“Because I’ve never wanted to do one before.”
“What’s it called?”
“What’s it about?’
“It’s about not really having any problems to write an Edinburgh show about, because my dad’s not dead and I don’t come from a shit-hole with a high pregnancy rate. So I can’t write the usual Edinburgh Fringe debut show jokes about being from a chavvy area.”
“No heroin, rape or other traumatic personal stories at all?” I asked.
“Never happened to me,” lamented Laura. “My parents are still together; they don’t have a regional accent that’s hilarious; and I don’t look like the love child of anybody and anybody else. So, in Fringe terms, I don’t have anything to write about. My show is really about being quite happy and being quite fortunate. I feel like I’m breaking all the Fringe rules.”
“So instead?” I asked.
“It’s about comparing my life either to other people in the world or to animals and realising that whatever is kind of difficult for me is really not much to complain about if you put it into context.”
Laura and I then talked at length about some of the content of her show.
“But,” she then said, “you can’t talk about that bit in your blog. Because the whole show hinges on that, although you can mention me shitting myself at Disneyland in Paris. Then I meet a tiny bird that has an even harder love life than me. You can talk about the tiny bird. Do you want to see the poster?”
“Can I mention the poster in the blog?”
“Can I say what your name is?”
“Look,” said Laura. “The poster has penguins, owls and a killer whale.”
“A killer whale?” I asked. “Where?”
“Oh yes,” I said. “It is a very small killer whale and it is flying. Lovely.”
“Yes,” said Laura.
“Why is there an airborne killer whale on the poster?” I asked.
“Because sometimes I talk about killer whales.”
“In the show?”
“The poster says you are sponsored by Imodium, the relief for diarrhoea.”
“Yes. Because of my story about pooping myself at Disneyland. And because I talk about irritable bowel syndrome.”
“Is that,” I asked, “not going against the general flow of happiness in the show?”
“There is,” said Laura, “no ‘against the flow’ when you have irritable bowel syndrome. I do have IBS but, when you put that up against something like leukaemia or brittle bone disease…
“… or being French…” I suggested.
“I like France,” said Laura.
“Are there songs in the show?” I asked.
“How am I going to write a blog about this?” I asked. “Are you absolutely sure you have never been addicted to heroin or run off to Syria to be a member of ISIS?”
“Sorry, no… I even like my mother,” lamented Laura.
There was a long pause, then Laura brightened up.
“l tell you,” she said. “Here you go… Here’s something… I’ve finished writing my novel – it’s taken four or five years and, as soon as I get back home from the Fringe, we’re filming a taster scene of it, so I’ve got a cast together to do a 5-minute preview and I’m working on the pilot for a sitcom pitch and then I’m gonna do a radio equivalent for it. That’s probably going to take up my main focus after the Fringe.”
“Why didn’t you mention this before?” I asked.
“What is the novel about?”
“It’s about the end of the world, but nobody has died.”
“Surely,” I said, “the end of the world, by definition, involves a certain amount of collateral damage?”
“You would think so,” said Laura. “Except it turns out not to be the end of the world. It is just that Jesus has paused things in this particular village, because it needs work.”
“But,” I said, “I am guessing I can’t mention this because that’s the end of the novel?”
“It’s the beginning of the novel,” said Laura. “It’s about a hapless group of West Country villagers who are dealing with the end of the world… And then Jesus turns up and has to try and fix things before the Devil wins.”
“Is the Prophet Mohammed involved?” I asked.
“There could be publicity value in it,” I suggested.
“He might be in the illustrations,” Laura mused.
“There are illustrations?” I asked.
“No. But if you want to do any… I am looking for a publisher.”
That conversation took place yesterday at the Soho Theatre Bar in London.
Today in the Soho Theatre, I talked to comedian Joz Norris.
“The reason I got in touch with you,” he explained, “was to mention the Shambles web series that I’m in. “Harry Deansway made it. He told me: Plug it, Joz. Get people to see it.” And I thought I would talk to you about it, because you are increasingly prestigious. So I told Harry: Good news, Harry, I’m going to talk to the increasingly prestigious John Fleming about it. And Harry immediately banned me from saying anything about it. He says he doesn’t want any discussion of it at all.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Harry says he doesn’t want any spoilers. He says he thinks there is too little mystery in comedy these days. He says everyone’s so busy trying to plug everything and reveal all the secrets going on in it, it spoils the product. He says I can mention it and ask people to watch it, but you are not allowed to say anything about it.”
“About what?” I asked.
“You can’t trick me into talking about it,” said Joz. I think I am allowed to tell you the title Shambles and then hopefully people will just Google that. But Harry insists there should be no actual discussion of it at all. So the main thing you and I were going to chat about I am not allowed to.
“Harry also said he was sad I had not recommended a show of his in a Q&A I did with the British Comedy Guide, so I thought maybe we could just talk about Harry’s show instead. That way, I’m still helping him out and giving him some good buzz, but I am not spoiling the secrets of his web series that he doesn’t want spoiled.”
“So what are you doing at the Edinburgh Fringe in two weeks?” I asked.
“I’m doing a show called Hey Guys!”
“If,” I said, “we are not going to talk about your web series and we’re not going to talk about your Edinburgh show…”
“Why can’t we talk about my Edinburgh show?”
“We have already, haven’t we?”
“OK,” I said. “What are the forty words that sell it in the Fringe Programme?”
“I think it says something about being a pig-rat. The children I work with call me Pig-Rat.”
“I have the nose of a pig – I have quite flared nostrils – and I have quite a weird, ratty mouth. But what I don’t like about my face is the combination of my mouth and my eyes. I think it’s jarring.”
“If,” I asked, “you have the nose of a pig and the mouth of a rat, where are your eyes from?”
“I have my dad’s eyes.”
“Which one of us is going to say it?” I asked.
“When does your dad want them back?”
“Oh,” said Joz, “that will be one of the witty quips you throw into your blogs.”
There was a pause.
“It’s a very good show,” said Joz.
“What is?” I asked.
“Hey Guys!,” said Joz.
“Have you seen it?” I asked.
“I filmed a preview and then I watched that… I admit I have not seen it live.”
“Are you going to see it live?”.
“I don’t think I’m going to be able to because, every time I’m performing it, I’m always tied-up working and can’t get time off to be in the audience.”
“It is one of the eternal crosses a performer has to bear,” I said.
“I suppose so,” said Joz.
“Do you want another tea?” I asked.
“Not really,” said Joz. “Shall we just have a chat, as I can’t talk about anything?”