Mark Kelly, slightly older and much wiser, in Soho this week
In my blog yesterday, I repeated comedy writer Mark Kelly’s tale of how he had problems in the early 1990s in a northern English city with a comedy club promoter called Dave (not his real name) who, over the years, had taken a lot of LSD.
The blog ended:
You might reasonably expect that would be the end of the story… You might expect that Dave and I would require no further contact.
But, about eighteen months later, my phone rings…
Now read on…
So, eighteen months later, my phone rings…
It’s Dave, who doesn’t seem to think there’s anything wrong at all between us. He wants me to come and do another gig in the same northern city. Quite reasonably, I think, I say something along the lines of:
“Are you out of your fucking mind? You put me in a fucking dosshouse, you fucking wanker!”
He seems rather surprised and says something along the lines of:
“Wasn’t it satisfactory?”
I talk at some length about how unsatisfactory it was. He seems genuinely very apologetic and says it will be different this time. It’s a different club and it will be absolutely fine, he says.
In the meantime, I have made a friend in the same northern city, who I want to go and see. I think, Well, when I did the previous gig for Dave, I did get paid properly and the gig itself was actually fine.
Obviously, the fact I was put up in a dosshouse afterwards should have been a massive warning but, in the end – possibly because I had had a lot of acid down my own neck over the years – I agreed.
Shortly before the date of the gig, it turned out my new friend was not able to be in the northern city that night. So I thought: Shall I pull out of the gig? But it was comparatively short notice and I don’t like to let people down.
So I decide – and, looking back, it was obviously an act of gross stupidity – not to let him down and to go and perform the gig. However, I tell Dave I absolutely require a proper hotel. I absolutely require somewhere decent. I give him examples of decent accommodation. It seems OK.
The gig, again, is on a Saturday night.
I arrive in the northern city. The road seems to be outside the city, so the cab fare from the station is costing me a fortune. We turn up outside this large, strange-looking building and it seems semi-derelict.
The cab driver says: “This is it.”
I say: “Are you sure this is definitely it?”
“Yes,” he says. “I thought it was derelict.”
“Can you wait here?” I ask him. “I may need you to take me back to the station.”
It looks like a building site, but I walk round the corner and there are some lights on. It appears to be some kind of a pub, a bar, but it’s very rough and it doesn’t look like it’s had a visit from Health & Safety or the police for several years. It looks like The Pub Time Forgot.
I say, “I’m Mr Nasty. I’m the comedy act.” They look at me blankly.
They get the manager, who says, “Oh yeah, yeah, you’re on later, upstairs. The gig’s round the other side.”
I say: “There definitely is a gig?”
“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah,” he says.
So I tell the taxi to go, paying him a fortune for all the arsing around and waiting.
I have two instruments with me – a ukelele and a banjo ukelele – and my bag and my costume.
I have to climb up an outside, wobbly, very dangerous fire escape to get into the building and inside it looks not too bad, but there’s no-one in apart from Dave and an odd-looking guy who is a member of the other act who are on. He is wearing lederhosen and it turns out I am appearing with a 16-piece Bavarian oompah band.
I check with Dave: “This is a comedy gig, isn’t it?”
“It’ll be fine,” he replies. “It is what it is.”
By now it is about ten minutes before the gig is doe to start, but there’s no audience.
“They’ll be coming,” Dave says.
“When?” I ask.
“They’ll be coming in from next door when the pub closes,” he says. “I’ve put the start of the show back. It will begin around midnight.”
“But,” I said, “they’re all going to be rat-arsed.”
“Well, yeah,” he said.
He tells me I am not going to be on until around 1.30 on the Sunday morning.
At this point, I think, Well, the gig’s going to be stupid, weird and pointless but whatever.
I check with Dave: “The hotel’s sorted OK?”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s fine,” he reassures me.
I am thinking: OK. It’s a waste of time, but it’s not a disaster.
Eventually, the audience come in, absolutely pissed, and I notice they are mostly refusing to pay and Dave seems too scared to insist.
The Bavarian oompah band play for an hour so I stand at the back and watch. There are people vomiting and passing out. It is like Malcolm Hardee’s Tunnel club at its worst. I think, I have to do 40 minutes after this!
At that time, I was performing a generally quite hard political set. There is no possibility of me doing that and coming out alive. I could have played some silly songs. But I decide my best tactic is to outflank the audience by getting as drunk as they are. So, during the interval after the oompah band, I get really pissed myself.
I stagger on and the gig goes surprisingly well. My set consisted mainly of swapping abuse with the audience and there’s no semblance of an act, but everyone’s really happy. I seem to remember getting an encore.
I’m pissed but I’m not out of it. I can walk. I come off stage, drink loads of water and try to sober up.
It then turns out Dave hasn’t taken enough money from the door, so we are all being promised cheques. I think Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. He hasn’t got the money; there’s no way of getting paid right now.
I say to Dave: “Can you get me a cab or take me to the hotel?”
“Ah,” he says, “There’s a problem.”
“Look, Dave,” I say, “I’m not staying in another fucking dosshouse.”
“I haven’t arranged anything.” he says.
“In that case,” I tell him, “I’m going to come back and stay with you.”
“I’m homeless,” he says.
“You’re actually homeless?”
“Where are you going to sleep tonight?”
“At my girlfriend’s.”
“OK,” I say. “Can I stay at your girlfriend’s?”
He goes and asks this woman who I hadn’t even noticed before. She looks quite pissed-off but agrees.
By now it’s about 2.30 on Sunday morning.
She has a car. It turns out she’s a social worker, possibly Dave’s. We drive to the housing estate where she lives, get into the lift and go up to her flat, which looks quite nice. I look at her CDs and she seems quite normal.
She very quickly says she’s going to bed and clearly isn’t happy about me being there, which I can sympathise with.
Behind a sliding partition, there is a sofabed, which Dave makes up for me.
There is a telephone, so I ask Dave: “In the morning, is it OK if I call and get a cab to the station?”
“Oh, you don’t want to be leaving straight away,” he says. “We always make a big deal out of Sunday morning breakfasts.”
“OK,” I say, “I’ll stay for breakfast, then I’ll go.”
So I go to bed, settle down to sleep, then the partition door opens and Dave comes in with a huge soft toy – a dog – “He’s called Captain,” Dave tells me. “He’ll look after you during the night. He’s a guard dog. He’ll look after you.”
Why did he do that? I think. This is really weird. Am I going to expect more weirdness during the night? Should I stay awake? Then I hear what sounds like them having sex. I think, That’s probably OK: he’s made up with her.
I fall asleep.
I wake at 8.00am and think: I’ll just go. There are some bills lying by the phone, so I know the address. I will phone for a taxi.
Dave comes out: “Don’t go! Don’t go! Special breakfast! You must stay!”
Just to be on the safe side, I order a cab for an hour later.
Then, from the kitchen, come these sounds. It’s like Laurel & Hardy are in there. There’s a banging around of pots and pans. It goes on for ages and ages. I think Is he preparing some sort of banquet? Ages and ages. I think The cab is going to be here before long!
He eventually comes out and my breakfast is a plate with one slice of bread, toasted, cut into half with some butter on it.
That is it.
At this point, the cab arrives. I leave without eating the toast.
“Send me the cheque!” I tell Dave.
No cheque ever arrives.
His excuses got more and more absurd.
I did hear that things have not gone too well for Dave since then. People tell me he has got a bit aggressive.