"Do you find people are really nice to you these days in the hope of getting mentioned in Warming Up?" asked Lyndsay who was interviewing me for Bath University radio - check it out right here, coolios
, if you want the rather bizarre experience of listening to a college radio station of a college you are not at (unless you are).
"Not that I've noticed," I replied.
"Because we think you're really really lovely," she added hopefully.
"Well that's not enough to get in Warming Up," I told her, wrongly as it turned out, "Lots of people try to do something that will get a mention, but creeping up to me is never going to work," I added, also incorrectly.
I cannot be bought. Well only with money. Like happened with that bloke who I mentioned in return for five pounds a couple of months ago. He coughed up, by the way, at my Birmingham gig. I'm not going to declare it to the tax man nor nothing. Ker-ching. I'm not mentioning him again though. Not because I can't remember his name, no, but because I'm not giving it out for free. Pay up and I'll mention your name, old whatsyerface.
I felt very old at Bath University with an audience of youngsters most of whom could mathematically be my children if it were not for the fact that I didn't lose my virginity til the age of 19 and only then had sex once with one person who did not get pregnant and then give birth to 300 babies, all of whom coincidentally got into Bath University and all chose to come and see this particular gig (not such a great coincidence the last bit, given the family connection). My point is that I was twice as old as them and they looked really young and made me realise how young I must have looked when I was at University and thought I was all grown up (but maybe I only looked that young to bitter and confused men in their late thirties who were mentally trying to calculate if I might be their child).
Anyway a bit of banter with a sweet-faced girl in the front row got to the point where had we been out on the street I think she could have got me arrested, but given I was in a comedy venue and holding a microphone meant that laughter was the appropriate response. I felt both disgusted and slightly aroused! These two feelings generally go hand in hand when you get to my age.
The gig went fine and no-one was arrested and I made no-one cry (I did manage this with a burly looking man in his thirties or forties last week in Hammersmith, but it was more out of his embarrassment of being the centre of attention for a few seconds rather than anything I said. He's lucky he doesn't have to do my job or he might dehydrate. We comedians leave our crying for off-stage.) Some people even laughed. A job well done.
Then came the interview, which went fairly well too. But Gareth, the other interviewer (who to be honest mainly stayed quiet cos he couldn't read Lyndsay's hand-writing) told me they were feeling a bit scared because they were graduating this year and did I have any words of encouragement for others like him who were about to take their first steps into the real, non-cosseted world.
It made me vividly remember that strange time in my life when I'd just left college and was trying to find somewhere to live and something to do in London. It was probably the most disorientating and frightening period I've ever experienced. The insecurity and doubt and lack of money made me pretty miserable. I told Gareth this and saw his face crumple: this hadn't been what he wanted to hear. He'd wanted some hope that his negative anticipations would be proven wrong, but I had just confirmed that leaving college would be not only be as bad as he feared, but actually much worse. So I didn't tell him about the time I was on the phone to a friend back in Oxford, explaining the self-obsessed woes of the real world and found myself bursting into uncontrollable and embarrassing sobbing. I hadn't even been picked on by a comedian or anything. I was just crying because of my inability to cope with a still fairly cushy life.
Things did improve (after about 2003) and I look back at those days in the shared house in Acton as amongst the happiest of my life. I had a great laugh with Stew, Andy and Tim and then when Tim and Stew left with Andy, Andy and Andrew. But occasional little jolts like this one take the rose tint away and it's only the despair that remains in the memory.
So to all of those of you about to take that step from college to the actual world where stuff has repercussions and there is no subsidised bar, good luck. Work hard in your exams. You cannot imagine what horrors are waiting out there for you. And it doesn't get better. You only get more used to it. And embarrassed about crying openly. But those tears may come at unexpected times, like when you're being asked if you think a 37 year old man will finish CNPS in time for his show about that.
I'm only messing with you.... Aren't I?