I was briefly reunited on stage with Stewart Lee tonight as he introduced me for my section at a benefit for the British Humanist Society. He was able to give me quite a detailed introduction including my place of birth, my mum and dad's name, where I went to school, what A levels I got, my degree subject and result (he got that wrong, he thought I got a 2:2 - always undervaluing my intelligence) and the fact I worked at the Pharos Marine lighthouse manufacturing part company in 1989. He had really done his research. Mainly by being in the same room as me continuously for 13 years. It was nice to get some depth to the intro.
As I was confronted by a theatre of intellifent and liberal atheists/rationalists I thought I'd take a chance and do some of my more challenging material, rather than my regular and fairly bulletproof charity gig set. So I discussed death and what we could expect from Heaven and the bit about the people who thought that the 9/11 jumpers would go to Hell for having committed suicide. Perhaps it was a bit full on and maybe a good proportion of the audience didn't know me or my work, but it got a bit of a muted response and as I got tied up in my own logic and illogic (deliberately in the routine) and came to my own twisted conclusion about who would actually be going to Hell I got a disapproving heckle. This routine often confuses people (it's meant to) and leaves them a bit quiet and perturbed and I then point out that satire and the fact that they have let the actual offensive thing go unpunished and are judging me for saying something that I clearly don't believe.
Luckily referring to the reaction I had created was enough to break the tension and I explained the joke and everyone loosened up. I then did my routine about Railways and the Holocaust, which could have been a mistake, but now they were on board and they understood where I was coming from and what I was playing with.
Or we can conclude that atheists don't like jokes about 9/11 but are happy to laugh at the Holocaust.
It felt odd to have nearly lost the room in what should have been a friendly onside audience, but overall I was glad to have created the discomfort. I had been questioning the point of doing my stuff on questioning Heaven to a room full of people who agreed with me. But actually I stirred them up in a different way. Not entirely successfully and I felt a bit ambivalent afterwards. But glad that I had won them round in the end.
That's what you get for trying something different!
If there was any doubt that we're getting older, the backstage chat of this largely 40-something bill was mainly about how their kids were getting on (though Paul Sinha was there to talk about the Chase to mix things up a bit). I am sure there was some rock n roll craziness going on elsewhere in town with some of the younger comics, but I felt glad to be amongst these frazzled and worn down oldies.