Comedy Compering Catch 22...
Last night, 25th August 2012, I was faced with one of the biggest challenges of my professional career as both a comedian and a human being.
I open the show as MC at Just The Tonic Comedy Club in Nottingham, or as I like to call it; Notting-jambon, because I’m French and not good at puns. The crowd were absolutely delightful despite there being a stag do in the midst (They’re usually trouble). Everything’s going great thus far. I like messing around with my audience when I am master of ceremonies. An audience member was persistent about keep his arms crossed, which in my eyes is a physical message that he’s not going to be playful, so to teach him a lesson. I downed his bottle of white wine and then threw them off by talking en Français for a minute as if the wine transformed me into a French person (Despite the wine being Australian… the audience didn’t know that). I introduce Eddie Brimson, who has a cracking gig, as usual, and then we have our first break.
I begin chatting to Paul, the gentleman next to me, who turns out to be the stag. I should’ve spotted him from a mile out; he was wearing a pink wig, some beer-shaped glasses and a wheelchair fitted with oxygen tank. His best man approaches me (Or best woman. She was a woman) and tells me “Batty wants you to know that he has terminal cancer” which throws me a little. Who’s Batty and why would he want me to know that? Make me feel awkward? That was not the case for she follows with “so take the piss out of him as much as you like” and points in Paul’s direction. Mmmmm. Interesting. As much as I like? OK, erm… so I’m not going to mention it at all then…. I carry on chatting with Paul aka Batty for the duration of the break. He is an absolute laugh and so are the people around him. The break is almost over so he then asks for a picture with me, I accept by throwing myself onto his lap. Unfortunately the break is over so I head towards the stage, but not before saying good bye and jokingly saying that I’ll give him a lap dance later. The best woman then follows me and says “just so you know, he’s up for anything. You can crack jokes, bring him on stage, whatever you like. He just wants to have a good night.” He wants to have a good night. This plays on my mind for the rest of the show. Of course he does. He’s dying.
The comedian in me is thinking, “I can’t make fun of him. Even if it’s agreed between him, me and his friends that I can. I can’t. The rest of the audience don’t know of this agreement. They’ll just think I’m a nasty comedian, it’ll make everyone tense and make it hard for the other comics to have a good night.” And I’m not that kind of comic anyway. Don’t get me wrong, however taboo a subject, I think comedians can talk about anything as long as it’s handled in a clever, thoughtful and funny way. But if I’m honest, I didn’t know how to be clever and funny about a wheelchair-bound man with terminal cancer. I thought of a few stupid and nasty jokes I could’ve said, but that’s just not me (Well, the stupid part is sometimes me… But not the mean-spirited part)
The human being in me however is thinking “if I don’t make fun of him, is that me ignoring him? He’s a human being after all. To not mention him at all is to hide him under the metaphorical carpet.” If I’m going to say or do anything, it’ll be at the end, after all the comedians have been on. Just in case.
The rest of the show goes really well. Mike Newall is the second act on and does great. We have a second break. Before introducing the last act on, I find a police officer in the audience. So I get him on stage to do a scene from The Bill. He shouts “Stop taking drugs!” So I reply with a slap in the face. He falls to the ground. Audience cheers! Standard. I bring Keith Farnan on stage who smashes it.
While Keith is on, I quickly check with the best woman that everyone is sure that Paul’s happy with anything. She says yes. I begin sweating.
It’s the end of the show and I ask if everyone’s had a good night. They did. This is not verbatim, but here’s what I said “I’m glad everyone’s had a good night. Now, I’m about to do the weirdest thing I have ever done in my life. We’ve got a stag do in tonight. A lovely man named Paul is getting married. The guy over there in the wheelchair” At this point, lots of people cheers for marriage. “His best man, or woman, said that he wanted me to know that he has terminal cancer.” It gets tense in the room, as I predicted. “And they gave me the green light to make fun of him. I’m not gonna do that. However…” Cough “…He’s not had a lap dance yet.” Everyone’s faces drops. “Now I know this is weird. But I met him during the break, he seems like a right laugh. And you know what, he’s dying, we all are really, but I’m thinking, we should all give him a night to remember” At this point, people warm to the idea. And I do think that I got away with him because I got them on my side for the whole night. “So come on Paul!” Everyone cheers as his best woman brings him on stage. “Before I start this, two things. Firstly, I’m wearing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pants, so forgive me.” Everyone laughs. At me. As per usual. “Secondly, I had to shave my legs this week for some TV thing so I’ve got shaving rash on my thighs” Everyone laughs. At me. As per usual. “This is going to be disgusting. DJ, hit it!” Luckily for me, the DJ plays ‘All The Single Ladies” by Beyonce. I say lucky because I know some of the dance moves. It eases me into what I’m about to do.
I have to say, from this moment on, everything is a blur. Luckily (or not) a lot of people filmed what happened…so it’s probably on YouTube. All I remember is I got naked, poured beer down my arm for him to lick and I used Paul’s pink wig to hide my now very small penis (It was cold yeah!) As I do all this and think about how much I hate myself, I see the smile on Paul’s face (Not because this is hot. Cos it’s not. But because it’s very silly) I see the smile on his best woman’s face. On his family and friend’s faces. On the audience’s face.
After the World’s worst lap dance, I say “the good thing about this lap dance is that Paul’s just gone to Hell, so anything after now can only get better”
I wish everyone a good night and strafe backstage, still naked, pink wig penis in hand. I’m now alone to contemplate what’s just happened. I’ve never had anyone close to me die. I just did that for someone cos they were dying. It’s a weird but good feeling. Despite facing death, Paul was full of life, and I hope I could be like that if faced with the same situation. I wish him, his family and friends the best. Have a great wedding! I’m sorry of it was gross. I hope it wasn’t his last wish to see my penis. And as one of his friends said to me afterwards “It takes balls to do that.”
Oh and also, someone stole my teenage mutant ninja turtle pants. Maybe the policeman I hit in the face can get on the case.
The day after, I did a totally different gig. The picture below explains all.