I’m on the road with this year’s stand-up show, Lord Of The Dance Settee (coming to a town near you very soon).
It begins with a gentle routine about how I misinterpreted the words of the famous hymn as a five-year-old. It goes on to question the wisdom of getting school kids to sing religious songs that have euphemistic interpretations, like All Things Bright And Beautiful’s somewhat bizarre reference to ‘the purple-headed mountain’.
It was, I assumed, fairly harmless stuff and, certainly compared to my previous work (where I have grown a Hitler Moustache, questioned the genealogy of Christ and suggested how I might make an improper living from having the same sized hands as Hermione from Harry Potter), rather charming.
But last week, in Chorley, I was surprised to see a woman standing up and making for the exit four minutes into the performance.
I wondered if she had taken umbrage at my opening joke in which I compared the local delicacy, the Chorley cake, to pigswill. I had only been kidding: the raisin-filled monstrosity is not fit for swine.
But no – the woman turned towards the stage and furiously informed me that she was mortified by my jokes. I was genuinely blind-sided by this. I thought that for once I had put together a show that was, for the most part, fun for all the family (and I hadn’t got to the bits that weren’t yet).
She asked for the microphone. She wanted to address the audience, presumably to tell them that they were going to Hell for laughing at the notion of a mountain with a purple head. I wasn’t so daft as to give into her fundamentalist demands. The microphone is the modern day bâton de commandement, which can only be held by the leader of the tribe. I was not going to relinquish power. Plus, if I did, people wouldn’t be able to hear me mocking her.
If there is a Jesus, then He probably has more pressing concerns than the five-year-old me picturing Him playfully bouncing on a sofa and kicking off anyone who tries to join him. The Jesus of the New Testament had a sense of humour – I’d say that the Sermon on the Mount is a profound piece of satire. He could laugh at this, surely. I hate to think that peace-loving Jesus would consign 200 people to an eternity of flames, merely for being a bit puerile.
The woman stormed out to jeers from the crowd (who would get their comeuppance in Hades). The theatre manager later told me that she’d asked why I couldn’t do comedy about garlic bread. I think the main problem there is that Peter Kay might sue me for nicking his material. Though I love the idea that someone might think it is the only subject fit for mockery.
But you can bet that if my Lord Of The Dance Settee stuff got someone this angry, someone somewhere would be just as offended by a pastiche of baked goods. Are we getting to the point where we’re too easily offended? Maybe we should listen to Jesus and turn the other cheek.
Before the interval I asked if she’d been with anyone else. A man sheepishly put up his hand and I wondered why he hadn’t left. ‘We were on a first date. I didn’t know she was that religious.’ It was nice he’d chosen me over potential love, but as much as I had ruined his chances, I might have saved him from a fate worse than everlasting sulphur.