea,” I told Chris. “Doing it for real.”
Chris told me: “I set out to write it thinking it was about a man getting clean in a brothel. But it isn’t. It’s about childhood, nostalgia and connection. When you set out… When you define your enclosure and say It’s about this and contrive something, it doesn’t work. It’s not creative.”
“So,” I asked, “it has ended up being about the man and how he got to be who he is?”
“Yeah. To an extent. Or how he didn’t become what he should be. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done. It would be really nice if I got it published before next August and I would do a reading (at the Edinburgh Fringe). Then I can present it as fiction and avoid a lot of trouble.”
“How can you present it as fiction?” I asked.
“Well,” said Chris, “I mean, some of it’s fictional; it just has to be.”
“The more unbelievable something seems,” I suggested, “very often the more true it is. You have to tone down reality to make it believable.”
“Absolutely,” said Chris. “That’s what happened with (Edinburgh Fringe show) Sex Tourist. I had to play it down. That was totally insane. I bought a gun. They’re plastic.
“When I finally came out of that methamphetamine binge, I took the gun back to the shop and said: Mate, I’m done with the gun. I really don’t need it.
“And he was all No, no, no. You can take it back to England and he took it all to pieces and said I’ll send it back to you in parts. I asked What do I do for bullets? and he said I can send you them as well.”
“Not plastic bullets?” I asked.
“No. Do you know blank keys are made out of spent bullet shells? They use a lot of bullets in practising and they collect them all, melt them all down and make keys in America.”
“Have you written a novel before?” I asked.
“I had one vanity publishing thing in my early 20s – Tired etc. It done quite well, got some good reviews, was in i-D, Loaded.”
“What’s the new one called?”
“A friend suggested Last Exit To Patong… You know, John, I don’t think you’re going to have a coherent blog here.”
“It’s never worried me before.”
“What? When I was smoking crack in Brown’s? Do you remember? I had to run to the chemist. I read that blog back and thought: Who is this? I was reading it, really excited, wondering: Oh shit! What happens next? And it was me.”
“Tights,” I said.
“They’re horrible things,” Chris replied.
“Fishnet tights?” I asked.
“There’s nothing wrong with them. There’s nothing wrong with anything. Nothing’s good; nothing’s bad. But I have a relationship with them that I don’t want to re-live with a sexual partner… Look, when I’m coming down my stairs as a toddler on my hands and knees, at the bottom, I end up with my face in my mum’s gusset. That’s a phrase I never wanted to say. I can’t stand them. They’re a proper party-killer. Tight round the waist, gonna leave a mark and there’s a thread and a seam that goes round the fanny.”
“You know,” I said, “when you realise you shouldn’t have said something?”
“No,” said Chris. “No, I haven’t got to that stage yet.”