As a comedian I have occasionally found myself in some life-threatening situations. I was once nose-to-nose with a squaddie on stage in Aldershot who’d taken exception to my poncy routine about Greco-Roman gods drinking nectar (“they’re all powerful and yet they choose to drink nectar? They could have any drink they wanted. They could have Stella Artois, but no, they’d rather imbibe the same stuff as bees.” I probably deserved a kicking). Cowardly in real life, I am much braver with a microphone in my hand and I boldly mocked him, even though he was probably in the SAS and could have killed me with his little finger (spoiler alert, he didn’t).
In Montreal in the late nineties I found myself being similarly cheeky to a drunken man in the audience, who was eventually ejected from the room. Outside he pulled out a gun. I might have been more polite to him if I’d known that. I’ve had some heckles in my time, but a bullet in the brain would have surely stopped me in my tracks. I could have said “I need you like I need a hole in the head,” but if I had a hole in the head I probably wouldn’t have the time to get out that final bon mot.
I always secretly hoped that an audience might hate me enough to chuck their pint pots at me, because I am ready with the retort, “People in stone houses shouldn’t throw glasses.” Alas no audience has hated me that much. There’s still time though.
But I’ve been a professional comedian for 27 years and I’ve never been punched. The worst injury I’ve had is when I walked off a stage and expected there to be some steps. But there were no steps. Gravity, that coquettish whore, has done me more damage than aggrieved punters.
So I was a bit scared to see the news last week that Bono was proposing solving the crisis in Syria and the rise of the so-called Islamic State, not with ground troops or drones, but comedians. I thought “Send in the clowns” was a song not a war strategy.
For some reason Bono (if that is his real name) was addressing a senate sub-committee (I assume they occasionally invite along people who had hits in the 1980s, so very much looking forward to Joe Dolce’s turn, though suspect his advice will always be to “Shaddup you face”) and said "I think comedy should be deployed. It’s like, you speak violence, you speak their language. But you laugh at them, when they’re goose-stepping down the street, and it takes away their power. So, I’m suggesting that the Senate send in Amy Schumer and Chris Rock and Sacha Baron Cohen, thank you.”
I am not sure how up on current affairs, Bono is, but I’ve never seen IS goose-stepping and not sure how much they’d enjoy the comedy stylings of a sexually confident woman and a Jewish man (though fair play, everyone loves Chris). But Bono is right, no modern army has attempted to counter the enemy with millionaire comedians and if you don’t try it then you won’t know.
Though IS haven’t thus far shown that they are very good at laughing at themselves. They don’t even like cartoons, which are most people’s favourite bit.
The thing is you can’t force entertainment on people who don’t want it. After the debacle with the free iTunes album, Bono should know that better than anyone. Maybe we should just airdrop in free U2 CDs into Syria until all sides in the conflict unilaterally surrender.
I am very confused about how I should vote in the forthcoming EU referendum. Usually when considering a political issue I just look at what Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt are saying I should do and do the opposite. How can these masters of being incorrect be in disagreement? It means one of them has got something right for the first time in their life. But which idiot is it?
On Monday my Happy Now? Tour played at my school, the Kings of Wessex in Cheddar. It didn't quite sell out, but like Jesus I know that a prophet is without honour in his own home town. But I performed my rude and scurrilous show with my mum and dad sat on the front row and my niece just behind them, which made it a little awkward when I made a joke about having a bath with my dad as a child and remarking on his Loch Ness Monster. "Why is yours so big and mine so small?" I'd asked. "Because I am better than you."