I've done nineteen shows in thirteen festivals over a period of seventeen years and today I got my first ever 5 star review. It was in the Metro (see Press archive to read it). I don't think this means this is the best show I've ever done (and of the reviews that have given stars I've had 3 x 3 stars and 2 x 4 stars, so this reviewer is so far alone) and in a way I am disappointed to have broken my record of producing high quality shows that have failed to garner top critical praise or awards. I think it's all come a bit late to make any difference and I only had 120 in tonight, which is disappointing for a Friday.
Laurence Clark, a comedian with cerebral palsy who is also on at the Pod was in the front row tonight. I have been doing a self-mocking joke about my charity work, which I think is clearly mocking small mindedness rather than disability, which runs something like "I was also going to be running the Marathon for SCOPE, the cerebral palsy charity. But I wasn't doing it for them. I hate the disadvantaged. I would have more sympathy for the disadvantaged if they did something for me first. Just to show willing. Like if maybe they came round and washed my car, to prove it's a two way street here. I wouldn't expect them to do it well - it's just a gesture. But no. It's just take, take, take with these people."
The audiences take this in the correct way, with a mixture of mild shock and then laughter when they see where I'm going with it. I was slightly concerned about doing the gatg tonight. I actually assumed Laurence would get it and find it funny, but thought people might be uncomfortable with me doing this joke in front of someone who is disabled. But correctly I concluded that that would be their problem and that it would be hypocritical to change the show.
However, when I got to that bit, Laurence started heckling me and telling me to fuck off. He got quite angry about it, which threw me a bit and not surprisingly made me feel upset. I didn't have time to stop and discuss it, but still felt the gag is justified and at my own expense and more so at the expense of any idiot who would believe the thing that I had said. I wasn't sure if Laurence had been joking along with me, or not.
Afterwards I talked to him and he said he didn't think it was right to call hime "disadvantaged" and that me waving a bucket around and asking for donations didn't excuse me making jokes like that. He also said that he and many disabled people had problems with SCOPE for various reasons. I argued that I am doing more than just collecting money and that by supporting the time to get equal campaign in my programme I felt I was highlighting the disablism that exists today. It seemed a little harsh to have got so upset with me about a joke that I think most people would understand the point of. But then I did admire him for being prepared to voice his beliefs and to protest when he saw things that were wrong. I told him I'd go and see his show and heckle him if he said anything offensive about non-disabled people.
It was an interesting argument and I think it is always important as a comedian to consider the effects of the words you are saying. It's also important to push back boundaries and sometimes use shock to make people think about an issue.
I will enjoy this show a whole lot more when I have time to stop and chat or to expand on ideas. I don't actually think it is a five star show yet (or only on a couple of the performances), whilst I think "Christ on a Bike" really should have been, but with another half an hour to go into more detail and discuss questions of disabled politics with my audience I think it might be.
It's a four star show, and thus still well worth attending! There may be a few tickets left. You never know!
Be interested to hear your views on this one.