A huge day in our village, even in this extraordinary month of gas leaks, car crashes, water pipes breaking and fields burning, like it’s the Apocalypse or worse post Brexit. We had organised a comedy night as a fundraiser for the village nursery and the headliner was Al Murray. People have been losing their shit for months and I was crossing everything in the hope that Al wouldn’t pull out at the last minute as that would mean I would end up in the village stocks and possibly even the ducking stool.
Most of the people here have little to no idea who I am, beyond vaguely knowing that I am a comedian who looks a bit shifty when walking my dog around the field whilst seemingly stooping down and picking stuff up a lot. The biggest worry for me was that they wouldn’t like my MCing. If Al died on his arse he could scurry back to West London and hope the career-ending news never got out, but if I went down to stony silence (the only kind of stony stuff I don’t like) then again, stocks, ducking stool and social shame. I haven’t done a proper stand up gig (aside from a couple of charity nights) since the Oh Frig I’m 50 tour ended in June 2018 - What if I was shit? I spent the afternoon watching my DVD and trying to remember my routines.
And I’d booked some other comedy friends who were giving their services for free and what if the audience let me down and were drunk or rude or misbehaved. Were these comics travelling into the middle of nowhere to have a terrible gig in a village hall?
Luckily, as it turned out, I needn’t have worried about anything. The comedians all stormed it, the audience mainly lapped up my filth and were surprised, I think, that this unexceptional man that they’d seen in the Post Office was actually quite funny, as well as having a weird puppet fetish. Jayde Adams opened - she’d just come from an afternoon gig at the Albert Hall, completing a comedy double up that I think has probably never been achieved in history of performing at these two venues in the same day. Grainne Maguire also smashed it and then Al Murray came on and masterfully controlled the audience. It was an extra special experience to see him doing his crowd work with a room of people who all knew each other. As each audience member said their name they would get a huge cheer from their neighbours and then laugh their arses off as Al pulled them apart. I have heard the noises that audiences make for 30 years now and this was a new and different sound. A different kind of joy.
I am going to go out on a limb and say that this was the greatest comedy night that has ever happened in my village.
Catie had worked very hard, along with the nursery committee to get the thing running smoothly and it was a more professional operation than many actual proper comedy clubs. It was terrific to do something so positive for our local community, even though the elephant in the room was that thanks to our local council neither of our kids were now going to be in the local schooling that we were raising money for. Our daughter has had a wonderful couple of years at the nursery and so it was terrific to raise money for them, but I would have loved to make this an annual event. I joked that next year we’d be doing it for the next village where my daughter goes to school and the audience booed me in pantomime fashion. Both sides know that none of this is our fault and I know that everyone who lives here is outraged that someone who lives in the village can’t send their kids to the school in the village. And I suspect that we’ll do it all again regardless.
Pretty much everyone was very drunk by the end of it all, but I was sober and tired and had a podcast to do tomorrow, so I sloped off for a relatively early night. The late night craziness made my stories of wanting to have sex with a Muppet seem pretty tame, by all accounts. I think I belong here.