It has been a while since we had a ‘chat’ and now seems as good a time as ever to bring you up-to date with what has been going on, I would hate for you to miss out on anything. Of course this whole conversation could be null and and void if there is in fact life after death, really not sure where I stand on that one. If i am honest I have never really thought about it, until you passed, now I am wondering if there is any truth to it because I feel you are around somehow, I rarely become stuck when writing a gag for something specific. Of course that could be because without doubt I had the greatest teacher and you were on call twenty four seven and maybe, just maybe, I listened more intently that I thought.
Keith wanted a chapter for the book. That book about you that inexplicably has became about us. I am taking so long to write this, too long I thought until I read Springsteens autobiography and he said that his had taken seven years to write. I have only taken five years so I felt I was way ahead of schedule. August second is the anniversary of your passing, just over two months until that day comes around, this year is SEVEN YEARS! Where did the last year go? Back to the chapter Keith asked for, and I should be clear here, Keith didn’t ask for it, no, Dad, I am sorry, I may have let the side down a little. I asked Keith to give me a deadline. I know an Adams asking for a deadline, you’ll be spinning in your grave, which makes me think there isn’t life after death because why would you spend it in a box just over five foot six long.
And you were cremated.
The chapter I am working on is the one about you, your upbringing, life, your family, us, your work. To me it is the most important chapter and I don’t want to miss anything out. I have recorded conversations with great friends of yours, some of the top funny people from the 80’s & 90’s. Your agents and your wife; who for the benefit of this slog I will call mum. You’re the star of this project and I want to remind people about your career and perhaps introduce some to the legend that is Charlie Adams.
Keith and I agreed on Friday the twenty second. I was never going to hit that deadline so I wrote this blog, the first draft and I didn’t call it the first draft as I had no intention of revisiting it, was my way of appeasing Keith and hoped reading it would make him forget about the ‘Dad’ chapter. It didn’t, with his usual perfect blend of encouragement and helpful hints I am indeed sitting at your old desk ‘improving’ this slog. I said to Keith in a second email that he shouldn’t waste time reading Loving Lockdown. I am glad he took the time.
Years ago you are quoted as saying ‘showbiz has closed down and no one told me’
Well the business of show is over, temporarily, the whole world is shut down, temporarily. A virus has taken hold, it started in a wet market in Wahun, China and spreads quickly across the globe. Right now we are locked down, not allowed out unless it is for essential travel, there are no ships or flights so I have no claim to essential travel. We can go outside for exercise, well, I have every need for that but if the world is going to end, why be fit? The only downside I can see is that lockdown has given zero reasons for not sitting down and writing. But boy do I search and procrastinate.
My lockdown story is long, it seems, but Keith is right it will be of interest to some, no, someone!
I was on a Holland America ship called the Zaandam. I ended up being on way longer than the original contract as soon after I board the countries of South America shut down and we struggled to find anywhere to let us dock. The virus had been quietly building up and being away I was perhaps not completely up-to date with current events. On March 8th I flew from Manaus in Brazil to Montevideo, Uruguay to join the ship on the ninth. On the tenth the rules changed and I would have no longer been allowed to transship. Was I lucky to miss this change or not, I just don’t know.
For a few days all was well, I think it was March fourteenth when things started to get a little more serious. We were meant to be in Ushuaia, one of my all time favourite ports of call, when I woke the ship was still moving and as I started to wonder why the captain came over the PA system to tell us Argentina had closed its borders, we were heading back to Chile who assured us if we were there by eight o’clock that morning we could disembark the guests. We quickly made that deadline but not nearly as quickly as Chile were to change their mind and now no one was allowed to enter. Just after five o’clock that day the captain returned to the PA system and told us that the cruise had been canceled but no country was going to let us into their ports. At seven thirty that same night Kevin the Cruise and Travel director was saying, ‘ladies and gentleman please welcome Paul Adams’
Yep, my show, time to make these complete strangers laugh out loud. Now me being me I had no concerns about this. I had written some typically self-effacing jokes about the issue, I was confident that the audience would be on my side. if they had come to a comedy show it was surely because they wanted to have a laugh.
I lie, I had one concern which didn’t hit me until a couple of minutes before showtime. backstage I had had an idea for an opening gag. I have never been afraid of letting a new line stand on its own merits. You always said I was your favourite comedian to write for because I of that complete lack of fear and I ALWAYS trusted the writer. I always say to young, newer comics and even some of the older ones, ‘you can not be afraid of not getting laugh’ Why? Because if you are, you’ll never try out a new bit. My worry is not the joke I have written, I am sure it’s funny but it is close to the mark. This crowd has come out and I am about to remind them about the situation when I should be the distraction. But. It’s. Funny.
On my youTube channel, yes I have one and nearly twenty-five subscribers too, I have posted this two minute twenty two-second clip. I have sent links to various people, I am surprised to find myself stupidly proud of it. It is a spot of a seasoned professional and that is all I ever wanted to be, I never craved the fame side of our business, I only wanted to be a comedian you could rely on. This spot soars into my personal top ten shows. It proved to me, once again, that I had listened to you and I learned the lessons you taught me. I am gutted that I can’t call you up and talk about it, I am gutted you can’t see the clip, I am gutted that we didn’t get to improve it just in case the opportunity to use these lines ever arose again…
The show started well because of the host, Kevin, calm personified, he had already made the audience laugh before he brought me to the stage with my favourite introduction, maybe ever.
