One of those slightly lost tour days where nothing much gets done and you’re too tired to think and you skulk from place to place, waiting for the time to tick down to show time.
We had stayed overnight in a Premier Inn just off the motorway and then crawled our way up to Glasgow, via the nice Tebay farm shop service station and the Premier Inn in Carlisle that we’e be staying at tonight.
I should have slept or done some work, but I played computer games and vegged out.
I thought about sleeping in the dressing room when we got to the Citizens but just stared at my computer screen. I didn’t feel in a great headspace to perform to about 450 people, but weirdly this is often the best kind of prep. My subconscious seems to know what it’s doing and shuts down all but the most essential services to rest them up because it knows what is coming.
A lady from the Comedy Festival came to check if I needed anything, her bright breeziness juxtaposing with my monosyllabic grunts. She was being lovely, but I’d already eaten and had everything I needed and my only requirement was solitude. She probably thought I was rude. I did my best to be cheerily responsive, but I think just seemed weird. Some comics might be bouncing off the walls before gigs (and I have been guilty of that at times) but I was a computer in sleep mode or a robot who was recharging and only able to answer very basic Siri style questions (usually like Siri, answering them by telling you to look it up on the internet).
I had a couple of espressos from my backstage Nespresso machine (I really do have one, people who’ve seen the show) and then it was show time. I hadn’t geed myself up at all. Would this be the disaster that it felt like I should be.
It was not. In fact I think it was the best performance of the show yet. I love playing Glasgow and I love the evolution of myself as a performer as shown by my long association with the town.
I first played here when I wasn’t quite 21 and in the Oxford Revue and unsurprisingly terrified about how a group of children from Oxbridge would go down with the notoriously vicious and scathing audiences in this city. As I remember it, our semi-satirical and semi-silly sketches went down to basically no sound with the small audience. In the bar after a middle-aged couple told us we should have done some jokes about the Piper Alpha disaster that had happened that week.
The nervousness of how the proud Scots would be respond to a poncy Englishman trying to be funny haunted me for a while. I was terrified to say something that might cause them offence, like, I don’t know, joking about loads of Scottish people dying in an horrific disaster. But as the years have passed and I’ve felt more comfortable with who I am and the Glaswegians have become more comfortable with me, we’ve reached a wonderful place of mutual respect, which allows me to take the piss as much as I want and for them to love it, because they also like me. I was always worried about people here thinking I was a cunt, but when a Glaswegian calls you a cunt that is actually the highest accolade of friendship.
So I was able to mess around with them and it was a terrifically playful show with loads of ad-libbing. I wished I’d recorded it, because I not only came up with some much better punchlines to several routines, but performed them at their best. I now dare to start a show in Glasgow shouting “Och Aye da noo”in my patented perfect Scotch brogue, but I also joked about the recent theatre fire, how most of the audience had probably just come to see the freakish man who had lived til 50- unheard of in this city, how the Londoners caught up in terror attacks had been brave, but then the terrorists hadn’t actually been on fire like they are up here, pointing out that drinking alone is the best kind of drinking, as if I need to tell them but I also mocked myself for accidentally saying English when I meant British and knowing how furious they would be with me.
I hadn’t planned any of this, because I hadn’t given the show a second’s thought. But even better is I was thinking of better ways to express the jokes in the show.
Maybe this is what the Piper Alpha people were driving at. They wanted a show that they felt was tailored to them, that took the piss out of them and respected them at the same time. Is that the defining characteristic of the city. It’s not for an Englishman to say. But as I have lived two years of my life in the most Scotch place on earth, Edinburgh (I am sure the rest of the country would agree), I am Scotch enough to call out the Scotch for what they are
It was the first big audience I’ve played to in a while (apart from the other one in Glasgow on Tuesday) but this city that I once feared is now one of my favourite places in the world to play and this might have been one of the best gigs of my life.
And had the lady from the festival come and talked to me afterwards she’d have thought I was a different person. Some of the younger people in the audience pointed out the picture of me doing a half marathon on the back of my programme and asked if I actually was a different person. It’s only three and a half years since I smashed my time at that event, but I was 30 pound lighter then and not crushed y the burden of fatherhood.
Then back to a slightly bleak business park in Carlisle to stay at the second Premier Inn in two days. If this entry doesn’t make you consider the artifice of show business then nothing will. As I lay in bed even I couldn’t quite believe I was the same person who’d kept a room laughing like that for 90 minutes. How is it possible? Maybe there are actually two of me. I am frankly astounded by that other guy.