November 10th 2020
I used to run a monthly comedy show at the White Hart pub in Eltham. It was the show I was arguably most proud of throughout my career. Booking comedians from all levels, finding the new talent, building up a fun and loyal audience and it gave me the chance to get up in front of a crowd who, perhaps, had even come to see the show because it was one of mine. Pressure comes with that. I enjoy hosting, I am a good MC, I know how to work a room and I know how important it is to make sure the playing field is level each time the next comedian comes onto the stage. Carpet, we never got around to building even a little platform there. The pressure comes from following yourself, finding new, funny material to top what I had done the month before.
As every second Thursday of the month approached I would start to think about the show and the material needed to host, a lot of the audience had seen me a lot so the pressure I mentioned was in finding new stuff to talk about. Often it would fall into my lap. For example, once on the morning of the show plumbers were at my place sorting out a drainage problem. It had already been established that I was a comedian when I made them a coffee and they had asked me why I wasn’t working that day. An hour or so later one of the guys appeared from down deep in the drain, pointing his rubber glove covered hand, covered in what you can only imagine and smelling like, well, let’s leave that to your own creative powers too.
‘Stand-up comedy, that’s got to be the hardest job!’
I laughed, a proper belly laugh. And now I had my opening for that evenings show.
Point being, I had no idea what I was going to be writing about today for this entry, then after a quick cycle, I came home and made my way to the office and opened my emails. No, that’s not true, I read a bit, I laid on my sofa and listened to some music, I played a quick game of Wordscapes then I opened my laptop. I watched some YouTube clips before finally I opened my email. There is was a job offer. Not a gig, no gig has been offered for months, it’s a lockdown and my industry has perhaps been hit the hardest, it is the main reason I don’t check my emails too much these days. This was a proper job, job offer.
Knowing I had a bunch of free time and bills were going to start adding up I seriously considered a proper job. A real job, you know, one of those, work for a living type of jobs. I thought long and hard about my skill set and after almost twenty-seven seconds I realised, sheepishly, that I was, in fact, skilled for nothing. I can talk. That’s it. Travel, I know about travel I have been to all seven continents, several times, so that’s it. I will become a travel agent. Nope, wait, it’s a lockdown, if people could travel freely I would be one of those people freely traveling, and making money while I did. So a plan B was becoming necessary. What do I like to do? Read, wander, listen to music. OK, now is there a job that covers any of these three? Postman. Walking the streets listening to music and at least I will get to read hundreds of addresses. I apply to Royal Mail. I don’t get the job as a postman but starting in December I will be in the local sorting depot as a Christmas Casual Worker. I could not be happier.
You have to remember this was only the fourth job I have ever applied for. In 1987 I lied about my age and applied to MacDonalds, successfully. For around two years I worked three shifts a week after school and I got all the five stars. In 1990 they offered me a position as a trainee manager, a role I had to turn down because in late 1989 I had applied to be a Bluecoat, I got that job too and enjoyed three years wearing that uniform.
1993 saw me audition – a showbiz term for applying- for a gig as a pro comic in Jersey, I got that job too. Some confusion though. I thought it was for two weeks. Nope, that was just the Easter run of Cockney Showtime. I went well enough for the producer to inform me I’d be there for the next six months.
‘I can’t I have a contract with Pontins and a fourth season as a Bluecoat that I had signed up for!’ I told producer Dick Ray.
A couple of phone calls later and my seventy pounds a week Pontins deal had been torn up and replaced with a proper comic job, paying me three hundred quid. A week! After that season I ask my Pontins boss, Chris if I could have my job back.
‘No Fatbloke.’ An old nickname and a long story for another entry perhaps.
‘You’re a professional comedian now!’
And that I have remained for nigh on twenty eight years now until today. When the Royal Mail emailed to say I’d been successful. So, if you are keeping score, I have applied for 4 jobs. And I have got every one of them.
No, five, in 1998 I applied to the local gym and became the fattest fitness instructor in London. But that is a story for yet another day!
Shots of Coffee: 6
Reading: Diaries Of A Bookseller by Shaun Bythall, Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind The Songs by Brian Hiatt.
Listened to: Radio X, Springsteen’s Born To Run, Springsteen on shuffle
YouTube Tip: Me talking about dancers becoming good comedians.
Word Count: 983 for this plus a couple of hundred for the book.