‘I asked Paul what he would like me to say, he said ‘don’t say anything, please don’t raise expectations’ so I have nothing to say! Please welcome to the stage Paul Adams.’
The clip on youTube is two minutes and twenty two seconds in length, once you take off the nine seconds used for credits at the top and end of spot and the twelve seconds for Kevins intro and you are left with two minutes and one second. And I managed eight lines, six new and the other two were mine anyway. There was even a little bit of sentiment for good measure
‘I have to echo what Kevin said and thank you for coming out tonight, you could have been different people and stayed in your cabins and been scared but no you came out and we are going to have a laugh…’
Of course I had to ruin it in typical Adams style by adding
‘Please notice I said ‘A laugh’ there aren’t going to be plenty of laughs I am not raising expectations…’
Not one of those lines comes close to the opening joke. Walking onto the stage, slowly, clearly still deep in thought. Should I do this joke? Trust the writer, I remember but what happens when I am the writer. I do the line, of course I do the line. I turn my back to the crowd as I place the microphone stand at the rear of the stage and with my back still to the audience I start to tell the joke.
‘Wow, talk about a captive audience…’
It’s close to the perfect joke isn’t it? Topical, quickly to the point and funny. It’s six words long.
It’s a Charlie Adams joke.
Then the wait, probably seconds, felt like longer, the audience give me nothing, then it starts, with a giggle before turning into a huge wave of laughter. They’re with me, this gig is going to be fun.
Lockdown onboard was just fine, passengers and crew confined to their cabins and looked after fabulously by Holland America staff. As crew we are allowed out to eat our meals, no guests are to be seen anywhere which means no one coming up and making me feel awkward while they tell me how much they enjoyed the show. I love this and I could happily get used to this. I
eventually debark the Zaandam on April fourth and head home on a charter flight, only when I land at Heathrow does it hit me just how much of an ordeal I had experienced.
Self quarantine at Moya’s because
‘You can’t go to your mums and kill her…’ Moya’s words
Eventually on the twentieth I get to mums we clear out your office of Carousel stuff and mum says, ‘Here, you can use this space.’
I fall into your old habits maybe adding a few of my own to keep things fresh. Here I am surrounded by more than two thousand two hundred and twenty four books, I haven’t counted them all but the top shelf holds all the hard backed biographies of some of the worlds greatest funny people. two hundred and eighty seven, there are eight shelves, do the math…
What’s not to love?
I sit at your huge desk with fast unlimited internet going me access to exactly what I need. It may be watching a clip from a late night comedian from across the pond, it may be the information needed to write a joke, a Slog maybe a chapter. The point is it is all here.
What’s not to love?
I spent out on a Sonos speaker system, no shock, music is a huge love of mine, the way you listen to it and purchase it has changed though Dad, I haven’t bought an album or CD for I don’t know how long. It’s all online. I give Apple fifteen quid a month and I can get whatever I fancy. Not ideal, if I win the lottery I will buy the music in some hard copy format but there are things to like that Apple Music offers, Essential Albums of artistes you like, an album of music that influenced them, giving you more music to listen too. I have always been a fan of that. If someone I like mentions someone they are a fan of I will download the album. Moya called once a few years ago, I was about to start my three hour journey home from a gig and she tells me ‘Your mate is on Trevor Nelson’s radio show in a bit…’
My mate, it turns out, is George Benson, hardly a close friend but she mocks me because of the show I opened for him. He talks about Al Jarreau. I immediately purchase his best of album, The Very Best Of Al Jarreau; An Excellent Adventure. it becomes my go to album, still to this day. There is so much music out there and I can listen to what I want, when I want because of lockdown.
What’s not to love?
Peter James the Brighton based crime writer who I have become a huge fan of, at the start of lockdown he tweeted a video where he recommends five books to his fans. The Surgeon of Crowthorne is immediately bought from Amazon along with a half dozen other books because we just don’t know how long we will be here, locked down and I would hate to run out of things to read. Before I digress, Amazon may just be the only winners right now. Politicians are constantly moving the goalposts as too when a return to normality may occur. I don’t blame them, no one knows but don’t guess, don’t give us a date and we won’t be disappointed, Amazon when I order the books said it’ll be seven days until they arrive. They got to me two days later.
What’s not to love?
Oh, and everyone should ready The Surgeon of Crowthorne. It’s Simon
Winchesters telling of the compiling of the first ever Oxford English Dictionary. It turns out the guy who contributed more than anybody was an American doctor who ended up in an English mental asylum.
What’s not to love?
I am filling my time as you would. I am writing jokes, having ideas and creating slogs. Anything to stop me writing this damn book. Maybe none of these things will ever be finished but while I am in your office, reading your books, listening to my music, being inspired by your memory and enjoying the coffee. I, am loving lockdown.
I love you Dad.